Archive for April, 2005

I’m nearly finished with the first bobbin of cotton/silk. It’s annoying but going fast enough. The silk is longer than the cotton so it takes less twist. Sometimes that means the silk won’t budge while there is still a blob of cotton wrapped up around it I’m trying to draft out. Or a big slub of silk surrounded by fine cotton yarn. It breaks far too often and I have a pile of junk bits of half-spun yarn I’ve tossed aside. Some slubs are ok but I have to stop and fix the really huge ones. These are generally silk. The idea with this yarn was to still be able to identify the two fibers, so there are large sections of mostly silk or mostly cotton and they do draft differently.

Long draw with smooth fibers like this is a little different from long draw with wool. Crimp tends to hold the fibers together so it takes far less twist to make it undraftable. Cotton will continue to draft even after it looks like solid yarn. It also drafts best with a slow constant tug rather than stop and start. This is the difference between static and dynamic friction and it’s why it’s harder to get something moving than to keep it going. See? I learned something in Engineering Mechanics.

The other thing about long draw is all that theory is nice but even absolutely perfect fiber is not going to get you perfect yarn. This is real life, folks, not a math problem. You can’t maintain constant tension or speed and the fiber certainly isn’t going to help you by providing constant drafting rate. Some little thing you can’t even see will cause the fiber to snag and suddenly you have a slub. It might pull out, it might not. I’ve had to deal with this problem in figuring out just what a “consistant” woolen yarn is. It certainly isn’t what I get with short draw, even discounting the fuzz. Very few people talk about this aspect of long draw.

I’ve spent several days updating and adding various COE topics. I still have a good bit of writing to complete so it’s best I get on with it. I spent all afternoon today researching the properties of protein fibers. This is pretty dull stuff; I will assume that if you care to know, you can find the COE index page on your own. I’ve got another misfit yarn but I don’t have it written up yet.

After many false starts, I’ve found something I like with the new cotton/silk blend. I’m still not thrilled with it but it’s working, I like it best as a fine slubby two-ply. It’s a little tedious to spin but nothing like the previous attempt with the noil. This is something I might actually be enticed to use, although I’m not likely to want to spin any meaningful amount of it. A castle wheel is just lousy for long draw and I’m doing my best to get it over with.

Some people might say that spinning tiny yarn is hardly getting it over with, but that’s me. I just don’t like big yarns. And a big cotton yarn is hardly practical. I would get this COE spinning done a lot faster if I made all the “at the discretion of the spinner” yarns big honkin’ things, but then I’d be embarrassed to admit that I made some of them. I can’t do everything in Corriedale and make it all look like lopi. Or Colinette Point 5. I’m already doing more textured yarns than I personally like because I don’t have a drum carder to do all this blending.

The cotton is in to boil, I had a bit of a problem there when one of my bobbins ran empty while plying but it’s all better now. Spin up more and then paste the whole mess back together and continue. Novelty yarns are great for hiding things like that. It isn’t even a good splice.

Much to my amazement, I skeined it off and the plying is almost perfectly balanced. Not what I would expect from thick and thin single plus the weird plying to get the eyelash blobs in there. Skeining it with the bobbin on the other side of the room helps even things out, but that still won’t fix too much or too little twist. I did a sample, but it’s hard to keep it even when you are also fooling with the yarn in the process.

Since this is partly naturally green cotton, not only am I boiling it but I am boiling it a good long time. I don’t even know how long, I’ll go fish it out when I feel like it. It took a while to even get it to sink in the water. I added some baking soda because I didn’t want to deal with boiling soapy water. (I wanted an alkaline solution.) Then it gets washed. Boiling cotton removes the waxy coating of the fibers, you don’t have to if you don’t want to but you are supposed to if you are going to dye the yarn. I don’t dye enough cotton to know what difference it makes. But with colored cottons, boiling makes the color darker. It’s supposed to make white cotton more white also, but it sure gets a bunch of nasty stuff out. The water is a nasty brown color.

Ow. I spent the day spinning cotton. Long draw is bad enough, with the castle wheel I tend to do some nasty things to my hands. I had to pull out both wrist supports and they aren’t perfect. But now my knees hurt. The Insanely Fast Flyer is really nice, but it’s hard to treadle at the highest ratios so I tend to use one of the lower ones and treadle more. All day long: treadle, treadle, treadle. I spun about 30g of fine cotton. It goes fast if I don’t care how even it is. This is for a 3-ply with eyelash sort of thing.

I also did some samples and carded fiber for another one of the blends. I started this thing with cotton and silk noil and I’ve finally given up and declared it dead. I hate spinning it and I don’t even like the yarn all that much. Technically, it’s fine, but it looks like forty year old drapes. I skeined off what I had because I needed the bobbin. The replacement is also cotton and silk but this time I made punis. Huge punis from putting far, far too much fiber on the cotton cards. But it works, both the fibers are already combed so I just need to mush them up together a bit and make the batts. White silk and brown cotton. I get to use up some of that nasty brick with the short staple length. One thing this project is good for is using up stuff I don’t like.

Now off to bed. I’m not even going to update the changes so it will be tomorrow sometime before you get to read this. I have a really early meeting in the morning and then I will be able to get back to fiber stuff.

Ok, no more dye experiments. I was going to be cute and dye the tussah skein. Bad Idea. It blew itself to little bits when I tried to microwave set it. Another new item for Misfits. Now I have to go get the fiber back out of storage and start over.

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