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I'm a left-brain/right-handed person to the nth degree, but as I age, I wonder if I should deliberately practice right-brain/left-hand things to improve brain function and stave off senility. Example: when I draw a picture of something sitting in front of me, the right side of my brain actually feels stimulated even though I am using my right hand. I have tried writing with my left hand, but that doesn't seem to do anything for my brain (or creativity). Just musing... and enjoying your musings as well.


Because I have not created any yarn considered perfect, or even near perfect, and because I never settled on a dominate hand (trying everything as I had no teacher) I was able to make the switch. I've spun with both hands in an effort to find comfort with the wheel. Not much time was spent spinning with one hand or the other. It's always been about play, the "let's see what happens if" approach. Once I settle down and picked a hand things began to make more sense. Judith was a good guide. My arguments at Rhinebeck were more of a devils advocate kind of thing. Why DO we sit to spin the first time with the "wrong" hand?


I think my left-handed spinning started with a mentor in my spinning group who helped me get started. It was then encouraged by the purchase of a saxony wheel with the orifice on the left. I tried to switch, but as the arthritis in the right hand gets worse, it gets more frustrating. Guess I'll have to be satisfied with less-than-perfect yarn!


I'll admit to being intrigued but I'm not sure which is my dominant hand. I'm left handed but use my right hand a LOT and, as you may recall, I thread a needle like a right handed person. I'll have to decide on this after I've taken a class with JMM myself.


Does Judith's idea about the hand near the orifice being the dominant hand pertain only to worsted spinning? My dominant hand, the right one, controls the fibers for worsted by drafting forward, but the left hand controls the fibers and drafting when I spin woolen. It seems like people who control the fiber with the right hand for woolen, draft forward for worsted with the left hand.
Thank you for the very kind words about my classes - am very glad you enjoyed them.


I wonder if since lefties "get the choice", that's why they are more comfortably ambidextrous? I'll admit to being so seriously right-handed as to make my left almost useless for most tasks. However, I touch-type rapidly, I knit and tension my yarn in my left hand, I hold my fork in my left while using my knife (but I can hardly use a spoon in my left hand to save my life). I think it is a matter of necessity training, to a degree. Obviously teaching my left hand to help knitting is easier than learning to knit with only one hand, but teaching my left hand to hold a spoon while my right hand does nothing doesn't get me far.


I am right-hand-dominant for most things - like writing or stirring things, or reaching for keys. Spinning too. However, I have found that I am EXTREMELY left-handed when it comes to riding. In fact, I can barely keep my balance if I place my reins in my right hand. I don't know if it's because I rode a lot of left-handed horses as a kid or what. Digger is left-handed and he and I don't have to struggle very much at all - never have. Bhen is right-handed (strongly!) and we fight each other a lot because of it.

There's another paper for you - horse handedness and its effects on the rider.

Melissa G

I would agree with Carrie. I'm right-handed, my sister is left-handed, and my brother is mixed up. To add more interest, my monozygote sons are mirrors. I can't say that I saw choice occurring with the left-handed one. Choice implies conscious decision-making which is difficult to acknowledge in a 5-month old. Further (I've not read the citations yet), has there been a study regarding sex-linked frequency?

P.S. I drop-spin with my left near the hook, but isn't one trained to detect a pulse with the non-dominant hand as it is likely to be more sensitive/less calloused?


I'm of the if-it's-not-broken-don't-fix-it persuasion. Add a dose of relishing comfort and being a process person. I see the ideal of it all, but cannot see the urgency in this case. I do think the exercise will improve your spinning, if only because you are now more conscious of your actions and their effects.

And what about vision? Dominant eyes? Baseball and shooting and golf?

So, DD and I are both a mix of right and left. She bats lefty and I bat righty, but she pours right and I pour left. And so on. It's not pure ambidext-ry in that I really cannot bat lefty, but I can write with either and play tennis with either. And I'm very very strongly left-eyed, which is the wonky one. And I started piano lessons before age 3 so trained whichever side was subdominant to be strong and responsive. Ballet helped, too.

I will have to see how DD holds her hands when she spins...

Caroline M

I started with a drop spindle and just did what felt right, then transferred that to the wheel without ever considering whether this was right or not. When I had my first spinning lesson I'd been spinning for over a year and was pretty set in my ways. I had always assumed that I had the wrong hand forward so I'm interested to see that there's at least one expert that thinks I'm doing it right.

If you hadn't been keen to generate blog fodder we might never have had this conversation and what a shame that would have been.


This is very interesting for a lot of reasons. I have very successfully taught myself to do 2-handed stranded colorwork over the past several years (in small sessions, of course). So I can use the left hand (I'm right handed) as the second color perfectly. But I'm still not comfortable doing straight continental knitting using only the left hand. And it should be the same skill, right?

Beth in StC

Hmm. Interesting hypotheses on both sides. Personally I can thank seven years of piano lessons from age 7-14 for my ability to survive breaking my right arm two months ago. I was already fairly ambidextrous while still right-dominant, but I even managed to write left-handed after two weeks. It wasn't pretty, but it was a lot more legible than I could manage with my right hand at the time. I also had to learn to eat left-handed, because the right arm couldn't bend enough to get to my mouth.

I did manage to spin with a rigid cast. I already use my right hand to control twist/diameter and the left hand to control the fiber supply, so as long as I spun sort-of-long draw and kept my right arm still, it worked pretty well.

I did try switching hands this weekend for a different project. The short-draw does a number on my right arm, but I couldn't draft effectively with my left hand. Like you said, multiple short sessions. If it came down to drafting left-handed or not spinning at all, I'd keep trying.


Thanks for the science behind this. Setting aside the arguments about what constitutes right or left-handed spinning, I'm right-hand dominant and like Caroline learned on drop spindle with a worsted-ish draw, fiber in the left hand, and dominant right hand controlling the twist and spinning the spindle, then transferred all that to the wheel. I did find that when trying to learn long-draw woolen spinning, I switched hands and thought my right hand should do the work of controlling the fiber which I thought was controlling the draft. Since I have a castle wheel and prefer to spin worsted (or more short draw than long) and I never thought much about handedness. This led to my dilemma though when I wanted to shop for a big saxony (likely a Lendrum which is double treadle) of which side to have the orifice to avoid awkward ergonomics and twisting.

So, to answer Carol's comment, what Judith told me at SOAR is that she believes the hand near the orifice really is doing the more complex task by controlling the twist, and should be the dominant hand. So, I'm making the switch on long draw, and it's not all that bad. And I'm going to put off that big saxony until I'm sure.


I am looking forward to your consensus at the end of your 30 days.


According to this thinking, I'm spinning 'wrong'. I used to spin 'right', but forced myself to spin the other way when I found a wheel I really wanted that had the orifice set up to spin 'wrong'. If I change back now, I'll either have to abandon 2 of my wheels or change my sitting position in relation to them.

I'm not going to do that. I'm content with the yarn I'm making.

Oh, and I'm another anesthesiologist, well conditioned with the left handed 'death grip' on the mask. I also have some mild carpal tunnel on the right, aggravated by writing on 4 part forms.


i think this is a case of nature vs nurture, as far as to why lefties are more often ambidextrous than righties. we live in a right-handed world. as a child growing up, there were rarely left-handed scissors in the rooms. I'm not even sure you can purchase left-handed scissors at any of the major retailers. My leftie son does a large # of his things right-handed, because it's a right-handed world (to include knitting & crochet. i offered to teach him left-handed (i've discussed my ambidextrousness before, lol), but he said he wanted to learn right-handed as most things are geared for righties (an amazing decision for a 9 year old!))


I'd really like someone who's a good spinning teacher to look at what I do and tell me how I spin. I'm clearly not doing a classic short forward draw. I'm clearly not doing a classic woolen long draw. I'm sort of pulling forward a little with my left (nondominant) hand and pulling back with my right hand, while simultaneously sliding both back away from the orifice along the emerging yarn. I don't know which hand is doing the more sensitive work and therefore should be in front.

I do know I should take a class with Judith, and I should try spinning with my right hand in front.

What are anesthesiologists doing with their right hands, that their left hands are delegated fairly important tasks? Or is it a matter of who stands where around a patient?


I've always been fascinated by the handedness thing. My parents are both right-handed, I'm right-handed, but both my brothers are (mostly) lefties.
The younger of my brothers was solidly ambidextrous until he was about 8 or 9, using whichever hand was most convenient to the task (when drawing/coloring/scissoring on the left side of the paper he used his left hand, on the right side he used his right, handing the tool back and forth to accomplish this), then settled on his left hand for all fine motor skills. My other brother used his left hand for all fine motor skills from the beginning, though he used his right for things like batting and throwing.
In my husband's family, his grandparents are both right-handed, but had four daughters who are all lefties. My husband is a lefty, but his two siblings are right-handed.
As a side-note, I think the percentage of left-handed people is much higher than 10% up here in Northeast Vermont. I'm continually startled by how many people write checks or sign credit-card vouchers left handed. Or maybe lefties are more likely to use checks or credit cards than cash?
And to bring it back to fiber, I enjoy knitting with my mother-in-law - she's left-handed but is a thrower, I'm right-handed but am a picker. This amuses me.


This topic intrigues me, so I've been digesting this post, and the comments and studying my own yarn spinning technique. I'm right hand dominant, use my left hand forward. The question I keep coming back to after studying my spinning is why is twist control (forward hand) more important than fiber control (fiber hand)? Controlling the drafting triangle was my biggest challenge in improving my yarn. Twist control seems minor compared to that.

Abby Franquemont

So I had this discussion with Judith a while ago also. I write, and use utensils, right-handedly; I remember making the choice to just go the easier route, wherein I was doing what most others were doing in the US. But as a child in Peru, the perception of handedness was different, and the belief was that both hands should be capable of extreme fine motor skills. Yet neither of my hands, at the time, seemed to people's perceptions there, to be the "smart" hand.

My godmother spun with either hand in either role. When I was little, she taught me I should be able to do that too. With time, she said, I would start to develop a sense of which hand really could feel certain things better, or do things faster, and then if I had a preference, cool. But I think this was partly due to a sense of worry that I wasn't much good with either hand.

I never developed good handwriting with my left hand. I write like a third-grader with it. I hated handwriting practice. I sucked at it, period. I learned to play baseball right-handed, then later, guitar, also rightie. I practiced many things rightie.

But... fingerwise? Speedwise? My left hand is faster, cleverer, a quicker study. I spin fastest with the left hand doing the more tricky work, whatever the more tricky work may be (because I find it varies from method to method and system to system). In typing tests, for example, the left hand is always faster. I have better individual finger control with it as well. My right hand is much stronger, but then again, I broke my left wrist badly as a teenager, and that weakened it and actually caused some shifting around of my hand, even.

I can remember literally having no preference for one hand over the other, and struggling to try to see if I could detect one. I can also remember saying "Whatever," and using the right-handed scissors, putting a pencil in my right hand, all that sort of thing.

My son's an undeniable lefty. It makes me understand why I must have picked, ages ago, to be a righty. Tools really do get made to be easy on a righty. Writing from left to right on a page is another thing. Small wonder he hates writing longhand.

I think for worsted spinning with a spindle especially, having your "smart" hand do the trickier job is really really key. But I also think the question of handedness may be more complicated, and I'm totally intrigued by this book you mention, and the concept that there are folks who aren't handed, but choose -- because that's me, and it's a lonely crowd. And this is pretty much the first time I've heard my experience validated.

Judith went through a long list of things with me to see if we could figure out my handedness. Which sock do I put on first? Which pant leg? Which shoe? And to each of these my answer was that it depended. I mean, which foot is colder? What way did I lean to pick up the pants? Which shoe did I grab first? I was shocked by other people saying "But if I put the other leg in my pants first I'd fall over!" I mean, seriously? But apparently so. Apparently most people are *that dominant.* Apparently being more variable is actually kinda unusual.

I do have one clearly dominant thing: my left eye. And because my left wrist is weak in certain specific ways because of that injury, there are things I learned to do right-handed and left-eyed, like target shooting, that people usually don't do cross-dominant.

I came home from that Judith workshop and spent MONTHS watching myself to try to catch undetected secret dominance, and I couldn't; but then it is perhaps moot because I do spin with either hand doing either job, although I'm faster with left hand forward or controlling the spindle.

I think Judith is probably right; but I think the non-dominant handed people perhaps have a tougher road to figuring out which is the cleverer hand for what task. In a way I envy folks with clear dominance.

I also think that there absolutely are kinds of training that teach a non-dominant hand to be very clever. Playing a stringed instrument is a great example. You ask your dominant hand to be the one that has rhythm duty; your non-dominant hand is then tasked with other tricky maneuvers. And that's a kinesthetic thing, and a by feel thing that is practiced. So I dunno.

I also think Judith is right that you have to commit to spans of time trying things different, to know for sure. I think that's always worth doing.


My non-dominant hand is closest to the orifice and I think my yarn looks pretty good, thank you very much. But I mostly use a short backward draw technique. So my dominant hand is doing almost all the work. My non-dominant hand is just smoothing the fiber. What does Judith say about the difference between spinners who use a short forward draw and those who use a short backward draw.?


Oh, and when I spin on a spindle, my dominant hand is closest to the whorl. Because, again, that's the hand that does most of the work when I spindle spin.

lynne s of oz

I spin lefthanded but that isn't surprising, being a leftie (like my brother, maternal aunt and maternal grandfather, with an ambidextrous father). I started off using either hand but my left shoulder could not draft backwards ("high") with a spindle.
It is interesting how muscle memory develops and new tasks become less difficult/more natural than before.
You are kidding me - people are attached to their teeth and want to keep them after surgery? ;-) (I got given mine, but they were my wisdom teeth... :)

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