There are many ways of spinning handpainted rovings or slivers, each
with a different end result. I'll be covering the basic techniques and
leaving the rest up to your taste and imagination.

The two basic ways to prepare your roving are pre drafting and
stripping, which can then be spun and plied in different ways for
different effects.

Pre drafting will make your colours blend together along the roving
wherever they meet.

Stripping keeps your colours clearer with less blending taking place.

All of the samples in this article are 22 micron merino roving, hand
painted using the cold pad dye method. I have spun the yarns as a 2
ply bulky yarn at approximately 10 WPI

Pre Drafting


For this sample I spun the sliver at the bottom of the photo.
As most hand spinners will already know, pre drafting means to gently
pull the sliver lengthwise into a thinner preparation ready for


Pre drafting is done by holding the sliver with your hands more than a
staple length apart and pulling gently on the sliver. The fibres will
slide slowly apart and make your sliver thinner and longer.

As the fibre supply becomes thinner, move your hands along the length
of the sliver a bit at a time until you have pre drafted the whole
thing to your desired thickness.
When you pre draft a handpainted sliver the colours will blend
together wherever they meet. This usually causes the colours to become
muted and slightly more subdued than the original sliver.


Here you can see my sample spun into a fairly thick single (My
finished yarn is a 2 ply yarn at 10 WPI).


I plied my handpainted single with a plain white single of the same
thickness so you could see the way the colours slowly blend into each

I knit a baby hat with the resulting yarn. You can see that the
colours merge softly into one another rather than being crisply
defined stripes.

Stripping or Splitting


I began with this handpanted roving, and using the stripping method, the yarn will come out with more of a self - striping effect, not only is it simple, but fun to watch the different stripes appear.

The term "stripping" means to separate a sliver lengthwise into many
strips of wool ready for spinning. You can strip a sliver as fine as
you want to spin your single, or you can combine stripping with pre

This sample will be stripped without pre drafting so you can see the
different results made by the two techniques.

When you strip a handpainted sliver the resulting yarn will have
shorter lengths of colour and the colours will be the same intensity
as your unspun fibre.

To strip your sliver, find a spot where it naturally wants to break
apart. Begin at the spot and carefully pull the sliver apart along its
entire length.

Continue dividing your sliver in this manner until your strips are as
thin as you desire. Wind the strips into balls to keep them tidy while
you spin.

I wanted to spin a 2 ply yarn of 10 WPI thickness so I stripped my
sliver into strips about the thickness of a pencil.


I plied my resulting single with itself and the result was a yarn with
very short lengths of colour.

When plied the colours met randomly so I have short sections with a
barber pole effect where two different colours are plied together, and
short sections of single colours randomly throughout.


I used this sample to knit another baby hat and you can see that the
colour is even throughout with no striping, and the individual colours
remain clear and intense.

Pre drafting and Stripping Combined

You can combine stripping and pre drafting to create different effects.

My sliver had big sections of white, which I decided I didn't want in
my finished yarn. However, I also wanted my yarn to knit up as stripes
so I needed to keep the coloured sections as long as possible.


To do this I stripped my sliver into only 4 pieces.


Then I pre drafted each strip. The colours blend at the joins enough
to eliminate the white but each coloured section is still quite long.


The four strips rolled into balls ready for spinning.


I spun 2 balls of sliver onto each bobbin, being careful to spin from
the same end of the sliver each time.

You can see that the coloured sections are still quite long.


I plied the 2 bobbins of single together to create a self striping yarn.

If you're careful to divide your sliver into equal portions when you
strip it, your colours will match throughout your whole skein of yarn.
If you're a bit more haphazard your yarn will have sections of single
colours and sections where different colours are plied together as in
my final baby hat.


You can see that my yarn still knits into stripes of colour at the
top, but the colours are less muted than if I had pre drafted the
sliver without stripping it at all.

These are the two basic techniques used for preparing handpainted
slivers for spinning, and the yarns they have produced. However the
number of different ways you can then ply your yarn are almost
limitless. Have fun trying lots of different techniques and see which
are your favorite!

Links for this article:

Cold pad dyeing

Free baby hat knitting pattern at  (Knut Hat for Babies)

of more ideas for spinning hand painted rovings. Rovings are
22 micron merino handpainted using the cold pad method.

Republished with permission from here.

Copyright Sara Bradberry 2008.