Lessons in Long Draw: Fauxlags & Rolags

Earlier this year I shared my very first attempt at long draw. For that spin, I used roving from the fleece of a sheep my husband adopted for me a few years back. After that spin, I felt fairly confident that I was getting the skill down so when Mary Ann of Three Waters Farm mentioned that Shetland top works well spun with long draw when rolled into fauxlags, I ordered a small load of Shetland top and set to giving this technique a whirl! If you weren’t aware, when presented with a new spinning challenge, I have a pretty hard time walking away. I just so enjoy the challenge & adventure of new technique!

I had a bit of experience rolling fauxlags from a few years back, but it had been a while so I went back to David of Southern Cross Fibre’s instructional post on rolling fauxlags from combed top. Basically, it goes like this:

  1. Predraft

img_1251Maybe even a little more than this picture. Yes, now I would probably open those fibers up a bit more.


2. Roll with a smooth something — rolling pin, dowel, or, in my case, the wooden end of a dough whisk — spreading out the fiber as you roll and being sure to not roll too tightly.img_1254

David shows you rolling and breaking as you go once you’ve gone around once, but I had broken up this spin for colors, so I went with the breaks I had and made slightly bigger fauxlags.

3. Press down the tail a bit just so it stays put (it doesn’t take much with this wonderfully grippy fiber) and slide off your rolling device.


Voilà! Fauxlags!


This basket was not my first run at rolling fauxlags during this round of lessons in long draw – this was my third! It is definitely a learned skilled, an art in and of itself!

My first fauxlag spin was with Three Waters Farm Shetland in the Red Dirt colorway and my finished yarn shows the steep learning curve I met…


For this spin, I attempted a true long draw with my Schacht Reeves.


I had a very hard time staying consistent working with my fauxlags. Part of it, I believe was that I wound the fauxlags too tightly, part was that I was struggling to get the uptake just right. It led to an inconsistent, bulkier than intended yarn.

For the second attempt, I started to experiment with a supported long draw. Using my Three Waters Farm Shetland in Night Blues, I tuned in the uptake and I got into a “pinch, pull back” rhythm. Pinch with my left hand, providing a little resistance to make the long draw “pull back” with my right hand easier.


You can see the huge improvement in this yarn’s consistency.


I was so much more comfortable with the supported method, though, that I consider it totally worth it. I was really fighting that first spin to get all the different elements of the technique to jibe, but this second one I was much more in control and the spinning really shows that. The trade off for consistency with this method was that I lost a bit of the spring associated with long draw, but had a hunch that a little extra twist in the plying might help with that.

Because I was still working on the prep for my next fauxlags, so as not to lose the feel of this type of spinning totally, I took a brief foray into 4oz of rolags I purchased as Shepherd’s Harvest last month. If you’ll remember…


I picked these up these two packs from Bumblebee Acres.  Not ready to stop experimenting with supported long draw, that’s exactly how I spun these as well. They were different because the bands of color are often different fibers so to remain consistent, that required adapting the draw for each fiber within each rolag and accepting a little extra texture in each spin.


I cruised through these fibers in a relatively short amount of time and got right to plying. I wound up with a pretty fabulous skein of yarn, if I do say so myself.


Oh, can’t you just see all this practice paying off?!


I added a smidge extra twist in the plying which got me a bit closer to the springy, lofty woolen spun yarn I was after.

And last, but not least, the fauxlags from the beginning of this post! I took 8oz of Three Waters Farm Maybela’s Promise on Shetland…

Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

And rolled them into these fauxlags according to color, more or less.


And I spun them into reds…


Yellows & oranges…




And Blue-Greys…


As you can see, I wasn’t super fussy with how I separated colors, but I think together…


They make a beautiful family of yarns! They are all roughly aran weight and I hope to use them in a colorwork project someday. I think they’ll be perfect together!

It would have been really easy to leave out the first spin I shared here or to break these spins up, highlighting each skein individually. On their own, they are all lovely, usable yarns. I think the story that all 4 spins tell in succession is much more compelling, though. Learning a new spinning technique doesn’t just happen overnight. To really explore a new skill, learn its ins and outs, and grasp all that it has to offer takes time and practice. It was no accident that I bought over 16oz of Shetland top or that I picked up those rolags at Shepherd’s Harvest because you need the right materials, too. Once you’ve got the tools & the time and you set out on a course of learning such as this, your understanding evolves as you experiment. Your yarns change, getting more consistent and easier to manage. The yarns you have in mind when you start slowly start to become the yarns you actually create. Whether its lessons in long draw, beginning spinning, or anything in between or beyond, it’s a process, a journey. Don’t break it up or water it down, embrace it. The whole story, from start to finish, is much more interesting.


Twisters, Tumbleweeds, & Ancient Oak

It seems only fitting after the wild weather this week brought to bring you a spin inspired largely by the wind. Last year at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival I purchased some rolags and batts from one of my favorite local(ish) farms, Bumblebee Acres.

When I found the smooth spinning batt called “Twisters & Tumbleweeds,” I knew I wanted it right away, but I also knew that at 2oz I would ideally like something to ply it with. I combed through the loads of selection and came upon these rolags (of which there were actually four, I believe) called “Ancient Oak.” I’m usually not super brave with purchasing with a combo spin in mind because I’m still such a novice at seeing how colors and textures are going to blend.  This, I thought, could work.

In February, just before the whole move thing happened I got to work on spinning this hunch up…

I really adore how subtle the bat was. You can see those little tiny pops of copper here and there.

And the rolags…

Seriously, pretty drool-worthy.

I’ve been asked to go into a little more detail as to how I prep & go about spinning my handspun yarn so while I don’t have added photos of the process for this spin, I’m going to work on being a bit more technical and descriptive in the future. For this spin I can say that I really didn’t do a ton of color manipulation — I spun straight from the batt and straight from the rolags, one on each bobbin. Because of the nature of batts and rolags they are less consistent than spins that I create from top, but that is something I embrace & celebrate as the nature of batts and rolags. In any case, when I finished the singles, I just plied the two bobbins together.

And, voila! This 2-ply yarn is a fingering weight and measured 470yards before it had it’s finishing bath. I tend to lose a bit of yardage in the wash and finishing process, so I’m guessing the finished skein is in the 450yard realm. Eventually I’ll remeasure (probably… maybe).

As you can see, it’s a really soft, subtle skein colorwise. And I still adore those pops of copper. I really don’t have any idea what I want to use this one for, so it’ll head to my stash for a while as I think and dream it over. It’s very tempting to give this away because I have a lot of friends who gravitate to this palette and I think would love it. Usually that’s enough to let me happily part with it. This one though, this one is a little more near and dear to my heart. I think it’s going to stay right here with me.

Wild and Crazy

Those who know me know I’m a pretty monogamous knitter and spinner. Usually at most I have two projects in progress at a time. Even though I’ve finished up a number of big projects this past week (more on those projects later this week…), currently things are a little wild and crazy around here. This weekend, I’ll be working on…

IMG_1017My Miya Shawl in Bijou Basin Ranch’s Xanadu for the Miya Shawl KALThe yarn is amazing, by the way.

IMG_1022And then there’s my Miss Grace Shawl to which I add a few rows every day.

IMG_1023And then there’s this Simple Skyp Sock in Spun Right Round Sport Sock in Holy Crow that I pick up from time to time.

IMG_1019And then there’s this Little Miss Charming sweater I just cast-on for my daughter. I had some disagreements early on with the pattern, but I think we’ve settled into a good rhythm now. I think it’s going to be pretty adorable and I have total confidence that I’ll finish this in time for my daughter’s birthday in about a week and a half. Time will tell, but I’m awfully optimistic.

Oh, and then there’s my spinning.

threewaterscafediemI finished these singles from Three Waters Farm. This 4oz of ‘Café Diem’ on 100% BFL will eventually be a simple 2-ply. It spun like butter though — truly gorgeous in my hands — and I can’t wait to ply it.

bumbleacresBut I also had a long-overdue ‘thank you’ gift that had to be started, so I started spinning my two batts from Bumblebee Acres Farm from the WI Sheep & Wool Festival. A smooth polwarth/silk blend, these are unlike any batts I’ve spun before (which isn’t saying much since I haven’t done a ton with batts, but you know…). I have 8oz of this ‘Avalon’ and split it into 3 even portions to do a traditional 3-ply. I’m shooting for a slightly heavier yarn here than I’ve been spinning lately. I’m hoping for Aran, but I’m a little afraid my radar might be a little off and it’ll be heavier. In any case, it’s a navy/purple/grey mix with a few other pops of colors and I’m really loving spinning it. I will definitely need to get more from this shop next year (or maybe online…).

If I explained what other things I had on my agenda for the week, you would probably laugh until you cried. I know I am! I promise you, though, with so much awesome at my fingertips, I’m having a pretty darn rad, wild and crazy weekend.

WI Sheep & Wool 2015 Recap

Well, despite the extra large cup of syrup my daughter ingested on her pancakes right before Wisconsin Sheep & Wool yesterday, the subsequent sugar high that ensued, and the fact that both kids had handled taking my mom to the Quilt Expo in Madison the day before & were pretty much hitting their patience limit, we all had an incredibly wonderful time. Of course we did. Of course.

First of all, what an amazing treat it was to meet a few people I’ve only ever ‘talked’ with in emails or Ravelry forums or via Instagram. I swear every year that part of the Sheep & Wool festival gets better and better. It was also great to see a few familiar faces, even if I couldn’t always remember how I knew them — whoops & sorry! I’m the kind of person who will recognize faces pretty quickly, but names are often another story. If you were in that boat please know that’s just how my crazy brain works. In any case, to put it plainly I go to the WI Sheep & Wool Festival and I always feel right at home. What an absolute treat and what great fun!

You probably want to see what I picked up though, don’t you? Okey, okey. I’ll share because I’m really excited, too!

First, it’s worth saying that my mom and I have been going to this festival together for a few years and we kind of have a system. Along with highlighting ‘must-see’ stores, we walk through both the East & West Country Stores entirely before purchasing anything. We take notes on things we might want to purchase including what the item is and where it’s located. Then we take a break, figure out what we want to take home with us, and make a final sweep to the shops where we want to buy. It’s a system we’ve been honing for 3 or 4 years now and this is the first year it ever felt like we really had it down. It made the whole experience much less crazed than I’m used to feeling which was fantastic and made the whole day way more fun for me.

In any case, on to the fun stuff, right?!

One of my first stops was Bijou Basin Ranch where I met Lindy from Balwen Woodworks. I thought she was awesome over email and she’s even awesome-er in person. And she helped me find the perfect buttons for the sweater I’m working on for my son.

balwenThey’re made from vintage tool handles and the edges have little flecks of blues and a little red, too. They couldn’t be a better match for this project. I was so excited about these I totally broke protocol and bought them on the spot. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do!

After we toured the rest of the country store pavillions — which took us a couple hours — we headed over toward the dog trials so the kids could have a snack and watch the working dogs do their thing while my mom and I could figure out what stops our final sweep required. Along the way, we were walking past some working dog owners and met one of their dogs who was a little skittish. Because we’re us and we’re lucky like that, these kind folks said, “Hey, we have some puppies back over in their pens — do you want to play with them? We’re working on socializing them.”

Do we want to play with puppies?

Um… YES!

So we made new friends.

IMG_0662Meg and Hawk were very, very playful.

IMG_0663And very friendly.

IMG_0665And this little lady could not have been any sweeter. I would scratch her chin and if I moved my hand, she’d scoot up to it so I wouldn’t stop. She was kind of tired and I was kind of in love with her. I didn’t catch the name of the folks who owned these pups, but I just want to say that the owners of Meg & Hawk really made our day with their generosity.

Having played with puppies, had a snack, and checked out lists, we headed back to business.

We made our way to the Wheeler Clay Studio booth where I proceeded to fall in love with one of each item. Eventually I narrowed it down to this beautiful mug.

alison wheelerI thought it was gorgeous immediately, but when I heard it was microwave and dishwasher safe I was 100% sold. As soon as I took this photo, I gave it a quick wash and I’m drinking my tea out of it right now. I just couldn’t wait! I can tell this booth will be one I revisit for many years to come.

We spent a good deal of time chatting with Natalie in the Cloudlover booth where I spent far too much time trying to decide on which of her new Halloween colors to take home.

cloudloverIn the end, I picked Cauldron (on the left) and Smolder (on the right). They are kind of really close in their colors, obviously, but I was really feeling the grey/orange/purple thing and I don’t have anything like these at home so I went with it.

From here, we finally made it to Bumblebee Acres. I meant to visit this booth last year and somehow missed it. I’m so happy I didn’t miss them this year!

bbacresAt the last moment I found these two batts in the Avalon colorway. This photo doesn’t do justice to their sky blue/purple/grey/magenta majesty but trust me when I say these will make some incredibly beautiful yarn someday.

And finally, we stopped at The Woolgatherers booth where we got to meet Scott Snyder of Snyder Spindles. He could not have been nicer or more patient as he showed my mom how a Turkish spindle works. She’s never spun before and he did a great job of demonstrating even with all the distractions of the festival and my kids starting to meltdown. As she was picking her spindle (her first – yay mom!), she asked what a certain design was — it was a sperm whale. In my slightly overcooked brain after a day of wrangling children and being bombarded with looking at awesome things, I thought this Moby Dick of spindles was the bee’s knees and I brought it home.

moby dickI believe he said it is redheart and it’s purple hues will deepen as time goes by. I really do love it and it’ll go so well with the narwhal spindle I already have.

You may notice that there’s no yarn here. No, I didn’t miss anything. I actually didn’t buy any! I did find sweater yarn at Green Mountain Spinnery to fit a pattern I really want to knit up, but since I’m not sure when I’ll get to it I thought I’d wait and order it a little later. I also meant to go back for a skein of Xanadu from Bijou Basin Ranch, but I remembered that as I got into the car to leave. That was my one little misfire for the day so it looks like I’ll be ordering that a little later as well.

Many thanks to all the folks in booths who chatted with my super-talkative kiddos while I shopped — everyone was so patient. In a world where it often feels like the unpleasant outweighs the pleasant, I have to say I got home today feeling very fortunate to have been surrounded with that much kindness. Kindness and beauty and inspiration and fiber and puppies and family and friends — what a great way to spend a day.