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!

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)

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!