Spinning with wool roving is a great place to start your spinning adventure! Roving is easy to find and available from many different breeds, giving you all manner of choices for spinning.
So, how do you actually spin roving and what are the tricks to make spinning wool roving easier for a beginner?
Does Spinning Your Own Yarn Save You Money? gives you a breakdown of the costs of spinning versus buying wool yarns.
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Start with an easy to work with roving
The first thing you need to do in order to spin roving into yarn is to have an easy to work with wool roving that you plan to use.
The best choice of roving for beginners is Corriedale. Of course, you can start with any breed’s wool that you want to, but Corriedale is the easiest that I have found so far for beginning spinners.
I know that there are a ton of cool breeds out there and, if you are like me, you want to spin something interesting. I’m 100% with you.
However, quite often the super neat wools have a few peculiarities that make them more approachable for spinners with a bit of experience, meaning these wools will be incredibly frustrating to a beginner.
Do yourself a favor, start with Corriedale and then branch out if you want to. Know that Corriedale is wonderful to work with, so don’t be surprised if you come back to it as your go to roving, I certainly do.
How To Choose A Wool That You Will Like To Spin gives you tips on how to source that perfect wool for your skill level and your project!
Prepare the roving for spinning
To prepare the roving for spinning, take a section of the roving, about a foot to a foot and a half and pull it off of the rest of the roving bump. Bump is the word for the ball or section of roving you purchased.
Split the roving lengthwise into 2-4 columns
For worsted spinning, keep the roving in this 1-1.5 foot length and consider splitting it lengthwise into 2-4 sections.
If you have actual roving, this will be tough, if you have top, which most folks are calling roving, this will be easy.
If you look closely, you’ll see that the “roving” (once again, actually top) has thinner spots that make it look like a group of columns, just separate out the columns.
The columns do not need to be precise, we are just reducing the amount of roving that you have to work around when learning to spin.
You can keep the roving whole, but I feel it is more awkward to handle, and tends to have me making super chubby yarn, so I split it at the beginning to give myself less drafting to do while spinning.
Actual roving should not be split, use as is
If you happen to have actual roving, which once again is not likely, but if you do, it will be a fluffy well mixed together cloud of fibers rather than a river of fiber, which is actually top.
If you have roving, then just pull off a 1-1.5 foot section and that’s what you’ll work with, don’t try to split it down to a smaller size, actual roving will not be easy to split.
Actually, you don’t want to split actual roving, since the arrangement of the fibers is what will give you your nice, soft woolen yarns. Consider yourself luck if you have actual roving, it’s tough for me to find!
Set the wheel
Now you need to set up your wheel. This is where you’ll have to experiment and see what’s what.
If you are a total beginner, have someone else set up your wheel and help you get started.
None of this is hard, but there are a lot of options of what to change to get the settings right, which is confusing at first.
Set the revolutions of the bobbin
Generally speaking, set your wheel so that you get more revolutions of the bobbin per spin of the wheel for finer yarns and less revolutions of the bobbin per revolutions of the wheel in medium to long wools.
I hear other spinners talk about ratios that they set their wheel at, I don’t know what the ratios on my wheel are, I just have three different places for the tension band on the bobbin and pick one.
I start with the larger part of the bobbin for my normal spinning, I most often spin worsted style and with medium wools.
I have also been working with the medium sized end for some finer wool rovings that I just purchased, Rambouillet and Merino, but for medium, I am on the slowest turning one.
Set the tension or uptake of the bobbin
You’ll also need to set the tension, this for me is a strap that goes over the orifice and makes the bobbin take yarn more quickly as I make the strap tighter.
For me, this adjustment is actually the more challenging one to get right. If you feel that the wheel is taking your yarn out of your hands too quickly as you are spinning, look to adjust this strap.
Set this at a lightly snug tension and see how it works.
I know that’s not much help, but spinning has a lot of give it a shot and see how it works for you then adjust if needed type of situations. This is one of them.
Use one section of roving at a time
Use one section of roving at a time. Take the roving section that you have pulled apart and pull it a bit on the end to make it thinner.
You still want the roving attached to the rest of the section, just to be thinner.
Lengthening out some of the roving, called drafting, will make it so that less fiber will go into the yarn at one time, this is good, since, chances are you want the yarn to be thinner than the roving.
Now you are ready to actually spin!
Attach your drafted fiber to the leader
Take the leader, the length of starter yarn you have on your bobbin and pull it out of the orifice, making sure that the leader is on the exact track you want your yarn to follow.
Hold the leader so it is touching your drafted out roving and start to spin.
You are trying to get your roving and the leader yarn to twist or wrap together to start pulling the new yarn you are spinning onto the bobbin.
If you are spinning worsted, you need to draft out more fiber as the fiber you have already drafted out is twisted by the wheel.
Your hand closest to the wheel is going to pinch the fiber to keep the twist in the drafted fiber, your other hand is holding the fiber and pulling or drafting out the next section to be spun.
When I draft, I look more like an inchworm, draft some, pinch and spin, draft some, pinch the fiber and spin in the twist.
You can draft too much or too little
If you are having problems with your yarn, chances are you are not drafting the fiber to the degree that you need to.
If your yarn is breaking, you are drafting too much, you have too few fibers going into the yarn you are spinning. Either put together 2 of your roving columns and draft them together or just draft less severely.
If your yarn is super chubby, this is where I spent nearly all of my early spinning time, you need to draft out the fibers more before adding the twist.
You can draft more extensively as you spin or split the roving and work with a thinner column of fibers and see if the same amount of drafting off of a smaller section will make the yarn thickness you want.
In case you are wondering about your feet, treadle as slowly as you can. If you are having trouble keeping your treadling slow, practice just treadling without spinning.
This sounds a bit crazy, but it will help you get the feel for a good treadling speed without the distraction of working with the roving.
I find that I tend to treadle way to quickly, more like this is a bicycle rather than a spinning wheel, especially if I am having a hard time with the wool.
I have never thought to myself while I’m spinning, “gosh Kathy you are treadling way too slow”, never! I’m always too fast if the speed is off.
It could easily be that with a different wheel I would be treadling too slowly, but for what I spin now and the wheel I work with, I, like most folks, tend to over rather than under treadle.
How To Get Started With Spinning is an article with multiple embedded videos from The Woolery that gives you a nice overview of the things you’ll need to start spinning your own yarn!