Spinning

Ready, Set, Draw! Quick and Easy Tips for Faster Spinning

Polwarth+Silk Spinning Fibre in "Rocky Mountain Meadow" colourway

Have you got the need for speedier spinning? Whether you’re competing in a spinning event where your yardage counts or you’re looking to start a side hustle selling your handspun yarns, efficiency rules. A little time invested in preparing your fibre before it gets to your wheel or spindle can make all the difference in helping to make the most of the time you spend spinning it. 

Below, we offer a few tips on this, as well as best practices in speed-spinning methodology, to help you spin your fastest yarns yet!

Fibre

If you’re reading here, then hand-dyed fibre is probably your jam. Watching colours slide through your fingertips and building on your bobbin, never gets old. However, hand-painted top can also slow down your spinning, as it tends to compact once it’s been stashed. To combat this, we need to “unlock” the staple lengths of our fibres, making it easy for the individual strands themselves to slide apart and past each other as we spin them. 

Polwarth+Silk Spinning Fibre in "Rocky Mountain Meadow" colourway

Before “whipping”: Polwarth+Silk Spinning Fibre in “Rocky Mountain Meadow” custom colourway, dyed for Schacht Spindle Co.


Polwarth+Silk Spinning Fibre in "Rocky Mountain Meadow" colourway

After “whipping”: Polwarth+Silk Spinning Fibre in “Rocky Mountain Meadow” custom colourway, dyed for Schacht Spindle Co.

My favourite way to do this is through a method I call “whipping”: Unbraid the fibre you plan to spin and give it a good shake. Have a look at your colour runs and decide on how you’re splitting the fibre, then gently tease each length open widthwise and shake again, this time with force, in a whip-like action. You may need to whip from the other end, too. You won’t believe the difference you’ll see in fluffiness! “Whipping it” has helped me to unlock even the most compacted of fibres, without the need for pre-drafting, but you should feel free to do what works best for you! (Some especially short and/or grippy fibres may still benefit from a light pre-drafting.)

Spinning

Whether you spin with a wheel or a spindle (and you can absolutely spin a lot of yarn, very quickly, using a spindle and the methods outlined here), it’s generally accepted that a woolen or woolen-type spinning yields the fastest yarns (think: jumbled fibres, soft, airy, uncompressed singles, and long (or longish) draw). Since we’re all about speed here, borrow the aspects of woolen spinning that work best for you. Two of my favourite woolen-esque methods of spinning include:

Spinning from the fold

This works with a variety of fibre lengths and blends, and especially after whipping your fibre into its fluffy finest. Simply tear a staple length of fibre and fold it over your forefinger. Tease a starter strand from the center point, and spin! For faster spinning, I like to remove my finger from the fibre, which I still keep folded in half, while I spin. 

Spinning from Fauxlags 

This is another method that works with a variety of fibres, and its results mimic those of hand-carded rolags surprisingly well. It’s also a lot of fun for managing colour, which does appear more blended and muted as a result of fauxlagging. 

Using two large knitting needles (or two dowels, if you have them) lay your entire length of unbraided fibre on a flat surface (again, give it a fluff first). Using your knitting needles, clasp one end of the fibre evenly between them, then roll a couple lengths of the fibre into a cylinder. Break off your fauxlag. Repeat the process until complete.

Efficiency

Being efficient in more than just your spinning movements helps to minimize those unnecessary trips that take you away from your spinning. Some ideas include:

  • Banish indecision from encroaching on your precious spinning time by choosing the braids you’d like to spin in advance of any spinning event. Have an idea of how you’d like to spin and ply the fibres, too. Don’t overthink it.
  • Use the wheel you know and love best, set at the smallest (fastest) ratios you’re able to manage.
  • Thoroughly oil your wheel wherever metal meets metal, and change drive and brake bands before any spinning competition or other major production-pressed time.
  • Keep all wheel and spinning supplies handy, and make sure that your wheel is set up and ready to roll at all times.
Polwarth+Silk Spinning Fibre in "Rocky Mountain Meadow" colourway

Polwarth+Silk Spinning Fibre in “Rocky Mountain Meadow” custom colourway, dyed for Schacht Spindle Co.

Above all, take joy from the time you spend spinning, and try not to compare yourself to those around you. For the most part, spinners are exceptionally kind and welcoming to one another. Most of us enjoy spinning competitions for personal reasons, and especially for the camaraderie.

Join the SweetGeorgia team for Spin Together! We are hosting a Spin-In on Zoom on Tuesday, October 6 at 10 am PST where we welcome spinners of all experience levels. Bring your spinning wheel, spindle, or e-spinner and join us for an hour of spinning together! 

GET SET FOR SPIN-TOGETHER

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Debbie Held

About Debbie Held

Debbie Held is a freelance writer and international fiber arts educator who almost always has a spindle in hand. She’s a recurring contributor to Spin Off magazine, PLY, Schacht Spindle Company, and more, and she’s the writer behind the Interweave column, Her Handspun Habit. A truly contented spinster, Debbie lives on an urban farm in Atlanta, Georgia, with an enormous Persian cat named Stanley. Both enjoy watching the spinner’s flock of Shetland sheep living in the yard below their windows. Write to them (all) at www.debbieheld.com.

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