Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More swatching...

This has to end soon. I must make a commitment and start to have something to show besides a bunch of swatches and index cards wound with yarn. Speaking of which:

These are the blank 3x5 cards that I print on the computer to keep track of my spinning efforts. Persian Pen Name inquired about it in previous comments. The lines on the right hand side are 1/2" apart which helps in calculating threads per inch. I fold the card in half and use double stick tape to hold the ends of the yarn in place. Then the tape and the yarn wound around the card keep the card folded. The genious of this little card? They fit in the plastic notebook pages used for baseball cards. I have a notebook full of them to refer back to when planning projects. It's also easy to keep the card handy when spinning to compare with the wrapped singles yarn.

PPN also asked about determining angle of twist:
The angle of twist is best measured in the singles yarn. The only way to do it with the gossamer weight yarns I'm spinning is with magnification. With a heavier yarn, just lay the yarn out, fully extended but not under much tension. Then use a protractor to eyeball the angle the fibers form to the vertical axis through the yarn. I only consider this assessment important when I'm thinking about using a singles yarn for knitting. Singles yarn with an angle of twist of 20 degrees or less are less likely to bias in knitting.

If you're wondering how I'm figuring the yards per pound, I use a McMorran balance and average 3 different lengths of yarn. However, there hasn't been much difference between the 3 lengths in these recent samples.

Despite all this measuring and averaging, I am not a spinner that counts treadles per inch of drafting. It seems to me that we all have an internal rhythm for treadling and drafting and the yarn will be more consistent if you pick the right whorl (ratio) and set the take up on the bobbin correctly for your personal rhythm.

On to the next swatch, my favorite so far (but certainly not in the running for the wedding ring shawl because of the dark shade!):

This comes from the same batch of superwash merino commercial top as the yarn sample in my entry from Feb. 23. The fiber in this yarn was used in a dye experiment with several hues of blue, from turquoise to purple. The dyed fiber was run through the drum carder. However, in a fit of boredom with spinning natural white wool, I grabbed a handful of this fiber and combed it on the mini-combs. After drawing it into top from the combs, I spun it the same was as all of the other: predraft the top, use a short draw with forward draft, keeping the fibers in the drafting zone under tension.

Click on the photo to see larger, then look closely at the two ply yarn (the bottom sample). See how that yarn is firmly spun with those even little bumps showing the plying twist of the yarn? I like that. It knits up into a clearly defined lace pattern. See how the yarn-overs in the pattern below stay open and don't collapse:

This is one of the things that fascinates me about spinning: the great variation in the character of yarn one can spin from the very same fiber. (Click on the photo to see larger.)

The bottom yarn is the gossamer weight described above. The top yarn is semi-woolen spun (from a drum carded batt) using a supported long draw. When you look at the larger image, the angle of twist is clearly seen in the yarn. Here is a swatch knitted from that singles yarn:

Fun, no? And this is why I love to sample when spinning. The possibilities are endles.
Oh..btw, Charleen: Rick's sample in the previous post? The bottom motif in the swatch is knitted on 0's, the top motif is knitted on size 2 needles.


  1. I can see how this sampling could become addicting. The folded card is a great idea and I already have some of those baseball card pages.

  2. You are a true engineer! I'm enjoying watching this project unfold.

    (My Captcha word is "muchip" - how funny!)

  3. Wow, I am in awe of your ability. How long have you been spinning? My attempts still look like grade school comparied to yours. I am still working on my drop spindle, but I think that a wheel is in my future. Do you have any suggestions about wheels? there seems to be a dizzying array of them out there.

  4. Fibers and the yarns they make are so endlessly fascinating! I am really enjoying seeing your sampling and the results of the spinning in the knitted swatch. I also like the way you have planned to organize all the experiments. My dream is to have wonderful books of samples and yarns but usually it doesn't get to the organized state. Thanks for showing us all your work.

  5. My question is, where do you find the patience to spin such beautifully fine yarns? I can't muster the self discipline to wait to fill a bobbin of anything finer than sportweight type yarns. Any suggestions for an instant gratification type of person like me?

  6. Oh, Valerie, you are so right! I really love spinning fine (it just happens naturally) and I like the twist to be well-defined. I have been doing more 3-ply of late, and am liking it a whole lot more. As for Leigh saying that she hasn't the patience to spin fine -- it's all the same! Whether it is fine or thick, it is still the same process, and I don't care if my bobbin is full or not. It's the process I love, not the end result. I have spun cotton very fine for over 2 months.... for one bobbin. I don't care. I enjoyed the spinning; the skein is a bit of a let-down, saying goodbye to an old friend -- then I have to start all over with another project!

    I now have to spin according to someone else's specifications, and that is hard to do. Requires concentration, and patience!! But I will do it. I'm enjoying watching you go through your study.


tie in the loose ends...