Spinning 101

Vickie Howell welcomes Liz Gipson from Spin-Off magazine to share the scoop on how to spin all sorts of fibers. Gipson will cover how to prepare fibers and how to make your own spindle from recycled materials.

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We'll show you how to make your own spindle out of a wooden dowel and an old CD.

You can use recycled materials to make your own spindle, including a wooden dowel and an old CD.

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Sheep's wool is the most popular fiber among hand spinners because it is versatile and easy to spin. Wool is easier to spin if it's prepared by separating the fibers into a loose, fluffy arrangement. You can buy a fleece and do the washing and preparation yourself, or if you prefer, you can buy wool that has already been washed, dyed and combed. There are many ways to prepare wool; our expert will demonstrate two basic ways here.

Combing

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Combing removes any short fibers and aligns the long fibers for a worsted preparation. Wool with distinctive locks works best for this process. "Load" one comb by placing the butt end (the end where the lock was cut off the sheep) of the lock on the comb so that the rest of the lock faces you. Gently comb the fibers with the second comb starting at the tip and working toward the butt end. Eventually you will have transferred the fiber to the other comb. Repeat a few times until the fibers are smooth and fluffy. You may want to keep a spray bottle of water handy if static becomes a problem. Gently draft the fibers by hand or pull them through a diz, a concave doughnut-shaped tool through which fiber is pulled to form roving.

Carding

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Carding is a good choice for medium to short wools with a staple length of 4" or less, although longer fibers may be processed with this method. Load the carders by placing one in your lap with the handle pointing away from your body. Gently pull the wool over the teeth of the carder, starting from the side nearest the handle. Repeat until you have a thin, even layer of wool covering the carder. Begin to card by taking the other carder in your dominant hand and using a light, rocking motion to card the wool. The tips of the teeth on the carder should not meet. When the wool appears to be evenly divided between the carders you will lift and transfer the remaining fibers from the loaded carder to the one you were passing over it. The fibers will end up resting lightly on the left carder. Use the edge of the right carder and your left hand to start to roll the fibers into a slender tube called a rolag. You're ready to go for a spin!

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