Fluffy yarn from unlikely fibre

A wise woman once described long draw as the funnest of draws. (Okay, it was me, last week, but I was feeling wise at the time.) My first time, it was almost like the yarn spun itself, but then I was spinning some Rideau Arcott wool that my mum had carded and given to me with the wheel. I had no idea how lucky I was. Now, if I could, I would have my mum living right next door so I could bribe her with knitting to prep all my spinning fibre for me. That lady knows her stuff.

The next time I tried long draw it was with some commercial roving, and admittedly it was not the ideal staple length for this technique, either — around 4-5″ rather than >3″. Suddenly it was the scariest of draws, and the hardest, and probably the cussiest. This rather sad attempt led to language that would make a sailor turn away and cross himself. It seems that the ideal fibre for long draw is stuff you’ve lovingly carded yourself (or, if you’re as lucky as I am, your sainted Mum has lovingly carded) and formed into neat rolags. Possibly on a tray, set within reach, beautifully lined up and awaiting your skilled fingers.

As it turns out, though, long draw or can be done with fibre that doesn’t meet this ideal. Thank goodness, because I haven’t yet fallen down the (undoubtedly wonderful) rabbit hole that is prepping your own fibre, and won’t until some hand cards magically appear in the house. Or until I buy them. Which may be soon. In the meantime, I’m stuck with commercial prep, which is mostly combed top: ideal for smooth, worsted yarns, not so great for woolen, at least for this n00b. For instance, I had this beautiful combed Falkland top from Cloudlover that I was sure wanted to be a fluffy worsted yarn.

Mmmm....purple... Photo by Karen Terry, from whose destash I scored this braid.

It’s top, though. Combed, not carded, with a staple length over 3″ (I think it was 4 or 5″). Exactly what you shouldn’t do long draw with, or so I thought. However, some spinning geniuses (genii? More than one genius.) have figured out how to spin this stuff woolen (which is what long draw does), and for that may flights of angels sing them lullabies on a nightly basis. This guy, for instance, has very kindly done a video on making and spinning fauxlags from combed top. Despite my impeccable lining-up-on-a-tray technique, my foray into fauxlags did not quite work out like this, though, so I’ve saved this video to try again later.

Then I came across the technique of spinning from the fold, where you take a staple length of a longer-stapled fibre, fold it over your finger, and spin from the middle. Lee Juvan wrote a good article about this technique for Knitty, in which she mentions that you can spin long draw from the fold. Abby Franquemont does an even more in-depth article here. I was intrigued. After some searching, I came across this Splindicity video. Genius! Not only did I learn how to do long draw from the fold, I learned that you can (gasp!) drop your fibre supply to fix slubs. If a bit gets too thin (which happens to me a lot), you can just break off there and rejoin your fibre. If you don’t like a bit of fibre (because it’s gotten too clumpy, for instance), you can throw it away rather than struggle with it. Above all, it worked for me. Long draw was fun again. Before I knew it, the first bobbin was full:

Not perfectly even, but acceptable, no?

The second bobbin filled just as quickly, and the whole thing plied up into 220 yds of somewhat fluffy, purply goodness.

Now here’s where we get to the second fun part of woolen style spinning: yarn abuse. Finishing woolen spun yarn is one of life’s rare opportunities to abuse the snot out of yarn for its own good. First, I got two basins of water ready, one scalding hot and one cold (or as cold as tap water gets in an Alabama summer, which is actually kind of tepid), both with a bit of wool wash in them. Donning the Rubber Gloves of Yarn Sadism, I plunged the skein into the hot bath and agitated. I poked it and prodded it and roughly swished it around in the hot, hot water in exactly the manner you never expected to do with wool. Then into the cold bath. More mistreatment. Then back into the hot. Then cold. Mwahahahahaha! I probably enjoyed this process more than was strictly decent. Then I squeezed out the excess water, wrapped the skein in a towel, and walked on it. Lastly, the thwacking: I opened the skein into a loop, snapped it between my hands to straighten out the strands, got a good hold on a section, and swung it full force into the bathroom counter. Rotate and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. It’s for the yarn’s own good, really. All this abuse opened up the yarn, making it bloom with that fluffy halo that distinguishes woolen spun yarn. Just look:

Finished! 206 yds/ 3.9 oz. Not perfect, but if I wanted mill spun yarn I could buy it.

If it helps, think of it as a particularly rigorous spa treatment. This is some soft, fluffy, Aran weight-ish yarn. I think it will feel wonderful around the neck on a cold day, maybe as Maryse Roudier’s Very Braidy Cowl.

3 thoughts on “Fluffy yarn from unlikely fibre

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