Drafting “clouds” into roving

About a month ago, Ted ‘blogged about vacationing and visiting an alpaca farm somewhere near Champagne-Banana. I followed the link, gazed at photos of the fiber, and found myself purchasing a few ounces of white alpaca/silk/merino. Lovely stuff – very little vm (yay!), nice color and sheen, quite soft.

The fiber comes in “clouds,” which are carded but really have no orientation to the fiber. The website says cloud form means no predrafting, but I could not get a consistent single without a bit of preparation. I mentioned this to Ted, who suggested that I write up a little tutorial about how to draft roving from clouds.

(One picky semantic note – I don’t think roving can be “predrafted” [it’s just being drafted]. Similarly, an oven isn’t preheated, it’s heated whether something’s in the oven or not. No one “prelights” a candle before they sit down to dinner, nor is a car “predriven” when it’s backed out of the driveway. Anyway.)

Here is the cloud as it came out of the zipper bag:

Separate a small cloud (cloudette?). This is probably about 1/4 or 1/3 of an ounce.

With your hands fairly far apart, grab 2 ends of the cloud and pull just a little bit. You’ll feel the fibers begin to slip past each other. Move your hands down the cloud and pull again.

Your aim is to make a short, thick roving.

Grab 1 end (remember which end! This is Important!), and start drafting again, keeping your hands much closer together.

The roving gets a little thinner, a little longer.

Pick up the original end, draft again. Do this over and over until you have roving that is about an inch wide and almost translucent.

When I spin, I draft backward with my left hand. When I draft fibers before spinning (aka “predrafting”), I use the same set of motions and hold my right hand steady while I move my left hand back. I believe that if you always begin drafting with the same end first, you are imparting directionality to the roving, and this will make the spinning very smooth and easy.

Eventually, you will have a pile of barely-held-together roving.

Grab the end of the roving that you just dropped, and begin winding a ball.

I like to add a little bit of twist as I wind the roving to discourage it from drifting apart. (Direction doesn’t matter – you’ll either undo it as you spin the yarn or the tiny amount that remains won’t be enough to affect the drafting triangle.)

After 5 minutes of work, you have a small ball of roving that spins almost as well as handcombed top. Believe it!

And some weeks later (just like that!), it turns into lovely yarn.

22 thoughts on “Drafting “clouds” into roving

  1. Bless you a thousand times over for your so-called nitpicking; I call it common sense. Yes — meetings are’t prearranged, software isn’t preloaded, sandwiches aren’t premade, and muffins aren’t presliced. Interestingly, a NYT recipe c. 1995 said to heat the oven; today it says preheat.
    Rampant redundancy is what I call it (applies to oval-shaped as well) and clearly it drives me nuts. You’ve made my day!

  2. The tutorial is helpful, yes, but I can’t get the closeup of the fiber (and your gorgeous spinning) out my head. That stuff looks delicious.

  3. The Alpaca batts I got this weekend are in clouds too! I was thinking about how I would predraft them last night, while the oven was preheating and I was premixing some desset ingredients in a bowl. Then I got distracted becasue I realized I’d forgotten to prerefrigerate the water to bring it to the correct temperature (although I did preread the recipe) but fortunately I had some precooled prebottled water so I used that.

  4. Ah ha! I have three lovely, large bags of llama clouds in my closet from a farm in Wisconsin–fleece from Spirit, Askaban, and Moon–just waiting to be transformed. Thanks for the nudge and the knowledge!

  5. Ahhh! Wonderful information. Thank you. I assume you spun that by wheel, no? When I spindle spin, I usually wrap the roving around my wrist but I would guess that anything that fragile would just fall apart. Do you have any suggestions for those of us with only drop spindles to work with?

  6. The “just like that” part reminds of my (tortured) days as a theoretical math major. We called it “hand waving”. It’s so much more magical (and pleasant) in the spinning world.

  7. Hm… funny how anal retentiveness for some (those of us not employed editing things?) it just normal SOP for the rest of us. The yarn looks absolutely sinfully drapey.

  8. I always learn so much from your site. Thanks for the tutorial. However, I’m having a problem: I have several balls of roving that have been sitting around for months and have yet to turn themselves into lovely yarn. What gives?

  9. Thanks June, this is great! And I’m sure the citizens of Urbana Illinois will get a chuckle that you’ve renamed their city. (At least I hope so.)

    For Marnie: Use a wrist distaff. Works great for me, and I routinely use fragile little wisps of fibre.

  10. Great tutorial and just in time! I have a lot of alpaca that I have begun carding. With my Duncan I get a huge batt that I like to strip down and draft. I haven’t been paying attention to which end I pick up, but I will now.

    I hear ya with the pre- stuff. I mean how do you preorder a video. You either order it or you don’t!

  11. Thanks for the info, as I slap myself on the forehead, why didn’t I think of this! I don’t purchase batts as I don’t like spinning from a cloud of fluff. But now I know how to handle the clouds and have more options open to me. Thank you.

  12. June, This is fantastic. Thank you for putting this on your blog. Can I mention this on my website? This is so helpful. Bonny

  13. Wow. Thats the most useful eye candy. 😉 Now I have an idea of pre-drafting (and how to keep them from fallign apart). Thanks! =)

  14. Thank you for that tutorial. I think I might try this on the alpaca fibre I bought on a recent holiday. It’s not carded (or washed, for that matter, but very clean nontheless) and I was planning on spinning it straight from the bag, but I think your method might just work on it…

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