How to Spin Thick n Thin Yarn

Lately, I have been spinning a lot of thick n thin yarn for commissions or just for fun. I thought it would be fun to share how I do it.

First, choosing a top is always rough. There are so many good colors and good dyers out there. Lucky for me, I found this little bundle of forgotten Corriedale Cross at the bottom of my spinning fiber bin.

The first thing I like to look for when spinning thick n thin is a top that’s been dyed to have short color repeats.

This isn’t exactly necessary, but I find it more aesthetically pleasing, plus it’s more fun for me to spin.

Then, like with any spinning project, I pull out a little tuft of fiber and measure the staple length.

About five inches. For this sort of project this is particularly important if you don’t want to be fighting while you draft out your thick parts.

Now, for this next step, some folks may call this cheating, but I just call it good sense. I separate the top into 1 ounce bumps and then split each bump lengthwise until I have a pile of skinny strings of roving.

Which I then roll into little nests for the sake of keeping neat and not having a pile of fiber fall into my lap every time I need to choose a new strand.

The point of doing this is to peel the fiber down to size you want the “thick” parts of your yarn to be. I find that a good rule for fitting the the orifice on my Lendrum is to keep things about as thick as a sharpie.

Another advantage to drafting this way: you get a lot of practice joining. By the time you spin 4 oz. of fiber, you’ll be a pro!

Wheel Settings: I turn my wheel to my slowest ratio and have my take up set fairly low. It’s important to get enough twist into the yarn while keeping the thick parts lofty. My best advice is to play around with your wheel to find the best settings for you.

Spinning Thin: When you start spinning, draft as you would normally, choosing a comfortable weight for your “thin” sections. (It’s important not to go too thin, otherwise it’s difficult to get enough twist into it.)

Spinning Thick: Remember your staple length? Jump your drafting hand back that many inches, leaving a thick section, and start drafting for “thin” again behind it. Then just keep going, drafting and jumping as often as you feel you need to. Don’t worry about making it even, because the whole point of this yarn is that it is uneven.

I definitely think this sort of thing works better on fibers with longer staple length, Corriedale, BFL for instance. I’m not saying it can’t be done with merino, I’m just saying you’ll have to work a little bit harder to get enough twist in so that it doesn’t fall apart when you take it off your bobbins. (Yes, this has happened to me.)

I am in love with this Corriedale Cross wool (Crossed with Lincoln I believe, which is also SO FUN to spin.)

I always let my bobbins set overnight before I skein this up. Since it’s a singles, it just makes me feel better about the strength and integrity of the yarn.

After your yarn is skeined and tied up so it won’t tangle set the yarn by soaking it in your favorite wool wash. I do agitate it just a little bit to slightly full the thick parts. Fulling lends some extra integrity to the thick parts, they are less likely to pill or break. After the yarn is done soaking, I also sometime thwack it again the (round) towel bar in my bathroom for a little bit of extra fulling. Then set out to dry and you’re done!


My favorite application for this kind of yarn is a funky cowl or beret.

Continue Reading