How to Spin Yarn More Consistently

Deb Gerish Apr 13, 2016 - 4 min read

How to Spin Yarn More Consistently Primary Image

Evaluating twist while plying helps you determine whether to treadle more or less.

Beth on set in our Fort Collins studio.

I have a hard time counting and numbering things--anything. My mind wanders, I forget which number I was on, and everything just falls apart. When knitting, I count stitches in increments of 5, out loud, and woe betide the person who tries to talk to me while I’m doing this; they get the sizzling death-ray glare. I can’t even count sheep on sleepless nights, and that’s a sad thing for a spinner to admit. So when I’m spinning, I work into a rhythm without counting my treadles.

Beth doesn’t just make sample skeins; she knits samples, documenting each step, to create or recreate a particular yarn for a particular project. Both swatches came from the same fleece but went through different drafting processes, producing very different knitted swatches.

That’s all about to change, thanks to Beth Smith’s invaluable advice. Her article “Fat Chance!” (Spin-Off Summer 2015) initially challenged me to get into spinning shape through exercise: practice time devoted to different yarn diameters. Then came her video Spinning to Get Even, which talks about ways to produce more consistent yarns. My spinning has gotten into a rut--and an inconsistent rut at that. I’ll get more pleasure out of every step of the fiber process, from initial prep to finished project, if I love the yarn I’m making. I’ll also rise above this spinning plateau where I feel stuck.

What has Beth’s video taught me? I already keep good records and have learned to sample extensively before spinning all the fiber for a given project. Now it’s time to practice making a specific yarn, a bobbin at a time. And it’s time to start counting.

Fortunately, Beth makes it look easy. Watching her spin reminds me of watching a talented yoga master move--it’s rhythmic and fluid and relaxed all at the same time. She positions her body to reduce fatigue and heighten control. I hadn’t fully grasped how my posture could help create reference points: draft back to this spot on my hip, or draft forward until my moving hand meets my stationary hand. Doing this while counting treadles will instantly improve my process, and Beth’s “secret consistency weapon” for sampling will ice the cake. (No spoilers!)

If only Beth had some tips for the actual counting, so I don’t keep losing track. Maybe I can find a kindergartener to coach me, and then we can work on that h-i-j-k-l section of the alphabet song.