Category Archives: Beginner Info

In Which I Dreadfully Overplan

I’m a knitter now. Let me be the first to admit it. The dye. . . I mean die-hard crocheter has fallen. I have succumbed to the knitting realm and now have way too many knitted projects planned.

And to prove how nuts I am, go take a look at my queue and favorites on Ravelry. (I’m LoveFiber on there.)
Not only am I knitting my first big knitting project now — and here’s a picture of my lovely sweater so far — but I have plans for another sweater, two or three giant shawls . . . no, four or five shawls, and a myriad of socks, wraps, and various things that will only overrun my closet. Which is already overrun. Although hopefully I will be able to use things from the closet to make things which go back into the closet and therefore pioneer self-sustaining closet environments.

My goal is to not. Buy. Any. More. Yarn. Until I’ve used up at least some of what I already have. Not too much. Just enough. *cough cough* Will someone please take the KnitPicks and Webs catalogs off my desk?

A Wooly Ending

Well, that’s that for the Beginner Series on Wool. I hope you enjoyed it and that it has been educational in a fun way. I was going to finish the series with a post on felting, but as I have had very little first-hand experience with that craft, and there are so many different ways to do it, I shall have to hold that in reserve for another day.

Thank you for reading!

Dyeing Wool

Beginner’s Series: Wool – Part 5

Wool is one of the easiest fibers to dye. It responds readily to Kool-Aid, commercial dyes, natural (plant- or animal-derived) dyes, and even food coloring.

There are dozens of different ways to color wool, and, as I’ve only tried a few of them, I can’t give you detailed tutorials for everything, but here are some of the ones that have helped me along and given me some really great results. I use Jacquard Acid Dyes for most of my dyeing, with the odd natural dye thrown in. The Jacquards are really nice because the only chemical you need to set the color is vinegar!


If you’re a knitter you have probably heard the term “kettle-dyed” before. It pretty much means that the yarn will be mostly the same color, with a slight shift in intensity in some areas. This is achieved by cooking the yarn (or wool roving) in a pot of dye solution. The actual process will vary depending on what kind of dye you use.

Fiber Preparation

Beginner’s Series: Wool – Part 4

Batts, Slivers, Tops, Rovings, Clouds, what on earth do these all mean? How’s a spinner supposed to know what they want with all these choices? Thankfully, learning what each of these styles gives you (and how to spin from them) is not as hard as it looks.



This is my personal favorite to spin from. It’s so nice and smooth, and spins easily. Roving can be spun short or long draw. It’s kind of your basic format. The individual fibers are laying straight, side by side with each other, which allows you to spin a very smooth yarn.


This looks like roving, but the fibers aren’t aligned quite as nicely, giving you a little lumpier yarn.


This looks like top and roving, but the fibers are a little different.

Preparing a Fleece for Spinning

Beginner’s Series: Wool – Part 3

After you have washed your fleece and it’s all squeaky clean, you need to get it ready to be spun into yarn. There are options for doing this, but thankfully not too many options. It’s pretty easy to decide.

From The Lock

First option is to spin it from the lock. If you look at your fleece you’ll see that the hairs are sort of clumped together into standard-sized sections. These are called locks. If you’re gentle, you can pull one of them apart from all the others.

Fluff up the “tip” end, which is the part that faced away from the sheep. Usually it’s all stuck together. All right. Now you have a little, very short, roving. Very very short. This method is really only recommended for sheep with a looooong staple length. Like a four inch minimum.

If you want to go this route, but you’re having trouble fluffing up those ends, you can get what’s called a “Flick Carder.” It’s the little one in the lower part of the picture. Here is a great demo on using it.
But be warned. For any spinner, this sort of video is rather like grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

Hand Cards a.k.a. Hand Carders

Second option, moving in the direction of cheapest to most expensive, are hand carders.

In The Raw

Beginner’s Series: WoolPart 2

I had barely cut my teeth on roving; in fact, I hadn’t even been introduced to a batt yet, when I felt the urge to get a raw fleece and process it for myself. There was just something so appealing about starting as close to the beginning as I could get. And from the moment I walked into a sheep barn an hour away from my house I knew this was going to be a love affair to last the rest of my life.
Sometimes, if I close my eyes, I can still smell the lanolin, and less pleasant things, that made up the smell of that day.

Choosing a Fleece

Would you like to learn what to look for in choosing a fleece? This is the best article I’ve seen on the subject. It gives you such a sense of knowing what you’re talking about. A little experience and you’re a natural. It makes walking into a room full of cut fleeces seem like even more of a candy store.

Buying a Fleece

Alrighty, so you’ve picked out a fleece that you like. A couple things you might want to know.

Choosing Between Types of Wool

Beginner’s Series: Wool – Part 1

Why Choose?

When I first became a spinner the sheer number of wool types available boggled my brain. Was “Merino” or “Romney” a better choice for a beginner? How about “Rambouillet”? And what on earth did “staple length” or “crimp” mean? Did it really matter what I chose?

I wanted a complete list of every kind of fleece available and information on how it spun. To the best of my knowledge a list like this did not exist (yet!), so what I ended up doing was scrolling through the fiber websites looking for something — anything — labeled “good for beginners.” In my first months of spinning I found a few favorites, maybe branched out a bit, and wound up only spinning certain types of wool because, well, the others might not turn out nicely.

Thankfully this attitude of wool ineptness left after a while. I’m now willing and eager to skim the offerings at fiber fairs and on websites. I can pick a wool with confidence because I have a good bit of head knowledge that tells me how a type of wool will behave.

This article is designed to equip you with the knowledge you need to look at a type of wool and say “Perfect!” or “Run for your life!”

Beginner’s Series: Wool

Hello, everyone! There’s going to be a second Beginner Series on Maiden Yarn.

I’ll be focusing in on wool types and working with fleece. I’ll go into picking the right type of wool to use and how to choose a raw fleece, wash it, prepare it, and dye it. I’m so excited about these new posts. It’s a lot to cover in one week, but we’ll have a good time.

Posts start September 9th.

As always, these articles are intended to be wildly helpful, so please, don’t hesitate to leave a comment if something needs clarification or elaboration. These are for you and others who love learning. Share your knowledge.


My, this last week has flown by. I blogged daily, and there are still some things we didn’t get to! Wonderful things like preparing your own fiber and dyeing your own yarn.

I hope The Beginner Series proved helpful and encouraging. Remember, those posts are nothing but a brief overview. They leave plenty of room for you to learn new things and discover on your own. There’s a whole world of spinners and spinning out there. Techniques waiting to be taught, friendships to be shared, and new fibers to try. It’s waiting for you.

With the blessing of a seriously addicted spinner, go, spin, and learn.


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.