My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Rare Precious & Beautiful

Before I get into what I’m talking about, who among you knows what the title could refer to in the world of pop music?

Googling is not permitted. You are on your honor.

If you think you know, AND you can also identify the rare, precious, and beautiful fiber pictured below, send me an email at my regular address (“Contact Me” link over in the sidebar). I’ll send a little prize to the first person to get both parts of the question right.

And if you were at Knit Happens yesterday and saw this rare, precious, and beautiful fiber up close and personal and found out what it was, sorry, you can’t play!

Here it is:


What could it be? Full disclosure tomorrow!

L-B came up for the day and we spent the day at Knit Happens. Fun, fun, fun!

L-B had entered some of her work in the Virginia State Fair — she won a ribbon for her beautiful Fulmar!


And she won second prize in the “Nimble Fingers” contest for her very speedy knitting!


She also won a first place for her beautiful lavender wands, made from her own home-grown lavender!


The other day I mentioned that I’d like to learn how to spin with a drop spindle, so of course she brought me a bag of roving to practice on:


Doesn’t that look inviting??!! And everyone calls me an enabler!

That brings me to a question for you spinners out there — what drop spindle would you recommend for a beginner?

I worked a little on Butterfly’s back while at the shop.


I did shorten the sleeves somewhat from the pattern directions, by the way. We’ll see how they turn out in the finished sweater.

I didn’t stay for late night — I was ready to fall asleep by late afternoon because I’ve not gotten nearly enough sleep lately. I came home, did a few rounds on Butterfly, and made some progress on my kitty bed.

Tune in tomorrow to see what I bought at Knit Happens!

Lucy can’t wait!



  1. Spindles? Weight and balance are important. If you intend to spin yarn that is no heavier than around dk or up to light worsted then I would suggest something around 28-32 maybe up 38 grams or so. More than that and you will end up with a boat anchor. Less is fine too but can be troublesome for the raw beginner. Although you probably won’t be ahem..raw for long!

    Test the spindles out to ensure that they spin true and hence the rotation is balanced and not wobbley when you first spin. It will, as the the rotation slows down or when you approach about 2/3’s full start to wobble but shouldn’t otherwise.

    There are lots of good spindles out there. Grafton fibers, Mielke as well and oh heck tons of them. Trying them out is really important ask your spinning buds for recommendations so that you have a short list. Rhinebeck is coming up and that maybe too far but check local fiber festivals out. They are great places for trying out spindles.

    Sorry for the range noted in the first paragraph but YMMV.
    Have fun.

  2. wow! congrats to l-b ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Spindles are a super-personal thing. People go on and on about brands, but you really have to try them to see what you like. Which is tricky until you start spinning. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I started with a ‘boat anchor’ aka the basic Louet model. VERY quickly switched to custom made spindles and have never gone back. My daughter loves and still uses the Louet.

    I always forget grams (ignorant American here) but 1oz is pretty light. The Louets are at least 2oz. Something down the middle is probably best for beginning. Once you get the hang of it, you can move to something lighter, as a beginner light spindles are hard to control.

    NAYY but I like Kundert, Mielke, and Bosworth spindles, in no particular order. Bosworths seem to come in the greatest range of styles (and the woods are unbelievable).

    Didn’t anyone warn you that spinning is an obsession that equals knitting? Come to Rhinebeck and try out spindles!!

  4. I have a huge collection of spindles so have tried many brands besides my wheels….the best are those of JONATHAN BOSWORTH–plus they are beautiful…..easy to buy from Jonathan and Sheila…..try a top whorl…they come in varying weights…can’t imagine why you have not designed your own yarns before now…from janet

  5. Definitely a Bosworth Midi. They have a nice big notch so you never have to worry about your fiber popping out and leaving you chasing the thing across the floor. They are beautifully balanced so once you even remotely get the hang of it you’ll see a nice long spin. You don’t want a spindle that will know you’re a beginner and take advantage of you, the Midi is well-mannered. They come in a bunch of beautiful woods too.

    Get someone to show you park-and-draft, that was the only way I got off the ground. It separates the two skills of drafting and turning the spindle so you can learn them one at a time.

    You know that a spindle is an enabler drug, don’t you? You’ll be looking at wheels by MS&W…. Bwahahahaha! Have fun!

    P.S. My breakthrough fiber was Shetland, it spins nicely.

  6. FlorenceV says:

    Hi Wendy,
    Glad to hear your going to try spinning, look out it’s very addictive.
    I learned last year, starting with a big bulky beginner spindle, but once I had the drafting down I went right to a wheel.
    Then I decided to try the spindle again, cause you can take it anywhere, “faster by the week, slower by the hour”.
    I bought The Laurel from The Woolery, being it was one of the cheaper ones and I absolutely LOVE it. It’s a bottom whorl with a hook on the top which I find very easy.
    Just don’t give up if your struggling, some people get it right away and like me some struggle, but I struggled and struggled for a few hours and then something just clicked and I was doing it, so don’t give up. I absolutely love this art. Happy Spinning!!!

  7. Okay, this is not at all a fancy spindle, but I learned on a homemade CD spindle. It’s light, so your thread doesn’t break easily, and extremely well balanced. I also have a wooden spindle and have done some wheel work. But I still like my CD spindle for fine stuff. Something about the top whorl design makes it easy for beginners, too, I think. Beware, spinning’s quite an obsession!

  8. I had a sweater in the Va State Fair this year. When I walked into the Arts and Crafts building adn saw the sweater with the blue AND purples (“Best in Section”) ribbons on it (not even realizing that it was someone famous!) I said to my husband “Oh, yeah….this one is *way* more deserving than mine!”

    It’s GORGEOUS, L-B! Good work!

  9. hi wendy
    A friend of mine has been teaching me to spin this year, and I’ve found that learning on a top whorl drop spindle is much easier than a bottom whorl. That being said, I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert. But I just thought I’d let you know what was easiest for me.

  10. The thing about spinning on a drop spindle is that it is so . . . enlightened! I feel connected to thousands of years of fiber-creation and yarn-creators when I spin on my drop spindle. That something so low-tech kept so many people clothed for so many centuries, in so many cultures, is completely satisfying to me. So go, Wendy! Let the circle be unbroken!

    By the way, is it baby camel? Yesterday I ran across an eyelash/nylon yarn that the manufacturers had named Baby Monkey. Ewww! Why would they even *think* of such a thing! But then I remembered I have a Yak-blend in my stash, so I guess it’s a matter of taste. Or lack of it ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I have something to contribute to Wendy? Well gosh…
    I’ve been learning how to spin via a snail mail correspondence with a historical interpreter I met at a pioneer village this summer (there is no one, and no where in town…it’s a 90 minute drive to the nearest fibre-y place that carries any sort of roving!). Her best suggestion? That I not spend a fortune on a spindle until I knew the basics, so that when I was trying out more expensive equipment I would have the skills to make a judgement based on my personal experience.
    That said, my present spindle is a piece of dowling (I think it’s 3/8″) with a wooden toy car wheel stuck on it and a little tiny hook screwed into the end. It’s a top whorl spindle, and I find the weight perfect (the wheel is about 2″ in diameter, I think…available at any craft store). It’s very ugly, very DIY, and very cheap – >$5 for materials. I’ve played with adding nuts to increase the weight, making a bottom whorl spindle etc., and found this a very economical way to figure out what I like before I drop a whole bunch of money. Good luck, may your spinning be as beautiful as your knitting!

  12. Wendy, I cannot believe that I missed you not once, but TWICE yesterday at KH!

  13. oh, i would definitely say a top-whole spindle is the way to go. honestly, there is so much variety. i bought a pele’s hair spindle by glenn grace, and i love it. i would say go for one that you are going to find beautiful for a long time that is about a medium weight (i like a little over 1 oz. (or about 30 grams or so) weights). of course, you will either buy several more spindles or a wheel once you get going, so don’t stress out too much. i’m sure that you will decide what you want out of your “next” spindle from how the first one was ๐Ÿ˜€ have fun!!!

  14. Katherine says:

    Something else about spinning: you go to all that work to spin a beautiful skein of yarn, and afterward it looks to you like a finished product. To everyone else, it just looks like yarn waiting to be something else. You’re oohing and ahhing over the lovely way the fiber and twists have worked into something lovely, and everyone else wants to know when you’re going to “start” something. Also, everyone else is right – totally, totally addictive.

  15. Karen in MN says:

    LB? Do you sell those lavendar wands?


  16. I just got into spinning a few months ago, but I’m totally hooked and keep making yarn now. It’s a frightening addiction; just warning you now.

    I started with a kit I got on ebay from the seller “anniemay”, which was cheap (under $15 -with- shipping), and came with some really great, soft, long-staple roving. Enough to play with for the first day or so while my fingers got used to it (and the first yarn was really uneven and huge before I found my own rhythm.). It’s a little light for some stuff, though — so I picked up one that I’m not sure of the brand name. Got it at Weaving Works in Seattle when I was out there briefly, and I only got it because it’s got little sheep on the bottom that were too cute to resist. Now that’s probably my favorite one for everything other than merino — holds a lot, has more weight, and spins like a dream. (It was around $10.)

    I figure I can keep upgrading as time goes by, if I don’t just give in and buy a spinning wheel.

    Here’s a couple of pictures of stuff –
    For the record, the purple varigated was my first, and the seattleskyline yarn was my most recently-finished. In just that amount of time, it’s been easy to get that much more even and better, so hang in there if your first yarns look a little wonky. They get better quickly.

    And be forewarned: once you start spinning, you’ll want to start dyeing your own, and if you use blue dye without rubber gloves — you -will- look like you’ve just gutted a smurf village for several days. But the fiber will be worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Don’t get discouraged with the spinning – it takes a while to get the hang of it. It’s hard when you’re really good at one fibery thing to be really sucky at another, but stick with it and it will come to you. I have quite a collection of spindles from trying to find just the one. When you’re starting all you have to go by is “pretty” because trying to figure out the balance is impossible until you have the skill down. Your first one should have a substantial hook on it and be one that you won’t mind if it goes flying across the room. My recommendation would be 30-50 grams for your first one. I finally got it down when I tried alpaca roving – it’s got a long staple and it’s smooth without being slippery (baby alpaca is dreamy but slippery). I thought wool was hard to learn on.

    Good luck, have fun, and make room for the roving stash – it takes up more room than a yarn stash.

  18. I don’t know how close this is to you, but how about checking out Springwater Fiber Workshop. That way you’d be able to play with drop spindles before buying one.

    Looks like they have a class called Intro to Handspindles on Dec 4.

  19. I am so glad that you and L-B chose to spend your day at the shop with me yesterday! ๐Ÿ™‚ (Of course when you took off while I went to get some caffeine, I was sad. lol)

    I know what it is… well, at least the yarn part. I’m pretty sure that I know the music part but it’ll take some thought. (It doesn’t help that XM is playing “Channel Z” right now, lol.)

  20. Yaaaa Wendy,
    I knew it was just a matter of time till you checked out the art of spinning. Good luck. thinking of Lucy watching you spin brings a smile to my face.Haven’t done much on a drop spindle but I have two wheels.
    Have fun,

  21. Aaahhh yes, it looks like we may both venture onto the same path. This weekend I picked up some gorgeous roving at the VA FFF…cashmere, mohair locks, etc. My next purchase is the spindle. When you start let me know – it would be nice to share tips.

  22. This saturday I am taking an all day spinning class offered by the Aurora Colony Spinning Guild in Canby, OR. I have my mom’s old spinning wheel and my fiance gave me half the money I need to get a new wheel if I find out that my mom’s is too antique. I have a turkish drop spindle, they wind the yarn into a center pull ball as you go along. My mom used to raise angora rabbits for fiber, I have 3 coffee cans of their hair in my stash.

  23. Ah, spindle choice… The stuff below is purely Mouse’s opinion.

    I like bottom whorl drop spindles much, much more than top whorl. Top worl spindles look like a “t” from the side (don’t mind my serif font), with the wooden bit at the top, and bottom whorl ones are the other way around. This means that while you’re learning to spin, you don’t have to reach under the mass of whorl and spun fiber to give your spindle a spin.

    Most of the spindles you get online are top whorl, because the top of the spindle won’t be obscured by your new yarn, and so can be beautifuly decorated. Some of those are unbelivably lovely, but I have had trouble learning on them, and when teaching children, I always use a bottom whorl. Just my opinion, though.

    YMMV, and i’m sure some die-hard top whorl’ers will disagree with me. That’s cool. I like different opinions.

  24. I just learned to drop spindle this past June. And it’s true that everyone had their preference as to top vs bottom whorl, brands, etc., though you can even make one with an old CD.

    From my experience (and I had a great teacher) – the most important things are:

    1. Having a spindle that is balanced i.e. spins without wobbling – regardless of what type of spindle it is.

    2. HAVE SOMEONE TEACH YOU IN PERSON. The Interweave pamphlets that came with the spindle I bought on eBay were useless, as were most of the information I looked up. And I’m the type that usually teaches herself stuff, but I just wasn’t getting *something*. Once I was shown directly how to do it and why – it was a cinch!

    Maybe I’ll post a photo or video tutorial based on what I learned at some point…

    A fun beginner spindle that the aforementioned teacher showed me to use was a navajo spindle – Schacht makes them and I actually made one from a dowel and a piece of banister decor.

  25. I learned backwards – I’d been spinning on a wheel (Schact ST) for years before I picked up a drop spindle.

    I much prefer a top whorl. Home made is great for (inexpensively) figuring out what you prefer, and while you are learning. My current favorite is the Golding spindle I got at MSWF this year. It is gorgeous and spins like a dream. It’s the only one of my spindles that can hold a spin longer than I can reach. I always have to stop it to wind on (some of the others take 2 or 3 spins to create enough yarn to bother winding on). They aren’t cheap, but I think it was money well spent. I let a friend try it, and she sold her wheel in favor of getting one!

    Welcome to the addiction!

  26. Thanks, Vanessa and Mary! Fellow spinners, we’ll have Wendy in the fold in no time! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  27. perclexed says:

    Completely appropo of nothing, this is a hysterical (and kinda cool) link to a cat project:


  28. The Woolery has a lovely basic one. Use a high-whorl. Low-whorls are insane; I cannot conceive of anyone spinning a thing on them. High-whorls you can spin forward along your leg and get them moving *incredibly* quickly, and a fast spindle is a stable spindle and one that imparts tensile strength to the ply quickly, avoiding the “drop” part that frustrates so many beginning spinners.

  29. HIGH WHORL, for the love of Bog High whorl.
    As Janis said, the speed one cna acheive eliminates much of the Dropping, and a rool on the leg flows soooooooo much better than awkwardly twisting a low whorl with one’s fingers. I use a louet one not too heavy for most of my spinning if that helps.

  30. I agree with what a lot of what people are saying: start with a top whorl spindle that weighs in the range of 1.0 – 2.0 oz, with a spindle diameter of 2″ to 2 3/4″. I started spinning on a drop spindle and still go back to it because it is so soothing.

    I suggested to a friend who hated spinning on a wheel to try a Golding Spindle, expensive, but they spin like you wouldn’t believe! And they are beautiful too! She loves spinning now!

    Also, you may want to try the Bosworth ones that several people have mentioned. The Bellwether has lovely drop spindles of all kinds.

    I would start with one that is well balanced. If there is any wobble whatsoever, don’t buy it! You’ll have problems later.

    Good luck!

  31. Hey new spinner YAY!
    (long time reader first time commentor)
    Bosworths are by far the most lux, wonderful perfect in everyway spindle. However, they all work after a fashion. I have taught many many people to spin and what I tell them is that the most important thing is to love your spindle, love it dearly becacause for the first week or two you may want to never speake to it again. I my self am very fond of my Copper Moose Rosa, I use it more then any of my (several) other spindles (not as much as I use the wheel though). Using a drop spindle taught me everything I needed to know to just sit down at a wheel and go without any trouble, because its all a learning curve and once you ‘get it’ you’re golden. The most important thing for a beginer spinner is to be patient and start with TOP WHORL. Bottom whorls are just too frustrating in a process that takes some practice to get the hang of. So go out and find the most medium weight, top whorl spindle you can find that makes you fall deeply in love with it!

  32. Hey new spinner YAY!
    (long time reader first time commentor)
    Bosworths are by far the most lux, wonderful perfect in everyway spindle. However, they all work after a fashion. I have taught many many people to spin and what I tell them is that the most important thing is to love your spindle, love it dearly becacause for the first week or two you may want to never speake to it again. I my self am very fond of my Copper Moose Rosa, I use it more then any of my (several) other spindles (not as much as I use the wheel though). Using a drop spindle taught me everything I needed to know to just sit down at a wheel and go without any trouble, because its all a learning curve and once you ‘get it’ you’re golden. The most important thing for a beginer spinner is to be patient and start with TOP WHORL. Bottom whorls are just too frustrating in a process that takes some practice to get the hang of. So go out and find the most medium weight, top whorl spindle you can find that makes you fall deeply in love with it!

  33. Get a Bosworth Midi or Big. Tulipwood is my personal favorite.

  34. Well Wendy, You’ve got some great advice on spindles but I hope you don’t mind if I add my 2 cents. I started out on a homemade CD spindle. My felt too big and awkward. Then I made myself a stone donut/chopstick spindle, adjustable whorl(looks prettier than it sounds). This year I bought a Cascabele spindle, top whorl. The bit of advice I recieved from Emily at The Bellwether is that a good weight for someone new to spinning is 1.5 oz. That way you can produce a variety of weights of yarn. The one hint I’ll post about spinning is to pre-draft your fiber. It makes it a little easier when your learning to get your spindle to turn, that way you don’t need to concentrate on the drafting right off. Well my quick 2 cents. Have a great time learning!

  35. Wendy,

    I was reading through your blog (I was a couple of days behind) and I have similar hair condition without the curls. I have fine hair, but a whole heck of a lot of it. I really like the Dove Foam Conditioner . . . it’s far lighter than a regular conditioner, and doesn’t leave you with that “just stuck my head in the deep fat fryer” greasiness.


  36. The bad thing about learning to spin is that you will never want to use your stash of commercial yarns again. I have several styles and still like my first Boz best — a Bosworth of about 32 grams.

  37. A Bosworth midi is your best bet. I own over 50 spindles and 4 spinning wheels and I do most of my spinning on Bosworth’s. Sheila will do a good job of picking one out for you.