Spinning a sample is an important part of a project; however, like knitting swatches, it’s hardly the most exciting part of the journey!
This method of spinning a sample is quicker and easier, taking away a lot of the trouble of switching bobbins and fiddling with small amounts of yarn. The secret is an ages-old tool: the Nostepinne.

A Nostepinne is a simple piece of equipment. The key is the gradually tapered shape which allows the yarn to slide off easily after being wound on. The smooth, polished surface is also important, as is the notch at the tip which holds the yarn tail safely for the centre-pull ball.

This is a sample for a project I’ve had in mind for a while. I wanted to ply one singles of natural grey Polwarth yarn with one of a hand-dyed silk/merino blend. I took a small handful of each of the fibres and spun them one after another onto the same bobbin.

The yarn is then wound off directly from the bobbin onto the Nostepinne. Secure the yarn end in the notch, release the tension on the bobbin, and begin to roll the Nostepinne towards you while keeping a slight tension on the yarn with your other hand. It is tempting to speed the job up by wrapping the yarn around the Nostepinne rather than rolling it but be aware that this can have a significant impact on the twist in your singles and will affect the trueness of your sample.


Nostepinne, winding off the bobbin


As the yarn winds onto the shaft you can control the evenness of the wraps by altering the angle of the Nostepinne. If you have used a ball winder, you will notice that the shape of the ball wound on the Nostepinne is very similar and creates a neat centre-pull ball. After winding, this ball can safely be removed from the Nostepinne and stored; however, we are leaving it on the shaft ready for plying. Break the singles from the leader and re-thread the leader through the orifice of your wheel.

When you are ready to ply your sample, detach the centre end of the yarn from the notch and tie it together with the outside end to your leader. Notice that in this sample the grey yarn, spun first, has ended up on the outside of the ball and the pink, spun second, is underneath.

Beginning to Ply

Gently draw out the two ends of yarn together and they will begin to twist into a 2-ply yarn.  The singles should pull easily from the centre and slide off the Nostepinne, if not, slide the ball slightly further down the Nostepinne to a narrower part of the shaft.

Plying Off the Nostepinne

Keeping a light hold on the wrapped yarn, begin to treadle. Be careful not to allow the ball to slip off the end of the Nostepinne as it becomes smaller, once it is very small hook a finger between the strands and allow the yarn to fold in half at the centre point and disappear onto the bobbin. There is no wasted yarn and you have saved yourself the trouble of repeatedly changing bobbins.

Finished Sample

I have used the Nostepinne to sample for 3-ply yarn in the same way. Simply leave the centre end secured in the notch, tuck the Nostepinne under your arm and use a Navajo technique to create a 3-ply yarn. Even if you don’t plan to spin your 3-ply Navajo style, you can still check that the grist and twist angle of your sample are correct.

Plan your sample so that it will be large enough to knit a small swatch and check whether your project will be successful. You can easily spin several samples if necessary to find the best wheel ratio, plying speed and grist for your yarn.

Diane is a misplaced Aussie living in London, UK. In between knitting, spinning, designing and her part-time dream job in a yarn store she occasionally manages to get a little bit of work done on her book.

You can find Diane on the web here: http://www.dianemulholland.com