The Spinning Spectrum

As a long-time spinner, I've participated in a lot of arguments about spinning in the western tradition, and the absolutes of worsted and woolen. In May 2009 this discussion started up again on the yahoo group "Spinning", and a cohesive theory of a spectrum of spinning between the two started to jell. I promised to write something about it, but life intervened. So, here is a rough outline of a spectrum. A lot more detail will probably be added later.

When you spin you are putting together different elements to produce the final yarn or thread. There is the fiber preparation, the technique used to spin it, whether it is intended to be singles or plied, and how tightly or loosely you spin and ply. Which of these are preferable depend on your final use for the yarn, and desired effect.

Here, I just plan to address the idea of worsted vs woolen, maybe later I'll add in more elements. Starting from most worsted to most woolen:

Common Fiber Preparations:

1. Combed top
2. Combed locks
3. Hackled or comb-carded locks
4. Carded batts or roving
5. Flicked locks
6. Cloud or fluff [carded but removed as a fluffy mass]
7. Picked fiber
8. Teased fiber
9. Rolags


1. worsted inchworm
2. short-draw woolen, pinch and release
3. from the fold
4. long-draw woolen

"True worsted" is spun from combed top using the worsted inchworm technique. "True woolen" is spun using rolags and the long-draw woolen technique. Semi-worsted is a term used to describe any preparation other than combed with the worsted technique, and semi-woolen describes woolen technique with any preparation other than rolags. In general, I find it a lot more descriptive to just describe the preparation and the technique.

There are a lot of other techniques which use these basics to produce different results, like tail-spinning, garnetting, core-spinning, boucle, etc.

All of this is open to discussion, of course. :)