A Guide to Handspun Yarn: Types of Yarn and How to Spin Them

Few of us spin strictly woolen or worsted yarns. Looking for a yarn that pleases us and suits our purposes, we mix and match techniques. Hence, we hear terms for yarn such as semi-worsted, semi-woolen, worsted-woolen, wooly-worsted (and probably others) as ways to label this mixed and matched yarn we’re making. Experts in the handspinning world often disagree about the exact definitions for woolen and worsted yarns. With the help from the experts at Spinning Daily, and this free guide to handspun yarn, you can form your own conclusions and continue to build on the techniques and methods that work for the yarn you’re trying to achieve when spinning.


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Spinners today make such a wonderful diversity of yarn types and oftentimes, we can get caught up in the vocabulary used to describe them. If you’re at a loss for words, you’ll love the lexicon of descriptive words especially for spinners in this free guide to hand spun yarns.

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What Type of Yarn Do You Spin?

Worsted, Woolen, or Semi-Something By Rudy Amann


Do you spin worsted or woolen yarn? Don't worry if you don't know—many spinners do not know the answer! They just continue spinning the same way they did for their first successful skein of yarn. The difference between worsted and woolen yarns comes from how the fibers are prepared for spinning, the drafting technique that is used, and how twist is allowed to enter the fibers. There is general agreement among spinners about how to spin true worsted yarns and true woolen yarns. However, most of us spin something between those two types of yarn.

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Woolen vs. Worsted Spinning

Woolen/Worsted R.I.P By Rita Buchanan


Often we fall back on jargon like woolen and worsted because we can't think of what else to say. Rita decided to stop focusing so much on the terminology and whether she was really achieving true worsted yarn or mastering a woolen draw. When she did, she also developed a richer vocabulary for the wonderful diversity of yarns and although she's not certain it's improved her handspun yarn, it has changed her state of mind.

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Spin Yarn that Pleases and Suits Your Purposes

Drafting Techniques By Jeannine Bakriges


Jeannine shares techniques for both short draw and long draw spinning. She particularly likes short draws for spinning slippery fibers such as silk, but for her, neither short forward nor short backward draw has a particular advantage—it's whatever works best at a given moment with given materials. She also uncovers her favorite words of advice from her spinning peers and mentors on drafting for long draw.

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Worsted Spinning

The Short Draw Drafting for Worsted Yarn By Carol Huebscher Rhoades


Carol Rhoades demonstrates the long-draw drafting technique to make a woolen yarn. She prepares for worsted spinning by dividing the top into manageable strips. Worsted spinning makes a smooth, dense, and lustrous yarn, with the fibers lying parallel to each other along the yarn's length. While you can use the short draw for short or long fibers, industry uses staples three inches or longer for worsted yarns.

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Woolen Spinning

The Long Draw Drafting for Woolen Yarn By Carol Huebscher Rhoades

Carol Rhoades demonstrates the long-draw drafting technique to make a woolen yarn. Woolen spinning makes a lofty, insulating yarn, with long and short fibers intersecting randomly to create air pockets. Think light and airy throughout the process of making a woolen yarn.


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Yarn Standard Chart

The Craft Yarn Council has worked with fiber, needle, and hook manufacturers and publishers to set up a series of guidelines and symbols to bring uniformity to patterns and to yarn, needle, and hook labeling.

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Build a Better Understanding of the Various Types of Yarn and How to Spin Them!

Spinning your own yarn is a great feeling—that fiber magically transforming right before your eyes in your hands. As you gain confidence in your ability to make a yarn that sticks together and is reasonably consistent, you may decide that you’d like to try making different types of yarn. Get expert tips and yarn descriptions all in one place with your free download today!



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