Spinning Silk Supported

I hope those of you celebrating Memorial Day are doing so in whatever way makes you happiest! I’m currently stuck at home with the beginnings of a sore throat and a very sick Fiasco. Poor guy does not handle illness very gracefully and we changed our original plans (visiting parents on Long Island) and then our secondary plans (a cookout with friends) to much less exciting, self-imposed quarantine. I consoled myself with silk.

Hand-carded silk rolags.

First, I turned some silk top from into shiny, weightless rolags. A reader asked a question about what is needed to make rolags. You need a pair of hand cards, which run about $60+. I have a flat-backed pair from Paradise Fibers, but I am not a huge fan of them. They’re a little heavy and other hand cards have curved backs which I think make the motions easier, but I still used them to make these rolags. The Woolery sells a hand carding kit, which comes with a pair of basic wool cards, a book, and 2 lbs of fleece. They also sell a How to Card Wool DVD which is really interesting because it shows 4 very different techniques for hand carding, since there isn’t much agreement on One Right Way to hand card. This YouTube video is a little bit long (skip ahead a bit to the actual carding), but shows the process simply:

I did basically that, just a little more gently and messily with silk (it’s a very fly-away fiber) and then used my new toy to make this pretty little skein:


Wee silk skeinlet.

After spinning on my Russian spindle, I wound the yarn into a center-pull ball and then plied from the center and outer ends of yarn. Next time, I would take both ends and then wind up a plying ball from the center-pull ball before actually plying. A plying ball is basically just two singles wound into a ball as if they were one strand of yarn under tension. Then, when you go to ply, the two singles are nicely aligned and come off the ball evenly. Because I bypassed this step, I ended up with more snarls and tangles than were entirely necessary. I plied on my wheel.


Pretty, though, right?

I’m really happy with this little skein. It weighs just 0.6 oz (19 g) and contains about 70 yards of 2-ply, fingering-to-sport weight yarn. If this had been a full 4 oz of silk instead of leftovers from my alpaca carding experiment, I would’ve ended up with about 465 yards of yarn. Now (perhaps predictably) I wish I had more silk!

Here are some links to YouTube videos you can watch if you’d like to see Russian support spindling in action:

  • Video 1 (1:28 min) by soozagee – No narration, clear view of drafting technique and shows winding a temporary cop. I’m still in the ‘park and draft’ stage where my spindle is not actively spinning while I pinch and draft out fiber.
  • Video 2 (9:28 min) by Beth Smith – Narration, but not a very close up view of what’s happening with the spindle. Good descriptions of different fiber preps to use with support spindling and how to start the spindle..
  • Video 3 (6:55 min) by Fleegle – No narration, demonstrates how to begin spinning on the spindle, has some slow motion sequences. Good view of the tip of the spindle. Shows a temporary cop and how to wind it off by butterflying.
  • Video 4 (10:12 min) by Lisa Chan – Narration! Yay! This video helped me the most when I was first trying to make sense of what the heck was going on. She clearly describes starting the leader, spinning from the fold, managing twist, and progressing through park and draft. If you’re just starting out, I’d start here.

I hope those resources are helpful! I’d add two tips to the information in the videos: 1) preparation is really important for smooth drafting when twist is added so quickly. I recommend spinning from the fold (with most spindles, really) or carding some rolags, and 2) the angle at which you hold the yarn in relation to the tip of the spindle will affect what is happening. If you are holding the yarn at a 90 degree angle (perpendicular) to the spindle shaft, when you spin the spindle you will be winding the yarn onto the shaft (or off, depending on direction). If you are holding the yarn at a 30 or 45 degree angle to the shaft, you will be adding twist to your yarn when you flick your spindle (which is what you want). If you are holding the yarn nearly directly above the spindle tip (parallel, or a 0 – 5 degree angle) you will most likely just be pulling your wound yarn off the top of your spindle (which is not productive, so stop it). Angle matters, and it will take a little practice to find your sweet spot.

That’s enough babbling from me today, I think. What are your favorite spinning technique resources?


4 thoughts on “Spinning Silk Supported

  1. Pingback: WIPWed #56: Where Did May Go? | Woolen Diversions


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