When Spinning Teachers Disagree

One of beloved spinning teacher Maggie Casey’s most often-repeated comments is, “It depends.” Should I predraft fiber for handspinning? Is long draw or short forward draw easier? Is 3-ply better than 2-ply? There are reasons on both sides; try it out and see which you like better. It depends.

Judith MacKenzie is often quoted as saying, “You can if you like.” Some of her students interpret it as a polite way of expressing skepticism, so I asked her about it once. She said that although some people hear an implied “but I wouldn’t,” you can also take it at face value: If you prefer like the results of doing it your way, then do it your way. Just don’t expect to do the same thing but get a different result.

Most spinners and spinning teachers are agreeable people, but it doesn’t mean that they always agree. Two famous spinning wheel makers once literally took a disagreement outside, although no blood was spilled. Judith herself had a spinning teacher who believed there were two kinds of spinning: worsted and wrong—which would surprise all the long-draw spinners out there! And two of the teachers who present in the video How to Card Wool sputter and disagree completely with the techniques of the other two. (I won’t tell you which.)

spinning teachers

Adapted from Adapted from Getty Images/Edge69 and photo by George Boe

All of this can be baffling. After all, whom do you trust when even the best of the best don’t agree? We’re happy to exclaim, “There are no spinning police!” But who will maintain law and order?

I’m sorry to tell you that there is no easy way of knowing. You need to think for yourself.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t trust anyone, or that you can simply dismiss an idea that doesn’t agree with your preconceived notions. Instead, here’s the best method I know of for learning about spinning: research, then test. Seek out opposing, even contrarian views. Read closely and see if they actually disagree or are making slightly different points. Then try the methods described and see if your results match.

Listen to good old F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”


Featured Image: Adapted from Getty Images/lemonadeserenade

Who are your favorite spinning teachers?



  1. Lisa R at 6:01 am February 14, 2018

    When to draft or not to draft depends on what animal fibers you are spinning.
    1. Were the fibers extruded, cut or shed?
    2. What is the intent of the fibers?
    3. thickness and amount of twist depends on intent.
    4. whether or not fibers are washed prior to spinning also depend on the animal it comes from. and how you want to spin. ( in the grease?)
    6. I it comprised of hair and wool? 5. Whether to spin woolen or worsted also depend on intent. 7. There are no rules to spinning, That is the signature of the spinner as well as the artistry of the craft.
    Embrace the fibers. Each animal is different and can change from year to year. In part, the annual change depends on what it ate and how to was cared for.

  2. Kris W at 8:07 am February 18, 2018

    I think the last quote was the most useful part of a very useful article! People should spin for the joy. Unless you are spinning to sell your yarn and there are some strict requirements from the buyer, don’t stress over it!!! We have enough other stressors in life so why add spinning police to that list?

Post a Comment