As part of the Maker Faire project I'm sampling the fiber we will be working with. It's Karaoke, a wool/soy silk blend. This looks hand painted but I don't know much about that part. It is dyed in blocks of blue, red, orange, yellow and pink:
I've never been a fan of soy silk so already I was uncertain how this was going to handle. Blending it with wool makes a big difference but it needs a bit of additional prep. The top is denser than straight wool and the soy is not completely blended, as in the Merino/Tencel top I've seen. The manufacturer recommends splitting it into essentially pencil roving. Spinning it directly from the top is just too much.
I tried spindle spinning a little from a narrow strip but I wasn't thrilled with the results. So I put it on the hand cards, mostly keeping the colors separate, and made a striped rolag. It was awkward to spin that big rolag on my little test spindle, but it worked ok. A larger spindle would have helped but that would have involved going back into the depths of the fiber closet to find one.
The next try was spinning the pencil roving on the wheel, which was an improvement. With both hands to manipulate the yarn I could deal with the occasional stubborn bit and my typical short backwards draft made a smooth yarn. After this I had just enough to make a batt on the drum carder.
I opened out the top and tried running it through in one piece but this was not such a good idea. It was too dense and tended to jam the carder. I wasn't intending to do two passes, but after that the batt was pretty mangled. I divided it into four sections and the second time through was more successful. More blended, which is both good and bad. The uniform fiber distribution is easier to spin but I lost a lot of the color variation.
Oh my do those colors look wrong on my big work monitor. The yellow is somewhat gold but the blue is only a little purple.
This photo also shows how much luster there is from the soy silk. When I edited that photo I adjusted the highlight so you could see the rest of the fiber without the glaring shiny flash reflection. It's tough to get a good image of the batt without proper lighting, but it really did blend into orange-pink with bits of blue and yellow. I pulled off a section of the batt and spun it almost-worsted on the wheel.
Here are the three sample yarns that resulted, without the flash this time to better show the real color. All are 3-ply, from left to right is the carded batt, the wheel-spun strip from the original top and the spindle-spun rolag.
I finished spinning the rest of the batt and made a cabled yarn, 2 Z singles plied and then three strands of that. It's even more uniform in color than the others, although the uneven single gives it some texture. I will probably use it as an accent yarn for some small knitting project.
For a wheel-spun project the hand-carded rolags look interesting, although I wonder about how practical a woolen yarn would be in this fiber. One of the things that holds a multi-ply woolen yarn together (in a felting fiber, anyway) is how the fibers lock together in finishing. With such a high percentage of soy silk, it might not full well.
I think the most satisfactary prep for spindle spinning is the carded batt. If I do it right the first time there will be more distinct colors in the finished yarn. What we actually end up doing may depend partly on how much space we have for the carder. Right now I don't know what we will do with the finished yarn, so that could also influence the process. If I were spinning this for my own use, I'd split the top and make worsted yarn on the wheel. In the fine singles I typically spin, the soy silk would be mostly evenly distributed and give the yarn luster without big hotspots like in the original top.