Grit Blogs > Dream Come True Fiber Farm

A Lesson in Spinning Wool Into Yarn

A photo of Pam BlaskoSo many folks that have never really thought about the wool being spun into yarn ask me, "Exactly how is that done?" So I'm going to do my best here to try to walk you through it with pictures and brief explanations.  Here we go, spinning 101.

You can see in the previous  post how the sheep is sheared and the wool is skirted by hand (cleaned) getting it ready for the really big cleaning at the mill. Off to the mill it goes to be washed and put into what is called roving. Roving means all the wool is clean and carded (almost like combing it) making it all go in one direction for ease of spinning. So when it comes back from the mill we have a big bag of roving from each animal.

roving for spinning 

The next step is to start spinning it through the spinning wheel.

spinning wheel 

As you can see we treadle (peddle) the wheel to make the wheel turn. 

treadle the wheel 

A cotton string is attached around the wheel and up over the bobbin (where the wool is stored while spinning).

filling the bobbin 

There is a knob on the wheel that adjust the tension of the string, so a little tension causes the wool to be pulled through the orifice out of the spinners hands and onto the bobbin. While the spinner spins they must draft (pull) a little of the fiber out which is the part that will be spun into the yarn at that moment. The amount drafted, thickness or very fine is what determines the kind of yarn spun, either lace weight, bulky ect.

drafting fiber 

So we treadle and draft, treadle and draft filling the bobbin.

full bobbin 

When the bobbin is full it is taken off the bobbin and wound onto what is called a niddy noddy which puts it into skein form. 

winding on to the niddy noddy 

The next step is to wash and set the twist in the newly spun yarn. I use an organic lavender essential oil  with a gentle soap to  let it soak. This soaking sets the twist up nicely and gives the yarn its final cleaning. The lavender treats the wool so that it is moth proof!

washing yarn in sink 

Then the yarn is hung to dry with a weight that also helps set the twist in the yarn. The yarn may take a couple of days to dry depending on the weather.

hanging skein to set the twist 

When it's dry it's twisted back into a skein and is ready to knit with.  

finished skein 

I hope this gives some kind of idea of what the process of spinning wool into yarn is. A number of different spinning wheels are on the market, all doing the same job. The height or how smooth they spin or treadle may vary, so its important to try a wheel before purchasing. Or work with someone that can give you some idea of how a number of wheels work.

So, you're now ready to spin! You have completed Dream Come True Farms Spinning 101.       

1/30/2013 4:00:04 PM

Hi Pam, Your great blog brought back memories of many Minnesota storm days sitting near the wood stove, watching the snow blow outside, and spinning. We had an old institutional loom in the utility room that I would use for making rugs. Barbara, gifted with better dexterity, knits wonderful woolen items. Here in Arizona, we are pursuing other activities - mentoring straw bale building, chickens, orchard, and LOTS of hiking. It was so pleasant to see pictures from our past. Thanks again - We still have our Louet wheel, however, and Barbara does some homespun from rovings sent by friends in MN. Thanks for the great blog. Dave

sarah spring
1/25/2013 4:00:26 PM

Wow, it looks so simple when YOU do it! I am just learning to spin wool from my angora rabbits and it is a very new and different kind of experience. I have found spinning to be comforting while sitting next to the wood stove like I am invoking those who spun wool before me or something. It's a fun and definitely practical skill that is often overlooked. Thank you so much for the great demonstration photos! -- Sarah at Frühlingskabine Micro-Farm

pam blasko
5/20/2011 8:05:38 AM

Hi Cindy thank you or the note, it did my heart good. When we have open house days here I always spin and give the kids a piece of the wool and tie a piece of newly spun yarn to their wrist. Your story has now made me think that I may be leaving a long lasting impression and creating a memory for them. Thank you Cindy. Pam

cindy murphy
5/20/2011 6:53:25 AM

Hi, Pam. I’ve really been enjoying your posts, though I don’t have sheep or spin yarn (except for the occasional tell tale, I suppose). I don’t even crochet or knit – but your beautiful yarns and the things you made from them make me entertain (briefly) the thought of taking up either. This post and the previous one about shearing, took me all the way back to kindergarten (that’s a long time ago, believe me). We went on a class field trip to a farm and watched them shear sheep, and then went inside the house where a group of women spun wool into yarn. When we getting ready to leave, they gave each of us a small piece of newly shorn wool in a little plastic baggie to take home. I still remember the smell of the wool, and how I loved the oily feel of it when I rubbed it between my fingers. A good memory – thanks for jogging it. Enjoy your day. Cindy ~ A Lakeside View