Friday, February 26, 2016

4-ply Chain

Fellow spinners, have you heard the chatter this past season about 4-ply chain-plied yarn? I did, and I thought I would try it out on the thin singles of alpaca-corn fibre (ingeo) I had spun up on the wheel.  It seemed like an interesting way to try and balance the evenness of the final yarn when my singles were not consistent (and I blame the fibre/roving/blend for some of that).
Spinning singles in progress

The basic process is straightforward if you've chain plied before. The only difference is that you work from two singles and alternate which single is chained.
In theory this could be done at the wheel. I've chain plied at the wheel (and on the fly with my spindles) many times using long chains.  However, I wasn't up to the task of trying to alternate chained singles as I plied.  I chose to work a plying ball in advance, and even then I wish I'd done things a little differently to keep the two bobbins separate. For example, I should have used two shoe boxes spread apart to make sure the two plies wouldn't start wrapping around each other.  I also wish I hadn't tried this with a yarn that already had a lot of twist in it. I was reminded that I should really find a way to keep tension on my bobbins (a brake band of sorts) when plying.  In short, I only prepared several meters of chained 4-plies before I decided I should take my sample to the wheel and test if I even liked the plied result before I continued with the full bobbins.

I did like the result of a nice fingering weight yarn. A multi-ply yarn certainly helps in balancing out uneven singles. However, I really did not enjoy the process of preparing the plying ball.  I decided to keep things simple for the rest of this yarn and whip up a couple bobbins of 2-ply instead so I could move on to other projects.  Other than making a more consistent finished yarn, there wasn't a lot of interesting benefit to using the technique with this yarn and it wasn't as simple as a 3-ply chained yarn.

Knit sample of the chained 4-ply, ball of 4-ply, and 2 full bobbins of 2-ply lace.
I'm quite happy with the lace yarn.

I'm still thinking of the chained 4-ply opportunities with colour work. The effort could certainly be worth it to play with colour, like a type of fractal yarn. I'd need to get more colours in my stash to try it out, although for a fractal I'm imagining you wouldn't want to alternate which thread is chained. I'd be interested, for example, in keeping one thread different and single while chaining the other.  Hmm, thoughts. I have some playing to do, even if it's with different fibres. Next time, however, I won't work with high-twist singles and I will keep my bobbins separated.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Spinning to Knit

Every now and then I find myself racing to spin a new yarn, even if I'm in the middle of another spinning project (or two or three).

Interrupted the blue batt spinning to spin up the alpaca blend light brown, but then I *had* to spin the purple.

This time it was because one of my favourite designers, AnimaKnits on Ravelry, had inquired if I'd want to test another of her amazing new shawls. Of course I do!  Alas, I didn't seem to have the appropriate yarn in my stash.  The obvious solution was to look in my other stash - the fibre stash - where I found 8oz of this gorgeous purple merino-silk top from several years ago.  The design features tulip flowers, so it seemed a great colour choice.  (The listed colourway on this purple is "garnet", which I think is a misnomer, except for the occasional red fluff in the top.)

Thus began the race to spin up two bobbins and ply them together on my quill so that I could cast on.  Then, as I was knitting (not simultaneously), I started on filling those bobbins again for a second skein which I finished just in time as the first ball of yarn ran out. Repeated this again for a third skein with the remaining fibre.

While I was spinning I decided it could be fun to record a video about this process, especially for my non-spinning friends who are interested in my hand-spun yarns.  In the video below I finish a second bobbin of singles and then switch to plying on my quill/wheel-spindle.  My spinning/tea room is quite cool (cold), which is why I am wearing a hat and cowl (also knit from hand-spun).  It took me far too long, I sheepishly admit, to realize that my foot on the floor would be much warmer if I placed the wheel on top of one of the blocking foam boards sitting right behind the shelving.  I'd been thinking of making a carpet for in front of the wheel. (I will, eventually.)  I also feel obliged to add that the wheel is not normally this noisy but my treadle doesn't like how I am repeatedly trying to start treadling from a near-stop while I'm talking/distracted and because I am twisting my body a lot while I talk my foot isn't resting in the correct position. One of my bobbins also just turned chatty in the cold dry weather as I started the project. I normally enjoy near-silent spinning.

Coming soon - finished shawl photos. (As soon as I finish, that is. There are a couple of bobbins being plied right now before I can wrap this project up.)