Spinning from the fold isn’t actually a spinning technique like short draw or long draw; it’s more of a way to prepare and hold your fiber as you’re spinning. In the short and long draw methods I’ve talked about so far, you attach one end of a strip of fiber to the wheel and draft lengthwise from end to end. When spinning from the fold, however, you’ll be spinning from the middle of a short piece of fiber that is folded in half over your finger.
This 50% merino, 50% silk top is perfect for spinning from the fold; all photos via Laura Chau
Why spin from the fold?
There are a few good reasons to spin from the fold. It’s is a great way to control long and slippery fibers such as alpaca, silk, cashmere and blends. Using a short clump of prepared fiber (instead of a long strip) means that you can keep most of the fiber in your hands instead of floating around your workspace. If you’ve ever worked with silk, you’ll know it’s notorious for getting caught on everything and anything!
Fluffy silk tends to wisp apart and catch on everything!
Spinning from the fold forces the fibers into different directions, which allows more air into the finished yarn. This can result in an overall fluffier, loftier yarn versus spinning from end to end. There are also great color effects you can get from spinning from the fold. If you have a hand-dyed fiber with short runs of color, spinning from chunks of fiber will help keep the different colors distinct, not muddy.
Prepping your fiber
This piece of top was split in half, lengthwise.
You can use almost any type of fiber to spin from the fold. Clean, opened locks present a natural piece to spin from the fold. With commercially prepared top or sliver, you don’t want to open the fiber lengthwise as for spinning end to end. Instead, fluff up the top just enough that you can get it to break, and separate short pieces of the full width to spin with. You might want to divide this clump in half lengthwise so you’re working with a little less fiber at once, especially if you're just starting out.
Start spinning from the fold
Fold the piece over your finger.
Once you have your little clump of fiber, fold it over a finger on your fiber supply hand. You can use your right or left hand, index or middle finger. Experiment to see what you’re most comfortable with. For me, my fiber supply hand is my left, and I hold the fiber over my index finger. I hold down the ends of the clump with my middle finger and thumb.
Pull a bit of the fiber out from the middle and over the tip of your finger -- this is where you’ll be drawing your fiber from. Hold onto your wheel’s leader and begin treadling to give it some twist, then overlap the folded end of the fiber with the leader to join it on.
Long Draw: Pull your fiber hand backward, letting the fiber draft off your finger.
You can use a variety of drafting methods with your folded fiber. A short forward draw, pushing the air out of the yarn with your active hand, will produce a smoother worsted-style yarn. But spinning from the fold really lends itself to producing very bouncy, fluffy, lofty woolen yarn by spinning long draw. As you pull your hand back, the fiber should draft nicely off your fingertip -- it’s quite magical once you get the hang of it! You can draft from the side, back or top of the loop -- try different positions to see what best suits you and your fiber.
Joining new pieces
Joining a new piece of fiber is pretty simple, although it takes a bit of practice to get smooth. Just lay a new clump of fiber over your finger behind the bit that’s left, and let the twist start drawing out fibers from the new piece. Every so often you might need to stop and rearrange your fiber a bit to make sure it’s drafting out evenly.
Spinning from the fold is a great way to add loft to prepared top, control slippery fibers, and create fluffy, bouncy yarns. Try it and see!