Susan Harrocks

Crafter of Irony



Apocalyptic Skills: How to spin using a drop spindle


Zombies looming? Nuclear winter approaching? Need something to keep your hands busy while the Robot Overlords assimilate your neighbors? 

When I was a child, my mother taught me how to use a drop spindle. At the time it seemed like a skill I would never use, but as I grew older I saw more and more practical applications for it. The motions were meditative, I learned the history of spinning, and soon I realized the best reason to continue it - Survival during an apocalypse. 

In this class we'll go through everything you need to know about using a drop spindle. We'll discuss the history of it, the different types of spindles, and even how to make your own drop spindle for under $5 using craft store materials. The craft store is overrun by zombies, you say? Well, not to worry, we'll learn how to make one using household materials or found objects, too. 

We'll then go through what fibers are out there, and then finally, how to spin them into yarn. We'll talk about methods of setting it, and soon you'll be the envy of all the radioactively mutated creatures. You'll know how to make your own yarn! 

Class Project:

In this class we'll be creating your own drop spindle. You aren't required to do so, you can always purchase one. In times of great need, however, one must improvise. The first few projects are how to create your own spindle. If you have your own, you can skip this. Or you can do it anyway because it's fun. 


  • Wooden car wheel (about 2-3 inches in diameter) - available at most craft stores. Make certain there is a hole in the center, and take note of how large that hole is.
  • 12 inch long dowel rod - diameter should fit within the wooden car wheel
  • Small cup hook
  • Fiber of your choice - 
  • Scrap yarn, about 2 ft in length


  • Chopstick, pencil, or long knitting needle - half of a round potato, apple, or stale dinner roll
  • 2 recycled compact disks (CDs), 1 3 ⁄8 inch diameter dowel (12 inches long),1 small cup hook, 1 rubber grommet with an inside diameter of 3 ⁄8 inch and an outside diameter of 5 ⁄8 inch
  • An awl, or small drill bit to put the hook into the dowel
  • Sandpaper (if you need to get your dowel rods cut, they will sometimes sand the edges down for you if you ask nicely! Alternately, dowel rods come in smaller lengths at craft stores with no need to cut.)

Project 1: Food for Thought

 Run to the kitchen. You have to run to keep your cardio up anyway, right? No? Okay you can walk, but head to the kitchen anyway. Look for something round and weighted, and something long and straight. It can be anything, really. A half a potato works nicely. So do apples. Pencils work for long and straight things, but if you're short on those you can use skewers from that BBQ cookout you had before the aliens came. 

Got them? Good. 

Congratulations! You just finished your first quest. Post a picture of your food based spindle here, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

Take it for a test spin a few times, and describe what you like, and don't like about the feel of it. Too heavy? Too light? Wobbly? Each spinner, and each fiber, has their own needs. This is the cheapest and easiest way to find out what feels comfortable for you!

Project 2: Found Objects

"But, Susan, ever since the nuclear fallout, food glows green! Is that safe to use near fiber?"

I hear you, I hear you. I mean, no one wants to accidentally create mutant yarn monsters, right? We'll go with inorganic materials this time. Specifically, the CD method. Incidentally, this is also a wonderful way to hide the fact that you bought TWO copies of Jagged Little Pill after that breakup with the guy that has three eyes. Gosh, he was dreamy. I digress. 

Create your "found object" spindle. You don't have to use the materials suggested, if you can come up with other found objects that would work, post it here!

Take it for a spin! How does it compare to your food spindle? 

Post a picture of your spindle and let us know!

Project 3 - Crafty Business

 Sometimes you need something a little more durable than a CD or a potato. Assuming you can mount an expedition to the craft store, with a few items that cost hardly anything at all, you can make a sturdier spindle. 

Extra Credit: Decorate your spindle! You can use craft store acrylics, spray paint, or any other coloring device that won't rub off on your fibers or you. 

Post a picture, and let us know how this one feels! 

Project 4 - SPIN

Now that we have our spindles ready, and we've learned a bit about fiber, its time to spin! 

Post your answers to these questions (so other spinners can compare and learn from you!) and a picture of your yarn!

  1. What sort of spindle did you use? Top or bottom whorl?
  2. What sort of fiber did you use? Animal? Vegetable?
  3. Would you use that fiber again? Why, or why not?
  4. How many times did you drop the drop spindle? (Be honest!)
  5. Which method of spinning do you prefer? 

Class Outline:



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