Make your own Jewel Spindles, and Other Stuff

I know that you didn't come here today to see pix of my family, but we had SUCH fun snapping these, and I couldn't help myself, so scroll really fast.

Now, THIS is why you are here!

I got many requests to tell about the jewel spindles, so here goes. It's really fast and easy.

Overview and Description -
One day, I discovered a bead store in my town that I never knew existed, lol. I stopped in and saw this bin of these little jewel doughnuts and practically yelled out loud, “Spindle Whorls!” The ladies who run the store sort of looked at me… Anyway, I dug through the bin of “glass” ones and I dug through the bin of “jewel” ones and I selected 5 which I thought would suit my purposes. I purposefully selected 5 different sizes and weights and raced home to experiment.

When I was selecting, I had it in mind that the holes should be as close to perfectly centered as possible. At the time, I hadn’t ever made or used spindles made out of heavy little stones, and I didn’t know better. I passed up a turquoise one because it looked like the hole was too off-center. In retrospect, I’m not sure that it matters much, and next time I’m on that side of town, I’m going to drop in and see if that little turquoise one is still there. Now that I’ve made them I know that much of the balance comes from how you adjust the hook, and I’ve learned a little trick about winding the black rubber in the center – more on this later.

At first glance, the 5 which I selected might not look all that different, but they are *quite* different in weight. The smallest is clear glass with blue floaties in it, and it’s very lightweight and it spins like crazy - - really really FAST. It’s made a perfect lace weight spindle. It really zings along, but since it is so lightweight, it doesn’t zing for very long. It’s tremendously fun to use and really keeps me on my toes!

Moving left, the next one is a lace weight spindle as well. Nothing too noteworthy about it except that I used a too-large hook while constructing it, so I’ll certainly change out the spindle shaft at my earliest convenience. I couldn’t wait to get going with my spindle making experiment, and this was all I had at the time. Also, it was made on a chopstick instead of a skewer, so it’s quite a bit shorter and very lightweight. It’s glass too, and has a lovely translucence.

The next two came from the “jewel” bin, but they are actually just some sort of stone. Well, now that I think of it, aren’t all “jewels” just “stones?” These two are close to the same diameter, but the green one is *much* heavier. The brown one is an excellent spinner because it’s so thin at the center and thicker at the rim. It is close to flat from the center outwards to the edge, where it quickly flares out to form a rim – it is almost cup-shaped. Maybe you can see this in the photos? I’m not a huge fan of “brown” but I am a huge fan of this spindle – I selected this particular jewel for it’s shape, and it does indeed work very nicely – lightweight with good balance and good rim weighting for a long spin.

The green one is quite heavy and I use it as a support spindle – do you see how it’s shaft is much shorter than the other spindles? I really like this one, too. It fits right into a Parmesan cheese plastic jar, lol, which makes it so very easy to drop it into my backpack and away I go. In fact, this works extremely well – just drop it down in there, and if you want to put the lid on, just open the flap with the sprinkle holes, let the spindle shaft stick out of one of the holes and screw the lid on. It works!

Anyway, back to my green spindle - I can also use it as a drop – in fact, I alternate from support to drop with this little number. Of all of my jewel spindles, I like the looks of this one the best! I just love it!

Now, on to my last one – the pale green one on the right. I love the looks of this jewel, but it’s really kind of heavy for my tastes. I like to spin very fine yarn and this one is just a tad bit too heavy for that. It’s also kind of heavy to use as a support spindle, too. I’m keeping it on hand to use as a plying spindle, and also, I’m keeping it on hand just to look at, as I think that it is *very* pretty! If you look closely at it, you can see the lines where different slabs of stone have been glued together to make sort of a laminated thingie. Isn’t that cool?

Materials –
Jewel doughnuts - from the bead store.
Shish Kabob skewers – from the grocery store. These are nearly always nice and straight. You want straight for spindle shafts.
Chop sticks – from a lovely Chinese restaurant meal – have your friends save them, too. These are not always particularly straight. I save the not-so-straight ones for making knitting needles – straights or circs – because it doesn’t matter, but for spindles, you want straight.
Bicycle inner tube - from out in the garage, lol. If you don’t have bike inner tubes hanging around, then contact your local bike store and ask if they’ll save one for you, next time they change a tire. Or, just buy one – in any case, you want the kind which are the same thickness all the way around, not the kind which is thicker on the outer part of the tube, and thinner on the inner side. Also, you probably don’t want a tube which has been slimed. One innertube will keep you and 20 of your closest friends in spindles for the rest of your natural life.
Brass eye hooks – I found these at the hardware store. They are “National” brand and I purchased sizes 216 and 217 ½. The smaller one - the size 216 - is my fave, and from now on, I’ll only buy the smaller one, but both sizes are nice. The smaller ones are way more delicate, and likely to snap as you are screwing it into the shaft, but I just like a smaller hook. You want brass – you don’t want the silvery-colored ones as they are much thicker and impossible (for me) to reshape, as the metal is very hard.
Scissors - for cutting the innertube. Standard, household scissors work just fine.
Thumb Tack - for starting the eyehooks. Link to a picture is below.

Construction –
Cut across the innertube and then cut again so that now, you have a black rubber-band which is about ¼ inch wide. Now, cut across this so that you have a rectangle of rubber which is ¼ inch wide, and about 5 inches long (I’m guessing here). Wrap the rubber around the skewer and then try on the doughnut. You’ll get the jewel doughnut onto the rubber with a twisting motion – twist one way and it will work – twist the wrong way and the rubber will bunch up. Most likely, your doughnut hole (lol) is much too small for this amount of rubber, so nibble away at the rubber until you get it short enough that the jewel will twist onto it. You want for it to be on there snugly, but not so tight that you feel as though you are really *forcing*it on there.

Notice that as you wrap the rubber around the shaft, your rubber starts “here” and ends “there” and more than likely, these two aren’t 180 degrees away from each other. If your start and your finish are on the same side of the skewer, then your jewel won’t be dead centered on the skewer. See? This is why I think that the little turquoise jewel doughnut can be made to work – you can play with the centering and the balance in this way, and also by fiddling around with the hook (see below). You don’t need to get it perfectly right at the beginning – get the jewel doughnut onto the shaft, and you can fine tune it later.

You’ll notice that I made 2 hooked versions and 3 non-hooked versions. I made all 5 of these before I went to the hardware store, and all I had on hand were the two brass hooks. Actually, I had three, but I broke one.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and so... I made three bottom whorl no-hook drop spindles, and this caused me to learn how to use them! I’ve never used a bottom whorl before and I gleefully spun them off of my thigh, just like the top whorl ones. Later, I googled bottom whorls and all of the sites I visited stated, quite plainly, that one can’t spin off of the thigh with a bottom whorl. Why not? It works perfectly! I also had to learn how to do the half hitch knot at the end of the shaft, since I didn’t have a hook there, and this is a nuisance. Yes, after a bit, I got quite fast at it, and learned that little wrist flick thing, but it’s not my favorite method. I’m really happy that I’ve learned this new technique, but I’ll stick with top whorls with-a-hook since I can go so much faster.

I digress…
Place your jewel doughnut on it’s little rubber thingie close to the end of the skewer because the skewer will split when the hook is screwed in. There are a couple of reasons for this - first reason - I don't have a drill bit for this tiny of a screw, and second, you can't drill into the end of a shish kabob skewer - I've tried numerous times and have since given up trying.

Instead of drilling a hole, I get the eyehook started in this way - I take a thumbtack and stick it into the end of the skewer, as far into the wood as the "tack" part is long. Twist it in, and give it a few more turns to widen the hole a little bit. This is the kind of thumb tack that I used - thumb tack picture.

Then, I took out the thumb tack and screwed the hook into place. The screwing-in of the hook will cause the skewer to split, which is why I put the rubber right at the end of the skewer. I don't know why this split doesn't show up better in the pictures, but it is quite a split and the *rubber* is what is holding everything together.

In other words, if you wanted more of the skewer to stick up above the whorl, and you moved the rubber down the stick a ways, then the stick would split so badly that the hook wouldn't stay screwed in. Get it? This is why I have the rubber right up to the end.

Sometimes, the smaller diameter hook, the number 216s, won’t cause the skewer to split.

Adjusting the hook - Notice how I've reshaped the hooks? Easy to do with jewelry making, round jawed, or round nosed pliers. I like to use brass eyehooks - the smallest ones I can find - and straighten the hook all the way out. Then, I grab the very end of the dealie with the jaw of the pliers, and turn the hook. Then, I screw the hook into place and take a look. Next, I tilt the hook a little to one side - just a tiny bit to the side - sort of how you might cock your head to one side if you are in a flirty mood? Then, I screw it into the skewer and try spinning. I bend the hook this way and that until it spins nicely.

You can't bend the hook while it's in the skewer because the skewer is split, so you have to take it out, bend it, put it back, test it, and so on until you get it right. Once you figure out how YOU like your hook to rest, then you can get it fairly close to the goal from the start. Keep trying, you'll figure it out. If all of this has worked a too-large hole into your spindle shaft, you can either get a new kabob stick or put a dab of glue or epoxy into the hole.

I cock the hook to one side because the spun yarn comes out on one side of the hook, right? Since you want for the spun yarn to come out of the *middle* of the spindle shaft, you have to get the hook out of the way. You'll lean the hook more to the side for fatter yarn, and less for lace weight. If you get it right, you'll know it because the spindle will spin so still. I know that this doesn't make any sense, lol, but it's true! If it's off center, then it will bob and jerk, but once you hit it right, then.... ahhhhhhhhhh........ stillness while spinning....

Now that I’ve blathered on and on and on and on about making jewel spindles, let me tell you that my FAVORITE spindles are made from toy truck wheels, lol. These aren't nearly as pretty as the jewel ones, but Oh Me Oh My, what little spinning dynamos these are!!! They spin like crazy for a very long time. I use my jewel ones when I'm trying to show off, but I use these when I'm trying to actually spin, heh heh heh.
I found these at this web site, Lee Valley Tools. Great company, by the way. Pleasure to deal with, no affiliation and all that. These wheels are light weight, rim weighted, and balanced enough – you can make adjustments in the construction of the spindle

Now, the hole in the wheel is considerably smaller than the hole in the jewel, and as you can see, the whole rubber thing just isn't very aesthetically pleasing, because it got all mushed up, but you know what? It still spins like a champ!

What I've done on more recent wheel-spindles is to wrap Duck Tape (yes, google it, the proper name is DucK tape, not ducT tape, lol.) instead of rubber and then, wedge the wheel on. It stays on quite well, especially after you get the hook screwed in. When you screw in the hook, and the skewer splits, it pushes out sideways onto the interior of the truck wheel, and holds it on very tightly, you know, like a wedge or a shim. I have had absolutely no problems. In lots of ways, the duct tape is easier to use. I cut across the duct tape to make short strips and jimmy around with these until the wheel fits nicely. I wrap the tape just like I wrapped the rubber – around the shaft, at the end of the shaft.

The hole on the jewels is very "short" - you know, from the top to the bottom, so it doesn't hold very well onto the duck tape, but holds on quite well to the rubber. Conversely, the hole on the wheel is *quite* tall - almost 1/2 inch, so it's too much friction to try to squeeze it onto the rubber, but it slides nicely onto the tape. Experiment and find out your favorite way.

Another thing is that the black rubber just looks so very pretty with the jewels.
In the above photo, you'll notice that I've cut a notch into the wheel? I use a triangular file and grind grind grind until I get it deep enough to hold the yarn. Then, a quick pass with some fine sandpaper and I' m good to go.

You could finish these toy wheels with some furniture oil, if you like, but I just leave them plain.

I’ve used all 4 sizes of wheel that Lee Valley offers, and I like the two larger sizes the best. Try them all and see which ones you like best.

Make spindles!!! Spin!!!
I always like to see how others store their fibery stuff, so let me show you my system. Nothing fancy, just a plastic box with my spindles and some roving to work with. Since I'm often working with white alpaca and white merino, I try to keep them in their respective jars so that I can tell which one is which by looking.

Another idea - if I'm spinning on many different projects, I sometimes forget what I was doing on which spindle. I take a note card, and write whatever is necessary to cause me to remember, and then punch two holes into the card with a paper punch. Then, I thread this card onto the spindle shaft. This way, I can remember that I was spinning the white merino on the fold and the white alpaca from rolags because I don't *ever* remember what I was doing and I can't always tell by looking, either. It works beautifully.

Ready to go!

I don’t often want to take this big tote with me, away from home, so I generally pack my spinning in a plastic jar and drop the jar into my backpack. It’s perfectly OK for the end of the spindle to extend beyond the top of the jar, but by using the jar, it protects my hook, and protects the rest of my backpack from the hook. It also keeps the roving nice. I put the roving into the jar first, and then drop in the spindle. You’ll discover that you buy your mayonnaise and your peanut butter based on whether or not you can fit your spindle whorls through the mouth of the jar, lol. Those are Kraft Mayo jars in the tote box. They are quite handy!



Pensguys said...

Oooh!Aaaaah! Pretty!

The pix are TOO cool! LOL

Romi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Romi said...

:sigh: My fingers need some coffee. :P

So, anyway, as I was saying...great post! I love the pics. And thank you so much for the spindle tutorial! :)

Becky said...

thanks!! Great job!

kero1au said...

Great! I use rubber pencil grips, they come in different colours so you can match the stones. And yes, my favourite spindles are the ones made from toy wheels - its sooooo easy to quickly make one for the next spinning project!

Briley said...

Thanks for posting about this. I just made my own drop spindle, and I'm learning to use it. What fun!

dawn said...

Bicycle innertubes, huh? Well, I'd have never thought of that! Good tip. I had the same experience in our local bead store. I went in for beads for stitch markers and had that "ah-ha" moment...came out with several donuts!

My husband bought me a little gun-shaped drill for making the holes for the hooks. Several days later I was complaining that it didn't have enough power. turns out, I had it set to spin the wrong way! "You must be just burning your way through!" he said! I will never live it down with him and my son.