Spinning on a Navajo Spindle


• Spindle
• Fiber
• Spindle nest
• 3 ft. length of plied dk to worsted weight yarn

To begin spinning on your Navajo spindle all you essentially need are your spindle and fiber. However, a few extra tools can make the business of getting started go a little smoother. A section of scrap yarn provides an easy and effective method of joining the fiber to the spindle to get the whole process moving. A spindle nest will help keep your spindle in place and reduce the risk of it rolling away and having to chase it across the room.

Preparing the Spindle & Fiber
Begin by predrafting a length of fiber. Predrafting is preparing the fiber for spinning. Take a section of your fiber and split it lengthwise (fig. 1). This should happen relatively easily as the fiber naturally wants to be split in this direction. Pull the fibers apart from each other to lengthen the section of roving (fig. 2). Set this aside for the moment.

Predraft Split    Predraft    
Figures 1 & 2

Now cut a piece of scrap yarn approximately 3 feet in length. This yarn should be about dk to worsted weight and must be plied. At one end of the yarn make a slip knot. Loop this over the bottom end of the spindle and tighten under the whorl (fig. 3). Take the long end of the yarn and bring it over the spindle. Wrap it a few times at the shaft/spindle join before spiraling it up the length of the shaft (fig. 4). At the end of the yarn tie another knot (any old knot will work fine, this is just to keep the plies together). Just below this knot, separate the plies of the yarn to create a loop (fig. 5). Thread about 2 inches of predrafted fiber through this loop and let plies of the scrap yarn close around the fiber. Loop the 2 inches of fiber you just threaded into the yarn back up on itself (fig. 6). You have now joined the fiber to your spindle and are ready to get down to business.

Tying on   Winding
Figures 3 & 4

Attach Roving    Attach Roving
    Figures 5 & 6

To start spinning you should be sitting with your spindle leaning against your right knee. Place the metal tip into the spindle nest (fig. 7). You will have to play around and adjust how you are seated and the angle of the spindle until you find what suits your body type. Generally speaking, the spindle should rest against your thigh at a moderate angle with the top of the shaft a few inches higher than your leg (fig. 8). Hold the fiber to be spun in your left hand and rest your right hand gently on the spindle (fig. 9). Roll, or twirl, the spindle up your leg, knee to thigh, making sure the spindle is fully rotating. At the top of your leg lightly hold the spindle and bring it back to your knee (fig. 10) and once again roll up. This motion should glide and begin to feel natural. Always think up, up, up. As you spin with your right hand, your left hand should be drawing away from the spindle to gradually let more fiber be spun. When your left hand cannot pull away any farther, unwind the yarn spiraling up the shaft (make sure to keep some tension on the newly spun yarn). Rewind this yarn around the base of the whorl/shaft join then once again up the length of the spindle shaft. Continue in this manner and you’re spinning!

Loaded Spindle     Ready to Spin
Figures 7 & 8

Spinning     Spinning
Figures 9 & 10

When you need to join more batting, leave the end a bit fluffy. Blend in the beginning of the next batt, pulling slightly to insert the new piece.  Spin carefully to make sure the join is strong.

Plying is done by rolling the spindle down your leg, from thigh to knee—the opposite direction from spinning. In a play on words, remember spin up, ply down.

For a detailed description on spinning and plying on a Navajo spindle, read Spindle Spinning: From Novice to Expert by Connie Delaney. Another good resource for spinning, although it does not highlight the Navajo spindle, is Spin to Knit: The Knitter’s Guide to Making Yarn by Shannon Okey.

You may also enjoy joining the Navajo Spinning group on Ravelry.com   www.ravelry.com/groups/navajo-spindlers

Good luck & enjoy spinning on your Navajo spindle!
Roosterick Designs, www.roosterick.com
text by Erica Jackofsky • photography by Rick Jackofsky • copyright 2009