Woolen to Worsted and everything in between

I have been working so hard finishing up projects and doing my homework that I have not spent much time posting about what I have been doing.  On of the assignments that I rather enjoyed was spinning everything from woolen to worsted from one fleece.  This was probably the first thing I really tackled home work wise.  There was a lot of tiding up of things we did in class.  Finishing dye spread sheets and knitting swatches from dye day and such.  However, this one particular assignment really caught my attention.

Much of the past 3, now into our 4th, years has been learning what a woolen or worsted yarn is.  What preps are used to make a woolen or worsted  yarn.  We have also learned drafting styles and characteristics of the types of yarns.  It is especially near and dear to me because I have struggled with my understanding of the drafting styles.  What exactly is a “backward draft” and how is it worsted? What is the difference between the different types of long draw?  This is the first year I have finally begun to understand the differences.

The fiber I used for this study is a white Merino fleece that I have had in the garage for a while.  I scoured it in Unicorn Power Scour and rinsed it twice. I maintained lock structure on the fleece by creating packets of locks in screening.   I also used the same settings on my wheel for all of the skeins and attempted to get the same TPI.

left to right: True woolen, semi woolen (rolag/point of contact), semi worsted (rolag SFD),hand carded sliver (sliding long draw) teased lock, flicked lock, hand carded sliver (SFD), Worsted hand carded sliver (bobbins reversed), hand combed top (SFD)
left to right: True woolen, semi woolen (rolag/point of contact), semi worsted (rolag SFD),hand carded sliver (sliding long draw) teased lock, flicked lock, hand carded sliver (SFD), Worsted hand carded sliver (bobbins reversed), hand combed top (SFD)

The first skein I want to discuss is the “true woolen” skein.  To create a “true woolen” yarn one must first card the fiber into a rolag.  The rolag places the fiber into a non-parallel alignment. This random alignment of fibers is essential to the composition of a woolen yarn, allowing air to become trapped inside the fibers creating a yarn that will be warm and fluffy.  The rolags were spun “English Long Draw”.  English Long draw is sometimes referred to as “double drafting” it is a technique used a lot in spinning cotton.  This is a video of Joan Ruane spinning cotton.  The drafting comes in at about the 3 min mark.  Basically, you draft out with a small amount of twist and lots of lumps.  Then you draft that lumpy bumpy bit out between  your hands.  I really needed to have my teacher show this to me in person.  She kind of looked at me like I was crazy, because you know, I was in a Level 4 class and STILL confused.  However, I finally understood.  It was like a giant lightbulb.  Really.

The second yarn is a semi-woolen.  We call this a semi because it is not a “true” woolen.  It is on the woolen end of the spectrum because you start with a carded rolag.  This skein was spun short forward draft, which is a worsted draft.  Again, we call it semi-woolen because the fiber prep determines if it is a woolen or worsted yarn.

Now we hit the spectrum of the semi worsted yarns.  Worsted yarns, are made from preparations that created straight parallel aligned fibers.

The first semi-worsted is from hand carded sliver that has been spun with a woolen draft.  I did not use English long draw for this, I used what is called sliding long draw.  It is semi worsted, because the fibers have been combed to be parallel.

Then we have a teased lock.  Again, it is a worsted prep, because we are assuming the lock of fiber is in alignment and I am teasing open the but and tip to spin it in it’s lock formation.  I used a worsted short forward draft.

Next is a flicked lock.  You take a washed lock and flick it open with a flick carder.  This yarn was also spun short forward draft.

Then we have the two yarns that are closest to a “true” worsted.  A “true worsted” yarn is created from combed top on true English multi pitch combs.  They are also spun in the but to tip direction using a worsted draft (short forward or backward draw) and then the singles are reversed on the bobbins prior to plying to maintain that but to tip orientation in the ply.  The first worsted yarn was created from hand carded sliver and spun short forward draw

4 thoughts on “Woolen to Worsted and everything in between

  1. Hi! Great entry. I do have one question. What is the difference in your preparation for teased and flicked? I don’t know what a flick carder is. I use a small dog brush to flick the tips of locks but I also thought that was called teasing?

    Thanks and happy to see you are still spinning in your end of the country. We have CVM sheep and a few angora (they are kind of a pain to take care of, the rabbits), and I am happily playing with my fiber in my few hours to my self each week. 🙂


    1. Hi!
      Teasing is when you open the locks with your fingers. You just fluff both ends open and spin. Flicking is where you use the dog brush or a small flcik carder.
      Would love to see your pics of your sheepies and bunnies. We have a non fiber bunny. It is our outside 4H pet.

    1. Sorry Jen,
      I am not in the Bend area. Have you checked on Ravelry or at a local knitting shop to see if they know?

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