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05 March 2007 @ 04:54 pm
sweater and lace spinning  
Below the cut: some show-and-tell yarns--laceweight merino, laceweight silk, sportweight Shetland. A little lace swatch. Some fiber pictures. A lot of talking.


The fiber, carded Shetland roving which I bought at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival last September:

bags o wool

I went to the Sheep and Wool Festival planning to buy a 2-3 pound lot of fiber for a sweater. This fiber was lovely, from Sheepy Hollow Farm, and was totally charming, with each one-pound bag labeled with the name of the sheep it came from and a picture. But, Shetland sheep being what they are, none of the fiber bags quite matched. I ended up with one bag of a pure off-white roving, and one bag that was mostly off-white, with a few dark hairs running throughout. I figured that they were similar enough that plying them together wouldn't result in a barberpole effect, which seems to have worked.

This picture of the singles is a bit blurry, but you can see the difference in color:

mitzi and fontyne singles

I'd sampled enough by spindle to knit a small (about 2x4 inch) swatch. It was enough to see that the color was quite even throughout and that I could easily spin both fibers up to a comparable grist, about 14 wpi.

The darker fiber spun up very easily on the wheel, as it had on the spindle, but the lighter fiber fought me for a good long while. I think part of this was because the white fiber is still a bit greasy, and part of it is because it turns out that this roving spins much more easily from one direction than the other, and I must have started the spindle-spun stuff from the other end. I didn't think this would be the case with the fibers going every which way, but from one end I was clamping down, the fiber kept thinning to nothing and then suddenly a big clump would pop out. From the other end, I finally managed to master the long draw using only the tension from the wheel (yay! so much fun.)

I'd spun 3/4 of a bobbin of the lighter fiber badly before getting it right, and made the mistake of plying some of the singles I wasn't happy with. I didn't like the resulting yarn, it was very inconsistent, mostly too thin from where I was tensing up on the fiber. So I pulled off the rest of the ugly singles, set them aside, and started fresh.

plied shetland 1 through 4

The skein on the left is the lumpy one, about 14-16 wpi with occasional larger lumps. The remainder is a much more consitent 14 wpi when tightly wrapped, though it's so stretchy and full of air that it fills up the part of the swatch knit on size 6US knitting needles. It's a touch over 700 yards, all told (not counting the skein I don't like, about 500). I expect that, with breathing room, I'll spin about 1700 yards to this specification, and hold on to any remaining fiber until I finish the sweater and know I don't need any more. I'm thinking of a lightly cabled cardigan or pullover. I *should* have plenty of fiber, but if I don't because of the sampling and mistakes I'll probably avoid the cables.

This is my first large spinning project, and it seems to be working well so far. Working with two slightly different fibers is staving off the boredom for now, and I'm checking the singles against my samples pretty often. On a good day I can spin at the highest ratio of the Joy and still feel that I'm going at a relaxed pace. I suppose this means I'll be thinking about another wheel this summer when I'm done with grad school. Oh darn.


The silk is handpainted top I bought from an open house at Blackberry Ridge*, which I'd picked up, put down again, and regretted not buying on three separate occasions before this.

silk roving

It looks like a mango exploded, or a perfect autumn sugar maple. Red, orange, a bit of purplish-brown and yellow.

I've only got two ounces, so I swatched a bit by plying it with itself and then with some off-white silk top.

silk swatch

Plying it with itself is definitely the way to go; there's quite a bit of texture in that top half of the swatch but you could never tell by looking. So I started plying it with itself. I might just use it as the edge for a larger piece, or a small scarf. Here's the first skein, hanging out with some laceweight merino, all spindle-spun.

Red silk and red merino

130 yards of the silk so far, maybe a half-to 2/3rds of an ounce? Hard to judge without a scale. 22 wpi, 2-ply. For one ply, I split the roving about 6 times before spinning, with the other ply I only split it once. I didn't want the colors to both be changing too rapidly, but I did want somewhat frequent shifting.

The merino is Ashland Bay multicolored top that I bought from the Mielkes. There's about 600 yards of it, about 2 ounces of the 4 I bought. 30 wpi, two-ply. I love the tweediness of the yarn spun from the Ashland Bay fibers. I'm not big into handpainted fiber and yarn unless the variations are are within the same color family, like the silk, because the clumps of color in the final product distract me. But having many thin strips of color getting spun at once gives the yarn a lovely depth. I started a swatch with this yarn recently but mostly I just like to look at it.

*It doesn't look like they advertise the fibers online, but most of the fiber colorways were similar to those of the handpainted yarns--I'm sure if there's something you saw online that you liked you could get in touch with them. They're lovely folks.

finocchio on March 5th, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
absolutely beautiful!
tchemgrrl: Knitted Gir and Windup Bendertchemgrrl on March 6th, 2007 01:47 am (UTC)
Thanks! It's all been fun to spin.
Serenya and Loredenaserenya_loreden on March 6th, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC)
The reds look lovely, and I like how you worked out the Shetland, it was interesting to read your thought process and testing.
tchemgrrl: Knitted Gir and Windup Bendertchemgrrl on March 6th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I can't help the thinking, it's engineering-brain at work (you'd think I'd be able to turn it off once I got home).
Abby Franquemont: khaituhuaman on March 7th, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
I always wish there was MORE of that kind of post around, personally! Much more interesting to read. ;-)
tchemgrrl: Knitted Gir and Windup Bendertchemgrrl on March 7th, 2007 09:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, me too. If it's technical, it's *fun*. I don't know what to do with stuff I can't quantify in some way.

Funny small-world moment--you left that comment on Flickr on the Shetland pic literally at the same time I was writing this.
Abby Franquemonthuaman on March 7th, 2007 09:48 pm (UTC)
Haha, really? (re the comment on flickr, that is). I'm still a Flickr n00b. I like pictures, but I also like... you know, info. And stuff. But then too, I also wanted a doesn't-use-my-bandwidth photo spot for some stuff. So what the heck, I said, Flickr.

I always feel odd trying to post a comment about something if I don't have something substantive to say; ties in with liking meaty posts I think. I hate just posting "Great job!" type comments, even when I really mean it; I almost always try to think of, like, a question to ask or something meaningful to say, so I feel less like I'm just flinging unquantifiable bits at the 'net.

That said, I heart the Gender Bender.
Midnightsky Fibers Blogmnsfibers on March 12th, 2007 07:27 am (UTC)
I love the lace you plied back on itself- looks like it will make an awesome lace project, and such lovely colors!