The Ann Arbor Fiber Expo is coming up in October, and in honor of the event I’ve taken a break from working on my sweater wool and am spinning a pound of grey Cormo that I purchased at the Expo last year.    I’ve decided to spin a cabled yarn, something I haven’t done before.

Cabled yarns are interesting — you spin standard singles,  and then ply them together with a lot of extra twist,  then ply those over twisted yarns back on each other.  Since I want a 4 ply cable, I am making 2 ply yarns.   The singles are Z twist –  spun clockwise –  and the 2ply is S twist — spun counter-clockwise.   When I have both lengths of 2ply spun, then I’ll ply them clockwise,  so the final yarn has a Z twist.

And because I am getting bit with the blogging bug again,  here is an insanely detailed and photo intensive post about the whole process from locks of wool to spun yarn.   I’ll talk about yarn finishing tomorrow.

The less detail oriented may skip going below the fold,  and check out my summary photograph – from left to right in the front we have 1) a lock of wool 2)  a lock that has been picked up and is ready to card 3) a rolag – wool carded and ready to spin and 4) the reference sample of cabled yarn – I’ll refer to it throughout the spinning process to make sure I am spinning consistently.

In the back are two bobbins of singles being plied on my SpinSanity spindle.  She’s also responsible for the lazy kate I’m using.

From locks to yarn.

The first step is carding, and these are my handcards. They are Louet regular wool hand cards, 45 psi.

My hand cards and carding leather.

This is the picked fleece I am carding — picking opens up the locks and helps dirt and vegetable matter drop out, making the carding go more smoothly, and improving the finished rolags.

A picked open lock.

The wool is loaded onto the teeth of the card, with the shorn end towards the handle and the tip ends over the edge. Ideally — often picked fleece is a little too disorganized to load perfectly.

The card loaded.

The left hand card is held on my carding leather, and I gently sweep the right hand card over the wool, being careful not to mesh the teeth of the cards.


After the first pass, almost all the fiber is still on the left hand card, but the tips have been opened up and any VM in them drops out onto the carding leather.

AFter the first pass.

After several passes – it usually takes 3 or 4 for me – most of the fiber is on the right hand card. I then switch the cards, and repeat the process until the fiber looks smooth and even. As I card, I pick out any pills or tangles (neps) that aren’t carding out. This batt is carded, and ready to be doffed.

The finished batt, on the card.

To doff the batt, I nudge the toe of the wool laden card against the heel of the empty card, and gently down and across the empty card away from the handle.

Toe to heel to doff the batt.

This peels the batt out of the teeth of the loaded card, and leaves it resting lightly on top of the empty card, ready to be stored, stretched into a roving, or rolled into a rolag.

The doffed batt.

I like to spin from rolags, so I roll the wool from the toe end of the card up towards the heel, shaping it into a loose long baguette like shape.

Smoothing the rolag

The finished rolag is light and airy – you can see my fingers through it a little. This will help make a lofty yarn – if I wanted a denser yarn I could continue to roll the rolag over the teeth of the carder to compact it.

The finished rolag

The rolags are spun into singles, and then wound onto bobbins. These bobbins are made of PVC, and fit loosely over the rods of the lazy kate, allowing them to spin as I ply off the singles.


I put the two ply yarn onto another bobbin, ready to be cabled with a second 2ply. I can spin about one bobbin of singles a day, spinning off and on throughout the day. I finished plying this 2 ply a couple of days ago, and am plying the second yarn now. Tomorrow I will spin the final 4 ply, and finish the yarn.

2ply waiting to be cabled.

The cabled yarn will look like this – cabling makes a stretchy durable yarn that looks braided or woven, and is good for harder wearing uses. I am spinning the singles woolen, so this yarn will also be (I hope!) fluffy and lofty. I washed the Cormo very lightly, to keep some lanolin in it, and I will make mittens and perhaps a hat out of this yarn. The loft will make them warm, the cabled construction will make them sturdy, and the remaining lanolin will contribute some water resistance and a nice wooly smell.

Cabled Yarn


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