Well, I wrote it a few weeks ago, and I've learned a couple of things since then, but here are some things I learned from my spinning lesson with Barbara Clorite-Ventura last month. Better late than never, right?

Plying

My previous method of checking the twist was to take a small section of plied yarn, say 6-8", and bring the ends together. If the yarn doubled on itself it was under or overplied. If it hung loosely, it was balanced. To figure out if it was under or overplied, I took that same section and either added or removed twist and retested. I had also begun to sample when starting to ply, and pulling off a plied section from the bobbin to see how the finished yarn would look.

When plying, to get a balanced yarn you want the fibers to be running parallel to the yarn. I had heard that before, but we actually inspected the yarns under a magnifying glass. If the fibers are angling right or left, you need to add more or less twist.

I learned that, when it comes to looking at tiny things up close, I can see much better without glasses.

You can also examine the look of the plied yarn. If it looks kinda thin and stringy, then it probably needs more twist. When it looks more round, it is probably more balanced.

To check your results, you can pull some of the plied yarn from the bobbin. If you're a purist, you will only pull the section between the bobbin and the hook, and not let it go off the hook. When you're done, you can roll the bobbin to rewind so as not to add more twist.

Spinning

My main methods to now have been:

For worsted: keeping my fingers pinching the point of twist and separating my forward and backward hands to include the amount of fibers I want, and then bringing my forward hand back to allow the twist in and smooth down fibers. This has worked well for most prepared tops and rovings.

For woollen: point of contact, allowing twist to enter the drafting triangle and pulling fibers with the forward hand; this works well for batts and spinning from the fold. Something I've been doing automatically was to slightly unroll the spun yarn prior to pulling, making it easier to draft. I was told this was a good thing.

A new method I learned was what I call "pinch and pull", and it sounds like what Judith MacKenzie McCuin recommends. You don't allow twist to enter the drafting triangle, and you pinch the amount of fibers you want and pull them out about 1/3 fiber length. To get a true worsted, you want to work from the entire top width and not split it lengthwise, so you will have to angle your pinching and pulling to the right and then left to work your way across the top.

The pinch and pull was tough for me because my right thumb wanted to act as a brake on the fibers, and that caused little bunch-ups to gather in my right hand. If I didn't brake, then I felt the fibers getting away from me. Maybe I needed to adjust the take-up to be even less.

With the seemingly inevitable bunch-ups I was growing, a bit of drafting helped straighten them out. And when that didn't work, or when I was at the end of a piece, I could chuck the bad parts.

Chucking bad parts has been tough for me to learn. Veggie matter I've always taken out. But in much of my spinning, I've let little bumps, bits and neps go by unchecked. I figured they added "character" to my yarns. But as I progress and attempt finer and smoother yarns, I've started taking the time to take out those bits, neps and bumps. When spinning laceweight, those little neps really change the look of your yarn! What I'm learning is that everything you do, or don't do, affects your final yarn. Given the amount of time you spend making it, and the fact that, once made, you can't really re-spin it, it makes sense to put a little extra care or work into making the yarn you want, that you'll be happy with when you're done.

Combing

I didn't stab anyone. Yay!

Let's see... the whole thing was pretty new to me, so I was happy to learn how to do it.

The coolest part was dizzing off the fiber and creating soft cloudy top. The hardest part was throwing away the shorter bits that were left on the combs after dizzing; it seemed like such a waste. The thing is, you have to expect waste because you're working from fleece. With prepared roving or top, they've already thrown away the waste and you don't have to see it. I guess it's like skirting a fleece, too. Why hold on to subpar bits? Garbage in, garbage out, right?