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The Akha Spindle

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How to make your own Akha Spindle.

Specs:  An Akha type spindle should be under 1/2 an ounce to it does not break the fine cotton yarn.  The whorl needs to be made of a dense wood to retain the spin.  Akha tribesmen bury wood in the ground for several months to make it dense enough for a the whorls.  The shaft should be a thin dowel because fingers can twist a thin dowel faster, also a thin dowel weighs less than a thick dowel.  The toy wheels that I like to use to assemble top whorl spindles will not do for an Akha type spindle, they weigh too much and the center holes are too large.  Prowling through my local hardware store finally revealed the perfect tooled piece for the whorl - oak drawer knobs.  Following are instructions for making Akha spindles with easily found items and tools. 

 

MATERIALS TO MAKE TWO:

         One package of two 2" oak drawer knobs

         One 3/16" dowel

         Electric drill with a 3/16" drill bit, wood saw, coping saw, wood rasp, sandpaper, pencil sharpener.  Perhaps a drop of glue.

Step 1:  With 3/16" bit drill the hole in the drawer knobs all the way through.  It is very important that the hole be perfectly straight, so work slowly and let the hole which is already drilled half way through guide the bit. 

Step 2:  Cut the small back end off the drawer knob; rasp and sand flat.  Getting the cut straight is a bit tricky, but the rasp and sandpaper can help cure any imperfections.  Try to make it so the curve on the cut part of the knob is the same as the curve on the factory finished side of the knob.  I like to take one of the screws that come in the packet with the drawer knobs, screw it into the knob, stick the head end of the screw into my drill, and then use the drill to spin the knob on my rasp and sandpaper.  This acts very much like a lathe in helping to get the sanded surface true.  It helps to wrap a strip of paper around the screw above the head to even out the screw so it doesn't wobble in the drill.

Step 3:  Cut two 9" lengths of 3/16" dowel.  Sharpen one end of each piece in a pencil sharpener (don't get it too sharp), and sand smooth.  On the other end of each dowel cut an upward notch (angle about 45) with the coping saw.  Use an edge of the sandpaper to sand inside the notch, and sand the top of the dowel smooth and round.

Step 4:  Insert the two dowels into the two knobs 4 1/4" from the bottom (pointed) end of the dowel.  Secure with a drop of wood glue if needed.  You are ready to spin!

 

SPINNING TIPS:

No leader yarn is needed to start.  Simply catch the top notch in your loose fiber, turn the spindle in your hand and pull until you have some yarn.  Slip the loop which is caught in the notch down the dowel and you are ready to go.  To secure the yarn for spinning wrap the yarn several times around the dowel and give it one or two tucks into the notch. 

I spin each length of yarn in three steps.  First I spin the spindle with my fingers and draft about 6" of yarn.  When the spindle reaches to my thigh I twirl the shaft up my thigh giving it a fast rotation and draft like mad with my left hand to keep up.  My right arm swings to the right to accommodate the yarn as it grows.  If the spindle starts to slow and I still have some arm reach left, I let the spindle dangle between my shoes and give it a controlled kick-start with my left foot.  Again I'm drafting with my left hand like mad to keep up with the twist.  When I run out of yarn I stretch the thumb and forefinger of my left hand apart, wrap the end of the yarn around my finger to keep the twist out of the loose roving, and twist my wrist--catching yarn first with my thumb, then with my finger, back and forth, using my hand like a niddy-noddy and wrapping the length of yarn into a butterfly until I can catch the spindle.  Then I wrap the yarn onto the shaft of the spindle and start again.

Cotton is very easy to draft, but a little different than wool to work with.  The fibers are very fine but easily managed if you keep your concentration on the point of twist and draft at the speed the twist enters the point.  The biggest tip is:  don't go too thin and get plenty of twist on your yarn for strength.  

 

Information on spinning yarn, drop spindles, fiber types and more.

- The Akha Spindle  - Make an Akha Spindle - Sources

- All about Llama Fiber  

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Connie Delaney is the author of:

Spindle Spinning: From Novice to Expert

The premier book for learning to spin your own yarn. Starting with a drop spindle is an inexpensive, and easy way to start spinning your own yarn. If you like it, you can graduate to a spinning wheel any time!

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