How Your Spinning Wheel Spins

Handspinning Twist and Tension
Learning to spin a fine yarn, with just the right amount of twist for the particular
fibre, is a delicate balance between drafting the correct amount of fibre, treadling your foot at the appropriate speed, and adjust the tension on your wheel.

To understand how your spinning wheel controls twist and tension, perform the following tests using 2 plied yarns.
I used 2 cotton yarns, in contrasting colours and tied the ends to the leader yarn that was threaded through the orifice of the wheel. For each experiment, I spun the wheel in the same direction, to the right(clockwise). I treadled slowly, trying to maintain an even treadling speed.

Spindle Whorl – Largest Groove

Spinning wheels generally have 2 or 3 different sized grooves on the spindle whorl. Start with the drive band on the largest groove. Holding the 2 yarns in your right hand, ply them together to the right. Maintain an slow even treadling and allow the spinning wheel to draw the yarns onto the bobbin. Notice that while spinning, the yarns are being drawn from your hand, through the orifice, and onto the bobbin. At the same time, they are being twisted together. After spinning a few yards, hold the yarns together with your thumb and forefinger (so they don’t untwist) and make note of the number of twists per inch in the plied yarn.

Spindle Whorl – Middle Groove

Slip the Drive band onto the middle groove of the spindle whorl. Begin to treadle again, at the same speed as previously. Note that the yarns are being twisted together more tightly, although the speed of the draw onto the bobbin remains the same. After spinning for a few yards, again pinch the yarns together between your thumb and index finger, and make note of the twists per inch of the plied yarn.

Spindle Whorl – Smallest Groove

Slip the Drive band onto the smallest groove of the spindle whorl. Repeat the step above, maintaining an even, slow treadling speed. Notice that the amount of twist has increased. Again, spin a few yards, and note the number of twists per inch of the plied yarn.

Hand Spinning
Spinning Wheels
About Handspinning
Hand spinning Tools and Equipment
Spinning Wheels
Spinning Tools

Learn to Spin Workshops
Learn to Spin The workshop for the beginner hand spinner.
Learn to Use a Drum Carder How to use a drum carder to create new colours and Yarns.
Plied and Cabled Yarns How to spin plied and cabled yarns.
Simply Sumptuous Spinning A surprise selection of different fibres to spin.

Handspinning Books
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn
The Whole Craft of Spinning: From the Raw Material to the Finished Yarn
The Practical Spinner’s Guide – Cotton, Flax, Hemp (Practical Spinner’s Guides)
Spin Flax & Cotton: Traditional Techniques with Norman Kennedy
The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning: Being A Compendium of Information, Advice, and Opinions On the Noble Art & Craft
The Knitter’s Book of Wool: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Using, and Loving this Most Fabulous Fiber
The Intentional Spinner

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021 by Paivi Suomi

By Paivi Suomi

I've had an interest in weaving, looms, yarns and textiles since I was a small child. I learned to knit, crochet, sew, do needlepoint at my mother's knee. My grandmother was a Saami from northern Norway. I am very interested in studying more about traditional Saami and Finnish style weaving and handicrafts. Paivi Suomi