Roving Reporter: Navigating Neps and Noils in Roving

Nearly a decade ago, I attended a wonderful fiber retreat where I met new friends and had a great time. I won a door prize, a soft CVM roving layered in bright white and gray, which I thought would be a lovely way to remember the event. But upon closer inspection, the white fiber blended in the roving was shredded, and some of the short fibers were tangled into little, knotted noils. What to do? Could it be fixed?

Neps

Noils—what to do?

Last week’s post, also inspired by my CVM fixer-upper fiber, covered why neps and noils occur in commercial roving. Now let’s talk about what to do when neps and noils come into our spinning life.

Three Strategies for Spinning Neppy, Noily Roving

1. Vanquish the neps.

Many spinners won’t endure noils. They would either use this roving for felting or remove the broken, tangled fibers. Spinners often use combs to remove neps and noils along with VM and second cuts before spinning. The right combs and technique can remove nearly all the tangles and unwanted texture, but as in this case, the fiber loss can be more than 50 percent. To remove noils during spinning, it can help to reduce the drafting zone (in either woolen or worsted draw), which increases fiber attenuation. Put more simply, if my hands are closer together, I can stretch the fibers out a bit more. This creates a denser yarn that smooths and compacts tangles of longer fibers, but it causes pilly noils to pop to the surface, where they can be plucked off the surface of the yarn. (Does it take forever to fill a bobbin this way? Yep.)

Neps

A semi-woolen draw with a shorter than usual drafting zone. The fiber hand applies a very light pressure against unspun fibers.

2. Live with the neps.

If adding more twist and reducing loft makes the noils more visible, less density and more loft can diminish the visibility of noils. I’ve found that this can work quite well, especially in yarns that include more plies and structure. What goes well with soft singles, more plies, and more structure? How about a cabled yarn? (Learn more about my cabling method in Spin Off Summer 2017.)

Neps

Three yarns: (from top) Neps subdued and noils removed during spinning, soft singles in a 4-ply cabled yarn structure, and noiled singles plied with cotton thread into a bouclé.

3. Celebrate the neps.

Take the opportunity to embrace texture and fiber character. In fact, many spinners seek out such textures in batts and rovings blended with wool neps and noils, silk noil, pulled sari silk, and more.
There is no right or wrong approach, so give them all a try and see what makes you happy!

—Kate Larson

Featured Image: Bobbin of de-noiled CVM. Photos by Kate Larson.


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