How To Make and Spin Fauxlags

How to Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

What are rolags and what are fauxlags? The answer to both of these questions is happy little burritos of fiber. They look the same, spin the same, and create the same kind of yarn - an airy woolen handspun. These preps also have added benefit of being quick to spin since the speedy long-draw or a variant is a must to easily draft them. Plus, they’re fun to to make and spin.

The giant difference between the two is how they’re made. Traditionally, rolags are made on hand cards or blending boards and rolled off into a tube. Or they can come straight off a drum carder. Fauxlags are generally made from pre-made batts, carded roving, or top. The only tool you need to make a fauxlag is a long smooth stick-like object such as a dowel, a knitting needle, or a chopstick. Fauxlags are easier to make than rolags because you don’t have to learn how to use hand cards. Plus, a simple dowel is much cheaper than a drum carder (I still want one though), a blending board, or hand cards. Making fauxlags is also an inexpensive way to see if you like working with this prep before investing in dedicated tools for rolags. 

Let’s get rolling!

To make fauxlags, you’ll need fiber - roving, top, or a batt all work - and something long and smooth to wrap it around. Dowels, knitting needles, and chopsticks all work. 

I’m using an 8” dowel and a Fantasy Batt from GwenErin Natural Fibers.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Before we get down to tearing and rolling, we’ll need to prep the fiber. If you’re working with a dense, thick batt, loosen up the fiber by pulling on the sides. We’re not trying to tear it into strips yet (unless you want to change up the colors or textures), just thin out the batt so it’s easier to work with. Fluffing up the fibers helps with roving/top too if it’s compacted or slightly felted. 

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Before we start striping the batt, pull out a few strands to measure staple length. If the fiber is 3” long, you’ll want to space your hands at least that far apart. Any closer and the batt/roving won’t separate because you’re holding both ends of the staple.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Batts can be difficult to tear evenly and the dowel lets you hold the batt evenly across it’s width for a neater edge. Hold down the dowel with one hand and pull the batt into strips with the other. It’s totally okay if the strips don’t have a clean edge or come away in clumps. Before you roll, you can stretch and pull them into a uniform piece.

If you’re working with roving, you can skip the dowel for this step. Just grab the fiber between your hands and start pulling it into chunks.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

This is the same piece that was torn off in the above photo. I tugged and pulled it out to even the edges and make it easier to roll. When you’re happy with the shape and distribution, put the dowel on the bottom edge. Wrap the edge around the dowel and start rolling. If you're having a hard time holding the bottom edge, you can use a second smaller dowel to hold it in place. 

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

After the fiber is all wrapped up, I like to roll it a few more times with a little extra pressure. Those last few rolls secure the outside edge of the strip and create a firmer fauxlag. I’m not trying to create a super dense prep - that would be hard to draft. The right amount of pressure keeps the fauxlag squishy yet firm which stops it from collapsing during spinning.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

The last step is slipping the rolag off the dowel. Now repeat these steps to your heart’s content.

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Here’s my finished batch. I got 9 fauxlags from this 1.1 ounce batt. The first two I made are a little thicker because I didn’t roll them as tightly - didn’t make any difference when I spun them up. 

Time to spin!

Pick an end and slowly pull it out to pre-draft the fauxlag like so. I draft just enough to join a piece to the leader or the previous fauxlag. Since the fibers are all rolled up together, long-draw is the best way to draft these beauties. 

How t  o Make and Spin Fauxlags | withwool.com

Thanks to the magic of tripods, cameras, and video editing software, I was able to put together a video of the spinning process. I hope this helps answer any questions about how to spin fauxlags and rolags. It’s my first video tutorial so let me know what you think!

My Favorite Posts of 2014

And it’s almost 2015. How did that happen? While it seems like it should only be July or August, I’m looking forward to the new year. I’ve got lots of plans and I can’t wait to get started, but first I’m going to remember all the good stuff that happened in 2014. It’s so easy to always focus on the next step that you can forget to celebrate what you’ve already accomplished. So, in no particular order, here are my favorite posts/wins from 2014.

One of my top wins is relaunching this site. I love the With Wool name, the new layout, and direction. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. 

Rolags: A Love Story & Handcarded vs Drumcarded Rolags

In bits and pieces this year, I learned that I love making and spinning rolags. Rolling them is easy and they spin up in no time at all. Even better, the resulting handspun is fluffy, light, and warm - the perfect thing to add to my ever growing stash of handspun. Can’t wait to do more with them in 2015.

Looking back through the archives, I was able to relive a few of the past year’s adventures. There’s my first trip to San Francisco, exploring LA’s Natural History Museum, and working my way through the Scorpion Submarine. I hope I can go on as many adventures and more in the new year. 

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Another win is my surprise favorite of Tour de Fleece. On the bobbin and even plied, I just wasn’t sure about this skein. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t like it either. It was weird and totally different from what I usually spin, but a good soak did wonders. Glad I put in the work and followed through to the end. 

One of my favorite tutorials from this year is about how to start and keep a handspun journal. It’s a great treasure trove of information about your spinning and helps keep track of future goals. 

The Shur’tugal Socks took far too long to get off the needles. The wait was worth it because they’ve become one of my favorite pairs of hand knit socks. I’ll grab them on the rare occasion I can actually wear wool socks out of the apartment. They also made the list because I’ll really happy with the photos. Taking attractive photos of your own feet is no easy task.  

This year’s Spinzilla was a powerful win. I learned more about productive spinning, but the real lesson was that I was only spinning against myself. I don’t have to compete and constantly compare myself to others. Plus, I got 4 awesome skeins of handspun out of it.

I can’t pick a favorite post but it’s fun to look through the Wander the Web series. The photos are mini journal of my days and there’s lots of interesting links tucked away on numerous topics. If you’re wondering what happened to the new updates, the series has moved to my weekly newsletter, with a wooly bent, which you can sign up for here.

Onward to 2015!

Hand Carded Rolags vs Drum Carded Rolags

It’s taken me longer than I wanted, but after a bit of a delay, I’m finally writing about my last bit of Tour de Fleece spinning. It was a bit of an experiment and a lot of fun. See, several months ago, I got a rolag from a spinning guild demo on making and spinning rolags. Spinning it was fun and I loved the finished yarn but I only had that one hand carded rolag. Fortunately, I’d also gotten some fiber from the demo - natural wool, dyed wool, silk noil, and white mystery wool - to make another. The only problem was my complete lack of hand cards. A few months later when I rented a drum carder, I finally had the chance to turn that fiber into a batt and then a rolag. But would it match? Could a drum carder create rolags that matched hand carded rolags? To find out, I fed the 18g of material through the carder twice to blend the colors and fibers evenly. 

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To match the guild rolag, I split the batt 3 times across the width and rolled each piece into a rolag. When it came time to spin and I kept everything about the process the same. Used the same ratio and twist direction. Plied the single with itself, just like the first. They both got the same finishing, a soak in the kitchen sink with Eucalan and a few good pops across my hands.

Are the finished sample skeins the same? Yes…and no. 

Both yarns are the same weight with similar WPI and have the same lumpy-bumpy texture. They’re both thick & thin and a little hairy. They’re both squishy and airy like the true woolen spun yarns that they are. So far, so good, right? The only difference between the 2 samples is the color and it’s not just because of the silk noil. The hand carded skein is darker with clear distinction between the brown and teal.  The drum carded skein is more blended, lighter in color, and noticeably teal. If I’d passed the fiber though the carder just once, the colors might have been more similar but maybe not. A drum carder has more surface area than hand cards which directly affects how fibers (and their colors) interact. 

Besides from the color differences, the hand carded skein and the drum carded skein have the same texture, the same weight, and the same loft. So long as the 2 are spun the same way, the finished yarn will be the same. The only difference is one of color and blending. Drum carders make it easily to repeatedly card fiber until it is as blended (or not) as you want it to be. How many times the fiber is fed through can have a major impact on the final color, especially with hand painted rovings. 

As for these 2 skeins, I’d definitely use them for the same project. To mesh the colors (AKA dyelots) the best bet is to alternate the skeins every 2 rows. Now, what to knit with 36 yds?

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Handspun Corriedale

I’m glad I saved all the batts I made on the drum carder to spin during Tour de Fleece. Haven’t been able to spin all of them, but the batts I have spun have been worth the wait. They’re both fun to work with and very versatile. If you want a worsted yarn, you can spin them in one big chunk or tear them into strips like I did with the Mystery Batt. For a woolen yarn, you can tear batts across the “grain” and roll them into fauxlags (same as rolags which come off hand cards instead of a drum carder).

Corriedale-Rolags.jpg

The fate of my only Corriedale batt was being torn up and made into 11 ever so squishy fauxlags. I split them in half by weight and started spinning. Seems like I say this every time but I had so much fun working with these. Scout’s honor, fauxlags/rolags are my favorite thing to spin. It’s a shame that I don’t that work with them more often. Definitely a good thing that I also love the lofty woolen yarn fauxlags become.

Corriedale-Single.jpg

The finished yarn is squishy and nice even though this batch of Corriedale isn’t the softest. It’s even a consistent thickness. The thick and thin spots lend character instead of defining the skein as a whole. Looking forward to knitting it up once I’ve got the right pattern in hand. In the meantime, back to spinning through the last weekend of Tour de Fleece!

The Specs:

Fiber: 40g (1.41 oz) Corriedale

Yardage: 90 + 18

Weight: DK - Worsted

Dates: July 13 - 18, 2014

Slow and Steady Tour de Fleece

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Gwen-Erin-Mystery-Batt-Plied.jpg

Tour de Fleece is well underway with 8 days down and 13 left to go. This year, I’m doing things a little differently. As in previous years, I’m aiming to challenge myself and learn something new but at a rather relaxed pace. I’m not trying to spin all the things, clear out my fiber stash, or make myself spin every free moment of the day. In an afternoon, I might turn a batt into rolags and start spinning them that night or the next morning. No rush. The yardage isn’t exactly piling up but I get to spend more time enjoying the process. Plus, at the end of it all, there’s beautiful yarn waiting for me.

My goals are pretty simple.

  • Spin up the batts I made during my adventures with the drum carder. 
  • Spin new fibers. I’ve got Romney, Alpaca, Angora, a BFL/Silk/Angora blend, and silk hankies. All fibers that have been hanging out for far too long in my stash and I’m ready to try my hand at them. Bonus, I’ve turned a few of them into batts. 
  • Try new techniques and read up on spinning. Top technique on my list - A tutorial by Lisa Raynor that shows how pulling a single through several flyer hooks to lessen tension makes it easier to spin fine yarn. I haven’t yet been able to spin a fingering weight yarn on my wheel and this tip might get me one step closer. As for reading, I’ve got the latest issue of Ply to keep me occupied.

The relaxed pace of this year’s tour is growing on me and the last 2 weeks should be a breeze. How’s your Tour de Fleece spinning going? Achieving your goals or throwing everything to the wind?

Handspun Nebula

As unassuming as this skein looks, it is actually spun from wool and a whole lot of firsts. The skein was made from the first batt I turned into fauxlags, aka fake rolags. It’s the first time that I’ve spun a true woolen yarn. The first time that I’ve spun black wool. As well as the first time that I’ve spun long-draw from a traditional prep. More than a sample anyway. Having spun this yarn and to now be holding it in my hands, makes me feel like I’ve leveled up to become a better, more knowledgeable spinner. Still one that still doesn’t know what to make with her ever growing stash of handspun either.

The batt had been sitting in the stash for years without a purpose. It wasn’t until seeing a demo on rolags and actually spinning one that I had some clue of what to do with the fiber. Unfolded, the batt covered my entire balcony table. What exactly had I a gotten myself into? Remembering the demo, I spent the next couple of afternoons turning the batt into 37 fauxlags. They covered most of my kitchen table. Couldn’t help but wonder, again, what I’d gotten into but all those worries disappeared once I started spinning.

Big or small, long or short, the rolags were incredibly fun to spin. Spinning the 37th was just as enjoyable as spinning the first not just because of the different sizes but also the colors. One rolag would be black with bits of purple and the next would be full of eye popping blue. Despite their differences, the rolags combined to form a fairly consistent yarn. Well, as consistent as a lumpy, bumpy, woolen spun yarn can be. Plying definitely evened out some of the more mountainous sections. After a bath and a few good thwacks against the shower wall, the yarn plumped up nicely. I’m ready to prep and spin another skein just like it.

The Specs: 

Fiber: Spinner’s Hill Batt - 4 oz of mystery wool

Color: Storm (combo of blue, black, purple, and brown)

Yardage: 440 yds + 11

Weight: Sport, 10 - 12 WPI

Dates: March - April 26, 2014

Rolags: A Love Story

I try to be a monogamous spinner and only work on one project at a time. Mostly, it’s because I only have 4 bobbins and don’t have a way to store extra singles. I also don’t want to confuse my hands spinning several different yarns at one time. If I get bored, the proto-yarn mellows out on the bobbins until I feel like finishing it or a more interesting spin comes along. This might be a problem when I start spinning more than 4 oz of fluff at time. My monogamous spinning is why it’s taken me so long to spin that wonderful rolag from last month’s spinning guild meeting. I even had a free bobbin ready to go. So, the rolag just sat there, tempting me with its softness and novelty until until I had no choice but to empty my bobbins. The orange and purple handspun that came off turned out wonderfully, but more more on that later. Back to the rolag.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I drafted out a few fibers and started spinning. Turns out that the rolled up fiber was easy to draft as long I didn’t keep a death grip on it. The guild demo last month recommended long draw  and it is definitely the way to work with this prep. The resulting single was a little wild and gave me some good practice with double drafting. I didn’t try to get rid of all the lumps and bumps, they’re part of any woolen spun yarn. I just evened out the largest lumps and tried to keep the irregularities somewhat consistent. Does that sound contradictory? Yes. But was it fun? Yes. I even started looking forward to the interest and color from the bits of silk noil. They add interest and a nice pop. 

The color of the finished yarn surprised me too. Unspun, the rolag’s brown, blue, and green blended together into a heather. To tell the truth, I was reminded of a very large dust bunny. Spun, however, the colors are distinct and quite visible. It’s like knitting with a semi-solid yarn instead of yarn that’s been dyed as a solid. You get to see and enjoy all the nuances and tones that go into a color instead of just one solid note. 

I wish that I had more than just 14 yards of this yarn. It’s soft, fluffy, and wonderfully cushy. I want to knit a hat or even a cowl to cosy up in. Even if I do manage to duplicate the rolag with my extra fiber, I still won’t have enough yardage for either. Just going to have find the right pattern for these few precious yards. 

Before I return to petting this yarn, I want to thank the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild for holding a demo on woolen spinning and prep. Who knows how long it would have taken me to kindle a love of rolags if the teacher hadn’t given me one on a silver platter. Now I’m researching hand carders, blending boards, and drum carders. I even turned a giant batt into 37 fauxlags, AKA fake rolags. Those things are fun to spin too which is great since I have 30 of them to spin.