The Elusive Predraft

You can thank this post to a discussion on Ravelry. I never really thought people would take “well” predrafting to mean that they needed to predraft to the point that they don’t draft at the wheel or spindle. Well prepped fiber doesn’t NEED to be predrafted. The main reasons to predraft are to make something easier to handle or to get a color variation you want. Yes, if you’re new to spinning doing a lot of predrafting may help you, but don’t do it to the point that you aren’t drafting at the wheel at all.

Let’s start with combed top.
There are a bunch of ways and a bunch of reasons to do each way of predrafting. You can spin from the fiber any way that you wish. Depending on how compact it is will depend on how much predrafting you need. Color in handpainted top is one of the key reasons to pick a different method of predrafting. Do you want long color sections or short color sections? Or any variation in between. Each one will produce different results.

Long color sections are produced with no predrafting (which with a compact top is excruciating) or just a bit of fluffing. This is fluffed top [the stuff on the left has not been fluffed, the 2 strips on the right have been fluffed]:
You can see it’s fluffier and easier to draft at the wheel. I didn’t have to do that to make that top spinable though. I could have very well grabbed a chunk that was in a size that was easy for me to manage and spun from that:
You can probably tell that just that little bit of difference, the colors will act differently in the singles yarn.

Short color sections are produced with stripping. And the amount of stripping that you do will affect the yarn that you get. If you have stripped your fiber so that you are doing no drafting at all at the wheel, then you need to change your method. You need to draft at your wheel or you will end up with a very dense yarn. This is stripping:

An example of compact top is a merino that I carry. It’s a really dense top that you just can’t see in a photograph but that you could feel when you pick it up. Dyeing just makes it more so in most cases, that’s not to say it’s felted. Felted fibers are not sellable as spinning fiber. My general choice to predraft this particular top (not considering the color) would be to strip it into manageable sections – at most 4 times.

Tops like Corriepaca, alpaca, BFL and others really in my opinion don’t need to be predrafted other than to make them easier to manage or to get the color you want..

Roving and Sliver:
If I go to Etsy or Ebay or even many websites out there, roving is a word used to encompass all types of fiber that is in this long attenuated shape. It’s not all roving. I understand that roving is a word that is taking over it all but I’m betting most of what is out there is actually top but being called roving. It helps to know what you are getting when you buy.

Roving is carded fibers attenuated into a long cylindrical thing. Top is combed, continuous, untwisted strand of fibers of one length. Most all of the short fibers or noils have been removed.

Just from that definition you should be able to tell the difference. But for a visual you can pull out a bit. Please don’t do this at your local shop or at a festival. Do this with your own fibers or with the permission of the shop owner.

This is “top” – The fibers are mostly aligned

This is “Roving” – The fibers are visibly jumbly.

Personally when I get roving, I spin without predrafting. The only time I will have to predraft is if it’s a compact roving. But then we get into buying good fiber. Personally, I turn away from roving that is not fluffy and easy to spin. I’m pretty picky about my fiber in general. I want to know that if I wanted to grab a hunk, I could just sit down and start spinning. I don’t want to HAVE to predraft. Though many times I do predraft and you’ll see me make little nests of fiber. I do this so that I have the color variations I want. Naturally colored fibers I generally break off a bit and spin as it is. I still draft at the wheel no matter how I pre-draft.

I already talked about working with Batts a little while ago (Batts are carded sheets or rolls of single or blended fibers.) in THIS POST. I want to talk a bit more about them because there is more than just the rolag method to spin batts. Open up the batt into a rectangle and spin from the end:
Personally I find spinning from the corner gangly. Or maybe it’s just me that is gangly. I prefer to break it up in some way so that I can more easily hold it.

Spin from the Rolag (you can see I do that long draw almost always when I rolag):

Make strips (just like you would from top) and spin from that:

Spin from the fold:
This method can be done with top or roving as well. It’s a good way for some people to be able to learn long draw.

Fleece is the stuff that is shorn off the sheep but not yet prepped for spinning. Though you can spin it as is which is called spinning in the grease. To spin in the grease or from washed locks you grab a small handfull off the big bunch.
Then with your hands or a flicker (which you see in the photos) open up the ends so they’re not clumped together:
You can spin directly from that bit of fluff. Of course, in the grease it has lanolin that will coat you and your wheel. Still it’s a different method and your hands will come away much softer for it.

I know there are many opinons and many different ways to handle the pre-draft. I’d be happy to hear all opinions or questions. I know I didn’t go into all fiber types either. I’ll save that for another post if there is interest.

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21 Responses to The Elusive Predraft

  1. DebbieB says:

    Great pics, Amy!

  2. Adrian says:

    Ah, I love you, but you already knew that.

    It’s so great to point out that one should not predraft to the point that drafting at the wheel is left out.

  3. Lauren says:

    I think I’m delurking here, anyway thank you for this post. I’ve been spinning for a while but started out drafting a lot and just continued to do so until I saw that thread on Ravelry. I was also ignorant on the top vs. roving until now. Thanks for the information!

  4. adrienne says:

    Thanks for a great post! It’s very informative. When I took spinning lessons, I was taught to pre-draft pretty extensively. But as I’ve been spinning more, I’ve found that I’m pre-drafting much less. It’s a lot nicer to just start spinning!

  5. Sara says:

    Love this post… and you say your book is going to be boring. Silly girl!

    I generally spin my batts from the corner… I was taught that way months ago and never tried anything else. I’m thinking about trying out the rolag method the next time around.

  6. Julie says:

    I love your posts on spinning; they’re always very helpful for me.

  7. Damn, Adrian already said what I was gonna say. ;-)

    I’m right there with you. If I have to spend a lot of time mucking about with the fiber before I can spin it, then the prep is wanting. I want prep that I can spin with no more work than tearing off a chunk. That’s what prep should be. If I’m going to buy unprepped fibers that’s another thing — but then I don’t wanna pay prepped prices for ’em.

  8. David says:

    Thanks, Amy! Reading this post has filled in a lot the finer points of working with compacted fibre for me. I am very appreciative of your willingness to share your knowledge.

  9. Susan says:

    Great post. I’d love to hear what you have to say about other fibers.

  10. Sherie says:

    Thanks for the great info Amy. I agree with you, if I’m going to pay extra for prepared fiber I pretty much expect it to be spinnable with little or no effort on my part. Love the different options you gave for spinning from a batt – I’ve newly discovered batts and love new ideas to handle them.

  11. Wendy says:

    I tend to predraft, but sometimes just because I enjoy it. I really love messing with the fiber! But when I was spinning a bunhc of Romney roving that was nicely fluffy, I just pulled out a hunk of it and started.

    And just to throw in that I love your rolag technique for spinning batts. Much easier spinning and very happy results for me! I’m really looking forward to your book!

  12. Jo says:

    I’m still just thinking about getting into spinning and I really appreciate these great tutorials, but for those of us who are yet still uninitiated, could you perhaps use parentheses to explain some of the spinner’s jargon?

  13. AmyP says:

    Wonderfully comprehensive, thank you. As a wannabe-spinner, this all made sense and wasn’t scary in the slightest!

  14. Donna B says:

    Nice toenails! :-)

  15. Susan says:

    That way an awesomely informative post. I’m bookmarking it as soon as I finish typing. So clear and easy to understand!

  16. maryse says:

    thanks for the post. this is really useful information. and i feel so much better now knowing that you don’t always pre-draft. i kind of felt pressured to do it all of the time.

  17. Ezara says:

    What a terrific and highly educational post on the subject. I now understand the difference between top and roving and the characteristics of both.

  18. Wendy says:

    OT, but I just scored some more Flowering Weeds, yay!!! It’s so lovely and I was suffering from lack of yardage since I spun a 3-ply yarn. Thanks for the beautiful fiber!

  19. cheryl says:

    Wow!! I am a novice spinner, and I can’t tell you how useful this information is to me! I would love , Love, LOVE to hear anything else you’d like to add. This post is going into my useful links pile!

  20. Danielle says:

    Thanks, Amy. I always learn from your posts like this one!

  21. Barb says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I particularly liked the info on top v. roving. I would definitely be interested in your information on other fibers.

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