Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Plying for Socks

With lots of practise, I'm getting better at spinning fine, and also at plying.

My goal is always 4-ply yarn that's thin enough for dress socks. So far, I've only ever managed 3-ply thin enough for this. All my 4-ply sock yarn has ended up making "hiking" socks. Nice and thick, but not really for office-wear.

But I think I'm getting it now!

Here's my latest effort. This is about 1.6km worth of singles from a superwash BFL/nylon blend, dyed by my favourite shop, HilltopCloud.  It took quite a while to spin this, and now I'm plying it. I think, in retrospect, that spinning a whole bunch of downs breeds was good training. Downs fiber is harder to spin fine because it's so crimpy. Longwools, like BFL, are smoother and easier to get really fine.

I've divided my singles up evenly onto 4 spools by rewinding it using my chopstick-in-power-drill tool, and have put the 4 spools into 2 Lazy Kates. Neither is tensioned. I'm using a rail-back kitchen chair to even out the tension in the plies before they go into my hand. The distance between the kates, the tensioning-chair and me is about 2m - as far as I can make it, across the room. The distance helps even out, or redistribute, the twist in the singles. I find this works quite well - better than a tensioned lazy kate.

[coffee table with Lazy Kates, tensioning chair]

The singles are pretty thin - a little thicker than sewing thread. They wriggle and bind to each other so you need to keep them under some tension and away from each other. To get even plying, each ply needs to be tensioned separately. I keep them apart in my hand by using my fingers as a comb. The resulting yarn is more even this way. Of course, the whole plying process is easier if your spinning is as consistent as possible. Thick/thin singles are harder to ply consistently and evenly.

 [use your fingers to keep each ply equally tensioned]

I always try to give the same number of treadles for every arms-length of singles I ply, usually 8-10 or so. It's slow work. I try to keep the yarn moving at all times so I slowly bring my left hand holding the plies towards my right, then pinch off and bring the yarn the rest of the way to the orofice using my right hand, while my left scoots back again to pick up another arms-length of singles. I don't, in other words, hold the yarn taught and motionless until it's all plied up, and then feed it quickly into the orofice. I find this leads to crappy wind-on, loose and messy. 

When I spin hand-dyed multicoloured roving, usually my goal is to mix up the colours, not spin for stripes. I don't want abrupt colour changes, but an overall mottled or dappled look. So I have to be careful that the colours don't change too abruptly when I splice singles - one or two singles spliced in a 4-ply yarn, you won't see, but if you have to break all of them to start a new bobbin you need to pay attention so that the correct ends get knotted together when you make the skein.

 BFL is kind of shiny. I really like the brown mottled yarn I ended up with. Should make my hubby some very nice dress socks!
[120g of 4-ply BFL sock yarn!]

[specs: 350m/100g, 30 WPI tight-packed]

Anyways, I'm pretty proud of the result. My best effort to date! Have a pattern in mind already!

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