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.

img_1252.jpg

Voilà! Fauxlags!

img_1281-1

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…

img_1586

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

img_1587

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.

img_1588

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

img_1589

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…

img_1104

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.

img_1391

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.

img_1590

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

img_1592

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…

il_570xn-1286411874_i91k
Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

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

img_1281-1

And I spun them into reds…

img_1594

Yellows & oranges…

img_1595

Greens…

img_1596

And Blue-Greys…

img_1597

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

img_1598

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.

 

Surprisingly Caught-Up

The strangest thing just happened to me. I sat down at the kitchen table to maybe knit a few stitches on my current project and realized the craziest thing: I am mostly caught-up on the things I need to have done. Lessons for the morning are checked. School records are up-to-date. The projects I have going for an event Mr. Knitting Sarah is helping to put together next week are as far along as they can be. Another website project I’m helping with is coming along. I’ve read through and responded in the Ravelry groups I’m active in. Bills are paid. The dresser I needed to move up from the garage is in place and in use. The shawl I was knitting for a special commission is blocked and drying. The ironing is done. Sure, I have a couple small mending jobs that I need to do and, you know, general cleaning that is just a revolving door of tasks, but all the big deadline things are well in-hand.

How did that happen?

I suppose it’s not really a mystery. I’m not one who waits to the last minute to get things done. Ever. I pulled exactly one all-nighter in college writing a paper for my French literature class my freshman year and it was such an awful experience I vowed to never put myself in that position again. 20 years have since passed and I have held true to that promise. While it’s not really a surprise that I am ahead of schedule on things, it’s never not a shock the moment I realize it when things have been busy!

As usual, I’ve got a couple FOs to share thanks to the 16″ of snow last weekend’s snowstorm dumped on us. That much snow definitely kept us home as we spent equal parts of our time playing, digging out, and enjoying being in our cozy home. For today, though, I’ll share the WIPs because I’m so excited to have time to work on them!

First, my handspun Brillig is nearing the finish line…

img_0668

If you’ll remember that I ran short on the blue, so that little ball will mark the end of the project short of the bind-off. I am so close and I’ve been working on this steadfastly to get it to the finish line.

I also prepped some fauxlags in order to work on spinning some Three Waters Farm Shetland with long draw…

img_0625

I’ll share more on this process as I go along. It’ll be my second attempt at long draw from shetland fauxlags (I’ll be sure to share the first attempt as soon as it’s fully dried). It’s a very interesting process through which I’m learning a lot. I’m so looking forward to sharing it with you!

I’ve also got a sock on the needles…

img_0669

Mr. Knitting Sarah had to retire a couple pairs of handknit socks last week, so I really do need to hop to it once that Brillig is done.

The only other project that is still in-progress for me is the one on my Jensen wheel…

img_0475

This has been on hold while I sent the flyer and a bobbin in to Jerry Jensen himself to have a replacement flyer and spare bobbins made along with a couple other spare parts. Amazingly, I got the call a couple days ago that everything was ready to go and it should arrive by tomorrow or Monday. I’m floored & elated — it was a super fast turnaround!

And that, my friends, is what’s happening here on my wheels and needles. The thermometer is creeping up toward 60°F today & after a rough start to the week, the birds are singing. For those interested in birds, I’ve started an eBird profile and am trying to make lists or report significant (at least to me!) sightings when I see them. So if you’re interested to see what birds I’ve seen lately, you can pop over there anytime. I will say that we’ve had a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker in the yard most of this week which has presented me with the best ever views and I’ve had swans flying within view of my desk almost daily. This time of year new birds are landing almost daily, so I’m going to sign-off, grab my binoculars and a light coat, and go soak up some much appreciated vitamin D and see what I can see — just another benefit of being surprisingly caught-up!

 

 

 

Learning Long Draw

A very long time ago, what feels like a lifetime ago, I received this delivery…

img_2800

Over 4lbs of freshly washed roving…

img_2797

From the sheep my hubby adopted for me. This roving has sat, carefully packed away for far too long for one very simple reason: I was kind of scared to attempt to figure out long draw.

I realize that this isn’t the mountain of impossibility that I made it out to be for so long. I was intimidated by it though — where spinning felt wildly freestyle compared to knitting before I learned how, that’s similar to the intimidation I felt with long draw. Short forward and short backward draw are both very accommodating for people who like to feel in control because you ‘inch worm’ along with them to make the beautiful worsted yarns (‘worsted yarn’, not to be confused in this instance with ‘worsted weight yarn‘). Long draw though, you make lofty, airy super warm yarns. And you can do that with one hand! What?! Insanity!

Alas, this type of prep, this roving really calls for long draw and the magic that is woolen spun yarn and thus the fiber waited while I worked up the nerve (for those who don’t know the difference between worsted and woolen yarns and want to know, check out this post!). I over-thought the whole technique for — you know — a couple years. Then finally with a little gentle nudging from friends and a review of the lesson in Drafting from Worsted to Woolen on Craftsy, I grabbed some of that special roving and I just went for it. And you know what…

img_9451

It took me about ten minute to go from “What is happening?!?!?!?!” to “I got this!” I’ve got a lot of learn about consistency with it, but as everyone told me, long draw and woolen yarns are pretty forgiving when it comes to consistency. And it is super fun!

Of course, after filling two bobbins worth of fiber with a bump from the 4lbs of fiber I’d gotten, I worried and overthought the plying for a few days. But it’s plying, right? I watched the portion of the Craftsy course on it, asked for input from my spinning mentor and at her encouragement, I just gave it a go. There are certainly technical ways to measure the “right” way to ply this yarn, but rather than over-think it more I opted to just go by eye and see how I could do. Of course, once it was plied, then I worried about finishing this yarn. Because every step of this yarn kind of freaked me out, but having survived the singles and the plying, I just went ahead and finished it. After all, I’d come that far!

And lo and behold, it all worked out!

img_9938

It’s plied a bit tighter than it probably needed, but it’s close — close enough for a first try definitely.

img_9936

And the yarn itself… it’s magical. It weighs next to nothing — there is so much loft, so much air trapped in it. For someone who has been spinning worsted yarns for years, to have created this… it just blows my mind.

img_9937

It is utterly unlike any yarn I’ve created before. I am so inspired to get into my next foray into long draw and woolen spun yarns. And I just know that knitting with this yarn is going to blow my mind even further.

In addition to the roving, I’ve got some Shetland top that I intend to prep for a go with this new skill. It has gotten bumped from my to-spin list a couple times for various reasons, but I am happy to say I’ll be prepping and spinning them soon. Now that I’ve tackled long draw, I fully intend to explore all this technique has to offer!