Drafting, Plying, and a Balanced Yarn

Beginner’s Info: Part 7

There are two different things meant by “drafting.”

“Pre-drafting” is loosening up the fibers before you spin so you’ll get a nice, airy, easy-to-work-with yarn. Here is a good video on fluffing up the fibers in a roving.

Regular “drafting” refers to how you handle the fibers that are being spun.

Drafting While Spinning

Here is a great text/image rundown on the main types of drafting while spinning. There are also videos down the side, but it’s kind of hard to see what she’s doing.

I also found these videos for long draw and short draw on wheel. Short draw is easier, in my opinion, although I love long draw. The short draw video doesn’t have any audio besides the background music, so you can mute it if you wish. The text gives a pretty good explanation, but I want to give another here. When you’re doing the short draw you have the fibers in one hand, and you’re pulling fibers out with the other. A little at a time, pinch the fibers and pull it out as far as you want to go – not too far or it will separate from the other fibers completely! – then, still pinching slightly, slide your fingers back to the main bulk of fiber and grab another pinch full. Sliding your fingers help keep the twist where it belongs. If the twist gets past your fingers and into the bulk of the fiber it will make your yarn lumpy.

With the way a drop spindle works, you’re pretty much going to use the “inchworm” or short draw technique all the time. The dynamics just don’t fit a long draw. When I spin I like to hold the cloud of fiber in my left hand and draft with my right. I used to pre-draft a lot, but I haven’t done it as often lately. You get used to working without pre-drafting after a while. Now I only use it when the fibers seem to be a little compacted and need to be fluffed up for optimal spinning.


I’ve touched on plying briefly in Yarn: The Low Down. Plying is spinning two or more singles together in a direction opposite to the direction you originally spun the singles. All you need is a few bobbins of singles that are spun and off the wheel, and another empty bobbin on the wheel.

Here is a bit about regular plying. Two ply, in particular. The basic principle holds true no matter how many plies you care to use.

And here is a tutorial on my hands down favorite standby plying method. The wonderful Navajo ply method. You can turn a single into a three ply yarn with only one one bobbin of singles and no cutting involved. Cool, eh?


While you’re plying, you need to keep one thing in mind. Balance. When a yarn has too much twist in it it will kink up and be a real bear to work with. Finding examples of how to see if you’re spinning a balanced yarn is a lot harder than I thought, so I don’t have any spiffy links for you this time. Just plain ‘ol text.

Ply a piece of yarn about three feet long. Grab both ends and hold them up so the yarn creates a “U” shape. (You’ll want to hold the tops no more than six inches apart. One and a half inches preferably.) If it doesn’t whirl back on itself, you’re good. It should hang there in an inert manner and look pretty. If it spins around on itself or wraps up it’s not right. You can try twisting one end a bit to see if getting more twist helps, or taking away twist is the way to go. Trial and error, my friend. That’s part of the adventure.


And, finally, when you’re finished spinning and plying a yarn, you get to do one last thing. It’s called setting the twist. The school is divided over whether you always set the twist, or whether it’s only for over or under twisted yarns. Honestly, it’s easy enough, I just do it regardless.

Get a bowl of really hot water. Immerse the skein and gently remove. Pat dry gently so it doesn’t felt. Let air dry. Voila. You can do a dozen in fifteen minutes.

Sometimes, to be extra sure it won’t kink, you can hang it up on a hanger with a weight attached to the bottom like my good friend does. You’ll need to scroll down to see it. It’s quite ingenious.

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