Attenuate That Roving!

~Attenuate. I have to admit that when fellow student, Diane, used that word for pre-drafting roving I started to chuckle . “Attenuate?” my microbiologist brain thought. “That’s  is done to viruses to create vaccines. “Or,” my physicist’s brain said, “to turn down the volume.” Attenuate fiber roving? I’m sure she thought I was losing it! I went to my trusty online dictionary and found this:


[v. uh-ten-yoo-eyt; adj. uh-ten-yoo-it, -eyt] Show IPA verb, at·ten·u·at·ed, at·ten·u·at·ing, adjective; verb (used with object)

  1. to weaken or reduce in force, intensity, effect, quantity, orvalue: to attenuate desire.
  2. Bacteriology, Immunology, to render less virulent, as a strainof pathogenic virus or bacterium.
  3. Electronics, to decrease the amplitude of (an electronic signal).
  4. to make thin; make slender or fine. To attenuate a grove of trees

Ah ha, definition 4; to make thin. As applied to spinning, to attenuate is to pre-draft the roving. Roving is not like batt, the fibers are not all wonderfully parallel to each other. It is important to attenuate or pre-draft the roving both to thin it out and to make the fibers more parallel. Take my word, I was not attenuating roving when I first started spinning and I kept battling the fiber and getting big clumps! Our teacher said that a piece of roving should become about four times it’s length if attenuated properly.  Now, I can’t say that I was attenuating this much.

Time to find out. I dragged out my “Adirondack” hand painted BFL Roving from Greenwood Fiberworks. I divided the yarn into two 2.0 ounce parts.

I pulled a hank of fiber from the roving. Remember, always pull roving NEVER cut the fibers. I measured the length and then I attenuated the roving hank and measured again. By the time I pull the last bit of fiber into a fine tip to attach to the spinning wheel it will have been pre-drafted about 4 times. You can see the difference in thicknesses. (Excuse the wonky colors, the real colors are in the top and bottom pics.)

I’m sure there are spinner who do not pre-draft and do just fine, but for all of us newbies I HIGHLY recommend this step. Most of the experienced spinners in our class do this step.

Using the American Long Draw, which I find is easier for me, I spun the first 2 ounces. I’m still a newbie and didn’t spin over the summer because of the heat. This is my first time back to the Mariah, my spinning wheel. You can see a twist, I forgot to pull the yarn back out after a stop. Dang, it’s a learning experience! I’ll try to spin the other half today so I can ply. And  don’t judge the spinning I’m still learning. BFL is the SOFTEST yarn, I loved every minute I spent spinning it. If you’re a newbie, treat your self to this yarn. I found it so much easier than the bulk textures I’d begun with.

My hints today for newbies: 1. purchase a GOOD spindle, I found that Goldings spindles are wonderful, 2. attenuate or pre-draft your roving, and 3. buy BFL, I felt the most successful with this yarn. It didn’t seem to clump together when drafting the way other fibers recommended for beginners did.


5 thoughts on “Attenuate That Roving!

  1. I’ve noticed that about BFL too. BFL is very friendly and seems to want me to succeed, unlike that raggin-fraggin NZ wool I purchased for practice.


    • That’s exactly what I found. The teacher gave us Dorset to learn spindle spinning with. I really could not get that stuff to behave. It was so thick and clumpy, would not thin out at all!! Then I tried Polworth, every bit as bad. BFL really does want us to succeed! I do believe I’ve found my “new best friend fiber.” lol


  2. Great tips! When I first started I had corriedale (spelling?) and it was all white. Now, I know part of the problem for me was not just that I was a beginner, but that it was all white…I agree with you. It does make a difference if you’re spinning with something that you already like to begin with. And pre-drafting helps a lot in the beginning! I think fiber almost always has to be at least a little prepped before it’s spun (some spins really easy and doesn’t need it-but some fibers lock up as they sit waiting to be used so…). Some pre-draft out length-ways. Some open it up width-ways. As long as there’s drafting going on during the spinning process, I don’t know that it matters unless the roving is multi-colored which method is used? In multi-colored rovings, pre-drafting length-ways tends to dilute the color before you spin it-the colors start to melt into neighboring colors-like watercolor. Opening it up width-ways tends to keep the color more potent as you spin it-the colors stay in their respective spots-more like expressionist slabs of oil paint. You might try experimenting with both ways and see which method you would use for different situations. Could be fun! 🙂


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