Spinning Long Draw on the Handspindle

On the Spindlitis forum, a question was asked about handspindle spinning by one who was used to the spinning wheel. Here is an expanded version of my answer...

- Your fibre hand should lightly hold and release the fibre. The spindle hand moves between spinning the spindle (I'm talking low-whorl here, but should be similar with a high-whorl spindle being spun on the thigh) and softly pulling the partially spun fibre away from your fibre hand (known as drafting), controlling the amount of twist that runs up the developing yarn).

- On a handspindle, you can stop ("park") the spindle at any time to allow yourself to draft the fibre, and to ease excess twist in the spun yarn into fresh fibre. If you don't have enough twist in the yarn, give the spindle another spin without drafting any further fibre.

- Draft somewhere between waist and eye-level; this should give your shoulders a rest when your forearms can move down to your waist at some sort of regular timing.

- Stay relaxed, and remember that your body tension will be reflected in the resulting yarn. I tend to sit for the first yard, stand for the second yard, butterfly the yarn onto my hand and sit to wind on.

- Drafting should be similar to the wheel, but I coil my fibre around my wrist and forearm or around a wrist distaff (others may use a small stick-type distaff in their fibre hand, or a larger one tucked into a belt or standing on the floor).

- Remember that a sample is useful. Spin a little bit as perfect as you want the final yarn, and remove it from the spindle. I let mine ply itself, and then as I spin, I occasionally let a bit ply itself and compare it to the sample.

- Some spinners use leaders that are permanently (more or less) attached to their spindles. I don't. (But I'm strange.) I draft a short bit to the proper thickness, slip it into the notch and spin snugly, then slide that bit into the slot and continue to spin; when I wind on, I slide the loop from the notch down to the base (bottom-whorl spindle) and wind as usual.

- The Long Draw, for me, was a technique that was simple only when it was demonstrated to me. As I draw my hands apart in drafting, I let a little of the twist leak past my right hand into the drafting triangle (when it then becomes less than a triangle), just enough so that the thin bits stop spreading and the thick bits keep sliding apart until they're thin, too. When it all looks about right, I give it a little more twist, as needed, and wind on. Much faster than inchworm (short draw) drafting.

- Rolags work best for long draw, for me. If you have drum-carded fibre, you can create rolags. Break off chunks maybe a foot long, roll them (maybe using a rod in the center to make it easier) so the fibres run cross-wise on the roll. (I do the fleece thing with hand-carders, but I've seen this done by people who purchase the stuff.)

- For a fluffier yarn, avoid running your fingers along the fibre as it is being twisted. Conversely, a smoother yarn will result when you slide your fingertips along the twisting yarn, causing the ends to be caught in the twist.

- And for a fluffier yarn, go for a fibre angle of 30 to 45 degrees; 45 will give a rather firm-ish yarn and 30 will be looser. Any looser than 30 will be more willing to pull apart, but that depends on the fibre used. And on whether you are plying (which can also be done on the handspindle). Remember that not enough angle on the fibres will make them slide apart, and make the spindle fall, which is embarrassing if you have witnesses...

(also known as Halima al-Rakkasa of the Shire of Cragmere,
Principality of Tir Righ, Kingdom of An Tir,
in the Society for Creative Anachronism)

--- Spindle; do not fold or mutilate ---