Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Decisions, Decisions: Spin To Knit Two

My first samples, short, wound on cards and unfinished, are not things of beauty, but that’s not their purpose.  I use these bits of yarn to narrow my choices for a project.  I notice that I will have to pay attention to my drafting, because the soft Merino will clump a bit if I lose focus. There’s no reason for me to recard this fibre—it drafts fairly well, despite the fact that it has been dyed.  (This removes it from the true worsted category, because dyeing disturbs the fibre preparation.)  If the fibre had been matted or if I had wanted to change the colour dramatically, I might recard a top, but, otherwise, I use it as it comes to me. 

This leaves me to decide which of the short draw techniques will suit me best.  In Step Two of my sampling, I spun three skeins large enough to knit small samples.  The wheel, ratio and treadling rate remain constant and I assume that I want a two ply yarn.  These skeins are shown below, before finishing:
L to R (Merino Top): Short Forward Draw; Short Backward Draw; From the Fold

I’m unlikely to spin this preparation from the fold because it produces a more textured yarn than I’d like with this fibre.  In this case, spinning from the fold makes it more difficult to control my drafting.  The short forward draw sample is nice, but doesn’t have the bounce that the middle skein does.  It’s no surprise that Skein #2 is my favourite because, when it comes to spinning top, I’m a short backwards kind of gal.  Spinning long draw doesn’t make the cut because the parallel fibres lock up when I allow twist into the fibre supply.  This produces a dense, heavy, stiff yarn, which isn’t really the way to go with Merino, at least in my book. 

I’m not committed to a final yarn just yet, because I want to see what happens when the yarn is wet finished.  I know that soaking these yarns in hot water and a no-rinse wool wash product will improve the look and hand of the yarns, so off I go to the kitchen sink.  I fill a bucket with hot water and Eucalan, drop the skeins in, swish them around about and walk away for about 30 minutes (for small skeins).  I roll the soaked skeins in a towel to remove some of the moisture, give the skeins a snap or two between my hands and hang them to dry.  (Don't use weights for knitting yarn.  It stretches the yarn, which can produce unwelcome surprises in the knitted fabric.)

Here are the finished skeins. The top skein has approximately 7 twists per inch; skeins #2 and #3 have 6 tpi.

My favourites are still Skein #1 and #2, although I prefer the slightly higher twist per inch count of Skein #1.  Skein #3 is nice, but requires fighting the fibre preparation, which clearly prefers to be spun using an aligned drafting technique, rather than being spun from the fold.  The angle of twist is more acute on Skein #3, and, although it's not exactly overtwisted, it's "crunchier" than I like for Merino.

By the way, do you notice how the yarn has improved from those first samples?  Never judge your yarn until you've spun and finished a sample.  (A few metres will do the job.)

We’re not quite there, yet.  It’s time to do some knitted swatches.  I don’t have a specific project in mind, but making a few swatches will tell me a lot about how this yarn will behave and that will help me decide what I want to make with the remaining 100 grams of fibre, enough for a small project—a hat, scarf, cowl or other “next to the skin” piece.

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