Confessions of a Simple (Minded) Spinner


Its my first day of summer and I have a plan. The plan is to sit in a nice shady spot with my wheel and finish up the polwarth handspinning project.

My spinning set up

Her plan is to interfere with my plan. Of course.

But I’m used to her and her antics and have forearmed myself with the essential tool needed for combating all sorts of irritations.

coffee is an essential handspinning tool

Also, I’m spinning this polwarth simple. I’m skipping steps. I’m taking things easy. I’m cheating.

Polwarth is a breed that was developed over a hundred years ago in Australia from Merino and Lincoln. The intent of the breeders was to combine the generous staple length of a Lincoln with the softness of a Merino. They did a bang-up job. All polwarth is good stuff it seems. I’ve never talked to a spinner that didn’t like to use this wool. I bought my roving from an independent seller at a fiber festival who had it labeled as 21 – 23 microns. It might be finer than that. Its gorgeous stuff and probably deserves better treatment than I’m giving it.

Polwarth roving for handspinning

When I spin for myself, I don’t plan. I just spin. My singles come out light fingering weight. That seems to be the default setting in these hands of mine. When I ply, I just ply two singles together, the bare minimum to achieve a balanced yarn.

singles of polwarth wool ready to be plied

My finished yarns usually turn out to be sport weight. Usually. Sometimes they are thicker. I don’t really worry about that much when I’m spinning simple.

two-ply handspun polwarth wool

This is the yarn that I make when its for me (not a gift, or a demonstration, or a commission). And I skip all the steps that as part-time spinning teacher I tell everyone else do to! Ha!

I don’t rewind my singles. Nope. I ply them right from the bobbin they were spun onto, which is why I find little loopy, twisty bits in my singles. Those bits can be eliminated if a spinner takes the time to rewind from one bobbin to another (or from a bobbin into a ball). Rewinding evens out the tension and the twist. The finished yarn will be smoother if you rewind your singles.

why you should rewind your bobbins in handspinning

I didn’t bother with that. Not this time. You know what else I didn’t bother with? Plying with tension. Even more than rewinding those singles, plying with some tension on the strands will really improve the finished yarn.

But I’m not doing that either. Again I say Ha!

plying two strands of polwarth wool in handspinning

When I’m spinning simple, I just pull right from the bobbin on my default, came-with-the wheel, lazy kate. I pull both strands with my left hand and do my makes (feed into the wheel) with my right hand. I keep tension between my hands of course. But that’s just a half-assed measure. Its just a cheat. I know it.

What should I be doing? Using a tension-ed lazy kate (I do have one around here somewhere) or even better, making a multi-strand plying ball. I know how to do that, really I do. I take the extra time for those steps when I want to make a nice, professional looking yarn (or when someone asks me to teach it to them). But all that is special. All that is extra.

Today I’m just spinning simple. I’ll be finished with the polwarth by the end of the day and I’ll have a (mostly) sport weight (mostly) balanced two-ply. It will be soft and supple and great for wearing next to the skin. The yarn will knit up pretty but always look a bit uneven, a bit rugged. It will always look like handspun. It will never pass for commercial yarn.

I’m okay with that.

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"There is no failure. Only feedback." - Robert Allen

4 Comments on "Confessions of a Simple (Minded) Spinner"

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Midnight Knitter

OK, now you’ve made me want to drag the spinning wheel out to the back deck to spend some quality time with some merino/silk blend. Or maybe with a nice Corriedale batting… I think that there is a bag of BFL in the stash…


Ahh that is a nice problem to have. Which should you spin first?

And spinning outside in the sun is a great way to spend a summer day!


God for you! You have taken E Zimmerman’s advice to own your own knitting and applied it to your spinning. Don’t let the expectations of others rule your life, mush less your hobby.


Thanks! I do occasionally take a little heat for cutting corners in my spinning. It does put me on the defensive I guess. I feel the need to defend and justify just spinning simple.

But it doesn’t change the way I spin. I’m too stubborn for that!