Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Monday, 14 November 2011

Round, Round We Go: Art Yarns Gone Loopy

I love creating loops, bumps and coils with my yarns.  Textured yarns teach you control over plying techniques; the yarns add punch to a plain fabric and they're just fun to spin.  There are dozens of ways to create loopy yarns, from the controlled techniques promoted by Mabel Ross and Diane Varney to the "go for it" specialties of Jacey Boggs.  I'll cover just a few of them here.

Once again, it's important to understand twist direction in both your hand spun yarns and the commercial yarns you use.  Spend some time sampling and examining twist.  Set your wheel up so that you are using your slowest speed and treadle slowly.  These are not fast yarns to make.

Loopy yarns usually depend on moving away from regular, even plying techniques and into wrapping one or more yarns around a core, holding one yarn under greater tension than another or pushing one yarn along another.  You can begin your experiments with this by spinning a simple, "false boucle." Ply a thicker wool or mohair yarn with a fine thread such as cotton sewing thread or silk singles or similar contrasting yarn.  Hold the finer thread at a slightly tighter tension and you will see bumps form as your wool yarn wraps around the thread.  Fulling this yarn will draw the wool yarn up and make the bumps more prominent.

Singles spun Z from kid mohair locks and S plied with fine superwash wool singles

Now suppose you spin and ply that same false boucle, but this time, work with an over spun wool or mohair singles and, as you ply, pull up some of the hand spun singles so that it plies back on itself.  (Remember when your beginning spinning did that all on its own?  That's what you're going for here, but intentionally.)  Then release that small snarl (in the yarn, not you), allowing the base thread to secure it in place.  You can do this as often or as little as you wish.  I like to secure the loops and snarls even more, either by allowing the base yarn to wrap above and below the snarl or knot or by plying this yarn in the opposite direction with another fine yarn.  The effect will be something like this:

Loops and snarls yarn, mohair and silk 

You can push this irregular plying further.  Use a thick yarn and a finer one.  Begin by plying as usual, holding both yarns under consistent tension.  Now, form knots in your yarn by holding one of those yarns at an angle towards the wheel orifice.  The yarn you choose to angle is the yarn that will form a knot.  Build the knot to the size you want, then carry on plying as usual.  This knot should hold securely and give you a stable yarn.  You can wrap that knot yarn with another yarn for special effects if you choose.

For fun and wild plying, take a bobbin of hand spun singles and place it beside your wheel on the side away from your drafting hand (to my right, in this case).  Place two cones of fine commercial yarns at the opposite side (my left).  Attach all three yarns to the leader on your wheel bobbin and begin plying in the usual manner.  When you have plied a few metres of yarn, drop one of the commercial yarns and allow it to wrap any way it cares to go.  Jacey Boggs calls this "auto wrapping." I find that I have to use a flyer with a regular orifice because the yarn that is auto wrapping will wrap around my Delta flyer.  I also have to rescue the yarn that is auto wrapping once in a while, because it tends to just sit there.

Loops and puffs with auto wrapping

Techniques such as coiling add or subtract a lot of twist, depending upon how you spin them.  If you are coiling a Z yarn in the S direction, you will need to start with an over twisted Z yarn to compensate for the twist you remove when coiling.  If you coil that same yarn Z, start with an under twisted Z yarn.  You'll add twist as you go.  The base yarn for coils must be strong.  You hold it under far greater tension than the yarn you use to coil and if the base yarn breaks, there go your coils.

Begin by attaching the base yarn and the coiling yarn to the leader.  Ply a few metres, then allow the coiling yarn to spiral around the base yarn while you hold the base yarn under tension.  You are essentially core spinning, but this time, your wrapping is yarn, not fibre.  To get the coils, push the wrapping yarn up along the base yarn towards the orifice until there is no further movement along the base yarn.  If you use a thick and thin singles to coil, you will get wraps with coiled slubs.  Your coils will be more consistent if you use a consistent singles. 

Your coils will stay in place from the tension of pushing the wrapping yarn against the base to capacity, but you can further secure them by allowing the base yarn to wrap around the coils periodically.  This yarn uses a lot of yarn to make a few metres of coils. It is difficult, if not impossible, to balance coiled yarn.  You can balance it by plying it in the opposite direction with a fine yarn, but this changes the look of the yarn.

Top skein: Romney Z singles, Z plied around 2 ply S commercial nylon, then S plied with the nylon
Bottom skein:  Romney singles, plied S with knots around commercial nylon yarn, then secured by Z plying

These are just a few ways to create designer art yarns by playing with your plying.  Basically, anything that will give you a stable yarn with the look and hand you want is fair play. 

Finishing techniques depend on the fibre content of your yarns and the effects you want in the finished product.  I always allow the yarns to dry without weighting them, to avoid stretching the yarns and providing some bounce when I knit with them.  If you use these yarns for weaving--and art yarns are perfect for weft--block them with weights.

So, gather up your skeins of hand spun yarns, collect some cones of commercial singles and have at it.  Keep notes if you want to reproduce these yarns, label them for future reference, but remember to enjoy the moment!

1 comment:

  1. Love looking at yarn like this. Wish I could touch.