Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Barbershop Yarn

The final Thursday evening Spin to Knit class will be a bit of a catch-all.  We thought we'd do a bit more on plying, including chain plying and auto wrapping, plus a bit of colour work.  Susan will talk about preparing fibres for controlled colour spinning (e.g. fractal spinning).  I will be taking the lead on what happens when you just take things as they come. (Surprise!)

When you spin variegated singles and ply them back on themselves, you get what is known as "barber pole yarn." Knitted up, this yarn can produce a lovely, heathery fabric. Problems occur with control: if your original colours are complements, they will blend optically and look like mud.  Yarns in hot colours plied together can be so bright that they make your eyes burn.  (I've seen an orange barber poled yarn that would meet the legal requirements for Hunter Orange.)

My best results with barber pole yarns come when I spin analogous or monochromatic colour ways.  There may be hints of other colours in the roving or top, but for this kind of spinning, I avoid anything that contains equal amounts of primary colours or complements.  I spin the colours and fibres as they come, then ply them back on themselves (cover your eyes, Beginning Spinners) from a centre pull ball.

These yarns can be difficult to use; they often look far prettier in the skein than in fabric.  When they work, I love the effect, which reminds me of watercolour paintings and landscapes. 

It's been cold and wet here, one of those months when nothing goes as planned and things get pretty rough and disheartening.  I've been doing some comfort knitting the past few weeks, making myself a "down and dirty sweater," a basic pullover, no plan, using a bag of BFL 2 ply yarns from the stash, in a couple of colourways.  I didn't know if I had enough yarn to finish, but it looks as though I'll make it, although I'm not sure what I'll do for cuffs and collar.  I cast on a random number of stitches, guessed at the gauge and, as luck would have it (and it was luck all the way), the sweater fits.  I added new colours by working in random rows as I knit.  There is that dark stripe on the left arm that leaps out at me a bit too much, but it's just a reminder of what happens when you don't have a plan. (I may tink that bit and make it less conspicuous.) I like what's happening here:

Hey, Phyllis!  Those white strings in the sweater are lifelines.  I really do use them!
Working in the new colour stripes was more than enough planning for me with this yarn, on this sweater.  Most of the time, I just knit and see what happens. This can end in spectacular ugliness, producing something that even the animals are embarrassed to use as bedding.  Then again, rule-breaking with intent can work pretty well:

My simple shawl, knit in hand spun 2 ply BFL top, hand dyed at Golden Willow. 
The sun has come out, as it always does. Things are starting to brighten.  I'm looking forward to seeing what Susan has planned for class.


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