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Spinning with an In-the-Hand Spindle:

Practice first without fiber

Hold your hand palm up and place the spindle between your middle and ring fingers with the bottom end pointing at the floor. 
Grasp the tip of the spindle with your thumb and forefinger. 
Allow your hand to relax and take a natural position. Now push your thumb away from you to twist the tip of the spindle. Your middle and ring fingers should support the spindle and catch it, but not prevent it from rotating. Practice a lot. If needed, steady the bottom of the spindle against your leg or a table.

 

Putting it all together

Tuck the distaff in your belt and under your arm.
Pull a few fibers out from the bottom of the flax on the distaff. Wet the thumb and forefinger of your distaff hand and get the starter fiber wet enough to stick together (doesn't have to be dripping). You may want to start without the spindle until you have a good length of thread. Twist the fibers towards you (clockwise, Z spun for a right-hander).(Click picture for closeup)
 With your distaff hand, pull out some more fiber and moisten it. Keep twisting and pulling out until you have enough fiber to wrap around the very tip your spindle. Moisten the tip of the spindle and wrap the fiber around until it catches.
Once the fiber is around your spindle, twist the top of the spindle and the thread together as described above.  Hold the spindle at such an angle as to allow the thread to rotate with the top of the spindle, rather than twist around it. This can also be viewed as letting the thread "slip off" the tip of the spindle. If your thread keeps building up on the tip of the spindle, pull the thread up and the spindle down until it unwinds. (click for larger image)

The distaff hand's thumb or forefinger should be kept moist to smooth the fibers as they get twisted into thread. I use my thumb and middle finger to pinch while I wet my forefinger. 

 

Every time you reach arm's length, wind onto the spindle. (Click for larger image)
Spiral the thread up to the top of the spindle and begin twirling the spindle again. (Click for larger image) 

Remember to re-wet your finger and keep smoothing!

Click here for more advice on Perfecting and Troubleshooting your technique

Adding on...

Once you get the basic drafting and twirling the spindle down, you may want to add an (optional) extra step to quickly add more twist to the yarn. My development of this step was based partly on Andean spindle spinning methods and partly on theorizing around images of spinners where the spindle is clearly suspended below the spindle hand.

Each time you wind on, finish by making a half-hitch or two on your spindle so that you will be able to suspend the spindle from the yarn. 
Continue twirling the tip of the spindle in your hand as usual. Then, after you draft out a length of thread but before you wind it onto the spindle the next time, give the spindle an extra spin and hold onto the yarn instead of the spindle.

It sounds simple, but the reason I consider this an "advanced" technique is because if the linen in the half-hitch dries out before you get to the free-spin, the half-hitch slips right off the top of the spindle and the spindle drops to the ground. Be sure to have a ground-resistant spindle when you try this technique! You may give up and prefer to just add the extra twist by continuing to twirl the spindle in-the-hand.

Ergonomics

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Cumulative Stress Disorders (CSD's ) are NOT a modern invention even though the name may be. Spinning with this method will aggravate Carpal Tunnels Syndrome and can produce it if you spin for long hours. Please stop and stretch your hands and wrists at LEAST every fifteen minutes. If you feel tingling, numbness, cramping, pain, or anything funny in either hand or arm, STOP and do something else for a while.

To avoid discomfort, try to keep arms and wrists relaxed. Wrists should be straight. Elbows should not be bent over 90 degrees. Your upper arms should be as close to your sides as possible. You may wish to make a stand for your distaff or sling it to you if that helps. Make sure you move around and stretch your back, arms, wrists, and hands often.

On the plus side, spinning tends to be a very calming and relaxing activity. The pleasant feeling of being productive while doing a repetitive, Zen-like activity is quite addictive for many and may help reduce stress. Remember to breathe deeply, release tight muscles, and enjoy the experience.

Happy Spinning!

All content copyright the author, Jennifer Munson munson.jennifer@gmail.com The author makes no guarantees for instructions and recipes on this site; neither does she accept responsibility for their outcomes. Verbatim copies may be made for educational purposes only provided they contain original copyright marking.

This page created August 4, 2001

Last updated August 02, 2005