Spinning from the fold—sometimes called “over
the fold” or even “over the knuckle”—is
a neat technique for managing your fiber supply that allows you
to use either a long or short draw. It can be used for either
animal or plant fibers and is especially useful for slippery
fibers such as silk and silk blends, soysilk, ingeo (corn), and
bamboo. Bast fibers such as flax, hemp, or ramie top are easy
to handle when spun from the fold. Flick-combed wool, alpaca,
or mohair locks can also be spun this way.
Beginners will find
that spinning from the fold offers extra
control during the drafting process and helps to maintain a more
even yarn diameter, especially when spinning finer yarns. If
you’ve been having any trouble
spinning an even yarn with commercially prepared merino top,
try spinning it from the fold and see if that helps.
Spinning from the fold works best with fibers that are somewhere
between 4 and 8 inches long and fairly uniform. You can pull
off a small section of top and separate some individual fibers
to see how long they are. You may find that you need to work
on a surface covered with a dark colored cloth to see very fine
white fibers such as silk or soysilk. If the fiber prep contains
lots of fibers of various lengths, you’ll have to experiment
to see if it will work from the fold; you may end up with the
longer fibers drafting first, leaving a handful of short fibers
Rather than working from a long, thin strip pulled from a combed
top or an attenuated rolag, you simply take a staple-length
piece of your fiber and fold it over the index finger of your
back (fiber-holding) hand—or alternatively, you can grasp
the whole fold (gently!).
Try a short forward draw if you are working with fine, slippery
fibers: use your front hand to pull
the fibers forward toward the orifice. If you are aiming for a
more worsted-style yarn, don’t allow twist to enter the
drafting zone.. If you prefer a finished yarn that leans a bit
more in the woolen direction, you can let twist enter between
You can also combine spinning from the fold with a long draw
if your fiber has enough “tooth” to hold together
during the drafting process. Flick-combed locks are often good
candidates for the fold/long draw combo, but in the photo I’m
When you are finished spinning your handful (fingerful?), you’ll
need to pause for a moment and fold
the next section over your finger. I usually
pull off a few sections at a time and line them up on one of my
legs so that I have them at hand when I need to reach for another.
The main thing to remember when you are spinning, regardless of
whether you use a long or short draw, is to hold the fold gently—no
need to squash!
I find that some variation in staple uniformity doesn’t
affect the final yarn too much. Silk often leaves you with some
shorter fibers at the end of the fold, but they can be spun
without any trouble. If you are aiming for a very uniform yarn
and don’t want a section with shorter fibers, you can
discard the short ends (I’m far too cheap to discard any
bit of silk!).
Spinning from the fold is easy and versatile once you get the
hang of it. It works equally well whether
you spin on a wheel or on a spindle.
You can even spin
line flax from the fold without a distaff.
one of my favorite techniques to tame
the veggies, and I generally use it,
along with a short draw, to spin lots
of non-wool fibers. Experiment and enjoy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lee Juvan learned to spin on a walking wheel
when she was twelve in a summer workshop at
Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. She
bought her own wheel in 1990, and she’s
been at it since then. Lee is the designer
of several patterns published in Knitty, including Brighton and Emma’s