It ate some donuts.

Posted in spinning by tchemgrrl on September 20, 2011

There is a thread in the Spindlers group on Ravelry, challenging spinners to cram as much wool onto their spindle as they possibly can. A while back, I posted about techniques to pack a lot of yarn onto a spindle, but I knew that 3 ounces on a one-ounce spindle was not truly maxing out the spindle. And every time someone posts to that thread, it makes my brain itch a little. I just needed the right project to get going.

So recently, I was spinning some fiber for a gift. I’d had the fiber for a while–one ply of the mahogany colorway, one ply of Autumn Sunset from Susan’s fiber of the month club last year (Both wool, but can’t remember the details.) I’d decided to play around with turning the top into some fakey rolags to practice my long-draw spinning:

pretty fake rolags

When I wound everything off into a plying ball, I found I had about 7 1/2 ounces–this was from just over two very full Schacht Matchless bobbins. I had goofed around with the colors a bit such that things should slowly and subtly shift over the course of the entire yarn. For myself, I don’t mind multiple skeins, but for a gift it seemed a little complicated to explain that the recipient would need to cast on with this particular ball, then start in this spot with the second skein, to get the full effect. Easier if it was all one big skein. No way would it fit on the Matchless bobbins, though.

Hmm. Seven and a half ounces. That’s a lot. Wonder if I could pack it all on my widest-whorled, 1.4 ounce spindle?

Turned out, I couldn’t. About 2 yards from the end, the singles broke. This was a good thing, because as I approached the end, I thought to myself “Oh, curses, it’s not failing in any spectacular way so I’m probably going to have to do this with even more effing yarn someday to prove some pointless point to myself.” Thank Atheismo the yarn failed, now I won’t have to do this again.

After about the 6 ounce mark it stopped being entertaining and was just a slog. Earlier on, it felt like there was a time advantage to doing things in one piece, but the end was really slow for a few reasons. One, I couldn’t do a satisfactory thigh-roll on the short length of spindle shaft I had free. Two, the spindle was so heavy that inertia kept it from getting too zippy. Three, the spindle was heavy enough to be hard on my hands, even just while having the yarn hang from my finger, so I could only work on it for a few minutes at a time. The fact that the archaeological record finds the vast majority of spindle whorls to be in the 1-2 ounce range made a lot more sense for me after this. If you get too heavy, it just doesn’t work as well as a human tool. It’s still possible, just not easy–like a hammer with a really short handle, the form factor’s not right.

The final effect:
Enormous cop

The cop is wider than the whorl, which I was proud of. See?

Enormous cop

With T for scale (He likes spindles. I’m trying to raise him right.)

big spindle!

As a woolen-spun yarn, the thing bloomed considerably after washing, making it look even more enormous.

big skein

And a closeup to show the slow color shift from purple to orange to purple again:


A fun project but not one I feel the need to repeat anytime soon!

Spinner’s Study

Posted in planning, spinning by tchemgrrl on September 3, 2011

I’m organizing a spinner’s study group for my spinning guild. The general idea is that once or twice a year I’ll pick out a fiber, we’ll all work with it in a way that’s challenging to whatever level we’re at, and then at guild we compare notes and show off the yarn and/or finished object.

For the inaugural outing of the group, I wanted something that wasn’t too far out of people’s experiences but was still a fairly guaranteed winner. A longwool–Wensleydale–dyed by Boogie seemed just about right. (I’m hoping to try more unusual fibers and less well-known fiber sources, but I wanted to get everyone on board first.)

I gave the participants a long list of ideas, with a much shorter list of “recommended directions” (basically, I want people to do whatever they want, but if they’re having a hard time deciding there are some ideas that are particularly suited to the yarn and colorway). The “recommended directions” were: 1) Spin a singles yarn, 2) Spin for socks, 3) Spin to maximize luster. These are all things that Wensleydale’s likely to do well, with its long staple and sturdy/silky feel.

I picked #2, spinning for socks, and decided to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while and directly compare the wear characteristics of a 4-ply versus 2×2 cable yarn.

A 4-ply yarn is pretty straightforward: spin 4 little bits of singles, hold them together, add twist going the other way. A cabled yarn is constructed a bit differently. You spin two strands, ply them with a metric butt-ton of extra twist, and then ply THAT yarn going in the other direction again. What I’ve read about cabled yarns is that they often wear better (because there’s less surface area of each single getting abraded by my big nasty foot) but often feel a little harder if you’re not careful with all that plying and re-plying.

I want the socks to look at least somewhat related to each other, so I decided to mix the colors of the handdyed fiber as much as possible. The colorway we have, Swamp Monster, is roughly equally split between brown, green, light blue, and dark blue sections. I separated the colors out as best I could without being TOO anal about it, and split each color section into two minibuns of roughly equal weight.


You can see that the “dominant color” in each of those is just this side of theoretical, but it should accomplish my goal of maximizing the color mixing.

I’m going to spin half my yarn as a 4-ply, half as a 2×2 cable, and knit one sock from each skein. Hopefully after a winter or two of wear I’ll be able to figure out which one I like better.

So that’s one part of my challenge to myself. First 4-ply of significant yardage, first cabled yarn with a purpose. (I did cable this cotton yarn but that was all of my learning-cotton-on-the-charkha singles, cabled on a whim.) Part two of the challenge will be arriving on my doorstep soon. A knitting friend with a large family of spinning wheels is loaning me her Canadian Production wheel to try out, to decide if I’d like to purchase one myself. Canadian Production wheels are speed demons, which I find hugely appealing, and I’ll see if we get along.