How Can You Tell a Handspinner?

You may have heard of the knitter’s (or weaver’s) handshake: instead of greeting someone by the hand, you reach over to examine and stroke the handmade piece they’re wearing. If you can find something to talk about—the yarn, pattern, designer, or something else—you have discovered far more about your new friend than you could learn from any Freemason’s handshake. The mark of a handspinner may be more difficult to spot. Unless they’re seated at a spinning wheel or spinning yarn on a drop spindle, a handspinner may offer few outward cues to indicate that they belong in the club.


Alpaca Faith Hill just dares handspinners to pet her. Photo by Joe Coca, courtesy of Mountain Sky Ranch Alpacas, Berthoud, Colorado

1. A handspinner can identify an alpaca (and distinguish from a llama or even sheep).

Abby Franquemont told me a story from when she worked in software (and not the yarn kind). O’Reilly, the publisher of several series of computer books, uses drawings of animals on the covers to tell them apart, and one of Abby’s colleagues was told to get “the one with the llama on the cover.” The colleague looked around and said, “There is no book with a llama on the cover. Do you want Learning Perl? It has a guanaco on the cover.”

2. A handspinner doesn’t flinch at wool that feels woolly.

Knitters who chase the finest, softest yarns miss a whole world of possibilities. Fibers such as cashmere and superfine Merino have their place (nestled against your skin in a scarf), but softness is just one aspect of useful yarn. Spinners know that drape, durability, and elasticity can be more important than a buttery texture.


If you wear this spindle pin upside down, who can identify the top whorl?

3. A handspinner knows which way is up on a spindle.

Some casual observers can be flummoxed by the fact that the cop on a spindle may be above or below the whorl. But if you know how to make a half-hitch on your spindle, it may not really matter which way is up.

—Anne Merrow

Featured Image: Illustrations by Getty Images/ksana-gribakina and Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

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One Comment

  1. Lori B at 11:36 am July 1, 2018

    You forgot that silk and other spinners always have a bit of fluff stuck to their clothes somewhere. I spin silk and have dogs. That throws people a bit because silk/dog is not a blend you often see.

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