Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Different Spin On Things

A few years ago, back in my early days as a spinner, I happened to bump into another string wrangler whilst yarn shopping.  This was before I discovered that there was an on-line community of spinners out there with whom I might connect and the opportunity to pick someone's brain, even if it was a total stranger, was kind of nice.  She, a veteran spinner, proudly showed off her scarf and told me that it was the result of her time at the wheel.  It was the skinniest little bit of string I'd ever seen and I admired her skill.  As a newbie, I was in the rope-producing stage of the process and couldn't even begin to imagine getting to the place where I might be able to spin anything so fine.

What she said next has stuck with me for all these years.  She told me that she was no longer able to spin anything other than laceweight at that point.  No matter what she did, the yarn came out as thin as spider webbing.  I think she might have been rather proud of this.  Frankly, anyone who could spin yarn so thin had my admiration.  And it clearly made her happy.  If you are only going to produce one thing, you might as well make something magical, right?

But, I have to admit, I didn't want to be limited in my own spinning.  Not that I saw this as an immediate problem.  Like I said, I was new.  The yarns, they were hefty.  Yarns of substance, you might say.  Still, I promised myself that I would always remember how to spin a variety of yarn weights.

As time went by, my own yarns became thinner and more even.  I progressed very quickly to a DK weight and even came up with something that sort of looked like fingering weight in places.  Finally, I found myself within a fiber's breadth of that holy grail of spinners: laceweight.  And then I made it!  I can now spin single as fine as that lady who I met amongst the yarn shelves all those years ago.

And I realized that I wasn't sure I could spin anything else.  Ack!!!!

That's not strictly true.  The laceweight yarn I've produced has come from commercially prepared rovings.  And let's face it:  that's easier to do.  But, even thinking back to some of the less processed fibers with which I've worked over the past year, I could only recall one time I'd come out with worsted weight yarn.  And most of it has been on the skinny end of that scale.  I'd worked so hard at producing perfect, skinny yarns that I'd forgotten how to just let the wool go a bit and be something more poofy.  

Time to change things up.

After finishing up with the merino/silk blend and letting that lovely laceweight yarn soak for a bit, then hang to dry, I rooted through the stash for something that might make for a chunkier spin.  I landed in a pile of Shetland.  Not really a pile, I suppose.  More like a box of beautiful bits 'n bobs.  But Shetland nonetheless.  Last year, Cathy sent me a fabulous sampler box of all sorts of goodies, including a nice mix of Shetland.  One caught my eye: a lamb/silk blend in a lovely willow shade.  It had been processed, but not so much as to make it too easy for me.  Not like a commercial roving that would just slide accommodatingly through my fingers.  It looked like just the thing for re-learning how to have fun with the wool.  Maybe even remind me that a semi-woolen prep, where you just trust that the wool will behave rather than tightly control the twist as I do when I'm doing a worsted sort of spin, can be beautiful.  

Ahhh...this was it!   And soft?  Good heavens, it was like petting a cloud!  I put a nice, big whorl on the wheel and, with a generous chunk of the stuff in hand, began to spin.




Thicker yarn spins up a bit more quickly, wouldn't you say?  


It is a bit lumpier than I'm used to.  But I am stubbornly refusing to impart any more control over it.  There is a definite lack of consistency in this yarn and parts of it will be obviously underspun.  That's OK.  Heck, I may even throw caution to the wind here and not ply.  I may just knit with it as singles, all willy nilly!  I'm living on the edge, here!!!  I'll admit that I've caught myself on several occasions trying to hold back the amount of fiber that is traveling into the Land Of Twist.  But, I've been getting better about that.  And it's been great fun!  In fact, I would say that there has really only been one down side to the process.

All this spinning seems to be cutting drastically into my knitting time...

SA

12 comments:

Kath said...

I'll admit I'm kind of a single ply snob but I'd pass on the plying and leaving it as singles. Whatever you knit up with the yarn will have great stitch definition and any "rough spots" will emphasize that this is handspun yarn - and in a good way!

Beth said...

I like it, but I like your laceweight, too. I have a plying question: could you ply three or four thin singles together to come up with a worsted weight yarn? Does the yarn feel different when you do that?

Kris said...

It is lovely as always. Now I have wheel lust. Thank you very much!

Teri S. said...

Yum...lamb/silk! You are beginning to get me itching to get behind the wheel again, as it were. I've got so much yummy stuff to spin...Jacob (and lots of it), a silk/merino blend, some Icelandic wool, all of the fiber from the Wooly Wonka Exotic Fibers club and some alpaca. Ravelry needs to add a fiber stash!

Mia said...

you're a wild child *grin*

Karen said...

Very lovely.
I will not take up spinning.
I will not take up spinning.
I will not take up spinning.
I will not take up spinning.

trek said...

I sometimes wonder why I bought a wheel. It doesn't get as much exercise as it should - as that would cut into the knitting time....sigh...

Yarnhog said...

Your singles are beautiful. And of course I love your laceweight. I've been trying to spin worsted weight singles lately. Can't do it. I also can't spin laceweight. I seem to be living in dk-land. My two-ply makes a lovely light-worsted, and I'm happy to be able to do something consistently, but still!

Cathy said...

That must be Angie (from Shelly) that I dyed then blended with silk and had Red Barn put into roving.

Working with singles right off the bobbins is really really fun!! Spin, crochet/knit, spin some more.

Knitting Linguist said...

But the results are so lovely! And here I am, still well in the "chunky-weight" stage of spinning, thinking ahead longingly to the days when I'll have to force myself to spin thicker :)

April said...

I have no idea what you're talking about but it sounds really cool!

Donna Lee said...

I also am having intense wheel lust. I am trying to convince my family that it would be to their benefit for me to have a spinning wheel. So far, they are not buying it.