We left off yesterday with a rack full of fine strands of roping. Because these ropings currently lack twist, they appear thicker than they will be in the finished yarn. Adding twist to fiber is the key to making yarn -- it traps necessary energy and tension into the yarn, increasing strength and (in most cases) elasticity. The amount of twist you add when making single plies of yarn is very important and can take the hand and behavior of the yarn in different directions. Any amount of twist though, be it a lot or a little, is essential for creating knitable yarn.

At this point, the ropings pictured above are loaded on to the spinning frame where they will be twisted and wound onto bobbins. Some of my favorite objects at the mill are the antique wooden spinning bobbins that have been in use for over six decades. They are beautiful objects in their own right. On this trip I was lucky enough to snag one of them as a souvenir, which now resides on the desk in my studio with my small collection of inspirational objects.

The spinning frame is also responsible for drafting the fiber, which happens just before twisting occurs.  When roping is drafted, it is pulled slightly to open up and lengthen the fiber structure before the single plies are "committed" through twist. The amount of drafting can be increased or decreased at this stage and is also a player in the finished behavior of the yarn.

After the fibers are drafted, a flyer spins and concurrently winds them onto a bobbin. On this machine, the fiber starts on racks high above the machine and works its way down towards the floor, where fully loaded bobbins are collected and shuttled off to the next work station.

A fresh batch of bobbins is a thing of beauty. When all the bobbins are collected into a rolling cart, they are ready to move onto the steamer, which is where we will begin tomorrow. Until then though, a beautiful batch of grey wool!



  • This is great stuff, Jared. Can you tell me, it looks like the roping has some kind of twist to it all ready, is that so? Could be pixels when I zoom in! I love to knit, but this fiber to yarn stuff really gets my blood racing!
    Beautiful color, photographs, etc. Thank you……..
    Kate Richter.

    Kate Richter on

  • Thanks so much for sharing the story behind the yarn. Just like it is important to know where our food comes from, it is nice to know where my yarn comes from!

    Rachel on

  • I’m really enjoying these interesting posts, thank you so much for sharing.

    sue on

  • Thank you so much for this series, it is amazing and your photos are beautiful. I’m SUCH a fan of everything BT.

    Brie on

  • This is so informative and as always, your photography is fantastic. Thank you for educating the masses.

    Grace on

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