Crewel SpinningThis description was originally written in a post that I made to the spindlers forum on yahoo.
"Okay, I will tell you the old way of "crewel" spinning. This is what I was told it was called, and how I was told to do it, I'm not claiming any further historical accuracy than that.
Thread for embroidery [or tatting] takes a lot more abuse than thread for crochet or knitting, because it has to all that abrasion. So it needs to be spun and plied with a lot of twist to take that the abuse. It is best to spin true worsted, with combed fibers. The idea is as smooth and strong as you can get it. Now we get to a techniqe that is a little difficult for me to describe, because I'm not always very good with words. As traditionally you spin it clockwise and ply widdershins. But after you spin each bobbin clockwise, then either wind it in a ball or rewind it onto another bobbin so that you start plying [widdershins] from the same end that you started spinning. Hope that makes sense. If not, tell me, I'll try again. It is a little thing that doesn't matter much in everyday spinning.
I think that predrafting helps a lot when spinning very fine, also. Now, the more plies the stronger the thread will be, but this depends on you being able to spin fine enough. For embroidery, as long as I follow the above directions, I have found 2-ply to be strong enough.
Anyhoo, just my opinion, but I hope it helps some."
[I would like to add that widdershins is also called counterclockwise.]
A lovely lady named Snapsoupdragon suggested starting each bobbin or copp with a pinch of a different color, so that you can keep track of the starting ends, which I still think is absolute genius.