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.


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