Posts tagged ‘plying’

I keep trying to find entertaining tidbits to dazzle and enlighten, but the truth is I’m not doing anything the least bit exciting on the textile front at the moment. The skein for the county fair is off and the sock is in that row after row of stockinette stitch part. I’ve even spun all the Merino I combed for the bobbins of singles. So what am I doing now? Fiber prep. Sorting, scouring and flicking. I haven’t even gotten back to the pointy dangerous tool bit.

For those of you who were here for the whole COE thing, I realize this is a letdown. First the COE, and then the Learning Exchange and now… fiber prep? Yes, I hate to break it to you but I am one of those types who generally works on a project until it’s done. I may have two or three going, but rarely more. Right now, there is a knitting project, a spinning project and a loom-configuration project, in addition to the ongoing may-take-forever spindle project. I’ve got some ideas for other things, I’ve toyed with a few samples, but I haven’t actually started anything.

Since I finally finished scouring the first lamb fleece from last summer (there are two more to go, remember,) I’m continuing with the spinning of it. I’m basically going to spin three full bobbins of single and make sock yarn, which will be used for legwarmers and wrist warmers and possibly some socks. The Boyfriend has expressed an interest in gloves. Several of these things will come from this first batch. If I need more yarn, well, it was a four pound fleece.

I like to spin a bunch of yarn all at once because I get better yarn. If I do all the singles first, they are more likely to match. And if they don’t, I can still do something about it (like decide I want a six-ply yarn instead.) I also do better if I ply all at once. Now with full bobbins of fine single, that’s going to mean many bobbins of 3-ply yarn. But I can ply a full bobbin in a couple hours at most. I usually do it in one sitting. I count treadles when I ply, so I set aside an afternoon when I have nothing else I have to do and nobody is around. I don’t answer the phone. I even got some extra bobbins so I could do several at a time.

All this is about as far as you can get from the gee-wiz school of spinning, where one is in it for exploring the unending parade of possible fibers, colors and textures. I like to pick something and do it for a while until I feel I really understand it. Add to that my preference for large projects and it can easily take years to finish something. When I finished the COE, the one thing I most wanted to do was make something. After such a long time of doing nothing but samples, I need to produce a finished object just to see that I still can. It didn’t help at all that many of those yarns are things I would never choose to do for myself. “Ok, I did the novelty yarns. Can I go back to fun stuff now?” Bobbin after bobbin of technically precise yarn is the fun stuff.

I’m almost done with the single for my first learning exchange yarn. The topic is Merino, so I wanted to explore carded fiber spun woolen. I have never been happy with how Merino spins drafting against the twist, nor any similarly textured crimpy fine wool. It doesn’t draft smoothly, it clumps no matter what I do to it. Most fleeces I see are too long to spin well this way anyway, but I happen to have a small amount of shorter Merino fleece.

It’s horribly filthy, I’ve been flicking it to get all the gunk out thinking I might try carding it. I hand carded a bin of rolags. As much as I hate hand carding, for this small amount of fiber finding someone with a fine cloth drum carder would have taken longer than just doing it. I’m spinning a moderately fine single, with just a little more twist than the minimum required to hold the yarn together. I’m trying to keep it even but it’s just insane. I’m not going to stop every length to fix every last slub like I had to do for the COE. Long draw is supposed to be fast and the yarn soft and lofty, such low-twist yarn would have to be absolutely perfectly even to not have thick and thin bits. What little twist there is tends to go to the fine spots, leaving the thicker sections to puff up.

Less crimpy fibers draft into an even yarn reasonably well, but more crimp does nothing but clump. It doesn’t appear to have anything to do with fiber length, the same thing happend with the nasty mystery fleece and that was not even remotely near the theoretical 3 inch limit for woolen spinning. But it was a fine fiber with a tight crimp. As was the Columbia cross I tried. And no matter how much I spin of this kind of fiber, my yarn does not improve. I’ve gotten better at stretching the rolag out into yarn, but it always ends up drafting unevenly into either slubs or thin sections. Supposedly you pinch the rolag so you are drafting a consistent amount of fiber with each length, but where the streched-out rolag breaks into a thin yarn-sized spot happens basically at random. Almost never where I am holding it.

So I’m doing a 4-ply and then I’ll give it a good thrashing to full it. I might pick off the larger lumps, as I’m sure there will be some left. It’s basically what I did for the 16-ply cable I did of the mystery fleece, but I don’t feel like going through all that again.

The 16-ply cable is done, along with the extra fine cotton. I haven’t measured either, although the 50g of wool yarn won’t even begin to fit in the plastic sandwich bag. It’s huge. Much to my amazement, I had no trouble plying the singles even with the absurdly small amount of twist in them. The yarn comes out kinda square, it’s a 4-ply yarn that is then done 4-ply again with hardly any twist at all. The whole thing is felted, it shrunk quite a bit but now holds together nicely.

I skeined the extra fine cotton to wash, very carefully. Now I have to unwind it to measure. I think it will be ok, it only broke once in winding, but I’m still nervous. This yarn is much more even than the brown cotton single that gave me such trouble. Since I’m doing extra fine cotton, I’ve started on some combed Pima for the two-ply. It is breaking more than I’d like but otherwise is doing ok.

I’m trying to figure out how to describe my cotton spinning technique. I’m doing the exact same motions as for the other extra fine, but since this is combed and not carded the yarn comes out smoother. Supposedly combed cotton is to be spun “point of twist,” which is drafting while moving the fiber so it stays ahead of the twist. I do that, yes, but then I make the yarn thinner and more even by continuing to draft. Isn’t that what happens with a rolag spun woolen or carded cotton or a puni? Some people even call it “double drafting.” This is where the whole woolen/worsted thing falls apart. Cotton doesn’t handle like wool. I tried pure point of twist, with no extra drafting, and other than a thicker yarn it doesn’t look any different. But since I’m using combed fiber, supposedly the “correct” way to spin is with a short draw technique. Point of twist, with no further drafting, is short draw because it is pulling the fibers out in parallel and then immediately twisting them into finished yarn.

I plied the tiny cotton, I didn’t like how it looked as a two-ply so I’ve decided to take it and four ply that. So I gave it a lot of twist and wound it off to measure. I’m really close, so I have to wind bobbins by length to make sure I ply every last bit of it. And, yes, there is about 550m of two-ply there, about what I guessed. There is only a little bit of the original single left so I was even very close on that. This brown cotton is combed, but there is still a lot of short fiber and a little trash in there and that makes it impossible to get a really even yarn. And in a two-ply, every little bit of variation shows. I still had the other multiple ply medium cotton to do, so I decided to use it for that. With an eight-ply, it all evens out.

I did the spinning wheel yarn in a day, I just have to measure and wind the skein. It’s fine enough that I’d rather not put it on the swift, so I took it from setting the twist on the skein winder to a ball. It’s something like 60 wraps per inch, that makes it extra fine. It’s basically the same single as the Andean weaving yarn but with a little less twist. I didn’t sort the Romney for color this time and the lighter color fibers tend to be slightly longer than the dark, so the color gently shades from dark to light with each comb batch. It’s an interesting effect that makes a semi-random narrow stripe warp, but it’s not so good for weft. The shorter length of each back and forth pass of the weft means large blocks of color.

Next is going to be the blend two-ply, I think. I did the mohair and wool on the drum carder a few days ago, the bamboo and tencel has been sitting around for a while. I have a lot of things to finish, I’m going to do as much spinning as possible next week when The Boyfriend is out of town on business.

Now the camel is done, it looks like small rope. Which is about all it’s good for, anyway. I did a two-ply of each color and then put the two of those together for the final cable yarn. The color makes it look almost like a two-ply, but when you look closer it’s obviously four. I like this color effect better than plying the colors together, it doesn’t end up as busy. I did the final plying with a spindle and then wound a ball, soaked it in water, and did it again to check that it didn’t twist. That’s the only way to be sure it’s balanced. It’s thick and heavy, I have almost 40g and I still think I’ll have barely enough for the skein and a wpi card. Now that it’s washed, it smells vaguely of wet camel.

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