Woman using a traditional spinning wheel.jpg

FIber Glossary

Photo by Peter Lewicki

A


Angora Goat

a breed of fiber goat that produces 

B


Batts

quantities of fiber that have been carded on a drum carder and are ready to be spun.

Bobbin

a cylindrical part of a spinning wheel around which yarn is spun. 

Break Length

an abnormal weak spot in a staple of fiber. 

C


Cake

yarn that has been wound from a hank using a device called a swift to produce a cake-shaped ball of yarn. 

Carding

the process of straightening fibers for spinning and can be done by hand with either two carding combs or a hand-crank drum carder or on a large machine. 

Castle Style Spinning Wheel

sometimes referred to as an upright wheel, this wheel is set up differently than a saxony wheel. The flyer drive is set above the drive wheel, and can use either a single or double treadle. This type of wheel is usually more compact and easier to transport. 

Character

the overall evaluation of fiber based on the cumulative, qualitative assessment of luster, crimp, fineness, and length. 

Crimp

the amount of wave or curl in a fleece that varies by the fiber's diameter.  

Crossbreed

in the fiber world, crossbreed is most often a term applied to sheep. It occurs when two different breeds of sheep have been crossed to produce new qualities in the animal and its fiber.

D


Draft

the process of teasing out fibers to control the amount of fiber that is pulled into the twist while spinning.

Drive Band

made of cotton, hemp, or nylon, this band connects the drive wheel to the flyer. 

Drive Wheel

the large wheel on a spinning wheel that is connected to the flyer by a drive band, and is sometimes referred to as the fly wheel. It is connected to the treadle that powers the rotation via a footman. 

Drop Spindle

an inexpensive small device (a disk and dowel) that can be used to spin yarn using only hand power and gravity.

Drum Carder

a hand-crank powered machine that is used to turn fiber into batts ready for spinning. 

E


F

Felting

the matting together of fiber using heat and or agitation to create a dense, course fabric. 

Fiber

a term used to refer to a variety of natural materials that can be spun into yarn, including animal-based and plant-based. 

Fleece

the shorn fiber of an animal in it's natural state. 

Flyer

a U-shaped piece that holds the bobbin in place via a metal rod in the center. Hooks are attached at fixed spots along the U-shaped portion to guide the yarn to wind onto the bobbin evenly. In addition, there is a hole towards the bottom that the yarn is fed through to enable the spinner to wind the yarn onto the bobbin.

Fly Wheel

the large wheel on a spinning wheel that is connected to the flyer by a drive band, and is sometimes referred to as the drive wheel. It is connected to the treadle that powers the rotation via a footman. 

Footman


G


Grade

a classification system used to rate raw fleeces. 

Guard Hair

coarse, thick fibers that protect an animal's fleece but are not desirable for spinning and knitting. Some llama fiber contains guard hairs, and the hair must be extracted to make a viable yarn. 

H


Hank

a continuous loop of yarn fastened with ties and is often used for different hand dying techniques. Must be used with a swift to transition the fiber into a ball or cake that can be used for knitting.

I


J


K


Kemp

scratchy, brittle fibers that are present within a larger fleece. Since they are not fine and do not take dye well, they lower the overall quality of the fiber. 

L


Lanolin

the wax produced by sheep that is designed to protect the wool from the climate. Some spinners choose to spin from "raw" fleeces that still contain lanolin and wash the grease out after the yarn has been spun. 

Lock

 

Luster

the shine of fleece or fiber. 

M


Medulation / Medulated Fiber

 

Micron

a unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter and is used to measure the diameter of fiber. To determine the microns of a given fiber, a sample is taken and the mean of those measurements is used. Lower microns means the fiber is finer. 

Mohair

N


Niddy Noddy

 

O


Open Fleece

 

P


Ply

Q


R


Rolags

batts of carded fiber that are rolled up

Roving

a continuous length of carded fiber produced by a carding machine. Also used generically to refer to any carded fiber ready to be spun. 

S


Saxony Style Spinning Wheel

the traditional style of spinning wheel most often recognized that usually has a single treadle and the flyer wheel is set to either the left or right side of the drive wheel. 

Scouring

cleaning process used to remove dirt, lanolin, and vegetable matter from a raw fleece, usually using a lukewarm, alkaline solution. 

Second Cuts

undesirable short cuts of fleece that are the result of multiple passes by a shearer, usually the result of poor shearing.

Shear

 

Short Draw

 

Single / Double Drive

 

Skein

most often used to refer to a twisted hank, a skein is technically any type of yarn wound in such a way that it does not produce a standard ball shape. Most craft store yarns are machine wound into a skein shape. 

Skeining

the process of winding yarn off a spindle or bobbin.

Skirting

the process of removing soiled, unusable fiber from a fleece immediately following shearing. 

Slub

a (sometimes intentional, sometimes not) flaw in the yarn, often a thicker portion than the intended weight of the overall skein. 

Spindle

 

Spinning

 

Staple

the length of a lock of fleece.

S Twist 

 

T


Tender

wool that is weak throughout the entire length of the lock.

Tensile Strength

the relative strength of fiber to resist breakage during processing. 

Treadle

Twisted Hank

often referred to as a skein, a twisted hank is a continuous loop of yarn that has been twisted into a braid-like shape. Similar to a standard hank, it must be put on a swift and wound into a ball or cake to be knit with. This is the most common way to buy handspun and/or handdyed yarn. 

U


Uniformity

the degree to which fiber remains consistent in diameter and length throughout.

Upright Style Wheel

sometimes referred to as a Castle style spinning wheel, this wheel is set up differently than a Saxony wheel. The flyer drive is set above the drive wheel, and can use either a single or double treadle. This type of wheel is usually more compact and easier to transport. 

V


 

W


Weight

 

Whorl

Worsted

 

Woolen

X


Y


Z


Z Twist