Spindle Weights: How to choose?

Handspindles come in a variety of weights, as light as 0.4 oz, to as heavy as 2.4 oz. Spindle weights fall approximately between these ranges:

Lightweight0.4 oz to 0.9 oz
Medium weight1.0 oz to 1.7 oz
Heavy weight1.8 oz to 2.4 oz

The type of fiber and the kind of yarn you want to spin are factors that determine the weight spindle to use.

Fibers that are short, fine, and/or slick, want to be spun fine. These would include cotton, angora, camel down, cashmere, qiviut, silk, buffalo down, etc. A lightweight spindle works best with these fibers. It will be a matter of personal preference which lightweight spindle (0.4 oz – 0.9 oz) you choose to spin these fibers with.  Because they are more difficult to handle, these fibers are best avoided by the beginning spindler.

The long, slick fibers of Alpaca and Llama are suited best for fine or medium yarns using a light to medium weight spindle. I usually like to spin alpaca and llama fiber with a medium weight spindle around 1.3 oz. My advice is to experiment. Test different weights and decide what works best for you — preferences will no doubt vary from spinner to spinner.

Fine wools such as Merino, Cormo, and Rambouillet have short, highly crimped (wavy) fibers that are best suited for fine to medium yarns. A light to medium weight spindle is a good choice for these fibers. These fibers are usually difficult for the beginner to handle.

Medium wools (Corriedale, Finn, Columbia, Jacob) and Long Wools (Romney, Lincoln, Coopworth, Border Leicester) have a longer fiber length, with a more open crimp. These wools are easy to spin. Light, medium and heavy weight spindles can be used to spin a wide range of yarns from these fibers, from fingering to bulky. For these wools I prefer using a medium to heavy spindle (1.3 oz to 2.0 oz) to spin fingering to worsted weight yarn.

If you are a beginner it is recommended that you learn to spin using a medium or long wool with a heavy spindle weighing between 1.8 oz and 2.4 oz. (See our “Learn to Spin” Kit.)

General Guideline for Spindle Weight vs. Yarn Size

  • Use a 0.4 oz to 0.9 oz spindle to spin a fine lace to fingering weight yarn.
  • Use a 0.9 oz to 1.6 oz spindle to spin a fingering, shetland, and sports weight yarn.
  • Use a 1.7 oz to 2.0 oz spindle to spin a shetland, sports, DK, and worsted weight yarn.
  • Use a 2.0 oz to 2.4 oz spindle to spin a DK, worsted, and bulky yarn.

To wrap up the topic of spindle weights: It is helpful to have some general guidelines for choosing a light, medium, or heavy weight spindle. This is especially so if you are a beginner, or if you are a spinner ready to try the more difficult to handle fibers. A good place to test spin handspindles and get a feel for different spindle weights (as well as find nearly every type of fiber to spin with) is at Fiber Festivals. Spindle makers expect you to try out their spindles and many will provide a variety of fibers for you to experiment with. Ultimately, you will be your own best judge in choosing the right spindle for you.