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:

AAA – AAC – ACC – CCC

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!

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.

Spinning Toward Consistency

Two weeks ago on the nose I shared a post entitled Skill Building for Spinners. In it I shared my prep work for a spin focused on consistency as part of the Skill Builder SAL in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry Group. Of course my vacation interrupted progress on this project and you might be at home seeing my latest “Today on my wheel…” installments thinking, “Whatever happened to the consistency spin she prepped? Why is she avoiding it?” Well, I was thinking that as well. And then I had a bit of an A-HA moment when I realized that I actually have been working on that consistency spin… I just haven’t yet gotten to that particular 4oz of fiber. Let me explain.

Since the Tour de Fleece last July I’ve been spinning a lot of 2-ply worsted weight yarns on and off in between other projects as I work on a stash of yarn for a Vivid blanket project. My most recent spin before leaving on vacation I’d been working on my Jensen Tina 2 as well as a couple free-for-all spins on my Schacht Reeves. I love throwing in free-for-all, spin as you will spins into the mix with my more intentional spins — I find the practice keeps me loose and my spinning is better if I’m not always overthinking things. In any case, neither of these projects had my head or hands in the mind space of consistent lightweight singles.

Upon my return, it just didn’t feel comfortable to hop right into my Skill Builder spin on my Schacht Reeves. I’d be aiming for a 40-36wpi single as opposed to 22wpi single and to do that I knew I’d want to move to a smaller whorl to make the treadling less taxing and the process more efficient. It’s here that my A-HA moment kicked in as I examined how I spin for consistency and to a certain specification. I realized I rarely just sit down and spin a certain yarn. I settle on a certain fiber and the yarn I want to spin it into and then I work toward that in a series of spins. While I can certainly sit down and crank out whatever yarn I need or want, my preference — because it is just a more joyful, relaxing way to spin — is almost always to get to that chosen project slowly & methodically, by way multiple spins. A journey & a process, more than a one-and-done skein.

So step one to build up to my Skill Builder was, to first get settled back in with my Schacht Reeves and to focus on consistency at the yarn weight I was already synced into. I selected 4oz of Polwarth + Tussah Silk 85/15 in the Kelp colorway from Three Waters Farm to start…

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I spun with just the intention of being mindful and a focus on consistency at that same 22wpi on my medium whorl at the 14.5:1 ratio at which I’d been spinning. This will be another for my Vivid project. I’m not being super fussy about consistency on this project, but it was a good spin to kind of start me in the right direction.

For my next spin I moved on to the next faster whorl, my “fast whorl” at the 20:1 ratio and I spun to the 36-40wpi to which I’m working toward.

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This, again, is a silk blend. Since my Skill Builder spin will be a silk blend as well I wanted to work in silk blends as I work up to it. This time it’s Merino/Superwash Merino/Tussah Silk 40/40/20 as I’m not too worried about the differences in the fiber blends beyond the fact that I want to stay in that silk blend realm. The focus here was not to really push that consistency, but to get the rhythm of the lighter weight singles in my hands and in my head and to make sure the whorl felt like a good fit for the yarn I was spinning.

And now, I feel sufficiently ready to dig in to my Skill Builder spin! Unfortunately, I’ll have to do a little plying before I can get there to free up some bobbins as I’ve been a lazy about getting to my plying lately, but that won’t take too long. My Tina has rested up since the harrowing vacation and is ready to handle the plying duties. That’s next up on my to-do list and then it’ll be off to the races on my Skill Builder! That is, of course, if Bear will let me. He’s grown attached to not just one wheel…

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But two…

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I’m guessing when the Tina makes her appearance, he’ll decide she is his as well!