How I Turn Children into Spinning Wheels

When we demonstrate handspinning, it’s not always feasible to let children try our wheels or spindles. So, how do we teach children about spinning?

Terri Drouin-Guerette Mar 20, 2020 - 3 min read

How I Turn Children into Spinning Wheels Primary Image

A wrought-iron hook is easy for little hands to hold. Photos by Vicki Miorelli; taken at Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts

Ever since my article “My Life as a Revolutionary War Reenactor” appeared in Spin Off Spring 2018, several people have contacted me regarding my comment about turning children into spinning wheels. Anyone who has spun in public knows how curious children can be. However, when we demonstrate, it’s not always feasible to let them try our wheels or spindles. So, how do we teach children about spinning?

Children Explore Twist

Several years ago, I met Carol Spoerl at Fiber Revival in Newbury, Massachusetts. Our conversation turned to our experiences with children and the way that they often want to try spinning on our wheels. Children love to learn by doing. Carol shared how she deals with this situation: her husband made several hooks for her, and she was kind enough to give me one.

spinning wheel

So, how do we turn children into spinning wheels?

  1. I start out by catching the hook in a bit of fiber and adding enough twist to hold it together.
  2. Next, I hand the hook to the and say, “Keep twisting, fast as you can!” While they twist, I draft.
  3. Once we have made a length of singles (a two-foot length is usually enough), I fold the singles in half, take back the hook, and ply the yarn back on itself.
  4. Finally, I tie the yarn around the child’s wrist. They are absolutely thrilled when I tell them, “This is your very first handspun yarn that you made!”

Spindle Hooks

One day, I didn’t have Carol’s hook with me, so I reached for a hook that I bought from Big Bear Trading Company, one of my favorite sutlers. (A sutler was historically a person who followed an army and sold provisions to the soldiers.) Knowing that I’m a spinner, Big Bear had thought that it would make a good orifice hook. Upon closer look, I saw that the flare at the end of the hook made it too big for my wheel’s orifice. Big Bear told me that it had been sold to him as a “spindle hook.” It turns out that this hook is a replica of some bronze spindle hooks discovered in a pre-Roman excavation.

I have continued to use the wrought-iron spindle hook because the square shaft is easier for little hands to manipulate. As a matter of fact, I now have a one of them stashed with each wheel that I use when demonstrating.

—Terri Guerette

This post was published June 26, 2018, and updated March 20, 2020.