Woolen and worsted—these terms are thrown about a lot. To hand spinners they have very specific meanings.Worsted yarns are made from combed fiber preparation (think combing your hair) while woolen yarns are made from a carded preparation (think brushing your hair). As a spinner we have a lot of control over what kind of yarn we make. The secret is all in the preparation. Whether we buy prepared fiber or do the processing ourselves, knowing a bit about the subject will help become better spinners.
Cheviot Wool Top
Prepared Spinning Fiber
We are frequently asked, "What is the difference between fiber top and roving?" Top is combed and roving is carded. Top has all the fibers aligned (worsted), while roving presents the fibers in a jumbled array (woolen). Top produces smooth, sturdy yarns while roving produces fuzzy, lofty yarns. There are degrees of each preparation such as semi-worsted or semi-woolen.
DIY Hand Combs and Carders
From left to right: English, Hackle (at rear) and Viking combs.
Combing removes the short fibers, aids in dehairing, and leaves fibers of uniform length. At The Woolery, we stock three basic types of combs: English, Viking, and Hackles. English combs are an excellent choice for processing large amounts of longish- stapled wool. Viking combs are good choice for processing small batches of fiber including short-stapled breeds. Hackles are beloved by many for color blending.
Carding opens up the fibers, distributes them evenly, leaving them in a disordered arrangement. There are many styles of handcards. Their teeth vary in size. The closer the teeth are the better they are for fine fibers and inversely the wider apart the teeth the better they work for medium to corse fibers .
There is also the amazing drumcarder. It cards large amounts of fiber and is an excellent choice for making custom color blends to create unique handspun yarn.
Before We Move On
We received a lot of questions about which shuttle is best for what purpose and in particular how to wind a pirn for the end-delivery shuttle. Check out our latest videos on YouTube for the answers to your burning shuttle questions! (And, post any ideas for future videos!)
Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery Team