8 and 9 of 51 Yarns: True Woolen and Worsted: Spun

This post is part of a spin-along through 51 Yarns by Jacey Boggs Faulkner, in the Wool n’ Spinning community. For other posts in this series, check here.

Yesterday I catalogued the prep for these two spins, on the extreme end of woolen and worsted yarn. Today I’ll talk about the spinning thereof and the yarns they made.

Extreme Woolen Draft

I’ve made my fair share of carded rolags, but I’ve never felt like I caught onto unsupported long draw. I always have to support with my other hand. When I thought about why, it always came back to the rolags. I was inexperienced in making them, or had put weird stuff in them. So this time I made sure I had clean, light, fluffy rolags.

The other thing about unsupported long draw is it takes a certain amount of nerve. When I asked the Wool n’ Spinning slack group how to bridge that last gap to spinning unsupported, an experienced member named Megan said, “sit on your hand!” That made me laugh; I’m sure she’s right. I have a hard time letting my singles be that messy.

I did not, in the end, sit on my hand. But what I had to do generally was use my supporting hand to hold the thread near the oriface so I could start drafting back, then I could let go while my drafting hand went about halfway back, then I hung on again to double draft. These rolags seemed to want double drafting, and this is the first time I’ve double drafted through a whole spin, even if just a 1.5 oz one. I’ll still call that growth, even though I haven’t hit that unsupported milestone.

Those 1.5 oz filled my standard ashford bobbin. They were pretty lightly spun, and I plied them tightly to compensate. Not overwhelmingly so; the yarn is still wonderfully spongey.

Extreme Worsted Draft

What keeps this spin from being “true” worsted is that I’m spinning from commercial top. There’s nothing wrong with top, but for true worsted, one is supposed to spin from butt (cut end) to the tip of the lock of wool. In commercial top there’s just no way of knowing if all the ends are one way or not.

But I pretended. In the prep, I made like the end I lashed on was the butt, which meant that the last bit pulled off the stationary comb was the butt. I spun from that end. It makes no difference in this case, but I wanted to figure it out for practice.

Short forward draw is, of course, the extreme worsted draw. My properly combed nests (finally!) were buttery smooth to draft. Without intending to, I spun a bit thinner than the woolen singles. The whole ounce (above) barely registered on the bobbin.

In a worsted yarn, everything is supposed to be as smooth as possible, so I observed the rule of “first spun, first plied.” I hadn’t thought to divide my wool before starting, so I wound off from the bobbin with my ball winder, then wound again (from the center) using my trusty kitchen scale to split the amount in half. Then I plied from the outside of both balls.

I love how consistent I was able to make this yarn. With those well-prepared nests, it was just easy.

Comparison: Finishing & Measuring

I took both yarns’ stats before finishing, so I could compare not only their finished state, but how they changed in the finishing. I won’t give you all the details, but before finishing there was already a significant difference in diameter; the worsted (dark) measured as 17 WPI, while the woolen (light) measured as 12 WPI. The woolen singles were a little thicker and less consistent, so this isn’t surprising.

The worsted I spun to a more balanced ply, as you can see above; the final angle of twist was 35 degrees. As I mentioned, I spun the worsted with softer singles and tighter ply, with an angle of twist of 45 degrees, and you can see how imbalanced the singles are. Here is a humorous picture of both skeins before finishing; between woolen poof and imbalanced sproing, the woolen skein is so much shorter!

I finished them both in standard worsted and woolen ways. The worsted just got a soak in tepid water and four snaps; the woolen got a fulling, four snaps, and some thwacks against my table. After finishing both yarns were happily balanced. The woolen skein is still a tiny bit shorter, but at least you can tell they were wound on the same niddy noddy.

Here’s a closeup that shows you the surface textures of the two yarns. The woolen yarn is fuzzy from the disorganization and the thwacking, while the black is very smooth from perfectly aligned fibers and gentle finishing. You can’t tell in this picture, but the worsted does have a little shine to it.

In regards to how they changed in finishing: I was surprised that there wasn’t much difference there. Both poofed a good bit, to 10 and 14 WPI respectively. That’s more about the Targhee than the spinning style, I expect. Both have excellent grist for their size – over 1100 and over 1600 YPP. It’s hard to compare when they are such different diameters.

Both yarns have a ton of squoosh – hello Targhee! – but the worsted squishes like a spring, while the woolen squishes like a loofah. The worsted is like holding a flower; the woolen is like holding a bunny. I’m out of metaphors; I just wish you could touch them!

Both yarns turned out just lovely. Prime examples of how two yarns can be so different, even with the same base fiber and construction.

Next time I’ll look at how they knit up, and talk about those colors!


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