Yarn Story: Purpleness

Purpleness - closeupBy Amelia

Spinning thicker yarns, as experienced spinners will tell you, isn't as easy as the beginners make it look. You need to draft more fibers into the yarn, and keep the amount consistent. That's why most spinners gravitate toward spinning fine -- they draft the fiber down as fine as it will go, for them, and keep it there -- pushing up against their own inner fineness boundary (hint: Marie's is finer than mine!) gives them a consistent result. It works great! Until you want to spin worsted weight, and don't feel like making it a 6-ply. Why do you think the Australian yarn measures are done as ply-counts? yep, the machines all spin fine singles, then they ply up to the thickness desired. Machines don't care how boring plying is.

This yarn, Purpleness, was a dive into spinning a lot of yarn (I had over a pound of the fiber) into a thicker 2-ply. Now, I knew this would be good for a thick yarn because the roving had a ton of texture in it -- overload of silk noil, variety of fiber types/lengths, an all around squoosh-to-the-max roving. It really liked to stick to itself as well (lots of crimp/grab), so it would help me keep the draft solid.

Then, I chose my best thick yarn wheel -- the Journey Wheel (it's a great sock yarn wheel too, don't let me bias you to one thickness for this wheel!). Its "U" orifice lets the thick stuff slide right over, and at its lower ratios, it makes sure I'm not going to put in too much twist even if I want an ankle workout. I cranked up the scotch tension so the yarn would get taken up onto the bobbin as quickly as I could draft it and turn it into yarn, to keep the amount of twist low.

And I spun. And spun. And spun. Did I mention I had over a pound of this fiber, and 9 bobbins for my Journey Wheel?

These yarns are all 2-plies, so once I had some bobbins full, but had two empties to hand, I would ply two full bobbins onto the empty ones - wa-la, two bobbins of singles equals two bobbins of plied yarn. This is where it was hammered home to me -- the thicker your yarn is (and plied yarn, generally, is thicker than the singles it was spun from -- plying with thread aside), the less you can get on a bobbin. So those plied bobbins, were stuffed!

I didn't change any of the settings on my wheel when I plied -- I just checked against a sample to make the plying give me a balanced yarn. The skeins were gently finished in the wash, but whacked to full their surface a bit to help the noils stay put.

I remember spinning this yarn fondly. We were building our new home at the time, living in a tiny rental and making a ton of decisions every day about the house. The Bellwether was being run out of a storage unit, order turnaround was pretty ill ~ I have to thank all my customers from that time for their kind understanding! I had this wool, my Journey Wheel, cotton, and my charka. The wool won hands-down every evening. It kept me going through all of that, and is wonderful to have on hand in my knitting basket.

PurplenessThis yarn feels lovely and soft up against my neck -- it's got Merino cross wool, Romeldale cross wool, silk, and tons of silk noil in it. Because there's plenty for my scarf and more too, some of it is going up on By Our Hands on Etsy along with a fun Heartstrings pattern, "Loop-D-Loop". Check it out - you could knit yourself a scarf with it too!

Another great scarf idea is Fourteen. That's in my Ravelry queue, too -- what's in yours?

posted 23 January 2009 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/


Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous yarn! Please do post pics of your FO once you knit it.

Leigh said...

I love purple. It's interesting that new spinners don't "get" the difficulty of spinning thick yarns and often don't appreciate the yarns they produce in the beginning. I know I didn't and was so surprised, years later, to find out I couldn't do it consistently without a lot of practice!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I'm an inexperienced spinner whose "default" yarn is 2-ply laceweight. I'd love to spin something more Noro like, so I really appreciate your tips.

Unknown said...

Interesting post on spinning a bulky yarn. Spinning is still just a dream for me at this time (I'm still working to master knitting), but I enjoy reading what experienced spinners have to share about their craft. Purpleness is lovely. :)

Peg in South Carolina said...

I must confess that I am the kind of fine spinner you describe! On the other hand, I do spin for weaving, and for what I weave, fine is better. A year ago I did spin some lovely merino slightly thicker than I normally do. That was a real test for me, especially as pure merino is so easy to spin really really fine! I had to constantly check the thickness of the yarn against my gauge. So I know I CAN spin thicker if I want to, but it wouldn't give me great pleasure. Actually, the way I spin now, if I were to 3-ply it instead of 2-plying it, it would be a nice sport-weight knitting yarn. Did you know, by the way, that the general rule (to which there are always exceptions!) is 2-ply for weaving yarn and 3-ply for knitting?

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

Thanks to everyone for the terrific comments!

@Peg, yep, I've heard that. It's a good rule of thumb, which means I bend it all the time (grin). Overplying a 2-ply makes a rounder 2-ply yarn, "almost" like a 3-ply's roundness. And it's muuuuch faster. I also like 2-plies, balanced or slightly underplied, for weaving and for lace knitting, for the same reason -- the yarn lies flat, rather than puffy and round, which enhances the weave and the lace knit structures.