Spring-y Felted Singles

We got a fresh 4 or 5 inches of snow last night, so it seems only fitting that I share something spring-y today. No, I’m not to the point of the winter where of I’m ready to see GREEN again. I’m still totally digging the winter palette I’m surrounded by. I don’t think that’s a universal feeling though as I’ve seen a lot of green starting to creep back into everyone’s spinning and knitting images lately. So today as the snow continues to fall, I’ll share something spring-y.

Every now and then Mary Ann at Three Waters Farm accepts a request to create a colorway for a special group or event. Earlier this month, she posted a couple colorways created for the 35th anniversary of the North Country Spinners guild in northwest New Jersey. One of them was called Spring Lamb.

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

I don’t know what it was about this colorway that made me buy it. It’s not really a palette I usually go for, but I was so curious about how it would spin up that I couldn’t resist it. I ordered 4oz on the Rambouillet base — I just had to see it spun up.

I’ll be really honest. Because it wasn’t really in a palette in my comfort zone, I was really indecisive about what to do with it. I stared at it for a good long while. And then when I decided I wanted to get a feel for the largest whorl on my Schacht Reeves (I hadn’t yet tried it out), so I grabbed my Spring Lamb and started spinning straight from the braid with a relatively low twist, hoping I could make passable singles.

I’m not the most skilled at singles, but I really wanted to focus on speed control with the big whorl so that when I went on to attempt to learn long draw (the ultimate purpose of the ‘getting to know the big whorl’ exercise) that I would have a good feel for that speed control. Plus, I really didn’t want to muddy these colors.

At one point I panicked, thinking I had too much twist for singles and pulled all the yellow out thinking I could do a gimp with the yellow as the lighter ply, only to later add the yellow back in (sort of in the right place) when I finally decided that I would indeed stick with the singles idea.

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Suffice to say, the indecision ran deep in this one.

When I went to wind off the yarn onto my niddy-noddy, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. It wasn’t super uniform, but it was better than I expected. Because it was a single and 100% wool and there were some areas that were kind of lightly plied, I opted to do a felted finish with this yarn as a sort of insurance policy that it wouldn’t fall apart. I learned this trick a few years back and I like to use it for singles sometimes. It basically shocks the fibers into lightly felting to make a slightly stronger yarn. If you’ve ever knit with Malabrigo Worsted, this process makes a yarn kind of like that.

So how do I do it? Let me tell you! Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures this time around — next time, I promise! — but I will go ahead and give you step-by-step instructions for the process!

First, I tie off the skein in about 6 places to make sure I can easily straighten it out and hang it when done. I hate it when my skeins get tangling in the bath and I have to sit there and re-situate it all. Also, it’s an active enough process and hard enough on my hands with the differing temps that the last thing I want to be doing at the end is hunting for how to make it hang properly.

Then, I fill one side of my kitchen sink about 3″ deep with hot water (like kinda hurts my hands hot) and the other side with about 3″ ice cold water. My tap gave me a big enough contrast that I didn’t need to add water for the kettle or ice or anything — in the old house I usually had to augment my tap temps, but here I used just very hot and very cold tap water.

Next, I dunk my skein in the hot water and gently swish it around. Let it sit a minute. Lift it out (carefully with your hands or a wooden spoon) and squeeze out as much water as you can (get creative if the water is hot on your hands — for heavens sake, don’t hurt yourself!).

Then, I plunge the skein into the ice cold water and gently swish it around. Let it sit a minute. Lift it out and squeeze out as much water as you can.

And repeat, 2 or 3 or 4 times. I amend the hot and cold water to keep the temp contrast strong — you will lose some temperature contrast as you alternate. When I feel like my yarn is felted to my specifications, I pull it out and squeeze the extra water out one last time.

Finally, I give it a couple good snaps, rotating the skein to a new spot each time to even out the twist.

And voilà!

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You’ve got yourself a lightly felted skein of singles, all ready to be knit or woven or crocheted!

I love that depending on how you look at this skein, it looks different. From pinks and brown and yellows…

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To greens and yellows and greys…

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To yellow and pinks and greens…

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So many fun combinations! I can’t wait to see how these colors translate into a knitted object — I am just so glad I indulged my curiosity by buying and spinning this fiber. Sometimes you just have to follow that curiosity and see where it takes you because clearly it can take you marvelous places!

The finished yarn is about 340yards of a 12wpi sport weight yarn. It’s lighter than I anticipated when I was spinning it, but I really smooshed a lot of the air out of it during the felting and snapping process so it’s not exactly a surprise. I am very happy with the results though, especially considering I was undecided through 75% of this project. I think it’s going to be super fun to knit up. I just need to track down the perfect pattern!

11 thoughts on “Spring-y Felted Singles

  1. My oh my, what a lovely skein! I am so happy for the explanation of how you felted singles. I have a mini skein of singles that were a practice spin when I first got my Elizabeth II a few months ago. Had no idea what to do with those singles, but now I do! Think I’ll have a go at felting them tomorrow. Should be a fun experiment!

  2. Your process reminded me of blanching vegetables! The final outcome is delightful – SO springy – feels like Easter and I love it!

  3. A beautiful skein of yarn! You have encouraged me to give singles a go. I have only tried once before and agitated it too much and ended up with a felted skein. Your method seems much gentler and much more controlled. I will give it a go, thanks.

  4. I was sure you were going to weave with that pretty skein! I can see why you got it, Mary Ann doesn’t dye ugly things, you are always going to get good yarn form her stuff. 🙂

    I am impressed that you spun a singles at that weight that isn’t too twisty or loose or anything. Good work!

    1. I was surprised, too! I think I get much better control of the twist with the new wheel. Also, as I’ve been spinning and getting more experienced, I find it easier to apply some basic concepts to get the twist where it needs to be. It’s like anything, the more you do it, the easier it is to do well.

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