Make an Awesome Drop Spindle
Introduction: Make an Awesome Drop Spindle
Drop spindles are an ancient tool for spinning fiber into yarn or thread. They’ve been around for a very long time and have changed little since their first invention. The first spindles weighted with whorls appeared as far back as the Neolithic era. A whorl is simply a weight that helps the spindle spin “better” before you have enough yarn on it to give it a little heft.
These days you can buy a variety of types and styles in a range of prices and with a few notable exceptions they all work in essentially the same way.
I learned to spin on bottom whorl spindle but tend to use top whorl spindles now. If you know the difference you’ll also likely know what you like. This design can be used either way or can be switched between the two styles if you find you need one or the other. Especially if you want antique or custom “hand crafted” spindles. On the other end of the spectrum you can make them out of rubbish and free things for literally nothing but time.
This will show you how to make a decent looking functional spindle for a few bucks. I got mine from an art supply store for $1.89. (I chose orange in honor of the spindle being created specifically for an Instructable.)
A chopstick. I used a large bamboo chopstick but you could use any you like. Wood, plastic, bamboo, pretty much anything will work.
A small screw hook. I just had one laying around but you can buy them for pennies or if you sort out how to attach it to the spindle you could make a hook out of a piece of wire.
You will also need:
A working oven to bake the polymer clay. Just follow the directions on the package.
Something to start the hole for the screw eye. A drill bit or an awl should do the trick. If your chopstick is soft enough you won’t need anything but most are harder material.
If you’re chopstick it too long you’ll need a saw or pocket knife to cut it down. Mine was a few inches too long. I used a pocket knife to cut it down. The chopstick started out about 18″ long and would have been OK that long but it felt awkward. It would have also made the spindle a little heavier than I wanted.
The whorl should slip fit tight enough to not need anything holding it in place but you might want to grab a rubber band or an “O” ring or something just in case. That’s the distance between the tip of my elbow and where my wrist meets my hand. It just felt like a good length, nothing more scientific than that.
As mentioned earlier, weight is the real critical factor in this. A heavy spindle won’t make light thread, at least not easily. A light spindle can’t make heavier threads and yarns very well. Mine are all kind of middle of the road and that’s basically what you will get with this project if you do it like I did.
You could also make a single spindle and several whorls of differing weights and sizes. You could then just swap them out as needed.
This isn’t too tough. The only real trick is keeping it an even thickness and making sure your hole is dead center.
The polymer clay came in a rectangular 2oz block. I used 1.5oz for this whorl. Again, is just felt right. There are lots of different weights available on commercial spindles. The nice thing is for this one you can either make a heavier one if you feel like you need it or make a whole new spindle.
You can use a jar lid or even a round cookie cutter to keep the shape nice but as long as it’s balanced it doesn’t make much difference. Polymer clay is pretty stiff at room temperature so I didn’t bother rolling it into a ball first and simply shaped it by hand keeping it even by eye. Since polymer clay is relatively tough stuff once it cures and your spindle won’t be spinning with enough RPM to worry about wobbling unless it’s very out of balance.