I have quite a stash collection. You tend to accumulate a few fibres over several decades of spinning, knitting, and teaching. It has occurred to me that this "stuff" is only important to me and that I will be leaving a room full of unwanted fluff when I leave the planet, no matter how long I stick around. The fibre piles don't decrease by much when you spin lace weight or worsted weight yarns and then replace those fibres with new, gorgeous roving.
Despite the unseasonably hot weather, I know that fall, frost and snowy winters are on their way. What better way to stay warm and decrease the stash than by spinning lots of bulky, lofty yarns which, conveniently, are currently in fashion. (And I am nothing if not known for my fashion forward sense! Yeah, right.)
The thing is, lofty bulky yarns are not that easy to spin well. They are not the dense, compressed thick singles we get when we first learn to spin. Ideally, it's nice to wear garments that aren't so heavy that you feel and look as if you're wearing a yurt. Yurt wearing is hard to carry off, especially if you're five feet nothing. Off I went in search of the perfect thick, soft, but light yarns.
When Joanne T. was here for her Master Level 6 course, she showed me her gorgeous 2 ply bulky yarn, spun woollen from BFL tops. The singles were spun with minimum twist and drafting, then plied and intensely fulled. Joanne told me her secrets, so I started there:
The sample at the top is a merino/baby camel down/silk top, spun z, plied s on a Louet Victoria. This is a small, fast wheel and not suited to bulky spinning, but I had spun the yarn at a workshop using this wheel. I cabled the 2 ply z, then soaked the skein in hot water and wool wash. The result is a soft, pretty piece of rope at 5 wraps per inch (wpi). I needed a bigger wheel.
Sample 2, on the left, is the same fibre, this time spun on my massive Lendrum Jumbo Head. It's the original large head Lendrum made for the single treadle wheel and it's huge. Lendrum doesn't make their large head this big any more and that's a shame. The flyer has ratios of about 3:1 and 4:1. I spun this drafting back slightly at a 4:1 ratio and then plied it at 3 twists per inch. I agitated the skein in a hot water bath and then gave it a good whacking. The yarn is soft, but at 24 metres per 93 grams, and 3 wpi, it's far too dense and overprocessed.
Ever so slightly better, at 30 metres per 96 grams, 4 wpi, the third sample, far right, is merino/silk 80/20 from Celeigh Wool. I spun this like Sample 2 but fulled it with less agitation. Again, it makes pretty rope.
I switched to an alpaca/flax roving from Golden Willow, spun and plied it like the first samples, but I made an effort not to compress the fibres. I soaked the skein in hot water, no agitation and gave it a light thwacking to finish. This skein is 60 metres per 98 grams and 4 wpi. It's much softer and lighter and will actually work in a cowl without making me feel as if I'm wearing an iron chain link necklace.
On to sweetgeorgia tops I bought at Art of Yarn in Kelowna, BC.
This time, I spun the merino/bamboo/silk blend at a 3:1 ratio, but drafted back as quickly as I could and took care not to compress the fibres. I plied quickly, then washed the skeins in hot water, no agitation and just a light thwacking to straighten the skeins. The 100 gram skein on the left measures 75 metres and 5 wpi; the one on the right measures 90 metres, 6 wpi, so I am drifting off into slightly finer yarns. Both are wonderfully soft, light and stable. I think I might be getting somewhere.
Last up and just for fun, because I was getting tired with plain plying, is "Puff," a sample for an upcoming art yarn class I'm teaching later in the fall. I spun a thick and thin yarn from a Golden Willow blended batt. The slubs are very lightly twisted, just enough to hold the yarn together. I plied this yarn s with a commercial silk singles weaving yarn, pushing the slubs up into loose puffs, locking the puffs above and below with the silk yarn. The locking action is important; if you don't do this, the slubs slide up and down the silk binder. This yarn was severely fulled, with hot and cold baths, agitation and thwacking to felt the puffs and make them stable enough to produce functional yarn. 50 grams of batt gave me 60 metres of a soft accent yarn which doesn't shed its fibres.
There you have it-over 500 grams/1 pound of fibre spun here and there over a course of a couple of days. I'm overjoyed-if Sharon doesn't blend any more batts or dye pretty colours before I go into to work on Saturday, I'll have only about 100 kilos or so left to spin.
I'm kidding. I hope I'm kidding.