Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Friday, 11 November 2011

Round, Round We Go: Core Spinning Art Yarns, Part Two

In my last post, I discussed choosing yarns for the core of your core spun art yarns.  Now it’s time to consider the fibres you will use to cover your core.

You can choose almost any fibre as your wrapping or cover.  Until you have some experience with core spinning, work with shorter fibres, preferably with some wool content (so that the fibres stick to the core).  You can use longer fibres, but these tend to draft on themselves, making it more difficult to control your spinning.  A mix of long and short fibres is perfect when you want textured yarns.

Fibre preparation is important.  Top can be slippery and hard to wrap, because the fibres are aligned and tend to be longer.  If you use top, tear it into smaller strips or pieces before you begin spinning.  The fibres in roving are jumbled which allows them to grab on to the core more easily.  Again, work with smaller pieces of roving, rather than working from a large strip.

My favourite preparation for core spinning is a blended batt, preferably with a mix of fibres and fibre lengths.  I love the textured effects I get with batts and find I have more drafting possibilities when working with them.  Smooth batts will give you a smoother yarn; textured batts make textured yarns, a basic premise we tend to forget.

Golden Willow's Blended Batt on the left; Doglover's Batt on the right

Whatever you choose, make sure your fibres draft freely.  Now is not the time to work with compacted fibres.  Spend some time opening up your fibre preparation and toss those tangled, felted bits or save them for additives in another yarn.

I set up for core spinning by placing my commercial coned yarn at my feet to the left of my wheel with my spinning fibres at my right, within easy reach.  I do this because I use my left hand to control my core while I wrap with my right. Remember to experiment in order to determine what works best for you. 

Use the slowest whorl on your wheel. Begin core spinning by turning the wheel in your preferred spinning direction (see the post on core twist), hold the core yarn under tension and lightly touch your spinning fibres to your core yarn as you treadle the wheel.  Don't pull against the core too tightly; it does need to be held more firmly than your spinning fibres.  I wrap my fibres from under the core yarn when spinning Z, over the core when spinning S; the fibres seem to catch more easily when I do this.  Draft ahead of the average staple length of your fibres to avoid spinning the fibres instead of wrapping them around the core.  To prevent spiralling, twisted fibres and common mayhem, use a gentle touch with your fibres--no clutching.

Treadle slowly, allowing the fibres to wrap around the core.  Holding the fibres at a 90 degree angle to the core will usually allow full coverage.  Using more acute drafting angles (holding the fibres towards you) helps me to draft fewer fibres so that the core shows through.  Tilting the fibres towards the orifice on an obtuse angle causes lumps and bumps to form around the core yarn instead of providing the look of a wrapped singles.  Your angle of twist on the spinning fibres will be affected by your spinning style; it will also be affected, sometimes to a great degree, by the spinning wheel itself.

I fan out my fibres as I spin, controlling the size and shape of the fan by holding it lightly with the last three fingers of my right hand.  If your fibres start to spin on themselves, forming a separate yarn to the core, stop, fan out your fibres again and resume spinning.  If you accidentally miss covering the core, simply place your fibres above the spot (close to the orifice) and allow your fibres to wrap over the bare core.

Wool and silk art yarn

If your core yarns break occasionally, overlap them a few inches or centimetres and cover the joins with fibre.  These fibres will hold the joins securely.  If the core breaks repeatedly, go back and reread the post on choosing core yarns.

Sample, sample, sample—with your yarns, your fibres, angles of twist and other techniques to get the yarns you want.  Depending upon how you spin them, core yarns can be used as low twist, stable singles, or as yarns plied back on themselves.  Make batches of core spun “singles” to use in wrapped and coiled art yarns.

Experiment with washing and finishing techniques. Alternating hot and cold washes, agitating and whacking core spun yarns with a wool core and wool fibres in the wrapping will full your yarn, giving it a very different look than a similar yarn more lightly finished.  Suitable finishes will depend on the fibre content of both your core and your wrapping fibres, so take some time to sample from fibre to finish before you begin core spinning for a larger project.

Pay attention, keep some notes, label those yarns and, most of all, HAVE FUN! 
Those of us not heading south can stay and play with art yarn spinning!

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