Are you interested in spinning your own yarn from raw fiber? If you are a beginner spinner, this post will help you decide which fibers are best for learning to spin, and why.
Much like Alice, chances are you will get stuck down a rabbit hole, except this one will be full of spindles, wheels, spinning tools and implements, and of course oodles and oodles of different kinds of fiber. The variety of spinnable fibers is overwhelming for a beginner, and knowing which fiber with which to learn can make all the difference. The delicious natural fiber pictured above is 100% Australian Merino Wool Roving (with a 21.5 micron count) from Banshee Fiber Art Studio on Etsy. ♥
Best Spinning Fiber for Beginners
There are all different kinds of fiber you can spin into yarn. Whether that is wool from animals, silk from worms, or even fiber derived from plants such as flax, banana, or corn, there are several things to consider when selecting your first spinning fiber.
First you’ll want to learn a bit about microns. Generally ranging from 18 – 35, microns refer to how coarse or how fine a fiber is. The higher the number, the more “grip” the fiber has to it and the lower the number, the finer and “slippery” the fiber. Understandably, a fiber with a very low micron count can be difficult for a new spinner to manipulate. Shoot for a micron count in the mid 20’s to low 30’s range for enough grip to keep the fiber from slipping out of your hands, yet fine enough to actually be able to draft the fiber in order to spin it.
Next you’ll want to take into account the staple length. Staple length refers to the length of the fiber, and also plays a role in spinning speed – the shorter the fiber, the faster it needs to be spun in order to take. I recommend beginners start with a fiber that has a 3 – 5″ staple length and is very clean and well prepared. In other words, try to start with fiber that is not fresh off the animal. As you progress in your spinning
obsession journey, you will have plenty of time to learn how to process your own raw fiber.
When looking online you will see all kinds of terms like roving, top, rolags, batts etc. For a new spinner I would go with roving, as I found it easier to manipulate as a beginner myself.
Before long you’ll be spinning beautiful, even yarn that is a dream to work with. That being said, try not to get so hung up on producing thin, even yarn that you don’t enjoy the process of learning. The most important thing here is to practice, as the animals will always produce more fiber!
Whether purchasing your fiber from Etsy, the Woolery, Paradise Fibers, or any other online or in-person independent fiber retailers, always always check the fiber composition. While many fibers look the same, the following options would be great specifically for beginners.
Bluefaced Leicester (abbreviated in the spinning world as BFL) is a great fiber for learning to spin. The fibers have a great grip and will not slip out of your fingers easily.
Cheviot is a good choice, and great for socks too!
Corriedale is a name you will see frequently in spinning circles, and with good reason. This is a great first fiber.
Shetland sheep produce a wide variety of colors and a high quality wool.
Jacob wool is soft and durable, with a springy quality and can have up to a 7″ staple length.
While Finn has a great staple length and grip factor, it is also incredibly soft to the touch and has a great shine.
Romney is an excellent choice for beginners. It can be inexpensive to purchase, and it is coarser so it has great grip – a help for many new spinners. Yarn made form this would work well for rugs, baskets, etc. I have ordered romney from this link in the past. (She also has great beginner drop spindle kits including romney fiber!)
Coopworth is a relatively recent cross-breed of BFL and Romney. Because of this, it has a nice, medium staple length and a great amount of grip. Yarn spun from this fiber is best used for things not worn against the skin.
Polwarth wool is a bit of a luxury fiber. It has a nice clingy-ness when drafting and is not slippery at all.
I cautiously add merino to this list of good fibers for beginner spinners. Merino is a finer fiber that is a bit more slippery than the fibers listed above, but it if has been prepared properly for spinning, it does spin up nicely. It has a staple length of ~3″. Merino can be easier to draft than other fibers, for example Corriedale and Romney, and it makes a beautiful, soft yarn! Note that it can be slippery, so you may use this as a second step on your journey.
I also ordered several colors of this Peruvian Highland Wool roving from WeCrochet. This is in the high 20s micron range and spins up beautifully on my Kromski drop spindle.
You may like:
Spinning for Absolute Beginners
Choosing a Drop Spindle for Spinning
Merindy Morgenson says
I love, love, love Jacob wool for newbie spinners. I think Romney is great as well. I’m partial to Jacob, though, as it’s the first fiber I was able to spin. It came from a bunch of wools that were in some bags that a friend of ours gave me along with a broken pvc great wheel, well before I ever learned to spin. I was struggling with some coopworth top that I’d bought at the fiber store where we had our lessons, and while still liking the process, was frustrated that it was so hard to draft, even with pre-drafting. I didn’t know anything about preparing fiber, but our teacher and the shop owner had a drum carder. I carded up that Jacob wool (still in the grease, since I didn’t know how to wash wool yet) and it spun up like butter. I was addicted. Now, many years later, I just bought some Jacob top to teach my 7 year old triplets and 5 year old how to spin. They’re already doing better after their first lesson than I was after 3 or 4 lessons. I didn’t care for Romney very much, until I got some at a fiber festival that they were selling off inexpensive. I was curious, and wow, did it spin nicely. I now like some of the fine fibers, now that I know how to process them for easier drafting, but Jacob will always hold a special place in my heart.