Starting a spindle without a leader

It sounds and looks easy. It makes sense in writing. But new spinners tend to have a difficult time learning this essential, time saving technique.

The gist. Spike some fiber on the spinning tip, press it against the spindle with your thumb and forefinger, and slowly twist. Draft out about an inch at a time, twist 5 -10 times, repeat until you have about 10 inches. Slide the fiber about 4 inches down the shaft. Slowly wind on (in the same direction you started spinning) about 3 inches of the spun single. Wind the remainder spiraling up to the spinning tip. Ready to spin!

Not working out? Still need some help?

A 10 minute (very unprofessional) video for starting a Russian spindle without a leader. Sorry about the fast talking and waving hands. :) Technique is useful for most supported spindles.


“The fiber keeps popping off the top of the spindle and I keep losing twist.” Controlling your twist is the most essential skill you’ll learn as a spinner next to fiber management in your drafting hand. You can help the fiber adhere to the spindle by adding a little chapstick to the spinning tip so it has something to grab. Balms and chapsticks won’t hurt your spindle or the fiber, give it a try. Also, be sure to press the fiber firmly to shaft with your thumb and forefinger the entire time, even during adding twist. Resist letting go. Take your time and relax.

“I can’t draft out to make the leader, the fiber locks up.” Maybe you’re adding too much twist too fast. Slow down, you hotrod! Or the diameter of your yarn is too thick, maybe try going a little thinner.

“My fiber keeps pulling apart as I draft out, I can’t make a thread.” Maybe you’re not adding enough twist, but most likely you’re feeling tense and drafting too much too soon. Shoot for a fingering weight diameter, twist the spindle 5-6 times, pause, allow the twist to travel about an inch up your spun single, pause… Does it look like it needs more twist to stay together? Try adding a few more turns. Just right? OK. Now you can draft again. Repeat.

“I’ve made a leader. But when I push it down the spindle it just spins around the shaft.” This is one of the most common issues I read about. For the time being, help yourself along and add some chapstick or non-slippery balm around the diameter of the shaft at about 4 inches from the spinning tip. This will give the fiber something to stick to. Alternately, grab a small hair elastic, affix it at about 4 inches from the tip. Snug the fiber either inside one of the loops or sometimes the fiber will just grab onto the elastic itself.

Hopefully these hints will help you on your way to getting started without affixing a length of yarn or cord to the spindle.

One thought on “Starting a spindle without a leader

  1. What a wonderful repository of all things hand spindled! Your information is clear and concise and friendly, just the thing for newbie spindlers. I was disappointed to hear that you no longer make your absolutely beautiful spindles, they are some of the most lovely I’ve ever seen, and was excited to order one to join my little collection. While I most love spinning on my wheel, there is nothing quite like hand spindling yarn, and I also enjoy teaching others this amazing art. Good luck with your health issues, you are brave and amazing.

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