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August 01, 2022 3 min read

The secret of spinning. Did you know there are actually two completely different ways of spinning yarn? This arose from the inherent differences in staple length from a sheep’s fleece. Longer fibres go through a process called worsted spinning, whereas shorter fibres go through a process called woollen spinning.

Worsted spinning involves carding, gilling and combing which aligns the long fibres and removes short fibre and vegetable matter, known as noil. The fibre is then packaged into 10kg blocks of pressed worsted top, known as ‘bumps’, before being sent to a different facility to be gilled (this means aligning the fibres again, whilst blending together multiple fibres) twice and spun into a single ply yarn.

Woollen spinning is done with the shorter fibres from a fleece and creates what is known as a ‘sliver’. This happens by scouring and carding the fleece, before spinning it on a spinning mule. Carding means opening up, and detangling the fleece, whilst a spinning mule is the machine used to add a twist to the fibre, thus increasing strength and elasticity. This creates a single ply yarn which can then be twisted with another yarn to increase the number of plies.

Left: our Beacons yarn (a worsted spun blend) knit up in the shade 'sunrise'

Right: our Number 3 yarn (a woollen spun yarn) knit up in the shade 'Boulder'

Worsted spinning is generally done with the longer fibres, whereas woollen makes use of the shorter ones, which means that worsted yarns are generally denser. This means that they’ll have very clear stitch definition, as opposed to woollen spun yarns which have a softer stitch definition. Within woollen preparation the fibre is spun straight from the carder, so the twist is added to a jumbled mass of fibre, called a roping or sliver (pronounced sly-ver when referring to woollen spinning). This fuzziness within the yarn creates some of our absolute favourite woollen characteristics: loftiness, lightness and an awful lot of bounce. The jumbled fibres also trap lots of air, so woollen spun yarns are usually extra warm and cosy! A worsted spun yarn is smoother, denser and more lustrous than its woollen spun counterpart, so has more drape.

Our Beaocns yarn (a worsted spun blend) knit up in the shade 'sunrise' and our Number 3 yarn (a woollen spun yarn) knit up in the shade 'Boulder'

Worsted yarns are ideal for those softer drapey garments like shawls. Check out Max the Knitter’s new shawl, The Gradient Descent Shawl, knitted up in our Preseli yarn. It’s a worsted spun blend of Romney, Hebridean, and Polwarth fleece. Worsted yarns also offer exceptional pattern defintion and are a breeze to knit with - they just glide through kneedles! Knit a shawl, jumper, or cardigan up in one of our worsted spun ranges and enjoy their unmatched softness.

Woollen yarns make the warmest and snuggliest garments - think cosy winter jumpers. Our Number 1, 2, and 3 ranges are all woollen spun, as well as being our first ever ranges. Check them out for inspiration for your next project! Woollen yarns are so warm due to all the air they hold in their fibres, making them an excellent choice for any pattern which involves steeking! These warm yarns don't crease much at all either - perfect for winter jumpers, hats, and mittens.

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