Tag Archives: fiber spinning

Setting Goals for Spinzilla!

Spinzilla is returning this fall, and we’re counting down the days til the festivities begin on October 6. Spinner signups are happening now through September 22, and the proceeds benefit the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP), which provides volunteer mentors with supplies and educational materials to share the joy of handspinning with children. In 2013, the event raised nearly $6,000 for NAMP to fund the addition of a spinning component to their program; this year, they seek raise even more funds to double the number of children served in the years ahead.

The Woolery is proud to be a Yak Sponsor for Spinzilla this year; sponsor donations such as ours help to underwrite the costs associated with running the event. This ensures that spinner registration fees go directly towards supporting NAMP, and that will help them reach their goal of doubling the number of children served in 2014.


In addition to fundraising, Spinzilla’s goal is to empower spinners to learn more about the craft through hands-on experience. By spinning as much yarn as possible, Spinzilla aims for each participant to surpass their own expectations and break down the their inhibitions about spinning yarn, giving them a sense of accomplishment and perhaps even mastery!

Last year, #TeamWoolery spun a total of 74,593 yards and was in the top 5 teams for most yardage spun. We offered some fantastic, fibery prizes for our team members last year, and this year we’re planning even more exciting events and prizes for those of you spinning on #TeamWoolery!

Team Woolery 2013

Team Woolery 2013

It’s never too early to start preparing for Spinzilla. If this is your first time doing this event, it may seem overwhelming. However, we’re all about setting manageable goals to ensure spinning success this fall! You may choose to set your Spinzilla goals by distance, by weight, or by the clock:

niddynoddySpinning the Distance
This year, each spinner is being challenged to join the Monster Mile Club, which is a new award category for 2014. Any participant who spins a mile of yarn (1,760 yards) will be automatically entered in a special prize drawing for Monster Mile Cub members! Many of our teammates from 2013 spun more than a mile of yarn, so rest assured that this is a very attainable goal! For added insurance, we have created special Monster Mile Spinning Fiber Packs which include 2 pounds of high-quality, easy-to-spin fiber at a great price!

fiberscaleSpinning by Weight
For those who are concerned about running out of fiber during the event (or for anyone with an extensive fiber stash they want to spin through), setting daily goals for Spinzilla by weight is the way to go! Whether your goal is to spin through a 4oz braid of roving or a pound of fiber, outlining these goals now will help you stay focused during the event.

clockSpinning by the Clock
For those of you who are concerned about time management, setting a daily goal in hours or minutes is a stress-free approach to spinning sanity! Weaver and spinner Sara Lamb recently blogged about her experiment with spinning for one hour each day and found that she was able to spin 2,000 yards in that time. Now is a great time to do your own experiments to see how long it takes you to fill a bobbin or spin through a braid of roving, all of which will help you plan your spinning schedule for Spinzilla.

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team



Stay Spinning This Summer!

A well-maintained spinning wheel can provide years of service, and keeping your wheel in tip-top shape is easier than you think! It’s a good idea to perform routine maintenance a few times a year by giving your wheel a thorough cleaning, tightening screws and any other loose parts such as legs and wheel supports, and replacing any worn-out parts such as leather conrod joints, drive bands, or brake bands.wheelmainttools

Believe it or not, this maintenance can be easily done with just a few tools and other supplies you’re likely to already have on hand – click here for a list of items and easy-to-follow instructions from our blog archive!applyingoil

However, there is something you can do each time you spin to keep your wheel in good working order: applying oil! In our latest video in the Ask the Woolery series, we demonstrate all of the possible areas which could benefit from a drop of oil at the start of each spinning session. Of course, each wheel is different, so you will want to refer to your wheel’s manual for specific instructions on where to apply oil on your particular make and model. In the video below, you can get a closer look at how and where oil should be applied to keep squeaks and rattles at bay:

Thanks for joining us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team


Why ply?

Our Spinning Spring Training continues this month as we explore new techniques throughout the month of May! Many of our Ravelry group members are buzzing with ideas for yarn-spinning experiments: batts, rolags, corespun, boucle, and playing with ply are all techniques we’re hearing mention of, and we can’t wait to see the finished results later this month!

170px-Yarn_twist_S-Left_Z-RightBefore we talk about plying, we should cover the basics of twist: S twist and Z twist. S twist is produced by turning your wheel in a counterclockwise motion, while Z twist is produced by turning your wheel in a clockwise motion. In the image at right, you can see that the yarn leans to the left in an S twist (which is also the direction you spin your wheel to create it) and yarn with a Z twist learns to the right. Generally speaking, if your singles are spun with an S twist, they should be plied with a Z twist (and vice versa). This creates a stronger yarn overall.

One of our industrious Spring Training participants, Dlthom6, shared an experiment with ply using Louet’s Dorper top to spin samples of yarn with 6, 5, 4, 3, chain, and 2 ply which were then knit into a single swatch using the same needle size (US 10.5). You can really see the difference between each sample! 

As you can see, how you choose to ply your yarn can really help your finished handspun skein (and subsequent project) take shape. Even choosing not to ply your yarn can make a dramatic effect! A purposely slubbed yarn single can be lovely all on its own, as in this example:IMG_7032Plying is a great way to minimize thick and thin variations in your handspun, provided those variations are not too extreme – but don’t worry if your yarn has a lot of variation, especially at first. It’s these variations which can also make your handspun yarn unique, and that’s always a good thing!

You may decide to spin two singles in a two-ply yarn; the challenge is to use proper tension to create a balanced ply. A tensioned lazy kate can help this process immensely; on the other end of the spectrum, you may choose to play with tension to create purposefully unbalanced or coiled yarns! IMG_7030When you’re ready to step things up a notch, consider spinning a 3-ply yarn. The addition of this third ply provides excellent stitch definition, plus it creates a nice, round yarn which is also quite durable.
IMG_70343-ply yarn can be achieved by spinning from 3 separate bobbins as in the example above, or you can use the chain plying technique (sometimes called Navajo plying) which allows you to spin a 3-ply yarn using just one bobbin simply by pulling a loop of your single through the next. This example shows how this technique can be used to control color placement when spinning with multicolored fiber:IMG_7028Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to plying. We look forward to seeing more plying experiments in our May Spring Training thread on Ravelry!

Thanks for joining us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team


Cotton Tales


Cotton Bolls

Cotton has been an important part of civilizations throughout the globe for thousands of years, with a history that is every bit as rich as it is mysterious. There is even an entire wikipedia page dedicated to the history of cotton in addition to the entry for cotton!

Today, we’ll be focusing on cotton fibers for spinning, starting with where it all begins: on a tree or shrub. Cotton is actually a tropical plant, so it thrives in a hot climate and needs lots of water. Harvesting cotton is a very tricky business: if done too early or too late, the cotton fibers will be of poor quality. Cotton growers test the cotton daily to determine the ideal time to harvest either by hand or with a special machine which removes the boll intact from the plant.

After the harvest, the cotton is ginned to remove seeds and remaining parts of the boll from the cellulose fiber. Most of you probably remember the name Eli Whitney from your grade school days: in 1793, he invented the cotton gin and revolutionized the way cotton was processed, giving way to the modern cotton industry we know today. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin, the cotton fibers were painstakingly separated from the seeds by hand!


Cotton Sliver

Once the cotton is successfully separated from the seeds, it is usually carded into a preparation known as sliver. This is a preparation which is thinner than roving, and many commercial cotton yarns are spun from sliver. Cotton is a popular choice for warm-weather projects, but many spinners are intimidated at the thought of spinning cotton fibers due to their short staple length.


Cotton Punis

Luckily, there are a few preparations which can make working with cotton much easier! Spinning from cotton sliver is a great place to start, since the fibers are combed into alignment when processed in this fashion.

Another preparation to try is cotton punis, which are similar to rolags . You can make your own or purchase ready-to-spin punis; while they can be spun on any wheel or spindle, they work especially well with the Charkha, for which they were designed.



A charkha is a spinning wheel which is ideal for spinning short-stapled fibers such as cotton, and it was made famous by Gandhi, who used it as a symbol for the Indian independence movement against British rule. In addition to spinning cotton, a charkha would come in handy for spinning angora, silks, or very fine wool.

Finally, cotton can be spun from the seed! This produces a very fine thread  and – believe it or not – is quite simple, as you can see in this video:

In our next blog post, we’ll have a special guest who will share tips for using cotton to spin textured, non-traditional yarns.

Thanks for joining us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team


Skillbuilding for Spinners

Spinzilla will be here before you know it, and if you’re planning on spinning with Team Woolery, we’ve got a few tips to help your hone your skills this month!


BFL Fleece

If you’re new to the  world of spinning, you might be wondering what type of fibers you should try first. Prepared tops are the easiest to manage, and there are a few breeds we recommend for beginning spinners such as Blue-Face Leicester (BFL), Polwarth and Merino. Experienced spinners may want to try their hand at something new, and we have a new video in our Ask the Woolery series this month showing our easy-to-follow tips for washing raw fleece. With the abundance of wool festivals and other fibery events this fall, it’s a great time to give spinning raw fleece a try!

If you have just graduated to wheel spinning, you might be wondering about the differences between single and double drive systems or, similarly, the differences are between Scotch and Irish tension. Have no fear – we explain all in our Ask the Woolery series, or you can click here to read our informational Spinning Wheel page on our website! If you’re still getting the hang of wheel spinning, you’ll want to spend some time this month getting more familiar with each option to see what works best for you.


Spinning Wheel Set Up for Double Drive

Another important skill to have is the ability to properly maintain your wheel. This will not only make spinning easier and faster, it will make your investment last longer! You can check your manufacturer’s instructions or click here for our maintenance tips here on The Woolery Blog. Before you give your spinning wheel a workout for Spinzilla, you’ll want to make sure everything is ship-shape!

Finally, all spinners will want to become pros at measuring their yarns since the goal of Spinzilla is to see which team can spin the most yardage. There are several ways to do this: you can use a Niddy Noddy (below is our easy video tutorial), a Yarn Balance (featured last month on our blog) or a yardage counter.

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Handspun Heaven

Many handspinners raced to the Tour de Fleece finish line on Sunday with several beautiful skeins of handspun yarn added to their stash. Below are just a few from Team Woolery – click here to view more in our Ravelry group!


Do you find yourself wondering what to make with your handspun creations? We have a few suggestions in today’s blog post, and there are also some great reference books such as the Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs or Spin to Weave to come to your rescue! 

We’ve come across some lovely weaving projects using handspun yarns on Weavolution recently – below are just a few ideas to inspire you!


L-R: Sofa Pillows, Saori Scarf, Twill Blanket, Ruana.

For handspinning knitters, Knittyspin is a really excellent source for free patterns – you can view all of their pattern archives here!


Ravelry is another great source for patterns and inspiration. If you’ve only spun a small amount yardage-wise, look for small projects such as scarves, hats, mitts, or baby items:


L-R: One Row Handspun Scarf, Handspun Slouch Hat, Handspun Fingerless Gloves, Crochet Handspun Baby Socks.  

You can also mix small amounts of your handspun with a commercially available yarn for colorwork and stripes, or use it as an accent edging on a special project. Finally, if you’ve spun enough to make a sweater or socks, there are patterns for that, too!


L: Handspun Sweater; R: Simple Handspun Socks.

Plus, you can always sub in your handspun yarn for any pattern if you are able to calculate WPI correctly. Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry, we’ve got an easy video tutorial on our YouTube Channel!

Now that you have a little inspiration, we can’t wait to see what you’ll create with your handspun yarns. Happy Spinning!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team


Armchair Travel, Woolery-Style

kumihimoSummer is officially here! For many folks, this is the time of year to take that adventurous trip or relaxing vacation you’ve been dreaming about. Sometimes, however, a staycation is closer to reality. If you’re traveling near (not far) this year, consider trying a little armchair travel with crafting inspiration from around the globe!

Saori Weaving is a freeform weaving technique from Japan which was recently featured in Handwoven Magazine; it can be done on a portable rigid heddle loom and is a great technique for beginning weavers. More than simply a technique, Saori weaving is a philosophy that focuses on individuality and creativity rather than trying to create a “perfect” looking woven cloth.

backstraploomAnother portable craft that is popular right now at The Woolery is Kumihimo, the art of Japanese braiding. A special stool (called a marudai) is used to support bobbins and hold the working threads. Many bobbins can be used, to create very complex braids. Pet leashes and collars are just a few of the useful projects you can make with this exciting technique! There are many South American cultures with a rich weaving history as well.; a portable backstrap loom (shown at left) is a great way for novice weavers to start exploring these traditions by weaving colorful sashes, straps, and bands.

cashgoatSpinners can travel the globe with fibers from a variety of locales: Louet’s Canterbury Prize Wool fibers are raised with care in New Zealand, or perhaps you’d prefer to sample British sheep breeds such as Herdwick, Masham, or Shetland (just to name a few!). Traveling eastward, you can indulge in Mongolian Cashmere fiber, which is among the softest and best in the world: it is hand-combed from each Cashmere goat (shown at right) in the spring as the weather warms and the undercoat naturally begins to shed. Another exotic fiber to try spinning is Muga Silk top, a ‘wild’ silk from the Antheraea Assamensis worm which is native to the Assam region of India. Traditionally only royalty was allowed to wear the golden fabric of Muga silkworm!

Happy Exploring!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team