Monday, July 13, 2009

Blog Free!

No, not, "free of the blog." I mean, blog freely, as in, blog without guilt because you don't have any pictures. I have to remind myself of that every once in while. So, here I am, with a thousand words for every missing picture. Ta da!

I did make it to the Spinner's Day Out Fiber Farm Market, and I did buy fiber. I got 3 skeins of yarn out of Icelandic wool, in very light gray, medium gray, and black, that I think will make a nifty gradated something. I got a bag of llama roving (round) and two (4 oz) bags of alpaca roving (dark brown and medium brown - I plan to ply these two colors together), and two 4 oz packages of 'meriboo' (merino/bamboo blend) that I bought because somebody at the table said that is what they give their beginner spinners. I got one in a sort of cranberry and one in black.

Over the course of the weekend, I finished spinning the BFL in "Myrtle" from the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club of the month (from several months ago). I really, really enjoyed spinning it. While I let the singles rest, I spun a bobbin of the cranberry meriboo. I see why they give it to beginners. It drafts really, really easily. Spinning it was FAST. So, I spun a bobbin full and then turned my attention to plying the BFL.

This is the first yarn I've spun that I actually want to knit with. When it dries I'll check the wraps per inch and see what I've got, though it isn't very consistent in places. Spinning it has been an adventure and a learning experience, though.

First of all, when I started spinning the singles, my yarn kept falling apart. I tried a couple of different things but to get the thickness I wanted, I really needed more twist, so I flipped down to the smaller whorl on my wheel and that solved the problem immediately. Then, as I spun, I kept trying to decide how I was going to ply it. I'm not really a fan of yarns where the colors barber pole, so I wanted to chain ply it. However, the last yarn that I attempted to chain ply came out so unbalanced that I couldn't even block it into behaving. I was pretty sure that the yarn was overplyed, so I thought, when I went to ply this yarn, I would go ahead and chain ply it but use the larger whorl on my wheel. Since I spun the yarn on the small one (more twist per revolution) I thought that maybe plying it on the larger one (less twist per revolution) would help reduce the overplying issue.

I finished spinning the singles yesterday, and today I started plying. I went with my plan, but my single broke right before my first bobbin was filled, so I stopped and wound it off to see how I was doing. No good - still too much twist. I looked at it, though, and thought maybe I didn't have enough ply in it. I went to my spinning book, examined the descriptions of Z twist vs. S twist and I THOUGHT it confirmed what I was thinking, that I didn't have enough ply. So, I went back and switched back to the smaller whorl, started a new bobbin, and picked up where my single broke, stopping to let the yarn twist back on itself to check and - darnit, it wasn't working. I treadled faster. It still didn't look right. My single broke again, and after a few tries at reattaching it, I gave up and wound off the little mini-skein I had plied. Horrible. HORRIBLE! The second I took it off the niddy noddy it twisted and kinked up so tight and thick it looked like cord. Clearly, I was mistaken. The stuff WAS overplied.

I sat there for a minute, and then I went upstairs and I got my umbrella swift and the previous chain-plied skein. I put the skein on the swift and then fed it back through the wheel, spinning clockwise to take out some of the ply twist (like most people, I spin clockwise and ply counterclockwise). I didn't hold on to it or anything, because I didn't want to untwist it too much, I just let it slide from the swift through my fingers and into the wheel. I wound it back off the bobbin and it seems to have worked. I took my skein of the myrtle and did the same thing, and that also seemed to work - only a little bit of extra twist, and in the opposite direction from before. I put both skeins in buckets to soak and went back to ply the second bobbin of myrtle. This time, I paid very close attention to what I was doing. I used the larger whorl, I scooted my chair up a bit to move my hands closer to the orifice, and I tried to concentrate on slowing down my feet and speeding up my hands. This was HARD. But, I succeeded - when I wound the skein off, it didn't twist back on itself at all. It hangs there in a nice calm loop. Success! It's beautiful and I love it.

The first skein looks pretty good, but some of the thicker places could actually stand to have some of that ply twist back. Oh, well, you can't have everything. I'm thinking it might make a really nice hat. I really, really enjoyed spinning that fiber, so I will be on the lookout for blue-faced leicester in the future.

I was so jazzed with success that I spun a bobbin full of the black meriboo, and, throwing caution and this whole 'resting' concept to the wind, I went ahead and plied the black and the cranberry together. The first skein had a little extra twist to it, but not bad at all. I concentrated harder on the second skein and triumphantly held up a perfectly balanced loop at the end of the night. Then I had to quit whether I wanted to or not because my back was KILLING ME.

I did find with the meriboo, that even though it drafted really easily, it wasn't very forgiving of mistakes. In most of the wool that I've spun, I haven't had to pay THAT much attention to the difference between yarn spun at the front of the bobbin, and yarn spun at the rear. My spinning teacher had taught me that this could make a difference but I really didn't have much of a problem with it - until I tried spinning this stuff.

Basically, your yarn gathers twist until it is wound onto the bobbin. The further it has to travel to get onto the bobbin, the more twist accumulates in the yarn. So, yarn that's wound on the front of the bobbin (the part of the bobbin closest to the spinner) has less twist than the yarn at the back of the bobbin (the part of the bobbin furthest from the spinner). Also, yarn spun onto an empty bobbin has more twist than yarn spun onto a bobbin that is already great with child yarn. Normally, I don't worry about this too much; as long as the yarn doesn't kink too badly or fall apart, the twist is distributed when you soak the yarn anyway (maybe this is a flawed approach, but it's worked for me). In other words, As long as I can't see the difference, I don't worry about it. But, in this case, yarn at the front of the bobbin would be fine as I spun, but yarn at the back of the bobbin would kink up and be weird. So, I had to be more conscious of how I worked with the yarn. I spin with a really tight tension already, so it was more about adjusting how long I held onto the yarn before I let it feed into the wheel, and where my hands were in relation to the orifice. I find all of these things easier to control than the speed of my treadling. Again, maybe it's not the 'right' way to do things, but I find it easiest to treadle at whatever speed is comfortable, and adjust the rest of my spinning style to compensate. Of course, there are times when that doesn't work and I have to concentrate on slowing down the treadle, but as a general rule, the feet do what they please and the hands follow after.

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