Fiber to FO: Planning & Spinning for a Specific Project

Welcome back to the third installment of our Fiber to FO blog series. Previously, we talked about how to turn “forgotten” fibers lurking in your stash into beautiful, spin-worthy batts. Next, we covered some approaches for working with the resulting batts as well as how and why you should sample spin before starting your spinning project.

Today, we’ll dig a little deeper into the nuts and bolts of planning and spinning for a specific project – large or small – so that you don’t have to worry about running out of fiber or yarn along the way.

Just a Little Bit of Math Before You Spin

If you have a specific project in mind, you’ll want to make note of the yarn requirements to ensure that you spin a suitable yarn for substituting. To make your calculations, you will need to know 3 things about the called-for yarn in the project:

  • The total yardage required.
  • WPI (Wraps per Inch, a measurement which pertains to yarn weight).
  • The size of the yarn (communicated as YPP, or Yards Per Pound).

PRO TIP: We’ve seen a few variations in numbers regarding YPP, but our friends at the Woolery have a handy list of YPP by Yarn Weight that has served us well when making our own calculations.

So, how do all those acronyms and numbers help us estimate how much yarn to spin?!

Let’s say the recommended yarn for your project is a light worsted weight. That means that for every pound of wool you spin, you can expect to create between 1100-1300 yards of yarn. If you’re looking to spin a sweater quantity of yarn, this might be all you need to know when sourcing fiber – depending on your desired yardage, you’ll need between 1-2 pounds.

If your project calls for a smaller quantity of yarn, a little more math will be required. Let’s say project calls for 400 yards of light worsted yarn. In this instance, it might be easier to think of your yardage in terms of ounces of fiber instead of pounds. For this weight of yarn, you can estimate between 68.75-81.25 yards per ounce of fiber (remember, 16 ounces in a pound!). Therefore, you’ll need between 5-6 ounces of fiber. To be safe, we recommend rounding up to 8 ounces, or a half-pound, of fiber so that you have plenty of fiber for sampling as well!

Not all Fibers are Interchangeable

Once your calculations are made, take a moment to revisit the fiber content and make-up of the yarn that is specified in the pattern you want to make. If you plan on sourcing different fibers for the yarn you’ll be spinning, make sure that they have similar qualities to what was used in the specified yarn so that you achieve similar results in your finished project. While we don’t have time to delve into the wide world of fiber within the confines of this post, keep in mind that fiber length and other characteristics such as crimp and fineness/coarseness can have a profound effect on the resulting yarn and project.

That’s not to say that you can’t get creative with your fiber choices, of course – in fact, you may have some very pleasant surprises if you do! But the only way you can know for sure whether or not the fibers will work for what you have in mind is – you guessed it! – sample spinning and swatching.

tools and resources for handspinning

Tools & Resources to Make Spinning Easier

Besides your trusty drum carder and spindle or spinning wheel, there are some handy gadgets and references that can make spinning a whole lot easier.

  • A WPI Gauge comes in handy for measuring yarns as you spin. While you can just as easily use a ruler, there are lots of  interesting WPI gauges available that can add a bit of fun to your next spin. Just make sure not to wrap the yarn too tightly or too loosely to ensure an accurate reading.
  • A Spinner’s Control Card has printed or etched lines which correspond to gauge and/or WPI, allowing you to quickly see whether or not the yarn you are making is the correct size. Some spinners find this tool easier to use than a WPI gauge, but both are inexpensive and worth investing in!
  • A Twist-Angle Gauge is easy to make on your own if you happen to have a protractor (this post from the Knitty archives has some great how-to photos!) and is helpful during the plying process.
  • Books about fiber: Deborah Robson’s Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, Clara Parke’s The Knitter’s Book of Wool, and Beth Smith’s The Spinner’s Book of Fleece explore the wonderful world of fiber in great detail.
  • Books about handspinning: Jillian Moreno’s Yarnitecture, Amy King’s Spin Control, Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle and Sarah Anderson’s The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs are just a few of many titles worth adding to your library.
  • Websites: Renowned spinning instructor Abby Franquemont has a website that is filled with great spinning tips; you can also check out and the Ask the Bellwether blog archives for plenty of inspirational and educational content.

We’d love to hear about your favorite spinning tools and resources in the comments. Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more fibery fun!

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Fiber Artist Feature: Benjamin Krudwig

Benjamin-krudwigIt’s been a while since we’ve featured a fiber artist here on this blog, so we are pleased to share this interview with Benjamin Krudwig, a designer and fiber artist living in Colorado with his wife and two cats. He is drawn to nature, color, and all things fibery. His work can be seen in Spin-Off, Handwoven, Knitty, and other publications. Find him online at and on Instagram @benjamin_krudwig.

How did you get your start in the fiber arts?
I’ve always been creatively inclined. I was always into something, pipe cleaner crafts, origami, painting, you name it. It wasn’t until high school that I asked my older sister to teach me how to knit that I was introduced to fiber arts. I put it down (like many new knitters) and then in college, I picked up a crochet hook and taught myself how to crochet in order to combat test anxiety. It’s all been down the rabbit hole since, with me picking up how to weave, spin, felt, etc. over the years.
From concept to reality: jacket made with handblended and handspun yarn.

From concept to reality: jacket made with handblended and handspun yarn.

What inspires you?
Honestly, the easier question would be what doesn’t inspire me. Everywhere I look, something catches my eye. I think that’s an artist thing. Even the littlest details and innocuous events can cause my brain to go into design mode. I take a lot of my inspiration from nature, especially from the naturally occurring colors and patterns.

How do you translate your inspiration into a batt?
First I start with the color palette (for example, greens and golds as seen in the photo below). This is generally the easiest way for me to grasp onto the core feeling of the inspiration. Then, I may add texture to the batt with different fibers to create more depth and interest to the batt. My “Newsprint Tweed” article in an issue of Spin-Off in 2017 goes through my entire process of trying to achieve a specific yarn by blending the base fiber and tweed additives.
Perfectly blended fibers are a delight to spin!

Perfectly blended fibers are a delight to spin!

What is/are your favorite fiber(s) to work with?
I love alpaca, silk, springy wools. I adore using yak, though it can be finicky when blended with longer fibers.

Which other fiber artists do you admire?
I adore Jillian Moreno, Beth Smith, Rebecca Mezoff, Nicole Frost of Frostyarn, Amanda from Classy Squid Fiber Co. and so many others that I have met over the years! I feel truly lucky to have such a great community surrounding me.

What Strauch product can you not live without? 

Easy: the Strauch Petite Drum Carder (shown below). It is my go-to for blending fibers together and creating new and interesting batts for spinning and felting. The ease and versatility of this drum carder is so amazing.

Strauch Petite Drum Carder

Thanks for being part of our Fiber Artist Feature series, Benjamin!

Click here to read more fiber artist profiles in our blog archive; if you liked this interview, let us know by sharing it with your friends on Facebook!

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