Alpaca - A animal from the camelid family that look similar to a llama and are native to South America. Their fiber is silky soft and extremely warm.
Angora – Angora fiber is plucked or clipped from an angora rabbit. English, French, Giant and Satin are common varieties. Their wool is super fine and silky and also very warm. This is a luxury fiber and higher cost, so it is often mixed with wool or another fiber.
Anthrax – A deadly disease that can be contracted through cuts in the skin from raw fleeces of infected animals.
Balanced Yarn – A plied yarn that doesn't twist up on itself when you fold a length. It should just hang there between your hands instead of plying back on itself.
Batt - Fiber that has been carded and left in a thick sheet from the hand cards or a drum carder. They can be used for felting, needle felting, spinning, quilting or as a stuffing.
Belly Wool – The wool grown on the belly of the sheep which has undesirable characteristics and should be removed during the skirting process. This can be used for mulch in the garden or after washing as stuffing.
Blend – Two or more types of fibers combined and carded together. By blending several fibers you can take advantage of the combined properties.
Blocking – The process of wetting and drying a skein of yarn or a knitted or crocheted garment. Usually the skein is weighted or dried on a blocker. A garment can be pinned while it dries.
Bobbin – The bobbin is the spool like thing that fits inside the flyer and the yarn is wound onto the bobbin as it is spun.
Bradford Count or System – The Bradford Spinning Count System which originated in England was a system of grading wool but the number of 560 yard skeins that could be spun from one pound of wool.
Break – A break is a weak point that is found in wool and come from a sudden change of feeding routine or health problems. To test for a break take a strip of wool about 1/8 inch wide and try to break it by pulling on both ends. The wool that has a break will constantly break easily and at the same place in the wool. The wool on either side of the break will be stronger.
Britch Wool - wool from the britch area which encompasses the rear-end and lower hind legs of the sheep. Picture where pants would be if they wore them. Also known in some areas as breech wool. The terms may have come from britches and breeches which are pants.
Bright - A bright wool is very white and bright. It is highly reflective and clean and should have a clean very white appearance as opposed to a creamy or darker white fleece.
Butt – This means the shorn end of a lock of wool or fleece.
Camelid – A Camel, alpaca and llamas are the most commonly used fiber animals in the camelid grouping. They are all related but each has different characteristics and the fiber also varies.
Canary Stains – These are yellowish stains usually found on raw fleeces that are caused by dung and urine. They will often wash out if they are not too bad, or they can be skirted out.
Carders – Usually hand cards are referred to as simply carders. Two large area brushes similar to those used for dogs and have wire bristles. The fiber is run through the carders and this opens them, cleans them, and also aligns them for easy drafting.
Carding – This is the process of opening and using a carding technique for preparing fibers for spinning or felting. This can refer to hand cards, drum carders or even mechanically carded fibers and rovings and batts.
Cashmere - a fiber that comes from goats which is very fine (less than about 18 microns) and is considered a luxury fiber because it is relatively hard to find.
Cellulose Fiber – A fiber made from the cell walls of some plants, such as hemp, cotton and ramie.
Citric Acid – A type of acid that can be used for setting dyes and is an ingredient in Kool Aid and other drink mixes that are commonly used to dye protein type fibers such as wool.
Coated Fleeces – This refers to when the sheep are covered with special coats to keep the wool clean and free of vegetable matter.
Colored Wool – this generally refers to naturally non white fleeces. It can be black, brown gray or even the darker creams.
Colorfast – a term used to describe how well the dye holds to the fiber during washing or exposure to light.
Combing – Combing is a fiber preparation that uses Viking type combs and us used for true worsted yarns. It flawlessly aligns all the fibers in a parallel fashion and also allows the fibers to all be combed in one direction. This means that all the butt ends or tips are pointed in the same direction. This allows the final yarn to be very smooth and lustrous.
Consistency – This refers to the distribution of fiber and its characteristics. A consistent fleece is uniform in texture, length and condition. It can also be used to describe a lock of wool or even roving.
Cotted – A cotted fleece or lock contains some areas that are felted or matted together. This is undesirable and these areas may need to be completely removed. Some mild cotting may be removed by careful opening of the fibers and picking.
Crimp – Crimp is the tiny waves found in locks of fleece. Distinct crimp are small and tight with a very uniform appearance. Finer wools such as Merino exhibit a lot of this type of crimp and generally have more crimps per inch.
Cross Breed or Cross Bred – When a sheep's parents are of two distinctly different breeds, such as our own “Sherinos” A Shetland/Merino cross breed. It can also be a verb, to refer to such a breeding.
Direction of Twist – There are two directions, S twist and Z twist. Z twist yarns have been spun to the right or by spinning the wheel clockwise, and S twist yarns are spun to the left or counter clockwise. When plying you will spin singles one way, they ply them back the opposite way.
Diz – This small tool is used to form combed fibers into an even and consistent top for spinning. It is a small curved disk that has a hole in the center. The size of the hole determines the size of the sliver or top.
Doff – To remove fibers from hand cards or a drum carder.
Domestic Wool – is wool that has been produced in your own country as opposed to being imported from elsewhere.
Double Drive – a type of wheel where the flyer and bobbin both have drive belts that are driven by the drive wheel.
Double Coated - Double coated animals are generally one of the primitive breeds such as Shetland or Icelandic sheep. They have a longer and stronger wool that is mixed in with a shorter and finer wool. Combing can separate these very well, or they can be spun together without separating.
Double Fleece – This term means that the sheep was not sheared for two years, thus it has a two year growth of wool.
Drafting – The process of pulling on the fibers and feeding them from the drafting hand to the spinning hand. The drafting hand manages the fiber thickness and the spinning hand manages the twist.
Drive Ratio – This is the ratio between your drive wheel and the whorl on your flyer. To see what drive ratio you are using, put the drive wheel in it's highest postion and turn it slowly by hand while you count the number of turns the whorl makes during one revolution of the drive wheel, which also corresponds to one treadle of a single treadle wheel.
Drive Wheel – This is the large wheel that the treadle turns. It has a drive band that turns the whorl on the flyer.
Drop Spindle – This is a spindle that you hold in the air, and as you draft the fibers and spin the yarn, the spindle drops down and the yarn forms. You then wind on the yarn you made and repeat the process. There are high whorl or low whorl drop spindles.
Drum Carder – This is a carder that features cylinders (or drums) that are wrapped in carding cloth. The drums draw in the fiber and open and align the fibers. A drum carder makes a batt of fiber that can be spun, felted or used in a quilt.
Dung Tags - Pieces of fleece with balls of poop hanging on them.
Dye – Dye is any substance that is used to apply color to fibers. It can be made from natural sources like flowers and plants. There are commercial acid dyes that are very consistent but toxic, or you can use kool aid and even food coloring with vinegar or another acid added to make the fiber absorb the dye. Drink mixes have citric acid added already and are a great way to start, and lots of fun too. Food color dyes only work on protein based fibers like wool and do not work on cellulose fibers like bamboo and cotton.
Dye Bath – The dyes mixed into liquid, usually water with an acid that the fiber it immersed in so that it can absorb the dye.
Elasticity – This refers to the wools ability to return to it's previous length after being stretched.
English combs – Hand combs that have double rows of teeth and are used to prepare tops.
Evenness - A term used to desribe how uniform the fleece or lock is in its characteristics.
Exhaustion – The dye that has been absorbed from the dyebath during the dye process.
Felt / Felting – The process of intertangling fibers by making layer of carded fibers and adding hot water and agitation or by using special felting needles. The end result is felt much like you would purchase in a craft store.
Felting needles – Small needles with special barbs on the tips that tangle the fibers when punched into a bat or fiber mass repeatedly. Sculpting and appliquéing is done frequently with felting needles.
Feltablility – The ease of which a particular fiber or blend will make felt. The tiny scales on wool for example will help the process happen faster so some types of wool felt faster than others.
Fiber – Fiber refers to any type of thing that can be spun into a thread or yarn. It encompasses everything from horse hair to dryer lint. If it can be made into yarn, you can call it fiber.
Filament – fiber of extreme lengths such as silk which is a natural filament or man made fibers like nylon and polyester.
Fine wool - This is any wool with a micron count of 18 – 24 or a Bradford Count of less than 64.
Flax - A fiber that is made from a plant, and is spun into threads which we call linen. It can be spun wet or dry.
Fleece - the wool off of one sheep is a fleece. In the grease is an unwashed fleece and a cleaned or washed fleece has had the lanolin removed.
Flicker Brush - A small brush that looks similar to a hand card, but smaller. The lock is held in one hand and the other ends are flicked with the brush to open them and prepare them for spinning.
Flyer - The U shaped housing for the bobbin, usually it has hooks on it for the yarn to feed through. This is what adds the twist to the yarn, and also causes it to be wound onto the bobbin.
Footman - the connector that attaches the treadle to the drive wheel axle.
Fulling - the action of using hot water and soap along with agitation to felt a piece of wool fabric into a thick, dense cloth or article of clothing.
Gauge - Determining the number of stitches per inch in a knitted cloth. A gauge swatch should include at least 4 inches of stitches, preferable 6 for best accuracy. Once the swatch is made, measure off exactly four inches and count all the stitches in the four inch space and divide by four. Be sure to include fractions of an inch, especially for large garments.
Grade - A way of classifying wools into groups, blood grade, Bradford Count and also by measuring the Micron count.
Gray Wool - White wool that has some dark fibers, or in naturally colored sheep many dark fibers.
Grease Wool - Wool that has not been washed and still has the lanolin coating all the fibers.
Guard Hair - Hairs in a fleece that are course and stiff. The usually protrude from the main fleece and are undesirable in large numbers.
Handle - Term to classify how the wool feels as it is being handspun. Wool with a good handle should be soft and lovely to touch.
Handspun - Yarns spun by hand on a spinning wheel or spindle.
Kemp - Harsh and course hairs that will not dye and are usually found in areas that are skirted out of the fleece.
Lambs Wool - The first shearing from the sheep, usually before one year.
Lanolin - The greasy, sticky coating on wool before it has been washed. Purified lanolin may be purchased to treat garments to keep them waterproof, or it is also good for chapped lips, dry skin and diaper rash.
Lazy Kate - Used to hold bobbins with singles so that they can be plied together on the spinning wheel or spindle.
Leader - A length of yarn that is attached to the bobbin, it is used as a starter yarn to spin new yarn by joining onto the leader.
Linen - A yarn or fabric that has been made out of fibers from the flax plant.
Llama - A member of the camelids which includes camels, llama, and alpacas.
Lock - A bunch of fiber that naturally holds together in one wave or curl, usually from the grease in the wool.
Loft - Refers to the airiness of the fleece, yarn or roving. Fluffy and airy is desirable, as it increases warmth and makes the yarn soft and lovely to touch.
Long Draw - In this technique, the hands are held apart of a distance of a foot or more. The twist is allowed to enter the drafting area a little so that when the hands pull the fiber it doesn't pull apart but forms a yarn, as the fiber is drafted.
Long Wool - wools that are longer, from 8 inches or more and are taken from long wool breeds such as Lincoln long-wools, Wensleydale or other breeds that produce very long staple lengths.
Luster - The shiny appearance of wools, particularly longer stapled wools. They really shine when spun as a worsted yarn.
Maidens - The two supports on the wheel that hold the flyer assembly.
Marl Yarn - Two singles of different colors that have been plied together, usually giving a barber pole effect. These can be made from two different types of fiber that take dyes differently, then dyed for unusual effects.
Micron - A measurement to record the fineness of a fiber shaft. It is equal to about 1/25,000 of an inch.
Mohair - Long and shiny locks of fiber that are harvested from the Angora goat. These fibers from a young goat (kid mohair) are silky soft and perfect for fine garments. The courser fibers from older animals are great for garments, rugs and sock yarn. The fiber added in 25% amounts will make the roving draft very easily and also lend a shiny luster to the finished yarn.
Mother of All - The base that holds the maidens, flyer and bobbin.
Natural Fiber - Any fiber obtained from a natural source such as plants, silk worms, sheep or alpacas.
Navajo Plying - A plying technique that is well suited to preserving color changes. You make a large loop, then put your hand through this loop and pull another loop of the single through, while spinning the wheel. It creates a 3 ply yarn out of one single, which reduces waste due to only plying one single.
Neps - Small balls of irritating fibers that caused by over carding, or second cuts. They can also occur from the fiber having a break or weak tips.
Niddy Noddy - An interesting contraption that allows you to hand wind a skein of a specific yardage, usually 1, 1.5 or 2 yards. The finished skein can be counted for an accurate yardage of the finished skein.
Noils - The shorter fibers that are removed from the combing process in wool, and also those from silk. They are just fine for spinning and can often be purchased at a reduced price.
Nostepenne - Traditionally made from wood, this tool is simply a rod of wood that is usually tapered somewhat like a candle. You can use a candle covered with plastic wrap or a toilet paper tube for the same purpose.
Novelty Yarns - Yarns with a lumpy - bumpy texture, pieces of ribbon or other non-traditional appearance. These are quite popular and can make some fun projects.
Nylon - A man made material that is often added to sock yarn to give greater durability. It can be knitted in with a separate strand, or yarns can be purchased with this already mixed in.
Orifice - The part of the spinning wheel where the leader yarn is threaded through and spun. It is basically the whole on the side of the flyer.
Overspun - A yarn that has had too much twist added. These are knobby, hard and although can be interesting can be scratchy and lacking in softness. They are also more durable and can add interest and texture to some projects.
Peasant Combs - Hand combs that have only one row of teeth. The produce a semi worsted yarn after the fiber is spun.
Pelt - a skin with the fur, or wool attached.
Picker - An evil looking device that opens and fluffs the wool prior to being washed or carded. This device separates the locks and allows much of the dust and debris to fall out of the fleece. It also is used to mix fibers together for a blended spinning fiber.
Pills - Pilling - Most common is short stapled fibers, and also those with second cuts, or weak points. These small bits of fiber work out of the spun yarn and form annoying little balls on the finished garment. Merino has a greater tendency towards this because of the fineness of the fibers. Singles that are knitted also have a bigger tendency towards pilling. Adding extra twist and plying will reduce pilling considerably.
Plied Yarns - When you spin a bobbin of fiber you have a single spun yarn. When this is spun again with a second third or more singles in the opposite direction the singles were first spun, it is a plied yarn. Plied yarns have less pilling and are also more durable, particularly for knitted garments.
Polyester - A man-made fiber that can be knitted in or blended in to increase strength of the yarn.
Primary Colors - Red, Yellow and Blue. Theoretically these three colors can be combined to make any other color. While this is true to some extent, warm reds and cool reds for example will give very different results when mixed with the same blue. You can achieve most colors with a warm and cool of each primary color, but it will require testing and quite a bit of study of color theory.
Primitive sheep / wool - The sheep are less domesticated, and are more well.. primitive, their wools are often double coated, that is to say they have a courser longer fiber and also a finer soft undergrowth of fiber. Shetlands and Icelandics can both carry this type of fleece, and they are also a primitive type sheep. These sheep can also have single coat fleeces as well.
Protein Fibers - Fibers derived from animals, such as wool or silk, and also some plant fibers such as soy silk. These fibers are dyed with acid dyes and a great way to test if your fiber is protein or cellulose is to try dying it with Kool Aid. Cellulose like cotton will not take up any of the dye, some plant fibers will dye with Kool Aid, such as soy silk. Always test first with a small sample!!!
Purebred - An animal with both parents of the same breed, usually these animals are resisted with a breed association, to prove they are purebred.
Qiviut - The soft and fluffy undercoat from the musk ox. This is the warmest fiber you can wear.
Quarter Blood Wool/ sheep - usually refers to a fleece or sheep that is one quarter Merino.
Rafia - a cellulose fiber derived from rafia palms.
Range Wool - Essentially, wool from a free range sheep that was raised on the range in western America.
Raw Silk - fibers that have been degummed and taken off the silk cocoon, but not spun yet.
Raw wool - Wool that is still "in the grease" as in not washed or scoured.
Rayon - another man-made fiber that drapes nicely and has a soft feel.
Reclaimed Wool - Wool that has been recycled from old garments or cloth. You can often buy a wool sweater at a thrift shop and unravel it, then re-knit it into another garment.
Resilience - The stretchiness or ability to return to its previous shape.
Rolag - A cylinder shaped roll of wool that is used to spin woolen type yarns.
Roo or Rooed or Rooing - Shetland sheep will form a natural break in their wool each spring, the wool may then be easily pulled off, and this is called to roo the sheep.
Roving - A long strand of carded fiber that is a long rope of ready to spin fiber.
S-Twist yarn - When you look at an S twist yarn, the twist will go in the same direction as the middle of the S. To spin an S twists yarn your spindle or wheel should travel clockwise. S twist singles are plied with a Z twist, or by spinning the wheel/spindle counter-clockwise.
Saxony Style Wheel - A wheel that has the flyer and drive wheel side by side, in a horizontal layout.
Scales - overlapping scaly protrusions that overlap on fiber, these are what make a fiber easy to felt, as these scales catch on one another and entangle.
Scotch Tension - A wheel with one drive band that is attached to the flyer, and another tensioned band that goes over the other end of the bobbin. When the spinner moves their hands forward, the band causes the bobbin to stop spinning and the flyer winds they newly spun yarn around the bobbin. When tension is returned to the yarn in the spinners hands, the bobbin begins to spin at the same speed as the flyer.
Souring - Washing and de-greasing wool. Scouring for the big mills also uses an acid to dissolve any vegetable matter present, but the wool is not quite as soft afterwards. A fleece can lose 1/3 to as much as 1/2 of its weight in the washing process.
Second Cuts - When the shearer cuts an already cut fiber twice accidentally or through carelessness. These little clumps of short fibers will make very undesirable balls in the yarn and greatly increase pilling in the finished garment.
Semi Worsted - Yarns that were spun from preparations that have the fibers mostly aligned parallel to one another, such as pin-drafted fibers.
Serrations - The scales that are on each individual strand of wool. The finer the wool the more of these are present along the shaft of the fiber. This is what allows the felting process to occur.
Setting The Twist - The process of returning the wool to its previous condition. When wool comes off the sheep it will have a specific number of crimps per inch. During carding, combing or pin-drafting these fibers are straightened. When the yarn is exposed to water again it will return to it's previous condition as best it can, somewhat like curly hair on a person will get curlier when wet. Some people will dry their singles or plied yarns with a weight, but this will not prevent further shrinkage later during laundering. To prevent shrinkage wash your newly spun yarn in very hot water with no agitation (otherwise it will felt) and then roll in a towel and walk on it to remove the water, or you may use the spin cycle of the washing machine. Then hang without weights to dry. Unless a yarn is severely over-twisted, even a singles will be balanced enough to work with in most cases. A note: If you wash a singles in this manner, then decide to ply it, you will need to add a small amount of additional twist first, then re-wash after plying.
Shearing - The process of removing the wool from fiber animals with either hand clippers or electric.
Sheepskin - A skin from a sheep with the wool still in place. These are infamous for use to relieve pressure for saddles, bedridden people and also as liners in jackets.
Singles - One individual strand of spun yarn. These may be plied together or used as they are. These are sometimes referred to single ply yarn.
Skein - A ball of yarn commercially prepared usually with a center pull. This term is also used to describe yarn that has been wound around a swift or niddy noddy.
Skirting - The removal of the waste wool from a fleece. Ideally this is done as soon as it's shorn. Any second cuts are shaken out. The britch or wool from the butt of the sheep is removed, as is the belly wool; and the head wool if any is present. Then any large dung tags are removed and often also any bad spots that would render that area unspinnable.
Slubby Yarn - The lumpy bumpy slubby yarn that can be so lovely in projects, this yarn has a varied thickness and lends the finished fabric a unique look and feel. This is often similar to what a beginner spins, excepting that the beginner isn't usually trying to produce slubs.
Space Dyed Yarns - Yarns with irregular areas of colors, similar to hand-painted yarns.
Spindle - A gyro on a stick that can be used to spin wool, they are easy to make and inexpensive.
Spinner's Fleece - A fleece that is at least 2 inches long, but not more than 4 inches, and has very little vegetable matter. These can be longer than four inches, but from 2-4 is the easiest to spin, but this is variable and the term may apply to fleeces that are longer than four inches, depending on the breed of the sheep.
Spinner's Flock - A small flock of sheep that are kept for personal use by a hand spinner. Often they include neutered males and a hodge-podge of breeds, each with a characteristic the spinner likes. Often also includes interesting crosses.
Spinning - Drafting the fibers and then adding twist with a spindle or wheel to produce a stronger yarn from loose fibers.
Spinning Wheel - A non technical but clever machine used to produce handspun yarn. Regardless of style, it has a drive wheel, drive band, flyer and bobbin. As the drive wheel spins the flyer turns and the fibers are twisted, then the newly spun yarn is wound onto a bobbin.
Staple Length - The length of a lock of wool from a fleece. Some long-wool breeds can have staple lengths of over 12 inches. Shetlands usually have a staple from 3-6 inches, while Merinos have a staple from 2 - four inches, depending on how often they are shorn.
Superfine Wool - Wool measuring from 15-18 microns, these have been developed from careful breeding of merino sheep.
Swift - A device used to wind or unwind a skein of yarn into a ball or to prepare for dyeing. It is basically a cylinder that spins freely.
Tags or Dung Tags - locks of wool with balls of poop hanging on the ends.