Monday, May 27, 2013

Still on the Alternate Path

...I'm not back to knitting just yet...

My spinning class is in week 6 of 10, and I'm diligently doing my homework. Last week's lesson: spinning sock yarn.

Now, this is not so easy. I resorted to the wheel to get it done fast enough (in one week), because my spindling isn't that fast (although I do find I produce better yarn with it - I am able to fix the mistakes much more easily).

We got to choose and then blend (using a drum-carder) different colours and types of fleece for socks. There was lots to choose from, all dyed up by our teacher (who has a fantastic eye for colour!). I picked a teal/green colourway of Blue-faced Leicester and some Wensleydale. The latter has really long hair, feels super-strong, and is quite shiny. It is not soft! Neither of these fibers are superwash.

There was merino and some silk as well, but I am not a fan of these fibers for socks - the merino doesn't wear as well as I'd like, and silk....well, looks beautiful, but after a few washes I've always regretted putting it on my feet. Ends up looking like plastic frizzing out of the yarn.

Anyways, it takes a lot of fluff to make a pair of socks: one shopping bag stuffed full:

 [100 g of fluff for socks]

My carding job isn't the best. Apparently I chased the fluff through too fast, and created little blebs (nepps), which I will have to pick out. Yech. Some people find a kind of "zen" in carding, but not me. Once you start spinning though, you realize that "fiber prep" is a whole art to itself, one that takes just as much time!

Spinning from the carded cloud requires attention. I have to try to get as thin as possible, and also keep it consistent. It's not as easy as spinning "roving", which is already mostly linearly aligned. Apparently one can also "comb" fluff, pull it through a button's hole (I kid you not, this is a special tool called a diz), and then that aligns it into those ropes one usually finds in the stores and on etsy. I'm sure that combing 100g of this fuzz isn't a speed job, either. No wonder they started trying to mechanize this process...

On this wheel, I've already discovered that I'm "out of speed" get the amount of twist I would like (which is quite a bit), I've put this puppy on the smallest whorl and I'm treadling like the dickens to get thin singles. Not shown in the picture: those nepps that show up as thick blobs in my nice thin string!I divided the fluff in half and spun up 2 bobbins, so I could double-ply it. This took me several hours to do.

[2 spindles of singles]

Looks thin, but I don't think it is thin enough to triple-ply, which is actually what I'd like!

The wheel came with a "lazy kate" to hold multiple bobbins while plying, but there is no tensioning mechanism. So I've laid the thing on its side on the couch and am using pillows to prevent the bobbins from unwinding too quickly. I've put myself and the wheel about 5 feet away from the couch+pillows so there's plenty of room for the singles to "even out" before I ply them. Seems to be working, although again, this is taking hours. The resulting yarn is very, very strong though. I can't pull it apart, unlike commercial sock yarn which one can break with a good tug. I'm hoping this translates into excellent wearing properties!

[double-plying the singles]

When I'm done I will have to measure how much I've got for my 100g (I'm aiming for 400m - that'll give me sock-weight). I'll do that by counting the winds on my niddy-noddy...actually my body-noddy (wind it over my foot & knee, which gives me 1.25m per wind). I don't own a big enough niddy-noddy...

As for spindling, I'm finding that it is hard to get thin enough using a drop-spindle also. One tends to get pretty wary of going thin, because of the "drop" thing - the yarn breaks and there goes the spindle! The more you spin, the heavier the spindle gets, and the worse the problem.

Supported spindling lets me get a lot thinner right away and you don't have the weight problem. I will have to practise this more!

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