Learning How to Spin Yarn: Spindle vs Wheel

Some spinning teachers insist that you must start with a drop spindle; others pull out a chair and invite you to sit at a spinning wheel. Which is best?

Elizabeth Prose May 2, 2022 - 4 min read

Learning How to Spin Yarn: Spindle vs Wheel Primary Image

Which tool should you learn to spin yarn on? Spindle or wheel? Photos by George Boe

When it came to learning how to spin yarn, my biggest question was, “What should I learn on: spindle or wheel?” My mother, who usually has an opinion on crafty matters such as this, encouraged me to learn on a wheel. Luckily, I had a circle of friends willing to help me reach my goal.

My friendly fiber enablers sat me at a wheel, handed me wool, and showed me how to treadle and draft. One even loaned me her wheel so that I could practice at home. The following month, I took my first spinning class at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival, where I was able to try several different spinning wheels. I was hooked! A new-to-me wheel came home with me, along with a couple of fleeces.

Elizabeth first yarn

Elizabeth keeps the yarn from her first spinning class as a reminder of how much she has learned. Photo by George Boe

For me, the choice to learn to spin yarn on a wheel was easy, and eventually, I did teach myself to spin with a spindle. However, not everyone has access to a room full of seasoned spinners and a friend with an extra wheel.

Here are 3 factors that will help you decide which tool to start with:

1. Availability

Not everyone who wants to learn how to spin yarn knows a handspinner. A quick internet search for classes offered online, at your local yarn store, or at a fiber festival will let you know what’s available in your area, or check with your local spinning guild. The teacher of your first class can help you make the decision about which tool to begin with.


Illustration by Katie Eberts

2. Cost

Wheels are a big investment in your craft. New spinners often ask how to choose their first wheel, and most instructors advise them to try as many wheels as they can before making a purchase. Spindles offer a more affordable option for beginning spinners. However, a word of caution: spindles have a way of multiplying. You can’t have just one!

Matchless spinning wheel in car

Tiffany is ready to travel to spinning class with her wheel. Photo by Tiffany Warble

3. Speed vs Portability

Wheels produce yarn faster than spindles, but they also have additional moving parts and accessories. It takes time and practice to get comfortable spinning on a wheel. Although you can travel with a wheel, a spindle’s ease and portability make it perfect for stashing in a bag for impromptu spinning while you run errands or join friends for coffee.

Ultimately, why not try both!

Elizabeth Prose is a former associate editor of Spin Off magazine.

Originally published August 1, 2018; updated May 2, 2022.