Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spinning Long Locks: Reexamining the Tail Spinning Method

A while back, I posted a video about my experience spinning wensleydale lamb locks. They weren't quite long enough for the tail spinning method, but I came up with a nice work-around method which would be suitable for shorter locks. You can see how it turned out in the video below:



I basically secured the wensleydale lock with a strong silk single after I spun the locks as a tail spun yarn. It made the yarn more stable and would hold up to wash and wear. There won't be much yardage with this type of yarn, so it should either be a simple project (simply making crochet chains, for example) or be a feature of a larger project. This particular yarn made suitable fringe for my Cora shawl:



I learned so much about how to make the yarn and ways I could use this type of yarn, so I decided to up the ante and make a tail spun yarn with longer locks. This time, I used teeswater locks which were about 7-8 inches long, but almost any long wool which has a tight lock can be used for this type of yarn. I used a 50/50 nylon/mohair blend lace yarn for a core to help me build some structure into my second attempt at this yarn. Some spinners think that a core yarn is important to add strength to tail spun yarns, while others believe it to be an unnecessary step. I'm testing all sorts of methods because it's the little scientist in me trying to figure out which way is best...if there truly is such a thing as 'best.' :)

In my first attempt with the grey wensleydale locks, I used the fluffy bits of fleece to connect each lock. I spun some straight yarn for about 12 inches to get started, then I began adding in locks. I split the 'roving' down the middle, inserted the base of the lock and wrapped the end of the lock around one leg of the split roving, then held everything together while I added some twist. I spun another inch or two, then split the roving and added another lock. This is one type of tail spinning that I've seen on youtube and on blogs. It spaces the locks a bit more than extreme tail spinning, which basically puts the base of one lock next to the base of the other. In my second attempt at tail spinning, I opted to try the extreme tail spinning method using a core yarn for structure.


In the above picture, I've only just gotten started. Extreme tail spinning takes even longer than tail spinning, since you're placing locks much closer together, thereby shortening the distance between locks and removing the easy parts of the yarn. This is a difficult yarn only by virtue of its tedium. If you have the attention span of a toddler, or tend to be busy nearly every waking moment, pause and keep coming back to this project. It'll help prevent you from feeling overloaded with the kind of patience needed for this sort of project, and it develops a crucial skill for spinners: adaptability.

I've been asked how I go from project to project, in terms of spinning. Well, I have crafter's ADD and I can't sit still. I'm forever pulling out a wheel and spinning for a while, then putting that one away and pulling out the other wheel (or sometimes my spindle), then finally switching to knitting something and back to spinning again. All in a single evening. It stresses Mr. IT Guy out because I can't settle. The point is, I work on projects which inspire me at any given moment. Therefore, I will often spin two very different yarns in the same evening. My hands have learned how to adapt to the yarn I'm spinning very quickly so I don't waste a lot of time stopping to check my gauge every few inches. Working on a crazy art yarn like this and switching to a very traditional yarn is quite a challenge for my hands. I've started and stopped this yarn several times since I began working on it, and every time I come back to it--no matter how long it has been since I last worked on it--I get a little faster at adapting to this spinning method.


At this stage, the yarn is about halfway finished. Before I started, I hand separated each lock and lined them up on paper towels (which I keep reusing!) for stress-free spinning. This step is probably one of the most important steps in making this type of yarn since your fingers tend to be busy doing other things. I spun this in the dark, and as a result, the locks are all beautifully mis-matched. Given my obsessive nature for things to be equal or balanced, I worried that the locks would turn out too uniformly dispersed...but not being able to see the colors very well helped make this yarn look so good! And here it is almost finished:


If you want to know more about how to make this yarn specifically, let me know in the comments below. I'm still somewhat a beginner, but I can definitely offer some tips/tricks to make things go smoothly. It's a bit of a learning curve getting to this point, but I think that if you can make any 'art yarn,' you can tackle this yarn.