Getting the Yarn I Wanted from the Roving I Had

plying handspun and commercial yarn

Last weekend I went on a little trip to a local yarn store. While I was there a braid of very pretty roving forced itself into my hands and bullied me into buying it. What’s a handspinner of yarn to do right?

This handpainted roving wanted to become a long colorway yarn. It told me in no uncertain terms that it wanted to be a Noro-like yarn. That meant spinning it as a single ply yarn.


If you have ever spun, then you know spinning a single ply yarn… and getting it to be balanced…. is kind of tricky. That kind of yarn looks simple but its not the easiest thing to do. There is a tendency to over-spin like you would when making a plied yarn. That over-spin certainly helps hold the yarn together but since you aren’t plying, its just all twisty and it will curl back on itself when you try to work with it. (Ever use a ball of Noro yarn and find yourself cussing at it for being over-twisted? Yeah me too.)

When you are spinning for a single ply yarn you should add just enough twist just enough to keep the fibers together and then full the yarn. That’s how I do it. Fulling is basically felting but only a little bit. The handspinner dunks the handspun into some hot water, maybe agitates it a wee bit, and encourages the yarn to fluff up, stick together, but not too much. Don’t go all out or you’ll have felt. (And that leads to more cussing.)

So when I found myself buying this roving (against my will) I told myself I’ll spin it as a single and then do the fulling thing. But… then I actually read the label and saw my new roving was 100% superwash. Superwash fibers don’t full (or felt) of course.


So I came up with Plan B. Plan B was to spin up my yarn all as one ply but with plenty of twist. Then I’d use a commercial yarn and wrap my handspun around it. That gives me alllllllmost the same effect as a single-ply Noro-clone yarn.


Part of the trick to making this work is to hold the commercial yarn straight and under tension. Its already finished and balanced and you don’t want to be adding any twist to it. The second part of this trick is to hold the handspun off to one side, at an angle, and under almost no tension. When you get it right the commercial yarn just feeds onto the bobbin while the handspun wraps itself around the commercial yarn.

It makes for a nicely balanced, finished yarn. It will work up in long stretches of color. I don’t have to worry about over-twist. But it is bumpy and what I have is, in essence, a thicker yarn that I would have if it was a simple single ply yarn.

I can live with that.

And of course you don’t have to wait until you find yourself the involuntary owner of superwash roving to give this technique a try.

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"There is no failure. Only feedback." - Robert Allen

14 Comments on "Getting the Yarn I Wanted from the Roving I Had"

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The whole process sounds complicated but the finished yarn look heavenly. You have areal gift. Enjoy your yarn and share with us what you turn it into.


So beautiful. You have such a special talent. Can’t wait to see what it becomes.


Awesome, Jenn! I’m off to give this a try, using some cheviot roving and one of my treadle wheels, maybe the elderly but always dependable Louet S10. She does thick yarn very easily, as she pulls like a mule. 😉 Love those super hot Texas summer sunset like colors too. They are 100 degrees in the shade. Loved the Texas Rangers history.


Help, please! I went back to this post to try to solve my problem, but my problem is bigger than that. 😰. I spun a ton of alpaca with plenty of twist, planning to ply. Change of mind. Now I want to add mohair fiber and locks to it to make a lumpy bumpy yarn. Is there a way I can add the mohair to the alpaca single, perhaps with a “thread that binds”? Or am I destined to try to spin a mohair single and ply the two? Revisionist planning leads to trouble!


So many questions…Did you plan to ply with the crochet thread from the beginning? And choose to spin S or Z based on the direction the crochet thread was commercially plyed? I guess I’m really wanting to know, what direction did you spin your fiber and what direction was the crochet thread plyed?