One of the things we want to do during Spinzilla, which is from October 7 to the 13th, is spin miles and miles of yardage. Five years ago I thought I was a spinner with average speed but over the years and with lots of practice I have gained speed in both wool prep and yarn making. Of course there are wools that lend themselves to spinning quickly – Deb Robson told us all about that here. And obviously you want to have a plan in place if you are going to spin as much as you can over a whole week. Jillian Moreno told us about that here.  Since most people aren’t like me and want to spin some color (I’m happy with white almost always), Felicia Lo helped us out with that here.

That is a great amount of information and there is a little more time to commit it to memory before we get down to business.

I’m here to talk about fiber prep to help you spin a little faster. Since most of you will be spinning from fiber that has been prepped for you in advance we will start there and then move on to talking about spinning quickly from raw fleece.

Woolen spinning, in other words some form of long draw, will surely get you where you want to go faster in most cases than short forward draw but this can be somewhat of a problem since most processed fiber available on the market today is in the form of top. This means that the fibers are all aligned and prettily arranged. There is one little exception here. Using fibers that have a longer staple length will allow you to draft out a longer length ( I recommend never more than half the staple length of the fiber you are using.) So although a wool like Wensleydale may not love to be spun long draw from the end without a lot of practice, you can use short forward draw and spin it up pretty quickly as your drafting length can extend from one inch like I would use for Merino to 3 or 4 inches with a longwool like Wensleydale or Masham

merino and wensleydale staple length


Check out the difference in the staple lengths in the processed Wensleydale (long) next to the processed Merino(short).

Due to this fiber alignment they can sometimes be difficult to draft with the twist in the fiber supply which is required for a good, fast long draw.

So let’s talk about what we can do to avoid issues like twist lock when we are spinning top.

First, fiber type can play a big role in how well you can spin from the end of a length of combed top.  The main issue is fiber length really so as you practice stick to shorter stapled wools that don’t stick together very much such as Corriedale, Polwarth or Falkland. When you get more and more skilled you can move on to the longer stapled fibers. It also may be a good idea to practice this technique on undyed fibers as dye can change the surface of the wool fibers and make it a little more difficult to do this.

If all you have in your stash is combed top and the twist lock has got you down there are two other things you can try.


First, Spin from the fold. This will give you a woolen-like yarn because of the lovely airiness that is introduced in the fold. Really, this is the way I generally go if I want speedy spinning. Long draw from the fold is a wonderful thing. Just break off a length of your combed top. a length can be anything from about a staple length of the fiber you are spinning all the way to about 7-8 inches. Fold this bit of fiber over your finger, pull out a tiny bit like a little bird beak so you have a place to join and go. I normally remove my finger from the fold and just hold the folded length of fiber in the crook of my hand.

bird beak from the fold

That’s Maggie, my beautiful hand model, demonstrating how I hold the folded lock and pull out a tiny bit to join it to the yarn already spun.

The second option is to make carded rolags. I know that some of you might be groaning at this but hand carding can be really fast with practice. I carded wool for a whole sweater in about 3 hours. Spinning long draw from hand carded rolags will make you cry tears of joy. It truly is a beautiful thing and the spinning goes extra quick. You’ll want to hand card rather than drum card, especially if  you are spinning hand painted fibers. This way you can keep those colors separated and spin them in the same order…or not. It’s up to you. One fabulous thing about making rolags from already prepared fiber is that generally you will need only one pass before you roll it up which makes this carding super quick.

hand paint dyed rolags


This is some hand painted Texel top from Southern Cross Fibre that I’ve carded into rolags.

And now that I’ve spoken about hand carding your combed top, those of you who love raw fleece will want to pay attention.

Hand card that raw fleece. It is the quickest fiber prep you can do in going from raw to ready to spin. Yes, even quicker than drum carding with some practice. You don’t have to worry about the direction of the tips and butts. You will want to make sure you don’t overload your cards because that will slow down everything. Less is more in all fiber prep endeavors.

Romney carded Rolags


Here are some carded rolags of Romney. I made these three rolags in about 3 minutes. Hand carding takes practice but there is a big payoff once you get the hang of it.

And finally, the flicker is your friend, especially if you are spinning fine wools or want to spin a very fine yarn. Flicking one lock doesn’t take a long time but you can get yards and yards of laceweight from just one lock. Flick up a couple of ounces and you may have days and days of spinning ahead of you depending on how finely you are spinning.

Romney Flicked Locks


And here is that same Romney fleece I carded along with a few flicked locks ready to go. The yellowish end is the tip, or outside, of the lock.

If you love combing, I would suggest combing your fiber and spinning it right off of the comb. This technique won’t get you the super smooth worsted yarn you might get if you spin top you removed from the comb with a diz but it will get you to where you want to go much more quickly. Again, don’t over fill the combs, you want to only lash on locks to about 1/4 to 1/3 the length of the tines. You can spin from the comb with a worsted or a woolen drafting technique.

When we think about production spinning we think about spinning a lot of yarn. There is still some time before Spinzilla begins and so you can experiment with what kind of prep, fiber and drafting technique will get you to your goal until it is time to begin.

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