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Several days ago, I blogged about my crafty hobbies and got several responses about how great the photos were, but they didn’t have any idea what the terms were.  This will be a short lesson with photos about how thread, yarn, string or even the huge rope that tie up a ship are made.  Spinning is a very ancient art that involved twisting fiber by hand, spindle, spinning wheel or machine into strands or singles and then taking two or more of those singles and spin them together in the opposite direction, allowing the twist you created to hold the strands together, called plying.

Many fibers can be spun.  Wools from dozens of varieties of sheep, llama, alpaca, cashmere goat, angora rabbit, yak, buffalo, whatever has hair of sufficient fiber length to twist together.  Silk cocoons, cotton, hemp, flax, and synthetic fibers such as acrylics to name a few can also be spun.

I am currently working with wool processed two different ways.  The red on the left is called a batt.  The wool is combed out to line up the fibers and left in big clouds or sheets.  The dark on the right is pencil roving.  It is also combed out to line up the fibers but the fibers are then rolled into long loose ropes with no strength.  These are two of the more convenient ways to process the fiber for spinning.  A chunk of the batt or the roving is pulled off, fluffed apart to make it looser, called predrafting, then spun.  The single that you make is much stronger that the product at the start, but even stronger if it is then plied to another single.







The red batt is Tunis wool and the dark pencil roving is a blend of Finn and Jacob wool, so three different sheep breeds represented.  All of these are fairly soft and have a long fiber, making spinning very easy.


Once the spools, called bobbins are full or you run out of fiber, it can be plied.


My spinning wheel is equipped with a built in bar with two pegs that fit through the center of the bobbins to hold the full bobbins for plying.  This is called a Lazy Kate.  You can see in the photo, the two singles being fed back up to the top bobbin for plying.




This is a two ply yarn for knitting, crocheting, or weaving.  You can see the twist because of the use of the two colors in my effort to make a tweed like yarn.  The coin is an American dime to give you some reference to the thickness of the finished product.

Once it has all be plied onto the bobbin, it will be wound off and measured then washed and hung to dry before it will be ready for use.  We will save knitting terms for another lesson.

For you curious or scientific minds, go grab a few inches of kitchen twine and you can reverse the process to see how it works.  The plies will pull apart and you can see the twist, then if you take a ply and start unraveling it, you will see that it twists the opposite direction.  It is really quite an interesting product.

Long ago, our ancestors would start with the raw fiber, wash it, comb it, spin it, then knit or weave it into a garment for warmth.  My end goal is to reach the point where I can do a process called sheep to shawl where I will do everything except sheer the sheep.  Last year I did help with an alpaca shearing http://wp.me/p3JVVn-mU but that is another story.