Simple Spindle Kate

Not only does this device work well, but it is easy and cheap to make. It can be easily adapted to the supplies at hand while you are traveling or fine-tuned for different spindles at home.

Karen Williams Dec 27, 2019 - 8 min read

Simple Spindle Kate Primary Image

Completed kate ready for plying. Photos by Tim Janneck unless otherwise indicated

I love spindle spinning, but many of my first attempts to ply singles off my spindles resulted in frustration. Over the years, I have tried a variety of approaches, some with more success than others. My favorite method uses a tensioned spindle kate that I make from a shoebox and a handful of other supplies. This type of kate works for a top-whorl suspended spindle with a hook at the tip, and it allows me to leave the singles in cop form on the spindle—no rewinding needed. However, this kate design does require that you own multiple spindles; I’ve not found this to be a hardship.

What You’ll Need

The key to this DIY spindle kate is fishing swivels. I use swivels to suspend the spindles, allowing them to spin freely as the singles unwind from the cop. The shafts of the spindles below the cop are placed in a twisted yarn loop. This prevents the spindles from swinging like pendulums and provides adjustable tension to reduce backspin.

Not only does this device work well, but it is easy and cheap to make. It can be easily adapted to the supplies at hand while you are traveling or fine-tuned for different spindles at home.


From left: scrap yarn, chopsticks, and fishing swivels. Photo by Matt Graves

You will need

  • Shoebox or cardboard box that, sitting on end, is taller than your spindles and wide enough for them to stand side by side.
  • Pen or marker.
  • Tool to poke holes into your cardboard box, such as a Swiss Army knife with reamer/awl, scissors, or knitting needle.
  • A stick or two. (I have used twigs, chopsticks, coffee stir sticks, knitting needles, and popsicle sticks.)
  • About a yard of yarn.
  • One fishing swivel for each spindle. (The swivel eye should be large enough for your spindle hook.)
  • Tapestry needle.


1. With the box sitting on one short end, mark the placement of the swivels on the other short end: there should be one hole for each spindle, located far enough apart that the spindles will not touch each other or the box. Then, using a Swiss Army knife or other tool, poke holes that are large enough for the swivels to pass through.



Photo by Matt Graves

2. Using a small piece of yarn, tie the swivels to the stick (Figure 1), spacing them as far apart as the holes in the box. Tie tightly to avoid a gap between the stick and the swivel.


3. Place the swivels in the holes on top of the box, leaving the stick on the top outside of the box (Figure 2). Tip: I often tape the stick down.

4. Next, poke two small holes into each long side of the box. The two holes should be about one inch apart, but the vertical placement will depend on your spindle and cop. The holes should fall below the spindle cop but high enough to capture the spindle shaft.


5. Thread a tapestry needle with the remaining yarn. Pull the yarn through the four holes in the side of the box to create a loop as follows: insert the needle into the hole closest to the back of the shoebox, across the inside of the box, and out through the hole closest to the back of the box on the other side. Then, on the same side of the box, insert the needle into the hole closest to the front (Figure 3), across the inside of the box, and out through the remaining hole on the other side. Cut the yarn, leaving enough to tie a knot to secure the loop on the outside of the box.

Ready to Ply

Before you insert your spindles, twist the yarn loop (Figure 4). More twists will result in more tension on your spindle, so you might need to adjust later. Then insert the spindle shaft into the twisted loop and hang the spindle hook on a swivel. Repeat for the second spindle. As you begin working, you might find that the box is top-heavy. If it is unsteady, stabilize the box by adding weight to the bottom under the spindles with something handy, such as a book or coffee mug.


Twist the yarn before inserting the spindle shaft, creating a bit of tension to slow the spindle’s rotation.

Now you are ready to ply onto either another spindle or a wheel. When I do not have a spare plying spindle or the time to sit in one place to ply, I use this kate to hold the spindles while I wind a plying ball. To do this, I hold the singles parallel to each other and under steady tension as I wind them into one firm ball of yarn. Later I can use this plying ball with a spindle to add plying twist.

If I have only one spindle with me, I use the spindle kate to hold that spindle while I create a center-pull ball using a nearby piece of paper to roll up as a nøstepinne. Then I can spin a two-ply yarn using the outside and inside ends of the center-pull ball. Spindles are wonderfully portable, and your plying tools can be, too.

How About Three-Ply?

If I want to create a three-ply yarn but the box is not wide enough for three spindles in a row, I create a second row for the third spindle so that the three spindles are in a triangle formation. This additional spindle requires its own stick, swivel, and tension yarn loop.

Sundry Swivels

There are various types of fishing swivels available. You want to find swivels that spin easily and freely and have an eye large enough to fit your spindle hooks. I have tried several types and brands, and they have all performed well.


Types of fishing swivels.

One of the many joys of spindles is their portability; I always find room for spindles when I travel. I keep several swivels in my travel notions bag and have always been able to easily source the rest of the supplies. Often a cardboard box is available if you inquire at a store or hotel.

Karen Williams lives in Alaska. She frequently combines her love of textiles with her love of travel and the outdoors. Some of her favorite travel memories are textile related, since language and culture are not barriers when meeting fellow textile enthusiasts. Karen started spinning to support her knitting habit. However, she recently started spinning for weaving, proving that spinning can be a slippery slope.