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Drafting, Predrafting, Prep, and Control

In the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that a lot of the online discussions about getting started with spinning your own yarn include advice like “You really need to predraft your fiber in order to be able to spin it well,” and “If you aren’t getting fabulous yarn immediately, predraft more! Attenuate your fiber to the thickness you want your yarn to be, then put the twist in.”

What surprises me is not that this advice is given, but rather that it seems to be turning into a conventional wisdom about what a new spinner must do, and then it’s passed on as such, and it gains more and more ground and in some cases, talking with newer spinners, I have been shocked to discover they honestly did not know that this was not a requirement.

So, okay, caveats first:

  • Like the perl geeks say, There’s More Than One Way To Do It. The same techniques, tactics, and approaches don’t work the same for every spinner, every fiber, every prep, or every goal.
  • This is my personal take on the subject. Yours may differ; other expert spinners may disagree with both of us.
  • Everything I say is exactly what I believe 100% of the time without fail, except for when I don’t — because, as the wonderful Maggie Casey says, “It depends.” There is always a case that calls for the opposite of whatever I’ve just asserted. Let’s grant that, and move along.

With that out of the way, let’s define some terms for the purpose of this discussion.

  1. Drafting is, in essence, managing the process by which you introduce twist to fiber. This sounds really simple — but if we were talking about cooking, it would be the process of introducing heat to food. If you have ever cooked anything, you know this is actually a much more involved process than it sounds like from so simple a definition. In cooking, you can get completely different results from putting the exact same food in a hot pan instead of a cold pan; similar things are true for drafting when you spin. Drafting is the heart and soul of spinning yarn, as well as the pure mechanics.
  2. Preparation, or prep, is what must be done to fiber in order to draft it. If you were cooking, consider: you could take a potato and put it straight into an open flame, leave it there, then pull it out later ready to eat. But that’s only one kind of cooked potato, and there are many others. You won’t get french fries, potato chips, potatoes au gratin, mashed potatoes, or latkes that way. You have to do prep, such as slicing, peeling, pre-cooking, and so on, to even stand a chance of being able to get the results you want.

Okay, so here it is, baldfaced and simply stated: I don’t believe in “predrafting.” You know, except for when I do, as previously stated in the caveats. What we’re calling predrafting now is typically the practice of taking your fiber and getting it into a thinned-down state where, if you simply introduce twist, the result is yarn. I consider this to be nothing more than one type of prep work — not an essential step to spinning, but rather, simply one possible prep option. That being the case, I don’t like to think of new spinners believing it is a requirement in order to spin yarn.

In fact, no preparation at all is required to spin yarn (from wool, at any rate). I could walk up to a sheep in a field, pull off a few tufts of fleece, and without doing anything else to that fiber, turn it into yarn. Really nice yarn, even, and I could do it in production mode and churn out a fair bit of it faster than you might think. I could do nothing more than that, and clothe my family forever. Heck, probably your family too, and probably also make all kinds of tools from the yarn. And if those were the only goals we had for turning wool into yarn, we’d never do any kind of prep at all.

However, we want more from our yarn. We want lots of different kinds of yarn, suited to lots of purposes. We want lofty, soft yarn, and dense long-wearing yarn, and bumpy funky yarn, and smooth sewing thread, and yarn that’s for keeping us warm, and yarn that’s for walking on or building buildings or making sails for ships or being weapons and tools… so how do we get to the point of being able to have all those things?

We all know, in theory at least, that you can have a wool yarn for almost any purpose imaginable. We have all (well, all of us who are likely to be reading this, at any rate) handled wool yarn that was coarse and scratchy and ropy, and handled wool yarn that was delicate, soft, and airy. If we’re weavers and knitters and crocheters and familiar with the yarn shop, we’ve learned there are kinds of wool, and some are softer than others, while others are stronger, and still others are shiny, and “wool” isn’t a simple catch-all.

But what we don’t know, until we start to become spinners, is that there’s another entire world to the question. We don’t know, at first, that we could take merino wool — which everyone knows to be soft and fine — and turn the exact same fiber into gossamer, rope, all-purpose yarn, yarn for socks, yarn for shawls, yarn for sweaters, yarn for rugs. That cognitive leap hasn’t happened for us yet. But it will (and then, we’ll likely never recover and the world of yarn will be forever changed for us).

As soon as that leap is made, the question that arises is obvious: How? How do we take the same fiber and make it so many different things? And the answer is, we do it the same way we take that aforementioned potato and make it into so many different meals. We use different processes, and follow different combinations of steps in different ways.

You can’t take a raw potato, and smash it with a fork, then add in some milk and butter, and mix it all up, and have mashed potatoes. You have to boil the potatoes first in order to mash them. If you took a potato, and chopped it into cubes, then threw it in a deep fryer, what you pulled out would not be potato chips (crisps, for those of you on the other side of the pond). But if you sliced that potato so thin you could see through your wafers, and placed those wafers in the deep fryer, then what?

This is because, as the olde farte spinners are wont to say, prep matters. Not only does it matter if the prep is done well, but it matters how it’s done and what kind of prep it is. When you do prep work, you’re doing it with an eye towards what you’re going to make. When you pick up that potato and decide if you’re going to peel it or not, that decision is made based on many factors — like what you’re going to cook, and if you like peels in it, for example. Chances are that you have tools which are specially made to help you with different prep tasks in getting that potato ready to cook. You have knives well suited to slicing, chopping, peeling. You may have a special peeler. You may have a food processor. You might have learned a variety of different tricks for getting it prepped just how you want it for the purposes you intend today. You know all this stuff already.

But if you’re a new spinner with some new fiber, then chances are you don’t. What you have in your hands would be the equivalent, most likely, of a new frying pan and some diced, peeled potatoes and a small single-use pouch of vegetable oil. It came, if you were lucky, with a sheet of paper that said “Turn on stove. Place pan on heat. Use contents of vegetable oil pouch. Add potatoes. Stir until ready.”

Following these steps will, in fact, produce cooked potatoes. One kind of cooked potatoes. You will be able to eat them. Assuming, of course, that you figured out that “use contents of vegetable oil pouch” meant “open it and pour it in the pan” and so on, but that’s a separate whole thing. But, well, once you have those cooked potatoes, are they what you had in mind? Are they what you hoped? Are they like cooked potatoes that you’ve had in the past? What if all you got was a mass of potato matter, burnt in some places, uncooked in others, which you had no desire to eat at all and which bore only a surface resemblance to any potato-based meal you’d ever seen?

Luckily for you, in steps The Intarweb(tm) with the answer! You should, says the ‘net lore now, make sure the oil is hot, and preseason your potatoes. You must use salt and pepper. Doing this, people say, they’ve gotten home fries! Delicious home fries! So you follow the instructions, and now you, too, have home fries.

Thing is, this has essentially no bearing whatsoever on how to get mashed potatoes. Everything you’ve just learned as a requirement for “cooking potatoes” is aimed at cooking one single potato dish, in one single way, from one single kit. Nothing about that is bad; home fries are delicious and tasty and being able to cook them is wonderful. And you do learn things from cooking up that home fries kit which build your cooking skills at large, and make you better able to fry things in general, and not just potatoes. You just haven’t touched on boiling, on leaving peels on if you like, on making julienned fries, or countless other things about the possible cooking of potatoes; and while frying is one valid means of cooking up potatoes, it is only one — and it’s not necessarily the easiest start for all cooks.

Another problem is, of course, that once you’ve added salt and pepper, you can’t take them out. This, then, is where we turn back to the fiber, and talk about taking your fiber and attenuating it out to spinning thickness, then adding twist. Once you’ve done that, you can’t undo it, just like you can’t un-cut your potatoes. In other words, once you’ve done your prep, that prep can’t be undone. You can only do further prep. Each additional step you take during prep then limits what you can do with the fiber. Certain kinds of prep are absolutely essential to getting certain results, and don’t work well at all for others. Each prep style needs to be mated with a spinning style in order to achieve yarn, and these work together to produce a whole end result.

This is where dancing comes in. When you learn to dance, you learn to do moves. Perhaps you learn them standing in a formal ballet class, one hand on a barre, with a metronome keeping time; perhaps you learn them hanging out with some pals blasting loud music that your parents hate; but it’s moves that you learn. And then you learn to combine them, string them together, move from one to the next. You learn to make them flow with music. You build a repertoire of moves, ways to use them, combinations, and things that eventually, your body can execute without real conscious control. This has been referred to by many as kinaesthesia — a key component to muscle memory.

It’s important to our discussion here because, unlike cooking potatoes, spinning yarn absolutely requires the development of muscle memory to achieve real control and real success. Like learning a dance move, you’ll practice it and practice it, perhaps staring in a mirror to see if it looks how it should, perhaps comparing your physical movements to static pictures on a piece of paper, analyzing your results in some frustration, and persevering… until suddenly, maybe just once, maybe just for a second or two, bam — the muscle memory hits. It could be fleeting, then gone again, and you strive to get it back, simultaneously elated that you really felt it, and frustrated that, having felt it, now you aren’t feeling it.

A spinner needs this sense, needs this physical knowledge. Is it possible to make yarn without it? Yes. Is it possible to really own that process, really make it work for you, without it? I believe it isn’t. On paper, dancing is nothing more than executing motions set to music. In practice, though, it’s more; and to really be good at it, you have to feel it — whether you’re dancing in “The Nutcracker” or going clubbing and thinking how sweet it would be to lose yourself in the tunes for a few.

I think what a beginning spinner should be shooting for isn’t the yarn you’ll produce right off the bat. The yarn is secondary, really — I know that sounds crazy, but trust me on this. What the beginning spinner should be shooting for is the moment when you know you’re really dancing, really on beat, something larger than you is working through you and you could go forever just like you are right now. You’re looking for the moment in learning to ride a bike when, suddenly, it all came together and you knew you weren’t going to fall over, and you could just go and go and go. It’s the time you swung a bat at a baseball and you saw it hit and felt it through your whole body and the ball went flying and everybody was hollering “Run! Run!” It’s buttoning your winter coat in the dark one frigid morning. It’s reaching in your pocket and being able to tell what’s car keys and what’s change. It’s not having to look at your fingers while you type, knowing where the buttons are on your game controller. It’s all the same thing, but you have to learn it, physically, for each of those things. No amount of rational comprehension will ever substitute for feeling it.

This is part of why small children learn to spin easily. Children are still in the throes of developing their kinesthetic sense of the world in which they live and how they can interact with it. They can’t tie their shoes, they can’t eat with utensils, they can’t make buttons work, they fumble with things, they try and fail — and that, too, provides them with a useful tool for learning to spin: readiness to deal with frustration. Kids are really up to speed on the whole idea that understanding how something should work doesn’t mean that they can just do it. It’s part of their daily reality. But for adults and older children, we’re adept at negotiating our life skills and learning new physical things comes very hard. We want it to be the case that comprehension, and following steps, produces the results we desire. We expect it to do so, because most of the time, it does.

As adults, too, we become goal-oriented more than process-oriented. We know we’re spinning to get yarn; therefore getting yarn is the goal. So anything that gets us there is good. And, well, that’s true. But it’s limiting in the long run, because eventually we’ll build up a repertoire of quick-and-dirty moves that we can perform by rote, but never by feel. We’ll be able to stand in ballet class meticulously moving from first to second to third to fourth position, executing perfect pliès at every one, but we won’t be able to fly through an entire routine on stage as if something else were moving us. We’ll go out clubbing and we’ll be that chick who just looks like she’s trying too hard, instead of being that other chick who’s laughing and dancing and doesn’t even know anybody is watching her.

Bringing it back to the potatoes (my mother would be so proud), yes, it’s possible to learn tips and tricks and follow directions and get great food. It’s like cooking from a recipe. There absolutely is a time and a place for it. But the best cooks, the cooks who really own it and shine, are the ones who can take or leave the recipe; the cooks who understand the recipe and yet can depart from it at will, the ones who can look in the pantry, pull out four things, and improvise a brilliant dinner. They’re the ones for whom it’s not just a science and a technology but also something you do while you’re singing, humming, tapping your feet; the ones who have a rhythm to their potato-dicing and can smell when it’s all coming together just right.

When I’m teaching people to spin, that’s what I’m trying to help them become: spinners who can bring to bear all of the technical, scientific, and methodical stuff with the totally intangible sounds-like-a-hippie-fridge-magnet-slogan kind of stuff, to be able to dance through the process and emerge with exactly the desired yarn. I want them to feel it, but also be able to analyze it and reason it through. I want them to know there’s always more. I want them to be able to problem-solve and perform epic feats of spinnerly daring. I want them to risk, and fail, and learn from that; to set their sights high, take the long shot, and end up right on target. I want them to have the confidence to say “I can bake apple pie even without the nutmeg this recipe calls for,” and the savvy to say “This oven clearly runs hot, and I have to change my plans in order to get the pie I want.” I want them to be able to say, “Okay, the stir-fry kit was good, but next time I’m chopping my own veggies,” and get their dinners just how they want them.

So, you’re wondering (if you haven’t forgotten entirely where we were going), what does this have to do with that “you must predraft to spinning thickness” conventional wisdom?

The simple answer is, I hate it. I don’t want to see new spinners believe it’s required. I don’t want them to depend on it as a method. I think it’s crippling. Do I think it’s cheating? No. It’s one way, and a valid way, to get one kind of results. But I think it’s limiting. I think it robs a new spinner of key formative time early in the process, time that’s some of your best opportunity to develop the muscle memory you need to really control what you do, and to love your results, rather than just liking them.

I think it appeals to us because we want to get yarn, and get yarn now. It works for that. For certain kinds of yarn, it has a place. For certain preparations, you do want to do the final prep yourself, immediately before spinning, say by pulling a roving or fluffing it up or tightening a puni or rolag or breaking it into pieces or all sorts of things. And you can learn a lot about fiber and how it moves by going through those process, and by attenuating fiber down very small without adding twist. It is a useful learning exercise at times, and it is a valuable tool to have in your toolbox at others. But what it isn’t is a requirement or an absolute; and as I say, I find it to be a hindrance to the acquisition of other spinning skills, which while they’re slower coming in some respects, make everything that comes after that much easier.

So then, what advice would I offer new spinners to counter “you need to predraft?” Ah, I’m glad you asked that question!

  • Don’t worry about how your yarn looks. Really, don’t even think about it. Think about how it feels to spin. If you do this, then sooner than you think, that yarn you weren’t thinking about is going to look and feel far better than the yarn you made when you said “Abby’s totally full of it” and predrafted to spinning thickness anyway. In fact, I encourage you to do that.
  • It’s not a waste of time or fiber if you don’t get the yarn you hope for right away. It’s not — it’s an investment in skills acquisition. You are studying; time spent studying, and resources spent on study materials, are not wasted. Plus, later you’ll have them for benchmarks.
  • Do what you’d do if you were predrafting to spinning thickness… except, then add twist with your fingers. You can watch how twist takes the fiber, very closely. You can feel it in slow motion. You can just play with it.
  • Park and draft. When you spin, you aren’t using a tool to turn a material into a product. You’re not using a spindle (or wheel) to make wool (or other fiber) into yarn. I know, I know — this sounds completely bogus, and this next part sounds like a cheesy bumper sticker, but here goes: visualize yourself controlling twist. Twist is a force of nature, and you are its boss. It wants to eat your fiber. Are you going to let it? Eventually. But you’re going to feed it in a controlled way, because you are the boss of it (or you will be) and you know what’s best. Right now, all you’re doing is wrestling with it, sparring with it, learning its moves. Park and draft is a fabulous way to do that, and the building blocks of skills you’ll use forever as a spinner.
  • Relax. Laugh, let it go. It’s all good.
  • Remember: it is hard. Like anything else with so physical a component, people who are good at it make it look easy. I mean, Michael Jordan makes basketball look easy, but that doesn’t make it easy for mere mortals. You wouldn’t expect to walk onto a basketball court and do what he does; don’t expect to pick up a spindle, or sit at a wheel, and do what master spinners do. And forgive yourself when you don’t.
  • Take breaks. You’re learning a physical thing; you have to give your muscles a chance to have things gel. This won’t happen overnight.
  • Praise yourself. Lots of people around you aren’t going to have any idea what you’re doing. They aren’t going to have any helpful feedback. They’re possibly even going to be downright weird about it. Ignore them. You are doing a difficult, amazing thing. It will come.
  • Don’t assume that what worked for someone else will work for you. Sometimes what’s easy for one person is impossible for another. Don’t be afraid to try different things.
  • There is no One True Way. As a spinner, you must find your own way. In this case, you really are a special snowflake! Ask lots of people; disagree, argue, form opinions, state them, test them, try new things, and be willing to learn new ones too. In the long run you’ll have a style that’s all your own that’s made up of things you built yourself and things you learned here, there, and everywhere. Take advice from people who disagree with each other.
  • Everyone has something to teach you.You can learn The Answer To Everything You’ve Been Wondering, That One Perfect Truth, from someone who has never spun before, and in fact, you just put a spindle in his hands. Be ready and willing to learn it!

And so, gentle reader, we come to the end of “Why Spinning Yarn Is Like Cooking Potatoes… and Dancing.” I hope you’ve enjoyed the diatribe! Remember, everything in it is 100% guaranteed to be my firm and unflinching opinion (predrafting stinks!), except of course for when I totally disagree and think you absolutely must predraft. In sum, know how to do it — but don’t depend on it. And if it doesn’t work for you, that’s cool — try something else, as there’s lots of other stuff to try. And if you’re a brand new spinner, don’t let anybody tell you “this is how you have to do it.” There’s no such thing!

43 thoughts on “Drafting, Predrafting, Prep, and Control

  1. I’ll never look at a potato in the same way again.


  2. I had to skip the potato thing entirely – I mean, why on earth would I want my potatoes to be anything but mashed? (Salt and butter please, no gravy.)
    So I have two questions: can you park and draft on a wheel? I have always been told that’s the easiest step to start with on a spindle but it seems like it would be handy, but a PITA, on a wheel.
    Second, (in several parts), how early do you start kids learning to spin? And can you (okay, can I) teach them without being an expert myself?

  3. Oh Abby! What a wonderful manifesto for the new spinner (all spinners, in fact).

  4. Yes! What she said! Except the pepper in potatoes part…I’m allergic.

  5. *cackle* That’s right, do it because you think Abby’s full of it, and then find out she isn’t! It’s fun for the whole family! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Thank you, Abby, once again.

  7. Carrie, to answer your first question, sure you can park and draft on a wheel. Pinch the fibre with your forward hand so no twist can travel into your fibre supply, treadle the wheel a few times to build up twist, stop treadling, then draft using the stored twist. But you’ll probably have to set the tension a bit higher on your wheel so that you don’t inadvertently unwind the bobbin.

    When I first learned to spin, I had to predraft everything. But I only predrafted to a point where I’ve loosened the fibre enough for it to flow easily so that I could properly draft while spinning. Now I don’t predraft everything, but I always predraft indie-dyed top (including my own) because it’s usually more compact.

    Yes, there is more than one way to skin a cat and I realized this when I disagreed on a couple of things with the teacher of the first workshop I went to!

  8. I really find this fascinating, because I haven’t had the chance to talk with many spinners in person, and they, too, have told me that predrafting was the answer to life. However, I was just pondering whether this was actually true, and was going to try an experiment with it in my next spinning project!

    In another note, I really feel that your words have higher application than just spinning, and I really appreciate you taking the time to write them. I think I need a little encouragement in my life right now.

  9. Thank you for saying this. Lots of stuff is being passed around by new spinners as gospel. And it just ain’t.

    Of course, I’m one of the olde farte spinners.

  10. What Amy said–be prepared, Abby, you’re becoming a guru. ๐Ÿ™‚

    (Would life be possible without the metaphor? Or worth living?)

    On a serious note, I’ve been trying to spin top without pre-drafting, and I just haven’t figured out how to manage the twist as well as I’d like to. Maybe I need to go see Maggie and practice in front of her, or maybe I need to practice more on the wheel than the spindle.

  11. I didn’t realize this until I started reading your post, but I have quit pre-drafting. I used to pre-draft everything, all the time. And now I never pre-draft. I may split the roving into thinner strips when I want to spin fine, but I absolutely never pre-draft anymore. Wow.

    Oh – and what’s a wafer?

  12. Love the bit about spinning and not predrafting or not NOT predrafting. But the cooking thing – what is that? There is a kitchen where stuff happens apparently. This is really not my area of expertise. I can spin, but we would all die if I had to cook too.

  13. Great post, Abby!

  14. I’m a baby spinner, only 1 year old. I started out meticulously predrafting everything, including pencil roving. Why? Because “they” said I had to. NOW I predraft because I enjoy the feel of the fibers in my hands, but I’m choosy about what I predraft. I don’t have combs or cards, and most of my fiber is commercially dyed and pretty compact. I like to tease it apart with my hands. But sometimes I want the fiber to be stubborn and talk back to me while I’m spinning, more like a conversation, and then I don’t predraft at all.

    Predrafting some prep makes it harder to spin – like your lovely batts, which I discovered the first time I spun one. I learned that lesson quickly.

    Perhaps this issue is why new spinners have so much trouble with merino? They’re predrafting a slippery fiber, and it’s getting away from them.

    Oh, and mmmmmmmmmmm, potatoes.

  15. Well from one old farte spinner to an experienced spinner – well said. I, too, get irritated when someone says you can only do something this way. It makes me go the opposite way whenever possible.

    Love the analogies – they make it so much easier to visualize.

  16. Thanks — this is a great post! I am a new spinner, and also a synchronized swim coach. The idea of muscle memory is so important in learning a new skill, but not often discussed in spinning. Thanks for reminding me not to be so “technical” about spinning.

  17. Diatribe thoroughly enjoyed! Thanks!

  18. So I read most of this post thinking You are full of CRAP. BUT…I finally realized that what I teach is loosening the fiber and perhaps not what you are saying as far as stripping the fiber down. I do think that the drafting while spinning skill is an important one and the most I ask my students to do is strip the roving in half.
    Maybe I’m the one who’s full of CRAP. Well, not even maybe.
    These are some things I’ll be using in my classes from now on though.
    The main thing we agree on is that fiber used during learning is not wasted. What I say to customers and also students when they want to to use the cast off fiber is – if you start cooking with rotten food you get rotten dinner, if you start spinning with crap fiber you get crap yarn.
    That’s just me though and it always depends.

  19. nice article given me things to think about and some reassurance as a new spinner. Its also made me realise that I’m not now pre-drafting as much as when I first started as I’ve more control over the actual drafting

  20. Interesting post. Gotta go predraft now (I’m blending colors)….

  21. Thank you, Abby! Brilliantly stated post.
    I wish I had you as a spinning teacher… I’m self-taught, both on the spindle & the wheel. Hours and hours of trial-and-error without a coach to explain what I’m doing wrong – it’s been a long bumpy road. So far, I can only spin fingering- to lace-weight; anything heavier turns out bumpy and uneven. But I love the process. Watching the twist enter the fiber just seems like magic! (And luckily, I like knitting socks & shawls… 8} )

  22. I think we should be clear by what we all mean by the term, “predrafting.” Perhaps we all use it differently. When I predraft, I loosen and fluff my fibres, so that drafting at the wheel occurs more smoothly. I’ve never actually predrafted my fibre to the point that when I sit down at the wheel (or spindle), I don’t need to do any drafting at all and can just add twist.

    All I want to do is encourage my fibre to flow.

    Part of what I think that needs to be taught to beginners is how to determine for yourself whether your fibre requires some predrafting, and how much. I think this kind of thing is really hard to convey online. I am learning to “read” my fibre and treat it and spin it in ways that seem appropriate, but I have absolutely no clue how to help someone else do this in a forum or a blog post.

  23. I’m SO glad you wrote this. Particularly refreshing after all the “you must’s” and “don’t do’s” that we hear.
    It almost makes me feel bad for TAGGING YOU since you clearly have a lot on your mind, but…well…there it is.

  24. And your discussion of muscle memory is EXACTLY why I associate spinning with playing music or singing. As a singer getting to know her body as an instrument, as someone who has learned many pieces on the piano and organ, muscle memory is absolutely the way to approach not just learning the piece but technique, artistry, and interpretation too.

    In music, I FEEL as much as listen. In singing, I know I am on pitch (not sharp or flat) because of how a particular note feels in my body, in addition to listening to the pitch. I know I am producing a pretty (rather than screechy) sound based on how it FEELS, because in this case, sound can be deceiving; you sound different in your own head compared to how others, standing in front of your mouth, hear you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Well said, Abby. I heartily agree and would add one thing to your list of recommendations:
    Try different types of fiber preparations or better yet, learn to prepare the fiber yourself in several different ways.

    I have come to love doing fiber prep, all the stuff before it gets to the wheel, almost more than sitting down to spin. (I suspect that’s true of you too, based on your business.)

    It’s this kind of writing and info. that I miss in the spinning mag(s).

  26. Predrafting is not necessary if the fiber is nicely (and freshly) prepared.

  27. What a great article! I am really enjoying your blog and the level of expertise that you describe so eloquently.

    I started out predrafting, but was never told that it was absolutely necessary. But not down to spinning thickness, just to get the fibers loosened, maybe as far as 4 times the spinning thickness or so. This has worked well for me spinning dyed top.

    Batts I don’t bother, though and I find that I use the point-of-twist drafting at the wheel most often anyway. As I get more experienced spinning smooth yarns of varying thicknesses, I feel comfortable in my muscles in ways I did not as a new spinner.

    Now I need to work on my textured yarns, core yarns, all sorts of novelties and I absolutely want to do the Master Spinners Program someday, not to be told how exactly to do things so much as guided through the variations so that I may choose myself what’s best.

    Thanks again for the great blog!

  28. Abby dear , maybe we can help our wee fibergal pal out. We need to teach her to cook without her knowing what we are up to.
    I think maybe we should make a “chicken stock” dye bath, and instead of throwing in yarn/fiber, you toss in veggies. A dyebath/soup post maybe just the thing.

    p.s. good post

    p.p.s. mmmm baked potatoes. with butter.
    If we can get fiberguy to knit,we should be able to get fibergal to cook.

    shhhh don’t tell her.

  29. Heh, sometimes I feel like it’s a dirty little secret, that I don’t predraft unless it’s waaaay absolutely necessary for the yarn I need to make. It’s counter-intuitive for me, it just almost never feels right for me to predraft. Somehow when I need to I just know, because it doesn’t feel right not to. I know my own instinct wouldn’t help another spinner, but for heaven’s sake if I predrafted everything as a matter of course, my yarns would often disappoint me. I’m glad no one ever told me I had to.

  30. You mentioned it but it can’t be stressed too often that ‘frustration’ is a SIGN of LEARNING. We experience this frustration when our mental mindset has to adjust to new ideas (learning). If you are feeling frustration it is because your body is learning something new that doesn’t yet fit in its old framework of experiences. What’s great about kids is they usually don’t have the ‘old’ ideas to over come so they are less frustrated in their learn. ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep at it and take the frustration as a Positive Sign!

  31. What a great post! Thank you! I enjoyed reading it. I’m a new spinner and I’ll be taking my first class of hopefully many, this next Monday. I will have to mentally take note about relaxing during this class because I was already thinking I will have to adapt to the way the instructor is teaching, but I’m going armed with your blog in my mind….wish me luck! lol

  32. Thank you for the great posts! This is certainly worth going back to many times and rereading. I feel like I have worked so hard at spinning and some I am happy with and some not, well quite a few. Maybe this is why I haven’t really made anything out of what I have spun.

    I think I am going to take some time and just spin and see what happens. I also, have incorporated some of your ideas into my spinning from past posts and it has made a world of difference.

    Thank you very much.

  33. God, you’re good. Write a book already, would ya?

    (blue tweed is almost done. I say again, god, you’re good.)

  34. Really quite the shining of light on the subject. You place it in such good perspective, it’s impossible to not smile and be happy with the spinning.

  35. What an inspiring post! I’m reading this on a laptop in bed, but might have to get up and spin for a bit now that you’ve reminded me how fun it is. If I’m tired and bleary-eyed at work tomorrow I’ll hold you responsible. I’ll also know I spent my time wisely, making lots of mistakes and discoveries.

  36. Hey, Denny, I heard that! Cooking indeed. I can make brownies – what more is there?

  37. Wonderful words of wisdom that I wish I had read a year ago, although this time last year I was a brand-spanking-new spinner and had no idea what I was doing and was still just spindling and learning with one video.
    I came here today from your most recent post “Getting Started” 12/30/08 through my feed reader. It too (along with everything I have read written by you) has been excellent and so well opinionated.
    After a year, many spindles and two wheels later, I still consider myself a novice spinner. Unfortunately I don’t seem to find the time much lately to spin as it is so very hard on my entire spine (I have major problems there…any tips?), but in regard to predrafting, once I learned this “magical” technique I will tell you that while it seemed to make spinning life easier with the wheel and give me something closer to the yarn I was looking for, it didn’t work as well with my spindles. And, I quickly grew somewhat bored with it on the wheel, thinking that perhaps I was doing it wrong, getting the same type of yarn over and over again. That said, I think your advice of “it depends” it so spot on and while it may make things easier/quicker/whatever for a new spinner, it isn’t the only way to spin and certainly isn’t always going to yield a spinner the yarn s/he might want as an end result, or so I have learned.

    Just wanted to take the time to say “Thank You, Abby!” for such a wonderful, informative blog, not to mention your videos that have truly helped me out in some really frustrating times. My first spindle purchase was from Toni at The Fold and then my two wheels were bought from her shop as well. She is an *excellent* teacher but unfortunately way too far away to visit on a regular basis for any sort of lessons and there is no one near me who offers anything of the sort so I’ve had to wing it on my own. She has, however, been so wonderful and giving of her time, each and every time I have been out to see her, spending hours with me as I have worked through a problem – from spinning to finding just the right fibre to match a project. And yes! Her shop is an incredible full-service fibre shop complete with just about every yarn known to man, spindles galore, wheels, wheels, wheels, and sheep right out back. It is definitely a must visit if you ever make it to the Chicagoland area.

    Whew! So sorry to write a novel here on your blog, but with that said, I’ll wish you a very Happy 2009 and thank you, once again.

  38. Abby, it was such a pleasure to read this and even more so to meet you at TNNA.

  39. I had seen your videos on Youtube when I first learned with my spindle (living in France, you’d be reaaaally lucky to find anybody spinning around you.. although I’ve now converted a few friends but that’s another story.. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Then I discovered your blog a few days ago and Wow, so cool and interesting !! I usually can’t read long posts but this was SO interesting and inspiring ! I’ll make sure to direct my friend over here before she starts on her brand new wheel. ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. Thank you so much for this post. After 10 years of spinning, I’m about to start teaching spinning at a local shop. You articulated, much better than I could, how I want to approach teaching spinning. I’m looking forward to the adventure.

  41. I just re-read this post after someone asked me about drafting. I like it even more the second time.

    Can’t wait for your book to come out!

  42. Agree totally with ‘There is no One True Way. As a spinner, you must find your own way.’ I am a relative newby but have already sussed out that sometimes I am not going to be able to do it the way most people do, for example, drafting, which most folks do a bit of before they start to spin then continue while they are actually spinning. I HAVE to do every millimetre of my drafting before I start spinning because I just cannot deal with drafting while i am also making sure the spindle spins the right way and the twist runs up at an even pace etc (For the same reason, I cannot deal with driving ha ha…too many things to think about and DO at the same time!
    I also find this level of pre-drafting to be extremely relaxing. Since I started doing this my spun yarn has gone from lumpy 6mm to 8mm thick uneven yarn with too much twist in some areas and none in others,to – mostly – being an evenly twisted yarn with consistent thickness of my choice! Still got a long way to go of course, but the only way I will get there is by not being scared to try things out a different way.
    My youngest son, a few years ago, told me,without arrogance, that he ‘never fails or makes mistakes’. As a homeschooler (un-schooler actually) he had never learned that not getting something right constitutes a mistake or failure – he simply thought, ‘ok, that didn’t work,try something else.’ I adopted this learn-by-several-attempts philosophy and started seeing what I previously would have termed ‘failures’ as just the first – or second or third – attempt of many, never expecting to get it right straight away.
    Whereas previously I would have given up after a couple of attempts, after my son made this ‘startling revelation’ to me I never gave up so easily ever again, and because of this change in the way I see things, there isn’t a single thing I have attempted that I haven’t succeeded at after perserverence.
    Spinning is the latest! Had my son not said what he said, I would have stuffed my spindles and fibre into the nearest closet after a couple of weeks of lumpy uneven yarn and never looked at them again!

  43. Abby, after all this time, this is still the best treatise on drafting and spinning. Thank you!

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