High or Low Whorl? Selecting a Spindle

My first spindle was a gift. My mom overheard me admiring a beautifully painted whorl while at The Finger Lakes Fiber Festival. Then she listened to me whine about wanting to learn to spin for some time after. That Christmas the spindle I’d been fawning over was under the tree.

Being a firm believer that you can’t have just one of something, I know I’ll be adding more spindles to my collection. (I’ll take one of everything, thank you very much.) However, still being a newbie to spinning, I really have no idea which ones are right for me.

I think the most fascinating part of a spindle is the whorl. It’s what drew me to drop spinning in the first place. I turned to Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle and specifically the chapter “Know About Spindles” to learn more. Here’s what Abby had to say about choosing a low or high whorl when selecting a spindle.

Selecting a Spindle

The 3 basic whorl varieties are high, low, and convertible.

Low or High?

There is a lot of conventional wisdom about which type of spindle is better or easier to spin with, but this will come down to your personal preference. If you’re new to this, you don’t have a personal preference yet, so how do you decide?

You don’t have to! Just get one of each. Even if you feel drawn to one over the other, you should try each one, and what you find might surprise you. Many spinners who assumed they would prefer a high whorl have been shocked to discover they actually are more comfortable with a low-whorl spindle, and vice versa.

Low-Whorl Spindles

In general, low-whorl spindles are more stable and harder to unbalance. This has made them a popular choice for beginning spinners for many years, and it’s a key reason why low-whorl spindles have prevailed around the world through much of history. It’s simply easier to make a dependable, well-performing low-whorl spindle than a high-whorl spindle. A low-whorl spindle is more tolerant of minor flaws—a slightly bent shaft, shaft out of round, whorl a little off balance—than a high-whorl spindle.

High-Whorl Spindles

In the modern world, master spindle-crafters can create anything they choose with great precision. Longstanding obstacles in making a great high-whorl spindle are essentially erased by technical accuracy. High whorls have become a more popular choice than low whorls (or the lesser-known mid-whorls) in many areas, and you may find more beautiful and well-made high-whorl spindles on the market than any other type.

Convertible Spindles

Another option is the convertible spindle, which can be used as either a low whorl or a high whorl. Some spindles are specifically designed to be used either way, but in some cases it’s just a happy accident. You may be able to flip a high whorl over and use it as a low whorl in a pinch, but it’s usually harder to do that with a low whorl. Low whorls may not be as precisely balanced as high whorls, and most high whorls require a hook to secure your yarn as you spin.

Selecting a Spindle

Thank you, Abby, for supporting my desire to have one of everything! Which type of whorl do you prefer? Share in the comments below.

-Kerry Bogert
Editorial Director, Books

Note: Images are ©F+W Media, Inc.


Learn more about selecting spindles and how to use them with these fantastic resources!

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