Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Chain Chain Chain

Whenever I think about chain plying yarn, an Aretha Franklin soundtrack starts running in my head.

Let me go back to the beginning, though. I bought this braid of Polwarth at the Frederick Fiber Fest in June.IMG_5657

I thought the colors were so dreamy, and the fiber was really soft. I pulled it out last month when I was looking for an easy spin. Imagine my surprise when I unbraided it and found this:IMG_6690

Where is my dreamy purple-to-gray progression? Now it is striped with pink! It appears that the dyer dyed the fiber when it was braided, and the dye did not penetrate completely in those spots. That is really weird. That’s not how you’re supposed to do it. I immediately went on alert.

I also noticed that it wasn’t always easy to unbraid the fiber – it was stuck to itself and was probably a little bit felted. Argh! This is bad fiber prep. In this photo, you can see a little bit where the fiber really got pulled apart. This is combed top, which is supposed to be completely smooth with all the fibers running parallel. But because it was mishandled during dying, it’s not:IMG_6692

What to do? The fiber didn’t draft smoothly as one expects finewool top to do. Sometimes it drafted okay, but as soon as I  hit a section that had been bunched up in the braid, it started fighting me. The only thing I could think of was to try to loosen the fibers up by flicking them a bit with this flick carder:IMG-4454

On top is the fiber as it was unbraided, and on the bottom is how it looked after I’d worked it with the flicker a bit. (The denim is what protected my pants from the flicker.) I started spinning and it looked pretty nice:IMG-4452

The color wasn’t a smooth gradient from purple to gray (because of all the pink and white bits), but it was a little more interesting. I decided to spin all the singles onto one bobbin and then chain ply it to preserve whatever gradient was left at the end. But I let the singles rest for about 10 days, because I wanted to wait to ply until after I took a class called “Spinners in Chains” last weekend.

Okay, switching gears now. I went to the Spinning Summit at WEBS in Northampton, Massachusetts, last weekend. They had four fantastic spinning teachers – really some of the very best in the business – and I got to take classes with three of them. The first one was with Amy King of Spunky Eclectic, and she taught the chain plying class. Here are Amy’s hands:IMG_6709

I picked up a couple of good tips and came home ready to tackle that bobbin. Here is how it came out:IMG-4503

It isn’t the most perfect yarn I’ve ever made, and I freely blame the prep. It is hard to get a nice, even singles when the prep is uneven, and it shows in the final yarn. Also, when I set the twist in hot water, a TON of dye came out. I had to do a second rinse with a big glug of vinegar, and a third wash with Soak. It was still bleeding some, but I called it done at that point. IMG-4506

I’m glad to call this project “done,” and now I know some signs to look for when I am shopping for fiber. I’m glad it was only a 4 oz braid instead of a larger quantity.


  1. Wow -- who would have thought this would be so problematic when you looked under the hood? I think you made it work, but all that worked should have already been done! All in all, though, I think ti looks quite presentable!

  2. Looks like you made some decent lemonade out of a lemon. I really appreciate your writings about process.