Maggie Casey's Trick for Easier Spinning
Like many of us, even Maggie Casey–who has taught thousands of spinners from complete beginners to polished experts–struggled at first when learning to spin. What made the difference for her? A technique that has fallen out of favor in recent years. Read on for the controversial game-changer that helped Maggie become a spinner.
. . . I learned to predraft, and I truly fell in love with spinning.
When I predrafted my fibers, I could control the size of the yarn and how much twist entered into it. So predraft I did! I predrafted everything: combed top, drumcarded batts, commercial roving, and even rolags. It was such a lovely way to be introduced to the fibers. Since I had already drafted the fibers prior to spinning, I knew just how far apart my hands had to be to draft easily when I was spinning, and there were fewer fibers to deal with in each draft. I also learned that careful fiber preparation was a most important part in making a pleasing yarn and that the time spent preparing the fiber was always time well spent. As I became more comfortable with drafting, I realized that often I no longer needed to predraft my fibers but that it was still a very useful technique for some preparations.
Since predrafting helped me become a competent spinner, it is a technique I use in my beginning spinning classes. Just as the “park and draft” method of spindle spinning teaches spinners how to use a drop spindle by isolating each step of the process into smaller bits of motion that can be practiced, mastered, then put together as a whole, predrafting gives the hands a chance to learn their moves before twist is added to the fibers. Once my students feel comfortable drafting while they are spinning, I encourage them to spin without predrafting to see which way they prefer.
Predrafting is a fiber preparation technique that allows you to make a yarn that meets your specifications. Predrafting is a skill, and like any skill, it improves with practice. It can’t be done haphazardly, and it takes some time. However, if you pay attention, you will learn a lot about your roving: how long the fibers are, how fine or how coarse, and whether they are smooth and slippery or a little textured and grabby. The more you know about the fiber, the easier it will be to spin.