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Long Draw Spin-along
February 22, 2021
Welcome to the Long Draw Spin-along!
As the Spin-along proceeds, you’ll find each lesson and video added to this page.
Join the Facebook Group
- 4 oz fiber braid. We’re using a 50/50 silk merino blend from Lisa Souza Dyeworks. You can use any short- to medium-length fiber in any prep you prefer. Carded preps may be preferable if you’ve new to long draw.
- Your Schacht spinning wheel. We’re using the Cherry Ladybug.
|Thursday, 2/25 @ 11:30 am MST||Spinning Wheel Maintenance with Cindy
Facebook Live (Join Here)
|Monday, 3/1||Week 1 lesson, Get Ready for Long Draw!|
|Monday, 3/8||Week 2 lesson, Drafting & Adjusting|
|Thursday, 3/11 @ 11:30 am MST||Long Draw Q&A with Stephanie
Facebook Live (Join Here)
|Monday, 3/15||Week 3 lesson, Finishing|
Stephanie will be responding to questions in the Facebook group once per day. Your question may not be answered immediately, but it will be answered within 24 hours!
Plan to attend our Facebook Live Q&A Events to get your questions answered!
1. Spinning Wheel Maintenance w/ Cindy on February 25th @ 11:30 am MST
2. Long Draw Q&A w/ Stephanie on March 11th @ 11:30 am MST
Week 1: Embrace the draw!
by Deb Gerish
Confessions from an inchwormer: woolen drafts, and long draw in particular, scared me until quite recently. When I started spinning in 1996, I focused on worsted drafts (short forward and short backward) because they seemed best for the knitting yarn I wanted to make. If that yarn ended up a little dense and heavy, maybe a little wiry when it got overtwisted, at least it was consistent. These worsted drafts seemed to give me more control—not like those crazy woolen drafts with my arms flying all over the place and the twist going everywhere!
Finally, however, I’m ready to broaden my spinning horizons to feed my current obsession for Fair Isle knitting. A 2-ply fingering weight with more loft and less twist will get a fuzzy halo that blurs and softens colors. A yarn like this will also felt more easily, keeping steeks secure. Best of all, I can spin fine singles much more quickly with long draw.
So I prequeled the SAL with a practice session of about an hour, using some batts of merino. While I’m still new to long draw, it’s quickly becoming more comfortable. I’m happy with my yarn, in singles and in plied forms. These tips might help you embrace long draw too:
Master short backward draw in woolen style. Grab a short-stapled fiber, maybe 4 inches max. Start with your hands close together, and let your fiber hand draft backwards about 6 inches. Pinch and release your forward hand to let twist in between your hands. Don’t smooth the yarn between pinches. When it’s got enough twist, let it wind onto the bobbin. Draw back your fiber hand to release more fiber.
Once your hands get used to these new movements, play with the drafting triangle. Your fiber hand controls it, and thus the yarn’s diameter. Practice letting in more or less fiber, then deciding how much twist the yarn needs.
Now lengthen that backwards draft to 10 or 12 inches—we’ll call this a medium draw. Even though you’re drafting way past a staple length, the yarn is holding together! You can trust it! Keep increasing this distance in small increments, letting your trust build up along with the twist.
SWITCH FIBER PREPS
Stephanie can do long draw with any fiber prep, and she will teach long draw in this SAL by spinning over the fold. But I’m not ready for top yet, and I don’t want to sacrifice beautiful fiber for experiments. So my long draw practice session involved carded fiber, which also lessened my panic. Carding opens up the fibers and un-aligns their perfect alignment, which helps control the twist in long draw. (Remember that first spinning lesson, when you kept getting wads of twisted fiber in your fiber hand? I think that’s what many of us fear will happen in long draw.) When I pull out my St. Mary’s Glacier braid for the SAL, I may be ready to spin over the fold!
My ideal practice fiber: clean, no VM, short to medium staple length, with at least 2 colors. I regularly buy 1/4-ounce “pigtails” of dyed top and make small batts from 2 colors of merino top. It’s easier to see the angle of twist when colors swirl around each other. Build up your own stash of practice fiber so you’re ready for any new technique.
With worsted drafting methods, I’m an overtwister, so I work on the largest whorl possible for the diameter of yarn I’m making. My first few attempts at long draw with a big whorl didn’t turn out well—the yarn held together enough to wind onto the bobbin, but then the ball winder kept breaking it. A smaller groove or whorl added just enough twist to solve this problem, without sacrificing loft. The angle of twist for my worsted singles usually measures 30 degrees; on my long draw singles, that angle went down to between 10 and 15 degrees.
FIX WHILE PLYING (AT FIRST)
The hardest part of woolen drafting: letting go. Beyond my natural control freakiness, my brain has had 25 years of worsted spinning to get in the habit of consistent singles. Learning woolen drafts requires some mental adjustment. In my recent exploration of short woolen drafting, I was taught to just spin the singles and fix consistency while plying. That was good training for my long draw practice session, because I stopped fussing over every little bump.
My first long draw mini skein was really inconsistent, and I didn’t work too hard to correct the problems even when I plied it. My second mini skein will remain a singles, and it’s already better than the first one. I’ll spin and finish a few more skeins of singles, just to see how they improve over time. While I usually knit with 2-ply handspun, there’s no harm in making consistent long draw singles! My brain will be happier.
Week 2: Refine the draw!
by Stephanie Flynn Sokolov
Now that you’re drafting with long draw, I know you’re keen to spin the best yarn possible. These tips and tricks will help.
- For consistent yarn, keep an eye on your drafting triangle! This is where the twist enters the fiber and determines the diameter of your yarn. If it always has the same number of fibers in it, you’ll produce consistent yarn. When you’re making the diameter of yarn you want, look at the triangle and guesstimate the number of fibers in it. Then every time your fiber hand draws back, try to repeat that number. This tip applies for all fiber preps—over the fold, batt, or rolag.
- Slow down and build up to the sweet spot where the yarn draws in slowly with enough twist to stay intact. Start with almost no tension on the Scotch tension spring and draft slowly. Take baby steps: increase the take-up bit by bit and move your fiber hand a little faster as it drafts back. When you hit a point where the forward hand doesn’t have to manage the twist, you’re at the sweet spot. Now you get to ride the twist, drafting back with your fiber hand while your forward hand merely guides the yarn into the orifice.
- If you’re spinning from a batt or rolag, here’s how to make a join: hold the last inch of your leader straight out from the orifice and begin treadling to build up twist. Place your fiber at about a 45-degree angle to the leader. The twisted leader will begin to grab fibers. Let go of the leader and move your fiber into the place you held the leader. Now you can start or continue drafting.
- I love making a join when spinning over the fold. It is magical. You hold the leader, applying pressure on top of the fiber folded over your forefinger. When enough twist builds up, it sucks fibers from your finger onto the leader. I often think of this a peer pressure—the twisting leader says “Come on, all the cool kids are doing it!” The fibers from your finger will join along in the twist conga line. The trick is to wait: let enough twist build up until the reluctant dancer finally can’t resist the pressure anymore. It will join into the flow that becomes the yarn. Nobody can resist a good conga line.
- When you’re spinning over the fold, don’t put too much fiber over your finger. If there’s too much, you’ll develop a death grip on it (like the death grip beginning spinners often use). Then the fiber will bunch up and cause problem lumps and bunches.
- If you need to fix a problem mid-draft, do not drop your fiber. You’ll create more problems if your fiber hand lets go. Instead, stop treadling and use your forward hand to fix the twist. Then resume treadling and drafting.
Long draw is all about controlling the twist to manage diameter and consistency in your yarn. Once you’ve found that sweet spot, you can relax and let the twist take over.
Week 3: Finish the draw!
by Stephanie Flynn Sokolov & Deb Gerish
Long draw, like all woolen drafts, produces a lofty, lightweight, warm yarn. The fibers twist themselves around insulating cores of air, so woolen-drafted yarn has more warmth and less weight than a worsted-drafted yarn of the same diameter. Since you don’t smooth the yarn before letting it wind onto the bobbin, woolen-drafted yarn will also have a softer, fuzzier surface. (You can increase the fuzz with finishing, as we’ll explain below.) The soft surface may bloom even more after you block your knitted/crocheted project or finish your handwoven fabric.
These wonderful qualities come at a price, however. Woolen-drafted yarn won’t have the longevity of its worsted-spun cousins. It will pill over time and may eventually wear out. (Again, finishing techniques can reinforce your handspun; fiber choice and plying will also affect the yarn’s strength.) The softness of woolen-drafted yarn also doesn’t provide much stitch definition in knitting or crochet—cables will collapse and intarsia color blocks will bleed into each other.
So plan your projects strategically:
Spinners usually have strong opinions about plying, and we’re no exception. (Deb enjoys plying and almost never knits with singles yarn. Stephanie does not enjoy plying and will confidently use long draw singles as warp.) However you feel about it, do consider how plying will affect long draw yarn:
Reasons to ply
- It increases the diameter of your yarn*.
- It adds structure and makes the yarn more resistant to abrasion.
- As you ply, you can micro-manage twist.
- Plying tends to make your yarn more consistent: the thicker parts fill out the thinner parts.
Reasons not to ply
- It increases the diameter of your yarn*.
- It causes optical blending, which mutes the yarn’s colors.
- Overplying will override loftiness and fluffiness—if you ply, do it loosely!
- You want a singles for your project.
* If you factored in plying as you designed your yarn, a larger diameter won’t cause problems. If you didn’t, but you decide you want a bigger yarn, plying can save the day. If you wanted to make a smaller yarn but end up plying, adapt your final project or choose a different one.
Finishing Long Draw Yarn
Woolen-drafted yarns with low twist don’t have as much structure as their higher twisted sisters. The finishing methods given here will add structure and reinforce our low twist yarn, whether it’s singles or plied. We like to slightly felt the yarn, then rough it up to make it bloom.
- Soak the skein in very hot water, with a few drops of dish detergent or wool wash, for about 15 minutes.
- Shocking and felting
- Stephanie likes to rinse in very cold water for light felting.
- Deb actively felts her woolen-drafted yarns. This requires a bowl of ice water set up next to the hot water and a pair of rubber gloves: While the skein is still in hot water, put on the gloves, pick up the skein, and rub it briskly between your hands for 2 or 3 seconds. Work on each skein individually if you’re finishing a batch. Squeeze out the hot water and place the yarn in the ice water. Swish it around for a few seconds and squeeze out the cold water. Go back to the hot water bath and agitate the skein(s) again, then dunk in the cold water.
- Squeeze the skein to remove water, then roll them in a towel and mash on the countertop. You want the skeins to be as dry as possible before the next steps.
- Snap the skein a few times to even out twist.
- Thwack the yarn to make it bloom. Hit the skein against a hard surface, like a countertop or the bottom of a sink. Rotate the skein a little bit and thwack some more. You want to hit a different section of the skein each time you rotate. Go all around the skein. (This is the big difference from finishing the thick-and-thin yarn for Stephanie’s River Ripples Scarf: that yarn required a hard, smooth finish, and now we want a fuzzy one.)
When you’re done thwacking, look closely at the skein. Your yarn should look barely spun—almost unspun—but it will hold together because the fibers are felted. Repeat the thwacking step, or the shocking/felting phrase, or both, until you like the look of the yarn. Hang the skein to dry.
* * * * * *
As Stephanie pointed out, long draw is all about controlling the twist. Yet at the same time, this draft allowed Deb to give up (some) control. As spinners we like going in circles, so we love this kind of paradox! Join us next time we spin along together!