Tuesday, January 5, 2016

'Carding Wool like a Ghost' YouTube video

I've wanted to share the type of long draw wool spinning I learned from famed spinster Edna Blackburn long ago (1970) in Ontario, Canada at her Albion Hills Farm School. More about her here.  Few now do the type of English long draw I learned there.  While I have taught this technique many times in person, I wanted to try sharing this over the internet without being able to touch your hands as you tried it out. It often utilizes shorter wools, rather than the longer wools suitable for wool combing.

You'll find my video on Youtube "Carding Wool like a Ghost" as a companion video to "Spin like a Ghost"

Long Draw technique is either exactly like or similar to 'Double Drafting' and my terminology 'Half Yarn' and involves stretching wool fibers that have some twist inserted, but not enough to make finished, unstretchy yarn.  At the 'half yarn' stage, the wool can be stretched farther to make the fiber thin out very quickly to the size desired.  As the fibers thin out, the yarn becomes weaker, since the twist required to make a strong yarn is being 'used up' as the yarn becomes thinner.  The major rule of more twist for thin yarn and less twist for thicker yarns is prime spinster science here.  It takes practice to gain a feel for timing of twist entering the wool keeping the 'drafting' zone alive and unfinished for quite a long length - it could be 2-3 feet before it has 'finishing' twist entered into the extenuated draft zone to make a strong final yarn.

This technique is frequently seen in hand spindle spinning and wheel spinning videos around the world. One that exhibits wool wheel (muckle) spinning can be seen here.  This is from Irish videographer David Shaw-smith and is part of a craft series of great importance to historical spinning. This particular segment shows an ancient technique on a primitive wool wheel with a wooden spindle in Ireland often called a muckle wheel.  It surely must be a rare survival of the walking wheel techniques of the Middle Ages, such as is seen the Luttrell Psalter and Decretals manuscript illustrations.

The long draw technique is not exclusive to carded rolls or rolags, but it is often used with them.  It is very helpful if these rolls are light and fluffy, hence the companion videos of carding wool and long draw spinning. It is also very helpful if the wool fibers are shorter - 3.5 inches or shorter.

When long draw spinning is done on a treadle wheel the main difference between walking/great wheel and treadle wheel is the pace of twist delivery.  On a treadle wheel, the twist delivery is fairly constant if the spinner continues to treadle.  This means that controlling 'half yarn' typically needs two hands - one at the bottom near the orifice to open and shut the pinch 'gate' so that half yarn can be drawn out.  When the lower hand pinch 'gate' is opened fully, the half yarn is finished and wound onto the bobbin.  This takes well prepped fibers and consistent rhythm in treadling and hand coordination.  Ruth Mcgregor is a genius at this HERE.

I hope these videos will help you to achieve a deeper understanding of long draw/half yarn done in the ancient style.  Sincerely, missingspindle / Lois Swales

PS: One advantage of being me is that I make ALL the MISTAKES.  I learn from them and try to share everything unpleasant that might happen to a spinner trying a new technique.  I may not be the best spinster in the world, but I am so very very knowledgable about spinning tragedies………...


  1. Is there a fast way to wind up yarn into the shaft of my spindle? My folk dance teacher saw me walking with my spindle and wondered if I could work spinning into a dance. I tried the Peruvian Spindle Trick but you get too little yarn and then you have to wind up.

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