Jillian’s Spinning: Direction

Have you noticed that commercial top has a direction? I poo-pooed the directionality of top for a long time, “It’s processed by a machine, it shouldn’t make that much difference.” But I have found several times when wrestling with a particularly feisty piece of top , if I spin from the other end, the smoother end, it is much more amenable to being spun.

It’s one of those things that I forget about until I really need it. It would be easy to brush my hand along a piece of top before I spin to check which way feels smoother, but I usually forget.

Natural BFL top, smoth direction left, roughed up right.
Natural BFL top, smooth direction left, roughed up right.

I took a few quick pictures of different tops that I’m spinning now. One after I brushed my hand along the top in the direction that smooths the fiber and one directions that discombobulates the fibers. In the natural BFL above I can see the most difference. With the natural fiber I can see the surface is more disturbed in the right photo.

When dye is added to the mix, it makes direction finding more complex. The act of dyeing, no matter how gentle a dyer is, moves the fibers around in the preparation. Look at the next two dyed fibers, it’s much harder to tell visually and by touch the smooth and rough direction of the top.

BFL/silk smooth left, rough right.
BFL/silk smooth left, rough right.
dyed bfl smoth rough
Dyed BFL, smooth left, rough right

With dyed fiber it’s harder to see the disordered fiber. The act of dyeing moves around the edge fibers a lot.  I have to look more in the middle part of the piece of top than the outside edges to see that the fiber is disturbed in the right side of both photos. When I’m checking dyed fiber, sometimes I have to close my eyes to really focus on the feel of the top to find the direction.

Dyed Merino/silk smooth left, rough right
Dyed Merino/silk smooth left, rough right

Sometimes spinning with the direction of a piece of top makes no difference and sometimes for me it can make the difference between blissful spinning and frustrated spinning.

Do you check the direction of your top before spinning?

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Jillian is the​ author of the best-selling spinning book Yarnitecture. She is the editor​ of Knittyspin and Developmental Editor for PLY and PLY Books. She kinda loves this spinning thing and wants everyone who spins to love it too, so she teaches and writes a lot. She knits, weaves, and stitches and tries to do as much of it as she can with handspun yarn. She's always cooking up all kinds of exciting and creative things combining fiber arts. She likes her mysteries British, her walks woodsy, and to spend as much time as she can laughing. Spy on her on her website jillianmoreno.com

5 thoughts on “Jillian’s Spinning: Direction

  1. islandspindler

    I always check my fiber before I start a project. And I make little nests of the fiber if I have prepped ahead of time, with the correct end on the outside ready for spinning!

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