Guest Author - Laun Dunn
Warm weather yarns are great for creating garments that breathe. To make those light airy summer knits, start with a light smooth yarn. Of course to create that perfect for summer knitting yarn, you may want to begin with a sliver.
Sliver, pronounced sly-ver, is a very smooth preparation of fibers for spinning. It is made up of only the longest fibers with no neps or short fibers. To prepare a sliver, the fiber is combed rather than carded. The prepared sliver looks more like doll hair than spinning fiber.
Sliver is usually a preparation of plant fiber such as cotton. It can also be made of silk. Sometimes a bit of wool is blended into the mix. Sliver produces a more lustrous yarn. Because the staple lengths are so long, sliver spun yarns have a sheen to them that carries through to create a more crisp finished garment.
To spin a sliver, first test a sample of the fiber by tugging a small amount from the end. Take note of how long the staple is. This will give you an idea of how large your drafting triangle needs to be as you spin. Sliver is spun using a long draft. Another characteristic of a mill prepared sliver is that there may be a slight twist to the fiber. If you find that you are having difficulty getting the fiber to draft out, it is often due to this slight twist. The easiest solution is to use your back hand to untwist the fiber. Also if you work the fiber between the thumb and forefinger of your back hand in a motion like you would use to fan out playing cards, this will separate the fibers a bit and allow them to pass through the drafting triangle more easily.
Sliver is often much more difficult to draft than you can manage while sustaining your spinning. The fibers are often so long that even pre-drafting is nearly impossible, or at least difficult to maintain consistency. To thin out your fiber supply, it is better to split the sliver along its length. After splitting the sliver, you may still need to pre-draft it to create yarn that is your desired thickness.
Fibers that are long enough to be prepared as sliver usually lack elasticity. Be sure to keep this in mind when choosing what your are going to knit them into.