Home » chickens » plying, pre-drafting and feathers

plying, pre-drafting and feathers

I finally finished my spinning wheel practice yarn that I’ve been working on all week. Actually, I just decided to be done with it, already! I was a little nervous about plying it, since it would be a first for me and my lovely Louet, but it turns out she plies like a dream! I actually started using the brake band for this as it felt like more tension would be helpful, but the whole process was very quick and fun and felt almost effortless. And It’s a good thing I stopped when I did, because I don’t think I could possibly have fit any more plied yarn on this bobbin:

full bobbin with plied swaledale yarn

Here it is finished:

handspun swaledale yarn

handspun swaledale yarn

It’s OK, I guess. Uber-chunky for sure (love that phrase, willowcreekfarm!) and very all over the place in terms of thicknesses. But I’m sure I’ll think of something to do with it. I might try some experimental dyeing with it. I think it would be interesting to see what the heathered color does with dye on top of it.

My biggest motivation for finishing it was the fact that I just received the multi-colored merino that I ordered for Jonah’s slippers and I was excited to start spinning that instead. I decided to try pre-drafting this time, as I didn’t want to waste the fiber and I thought I might get smoother, more consistent results this way. Boy, was I right! I really wish I would have started learning on my wheel this way, and I highly recommend it for anyone transitioning from spindle to spinning wheel. It takes a bit more time, but not too much, and I was reminded that this was actually one of my favorite parts of spinning on the spindle… more hands-on time with the fiber! And SO much easier than trying to draft at the wheel when there is so much else to learn at the same time. I’m sure there are other ways that people prefer to do this, but I thought I’d share my method for anyone interested, as it’s worked so well for me.

First, I tear off a piece of typical roving… about 2 feet… and separate it vertically in half, then those in half, etc. until I have 16 even pieces. I’ve found that more than 16 ends up being a bit too breakable, and less than 16 ends up with very bulky yarn.

separated merino roving

Then I start at one end with my fingers a few inches apart, and carefully draft it apart a tiny bit at a time along its length until I see the fibers aligning nicely together. Just a little bit of drafting creates a medium weight yarn, but if I want a thinner yarn, I draft it out a little thinner. When I’m finished, I lightly run it back through my fingers in the other direction to see if there are any thicker places to draft out a bit more. I then lightly wrap it around my fingers to make a little spiral. I do this for all of them, and then set them aside and start spinning. This also usually seems like a good amount of fiber to spin before I need to take a break. When I get almost to the end of one piece, I stop spinning and overlap it with the next piece, trying to align it so it creates the same amount of thickness as the rest of the fiber.

pre-drafted merino fiber

Here is my first single with this fiber on my lovely Louet. I think it looks SO much nicer and was so much easier to spin than the other drafting methods I used with the swaledale:

merino single on bobbin

I’m really liking this multi-colored fiber. I’ve been studying it to see how it was made, and it looks like they just took several separately dyed batches and then carded them together. Here it is plied (also super quick and easy on the spinning wheel this time):

2-ply multi-colored english garden on bobbin

And here it is finished. I think it’s going to make lovely slippers for Jonah, and I’m excited to see how the thrums look with this fiber as well. But first, I’m going to have a lot more spinning to do…

finished english garden 2-ply

Meanwhile, off in chicken-land, Gloria has decided to molt a TON of feathers at once. I’ve been a little worried because she hasn’t laid an egg in over a week. She’s usually more sporadic than Cleo, and she’s seemed happy and healthy, but it’s good to have a known reason now.

free-range hen in backyard

She doesn’t really look like she’s been molting, but these are all from today.. and not even half of the amount I found in the coop and yard, just the cleanest ones (plus one nice brown one from Cleo):

molted feathers

I decided to start collecting them because of a very inspiring photo in one of my library books: Spin Control by Amy King. I’m going to try making yarn out of them!

Spin Control book - feathered yarn sample

I wrote a poem once about spinning yarn out of feathers, but I had no idea that it would actually be possible! How cool would that be… to have a scarf made out of my chicken’s feathers?

I’ll leave you with a photo that my Sweet Prince took of me spinning… and Gloria out the window in the backyard watching me:

spinning on a Louet S10

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17 thoughts on “plying, pre-drafting and feathers

  1. Wow! Love the yarn you spun for the slippers…I am so impressed with all that you are doing and the feathers….another Wow! Guess I oughta’ think about collecting mine too. πŸ˜‰

    • Thanks!!! I’m not sure I would have thought of using the feathers had I not seen that method in the book, and then a couple days later Gloria started dropping them for me. Maybe she was looking at the book over my shoulder through the window and decided to give me an early Christmas present. πŸ˜‰ We’ll see if I can actually pull it off. Those little fluffy ones are so warm and soft, I bet they’d be really cozy.

  2. I am glad you like my phrase!
    I love the multi-colored yarn you are making. It looks really great and I think it will make great slippers.
    I pre-draft like that too, although I have only tried splitting it into four pieces. I will try more next time.
    Also…..I have moved from the drop spindle to the wheel! It is going very well, the drop spindle really helped me learn the basics and has made the transition easier than I thought it would be. I just need to order some more fiber this week. The corriedale I started with is dwindling quickly. The girls are going like crazy with the drop spindle too, which is also using up fiber.
    Spinning is definitely addictive, but what a good, productive addiction to have! πŸ˜‰

    • Congratulations on moving to your wheel!!! That didn’t take long! I’m so excited for you! It IS very addicting, isn’t it? But definitely not one to feel guilty about. πŸ˜‰ I’m glad your girls are enjoying it too, for sure the fiber never goes as far as you want it too. You’ll have to dig into that angora soon. πŸ˜‰ You probably can’t shear your sheep until the Spring?

      • We have a fleece that was shorn off Stella (the longwool) last July. It is washed and waiting to be carded and spun. I don’t want to use it until I feel more confidant. It feels too special to learn on, like it would waste our first fleece. Plus I don’t have carders yet and don’t know how to use them.
        Both girls will be shorn in February probably, right before lambing. A cold time of year to shear them, but from what we are learning it is really good to sheer them right before they lamb, so we will be doing it that way this year and see how it goes. It helps with cleanliness of lambing, and also makes it so the lambs can easily find the teats to nurse.

      • Well, it definitely makes sense that you wouldn’t want to use Stella’s wool until you are well practiced. That is interesting that you shear them before lambing… and in February! Maybe you should make them sweaters to wear in case they get cold afterwards. πŸ˜‰

    • Thank you so much!!! I started playing with the feathered yarn, but I want to do a little more with it before I blog about it. I sure have a lot of feathers from Gloria to work with! And she is finally growing them back in… poor thing… it’s getting so cold outside!

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