Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Little Help From My Friends: Support Yarns for Art Spinning

Top skein: Romney over cotton wrapped elastic
Bottom skein: Mohair over same core thread

When I stand in tadasana, sit in meditation or practise yoga poses, I bring attention to my spine and my core.  An elongated, balanced spine and strong centre allow me to focus on my meditation or bend and stretch safely in the pose.  I use a similar approach in preparing to spin art yarns.

Many designer yarns are spun using a base or core yarn to support a hand spun singles or plied yarn.  Think of that base yarn as the “spine” of your finished product.  Although the core may not be visible, it holds your yarn together.  If the core is weak, your yarn may break, drift apart or collapse, so it’s a good idea to spend time selecting suitable supports for your designer products.
A commercial lace weight yarn can provide strength to yarn without adding much weight or grist.  (Many art yarn spinners discourage using thread as a core, but while thread may not work well in coiled yarns, I have never had a problem using sewing thread as a ply or binder.)  If you work with heavier, denser supports for yarns intended as garments, you may find that your finished product is too heavy to be comfortable and may stretch from its own weight.  On the other hand, that heavy core may be just the thing for bags, rugs or anything subject to abrasion.

In most cases, you will want to work with coned yarns, or yarns on spools or bobbins.  These types of packaging provide drag on the yarns, allowing more control over tension and rate of feed than yarn coming from a ball.  If you use core yarns in balls, wind them tightly and be sure there are no loops or kinks.  Work from the outside of the ball and tuck the centre yarn into the ball, so the extra end doesn’t spiral up and snarl your work.

Left to Right: 2 ply wool, cotton/acrylic thick and thin, silk singles, 2 ply cotton weaving thread

Plying direction is critical in core yarns, especially if you are working with singles.  Determine the spinning and plying direction of your support yarns and mark them on the cones.  That way, you will know whether you are adding or subtracting twist from the core as you spin.  If your core is Z spun or plied and you are plying S, you will be subtracting twist.  Wrapping techniques and coiling require a lot of twist, so your core may drift apart, along with all those beautiful coils.  Conversely, if you use that Z spun core as a base for core spinning a Z yarn, you will be adding twist, which can cause your finished yarn to kink more than you expect, leaving it (and you, perhaps) somewhat unbalanced.

Texture and elasticity are also important.  If you want “grip” when making wrapped yarns, use a thick and thin or slightly rougher support yarn.  Do you want to slip, slop and slide your way to a boucle and coils?  Then use a slippery core.  If your yarn is too elastic, you may have loops where you don’t want them. (You can produce an interesting yarn by plying wool with cotton or silk covered elastic thread.)  If your support has no give, you could end up with limp yarn with no body. 

Ideally, all my commercial support yarns would be spun from natural fibres, but for some techniques, I admit that synthetics do a fine job of adding structure to designer yarns.  (I dare not say, “better.”)  Often, you are holding your support yarn under tension while adding a lot of twist.  Yarns with a high acrylic and nylon content tend to be stronger than 100% cotton and wool of the same grist.  The exceptions are plied silk and plied linen, which are very strong; however, if I’m working with 100% silk anything, I want it to show in all its glory.  I do not want to bury it in my art yarn.  The same thing applies to linen, with the additional caveat that linen tends to make very stiff art yarns.

A yarn with too much strength can be a problem.  I have trouble with core yarns snapping when I’m making coils.  I thought I had solved that problem by coiling over a cone of nylon upholstery thread.  My supercoils didn’t break—instead the upholstery yarn sliced neatly through them. 

Although your core will be hidden most of the time, do give some consideration to colour.  No matter how carefully you spin, your core may show in some spots.  If you’ve used that screaming lime acrylic as a base for fuchsia supercoiled hand spun, you may have to wear sunglasses when using the yarn.  Wrapping a greyed purple yarn over a light yellow base can result in something rather unappealing—dryer lint, if you’re lucky, dog poop if you’re not. (Of course, if dog poop art yarn is what you want, by all means, go for it!)

Spend some time getting to know your base yarns.  Do some testing before you settle at your spinning wheel.  Think of this as warm up stretching, “yarn tadasana,” if you will, and make it part of each spinning session.  Then twist and turn to your heart’s content.

You thought I was kidding about the fuchsia yarn!


No comments:

Post a Comment