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4 Tweed Yarns to Spin

Kate shares four tweedy yarns to spin from two colorful textured fibers and offers some quick tweed takeaways.

Kate Larson May 28, 2024 - 7 min read

4 Tweed Yarns to Spin Primary Image

From left: Coopwoorth lamb/silk/silk noil roving from Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill and Merino/sari silk top from Living Dreams Yarn are ready to spin using a cross-armed spindle from Majacraft. Photos by Matt Graves unless otherwise noted

In the wider world, “tweed” usually refers to a type of coarse woolen cloth. For handspinners, “tweed” evokes visions of fibers and yarns in blended hues and, often, a nubbly texture. However, spinning blends of various fibers, characters, and fiber lengths can present some challenges.

I usually find a bit of experimentation is in order, which is great fun. Where should we start with our taste test? Here’s my short list of initial observations that will lead me to try this or that spinning approach depending on the specific blend. No judgment, just notes:

Fiber Prep: Combed top, puni, batt, or roving? Are the fibers densely placed or airy and loose? The prep will impact how the fibers flow into the drafting zone.

The Long and Short of It: Are all the fibers about the same staple length, or are they different? Both very short and very long fibers can make some drafting techniques more difficult, but a blend of the two can behave in unexpected ways. Just take note.

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Amount of Blending: How homogenous is the blend? More thorough blending can make fibers easier to spin. However, tweed fibers might have less blending so that pops and dashes of colors still appear in the final yarn.

Kate found that each fiber behaved differently during her spinning experiment.

A Tale of Two Tweeds

I’d love to share two of my recent tweed finds, purchased during in-person and digital wanderings around our fiber community. Both are blends of dyed wool and silk. Both are composed of fibers with varying lengths and characters. However! The spinning experience with these two beauties is totally different. Here are just four ways you could successfully spin these.

1. Combed Top—Short Draw

I was drawn to this 70/30 Merino/sari silk blend because I don’t think I’ve tried a sari-silk top in the past. Starting with my default spinning, I sat down to try spinning this top with a short draw (worsted draw) on a suspended spindle. As expected from this textured blend, the sari silk clusters created colorful slubs and the Merino sections were smooth in between. I think this would make a great singles to ply with itself or something else to create a slubby weft yarn or even a great knitted or crocheted cowl.

2. Combed Top—Short or Long Draw From the Fold

Spinning from the fold—pulling off a short chunk of top, folding it in half, and spinning from the center—is an easy way to put fibers on a more even footing. Blends of fibers with different lengths or characters will often become more friendly and draft more evenly when prepared this way. I certainly found that to be true here, and my slubs nearly disappeared with this method. This was smooth, easy spinning on spindle with both a short and long draw. Great fun!

From left: Spinning with a short draw (no twist between the hands in the drafting zone) and spinning with a long draw (twist is in the drafting zone) with fibers folded over an index finger.

A quick pin-loom square is a great way to get a look at texture and color. Handspun samples: Well-defined slubs spun with a short draw and a more homogenous, smooth sample spun with a long draw that subdued nearly all the texture. Photo by Kate Larson

3. Roving—Short Draw

Next up, I tried the same spindle and techniques with a Coopworth/silk/silk noil roving. The preparation is light and airy, and the silk noils are nicely incorporated so they didn’t drift out of the blend during spinning or plying.

I started with short draw on spindle, as I did for the first tweed fiber, and found it easy to make a consistent singles. The short-draw technique of attenuating the fiber and then introducing twist creates a denser yarn. I made my first sample into a three-ply, which would make a stunning sweater yarn with most noils safely held in place.

4. Roving—Long Draw

This versatile roving is easy to spin with short or long draw. Coopworth lamb makes up most of the blend, and my fiber had a staple length of about 4 inches (about 10 centimeters). It was easy to quickly draft and spin into a lofty singles without further preparation or control. The long draw allows the fiber surface to have more halo in addition to the noils. Knitted or woven, this yarn would create a consistently nubbly surface very much like traditional tweeds from Ireland.

From left: Spinning with a short draw and spinning with a long draw.

This woven square makes me want to weave an entire blanket! Handspun samples: A more crisp three-ply spun with a short draw and a lofty long-draw three-ply yarn with a soft surface. Photo by Kate Larson

Tweed Takeaways

  • Difficult drafting? Try spinning from the fold.
  • Trouble keeping your texture incorporated into the yarn? Try a short draw.
  • Too much texture? Try plying your textured tweedy singles with something smooth and then create a sample. You never know what that texture is going to look like until you give it a go!
  • Not enough texture? Try adding some intentional slubs to create thicker areas with less of the mixing that occurs during drafting.

Resources

Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill, Rhapsody in Blue, Coopworth lambswool/silk/silk noil.
Living Dreams Yarn, Ahimsa, Merino/sari silk.

Kate Larson, editor of Spin Off, teaches handspinning around the country and spends as many hours as life allows in the barn with her beloved flock of Border Leicesters.

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