Saturday, July 25, 2009

Four-Ply Yarn

At the homespun yarn party (Savage Mills, MD, March 2009), I purchased a wool and bamboo fiber. I decided to try it on my drop spindle. Once I had enough I wanted to test plying it, and decided to try a four-ply yarn. This means four different threads plied together. I swatched it, and you can see the result in the photo.
I think it's a great tweed. It turned out that it sort of self-striped.

New Party Tricks with Spinning Wheels

So, loyal readers will know I spin on a wheel (I own two), and on a drop spindle (I own several). But I've found that once I have fiber spun on a drop spindle, it's hard to get it prepared for plying. There is no device that makes it easy to hold a drop spindle and ply from it or from several.

One technique I've tried is winding the spun fiber onto a core (an empty toilet paper roll, if you must know). However, it's not that easy to ply from. Since I think it's sometimes easier to spin using a lazy kate (built to hold bobbins), I decided I'd try to wind from my spindle onto a bobbin. So I configured my Ashford Traditional double-drive to spin the bobbin but not the flyer.

To do this, the double-drive band must be placed around the bobbin only. For spinning one band is placed around the bobbin and one band around the whorl, so the bobbin and the flyer both spin. But, with the band only around the bobbin, the flyer doesn't move. See, in the photo the flyer is the wood with the hooks in it - like arms. You can see the drive band - it is the pink band horizontal in the picture. The whorl is the piece with the two grooves, in the center of the photo. It is slightly darker wood than the bobbin.

Here's the technique:
1. I put the empty bobbin in place.
2. I placed the band around the bobbin
3. I attached the thread I'd spun on the drop spindle, to the leader on the bobbin.
4. I started treadling, clockwise
5. Continued treadling and winding onto the bobbin until all the fiber was off the spindle.

Simple as that. The flyer never moved so it didn't get in the way as the thread wound onto the bobbin. I found it was somewhat difficult to hold the spindle in place and let it spin as the fiber wound off, but I managed it with a little finesse.

Clun Forest Hat

I knit the clun forest hat from my handspun! It is a pattern from the Spring 2009 edition (I believe) of Spin-Off magazine. Clun Forest is a breed of sheep, but I used yarn that wasn't spun from Clun Forest fiber. Nevertheless I thought it turned out well. Alarmingly, it was tremendously oversized once I washed it. Not to be distressed - I realized it would probably make a good felting experiment. And so it did. If you are interested in Clun Forest sheep, check out this link:

Bamboo Follow-Up

I got far enough along with the bamboo to attempt to ply it. I was NOT happy with the result. Way too loose a ply. In my frustration I totally trashed the singles. I do still have plenty of fiber left, and I think that it's just a matter of finding the right project for it.

PLYING TIP: Part of what gives me hope is that I've learned something about plying since the failure with the bamboo. My friend Liz saw yarn of mine underplied, and we simply ran it through the spinning wheel again in the direction of the original ply, to ply it tighter. The resulting yarn just after plying was coiling up on itself. Now, I had worked under the assumption that the coiling indicated the ply was too tight and it wouldn't result in a balanced yarn. NOT SO! Once I washed the yarn, the coiling and kinkiness were gone - I didn't even have to weight the yarn down when drying it. So, this makes me think that I can ply the bamboo much tighter than I thought I could, and end up with a wonderful yarn.

The other thing I'm considering with the bamboo is creating a kind of boucle style yarn. With a boucle, I can spin two singles with opposite twist (one Z twist and the other S). In plying, one will get tighter and the other will fluff out, yet stay held together by the other. The bamboo would be good for the one that gets tighter.

Here is an example of a sort of boucle which I spun with silk and wool Sue H. gave me. The thin is the silk, the blue is the wool.