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Spinners and weavers both work with fiber to turn it into usable products, but spinners focus on thread and yarn production, and weavers work with finished threads and yarns to make cloth. Some crafters do both and might engage in related activities such as dyeing, knitting, quilting and so forth, depending on the kinds of crafts in which they are most interested. Handspun, as yarns and threads that are spun by hand are known, is increasingly rare in many markets but can be purchased in some regions along with hand-woven products. Commercial fiber usually is made by machines.
The raw materials for spinning can include plants such as flax and cotton as well as synthetics and animal fibers such as wool. Spinners might process their raw fiber, taking it through carding and combing and into rovings, small twists of fiber that will be turned into yarn, or they might purchase prepared rovings for spinning. A spinner can use a spindle or wheel to control the twist of the fiber and might turn it into a fine, even thread or a more lumpy handspun, depending on personal taste.
Weavers take finished thread, yarn, cloth strips and other materials, and they turn them into fabric on a loom. Loom designs can vary from very small hand looms to more sizable models that are capable of producing extremely large textiles. These can include wall hangings, fabric for clothing and other materials. Some weavers opt to spin their own materials if they want a high degree of control over their work, but others might turn to a supplier.
The key difference between spinners and weavers is the nature of their textile work. Both processes involve textiles, but they have different end goals. Spinners and weavers might rely on very traditional techniques to produce textiles similar to those seen hundreds of years previously, or they might use more modern equipment. Their work can be highly diverse and might include a wide variety of items, such as undyed, rough handspun or very polished finished woven pieces that are intended for sale as works of art.
People who are interested in careers as spinners or weavers have many training options that they can pursue. Technical schools as well as colleges and universities might have textile programs that can include hands-on training. Some of these programs prepare students for careers in commercial fiber production and might focus on automated spinning and weaving processes. It also is possible for a person to become an apprentice in a shop to acquire skills or to start working for a fiber company that needs spinners and weavers, then work up through the ranks to a more senior position.