Several years ago, I had the great fortune to learn to spin. I took an intensive 12 week Handspinning course, taught by Judith MacKenzie, through the Kootenay School of the Arts.
We learned how to sort a fleece, spin in the grease, and wash the fleece. Wool-combing, carding, blending roving to create heathered tones are all techniques that create different types of yarns. Spinning from quality top and luxury yarns, mohair, angora, cashmere all added to the range of gourmet yarn creation. Judith now teaches workshops throughout the U.S. If you ever have an opportunity to take one of her classes, do so. I’m sure you will enjoy it.
One of the first things I learned is that wool yarns can be classified into 2 main categories, worsted and woollen. Worsted yarns are smooth, quite strong and long-wearing. They are used for woven clothing such as men’s suits. A true worsted yarn is spun from the longer fibres of the fleece. The fibre is usually combed with wool combs. This removes the shorter fibre and bits of dirt that may be in the fibre. Combing keeps the longer fibres in parallel order. The shorter fibres can be used to spin a woollen yarn. Commercially prepared top can also be used for worsted spinning, when you don’t want to do all the prep work yourself.
To spin a worsted yarn, the spinning technique is quite controlled. If you are drafting with your right hand, pinch the thumb and forefinger of your right hand together to control the twist. Do not let the twist travel past the drafting triangle. If you are having trouble and the twist is traveling past your hand and making a nasty lump in your yarn, slow your wheel down a bit by loosening the tension on the bobbin slightly.
Shetland Top – Worsted Spinning
0:00 Join fibre and begin spinning
0:40 Stop and check the twist
0:60 Join yarn and restart spinning
1:00 Stop and pick out veggie matter
1:25 Restart spinning
Woollen spun yarns are loftier and softer. The fiber is shorter and is usually carded rather than combed. This results in fibrs that go in different directions rather than parallel, incorporating more air into the yarn. Woollen yarns are more suitable for knitting, sweaters or fluffy blankets.
You Tube – Woolen Long Draw Spinning
More about Wool Yarns
- Wool Processing
The Sheep USA site describes the qualitative and quantitative evaluation of wool.
- Coldharbour Mill
The Coldharbour Mill has been spinning both wool and worsted yarns for nearly 200 years.
- Spinners Guild Glossary
An SCA glossary of spinning terms.
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More Than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn
The Whole Craft of Spinning: From the Raw Material to the Finished Yarn
The Practical Spinner’s Guide – Cotton, Flax, Hemp (Practical Spinner’s Guides)
Spin Flax & Cotton: Traditional Techniques with Norman Kennedy
The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning: Being A Compendium of Information, Advice, and Opinions On the Noble Art & Craft
The Knitter’s Book of Wool: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Using, and Loving this Most Fabulous Fiber
The Intentional Spinner
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