Today’s Tips and Tricks Thursday post is all about spinning semi-woolen yarn. This is another style of spinning that I am still working hard to learn. It is defined as semi-woolen because it uses the traditional worsted prep of combed top but uses woolen style spinning techniques. A wide variety of spinning is covered by the “semi-woolen” umbrella but some of the key points are:
Uses combed top for fiber prep
Twist enters the web or the fiber between your hands
Uses a forward draft
The fibers in the combed top are usually (but not always) shorter fibers such as angora rabbit, yak, camel, or a blend. This list is not inclusive … there are tons more short fibers that are used for woolen and semi-woolen spinning. The key determinant in defining semi-woolen spinning is that the spinner uses combed top in conjunction with a long draw to draft the fibers to produce a lovely soft and fuzzy yarn.
The drafting technique for semi-woolen is very much like that of the woolen long draw with the main exception being that the forward hand pulls the fiber gently towards the orifice, leaving the back hand in place, as opposed to the back hand doing most of the work in true woolen style. With my experiments with semi-woolen spinning I have found it very useful to try and keep a distance of approximately 6 inches between my hands and to frequently fully release the fiber from my forward hand. This helps to keep me from reverting to my almost instinctual short draw for worsted spinning.
Another key element of successful semi-woolen spinning is that it tends still to be under spun and over plied. This aids in giving the lofty and fluffy appearance and more bounce to the finished yarn than is seen in traditional worsted or semi-worsted spinning.
Recommended finishing techniques for semi-woolen yarns are to wash in hot soapy water, plunge into cold water to rinse and give the skein a good whack on the back of a chair to “fluff” the yarn, then hang to dry.
For those of you who are visual learners like me, I’ve included a short video by InspirationFibers that demonstrates the difference in technique from true worsted spinning to semi-woolen spinning and it only requires a change in the motion of the hands:
I hope that this encourages you to try something fun and new with your spinning and I’ll see you all tomorrow for FO Friday!
In the previous Tips And Tricks Thursday posts, I shared some great videos by others and info on how to get you started spinning. Starting with today’s post, I thought we would get a little bit more nitty gritty. Did you know that there are four different types/styles of spinning? I’m sure that there are actually more because each spinner has their own style, but MOST fall into four categories:
Over the next four Tips and Tricks Thursday post, we’ll be diving into these, starting today with worsted.
The definition of worsted spinning, according to Lee Juvan in her Knitty.com article “Worsted Yarns and Worsted Spinning”, is “a yarn spun from parallel fibers that have been combed (not carded) to remove shorter bits and spun with a short draw to keep the fibers in their parallel alignment.” Another key feature of this style of spinning as noted by Judith MacKenzie in “A Spinner’s Toolbox” is that the twist doesn’t enter the web. So as you are spinning, the twist never travels past your forward hand into the fiber. To be really technical, the twist never enters the drafting triangle or the fiber between your hands.
I found a really lovely video demonstration of worsted spinning by ruthmacgregor on youtube, which show these principles in action:
This is my favorite way of spinning or drafting technique because it is the first way that I learned so it is the method that I am most comfortable with. The key points to keep in mind are:
use combed top for your fiber preparation
use a short forward or backward drafting motions
no twist should enter the fiber between your hands
Worsted spun (not to be confused with worsted weight) yarns tend to be very smooth and dense and show off the luster of the fiber. They are not especially stretchy or springy but they do tend to be harder wearing. This type of spinning is ideal if your are planning to knit socks from your handspun.
For anyone who enjoys reading, especially about history and textiles, I’ve found a very interesting book available for online reading titled “Principles of Worsted Spinning” by Howard Priestman. Written in 1906, this book explains the history of worsted spinning and the ins and outs of homespun and commercial spinning. It covers just about everything your might want to know about this type of spinning in its 354 pages.
So if this spinning method is new to you I encourage you to try it out!