Drafting, in handspinning, is how you prepare your fiber for your drop spindle. Depending on how your fiber comes, pre-drafting may be in order as well. Here I will attempt to describe how to pre-draft and draft various types of prepared fiber. Though fiber can come in many forms so further research may be needed depending on your preferred material!
Pre-drafting is when you need to thin out your fiber ahead of time before drafting. Drafting occurs when you are feeding your fiber to your drop spindle. Many forms of fiber come packaged too thickly to easily and evenly pull at the fibers to spin. So you pre-draft. This may be taking a braid of wool and first breaking it into lengths. Then taking those lengths and pulling them into thinner strips. Sometimes one will also go through these strips and gently tug in sections to make the wool fibers even thinner. Some consider just this last part as pre-drafting but I tend to prefer to the whole breaking down process as such. Other pre-drafting methods include pulling fiber through a tool with a small hole to thin out the fiber. This usually is when you get your fiber in a ball or when one has leftover or unprepared fibers and they use this to straighten them out in a way. It really depends on how you receive your fiber.
Creating a thin thread when spinning seems to be very popular so the pre-drafting can be somewhat extensive depending on your level of experience. If you prefer a bulky and cushy yarn less work is needed. It will take time for you to figure out exactly how thin you need to pre-draft and draft to get the yarn you desire. Each type of fiber may also change your method.
Some fibers will be longer than others. The longer the better and the easier it will be to pre-draft them as they will have more to connect them. When I work with shorter lengths I notice while pre-drafting that I will break the length much easier when thinning out the material. It happens. It can be easily remedied. I prefer to split the fibers on each broken end and feed them together then spin them quickly before they come apart. Some felt it a bit to keep it together and others simply lay the ends together before spinning as they will mend together during the rest of the yarn processing. There are other methods to this as well.
Drafting depends on again how you receive your fiber. A rolag is a sheet of carded fiber that was rolled as it was taken off the carding machine or tools. It doesn’t always require pre-drafting and can be pulled directly from the roll. Experienced handspinners I know pull from it as they work but if you are just beginning I would gently tug at the roll to pre-draft it a bit. You may be surprised how much material is in the roll once you start pulling it apart!
Some prefer to use a distaff to hold their prepared material. You can gently pull from the fiber as you spin. It comes looking almost cloud-like and the fiber like spiderwebs as you draft. Distaffs are seen in many different cultures and are centuries old. This is a replica of a Viking hand distaff from the Oseberg find. Purchased from “MissingSpindle” on Etsy.
Other drafting techniques include thinning out pre-drafted materials through your fingers as you work. It can be difficult when handspinning on a drop spindle but it is done! Recently, I was shown by an experienced spinner to tug sections out to spin only an inch or so at a time. To tug and feed the twirling spindle as you go. Other methods include feeding out longer lengths at a time to spin larger pieces at a time. This can lead to breaking however.
Practicing pre-drafting and drafting is great to start before jumping right in to spin. In my next article I will show how to actually spin these fibers. I would spend time tease arching various methods of drafting prior to starting. YouTube is a great source for videos.