I’ve recycled yarn from thrift store sweaters. I’ve dyed yarn with Kool-Aid and food coloring in a crockpot. I’ve dyed recycled yarn with Kool-Aid in the crockpot.

But I’d never spun yarn before, and of course I really, really wanted to learn how to do it. Unfortunately, this seemed to be a case where looking it up on YouTube just was not going to suffice. I began looking for opportunities to learn from a real live in-the-flesh human being.

Then several weeks ago I spotted a drop spindle class at Sifu Design Studio and leapt at the chance. Not only did I find the spinning class I was looking for, but it was in my own neighborhood at a yarn shop that I love. Major score!

Sifu Design Studio Chicago Day of the Dead Window Display

Lisa photobombed my photo of Frida in the shop window.

So on Saturday I trekked over to Sifu and learned how to spin yarn on a drop spindle. Lisa had reserved a starter kit for me that included a drop spindle, some nifty multi-colored roving, and and instructional CD.

Drop Spindle and Roving

The contents of my drop spindle starter kit.

Natalia led the class, which consisted of just me and one other student. This ended up being perfect since it left room at the table for other Sifu staff who were busy making pompoms for a Day of the Dead display they were building for the shop window, creating a very casual atmosphere rather than a rigid classroom dynamic. It was more like hanging out at a stitch ‘n’ bitch than anything else.

Drop Spindle Leader Yarn

Spinning the first bit of roving onto the leader yarn.

After awhile, I’d spun quite a bit of yarn onto my drop spindle. In true beginner fashion, my yarn was way too thick and very overspun, but the strand held together!

Yarn on a Drop Spindle

My chunky, overspun yarn on the drop spindle.

Natalia showed us how to wind our yarn off the spindle and onto a niddy noddy to measure and skein it. Niddy noddies are neat since you can tell how many yards of yarn you have just by counting the loops and multiplying by the number of yards the noddy noddy measures. Ohhh how I want/need/want a niddy noddy! Without a shadow of a doubt I will be acquiring one very, very soon. In the end, I wound up with 21 yards.

My First Handspun Yarn

My first skein of handspun yarn!

It’s a highly inconsistent super bulky weight, can’t decide what color it wants to be, is very tightly wound and will never become anything useful. Hence, I’m calling it “The Neurotic Slacker Super Chunk”. Super Chunk will just live in my stash as a sentimental yarn blob for all eternity.

I asked Natalia what roving would be good for practice, and she showed me the roving they had in stock. At the very bottom of the pile were three braids of creamy undyed merino roving for $6.50 each. I lit up. “I can play with these two ways,” I grinned. And the price couldn’t be beat, especially with a 10% discount since I was a student that day. I scooped them up.

I totally couldn’t wait to color these up, so I dyed one braid last night and came up with this:

Hand Dyed Merino Roving

Merino roving hand-dyed with food coloring.


I started spinning it tonight and already I’m making a much better yarn. Joining strips of merino can be a little tricky, but I seem to have figured out how to make it work. (My the trick is to join it very close to the spindle hook, where the leader twists the most.)

How will the turqoise-purple merino roving spin up? And how did my second experiment with dyeing roving go today? Stay tuned, because you know I’ll post pictures.