filigree...
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Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Tale of Two Yarns

I've been spinning again. If you read my last installment about my "adventures in fiber" you would have seen the dark brown, wool yarn that I was making on my Kromski Sonata spinning wheel. I am happy to report that I finished yet another full bobbin of yarn, this time created from a lighter brown shade of wool roving. It would have been handy to have had a larger bobbin since I still have some of the light brown fiber left and I could have continued spinning it had I a larger receptacle. (More about my ponderings on bobbins some other time.)

Since I had two full bobbins of yarn, I decided to go forward with my original plan to ply (twist) together the two shades of brown to make a two-tone yarn. It so happened that I was lucky enough to complete the second bobbin during a gathering of a local spin-and-knit group, and our hostess, being an excellent spinner herself, was open to teaching me how to ply. (Thank you Emily!) I had only plied once before in 2007 when I made my first yarn in the first spinning class I attended. My memory being short these days, I needed a detailed refresher. Plying requires some sort of Lazy Kate, which is composed of an arrangement of rods or spokes that hold several full bobbins while the spinner feeds and twists together the yarn from these bobbins into the wheel's orifice (an opening that leads to the working, empty bobbin). The Kromski Sonata has an integral or attached Lazy Kate made of two removable metal rods fitted into a wooden swing arm that sits to the right of the treadles. The downside of this construction is that you can only ply two yarns at once. However, I am a beginner, so I have enough to handle by plying just two!

During the spinning of a single strand of yarn, the natural turning action of the flyer (the U-shaped part on top that holds the bobbin) creates the twist that holds together the fibers you are feeding into the wheel, thus making the actual yarn. The wheel is turned in one direction for this process; for plying the reverse is required in order to make a "balanced" two-ply - sort of like cancelling out the first twist of the single yarn by twisting in the opposite direction. There are much better explanations online if you search for "plying a balanced yarn." It is really quite a science!


Being an abject beginner, my main goal at this point was just getting the two yarns to come together in some sort of yarn-like fashion. Since I spun singles in the common clock-wise direction, I treadled counterclockwise to ply, which I found to be a little difficult at first as it seemed antagonistic to my usual spinning motion. The most helpful Emily showed me how to adjust my Scotch tension appropriately for plying - a rather constant battle of too much draw in and not enough. She also demonstrated how to hold the two yarns together with one hand at the point where they twisted together, while using the other hand to keep the two strands separated enough so as not to twist prematurely. I could have used a few more pairs of hands at that moment! The most important and tricky part of this process is getting the plied yarns to be "balanced", or to have the twists counteract each other in a way so that the plied yarn hangs without any kinking back on itself. There is an excellent article here on plying with photos that show this balancing act. It seems quality of life is always about achieving a good sense of balance! I am sure it will take many years of practice to get to point where my plied yarns will be well-balanced, and even then there will be some diversion from perfection caused by factors such as the weather (humidity), the type of fiber used, the amount of time that has passed since the singles were spun (wool relaxes as it sits), and so forth. Whoever said spinning was a simple skill had no idea of the nuances of fiber manipulation!

But back to plying...
After a few minutes of spinning, then stopping to check the yarn balance, I finally filled a spool with the two-tone, two-ply yarn that had lived only in my imagination to this point. Unfortunately I had to stop when my working bobbin was full because my wheel only came with three bobbins and there was still yarn left on the two from which I was plying. (Note to self: BUY MORE BOBBINS) So I'll have to ply the rest later. As we still had a few more minutes of group time left, I was able borrow a niddy noddy to turn the bobbin-full of yarn into a more familiar skein or hank. (Second note to self: nag - um, ask husband to make that cheap PVC niddy noddy from online plans this weekend.) I was shown how to wind the yarn onto the niddy-noddy in a crosswise fashion, then tie each side to secure using a short piece of string wound in between the yarns in a figure eight pattern. It was then time to remove the skein from the niddy noddy, stretch it out (or snap it) just a bit, and twist it in on itself to make a "real" looking skein, a shape that must have a name that I don't know, but I'll just call it a twisted sausage.

And ta-da, it was YARN!


Here is my second spinning effort, two-tone, two-ply wool next to my very first yarn (dark brown), spun during my first spinning class in 2007.



But I am not finished just yet. I still have to gently wash, or rather, soak the yarn to relax it and set the twist, then rinse it with cold water, repeat, squeeze out the water, and hang it to dry before I can use it - or display it in a bowl on the coffee table as my hostess half-jokingly suggested. There is a certain "look-I-made-this" quality to any crafting project that demands attention. Creations need to be seen and possibly used for them to fulfill their destiny. So, in an effort to feed this need, I am placing my first yarns out on the internet coffee table for you all to ogle while I get back to plying the rest of it so I can move on to spinning that lovely blue and purple fiber still sitting in a bag.

Yummy blues and purples, like grape cotton candy!
I hope it spins well.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Kary said...

WOW - fil!! Xcellent!!! What a great job spinning!!! Isn't it FUN??
WhEEEE!

February 12, 2009 at 5:49 PM  
Blogger makeyourpresentsfelt said...

The end result is absolutely wonderful, but the description left my head 'spinning'!

February 12, 2009 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger Chauncey said...

Liv, with words like Niddy Noddy, and lazy Kate it's like you are speaking a foreign language! I'm so glad you are enjoying yourself and making beautiful yarn all at the same time!

February 12, 2009 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger ZudaGay said...

Just look at what you did, Liv!! It looks wonderful!!! Well done!!!

February 12, 2009 at 6:43 PM  
Blogger Carol Dean said...

oooooo ahhhhhh

The only problem with this internet coffee table of yours is that I can't reach out and touch that gorgeous yarn you have created. sigh.

February 12, 2009 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Judy Nolan said...

Oh, Liv, that yarn looks yummy! I really love how it turned out. How long will it be before you can resist knitting up something with it?

February 12, 2009 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger thewildhare said...

What wonderful yarn Olivia! You have made something fabulous! Congratulations, the yarn from your head looks even more beautiful than I imagined it would from your description!

February 12, 2009 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger Alpaca Farmgirl said...

Gorgeous pictures! I hope to become a beginning spinner in May when we have a class here at my farm.

Why is balance so hard to achieve? :)
Thanks for sharing this, and for the resources.

April 6, 2009 at 4:18 AM  

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