the default spin

emily asked what book i would recommend for a beginning spinner?

i’m going to have to say maggie casey’s start spinning. maggie taught spinning 101 at SOAR when i was there and she’s brilliant.

amy asked me to describe my default spinning method. i actually get asked this a lot.  apparently my yarn is unusually squishy and fluffy?!?


first i look at the wool i will be spinning. this is 3 oz brown sheep mill ends dyed with the new organic dyes i’ve been playing with. i need to decide several things: single or plied? intentional colors or all spun up? what colors do i want to blend and which do i want to pop? this decision effects how i prepare the roving to spin. this sample had so much white in it that i decided to split it down into pretty small sections in order to retain the darker and brighter greens and not lose them into the white. there ended up being 9 in all.

default spin

i split these into two roughly equal batches, so i remember to work them on separate bobbins for plying. then, i pre-draft. light as a cloud, my friends, light as a cloud. i do a lot of spinning and this is easier on my hands than spinning straight from top. i also do this so that my yarn has some air in it going into the orifice.  the wool you have may very well be already fluffy if it’s farm wool, then this step might be unnecessary.

default spin

then i spin. my default hand movement is worsted. i make sure the yarn has some extra twist, although not enough to make the singles hard. when all the singles are spun up, i ply. i don’t ply super tightly, but i did put the extra twist in so that i can use the energy from that when i ply to make the yarn more spoingy.  i certainly don’t ply loosely.


after plying, i niddy noddy it and it gets thrown into the pile to be washed. to wash i soak in cold or room temp water for 20 min., spin cycle it in my washer, and twack it a good 3 times on my leg. let it dry and knit (or sell)!  if i’ve left anything out that you want to know about, let me know and i’ll try my best to show/answer.

doing things like this always make me curious about others.  if you’re a spinner, i’d love to know your default spin. what’s your routine?  or, if you don’t want to do the long process that i did here, what’s one thing that you do differently than me?

default spin sample

9 thoughts on “the default spin

  1. Well I’m still very much a spinning noob, but I think I do a few things differently. I think the main part is that I pre-draft little batches at a time, rather than getting it all done at once. I do look at the colors beforehand to see how I want to ply, though. Thanks for sharing your process!

  2. Oh my, I used to just grab the fiber and go without a thought but a couple of years worth of “meh” spinning plus reading Alden Amos’ big blue book changed that.

    It depends what I want and what colors are going on. I default to a three-ply heavy fingering to sport so I divide the roving or top into three even amounts. I’m still getting the hang of color mixing when spinning-my most recent spin was a whole different way of doing things and I’ll be blogging on that over the weekend, I’m sure. Anyway, I line up the three bundles of fiber and decide what I want to do colorwise, then split them down to about the width of pencil roving, then pre-draft and roll into balls. I spin the singles on my Mazurka pretty fine with a lot of twist, probably semi-worsted but not hard and I don’t try to push all the air out. I use the double-drive and spin on the smallest whorl.

    Once I’ve got all three plies done, I use my Babe production wheel to ply. For some reason, I can’t seem to get the Kromski to ply as well as the Babe, plus the Babe has larger bobbins and I only have three bobbins for the Mazurka anyway.

    I used to just ply ply ply mindlessly but again, Alden Amos, now I put the kate behind me on the chair, and the plies go beside me, through my hand, and into the wheel. I try to be as consistent as possible and avoid over-plying.

    Once I’m done, I niddy the yarn, tie off, and wash in a sink with a little shampoo with (usually) tepid water, rinse at least twice, and take it outside to “whizz” it around to get as much water out as possible. If it’s warm enough I hang it outside to dry. If I’m really motivated, I re-skein it after it’s dry but usually I just go on and put it in my stash.

    What I find interesting is that back when I first started, I was like, WOO SPINNING YAY!! and I just spun away without care and plied like a house on fire and sometimes pre-drafted and sometimes didn’t and the longer I do it, the more I refine what I’m doing, and needless to say, for the most part, the results are better. I have to really concentrate to spin thicker yarn, though. Which I find hilarious because looking back at the early stuff, it’s like lumpy intestines and as thick as rope. I ruined a lot of good fiber on that learning curve, I’ll tell you.

  3. Cosy…thanks so much for sharing this. Your yarns are always so beautiful, and it’s great to see some of your techniques. I tend to overspin…both in the singles and in plying. I’ll be trying your style soon! :o)

  4. Thanks for the book recommendation. I learned a lot about spinning from this post!

    I pre-draft, but I’ve never done the spin cycle or leg wacking. I will have try that!

  5. Oooh, those Greener Shades are looking goooooood! I just got my wholesaler packet and I’m really excited! I’m thinking I should start with mostly 1/2 oz. and 2 oz…
    Did you get the color book??!?

  6. That’s more or less how I spin, too — default to worsted style, except I put a smidge more twist in, and I usually don’t ply, though sometimes I do!

  7. Cosy- That green is so celery and springlike!
    Thanks for the book suggestion- ordered it in a flash. My wheel is getting oiled and put together this weekend! I married someone that actually reads instructions! Yay!

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