Spinning Woolen: The Many Names of Long Draw
I became a knitter because I was cold.
I had moved to Wisconsin, and knitting was the perfect year-round activity to make wooly things to keep my family and me warm and toasty. (Please ignore the fact that most of my family lives in Oklahoma and Texas; they do not usually need warm and wooly items. But I digress . . . .) As a handspinner, woolen spinning is one of my favorite techniques for spinning low-twist, insulating handknitting yarn. The most common way to achieve woolen yarns is to spin long draw. Yet long draw techniques remain a mystery to many spinners, often because it goes by so many names.
However you draft it, woolen drafting methods–including long draw, unsupported draw, double draw, medium drafting, point of contact long draw, etc.–have some key similarities. Most importantly, they are all ways of what Alden Amos refers to as “drafting against twist.” Unlike a short draw, which requires you to draft with no twist between your hands, and keep your hands about a staple’s length apart with no twist in the drafting zone, long draw techniques demand the opposite. The key points to long draw drafting are to keep twist between your hands and remember that the front hand controls the twist while the back hand drafts the fiber supply.
Spin Off contributor Amy Tyler provides some of her woolen spinning tips:
Don’t pinch too close to the twist. The front hand controls the amount of twist while the back hand drafts. If you back hand is too close to the twist, the fiber won’t draft.
Keep your back hand farther back in the fiber supply. If you have an inconsistent spot, hold back twist with your front hand and draft back again, or double draft.
Your back hand, or drafting hand, can wind up pretty far back. If you find this uncomfortable, try drafting to the side.
All kinds of fiber preps can be spun woolen: rolags, roving, batts, and even top when spun from the fold. The yarns produced will be light and airy with lots of spring, even if they do not provide a lot of drape and don’t withstand much abrasion. Woolen yarns are a joy to spin and knit, and with a bit of practice, you too can be “drafting against twist.”
Happy woolen spinning!