The Art of Spinning Handspun Yarn
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The Art of Spinning Handspun Yarn

A step by step walk through on how to spin yarn. Learn to spin with this easy layed out process.

Knitting and crocheting articles of clothing or stuffed toys is a great hobby, but what if you could make the yarn you knitted or crocheted with also.  The project would mean so much more to you or the person receiving the gift.  Truly hand made from the start.  Spinning doesn't require you go out and buy a big, beautiful, expensive wheel.  All you need to spin is a drop spindle and some sort of fiber.  Whether you have a spinning wheel or a drop spindle this guide will help you learn to spin fiber.

The first step is choosing the variety of fiber you'd like to use.  Choosing fiber is a fun and educational process.  If you do your research you will find there are so many different kinds of fiber that you may want to blend fibers to create your favorite texture and color.  If you are a beginner you will be able to learn easier with a wool of some sort.  I began with Romney Wool from a local farmer.  You should be able to get a full fleece for around $25 or $5.00 or less an ounce.  When choosing your fiber there are a few important things to consider before you buy.  The length of the fiber is called the STAPLE.  The staple must be at least three inches long, and the longer the better.  Another item to consider is the softness.  If you choose to buy a sheep wool you will need to look past the natural sheep oil coating the fiber.  When you prepare the wool you will wash all of this out and the fiber will become soft and easier to work with.  The other quality to look at is the color.  If you are interested in dying the fiber you will want a whiter shade and if you are looking for a specific natural color then you can choose from many different shades of brown, black, greys, and many others in between.  Make sure when buying fiber you choose a fiber that has minimal debri mixed in.  The less the better.  You will run across straw, hay, grass, weeds, poop, bugs and many other things.  These items are completely normal to find in the fleece, and will need to be removed during the cleaning process.

Once you have chosen your fiber you can begin the preparing process.  Preparing your fiber it the most important for spinning smooth even yarn.  Some like to mold the yarn in different ways to create different textures.  However you like to spin yarn; you need to prepare your fiber well.  The first step to preparing the fiber is to pick it clean of all debri.  This can be done by taking handfuls of fiber and laying it out on a table and pulling all the debri out by hand.  Once you have picked the debri from the fiber it is time to wash if you are spinning sheep or goat wool.  Sheep and goat have lanolin coats.  This is a very smelly and greasy oil that covers their coats.  The wool is washed by taking a large hand full and placing it in boiling hot water in the sink or in a large pot.  It is very important to not agitate the wool, this will cause felting(matting) and you can't spin felted wool.  It is very important during the entire process to not separate or pull too much on the fiber during the entire cleaning process.  The goal is to keep the wool in the long staple form as much as possible.  If you are processing a fiber with no oil(lanolin) you will not need to wash the fiber until after you spin.  Let the wool soak with no movement for about thirty minutes.  Once it is done, drain the water and try to only rinse two times.  The rinsing process is the easiest moment to accidently felt the fiber.  Once you have successfully rinsed the fiber you can set it outside on a sunny day to dry or let it dry indoors on a towel.  This may take an entire day.  When the fiber is completely dry you can begin the carding process.

Carding is done with a set of carders.  Carders are large brushes that pull the fiber in the same direction to create a rolag.  You can spin directly from a rolag.  The first step to carding is to charge your carders.  Take a clump of staple in your hand and lay them lined up on the carder.  Then begin to pull in opposite directions until all the fiber on the carder is running the same direction.  At that point you can begin to curl up the edge and roll it into a long roll.  The roll should look like a long tube.  Some fibers don't need to be carded.  Alpaca is extremely fine and rarely needs to be carded.

You can now begin to spin.  Take your drop spindle or wheel and tie a twisted part of the rolag onto the string.  Getting it started is the hardest part.  Take your time and go slow.  Once you have it started remember to spin in the same direction or all of your yarn will unravel.  On a drop spindle you will need to tie the ends together more times than on a spinning wheel.  Knots are okay in yarn as long as they are minimal.  Once you have filled up your drop spindle or bobbin on your spinning wheel it is time to wash again.

You can use the back of a chair or a Niddy Noddy to organize the yarn for washing.  Keep in tight and loop the yarn again and again until you have the desired amount.  Tie off the ends and take it off the chair or Niddy Noddy.  Twist the yarn and then submerge it in a dye to color it or if you already have the desired color submerge the yarn in a hot tap water and rinse one time.  Felting can still occur if rinse too much.   Ring the yarn out as much as you can and then there are two processes to break the yarn.  One process is to smack the yarn on a post or something to set the twist.  The other process is to hand the yarn from a hook and place a heavy can in the bottom loop as it dries.  I prefer the second because I hate the thought of tattering the yarn as you smack it.  Others don't think it tatters it too much, but I just feel it sets straighter hanging from a hook in the sunshine whenever possible.

Well that is about it.  Happy spinning, knitting, and crocheting. :)

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Comments (1)

wow that is expensive wool!! I have sheep and gotta say..I would sell for less! Mind you its not that breed.. but still wow.. (actually I am switching from wool sheep to hair sheep because the price for wool is SO LOW where I am its not worth having wool sheep)