Small: three ways to make yarn without a spindle or wheel



This post is part of our series about small things you can make with what you’ve got to hand. Projects don’t always have to be big, complicated and involve buying lots of new and possibly expensive materials.

Let’s start with yarn. Making yarn might seem daunting but the truth is there are lots of simple ways to make it. You don’t need any special equipment to make yarn. Just scissors and maybe some handcards.

sock becomes yarn

Rag yarn

Let’s start with some old socks. You know the ones where the heels and toes have worn out but the rest of the sock is fine and even made out of some warm fluffy material? Do you throw these away? Or make them into yarn?

Start at the cuff and cut a spiral around and around the sock, avoiding bits that are worn.

It knits up nicely

This yarn can be knit up, but unless you have lots of identical socks you’re not going to get tons of yarn from a pair. I would use this yarn for rag weaving. (future post!)

Obviously you can cut up any fabric and make it into yarn. There’s a cool Saori-made tool called a Sakiori cutter designed specifically to cut fabric into long strips for weaving.

Silk hankies

a dyed silk hanky

Silk hankies are squares made of cocoons that have been softened and then stretched onto a frame-layer upon layer. The hankies can be dyed and spun, but you can also use them for paper making or felting.

knitted silk hanky–no spinning

You can also knit straight from the hanky–no spinning! There are a lot of great youtube videos on silk hanky and silk cocoon uses. I’ve made a pinterest board showing some of them. Here’s a video on how to knit from the silk hankies–featuring a cat.

Silk hankies are cheaper than most silk you can buy to spin. You can even make your own. Here’s another helpful video if that’s something you’d like to try.

Finger-twisted ‘pencil’ roving

You don’t need to spin wool to make it into yarn. There are lots of roving-like (unspun) yarns on the market. Noro does one called Rainbow Roll. So does Alafoss an Icelandic yarn brand. It’s called Plotulopi. You can easily make your own using the finger twisting method or simply by pulling some combed wool through a diz.

I used my handcards to make some rolags which I then pulled out into a long, thin rope. You can knit right away, adding a little twist with your fingers as you go. Don’t worry if the yarn breaks. You can reattach it simply by twisting or rolling the two ends together with your fingers.

rolag rolled into a ball

Nuno felting part one: rub n’ roll


Nuno felting is one of those techniques I’ve always admired and wanted to try, but never got my act together to do. A couple of months back I bought Felt Fabric Designs by Sheila Smith and again my interest in nuno felting was piqued.

I was particularly interested in some of the techniques Smith shows “laminating” fabrics using felt and also upcycling thrift store scarves and fabrics into felted patchworks.

But I haven’t tried any of those techniques yet. Usually I dive in and try techniques even if they’re a bit complicated, but this time I tried some of the simpler nuno felting processes.

After a rummage in my closet I found a scarf I’ve never worn. It’s an open weave and 100% silk–ripe for nuno! Here it is on the table before felting. It’s on a strip of bubble wrap. I’ve spread light layers of Wensleydale roving and silk fibers on top.

100% silk open weave scarf readied for nuno

100% silk open weave scarf readied for nuno

The next step was to cover with an old net curtain, wet down with cool water, smooth some olive oil soap over the net curtain and begin to rub!

My good friend and avid felter Gaynor was on the scene to offer advice and lend her fingers for rubbing!

Gaynor flipped the fiber-covered side face down onto the bubble wrap to give it a little extra rub

Gaynor flipped the fiber-covered side face down onto the bubble wrap to give it a little extra rub

The bubble wrap provides the friction to felt the fibers into the silk scarf. Rubbing the fabric and fiber through the net curtain starts the felting process. Once you can peel the netting off without the fibers sticking to it, you remove the netting, place another layer on top then roll it up and begin to roll.

Gaynor’s tip for rolling the fabric in the bubble wrap was to roll the whole thing in a towel and roll it and then roll it some more. We didn’t keep an accurate count but I’d guess we rolled it a few hundred times in each direction?

What do I mean by rolling it in each direction? Well, once you roll your piece of fabric a few hundred times, unroll the bubble wrap bundle and re-roll it from the opposite direction and start the whole process again. It’s good to have a friend to help with the rolling if your arms get tired or you get a bit of finger ache.

Once you’re satisfied the fiber has mingled (or stuck) to your fabric give it a rinse in very hot water. Wad it up in a ball and throw it into the sink a few times. Then rinse with cold water. Take a look at your fabric. Have the fibers you’ve applied felted into it as much as if you would like? If not, give it a few more rolls in the bubble wrap and then the repeat the hot/cold rinses and throwing process.

Gaynor and I found that with this scarf, silk felted really well but the Wensleydale took a lot of persuading. If you’re after a shiny or even metallic effect go for more silk, less wool. Once the fabric is dry give it an iron, which brings out the silk’s shine.

Here’s my final product. I love how this technique has turned a drab unworn scarf into something I’m now wearing all the time. Interested in some amazing nuno felting? Check out the Sheep Cabana Pinterest board.

Finished scarf: drab to fab!

Finished scarf: drab to fab!