SPINNING ON YOUR BOOK CHARKA
By Joan Ruane
Photos by Sarah Christensen
After you have assembled your book charkha and feel comfortable that it is spinning smoothly and easily, then you are ready to begin.
Cut a piece of sewing thread, about 28 inches long, tie the ends in a knot and trim off the ends. Then make a half hitch at the base of the spindle securing the thread to the spindle so that you have a lead thread.
Using “Easy to Spin” cotton sliver, draft out a little from one end of the sliver and put it through the loop at the end of the lead thread. Slowly turn the wheel about a quarter of a turn clockwise, drafting back a little at the same time until the fibers start catching. Then draft back a little so that the twist begins to run up the drafted area. Draft back at about a 45-degree angle from the spindle. (See photos).
When the yarn starts to feel like it is going to fall apart, then keep tension on the yarn and give the wheel a quarter of a turn clockwise. Now draft back again until it feels weak and ready to fall apart, give the wheel another quarter of a turn clockwise. Do this until your yarn is about 30 inches (or what ever is comfortable for you) and then holding tension on the yarn and pinching off the twist so it does not go into the sliver, turn the wheel completely around one or two times to give your yarn strength.
To make sure the yarn is strong enough you can give the yarn a slight tug without pulling the spindle out of its stand and if it holds together then you probably have enough twist in the yarn. But better yet is to reach down and layback a small section of the spun yarn so that it plies on itself. Look at the ply and see if it is what you want. If you are happy with the amount of twist you have in the yarn, then you are ready to wind it on the spindle.
Winding on the Spindle:
Keeping tension on your spun yarn, lift your arm up and in toward the book charkha (or table) so that the yarn lines up with the base of the spindle, up close to the silver disk at the end of the spindle. Keeping tension on the yarn, move the wheel counter clockwise just enough to unwind some of the spun yarn so you can move it to the base of the spindle. Then when it is at the base, turn the wheel clockwise and wind on the yarn to the spindle. I prefer to make it into a cone shape on the spindle. Leave about 8 inches so you can bring the yarn back down to the point and still have 3 or 4 inches of yarn to start your new draw with.
Continue drafting until it is weak, then give the wheel a quarter turn clockwise, draft, turn the wheel, draft, turn the wheel. Eventually you will be able to draft and turn the wheel at the same time. Remember to draft first each time you start to spin a new section of yarn, so it is always draft, spin, draft & spin.
*Eileen Hallman is an expert charkha spinner and she has a wonderful DVD that I highly recommend. Eileen’s website is: www.charkha.biz. Eileen lives in Black Mountain, NC.