Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Long draw lessons

Before I forget, I wanted to write up what I learned about long draw while in Maggie Casey's class. Before I went to the class, I had done a few long draw projects but I was not happy with the results. I was spinning lumpy, bumpy yarn and while it was useful, I didn't feel as if I was getting the lovely, even, lofty and elastic fiber that woollen spinning can make.

Maggie is the queen of long draw so I was very excited to learn at her feet. I wasn't disappointed. We started with carding and making rolags. A freshly made rolag is a joy to spin. In fact, the process of teasing and carding fiber to make rolags is very satisfying in its own right.

I have posted pictures of the fiber and the rolags and the spun fiber in my first post after the class. What I am going to talk about today is what enabled me to spin a nice, consistent single.

So the fiber prep is the first step. A freshly carded rolag is easier to spin evenly than one that has been sitting around a while. I just finished spinning the batt I made in class and it wasn't as much fun as spinning the rolags.

Second is speed. A nice even treadle pace that is not too fast is key. Maggie says that one has to keep the drafting just ahead of the twist. Her analogy was that it was like chasing her dog. You can run after the dog but the dog is going to stay slightly ahead of you. The dog is the drafting and you, the chaser, are the twist. I found that it was easier to hold the single for a few extra treadles before letting it wind on, than treadling fast and trying to draft ahead of the twist.

The third a-ha moment came when I realized that I could hold back the twist. My right index and thumb open to let the twist through and close to hold it back. A regular rhythm to this opening and closing is good but you can hold the twist back a fraction of a second longer if you feel that it is getting too close to your drafting. In my case, my left hand is my fiber hand. So that hand is pulling back while the front hand is in one place controlling the amount of twist that is between the hands.

I was able to also do an unsupported long draw in class and it is a fun thing to do. But there is no need to do this. Your other hand can and should help, if needed.

I also found that it is helpful to pinch off a bit of the rolag and just draft that in one session. If you hold the rolag well back from the end, you get a lot of fiber that drafts out and you end up with more slubs. The amount of fiber that goes into each length of yarn before you let it wind on (usually about 2-3 ft) should be the same if you want an even single. This was also a big revelation.

Lastly, if you do get slubs, it is easy to even them out. Stop treadling. Wind the yarn to the left of the slub around your left hand (holding the fiber) and when your left hand is at the slub, wind the yarn to the right of the slub onto your right hand. Now the slub is all that is between your hands. I untwist the yarn at each end of the slub by unspinning with my right hand until I can thin out the slub. I usually start with the slub closest to the orifice, then I move away from the orifice to the next one. When all the slubs have been worked out, I start treadling again and let the yarn wind on.

There it is. Using all these techniques, I was able to spin quite a bit of yarn using the long draw method. Practice also makes perfect and I wanted to make sure I let the muscle memory build. So I bought an art batt at the Harrisville Designs store and spun it during the evenings. I also used the long draw drafting method when Maggie asked us to spin singles so we could learn plying.
 This is the skein I spun from the art batt. This picture shows a truer color than the one below.
 This one shows the variation in color a little better and you can see the thickness of the plied yarn against the US quarter coin.
 This was the yarn I spun to practice plying. I used three different colored rovings to do this. Maggie wanted us to use 3 different colors so we could see the plying twist clearly as we were plying.
Finally this is the first skein of the Lincoln-Corriedale fleece we worked on. I have enough spun for a second skein but I have to ply that. None of these are finished.

I like spinning long draw. It reduces the stress on my hands because the movements are so different from spinning worsted. I like the variety. You also end up spinning much faster when you spin long draw. However, for me, I get less yardage from spinning long draw. So it has its pluses and minuses. I am now going to spin a few skeins long draw so I can ensure my muscles are well and truly trained in the technique before I go back to worsted spinning.

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