What Is The Best Roving To Use For Handspinning?

Wool roving, it’s available for just about any breed that you can think of, which is super neat but can also be quite confusing!

All of these wools are great for something, to be sure, but are they great for you and your spinning?

The best roving to use for handspinning is a roving made of wool that has the characteristics that will suit your end project. If you are a beginner, the best roving for you to learn to spin with is Corriedale.

Is Spinning Your Own Yarn Worth It? goes over the math of spinning versus buying wool yarns.

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Best roving for beginners

If you are a flat out beginning spinner, the best roving you can use is Corriedale.

You may run across Corriedale top, instead of roving, that’s fine, too. Often the terms roving and top are used interchangeably even though they are not the same thing, usually it’s actually combed top.

Don’t get hung up on which one, just get Corriedale wool roving or top that is ready to spin without further preparation from you.

Beginner friendly roving will have:

  • 3-5 inches staple length
  • micron count from 23-30, meaning it is a medium wool
  • a good amount of crimp

I have been test spinning a few of the more popular fibers to see which is really the easiest to work with and so far Corriedale is my number one easiest to spin option, with Romney as a second choice.

Do not go with any roving or top that has high luster, is a fine wool, is more than 5 inches or shorter than 3 inches long. These wools will be hard for you to work with as a beginner.

You are looking for a nice, easy to work with medium wool that is known to be beginner friendly and easy to work with. Learn on the Corriedale, then branch out.

corriedale combed top in coral
This is a lovely coral corriedale combed top. This fiber will be easy to spin and versatile.

On a bit of a side note, most likely your roving is not actually roving, chances are it is combed top. Top is more aligned than roving and should be easier for you to spin.

This is a good thing because going from roving to top takes out the shorter fibers that would be harder for you to work with.

If your fiber says roving and you read the description and it lists great for felting but not spinning, now you need to reconsider what you are buying. Felting fiber can have short fibers, yikes!

Do You Need To Take A Class? goes over your options comparing learning from an instructor to learning on your own.

Get combed top, which is prepared specifically for handspinners and will be easier for you to work with.

Even though you are actually using top, we’ll keep using the word roving, since when you look up fiber to spin it is normally listed as roving, even if it is top!

Roving characteristic that you wantFine woolMedium woolLong wool
easiest to spinyes
commonly availableyesyessome
softest yarnyes
yarn that has drapeyes
wool that has plenty of crimpyesprobably
easy to work with staple lengthyes
available as a naturally colored rovingyesyesyes
lots of lusteryes

Looking for a great resource on which fiber to pick and how best to use it? Consider getting The Fleece And Fiber Sourcebook, filled with wonderful pictures and details on just about any wool you can find.

Match your roving to your project

If you are not a total beginner, the best roving for you is one that matches your end project. If you are a beginner and you skipped down here, go with the corriedale roving.

You need to have your end project figured out then you can select a roving that you feel will work well for you and that specific project.

Here are some of the very basics to start with:

  • fine wools: microns of up to 23, are next to the skin soft and tend to be shorter stapled
  • medium wools: microns of 23-30, easy to spin, loads of breeds and a variety of staple lengths
  • long wools: microns of 30+, strong fiber and high luster

In general, the above categories are pretty good as a base of understanding which wools will work well for you for your project.

The fine wools are going to be a bit more challenging to learn on than the medium wools, as long as you go with a medium of 3-5 inches.

Some of the medium wools that are lower in micron count are good for next to the skin garments, but the mediums in the upper ranges are more suitable for outerwear, like sweaters or hats.

Some of the longwools are softer than you would think, like Romney and Blue Faced Leicester. I’m not saying next to the skin soft, but I am saying very nice for hats and sweaters!

Nothing beats the classics if you are trying something new to you, like making your first woolen yarn, for instance, go with a nice Merino roving, you really can’t go wrong there!

If you want something that has more drape to the knitted fabric, go with a high luster wool, like one of the long wools, Blue Faced Leicester would work well here.

What if you are trying to make a welcome mat, you know it will get a beating so it needs to be tough. A more coarse long wool would work well for this project, something like a Scottish Blackface.

Another aspect of roving that you may not have considered is color, do you want to dye it or do you want to have it white or naturally colored?

I love naturally colored wools, so I tend to favor these rovings over other options, mostly because I like color but do not like dyeing!

Here are some very general roving suggestions:

  • easy peasy spinning: Corriedale, Romney, Falkland
  • naturally colored wool: Merino, Romney, Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain, Zwartbles, Gotland
  • spins up soft: Merino, Falkland, Polworth, Cormo
  • loads of luster: Lincoln, Leicester Longwool, Blue Faced Leicester
  • short stapled: Southdown, Suffolk, Shropshire
  • cool breeds you may not have considered: CVM, Herdwick, Icelandic, Wensleydale

Most of these breed specific rovings will be available from The Woolery (link to protein fibers page). I buy most of my bulk fiber from here, they are fast and have great prices!

one grey and one white roving sections
This is some Gotland (on the left) and Corriedale combed top that I purchased to work with. The Gotland is very soft but slippery and a bit tricky at first!

Experiment with new to you wool roving

Consider buying some new to you wool roving and see how it works up.

I just got a variety of new to me wools and am working through them to see what I enjoy using. I have spun my own yarn for more than 20 years, but have rarely purchased wool, and if so, it’s whole fleeces.

With my branching out I’m working with Black Welsh Mountain, Zwartbles, Gotland, Romney, Rambouillet, Merino and alpaca. Of course, these are not unusual wools, they are just novel to me!

So far my biggest discovery is that Gotland is hard for me to spin, but wonderful to knit and Zwartbles is surprisingly easy to work with, I love it!

I have done near zero fine wool work, so that is why Merino and Rambouillet are an experiment, so far both are working out better than I thought they would.

Roving characteristics to avoidFine woolMedium woolLong wool
slipperycan be
short staple lengthcan be
will not feltsomesome
harder to findsome

Here are some of the roving characteristics that are hard for me to work with, but remember, if you are okay with the characteristic, then it’s okay.

And I do need to point out, some things like slippery are annoying at first, but once you “get it” you’ll be able to work through it and end up with a wonderful yarn, I just don’t want it to catch you off guard.

For example: the Gotland I purchased, it is currently not my favorite to spin, I just don’t quite have the knack yet, but, since it is so lovely knit up, it’s worth me putting in more time and learning.

So really, this is just a personal choice thing, if you love luster and the slip that goes with it, try some Gotland or another high luster long wool, if you hate slippery fiber, I’d consider something else!

Roving can be blends of wools

It is very possible that the best roving for your project is actually a blend, not a single wool roving.

If you decide you need more strength in your sock yarn, consider using a mohair blend.

Maybe you love the softness of angora but also want a bit of bounce to your yarn, then an angora merino blend will be super for your project.

Roving can be blends of other fibers

Roving is also available in a huge variety of wool with non wool blends, including things like bamboo, silk and sparkle fibers.

Using a merino blended with angelina will give you a nice sparkle to your yarn, yet still keep all of the wonderful attributes that merino is famous for.

Huge variety of rovings are available online

If you want the best selection, look online for your roving. I get wonderful results from Etsy shops for bumps of roving in the 4 ounce range and get to try wool from shop owners own sheep!

I have to admit, I would probably shop a larger store, like The Woolery or Paradise Fibers, for a better price on a larger amount of roving, 8 ounces to 1 pound, from a specific breed.

The Joy Of Handspinning has a nice overview of wools to use for handspinning and which wool suits which spinning need the best.

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