My 2nd handspun wherein I attempt long draw (woolen)

My 2nd handspun. I’ve named this ugly duckling yarn “Grey worm – Torgo Nudho” after the character in Game of Thrones.


I bought this “medium grey wool” of indeterminate breed from Sankow Farms in CT. When I saw it was wild and wooly, I was intrigued because it was very different from the smooth coil of BFL I was using in my first spinning attempt. After I figured out I was doing “short draw”, I suspected I could try the “long draw” (woolen) method with this wool.

Feeding the Hungry Twist

There are many better explanations of handspinning. But I wanted to explain what I observed in comparing the two techniques… the light dawned on me at one point: the twist is hungry, you must feed it. I’m not 100% sure of course if I’m doing any of this right.

  • Short draw (worsted) method: You hold a point between the fibre supply and the leader. As you spin the spindle you build up twist. When you’re ready you pull oh the fibre supply and “feed” the twist. That is how it feels to me. You’re pulling the wool into the twist, but with the short draw method you completely control the twist.
  • Long draw (woolen) method: You hold the fibre supply far away from where you twist, As you spin the spindle, the twist gets hungry and starts to grab the wool. As you pull away the fibre supply the yarn can get thinner. If you spin more quickly, the yarn will be thicker because the twist grabs more and faster, before you can pull the fibre away. So if you want thinner yarn you need to draw more quickly and spin more slowly. \
  • I found longdraw  about 10,000x more difficult than park-n-draft short draw.

Before during and after washing to set the twist

I wanted to add a video so you could see how it came out. I didn’t pick the right strands to show you, but there ARE some more stiff parts where I’m thinking it’s because I did a short draw method sometimes (when I got frustrated)


Plying is hard.

don't try this at home
don’t try this at home

I’ll show you what doesn’t work. Wrapping wool around a loo roll and on knitting pins which provide zero tension. Looked cool until I WANTED TO STAB THE WOOL.

Knitty posted a good tutorial to explain why we should ply and the effects you can get in handknits. Craftsy recently posted a good comparison of plying structures for handspun yarn. Cabled yarn looks great. But even in the few books/videos I’ve watched, plying – at least from a spindler’s perspective is really glossed over.

I got some excellent advice from Irieknits on Ravelry from a thread on lazy kates on Ravelry. (Irieknits has many years handspinning experience.)

Yes, plying is definitely not addressed very fully in many sources. We start with fewer spindle-specific sources, and there seems to be ink spilled on ply structure/technique with skipping over the set-up aspect.

I like the idea Irieknits recommends of using “plying balls”. So simple! Ginger knitter wound the wool around tennis balls. That looks like a perfect solution. Then I could set them in bowls and they’d have enough tension on them.

Also my spindle is 39g, and I had plenty of trouble spinning thicker wool with it. It kept back-spinning on me. ” The heavier a spindle, the better it is for plying (taking into consideration other spindle physics premises, of course),” says Abby Franquemont in her post about Andean plying.

So… maybe an excuse for another spindle? Maybe a bottom whorl? 🙂

I’ll try spinning with some BFL and try and work lighter weight.


2 thoughts on “My 2nd handspun wherein I attempt long draw (woolen)”

  1. Love hearing about your experience with long draw! It is a technique that hates me but still makes me want to learn it even more 😛 For now I stick to supported long draw, where you use the hand that isn’t pulling the fibre away to control how fast the twist enters the drafting zone. I still need to practice this, but it is slightly easier to learn than full on long draw.

    Plying balls are the greatest! I went to the dollar store and used mini tennis balls similar to these (used for small dogs) to wrap my singles on. It is so much easier than plying off a spindle though it does take longer.

    1. I’m completely giving up on long draw until I can get some fibre that is better prepared for it. The rest of the fibre I have is all smoothly combed top. I was trying long draw on my third handspun, but I think the mystery fibre I have has too short a staple, and is too fine for this. I would need a supported spindle maybe? Mmm time for a lunch break soon and some spinning!

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