The Metal Straw Hack

I recently realized I left bits and pieces about my Metal Straw Hack around the internet and social media, but I never wrote a consolidated blog post about why you might need a metal straw in your spinning toolkit. Time to fix this oversight!

The Metal Straw Hack allows you to free up a spindle full of singles yarn so you can use the spindle for another project, before you’ve plied the original yarn.

Why bother?

Hey believe it or not, I don’t have an infinite supply of spindles, despite my good fortune in being the wife to the Spanish Peacock. And of the spindles I do have, there are a handful that I want to use all the time. This is my collection of bead and ninja spindles with a shaft length of about 11″. They are relatively lightweight, so I can put a decent amount of fiber on them, and they are lightning fast.  (If you want to learn more about my supported spindle recommendations, you can listen to this podcast.)

What’s a spinner to do when they succumb to plycrastination (yes, that is totally a thing) but really NEEDS that favorite spindle for a new yarn?

Five full spindles, a few of which I NEEDED for another spinning project
Five full spindles, a few of which I NEEDED for another spinning project

Enter: the Metal Straw Hack. This provides an easy way to free up a spindle before I am ready to ply the singles yarn. (Which is sometimes a REALLY long time.)

Originally I used a plastic straw. But in addition to being not-politically-correct, it also wasn’t a good solution because the plastic straw is flimsy and too short. Luckily, environmental activism has brought a new solution to market: the metal straw.

Straws come in different thicknesses, so I actually measured my spindles to determine that a 6 mm straw would best fit over the tip of my spindles. I couldn’t find a pack of straws that only had straight straws (that may have changed by now), so I ordered this set of straws, and this set of tips and silencers. (Please note: I am NOT an Amazon affiliate marketer and I will not earn a commission if you purchase these products from my blog. These links are just provided as a convenience.)

The idea is simple enough: insert the tip of the spindle into the straw, and slide the cop carefully from the spindle straight onto the straw. Use the silencers to prevent the cop from sliding off either end of the straw. I use the silencers with my spindles too, to keep track of the order in which I spun the fiber. This is particularly helpful when planning to chain ply. For instance “ROYGBIV” – red, orange…well I don’t actually have all the colors but you get the idea.

You may need to grip the cop and twist it to loosen it up from the spindle shaft, depending on how tightly you wind on. Also this works best if the spindle gradually tapers to the tip. The only disadvantage to the metal straws, over the plastic ones, is they are thicker so sometimes it is hard to slide the cop up over the lip to get it on the metal straw in the first place. 

There’s a video of me doing it in my plying video here – you can skip to 12 min 20 sec to see just the straw trick.

Unfortunately sometimes the Metal Straw Hack goes awry, so please be very careful until you get the hang of it!

You can clearly see in the spindle second from the left (orange silencers) that something went terribly, terribly wrong in the process of sliding the cop from the spindle to the straw. I don’t remember the details, and only realized how bad the situation was when trying to line up this photo. I am guessing I transferred the cop partway to the straw, then maybe it came loose from the spindle? And when I tried reseating it, the tip of the spindle stabbed through a different part of the cop.

This became a complete disaster when plying, because the singles yarn tangled up on itself and around the straw. I lost well over half that spindle’s-worth of yarn, it was so badly tangled.

You can see in this photo how much less chain plied yarn there is on the “orange” spindle.

My chain plied yarn... less a little on the "orange" spindle
My chain plied yarn… less a little on the “orange” spindle

You could also use a power drill to transfer the singles yarn from a spindle. I tried this once but unfortunately don’t have any photos. Wrap one end of the straw in masking tape (to help the drill grip onto it) and carefully place the taped end inside the jaws of the drill. Have someone else operate the drill very slowly while you feed the yarn smoothly off the spindle and onto the straw.

Or you know … just acquire enough perfect spindles that you can leave the singles yarn in place until you get a chance to ply. Or always ply before you start your next spinning project! (Crazy talk, right?)

What is your favorite hack to deal with full spindles?

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