For the most part, except when seduced by an indie dyer’s beautiful braid of coloured spinning fibre, I prepare my spinning fibre from fleece. Every now and again, however, I have a bit of commercial sliver left over from teaching a spinning workshop that I hate to see go to waste, so I spin it up.
About six years ago I asked myself why I did not really enjoy working with commercial sliver. Was it because as a beginner spinner I had cut my teeth on local fleece? After some thought I decided that was not it. What it basically came down to was this, although commercial sliver has a soft and silky hand, it does not respond to my touch the same as fibre I prepare myself. On the other hand, indie dyed braids seem fine. Hmmm…..why would that be? A niggling little voice urged me to investigate further and try soaking commercial sliver before spinning it. Bingo! That was my answer!
After a few experiments, here is the method I use.
- fill a basin with warm (130-140 degrees Fahrenheit)
- place the sliver in the water, gently pressing it down into the liquid, without disturbing it too much
- allow the fibre to soak
- when the water reaches 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit, gently squeeze out most of the liquid and transfer the fibre to another bath of warm water; the same temperature as the water it has just been removed from
- then when the second bath is completely cooled, remove the fibre and lay on top of a thick layer of thirsty cotton towels. Do not cover the fibre, simply place it on top
- leave the fibre undisturbed for a few hours
- then straighten out the sliver a wee bit and hang until dry
Once convinced of its merit, I began sharing this extra fibre prep step with students. So far everyone agrees, it makes for a more enjoyable spin. Here are some of the pluses of this extra step.
- the fibre responds more readily to the spinner’s touch
- you can spin a finer singles more easily
- with the crimp reactivated from its warm water soak, it is easier to determine how best to spin the fibre
- spinning oils and, sometimes, more sheepy remnants are removed from the fibre