Sea Green and Sapphire

A blog about a love of colour, addiction to fabrics and joy of crafting…

Learning to Spin Woolen


Hand Carded Rolags

The frantic Christmas knitting is still continueing, but I have managed to steal a few moments for spinning. I am now comfortable with spinning worsted yarn, so I decided to have a go at spinning woolen.

Apologies to the non-spinners amongst my readers, I should explain some of this jargon. There are two main methods of spinning yarn, they’re the two opposite ends of a spectrum if you like with some hybrids and variations in between. On one end of the spectrum, you have soft, lofty yarn that is fluffy and warm, that’s called woolen yarn. It’s spun from carded wool and during spinning you trap a lot of air into the yarn. This is done by letting the twist into the wool before the fibres are completely stretched out.  Lovely and warm though it is, it is not very durable however.

If you need durability and hard-weariness, you need worsted yarn, which is spun from combed wool. Combing wool arranges the fibres in parallel, in a nice and orderly fashion. During spinning, you stretch out the fibres before you let the twist in, which maintains the orderly arrangement and packs the fibres tightly together. This way, you get a tight hardwearing surface, which wears well, but as not much air gets trapped in it won’t be as warm as woolen yarn. There are some hybrid techniques in between these two ends, but I think that’s enough theory and jargon for now.

Spinning worsted is slightly easier which is the reason why I started with it, but now I am trying to master the long draw woolen technique – and I absolutely love it! It’s even more miraculous a process than spinning worsted! If you are hand-carding wool (which I am) you start with a fluffy sausage-shaped mass of wool (called a rolag, see the picture above). As you spin, this sausage of wool, almost as if by itself, transforms itself  into lovely lofty and fluffy yarn.

Well I say “by itself”, but it does take quite a bit of concentration and practise as I have just found out, I am finding it much harder to spin even yarn compared to spinning the worsted way. Mine tends to be fluctuate between thick and thin and controlling the process is pretty subtle business. But I am getting there, I think… I just wish I had more time to practise!

I am still using the Jacob wool that I was practising spinning worsted with. The wool came as combed top, but I hand-carded it into rolags. Carding itself was very easy, but the drawing process sometimes feels like a bit of hard work, it feels as if the fibres are a bit too long and they get stuck together in the rolag and it’s hard to draw the fibres out. Or it could be bad carding or just bad spinning, I’m not really experienced enough in this to know the difference! I do have some Shetland wool waiting, and I’m really looking forward to trying it out and seeing how that feels.


Author: Heidi

I love colour wherever I find it, in art, photography, gardens, nature. I also love all kinds of fiber arts; spinning, dyeing, knitting, felting, sewing.

2 thoughts on “Learning to Spin Woolen

  1. thank you for such an excellent descripton! I have to say, I’m still (STILL!) at the stage of just trying to make it nice and thin and even and ply it in different ways! I have some lovely rainbow rolags which I might try spinning with the long draw method after reading your post however!
    Have a lovely day XXX

  2. I definitely recommend it, it’s a lovely method. Your rainbow rolags sound lovely, after all this Jacob wool (lovely though it is) I think I definitely need to start spinning coloured wool soon!

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