Woolen and Worsted: It’s Not the Direction of Your Draft
Every year I spend a lot of time teaching, which I love, and every year I hear a different bit of misinformation from my students. It’s never anything huge that would ruin their yarn, but it might make spinning the yarn they want harder. And you know me, I’m all about spinners making exactly the yarn they want and doing everything the easiest possible way.?"
Usually in my classes, I go around and ask people if they are a woolen or worsted spinner, meaning "do they draft their yarn woolen or worsted?"
This year, in almost every one of my classes, I met spinners that thought a woolen or worsted draft only had to do with the direction they were drafting – forward or backward. That a short-forward draft is a worsted draft and a backward-moving draft is a woolen draft. I also heard that long draw is the only way to spin woolen.
I can absolutely see how that would happen. When you are a new and newish or don’t spin that often, there is so much to learn and remember!
Here’s the thing about drafting. A woolen or worsted draft has nothing to do with the direction of your draft. Nothing. You can draft woolen forward or backward, and draft worsted forward or backward.
What makes a draft woolen or worsted is how the twist enters the drafting triangle or fiber supply.
See where the arrow is pointing in the photo? That’s the drafting triangle or fiber supply. Can you see how the fiber is open and loose with no twist in it? Can you see how there is twist in the yarn above my right thumb? How that twist above my thumb gets into the fiber is the difference between woolen and worsted.
If I just open my front finger and let the twist zip into the fiber supply without guiding or controlling it in any way, that would be a woolen draft.
If I keep enough pressure with my front fingers just in front of the twist and slide my fingers, guiding the twist into the fiber and never letting the twist get in front of my drafting fingers into the fiber, that is a worsted draft.
That’s the difference between the two drafts. Woolen lets the twist into the fiber supply and along with the twist comes air, making woolen drafted yarns loftier. Worsted guides the twist into fiber, squeezing the air out and making a smoother, denser yarn.
Here are a couple of very short videos showing that you can move in either direction while drafting woolen or worsted.
The first video shows woolen drafting. I start out moving backwards. You can see how I pull back and open my finger, and the twist zips into the fiber. Then I switch to pulling forward; I pull open my fingers and the twist zips into the fiber.
The second video is worsted drafting. First I work forward. I pull forward, letting the twist gather in front of my fingers and not letting it through, then I slide my fingers back bringing the twist with me to the fiber supply. Then I work a backward-worsted draft, pulling the fiber supply backward before guiding the twist into the drafting triangle.
You can spin woolen or worsted in whichever direction works for you. You get to choose what’s easy and comfortable to make the yarn to want to make.
Now tell me, are you a woolen or a worsted spinner?