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!

A Touch of Green

When I looked back to see which edition of Three Waters Farm Top of the Month Club the fiber I’m about to share with you was, I was thinking, “I remember the green was the key. It must have been that time of year when we’re thirsting for green.” To me, in Wisconsin, that means March.

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

In North Carolina, where Mary Ann dyes this fiber though, it appears it’s February! February’s “A Touch of Green” on 100% Corriedale is the spin I’m going to share with you today. It’s long overdue as this was the first spin in our new home which we moved into in April. The singles were done shortly after the move and the plying… I’m not sure exactly when I got to them, but I do know it was before the Tour de Fleece. In any case, long overdue. Indeed.

I really wanted to try something different with this braid, so I split it up for a “gimp” yarn. Very simply put this yarn is comprised of 2-plies with one ply being half the size of the other (spinning friends, it’s on page 119 of Sarah Anderson’s The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs if you want to see the recipe I followed) . In this image the fiber for this spin is the fluff on the computer.

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As you can see, I pulled out all the bright green and a bit of the blues tagged along for one ply and the rest — the fiber in the bowl — was set aside for the other ply.

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I did a sample of this type of yarn last year in my one fiber six ways experiment and I’ve been really wanting to try it again on a larger scale. For me, I think this is a really fun technical challenge. It’s one thing to spin a 2-ply yarn that has equal plies (or thereabouts), but to try to get 2-plies that are specifically different… well, I find that it really pushes me to be more attentive and to have better control over what I’m creating. In the grand scale, these skills definitely help me to spin the yarn I want not just in this spin, but any spin so I consider it a very worthy undertaking.

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You can clearly see the bobbins are different weights for the singles here, right? Probably because this was a full 4oz braid of fiber instead of the sample I did a year ago, I wasn’t quite as exact in the size of my plies, but I didn’t do half bad either. I did use my Spinner’s Control Card throughout — a tool that I always have around when I’m trying to get a specific weight yarn. For a long time I thought spinner’s just eyeballed everything and were just kind of magicians. While many do, you certainly can help your “aim” and teach for tactile senses a lot  about spinning by using good tools.

In any case, I really do think the finished yarn is lovely.

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It’s not technically a spiral yarn, but I love the swirling look of a good gimp yarn.

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I could have given this skein a bit more twist, I think, but… well, hindsight is always 20/20. There’s always a little something I’d change and that turns into an experiment the next time I spin up a skein. That’s the nature of learning and improving, right? Building on your skills and learning as you go. One thing I wouldn’t change is how I handled the colors. I think that bright green as the lighter ply makes this yarn. It makes it unique and fun and utterly my own.

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The finished skein is roughly 160yards of DK weight yarn. I haven’t yet settled on what I’d like to do with it. According to the blurb about it in Sarah Anderson’s book, it’s supposed to be a good option for socks. I don’t know, do I dare trying to eek out some shorties with this? I’m fairly certain I don’t have enough yardage, but it might be worth a try. Or shall I go the safe route and knit up a quick hat or mitts? I’ve got a few other projects on the needles, so I will let this one ruminate. I certainly won’t mind dreaming over this “touch of green” for a while.

Two Way, TWF (Three Way Fun)

In my last post I mentioned the Three Waters Farm SAL + KAL featuring Susan Ashcroft’s Designs. One thing I didn’t mention is that how involved and engaged and 150% awesome Susan was throughout. She helped guide us toward designs she thought would work well with our yarns, she encouraged & cheered us on, and she was just all around an incredible addition to the group. Furthermore, she actually created a new pattern inspired by the group — how cool is that?!

The TWF (Three Way Fun) is described as such on the pattern page:

TWF = three way fun (three options; one even gives you 3 different looks from a single cowl)

But TWF was also designed as a little tribute to Mary Ann and all the fine spinners over in the Three Waters Farm group (they are running a KAL using TWF fibre and my patterns until the end of Feb. 2016 – link to the KAL).

I picked the stitch thinking it was a good way to represent ripples for “Three Waters Farm” and only spotted their logo after I’d made the first cowl – the similarity is uncanny.

I love everything about it — from the inspiration to the design itself — and simply had to knit it up as soon as I got it!

I grabbed my skein of Lingering Light Targee 3-ply from the December Top of the Month Club

DEC2015TOMCAnd I got to work!

img_2300I knew there would be some striping and normally I would never mix stripes and a lace motif, but because the motif is such a small portion of the cowl I actually think it works really well together.

img_2318And I’m super happy with the results. It’s reversible, which is pretty neat…

det twfThe stockinette side…

det rev stock twfAnd the reverse stockinette side both look great.

twf twf 2I tend to lean toward the reverse stockinette side, personally.

And I loved both the making of this project as well as the resulting cowl enough to think to myself, “Self, what about that skein of Dyeabolical Themyscira handspun that’s been in your stash for two years. You know, the one that you kind of didn’t spin super well, but still think is really pretty — do you think this pattern could work for it?” When I look back at my notes, it looks as though I 2-plied this and then n-plied my two ply. I don’t think that’s really a thing one should do, but I did it and had 160yards of pretty, but kind of wonky yarn.

Themyscira detailThe answer? Would this pattern work?

twf dyeabolical flatYeah, it would.

dyeabolical twf detIt’s a mixed BFL + Tussah Silk blend and it’s a heavier weight, so it’s definitely has different personality than the Lingering Light version, but I like this one, too.

dyeabolical twfA little more drape, a little bigger stripes or colorblocks, but pretty all the same.

I love that this pattern is super versatile. Instructions are included for light fingering through bulky weight yarns in a variety of yardages, as well as a stockinette/reverse stockinette version, a garter version, and a half garter/half stockinette version. I think three way fun is an understatement! This is definitely a new favorite pattern that I’ll be using again & again and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on Susan Ashcroft’s designs. Yet another fabulous discovery through a fantastic Three Waters Farm event!