Spinning from the fold, or maybe you’ve heard it referred to as semi worsted spinning? Whatever you call it, what is spinning from the fold and why would you want to do it?
Spinning from the fold and semi worsted spinning are both terms for the same technique of taking a 3 inch or more staple of wool, folding it over a finger and drafting the spinning fiber from the top of the folded wool.
If you are not sure about the difference between worsted and woolen spinning, read Should You Spin Worsted Or Woolen? which goes into the pros and cons of each, so you can decide which spinning style is best for you and your project.
Spinning from the fold is semi worsted
Spinning from the fold, also called semi worsted, involves taking shorter lengths of roving and folding it over your finger then spinning from the top of the horseshoe shape or the top of the fold.
Spinning from the fold is a way to add loft and fluff to fibers that would normally be spun worsted.
Spinning semi worsted is between worsted and woolen
The reason you may be interested in spinning from the fold is that the resulting yarn is somewhere between worsted and woolen, seeming to lean more towards worsted than woolen to me.
You may want to use a semi worsted technique to get a bit more control on a fiber that is difficult to work with, or to get more loft or air into a mainly worsted yarn.
More air in the yarn equals more poof, which is really what makes the yarn more insulating, so a semi worsted yarn should be a bit warmer than a worsted yarn.
Spinning from the fold will also give you a bit of a softer looking, less well defined yarn when compared to spinning that same fiber worsted.
From my experience, spinning from the fold is not very close to woolen, as far as loft or airiness goes, if you want those, you need to go with a woolen spin.
7 Best Places To Get Handspinning Wool gives you some ideas on sourcing wool for your next project!
How to spin from the fold
To spin from the fold, start with a fiber that has a staple of 3 inches or more.
The reason you need to use a 3 inch staple length is that you want a wool in which each fiber has enough length so that you can easily hold it over your finger.
Using a shorter stapled wool will give you a short length of combed top to work with or a section that is longer than one staple length, so you’ll waste wool.
Once you get the feel for spinning from the fold, you can try this technique on any wool you like, but, for now, go with more of a medium staple length wool.
Separate the roving into 3 inch or so sections
Separate the roving into sections that are one staple length long, so a wool with a 3 inch staple length would be pulled off into a 3 inch section.
Take your staple length section of the roving and rip it apart lengthwise then stack the sections together again.
You are just fluffing up the sections of roving so the fibers will separate more easily.
The first wool I tried to use had to be fluffed up to get more separation of fibers, to make it easy to spin from the fold.
The Romney fibers easily separated with just pulling apart the roving off of the main section, no further fluffing was needed.
Bend the fiber over your finger
Now take the section of fluffed fiber and bend it over your first finger on the hand that you keep furthest from the wheel when spinning, for me this is my left hand.
You should have a horseshoe of fiber around your finger with the bend or fold at the top.
If using your first finger feels awkward, try putting the wool on your thumb instead, some folks like this method of holding the fiber better.
Draft your spinning fiber from the top of the folded wool on your finger
Now, you draft out your spinning fiber from the fold, so you are pulling up upside down V’s and spinning the bent fiber into your semi worsted yarn.
From my experience, the fibers in that bundle will flow together pretty well kind of dragging the next ones in to the yarn after the first.
Add another fluffed fiber bundle as needed
When you are close to running out of fiber to draft, you make another fluffed bundle and put it over your finger and attach the new bundle to the old bundle (if there is any left) or the yarn.
It’s that easy, you just keep adding fluffed bundles to your finger as you need them and spin away!
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Semi worsted is fairly easy
Spinning from the fold or semi worsted, is fairly easy.
If you can spin worsted, you can spin semi worsted! You’ll just need to think about it a bit to get yourself set up, then it should be pretty easy.
The first wool I tried to spin from the fold I had some trouble with, mainly due to too short of a staple length.
Then switched to a bit longer of a staple length and it went pretty easy.
I have to admit, I end up with more “waste” as in bits that I pull off when spinning from the fold compared to spinning worsted.
Mostly this seems to be from the fold being longer than the fibers so I pull off the top horseshoe but leave some of the shorter fibers behind.
With more work on this project, it does seem to be that the wool waste I had with the shorter stapled wool was from just that, the shorter staple length compared to the length of the bent wool.
The easy answer here is to work off of a smaller fold (tried it, that’s awkward for me) or use a bit of a longer stapled fiber, this worked well.
I decided to try spinning from the fold with some Romney top that I purchased, since I knew it would have a longer staple length.
The Romney worked well for me for me, right from the start.
Semi worsted with Romney is very easy to do, all the fibers ended up spun with very little to no waste.
I tried some Merino (link is to a white super fine), that’s the light brown wool that is used in these pictures, and it easily spun from the fold, as well.
The first wool I tried was a Rambouillet, which was too short stapled for me and left a lot of waste when I had enough fiber on my finger to hold it.
I do not see much of a difference in the finished yarn between spinning my normal way, worsted, and going with semi worsted.
I made a test yarn of each with the same roving, just to be sure.
Since I like spinning Romney and Merino worsted and see little to no difference in the yarn when I try spinning from the fold, for now, I’ll stick to my worsted ways.
If you want another perspective on spinning from the fold, read Schacht Spindle Company’s Spinning From The Fold.