Three Three-Plies

March’s skill builder skill of choice of the Three Waters Farm Skill Builder SAL was the traditional 3-ply. Like many, I’ve not spun a ton of traditional 3-ply yarns in my day. When it comes to yardage, traditional 3-plies tend to be fiber hogs. You can get a lot more yardage from a 2-ply. Chain plying allows you to keep colors pure a little easier as well as get a yarn that closely emulates that signature round-ness of a traditional 3-ply. But it’s still not a traditional 3-ply and there’s something inherently wonderful about a traditional 3-ply.

Traditional 3-ply yarns are beautifully round.  With hand-dyed yarn you have what seems like infinite options for color play. You also have strength and durability perfectly suited for sock knitting or any hard-wearing item you want to create. For this month’s challenge I wanted to embrace this technique and really explore the possibilities, at least the tip of the iceberg on this type of yarn.

My first spin of the month is the Calendar Colorway for Three Waters Farm, Common ground on Falkland.

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I split into a 1:3:6 fractal.

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I’m not usually quite so deliberate when I break my fiber up, so this spin was awfully fun for me and I love the results. I am very inspired to do some more deliberate experiments with how I break my fiber up.

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I was plying with my big wheel, my 30″ Schacht Reeves, which isn’t usually what I choose for plying just because I prefer to take my time, but I knew I wanted to get this yarn to have a fairly high twist so it was a good choice for this particular project.

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I can’t say enough good things about the Falkland base, too. It spins into such a soft, silky yarn — it’s actually hard to believe it’s 100% wool because in my hands it almost feels like a silk blend.

My second spin was Tranquil Gleam on a BFL/Nylon base 80/20 (it’s not currently available on the BFL/Nylon base, but it is available on the Polwarth/Silk 60/40 base currently). Unfortunately when I spun this I didn’t really spin with a plan because I was distracted by the fact that it was a BEAUTIFUL spin.

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I mean, absolutely gorgeous to the point that I may have to get it to try on the 60/40 Polwarth/Silk because I can’t even imagine how insanely amazing that would be.

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I kind of wish I had enough for socks with this, but unfortunately I think the fiber hog strikes again with this 4oz skein and I’ll have to shoot for a hat. I don’t think I can complain about that though.

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However it gets used, it’ll be stunning.

And last, but certainly not least, a little combination spin! A while back I noticed that I thought the TWF colorways April Showers and Wood & Concrete would be pretty cool used together.

I’d always thought I’d ply them together or spin them separately and then weave them together. Then someone in the TWF Ravelry Group Skill Builder Thread mentioned spinning a 3-ply gradient with 2 colorways. If April Showers is “A” and Wood & Concrete is “C”, she created 4 skeins which in turn created one long gradient that were set like this:

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Instead of spinning 4 different skeins, I opted to attempt to create 2 matching gradient skeins. I’d need 24 pieces total, so I broke each 4oz braid into 12 equal(ish) pieces. First, I divided them into their 3 color repeats and then each repeat into 4 equal(ish) pieces. Doing this for both colorways, I got 24 pieces, 12 from April Showers and 12 from Wood & Concrete. And while I’ve just gotten through one skein so far, this is the plan:

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With the idea that the finished skeins would knit in that same, gradient style as her 4 consecutive skeins, from end to end:

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The resulting skein…

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Oh my goodness!!!

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Beyond my wildest dreams! I am currently working on skein #2 of this gradient, but I am hoping to have a chance to figure out yardage on this beauty and then cast on some socks with it as soon as possible. Even if I only have enough yarn for shorties, I think this is going to have to be toe-up socks so I can see the full grandness of what this yarn will be.

I’ve certainly learned to appreciate and love the versatility of the traditional 3-ply yarn this month and I’m sure I’ll be inclined to spin more of them now that I’ve spent some time experimenting with them. For now, though I’ve got that second skein to finish and then it’ll be on to chain plying, the skill builder technique for April!

Ply Twist Takes Center Stage

This month’s Skill Builder challenge in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry group was focused on 2-ply yarns. I had the pleasure of spinning with their February Calendar Colorway, East Window on their Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk 80/20 base.

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

Due to travel and sickness in my house, I’m a bit behind in sharing it, but better late than never, right?!

As I shared earlier, I always take the time to pre-draft this particular base. I just find it spins a little easier that way. If you’ve got a cultivated silk (also called “mulberry silk”) spin on the horizon, you can check out this video I shared for how I prep my fiber.

Since the goal was a two ply, I first split the fiber into its three color repeats. And then each of those 3 repeats I split in 2, creating 6 more or less even pieces. The first 3 pieces I spun as is, end to end.img_5897

For the second 3 pieces, I broke each piece into 2, 3, or 4 pieces (or more!). I like randomness in my barberpoling skeins, so I find purposely breaking the fiber into uneven pieces and in different ways helps with that. I spun both portions each onto their own bobbin.

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You can see how different the color repeats are even in this photo!

 I had hoped to create a video of how I ply my 2-ply yarns because I think there’s no other type of yarn where ply twist quite takes center stage, but with a house full of sick family, including my husband who was diagnosed with pneumonia this week, it just didn’t happen. I do plan to make a video of this though at some time in the near future though and I’ll be sure to share it here when that happens. I find that because the idea of a 2-ply yarn is so basic, it is often overlooked as far as instruction goes and I’d like to share how I find the amount of ply twist that I like to work with.

While we wait for me to get a video together, though, I can share a couple photos.

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This is the amount of ply twist I usually look for while I’m plying a 2-ply yarn when the yarn is under tension, but not yet up on the wheel.

img_6115When it’s wound up onto the bobbin…

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And without tension, but still on the wheel. I used to subscribe to the idea that a “balanced” yarn is one that will lay limp and flat in this same position, but over the years I’ve landed firmly in the camp that would label those limp yarns as underplied. That’s not to say there is not a place for low twist yarns, but generally speaking I want my handspun to have some soft twist in a plyback test while plying. It just makes a better yarn. This spin is probably a smidge more ply twist than I’d call ideal. With a snap or a thwack to even out the twist after a nice bath, all that extra twist relaxes and you get this…

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It’s a finished skein with just enough ply twist to make the yarn plump and full of life & energy, but not so much to be twisting out of control.

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It’s going to make a great knitting yarn to be sure!

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I just love the colorway — from the true yellow and grey to the soft blues and oranges. And I’ve really come to love the Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk base, too, as it makes such a nice yarn. Today is the last day to pre-order your very own East Window on Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk from Three Waters Farm, so if you want to give it a whirl you still have time!

And March’s Skill Builder in the TWF Group will start tomorrow! We’ll be taking a closer look at traditional 3-ply yarns and I can’t wait to get started! Since my spinning time was limited this past month, I’m hoping to make up for some lost time at the wheel in March. The featured Calendar Colorway for March is Common Ground on Falkland and it’s available already for pre-order! It’s time to get spinning some traditional 3-ply yarns!

One, Two, Fourteen

I’m fairly certain that those of us who choose to handspin yarn for fun commonly let the spinning get away from us. No, I don’t mean any sort of comical cartoon-like spinning wheel come unhinged and rolling down the street inexplicably leaving a trail of yarn in its wake while I chase after it (although my kids absolutely wish something that exciting would be associated with my handspinning). I just mean that you get in a spinning groove and you find yourself spinning just to spin. For a long while. And the skeins of handspun yarn pile up. If you’re like me, they may even pile up to the extent that you start to forget the clever name of the colorway let alone the fiber content and dyer. If you’re like me, you’ve acquired a small box that holds the bags from the fibers you spin. If you’re like me, you inevitably find yourself rifling through said box with your fingers crossed hoping you can decipher which skein of yarn goes with what bag.

I definitely need a new system of organization. Please don’t tell Marie Kondo how bad this has gotten or the fact that my 3 clothing drawers are organized and folded neatly may be overshadowed by this shadow of failure. But let’s go there another day.

Suffice to say, I went to photograph and share my recently finished yarns and found not one or two skeins, but fourteen. Oy. Dating back to the end of last year. Oy. And I did the rifling through the plastic bags with the crossed fingers. Oy.

But, on the bright side, through the crossed-finger search I did come up with a new idea for organizing that may just manage to not step on my voracious appetite to keep spinning with minimal interruption. I suppose time will tell on that point.

For today, I’m going to quickly (or as quickly as I can) share those fourteen skeins with you with minimal commentary. I’ll be leaving out yarn weight and yardage, just because I’ve not yet gotten to logging that all in and there’s really a need here to share them and get these skeins tagged and on the shelf before I get any further behind. I’m hopeful that today you’ll forgive me and be OK looking at some pretty yarns and stand with me, fingers crossed, in hopes that the future will be slightly more organized.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some pretty handspun yarns!

Fall Foliage 8 from Three Waters Farm on the 85/15 Polwarth/Tussah base.

Maple Leaf Rag from Three Waters Farm, a simple 2-ply on the 80/20 Merino/Tussah base.

Three Waters Farm’s Firefly Dusk, a chain-ply version on the 40/40/20 Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah base.

A 2-ply Kelp on 85/15 Polwarth/Silk from Three Waters Farm.

From Nest Fiber Studio, this is Damaged Goods on Superfine Merino.

Hazelnut from Inglenook Fibers spun from battlings made of a 40/25/25/10 Corriedale/Superfine Merino/Mulberry Silk/Flax base.

From the Three Waters Farm Top of the Month Club, a 3-ply version of Dried Rose Petals on the 50/25/25 Merino/Bamboo/Tussah base.

Dungarees and Flannel on a 100% Mixed BFL base from Three Waters Farm.

TWF’s Summer Palette on 80/20 Merino/Tussah base.

Roasted Gold on an 85/15 Polwarth/Tussah base from TWF.

Hayride on 70/30 Mixed BFL/Silk from Nest Fiber Studio.

60/20/20 Merino/Cashmere/Silk from Three Sisters Fiber Co. (now Abacus Dyeworks) — This one either had no name or I misplaced the tag with the name (insert eyeroll here).

Chasing Deer on 100% Falkland from Nest Fiber Studio.

And last, but certainly not least…

Multifarious Ruse on 100% Finn from TWF. This one could have been any color and I’d have bought it for the name, but I’m in love with the colorway, too!

And there you have it, all 14 spins!

Playing Catch-Up

You may have noticed some general quiet from me over here. Nothing is wrong, that’s just me doing a very poor job of prioritizing my time. Once the polar vortex moved on, we were excited to get outside.

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We found this spot — that little triangle in the lower left is a spot where an otter was entering and exiting the water. You can tell because you can see his little otter slides straight out in front of the point.

And we found some super cool icy prints…

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This one we believe is from a skunk!

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And of course there was ample sign of the mighty beaver!

We also made a quick trek out to my parents’ house where we got to play with grandpa’s “tank.”

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And then we drove back in a snowstorm.

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This photo was probably during the best driving conditions of the trip. We started out in rain, then it turned to freezing rain, and then heavy snow. Suffice to say, the trip took about twice as long as normal and the car was coated in a sheet of ice when we got home.img_5890

This photo was taken after we dug ourselves out from getting stuck trying to get in our driveway. Ah, winter in Wisconsin!

Oh, and yesterday we had another snowstorm.

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No big whoop, just another 14 inches.

Bear is ecstatic with this development.

The snow is probably another 8″ deeper now than when I took this video and, as you can imagine, every trip outside is mostly hilarious with this little dude as he tries to navigate through snow that is basically at eye level with him.

In between shoveling and school and more shoveling and and laughing at the dogs and more shoveling, I’ve been managing to get some knitting, spinning, and setting handspun yarn done. I finished my Weekender Sweater and it is washed and dried and ready for photos. And I started a new knitting project, a Milliken vest in Quince & Co Ibis.

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I missed the announcements provided by Quince & Co and was sad to hear that this yarn is discontinued. I used it for my Fairbanks sweater last year and now the Milliken vest. I’ll be sad to see this base gone, but I’m sure Quince & Co has more goodness coming, they always do!

I finished some spinning, too. I’m foggy on the timing of everything because I’ve just kind of kept on spinning, but I have this pile of handspun to photograph and share with you.

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With the return of my maiden from Schacht, I finished the singles for my 2-ply challenge over in the Three Waters Farm Skill Builder SAL.

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I had so much fun with this and I cannot wait to talk ply twist when I get into it! For those who didn’t know it, I did post up a video on prepping fiber, especially when it relates to this Organic Polwarth/Cultivated Silk blend. I have a set-up now that is pretty easy to do tutorial videos so if you have something that you’d like to see, please just let me know and I’ll see what I can do to create the content.

While I let my singles rest, I spun this bobbin.

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It’s from Nest Fiber Studio and the colorway is called Young Woman at  Half-Open Door. I had a bag of Organic Polwarth and I was gifted a second bag in the Organic Polwarth + Silk blend, so I broke both bags in half and am mixing the two. The blend may turn out to be a disaster, but I’m optimistic it’ll work out just fine. These things usually do.

I’ve got some school tasks, more shoveling, and snow pup play on the agenda for today, as I slowly work on playing catch-up here, but expect a post that is largely a finished handspun yarn dump coming up later this week and hopefully a few snapshots of my newly finished Weekender as well. I just wanted to touch base today and catch y’all up on where I’ve been. While you’re waiting, I’m answering “Ask me my top 3” over in my Instagram (@knittingsarah) stories today — pop over and ask me for a top 3 list!

 

 

 

 

The Polar Vortex and Me

It’s been big news all week — the Polar Vortex. Schools and businesses across my fair state of Wisconsin closed and the governor even declared a state of emergency for a day this week due to the extreme cold. You know when Wisconsin says the cold is an emergency, it must be bad!

At our humble abode in north central Wisconsin, I think our lowest recorded air temp was -31F and — as if to add insult to injury — during the cold we had some decent wind as well forcing the wind chill to register at it’s coldest -52F. It was cold enough that Mr. Knitting Sarah — whose motto is “there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices” — even stayed home. I don’t think that in the almost 20 years I’ve known him that’s ever happened.

I left the house Monday for a lunch, but from that time until yesterday afternoon I didn’t leave the house except to scamper around the back yard with the puppy. As part Newfoundland, part Shepherd, part Great Pyrenees, Bear doesn’t mind the cold (as illustrated on this GIF from the trail last weekend).

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In fact, I don’t know that there’s much on this Earth that he’s discovered in his 13 weeks on Earth that he loves more.

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In fact, we wonder if he may in fact be part wolverine (not really, but he sure does move like one!).

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So even when it’s -20F outside, he still requires short jaunts around the yard. Moose is having no part of those shenanigans (proof of his ‘older & wiser’ status, clearly), so the job falls to me. There are worse things in life than playing with a puppy, even in subzero temperatures. Thankfully, our family has no shortage of cold weather gear.

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Of course, being (mostly) captive indoors doesn’t really bother the fiber artist in me. I worked on the sleeves for my Weekender sweater. I got all the way to the ribbing on sleeve #1. And then I tore it all out.

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My gauge was just a smidge off and when you are decreasing based on rounds, not measurements, of course, gauge being a smidge off throws the whole thing off. So rather than do a bunch of fudging mid-sleeve, I ripped it out, took the time to do the math, and now I’m back to within 5″ of being done. This kind of set-back is a little irritating, but I’d rather have the sleeves done well than doing the mid-sleeve mega fudging, so I don’t second guess or feel bad going back. Thankfully I did take good notes for sleeve #1, so I’ll be able to replicate sleeve #2 without any problem.

I’ve also been spinning away. I finished singles for my  Nest Fiber Studio ‘Hayride’ colorway.

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I fell in love with this colorway and got it from a friend willing to destash it to me. I’m excited to be working on it.

Part way through I started having some issues with my Schacht Reeves — the back maiden wasn’t holding its position and was causing pressure on the drive wheel to the extent that the screws that hold it in place were coming loose. I could still spin, but it was clearly not right and I didn’t want to cause further problems with the wheel. I emailed Mielke’s Fiber Arts where I purchased the wheel and they got back in touch with me in less than an hour. Within 24 hours we had an action plan with Schacht who will be replacing the piece at no cost as it’s still under warranty. The only bad part is I need to send the part in so they can be sure they get me a part that properly matches my wheel. “Bad” only because it means I’ll be without this wheel for an estimated 2 weeks. I was pretty bummed (and still sort of am!) to be without my “big wheel” because it’s my main wheel for spinning singles, but as Mr. KS pointed out, I have 2 other wheels and a whole bunch of spindles. I will manage (somehow).

And manage I am! I’ve been spinning away on my Jensen Tina 2!

This is Summer Palette from Three Waters Farm. I may have gone to my stash and grabbed anything with the word “Summer,” “Hot,” or ” “Heat” in the name Tuesday evening as the hinges on our door froze to the point I used a blow dryer to defrost them. Next up is “Roasted Gold” — again with the nod to all things warm, even as temps are above zero today for the first time in a week.

For those who may be missing stories of my dear Moose, I assure you he continues to be spoiled and loved…

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And to instruct me in the fine art of the nap. Undoubtedly he is occasionally bummed he has to share me with his attention grabbing little brother and when he goes back inside alone because his feet are sore while I continue to chase Bear around the yard, but I make sure he gets lots of attention and love. He is and always will be my spirit animal, after all.

I hope you all have stayed warm and busy this week, too!

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(gratuitous cute puppy picture)

The Forest Or The Trees: Lessons In Consistency

It seems quite appropriate that as I awoke to 6 inches of new snow and subzero temperatures that today should be the day I share my Frosted Daybreak results with you.

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Each month the colorway featured in the Three Waters Farm 2019 calendar will be available for pre-order in the shop and this fiber happens to be  January’s Calendar Colorway (available through January 31st). I’ll be using the Calendar colorways each month in conjunction with the Skill Builder SAL hosted in the TWF Ravelry group and this month’s theme was none other than the elusive consistency.

I shared the prep for this spin back on January 4th

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Splitting my fiber into 6 equal nests, my plan was to spin a traditional 3ply yarn matching the colors as I went with the theory that equal divisions of fiber would produce similar color runs throughout my singles.

Remember how I said no plan survives contact with reality? Well, the same was true in this spin. Near the end of my second bobbin, I opted for a 2ply instead of a 3ply — and instead of using 2 nests per bobbin, I added 3 per bobbin. I made this choice for a couple reasons. First, I’ve never tried to match color runs outside of chain plying and as I got spinning I had a feeling starting with a 3ply might be a bit chaotic. I also was spinning my singles rather thin, to about 28 wpi, and I know for a fact that I am not as consistent with lighter singles as I am with those that are closer to 22-20 wpi. I was pretty sure my color runs would not be synced up as well as I would like and that would lead to some waste in my spinning — amplified by the 3rd ply — as I pulled out parts of my singles to keep the colors lined up.

As you can see if you really look closely, these plies are just not as consistent as you would hope for a consistency spin.

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Don’t get me wrong, they are pretty darn consistent, but when you are trying to pin that 28wpi down so 4oz of fiber matches that measurement on the nose… well, this just is not that spin. 2-ply it is, I decided!

I will say that the plying was… it was more nerve-wracking that I’m used to. The truth is, I probably lost 3-5yards (maybe a bit more) of singles trying to keep the color runs synced. It was never as much yarn as I felt like I was losing, but it was always more than I’d hoped I would have to pull out to keep colors lined up. As I got to the end of the plying though…

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I could see that even if each and every length of yarn I measured wasn’t consistent, overall, it was pretty darn good. This led me to ask: What are the components that play a role in consistency and — ultimately — what are we really talking about when we talk about a consistent yarn?

Is consistency in handspun hitting a perfectly matched wpi at each place measured across an entire skein of yarn? Is it plying to the same angle and hitting a specific tpi (twists per inch) across the whole spin? Is it spinning a skein that on a whole knits up at a consistent fingering (or sport or DK or worsted or bulky) weight? After this study, I’ve come to believe the answer is complicated.

If I look at my finished skein, it’s easy to see that I did not hit a perfect wpi on each and every length across the entire skein.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty good. And it’s definitely one of the best 2ply skeins I’ve created with regards to consistency, but you can see here and there where plies are uneven. So, if I’m using the yard stick of “perfectly match wpi in each length of yarn” I’m off the mark.

If we start talking about TPI, or twists per inch, I’m probably a bit closer. Samples taken throughout are between 6-6.5 twists per inch with a few outliers where I got a little flamboyant. When the diameter of the 2 plies diverge. I tend to adjust the angle of the twist in this spot to really play-up that little poof.

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That, to me, is art. That’s why I handspin yarn. So while it may adversely affect the overall mathematical measurements in my spinning, I would never want to sacrifice that for technical perfection. That’s just me.

What about consistency in weight across the spin? A-ha! Well, there I did a good job.

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Across the skein, this yarn produces a consistent 14wpi. So, despite the fact that where you take individual pieces of the yarn and find the measurements will be inconsistent, the bigger sample set, 1″ at a time, gives me 14wpi, every time.

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And, at least in my opinion, it also gives me a really beautiful yarn.

So where does that leave me with this study in consistency? Did I succeed in creating a consistent yarn?

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If spinning consistently means you have the control to spin the yarn that you want, then I have to say the answer is no… and yes. What I was working toward was consistency across the board complete with 28 wpi singles across the skein. In dissecting the skein and the details of the yarn, I was not as perfect as I was aiming for. BUT the goal was also a fingering weight 2ply yarn in which the color runs synced up. And I have in my possession a skein of Frosted Daybreak that is a 2ply fingering weight in which the color runs match up quite well. So are we looking at the forest or the trees? Which ultimately defines a consistent yarn?

Where I land, at least for now, is that consistency is more complicated than I originally thought. Who would think that minor inconsistencies across a skein would lead to a consistent skein on a whole? It feels so counter-intuitive and yet I have a skein of Frosted Daybreak in my possession that says it’s wholly possible. Like so much in spinning, all the elements involved in a spin interact and play a vital role and somewhere in the mix of it all yarn is born.

I’ll continue to study the individual elements and work toward mastering a greater level of perfection across them. Clearly there is room for improvement. At the same time, though, I’m quite happy to know & to celebrate that even if my skills are a work in progress, it doesn’t detract from my finished skeins. I’m of the opinion that while the trees are all important, even if they aren’t all perfect, on a whole the forest still makes quite a pretty picture.