Knitty: little purls of wisdom

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 behind.

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 your hands.

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 spinning soysilk. 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. It’s 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!


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 Unmentionables.

You can see more of her work on Ravelry, where she is “workwoman,” and in Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti by Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain.