Yarn Party This Weekend

Posted in Uncategorized by tchemgrrl on April 21, 2010

In the off chance that any of you all are going to be in Rochester NY this weekend, there’s a fiber arts thing happening called Artistry in Thread that will have some lectures, demos, and fiber-related-stuff sellers. I’m going to be helping my friend Susan at her booth, so if you’re there, stop by and say howdy!

Spiral Scarf

Posted in FO, knitting, made with handspun by tchemgrrl on April 18, 2010

A while back I posted an entry on this yarn:

mojave yarn

Which was my first experiment with spinning from the fold and a more woolen spinning style. This experiment bit me in the butt when I washed the yarn and ended up with something considerably thicker than I’d planned. In looking for a straightforward little alternate project on Ravelry, I came upon a scarf from Knitting Nature that I thought would work well, consisting of ribbed hexagons, increasing in size, arranged so as to form a spiral. Rather than try to figure out what it looks like from that description, let’s just look at the finished project.

spiral scarf

I really enjoyed this little project. I have to admit here that I don’t have Knitting Nature and didn’t even take it out from the library to figure out the pattern, I just looked at a whole bunch of pictures to figure out the construction and made my best guess from there. The way I built this was to knit all the hexagons separately from the outside in, decreasing 6 times every row. I cast on 6 more stitches whenever I started a new hexagon, making each one slightly larger than its predecessor. I cast on 36 stitches for the smallest hexagon and was up to 132 on the last one.

When I got tired of knitting hexagons, I sewed them together. And when I got tired of sewing hexagons together, I knit some more. I stopped knitting when I didn’t have enough yarn to complete another hexagon (I probably had enough to make one or two smaller ones, but I didn’t feel like it by then.)

Overall, I really liked this project. Even the largest hexagons were quick to finish, so I always felt like I was making forward progress. It’s a great stashbuster because you can stop anywhere along the way (though 200-250 yards would probably be the minimum).

The final result is really interesting looking. It seemed like a lot of effect for the time put in, so I think it would be a good gift. And I thought it worked particularly well for the sort of yarn I’d spun, with some slight variations in color along its length, which show up as little crescents of color going around inside the shape. It’s subtle, but it was enjoyable to watch it happen.

spiral scarf

I’m sure some folks would rather carry the whole scarf around than sew pieces together. I think it’d be very easy to pick up stitches as you go. It just happens that I much prefer to sew bits together at the end, so I didn’t try it that way.

The only downside is that I’m not a total fan of how it looks when I wear it. I had it on at a knitting group and more than one person independently commented that I looked like I’d put my head through a large flower–all I could think of after that was my resemblance to a creepy Anne Geddes baby, which put a damper on my enthusiasm. I might just need to putter around with it in front of a mirror so that I can find a good way of arranging it, though.

Overall, a great project.

Adventures in Twist, Pt. 3

Posted in FO, made with handspun, spinning by tchemgrrl on April 15, 2010

Actual results!


Normally, I am not organized enough to do things like tie things to little pieces of paper with text on them, but these were getting passed around at my spinning guild, so I wanted as much info on the swatches as possible.

Again, there are six swatches, all two-ply, consisting of a low-twist, medium-twist, and high-twist singles which has been either plied to the point of being balanced (where “balanced” is defined as “all the fibers are laying parallel to the axis of the yarn”) or over-plied.

Swatch A
Yarn: On the singles: 20 degree angle of twist (2-3 tpi), about 20 wpi. On the plied yarn: 2-3 tpi, 20 degree angle of twist.
Knitted fabric: Kind of soft and squishy, not so surprising really. The ribbing drew in but does not have much spring to it. After going through a bunch of hands at the guild meeting, there’s no pilling on the surface but the surface is already lightly fuzzed. The cabling definition was fine before this fuzzing happened but I don’t think you’d see a stitch pattern for long. It’d be good for something soft, where a bit of a halo is okay. A scarf, a soft toy, or felted slippers (I think it would felt beautifully although I didn’t test that here).

Swatch B
Yarn: On the singles: 20 degree angle of twist (2-3 tpi), about 20 wpi. On the plied yarn: 4tpi, 40 degree angle of twist.
Knitted fabric: Soft and squishy but still with some body to it, not as mushy as the balanced yarn. Moderate elasticity, good stitch definition but without calling attention to the yarn. Significantly less fuzzing than in sample A. I was surprised at how much I liked this one. It’d be great for hats or gently-used mittens. I’m definitely adding this one to my arsenal, it’s a very cool yarn.

Swatch C
Yarn: On the singles: 25 degree angle of twist (3-4 tpi), about 22 wpi (the medium singles were a little thinner than the others, I think because I went on autopilot). On the plied yarn: 3-4tpi, 30 degree angle of twist.
Knitted fabric:My usual yarn. So much my usual yarn, in fact, that it’s kind of hard to analyze it. For the most part it falls in the middle here. A reasonable balance between durability, elasticity, and softness. Good stitch definition for cables or knit-purl patterns.

Swatch D
Yarn: On the singles: 25 degree angle of twist (3-4 tpi), about 22 wpi (the medium singles were a little thinner than the others, I think because I went on autopilot). On the plied yarn: 5tpi, 40 degree angle of twist.
Knitted fabric: Elastic but slightly harsher feeling than the balanced yarn. I actually liked this one least of all the swatches, it just didn’t feel soft or springy or interesting, just kind of harsh and flat. It’d be good for the ribbing of a sweater, if the balanced medium-twist yarn composed the body of the sweater, since it would have improved wear and elasticity. But overall it didn’t do much for me.

Swatch E
Yarn: On the singles: 40 degree angle of twist (4-5 tpi), about 20 wpi. On the plied yarn: 4tpi, 45 degree angle of twist.
Knitted fabric:Very elastic and bouncy, and not just the ribbing. Honestly without knowing what I know if it, I would have guessed it to contain a bit of elastic! Not especially soft and cuddly, but not at all prickly or harsh. Should be good for socks or items that will see a lot of abrasion that you don’t want to felt, or a close-knit ribbed sweater that you don’t want to sag during the day.

Swatch F
Yarn: On the singles: 40 degree angle of twist (4-5 tpi), about 20 wpi. On the plied yarn: 6tpi, 55 degree angle of twist.
Knitted fabric: Another pleasant surprise, especially considering how odd it was right off the spindle. The yarn feels somewhat harsh but stockinette stitch makes a very well defined, interesting looking fabric. Interestingly, I didn’t think that the cables here were especially well-defined, and I think that has to do with the somewhat pebbly texture that the yarn gives to even stockinette stitch fabric. Here, it’s the yarn that takes away from the visibility of the patterns, not fuzzing. Odd. I’d put this around the cuffs of a kid sweater I know is going to get beat half to death, or for something somewhat decorative like a tea cozy because of the cool-looking texture.

One last note: Weight. This is not at all scientifically rigorous because the swatches are different sizes, but I’m quite sure that the samples with tightly-spun singles are 10-20% heavier than those with loosely-spun singles. Considering all the other factors like thickness, etc., were as close as I could get them, I think this is a real effect and not just my mind.

So that’s been my last few weeks! A few people at my guild mentioned that they might try a similar thing, which I think is cool. Part of the reason I tried to be so rigorous was so that it’d be relatively easy to copy, or use as a jumping off point.

Some directions I might like to go in at some point: 3-ply yarns. Underplied yarns (do they have more in common with overplied yarns than balanced ones, because of the active twist left in the singles?). Trying for a more worsted vs. woolen spinning style–I’d call this combination of prep and spinning semiworsted, but even brief experiments with more woolen spinning have shown me that it might behave very differently. And lastly I’d like to take one of these yarns through to a complete knitted object, and see if what I learned from the little swatches is really applicable to a larger piece of work.

Adventures in Twist, Pt. 2

Posted in knitting, planning, spinning by tchemgrrl on April 11, 2010

So! Last time I talked about this wacky idea I had to minimize as many variables as possible and try to isolate the effect of twist on a knitted fabric. Here I’ll start to talk about my results. Before I get into the individual swatches I thought I’d make some general comments that applied to all of the yarns.

The first thing I’d noticed, before I even started knitting the samples, was the incredible effect that a little hot water had on all the yarns. I was spinning some of these samples at a weekly Wednesday night knitting group that some other spinners also attend. When I wound the overplied, high-twist singles off into a mini skein, we all had a good laugh at just how ridiculous the yarn was–there were kinks within kinks, and left to its own devices, the small skein looped up on itself in a knotted snarl. I got a cup of hot water from the sink and dropped the skein into it for a few minutes, and once I squeezed out the water the change was immediately obvious, to the point where one of the knitters thought it was a different skein. Left to its own devices, the skein flopped slightly into a half-twist, but nothing close to its previous bad behavior.

(I had an interesting conversation with someone at our spinning guild who’d taken a class with Kathryn Alexander, a spinner known for her work with energized singles. In this class, Kathryn made it clear that singles should not be washed if you want to take advantage of the unique biasing effects that energized singles can yield. I can certainly see why! Washing allows for a ton of that twist energy to sit in the yarn without misbehaving.

The other interesting result: No biasing of the knitted fabric in any of the overplied yarns! I’m sure it’s possible to put in enough twist to cause biasing, but these yarns, which again included samples that made experienced spinners *laugh out loud* just to look at, came out just fine. I found this fascinating. I’ve been spending how-many-years trying to make nicely balanced singles, and apparently all that work was, eh. Not that big of a deal, at least in terms of biasing. It did make quite a difference in the final fabric, though, and once again the results surprised me. I’ll talk about that in the next installment.

Adventures in Twist, Pt. 1

Posted in spinning by tchemgrrl on April 3, 2010

I’ve recently been getting interested in the effect of both singles and plying twist on a final knitted product. This all started as a series on conversation on the spinning groups on Ravelry, where some people were insisting that the best yarn for particular knitted applications was one that was overplied. Concerns were expressed about the ability of overplied yarns to knit up to a non-biased fabric, and the response was a frustratingly vague “try it to prove it to yourself”.

Well, I just can’t abide by a gauntlet thrown down in challenge like that.

I’ve tried to find relatively scientific discussions of twist, or plying, or whatever in the past, but the examples I always find are always so different in grist or fiber or whatever that I have a hard time separating those factors from the factors being discussed. Or maybe it’s just because I personally can’t play with the yarn. Either way, I just haven’t been able to buy whatever conclusions are made. So I decided that it was time to do this myself.

I tried to get as scientific about this as I could without killing the fun. (As a scientist, though, I admit that my personal limit for “not killing the fun” is probably way farther out than a normal person’s. Your mileage may vary.) I decided that, for now, I would focus on 2-ply yarns spun Z and plied S, for knitting. I spun low-twist, medium-twist, and high-twist singles, and for each of those conditions I made a balanced and an over-plied yarn. So 6 samples all together. I measured the twists per inch (tpi) and twist angle after the fact, but to start with, I just made what I considered to be “low twist” or “over-plied” (I’ll show the numbers in the next entry). The low twist singles had the minimum amount of twist to get the yarn holding together on a 38g spindle, the medium twist yarn was my standard yarn, and for the high twist I just added an extra twirl of the spindle beyond my standard yarn.

As I mentioned above, I gave some thought towards eliminating as many variables as possible. I used the same fiber for all of the samples–a medium-soft commercial Corriedale top, to which I added an occasional tuft of gray wool/silk added in for contrast, so I could see the amount of twist more clearly. I spun the singles to a comparable thickness, about 20wpi, on my 38g Ashford student spindle, and washed all of the plied yarns in a little hot water. I didn’t calculate the yardage for each yarn with a lot of detail–I just spun for about an hour or until I got bored, then plied whatever I had. This left me with anywhere from about 4-10 yards of yarn for each of the 6 samples.

I also knit them all up on a size 5US needle with a very similar pattern–a cable with stockinette, ending in a few rows of 2×2 ribbing. I wanted to see what the yarn looked like and felt plain, how its stitch definition was displayed in a pattern stitch, and how elastic it was. The size of these swatches varied a bit, as they were partly based on the yardage I’d spun, but overall they were pretty similar, about 3×4 inches or so.

Results later, this entry was getting wayyyy too long.