Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Rastafarian Sampling

I'm a copycat, a thief.  That's right--I admit it.  I buy skeins of yarn, take them home and attempt to clone them on my spindles or wheels.  Not only do I not try to hide this, I'll talk about it to anyone willing to listen.

Copying someone's work can be considered plagiarism or homage.  Too many similarities between your work and someone else's?  You could be on the hook for damages.  Incorporating another musician's tracks into your latest release?  That's "sampling," a tribute in the hip hop world.

I often "sample" commercial yarns.  I'm intrigued by their composition, their hand, their colours and the fabrics they become.  In the past few days, I've focused my attention on the Malabrigo Rasta yarn used in my Endless Circle cowl, spinning bulky singles in an effort to duplicate the softness and cozy bulk of these luxury yarns.

I thought it would be easy to spin my own "Falabrigo Rasta," but I ran into a few challenges.  In the first place, I decided to play copycat after finishing my cowl, after giving away the scraps left from it and after darning in my yarn ends well enough that I can't find an end to examine.  I think Rasta is spun from top, so that's where I started.  (Please correct me if necessary.)

I spun samples from years-old merino top, from a superwash Bluefaced Leicester top from fyberspates (thanks, Carole!), and a wool/alpaca sliver from Fleece Artist, using my Majacraft Pioneer on the slowest whorl with the Delta flyer.

The Rasta is thick, but not as dense as one would expect from such a bulky yarn.  It averages 30 yards per 50 grams and knits to about 2 to 2.5 stitches per inch in stockinette.  Challenge #2 was to approximate Rasta's bulk while avoiding the heaviness often found in handspun singles.  This meant drafting the fibre preparations slightly, to allow some loft into the yarn.  I hoped this would offset the density of the top.

I didn't strip or predraft the fibres, but drafted the fibres to slightly wider than my thumb and treadled as slowly as I could while using a backwards drafting technique.  I thought this would give me the best opportunity to produce a consistently thick but relatively light singles.  All yarns were finished in hot and cold baths and whacked severely, then hung to dry.

Attempt #1:

This merino top (purchased years ago in Ottawa) felt over-processed.  It was difficult to draft and maintain consistency.  There are thick and thin spots, much more than found in the Rasta.  My yarn is lighter, averaging about 41 yards/50 grams.  It's not as soft.  Many hot/cold baths and whackings barely changed this yarn.

Attempt #2:

At 36 yards per 50 grams, this yarn  spun from Fleece Artist fibres is closer to Rasta in yardage.  Consistency is still not good and the alpaca makes the yarn fuzzier than the Rasta.  My sample is soft, though, and the colours are wonderful, so I think I'm getting somewhere with this skein.

Attempt #4:

At 33 yards/50 grams, this skein from fyberspates fibre is closest in weight to the Rasta.  I preferred the Bluefaced Leicester to the Merino; felting the yarn left it soft and the gorgeous colours glowed.  Unfortunately, the fibre was a gift and there was no more to spin the final skein, which is presented here as "Copycat Falabrigo Rasta":

This Merino top came from Golden Willow Natural Fiber.  After finishing, it's not quite as soft as the Rasta, but it's suitable for next to the skin and will probably wear better than the Rasta.  The skein averaged about 35 yards per 50 grams, finer than the BFL and the Rasta, but heavier than Malabrigo Worsted.  My yarn felted nicely.  The colours are gorgeous, dyed to order by Sharon at Golden Willow.

I know I could have gone on the hunt for actual Malabrigo Rasta, but taking the time to "sample" this yarn not only helped me to understand the construction of a beautiful product, it improved my spinning skills and helped me focus my attention to details.

And that, as I see it, is copying/homage/sampling put to its best use.


  1. So beautiful! I love the BFL one in particular.

  2. Thank you. BFL just has that "glow" to it that makes it one of my favourites. Do you sell dyed BFL?

  3. Lovely,lovely blog. Found it through Ravelry.

  4. That looks awesome :) Love this post about copying yarns. Imitation is the best form of flattery and a great way to learn other ways of doing things from observation.