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Alpaca World Magazine

Articles by Alpaca World Magazine:

Why Worsted?

By John Arbon

The process of spinning is an ancient art going back thousands of years. As a hand craft and mechanised process the rudiments of spinning are unchanged from its origins.

The whole process of spinning is to produce an even yarn from a loose web of fibres, this is achieved by gradually drawing or teasing out the fibres while inserting some twist. This can be best demonstrated easily by taking a small ball of fibre such as cotton wool and teasing out some strands with one hand and then simply twisting these fibres and there you have a yarn.

There are two basic forms of spinning fibre into yarn, one method is for spinning short fibres below 2.5(short staple) known as the woollen system the other is for long fibres above 2.5 (long staple) know as the worsted system.

With both systems woollen (short fibres) and worsted (long fibres) the fibres are initially scoured and then carded, a series of spiked rollers which separate and open up the fibres. After carding the fibre is in a mat of loosely held fibres.

With the woollen system (short fibres) after carding, the fibre is held in a jumbled arrangement in what is called a slubbing. This slubbing is teased out (drafted) and twist inserted to make a yarn. Due to the shortness of the fibres the arrangement within the yarn has to be jumbled to hold the yarn together while twist is inserted to make a yarn. The resultant yarn, due to the random positioning of the fibres, is hairy, low in lustre (due to poor light reflection) and harsher to the hand Figure 1.

Figure1 Woollen Yarn (short staple)

With the worsted system the fibre are long and therefore will hold together in a yarn once twisted and so can be further, aligned after carding and are prepared into a sliver. The fibres are combed, similar to combing hair, to make the fibres as parallel as possible, the fibres are then gilled and levelled, increasing the fibre alignment, into a rope of fibre called a top.

The top is then teased out (drafted) and twist is inserted into a yarn. The resultant yarn, due to the parallel alignment and length of fibre, is very smooth, high in lustre (due to good light reflection), softer, stronger and can be spun finer Figure2

Figure2 Worsted Yarn (long staple fibre)

Both spinning systems (woollen and worsted) are employed in yarn production to produce the optimum yarn dependant on the characteristics of the fibre. Long fine wools such as Merino and Bluefaced Leiecster and noble fibres such as Mohair, Cashmere and Alpaca are all spun on the worsted system so that the best possible yarn can be made enhancing the qualities of the fibre and therefore making beautiful soft textiles. Short wools and fibres are spun on the woollen system for the purpose of producing the best possible yarn given the length of the fibre, generally this produces fuzzy and thicker yarns for a range of applications from apparel to carpets.