DIY Washer Whorl

Fair season is drawing to a close in New England, and I have been defeated. I have scoured the booths and the vendors for a new spindle and walked away with only more unspun fiber. Whoops.

The trouble is that I don’t want to spend a lot of money for a spindle I might buy online because I want to be able to feel that sucker in my hand before I invest in it. Everything at the fairs was very pretty, very expensive wood that didn’t feel different enough in my hand from the ones I already own to merit the expense.

I was looking for a small, metal spindle similar to one I had seen who knows where. I just have this image of a delicate little spindle being spun in a bowl. don’t remember where I saw it or what it’s called, but I loved the looks of it and wanted the chance to play with something similar.

DIY-ers…get out your epoxy, washers, and polymer clay. Today, we’re making a spindle.

Washer Whorl, Take 1

Alright, so there’s not much to it.

Step 1:

Buy a bunch of washers from Home Depot or some such. They’re about $0.25 each, so be adventurous. Look for ones with the smallest possible hole relative to the outer diameter. I’d have written down the sizes I bought if I thought of it, but I didn’t, so you’ll have to be creative.

Step 2:

Stack up a few and feel the weight in your hand. Once you have it just a bit lighter than you want the final whorl to be, stack them largest to smallest and glue them together with an epoxy suitable for metal. If you’re a perfectionist and know how to center them exactly to make the spindle spin true, send me your secrets. I just eyeballed it. Let the glue set according to the package directions.

Step 3:

Once the glue is dry, work a piece of polymer clay in your hand until it’s malleable.  Push it into the underside of the whorl and up into the opening. Lay the whorl on a flat surface, smallest washer on bottom, and roll the clay evenly onto the largest washer. Flip it over and trim the clay to fit.

Step 4:

Decorate! Find something with an interesting texture–watch gears, buttons carved with interesting patterns, whatever you can find lying about. Press your items gently into the clay to get a pattern you like. Push the knitting needle you’d like to spin with through the center of the washers and pull it back out again, wiggling it just a bit to make the center hole ever so slightly large than the needle. Bake the whorl according  to the instructions on the clay.

Step 5:

When your whorl is partially cool, reinsert the knitting needle and allow the clay to set with the needle in the whorl. The needle should be able to slide in and out with minimal resistance–you may need to secure it with a very small rubber band, like the ones used to secure the ends of cornrows. Tie on your leader and use a half-hitch to secure the leader to the top of the spindle.

Step 6:


Washer Whorl with Polymer Clay, Steampunk Style

Alright, moment of truth. I haven’t actually spun with this sucker yet. I suspect I designed this particular whorl to be too heavy for the application I’m thinking of, but I’ll report back once I’ve put it to the test. I’ll also include picture of the finished whorl itself–hopefully a coat  of paint will help the gearwork designs pop a touch more.

Happing Spinning! Send me pictures if you make your own versions–I’d love to see them.

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