Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tutorial: Spinning One Colorway and Making Different Yarns

When I first started dyeing wool, my friends expressed interest in trying out "spinning." They ultimately didn't stick with it, but they gave it several tries. One question that came up was, "How will it look all spun up?" It's kind of difficult to explain, so I decided to come up with this tutorial for showing how you can prepare, spin, and ply (or not ply) a colorway to get different color effects. I've cleaned up the wording a little so it isn't as verbose as the original. Let me know how useful this was for you!

Originally posted on July 17, 2011:

Here's a tutorial on ways to spin one specific hand dyed colorway. Jealousy is one of my best selling colors, and you'll see from the following pictures why! This particular braid didn't sit in the mordant bath long enough, so it didn't take the dye like it normally would. It's still colorfast, but it isn't the colorway it's supposed to be, and since it couldn't be sold, I turned it into this tutorial.

A quick note about terminology:
  1. Combed top: a fiber preparation whereby the fibers are combed into one direction, removing the short fibers and aligning the fibers horizontally. This method will produce a very dense, compact tube of fiber, especially when produced commercially.
  2. Worsted spinning: a method of spinning where the fibers lie parallel to each other, and when spun, produce a smooth, strong yarn.
  3. WPI: wraps per inch. A method of measuring to determine the gauge of a yarn. To measure, wrap the yarn around a ruler over a 1 inch distance. Without letting the wraps be too close or too far apart, count the wraps and this will determine the gauge of the yarn.
Here is the picture of Jealousy in its braid:

I split it into 4 roughly equal pieces. I did this by unbraiding the fiber and splitting it down the middle for the whole length of the fiber. Then, I took each half and split it one more time, resulting in each piece weighing approximately 30 grams (28.6 grams = 1 ounce).

The first bundle I split one more time (each piece was 1/8 of the original fiber), and spun into a worsted weight 2-ply. In order to make a specific weight of yarn which contains 2 plies, you need to spin the singles at half the finished gauge. That way, when you ply the singles together, you arrive at the needed gauge. I needed a 10 wpi for the finished yarn, so the singles that I spun for this yarn where at 20 wpi. After I made the singles, I wound it onto a ball winder which made a center-pull ball. I took the inside end and plied it with the outside end, thereby making a 2-ply from the same ball of yarn. This method of plying ensures that you don't waste any handspun, but it will cut your initial yardage approximately in half. There were 57 yards after plying.

For a better view of the color:

The second bundle turned into a bulky single. I spun it as it was, without further splitting or manipulation--I let the colorway dictate the finished yarn. This yarn turned out more thick-and-thin, so some places were more of a worsted weight than others. If you're spinning a single as the finished yarn, you need to take care to not over-spin it, since your knitting will buckle and bias in order to balance the extra active twist. Plying will balance the twist in a yarn, but in a single, you'll need just enough twist to hold the yarn together without it falling apart. The resulting yarn was 34.5 yards.

This next picture of the second sample really demonstrates the kind of twist you need for a well made single yarn. When you hold the yarn taught and then release a little, it should kink up on itself, as you can clearly see here. This is what the yarn should look like prior to washing and setting the yarn.

I split the third bundle an additional time, just as I did for the first bundle. I made a bulky 3-ply Navajo-plying my single. Essentially, you take one piece of yarn and make 3 pieces by making a large slip knot after slip knot, just like making a crochet chain. This method of plying lets you do two things: 1) you can ply the pieces together while keeping the color changes together; and 2) you'll waste almost no yarn. Like the center-pull ball method, you'll reduce your initial yardage by two-thirds. Because I wanted 3 plies, I multiplied the finished wpi that I wanted (6 wpi finished) by 3 and spun a single that was 18 wpi. I ended up with 24 yards in the finished skein.

I think that Navajo-plying is one of my favorite plying techniques so far:

For my last bundle, I made a gradient yarn. I love the look of gradient knitting, but not always a fan of the gradients in commercially produced yarn. This one was by far the most complicated yarn I made in this series. First, I split the fiber once more (like in bundle 1 and 3), then I pulled apart all of the green, dark green, and dark gray pieces for each strip and made a pile for each. This was going to be a 2-ply DK weight yarn that was to be spun and plied from two different bobbins. I started by spinning the greens and then transitioned to dark green and finally dark gray. I did my best to let the colors transition into each other as they might if it had been dyed that way. I had two bobbins that had approximately the same yardage on each. I plied them together with corresponding colors together, but because of human error, the colors didn't match up exactly. I could have plied the gradient as a Navajo-ply to have more consistency with the color changes, but I wanted to show you how it could look if you chose to spin them separately. The final yarn had 76 yards.

This picture shows a bit better how the gradient looks when it isn't twisted into a hank:

When I was all finished, I made knitted swatches of each skein. Here is yarn number 1:

I cast on 30 stitches on size 7 needles with 5 stitches per inch. A close-up:

Number 2 (it biased a little ^^):

This one makes a very nice self-striping yarn. This was 20 stitches cast on with size 10 needles, at 3.2 stitches per inch. Close-up:

Number 3:

You can see that this one has smaller stripes than the one above. There were 3.5 stitches per inch, and I cast on 20 stitches:

Number 4:

It's obvious in this sample how off the colors can get if you do this method over the Navajo-plying. Each way has its place though. This was 5.5 stitches per inch with size 5 needles and 40 cast on stitches:

I hope you found this tutorial useful/interesting. Thanks to everyone who patiently waited for this post. :)