Worsted (pronounced /ˈwɜrstɨd/), is the name of a yarn, the cloth made from this yarn, and a yarn weight category. The name derives from the village of Worstead in the English county of Norfolk. This village became, along with North Walsham and Aylsham, a centre for the manufacture of yarn and cloth after weavers from Flanders arrived in Norfolk in the 12th century.
Technique and preparation
The essential feature of a worsted yarn is straightness of fibre, in that the fibres lie parallel to each other. Traditionally, long, fine staple wool was spun to create worsted yarn, but other long fibres are also used today.
Many spinners differentiate between worsted preparation and worsted spinning. Worsted preparation refers to the way the fibre is prepared before spinning, using gilling machines which force the fibre staples to lie parallel to each other. Once these fibres have been made into a top, they are then combed to remove the short fibres. The long fibres are combined in subsequent gilling machines to again make the fibres parallel. This produces overlapping untwisted strands called slivers. Worsted spinning refers to using a worsted technique, which produces a smooth yarn where the fibres lie parallel.
Roving and wool top are often used to spin worsted yarn. Many hand spinners buy their fibre in roving or top form. Top and roving are ropelike in appearance, in that they can be thick and long. While some mills put a slight twist in the rovings they make, it is not enough twist to be a yarn. The fibres in top and rovings all lie parallel to one another along the length, which makes top ideal for spinning worsted yarns.
Worsted-spun yarns, used to create worsted fabric, are spun from wool fibres that have been combed, to ensure that the woollen fibres all run the same direction, butt-end (end that was cut in shearing the sheep) to tip, and remain parallel. A short draw is used in spinning worsted fibres (as opposed to a long draw).
In short draw spinning, spun from combed roving, sliver or wool top, the spinners keep their hands very close to each other. The fibres are held fanned out in one hand while the other hand pulls a small number from the mass. The twist is kept between the second hand and the wheel — there is never any twist between the two hands.
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