How to make
your own Akha Spindle.
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.
TO MAKE TWO:
package of two 2" oak drawer knobs
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!
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.