Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Gradient spinning

I have always been partial to gradients. I especially love spinning them because they are so entertaining. Last month at MDSW, I bought these two bumps of fiber from Still River Mill:20180506_161051 crop

They are 90% merino wool and 10% silk. The preparation is carded and it was thin enough that I’d call it sliver (pronounced SLY-ver), not roving. I pulled the fiber from the middle of each bump – it is wound just like a skein of yarn. They were a “show special” priced at $20 each (each bump is 4 oz), and they were labelled “easy spin.”

At first, they were very easy to spin. My plan was to spin each bump on its own bobbin and make a 2-ply yarn. I figured 8 oz would be enough to make a sizeable shawl. When I started with the pale pink fiber on the inside, it was very smooth and I used a short forward draw to spin worsted style.20180526_103245

Then I hit the pinker sections and began to encounter more nepps and bumps. These seemed to increase in quantity as the fiber became darker in color. I wonder if these “show special” bumps were created with some mill waste from another job? I’m not sure. Rather than fighting the nepps too much, I tried to relax and just enjoy the spin. I figured that the resulting yarn would have a rustic, slubby look.

I had a little more trouble than usual with the singles jumping off the hook, so I tried cross-lacing them. This was an effective way to keep things under control and I was very pleased. Once the bobbin was about half full, the cross-lacing created too much drag, so I went back to the regular way. This shows what cross-lacing is (easier to show than explain):20180626_172527

Two full bobbins! Aren’t they pretty?20180624_090045

I wanted to rewind these onto storage bobbins, which evens out the twist before plying. My normal weaving shuttle bobbins were too small, though, because I wanted to keep each full gradient on one bobbin. So I turned to my “Bobbins Up” bobbins, which are designed to attach to a power drill. I prefer to wind by hand because I have more control over the speed, and I experimented with using the Bobbins Up bobbin on my bobbin winder. The hole is larger than the shaft, so the bobbin spins around without gripping or winding anything. I played with paper towels and wool fiber, but nothing worked. Reluctantly, I got out my power drill. That was, as expected, an exercise in frustration. Even at the lowest speed I could maintain on the drill, the pull was too strong… and it kept breaking my singles again and again (I stopped counting at 8 breaks). I just tied knots and tried to limit the cursing.

That was Bobbin #1. For Bobbin #2, I went back to my hand bobbin winder and considered it again. This time, I wrapped a rubber band around the shaft:20180624_175242

This provided just enough grip to keep the bobbin on while I wound gently by hand. For Bobbin #2, I only had 1 break. Success! Here are my rewound bobbins:20180624_175556

That color reminds me of pink evening primroses.

And here is the end product!20180627_075102

I got 938 yards and the total weight is 207 grams. As expected, it is not at all perfectly even… but I think the imperfections you see close up will disappear in a knitted object:20180627_075215

I’m not sure how to describe the weight of the yarn… some appears to be fingering, but some is bigger. Here’s the “penny shot” in a couple of different areas:20180627_075506


Overall, I’m pleased with the result, and also happy to have spun something that’s not just another 4 oz braid. It’s nice to dig into bigger projects sometimes. (Can you tell I’m gearing up for Tamarind and Muesli?)

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You have spun some damn beautiful yarn! I know next to nothing about spinning, but your explanations help me better appreciate the skill and patience it takes to spin. I hope you're displaying it in the basket so everyone can ooh and ahh at its loveliness!