People Say the Strangest Things to Handspinners

Handspinners get used to very odd questions and comments, but some still make us scratch our heads. Here are the 3 most common types of odd questions or comments you may hear when spinning.

Anne Merrow Apr 21, 2023 - 6 min read

People Say the Strangest Things to Handspinners Primary Image

People say the strangest things to handspinners. Photo by wayhomestudio on Freepik

In much of the world (especially the parts of the world reached by Spin Off magazine), spinning your own yarn hasn’t been an everyday sight for centuries. Handspinners get used to very odd questions and comments, but some still make us scratch our heads. Here are the 3 most common types of odd questions or comments you may hear when spinning:

Forget the gym! This looks like our kind of “spinning” bike! Photo by Coco Parisienne on Pixabay

1. Wrong kind of spinning!

In the past 20 years or so, anyone who mentions spinning (especially in a class) is expected to be headed to the gym. Heck, I’ve made this mistake myself. But stationary bicycles aren’t the only opportunity for misunderstanding. Fire spinning, dervishes, tops . . . even cricket, in which a leg spinner can “bowl deliveries that behave unexpectedly, including the googly.” Even specifying “handspinner” doesn’t always clear things up. The present obsession with fidget spinners invites even more confusion and absolutely trashes our search results. (Let’s just give everyone spindles—all the movement and focus, plus you get yarn!)

2. “Can’t you buy that at . . . ?”

The bane of every crafter, this question goes double for handspinners. Yes, you can buy yarn, or a sweater, or a pair of socks, or fabric. You can also buy Thanksgiving dinner and birthday cake, but you cannot buy pride in craftsmanship or peace of mind or community, and most of us would pay money for the health and wellness benefits that come from crafting.

3. Weird questions specific to handspinning.

Some comments just come out of left field.


Is it really too much to ask for the spindle to stay still for a second? Well, yes, actually. Maggie Casey and Handwoven editor Susan E. Horton give the spindle a spin in this free online course, The Spinning Teacher with Maggie Casey.

“Can’t you just make the spindle hang there still?” I’m embarrassed to say that this was me years ago. While we were photographing Abby Franquemont’s book and video, Respect the Spindle, I was frustrated by the difficulty of making a spindle appear to obey gravity for the fraction of a second it takes to snap just one picture. Abby looked at me, unsure whether she needed to explain how the spindle would reverse direction (and keep moving) if she stopped it. I figured it out.

“How do you get it to go around the wheel?” Especially when the drive band and fiber are the same color, some people think that the yarn goes into the orifice and somehow around the drive wheel. Terri Drouin-Guerette, a Revolutionary War reenactor, switched to spinning colored fiber just to make it clear that the two yarns are not connected.

To an onlooker, it may be difficult to discern which way the yarn is moving. Photo by Matt Graves

"What direction is that going?" Ayse Sercan came across a man who got the wrong end of the stick—er, spindle. “He thought I was taking yarn and making roving,” she explains. This one is surprisingly common; one spinner was stumped by a man watching her who insisted that he understood what was happening, so she invited him to sit at her wheel and demonstrate. He started treadling and pulled her singles back off the bobbin.

“What is that thing?” Terri sometimes hears parents saying to their children, “Look, she’s looming!” Terry Mattison recalls, “While spindle spinning in the Columbus, Ohio, airport during a business trip, I had a gentleman watching me spin for several minutes. Then he came over and asked to take a closer look at my funny-looking yo-yo.”

Maggie Casey recalls another odd airport encounter with another handspinner: “She was carrying her Sidekick [spinning wheel from Schacht], and someone asked her if it was a Pilates machine.”

“The people who know more about spinning than you.” The stranger who just walked up to you spinning in public might truly understand fiber, wheel or spindle mechanics, and drafting. Hasn’t happened to me yet, though. Deb Menz says, “After watching me spin for a while, a man said to me, ‘I understand it all, but I want to know where the sweater comes out.’ Yes, he said it in complete seriousness.”

“But I don’t want to hurt the sheep.” Sigh.

No matter how funny or even maddening you find these well-meaning comments, they present the chance to teach someone about handspinning and yarn and the way fiber works. If you can, respond enthusiastically, resist the urge to call them “muggles,” and remember the best ones to share with handspinners who understand.

Anne Merrow is a cofounder of Long Thread Media.

Originally published April 10, 2018; updated April 21, 2023.