Troubleshooting tips for beginner spinners

Over-twisted yarn 

I had a lovely time at Yarnfest in Hull recently. Fabulous stalls, friendly stallholders and interested customers. It was good to put faces to names and meet old friends. Thanks to Jean and Karen and East Yorkshire Yarns for organising.

I took my double treadle Ashford traditional with a jumbo flyer. It’s perfect for your first try at spinning, with an ultra-slow speed, large orifice to take fat yarn and double treadle to make treadling easy.   I was pleased to have so many people ‘have a go’, from 7 year olds to 70 year olds, and both men and women.  I had a few people who had wheels but kept running into problems they couldn’t solve. 

As a beginner you tend to blame yourself but often it’s not you it’s that the wheel isn’t set up right. 

So here are my ‘before you start’ tips   

  1. Oil your wheel – that can make a huge difference especially with the older wheels (more modern wheels often has sealed bearing and need little oiling) 
  2. Check you tension – adjust the brake band so the wheel pulls your leader in but you can pull the yarn off it without too much resistance.
  3. Check that the maidens are parallel and the flyer can rotate freely 

Once you start, aim for rhythm before you worry about getting an even yarn.  Your hands and feet should move together – if you hands stop, stop moving your feet.

  Over twisted yarn

Over-twist is very common – first try to work out why it happened and adjust things to stop it happening again. Then you can look at the yarn and untwist it.


  • Hands moving more slowly than feet            

Try to get a rhythm so you draft for each treadle of the foot, adjusting the length of your draft so the right amount of twist enters the yarn.

  • Stopping hands to sort ‘fat’ area so loose coordination                                         

As a beginner it is very tempting to stop drafting to sort out a fat bit but to keep on  treadling – this makes it harder to sort the ‘fat’ bit and over-twists the rest of the yarn. Try hard to resist the temptation to stop and sort our fat bits. Or if you do in the early stages remember to stop treadling 

  • Wrong ratio  

many wheels will have a number of ratios – which mean the wheel goes faster or slower per treadle. The smaller the whorl on the flyer the faster the flyer will turn for each treadle – to start with use the bigger whorl (pulley).so slower speed. see diagram

  • Treadling when your hands have stopped

Although treadling pulls the yarn onto the bobbin, it only does it slowly so if you already have over twisted yarn treadling makes it worse

  • Yarn not pulling on 

Is the yarn caught on a hook? Does the brake band need tightening ?

Rescuing your over-twisted yarn

Sometimes it is best just to keep spinning and accept that your early yarns may be irregular and over and underspun.    Getting the ‘feel’ of your hands and foot working together is the most important part of successful spinning.  However if it is really over-twisted and you want to sort it out you have a number of options 

  1. if you have a rolag or a short piece of fibre you can hold the yarn at the point where you want the twist to reduce and allow it to hang free, gravity and nature will untwist it for you 
  2. if you have fat bits that are not too twisty you may be able to untwist that section then pull to make it longer and thinner which takes up the extra twist 
  3. a combination of a and b, – 

Once you have untwisted the yarn wind onto the bobbin by hand so as not to add more twist in again.  Start treadling again when you get to the area you want to draft and spin again 

happy spinning

I would love to have any feed back or ask questions.

Cath x

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