What 6 Mini Skeins Taught Me

I’ve never been the most adventurous spinner. Like so many, I’ve spent the bulk of 5years I’ve been spinning just trying to get consistent yarn in the most traditional ways — 2-plies, chain plies, standard 3-plies — and repeat. I’ve played a bit outside that box and I have dabbled in different weights, but that’s about it.

Enter the 1×6 SAL with Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group. I can always depend on this group to nudge me out of my comfort zone, to take a leap. The idea with this spin-along was to take one braid of fiber and spin it six different ways, for six mini-skeins. The particulars were up to the individual — you could choose to focus mostly on playing with color or you could prioritize trying different techniques or a little of both. I chose to use the opportunity to challenge myself with new techniques. After all, that’s an area I’ve been intrigued, but intimidated by and it seemed like as good a time as any to just do it.

I started with this braid of fiber.

summer bouquetIt’s 100% polwarth from Three Waters Farm called Summer Bouquet.

I picked 2 techniques I am very familiar with — the standard 2-ply and the chain ply. I thought it would be good to have a something I know well to compare to the others. For the others, I selected a slubby single (yikes!), a regular mid-weight single (omg!), a gimp (breathing into a paper bag now…), and a cable ply (staring blankly with mouth hanging open in disbelief). For different reasons, I would consider these all outside of my comfort zone. I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my spinning over the last 6months or so though, so I researched each a little and just went to it.

First, I went with the slubby single. Let me preface this by saying that I’m not confident with singles. At all. I recently got and watched through Spinning Stupendous Singles on Craftsy though and I wanted to give this a try. I sat down to spin and I struggled. I was using my copy of Sarah Andersen’s The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs, but I sometimes have problems learning in-motion things in still photos and words, so I ran over to my phone and opened up the class and re-watched the portion on slubby singles. I really thought I’d just trashed my first mini-skein.

When I went to wind it though…

slubby singleHoly WOW! It turned out great! I am not 100% sure this was possible, but I feel pretty confident I understand the whole process now so I’ll take it as a win and move forward.

My second mini-skein was a plain single. Emboldened by the surprise success of the slubby single, I did not hold back…

singleWho knew I could do this?! I love this little skein!

From here I moved on to the plied yarns. I spun all the singles right away and then plied them all.

First, the standard 2-ply…

2plyAs I said, I do this all the time and it wasn’t stressful at all. Sometimes it’s important to throw yourself a bone when you’re pushing yourself.

Next, I plied the gimp. A gimp is a 2-ply yarn that has one ply that is half the diameter of the other creating a kind of spiral-y effect. I have never, ever tried to spin 2-plies for one yarn with different diameters that are supposed to be someone particular.

gimpTurns out, I really liked it! The singles were a little nerve-wracking, but the plying, was captivating. So. Much. Fun!

The chain plying I did I actually changed the order of the colors in order to have a sort of light to dark situation. Especially when it comes to Three Waters Farm colors, I generally don’t mess with the colors because Mary Ann has such a phenomenal touch, but in the interest of being a little out of my comfort zone I went for it.

chainplyI generally love how chain ply yarns looks — the nice, round 3-ply is unbeatable — but this one did turn out awfully pretty, too.

And finally, the Big Kahuna of this experiment. The Cable Ply. Now I realize I didn’t reinvent the wheel here or anything, but this method is by far the most involved spin I’ve ever undertaken. It goes like this:

  1. Spin 4 sets of singles with an S twist.
  2. Take those 4 sets and make 2 – 2-ply yarns with Z twist, putting in twice the twist you normally would.
  3.  Ply these 2 – 2-ply yarns together with an S twist, just enough, but not too much so that the cable ‘pops.’

I did start step three only to find that I needed substantially more twist in my step 2 yarns (even though I thought I’d added enough), so I followed the tip of just running those 2-plies back through my wheel. That fixed them up just right. And…

cableplyTa-Da! A cable ply yarn!

One more photo, ok?

cable detailI’ll admit that because I spun my singles so thin, I actually had a somewhat hard time seeing the cable ‘pop’ and I had real concerns that when I washed it it would turn out quite right. It did, thankfully!

Beyond the resulting yarns, the most important part of this exercise for me is what I learned form doing it. So what did these 6 mini-skeins teach me?

groupMy skills and abilities with fiber and my wheel have come a long way in the last year.

My spinning horizons are so much wider than I realized.

It’s worth it to step outside of my comfort zone.

Having a spinning group (whether online or in-person) can have a huge impact on not only on improving what you already know, but in showing you that you can do things you didn’t even imagine trying.

It’s true to say that this spin-along has fundamentally changed how I look at spinning. In some ways, it’s been slowly unfolding since the beginning, since I got my wheel, but in other ways this spin-along has reinforced and really hit home for me the fact that I have command of this skill. No, I’m not an expert by any means, but I’m not muddling through any more either. If these 6 little skeins could talk, I have a feeling they’d look me squarely in the eye and say, “You’ve got this.”

Oh, the places we’ll go now!

14 responses to “What 6 Mini Skeins Taught Me

  1. wow – those all look so great! It is amazing to me how different they all look, yet clearly they are the same colors. That cable ply looks almost braided. Now, what will you make with all of these beauties?
    You WILL go amazing places now.

  2. WOW, Sarah, these are beautiful. I know nothing about spinning, but enjoy being along for the ride and seeing you step out and brave new techniques. I make myself do that with knitting and always feel so proud, so can imagine how great this makes you feel about yourself, especially since they all turned out so beautifully. Good going, Girl!

    • Thanks! For me, new spinning techniques always makes me feel a little like walking a tight-rope without a net. So much of spinning is much more free-form than I’m generally comfortable with, but I think that’s why I enjoy it so much. It really pushes me.

  3. This is really inspiring to me! I’ve been spinning 6 years, but have really gotten away from it in the last year or two; I’m definitely putting to much emphasis on the final product and less on the process and on exploration. I might just spin for Tour de Fleece this year after all, with the goal of trying many different techniques. Thank you!

    • You’re welcome! I hope that you do! I’ve found that — ironically — the more you focus on the process and the freedom to explore, the better the final product. I hope you find your spinning mojo in the TdF!

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