Kim's Blog

Preparing Commercial Sliver and Roving for Spinning

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
Water from commercial Gotland fibre. It is sometimes surprising how much gunk is actually in commercially prepared sliver.
Water from commercial Shetland fibre.

Leave a Reply