Spinning Luxury Fibers the Easy Way

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You can see why straight-off-the-bison’s-back might not be the preferable method for spinning bison yarn.

There are two reasons that the wonderful down fibers we long to spin are so rare: There isn’t a huge supply of the fiber on even the most massive yak, bison, or camel, and what does come off those large and wonderful fiber animals generally includes a formidable quantity of guard hairs. Yaks, bison, camels, muskoxen, cashmere goats–all of them have luxuriously soft fiber nestled in among coarse, bristly hairs that are no fun to spin.

In The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Rare Luxury Fibers, Judith MacKenzie examines the follicles that produce both the finest and least desirable fibers, then shows how to take the fiber from straight-off-the-animal to ready-to-spin. From washing and dehairing to how to card and comb down fibers, the guide takes you through the full preparation process step by step.

Or you could, you know, skip all that prep. If you wanted to. (I do.)

For those of us who prefer our spinning to be instantly gratifying, there is wonderful prepared fiber out there: combed top, clouds of fiber, and roving all ready to spin. And despite the luxurious aspect of spinning fine fiber, you’re not completely off the hook. This stuff doesn’t spin itself–or rather, it doesn’t leap instantly from your hand to even, perfectly twisted yarns. This part you still have to work at, practicing a long draw and just the right twist for a fine woolen yarn or tuning up your spinning equipment to reduce drag and soften take-up.

But that’s the fun part, right?

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Beneath the black guard hair (and dirt!) lies some lovely cashmere fiber. Photo by Charles Esson at English Wikipedia

I told you a few weeks ago that I have great fun putting together the kits to go along with our books and videos, and this one is one of my favorites. We went to Judith’s favorite sources for bison, yak, and cashmere, and they were willing to put together a special pack of fibers to go with Judith’s new book and her Spinning Luxury Fibers video.

If there’s a spinner anywhere in your life that you need to buy a gift for–including yourself–then jump on this. (I would, but you get first dibs.)

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