Spinning your own yarn
The fiber that is being spun can be from any animal and many types of plants, such as cotton and linen. I use drop spindles, which are wooden shafts with a whorl on one end to help it spin. They can also have hooks on the end to help hold the yarn in place, but aren't mandatory. The slideshow to the left shows the process from starting with dyed fiber to a finished knitting project!
The spindles are the tools in the vase. They work by spinning the tool and then pulling out lengths of the fiber, which allows the twist from the spinning motion to travel into the individual fibers. That twist binds the fiber together into a thin, often delicate strand. Once the fiber is completely spun, it can be divided into several different spools and then plied together to create a thicker, sturdier fiber. You can see the ones that have been plied by noting the color differences. Once the yarn is plied, I wind it off around the back of a chair and then tie it in several places to hold the ring together. It is then soaked for a short time in cold water with a wool wash and then left to dry. Once it is dry, it is considered complete.
The Electric Eel Wheel (the plastic purple spinning wheel) is a miniature electronic version of a traditional spinning wheel (the big wooden Sleeping Beauty ones) and is a fraction of the price. It uses the same twist principles as the drop spindle, but instead of using gravity to help facilitate the spin, an electric motor turns the spindle on a horizontal axis (versus vertical like the drop spindle). It winds onto a bobbin instead of the shaft of a spindle. The finishing process is the same. The bright yarn in the center of the last picture was spun on the wheel and the autumn colored one on the right was drop spindle. Shawl that I knit was made from yarn spun on a drop spindle.