Glossary of bad ass fiber terms to hone your crazy mad spinning skills like a boss!



Alpaca -  Alpaca comes from an animal that is a cousin to the camel and native to South America, although they were in North America long ago and became extinct. It is thought that the South American camels of today look more like the extinct animals than the ones that still live in the middle east today. The 4 camelids of South America are llamas, guanacos, alpacas, and vicunas.Vicunas are still protected in South America and cannot be exported.

Bombyx silk - Bombyx Mori is the Latin name for the silk worm that has been cultivated for over 5000 years! The silk is shiny white, this because the worms can eat only Mulberry leaves. If they eat anything else they will die. They come from China. The worms have been so strictly bred for so long that the moths cannot fly. As far as dyeing goes, silk can be treated as a protein fiber or a cellulose fiber. It is thirsty for color and dyes beautifully!

Tussah Silk - Tussah silk is wild silk. These worms eat lots of other stuff besides Mulberry leaves. They can still fly and move about as they like. The tannic acid in their food is what gives the silk it's yummy honey color. It's got sort of a crunchy texture to spin and over-dyes beautifully.

Tencel - This is a cellulose fiber made from trees, much like rayon. The processing is a bit less toxic. When blended with protein fibers and protein specific dyes are used, it tends to lend shine to the blend but itself doesn't take the dye.

Bamboo - Bamboo is another cellulose fiber. I hope the pandas have enough to eat. The same is true of bamboo and like tencel, doesn't take protein dyes.

Fiber Freak - I could fit into this category. I've loved fabric and yarn my whole life. I was lucky enough to be able to turn it into a business. I really love what I do! :-)

Drafting - Drafting is the process by which fibers are pulled past each other in advance of the twist that makes fibers into yarn. The less the amount of fibers allowed to be twisted, the finer the yarn.  

Spinning - Spinning is the act of adding twist to fibers. They can be twisted clockwise (Z twist) or counter clockwise(S twist). Usually, yarns are spun Z and plied S. The resulting yarn is called a "singles" because it is just one yarn.

Z twist - Spinning fibers in a clockwise direction makes the twist look like a Z.

S twist - Spinning fibers counter clockwise makes them look like an S.

Felting (Wet) - Fibers are layered perpendicular to each other in 2 or 3 layers. They are wetted and agitated to make their scales lock together to make a fabric. Wool felts the best, but hair fibers will also felt. I have felted almost a whole fleece unintentionally. :-(

Needle Felting - A felting needle is a metal needle with barbs on the tip and a short bit up the shaft of the needle. The needle is used to poke fiber onto existing felt or into them selves. The barbs tangle the wool fibers and make them lock together. It's a great way to add embellishments to an already felted piece.

Drop Spindle - This is basically a stick and  a weight. The ones I like the best are called high whorl (weight) spindles. This means the weight or whorl is close to the top of the spindle shaft where the hook is. In a low whorl spindle the whorl is almost at the bottom of the shaft. Low whorl spindles sometimes do not have hooks. In this case, a half hitch is used to secure the yarn to spin.

Turkish Spindle - The Turkish spindle has 4 rectangular shaped pieces with a hole in the middle that slide down over the spindle shaft. These are what make the whorl. They are usually low whorl spindles.

Navajo Spindle - These are also low whorl spindles. The shaft can be 26 - 32" long. The whorl is positioned in the lower third or lower part of the shaft. The spinner may sit in a chair or sit cross legged on the ground or a pillow.

Supported Spindle - This is a spindle that has no hook at the top or bottom. It may come with a bowl in which to twist it. The whorl is near the bottom. It's been my observation that stationary peoples use supported spindles and that nomadic peoples use drop spindles. I don't know how true this is but I'd like to make a study of it sometime.

Roving - This is fiber that looks like a long untwisted snake. The fibers have been washed and put through a machine that cards them. Think dog brush but on big drums. The fibers are untangled and layed out mostly straight, although there are still some fibers that do not lie in a parallel way. The fibers are then attenuated from the drums of the carder to make the roving.

Sliver - I'm not really positive about this but I think the difference between roving and sliver is that the fiber in a sliver has been washed, picked, carded and then additionally combed. This makes it "top" because it takes out all the shortest fibers and the fibers running in an non-parallel configuration, leaving the "top" fibers, the longest fibers.

Batts - A batt is fiber that has been carded and is peeled off the carder drum after it has been carded. It is ready for spinning. It sort of looks like insulation.

Rolag - A rolag is a batt that has been rolled up. It looks like dough that is ready to cut into cinnamon rolls.

Hand Cards - These are rectangular pieces of wood  with handles onto which has been attached carding cloth that has tiny metal teeth. The cards are held in both hands with the carding cloth loaded with wool locks. The cards are then pulled across each other to straighten out the fibers. When the fibers are removed from the cards, it looks like a small batt and is then rolled into a rolag.

Drum Carder - A machine for processing fiber. A small drum pulls the fiber onto a larger drum which as been fed onto the smaller drum. The drums can be revolved by a hand crank or electrically. Mine's electric :-)

Umbrella Swift - This is a tool for holding open a skein of yarn under tension. It opens just like an umbrella, usually made of wood or metal.

Ball Winder - This tool makes a ball of yarn that unwinds from the center. It is usually manually operated.

Nostepinne - pronounced "Nost a pin a" This tool is a rounded piece of wood like a dowel, usually with a nice handle. It is also used to make a center pull ball of yarn 

Niddy Noddy - A picture is worth a thousand words. I'll see if I can find one.

Oriface Hook - This tool pulls the lead yarn on a bobbin of a spinning wheel through the orifice so that the fiber to be spun can be attached to it.

Lazy Kate - Worthy of another picture.

Skein - This is the next configuration for the yarn after it has been spun and perhaps plied. A skein can be made into any size by circumference: 2 yards, 1.5 yards, etc. A 2 yard skein is the standard. This makes it easy to figure out how many yards are in the skein. Just count the number of strands then multiply by 2.

Ply - To ply is to twist two (or more) singles yarns together. Usually singles yarns are spun Z and then plied S. If a yarn is spun Z or S then plied in the same direction it will add even more twist and be impossible to work with. Plying yarns the opposite direction from their initial spin direction makes them relax and each singles keeps the other from unraveling and balances the yarn.

Navajo Plying - A fairly recent technique of origins unknown, this results in a  3 "ply" yarn. Think of it as crochet with very long, large loops that a spinner makes with their hands as the singles yarn is run back through the wheel in the opposite direction from the spun singles. It's a great way to keep colors more isolated in a yarn spun from a rainbow dyed roving or top. There are some who say it is not technically a ply because one part of the chain is laying in the opposite direction from the other two loops of the chain.

Woolen - This is a term used to describe yarn that is light, lofty and full of air. Because of this it has great insulating properties.  The fibers used to spin a woolen yarn are prepared up to the point of carding. They are NOT combed.

Worsted - Yarns spun in a worsted fashion are smooth, even and strong. Yarns spun worsted have more shine than woolen spun yarns. Worsted yarns are spun from "top" (See above) These yarns are more classically used for weaving than knitting. But anything is possible.

Setting the twist - This is the finishing  process for a skein of yarn. Soaked in warm to hot water and soap, the skein can be spun out and hung up, beaten to full or hung sopping wet. The weight of the water dripping through and out of the skein provides the weight.

Balanced yarn - This yarn has 2 or more plies and hangs straight, like a necklace. 

Singles- Singles are the yarns made as a result of inserting twist into fibers.

Crimp - Crimp is the waviness of a fiber. The finer the wool, the more crimps per inch the fibers have, e.g., merino. The coarser the wool the less crimp it has, e.g. Romney.

Hand - The hand or "handle" of a fiber, yarn or fabric is how it feels: soft, coarse, etc.

Plant Fiber - Any fiber from a plant, commonly referred to as cellulose fibers, e.g., cotton, flax, rami, hemp.

Protein Fiber - Any fiber coming from an animal, e.g., wool, alpaca, camel down, yak. angora rabbit, mohair goat, quiviut from musk ox, dog, cat. I've spun my cat's hair - really pretty.











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