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!

Skill Building for Spinners

This year I’m very excited to be taking part in and helping to lead the Three Waters Farm Skill Builder Spin-along. Each month we’ll be focused on a different skill, providing helpful links, q & a, encouragement, and troubleshooting along the way. Not only is this an awesome way to spin some of my beautiful Three Waters Farm fibers, it’s also a fantastic way to really spend some time spinning intentionally, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of my spinning and becoming a better spinner.

Most spinners you talk to will say their #1 goal is to spin a yarn that it could be mistaken for mill spun, or at least something that looks like the control involved could not possibly have been executed by human hands. I’ve got opinions on that as an ultimate goal and how to define a good handspun yarn, but those are for another day. Today I want to start to talk a little bit about how we make that could-be-mistaken-for-millspun yarn.

Consistency, you see, is really the cornerstone of spinning, but contrary to what you might believe that’s not just because it enables you create that elusive mill spun look. Consistency is an indicator of something bigger. The fact that you can spin those nice, even, regular yarns means you have the ability to control the yarn you’re making — you understand the drafting process, how much twist you are adding, and all that good stuff and you can churn out the yarn you want, when you want it.

Most people start by getting really good at one type of yarn and that’s the perfect place to start. Once you learn how to spin a consistent yarn, though, it’s not a huge leap to move on to spinning consistent yarns are varying weights and styles on demand. With practice, you’ll find you have control of the mechanics involved and that you can create any yarn — from something that looks like that mill spun skein to the craziest art yarn you can imagine to the perfect little sock yarn you’ve ever laid your hands on.

That’s kind of a big deal.

And that’s why I’m so super excited that this month in the Skill Builder SAL we’ll be exploring Spinning Consistent Yarns.

As a moderator in the group, I’m very happy to share that I’ll be spinning the featured TWF Calendar Colorway each month, based off the beautiful TWF 2019 Calendar.  Participants are welcome to order the featured colorway for themselves or spin any TWF colorway of their choosing.  It’s going to be a blast!

This month’s colorway is Frosted Daybreak on the Merino/Bamboo/Tussah Silk base.

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Confession: I actually have a sweater quantity of this colorway in my stash. It’s pretty freaking awesome and I can’t wait to get going on this!

But I digress.

Today I prepped my fiber. Something that really helps to get a consistent yarn while you spin is fiber prep. Even with a beautiful bag of fiber that is like butter right out of the bag like this, it’s usually a good idea to prepare the fiber before you spin.

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Different dyers dye different ways, but most Three Waters Farm fibers arrive dyed with three repeats across the entire length of the fiber. Now, I’m aiming to spin a 2-ply and I want to split the fiber down the middle lengthwise to have 3 nice long color treats in my yarn. Some spinners are superheroes and have no trouble just picking it up, splitting it, and making two even halves.

I am not that spinner.

I do this instead. First, I break the three repeats.

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And then, always starting in the middle of each repeat, I split each of the three strips lengthwise.

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Why start striping in the middle? Someone along the way gave me that tip and I find it really does work magic and makes it much easier to get even strips.

Now, if I wanted to make the strips smaller here, I could keep splitting. Splitting further can make it easier to spin lighter weight yarns. It just gets you that much closer to your finished yarn and gives you less margin for error as you draft. I’ve split my fiber into as small as 1-2gram strips at times and it’s true – it certainly does help you to reach a lighter weight yarn. Especially for new spinners interested in honing lighter consistent yarns, this is definitely a tip I would recommend.

I tend to be a spinner who splits for color, not to help me achieve a certain yarn weight. I spin across the top of my fiber regardless of the weight of yarn largely because I have never been particularly patient with my prep and I also tend to like larger color repeats. That’s just me.

I could split the colorways even further for color effects like to do something fractal-y — it’s really totally personal preference and what you want the yarn to be. I just want to spin these 6 strips, one after another. 3 on one bobbin, 3 on another. You know why? Because there is nothing scarier to me than trying to match up colors as I ply and I wanted to reach beyond my own comfort zone for this spin. I’m a believer that it’s these little experiments, the subtle forays into the “scary” makes me a better spinner. As long as my spinning is consistent and my fiber is split accurately, theoretically they should match up well. We shall see!

In any case, having broken my fiber up, I wrapped each strip into an easier to store nest (all starting with the same color, of course, because that’s how I intend to spin them) and then weighed each of them. If you don’t have a kitchen scale you can use for fiber prep, I highly recommend getting one. It’s one of my favorite tools! This one a friend got me and it has it’s own bowl that’s perfect for weighing fiber.

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When I weighed each, I found that I had 4 that were 19 grams, 1 that was 22, and one that was 16. It made sense because one I managed to split while splitting it (if that makes sense!) and I could tell right away my split was wonky. I took a stab at pulling 3 grams off of the 22 gram piece and managed to nail it. I matched the colors up to the light strip and wrapped them into a nest as one.

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All ready to spin now!

I haven’t yet decided how heavy I want to make this yarn, I’m going to mull that over while I work on a knitting cast-on. I’ll report back soon on it though!

All The WIPs and One FO

After finishing my sweater, I’ve found myself shying away from the thought of finishing… anything.  As someone who is usually very methodical in my craft — first you start, then you work through the project, then you finish, and finally start a new project — it’s been a weird mindset in which to find myself. Thankfully, it’s not ledto a wild foray into startitis, but it has resulted into a few new WIPs.

I’m tantalizingly close to finishing this pair of socks…

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Just a little ways to go on the foot and then the toe and this pair will be done. I’ve been plinking away at it since mid-summer, so it’s time to mosey toward the end of this project one of these days.

Shortly after finishing my sweater, I started this shawl project…

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It’s a new-to-me construction (who knew there was such a thing — lol!) as I am knitting in a circle! As so many new techniques are, it was a bumpy start, but I seem to be cruising now. I have no idea how far I’ve left to go before I hit some cool lacework, but I’m kind of slowly working my way into this project. I’m still debating another knitting project as I have yarn wound for hats and really could use some extra hats, especially with holiday company coming in a couple weeks. I think I’ll attempt to finish up the socks and then move on to hats. I don’t want to get too crazy with this multiple projects at once thing!

In spinning news, I’ve been very driven to work on singles. I’m definitely in a “fill the bobbins and worry about plying another day mode.” And so that’s exactly what I’ve been doing with the exception of my latest Top of the Month Club

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Mary Ann from Three Waters Farm and I found ourselves curious how it would look as a traditional 3-ply and really there’s only one way to find out. Spin it!

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It just turned out beautiful! Add it to the list pile of yarn I want to knit into hats!

In the great game of “fill the bobbins” though, I’ve got singles for Nest‘s Damaged Goods…

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Three Waters Farm’s Multifarious Ruse…

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These are all set to ply.

On the wheels — because I’ve been splitting time between my Jensen Tina 2 & Schacht Reeves — I’ve got an Inglenook batt in a braid (I think) in the Hazelnut colorway happening. I’m probably 1/3 of the way through the fiber I have…

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And Three Waters Farm’s Maple Leaf Rag is almost finished.

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Seriously, 5 minutes and I’ll be done with this. I’ve not yet decided what spin will come next on this wheel, but you probably won’t be surprised to know I have some ideas.

It’s really quite weird to not be focused in on finishing anything in particular, especially right before the holidays when most are feverishly knitting on holiday gifts. I have to say though, I’m finding it very refreshing! I’m not sure how long it’ll last — it may end when I hit “publish” on this post! — but I’m going to enjoy it while it does!