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The Step-by-Step Guide
to Spinning Art Yarns
What Makes an Art Yarn?
Fiber — Traditional & Nontraditional
Other — Materials Beads, Cocoons, Hardware
Dyeing & Blending
Coils & Partial Coils
Spinning All Locks
Plying in Locks
Strung Beads on Binder
Strung Beads on Yarn
High and Low Twist 4 Worms
thick- and- thin
any of us (myself included) start out
spinning bulky, slubby yarn. Once we tune
our drafting skills and gain more control,
we start to make finer and more evenly spun yarns. But,
occasionally we can run into problems when we try to
return to spinning that bulky, slubby stuff that was so
easy at the beginning.
Spinning a bulky yarn requires different control and rhythm than
spinning a smooth, fine yarn—synchronizing the body (hands and feet)
with the senses (sight and touch). When all of these elements are in
tune, good spinning happens. Spinning slubby and bulky yarn is a good
but less traditional technique, ideal to cut your art-yarn teeth on. There
isn’t too much juggling of fibers and feet going on, so it can be a great
The first step in spinning thick-and-thin is the same as for every yarn:
fiber selection and preparation. Use a combed top for two reasons:
the shorter and weaker fibers are eliminated, and the side–by-side,
parallel alignment of the fibers helps to create slubs. The more you
predraft, the less you will need to draft while spinning, giving you more
opportunity to concentrate on the twist entering your yarn. When you
are attenuating the fibers, allow some unevenness; thicker and thinner
potions of fiber supply will help create variety in the yarn.
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Start out by spinning up to a yard of worsted-weight
yarn, drafting the fiber evenly. This ensures that
your fibers are connected to your leader and helps
to establish your natural rhythm. Soon you will
come to an area where your predrafting and the
staple length of the fibers have created a slub. To
create a slub, relax your twist-control pinching hand
and steadily slow the treadling speed. Allow the
twist to glide over the slub. (A bulky yarn requires
far fewer twists per inch to hold together, as little as
one twist per inch.)
Continue adding slubs as you like. The staple
of the fiber and your natural drafting rhythm will
dictate the frequency of the slubs. Each person’s hands have
their own drafting rhythm. Your arms and hands will develop
a particular distance that they draft out the fibers, and
eventually they will draft almost exactly the same distance
Part of the drama of a slubby yarn is adding thin parts
between the thick parts for contrast. As with any yarn, the
amount of drafting dictates the size of the yarn, and drafting
smaller and finer will produce a thinner section of yarn.
When you were attenuating the fibers (the second step of
predrafting), the midpoint of the fiber between your hands
spinning slubby and bulky
1 To begin, spin a length of worsted-weight yarn.
2 Relax your twist-control hand while slowing your treadling.
3 The twist will glide over the slub, holding it together.
4 The slub requires less twist to hold together than the thinner portions.
6 slubby thick-and-thin yarns
probably created a thinner section where one fiber’s
staple ended and another began.)
Just as you slowed your treadling to add less twist over
the bulky slub, speed up the treadling to create a stable
fine section. You will need to practice finding the balance
between overspinning the slubs (treadling too fast) and
adding enough twist to the finer sections.
A good way to judge is to measure and weigh your
finished yarn. Bulky yarn should weigh around 600–800
yards per pound. If your yarn has significantly more
yards per pound but still measures about 10 wpi, you
may want to practice your predrafting. You can also try
just treadling slowly—even painfully slowly!—without any
fiber. (This can be a helpful exercise for any spinner).
1 When predrafting,
thinner areas of fiber may
have developed between your
hands. These are ideal for
spinning thin sections between
2 When you come to a thin
spot in the fiber, speed up your
3 The thinner portion needs
more twist to hold together
than the slubby portions.
4 Alternate thick and thin
portions for richly textured
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Looking for ways to jazz up your handspun? Want to create yarns as
individual as you are, that express your artistic vision, but are still
useful? Get Spun teaches spinners to create art yarns with structure.
By combining traditional skills, unconventional techniques, and an
unlimited range of fiber possibilities, readers can not only create the
yarn of their dreams, they can make it strong enough to last.
Inside you will learn :
Art-yarn spinning fundamentals and techniques with clear step-by-step photographs
echniques for wool, silk, and beyond, including nontraditional materials (fabric,
plastic bags, silk cocoons), glitz, sari silk, and add-ins
Instructions for dyeing and blending fiber and yarn
Want to learn how to spin the cool, funky art yarns that you find in knitting boutiques
(at boutique prices) or make your fiber art project unique? This is the book for you!
Symeon North is an independent fiber artist, spinner, and dyer who works
Paperback, 8½ x 9, 120 pages
under the moniker “Pippi Kneesocks.” Her articles and designs have
appeared on Knitty, and she is a contributor to the book Spin to Knit.
available March 2010