Spin 6 : Finding Your Spinning Noodle

by Lori Law

(from Wikipedia, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page)

Spaghetti, vermicelli, ziti… the list is long.  Or, perhaps you call it mien, misua, somen…  However you call it, pasta comes in an unending variety of widths, styles, lengths and shapes.  The contents and sizes of particular types are governed by law on a global level, something many of us probably do not know.  But, you cannot, apparently call spaghetti linguini or linguini capellini.  Pasta is a serious business, it appears.

So what on earth does this have to do with spinning (and no, this article is not mis-categorized, it is not intended to be in the ‘Cook While You Spin’ section)?I have no idea whether or not this is going to be earth-shattering reading.  I am a self-taught spinner, and I don’t recall ever seeing anything quite like this in any spinning books or other sources of information.

But, I thought I would share the method I use to spin consistently, aiming for particular yarn weights, whether they are single-spun, 2ply, 3ply, etc.

I use pasta.  Yes.

I am not too overly technical about it.  It’s a visual method which also, over time, has evolved into a ‘feel’ when drafting fibre.  I have utilized it for worsted spinning (forward draw) as well as semi-worsted (short backwards draw).  I have not yet designed a correlating formula to use for woolen spinning.

It has to do with the drafting triangle (if you do not know what a drafting triangle is, there are many references available around the internet and in every spinning book ever published – here is a list of videos, as well).

Basically, here’s how it works:

If you are looking at your drafting triangle, when the fibre is stretched between your hands (the forward hand being the one controlling the twist entering the single, and the back hand being the one holding on to the fibre before drafting), where it meets your forward hand is where the pasta reference comes in.  In my mind, also, to clarify, I am thinking of dry pasta, and flat rather than round (but sometimes round pasta could be referenced, depending on your desired result or which pasta you prefer).

I have even worked out little formulas for consistently spinning for the yarn to become a particular weight.

In my mind, it’s not complicated; but, I am a visual person (vs. an informational technical measuring type).  When I was learning how to achieve a particular weight of yarn as a goal (taking fibre characteristics into consideration, of course), I looked for a visual sign or signs in what I was doing with my hands in order to repeat the process another time, with a different fibre, perhaps, or to spin more than one skein (for a sweater, for example).

If you are not a visual person, this methodology might sound like goo.

I am not someone who can consistently refer to a piece of the desired single hanging around on a card or taped into my spinning book.  I will keep those, for other reference reasons (mostly because I like to look at little bits of yarn), but while spinning, I cannot continually refer and analyze whether or not what I am currently spinning reflects what I’d like to be spinning.  I also cannot reference single WPI every five minutes without seriously taking up a lot of my spinning time (and thus spinning less).  I wouldn’t say I am neurotic (would you?), but I am a process perfectionist and if I were to use these methods regularly, I would be neurotically checking and re-checking and re-checking a LOT.  I do not want to be doing that a LOT.  I want to be relaxed, enjoying the process, know I am spinning what/how I want to spin.

(This is also why I am not very often seen with a crochet hook in my hand.  I count, re-count, count some more, over and over, because I am never quite honestly settled until I check 10x whether or not I have, indeed, made five treble-crochets in each single chain around.  But, hey, at least I know my limitations, right?).

This is how the ‘pasta method’ works for me.

I first based my theory on 2/6, 3/6, 4/6 specifics*, related to commercial yarn I have readily available to untwist and analyze and compare my hand-spun singles and  yarns to.  I know this yarn is specifically 2/6, 3/6, 4/6, etc. because it is the base merino yarn I use for Oceanwind Knits dyeing, corresponding to fingering, sport and worsted weights of merino, respectively.

It is not an exact science, and there are adjustments to be made depending on the fibre you choose to spin – some fibres are naturally more dense (ie. less airy or crimpy) than others, so adjustments have to be made in consideration of the type of fibre you are spinning and therefore, the type of ‘pasta’ you are spinning.

Based on the these ratios, using the pasta method, two ‘spaghetti’ singles = fingering weight 2ply.  Two ‘spaghettini’ = laceweight 2ply.

If this is not sounding at all sensible, I understand.  But I hope you are getting the gist (or should I say grist?  har har)?

After following this system for a few years, I find I have fairly regular success in spinning the yarn weight I am aiming for (taking into consideration things like the density of a particular fibre and whether or not it works for a particular style of yarn).  I have also found my hands have memorized the various pasta sizes I’ve chosen to represent different sizes of singles.  I use it for both wheel and spindle spinning.  If I am spinning Polwarth, for example, vs. Merino, I will mentally tell my fingers to think ‘thinner’ spaghetti than I would for Merino.

Based on my experimentation, here is a list of formulas I have used countless times with much success:


single ply
1 linguine = fingering
1 fettuccine = sport
1 broad noodles = worsted
1 lasagna** = bulky
2 spaghettini = lace
2 spaghetti = fingering
2 linguine = sport
2 fettuccine = worsted
3 spaghettini = fingering
3 spaghetti = sport
3 linguine = worsted
3 fettuccine = aran+

I could mention about capellini singles for making very fine laceweight 2ply; but, frankly, if I want very fine laceweight yarn, I just think ‘thread’ while spinning the singles.

So, there you have it.  Go forth.  Find your noodle(s).

*This weight system refers to the worsted count yarn system:  in basic terms, the lower the top number and the higher the bottom number, the thinner the yarn is.  So 2/14 is thinner than 2/6.  2/32 is thinner than 2/14.  3/4 is thicker than 3/6.  The top number refers to the number of plies in the strand.  Of course, to fully explain, another article will have to be written.  It’s on my list.  :)

**Yes, I am joking about the lasagna.

Note -  A great pasta resource is the List of Pasta on Wikipedia.