Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Adding Pizzazz to Plies: The Argument For Variety

I began thinking that all of the plies of a handspun yarn must have the same add-ins to look right. If you wanted to go with angelina, you would use angelina for each ply, and so on. But why? Over the years, we seemingly invent rules to follow which have apparated  from no place. Well, this rule inserted itself in my repertiore, unbeknownst to me. So, I have flushed out this strange rule with one of my most recent projects.

I grabbed my new blending board, made a sample rolag, and spun it up in this colorway. It turned out beautiful, if simple. Then I made six more and ferreted them away until I figured out what I wanted to do with them. After observing their presence in my storage drawers for several months, I decided to drag them out and put them on my work table (this is becoming my go-to strategy for getting projects completed regularly). 

Originally, I thought I would spin them plain, but then I remembered how much texture and color pulled silk can add to a yarn, and it's extremely easy to add in while you're spinning. Thus, I made my first single, out of two whole rolags, holding the pulled silk with my drafting hand. I spun each single of this 3-ply yarn in worsted weight, which meant that the final yarn would probably be around 4 WPI when I was finished. This sparked an idea, and on my second single, I grabbed a bag of angora tufts. And for my third, I loaded it heavily with angelina. The beauty of this project was that since it'll be plied together and each ply is different, no add-ins would overpower the finished yarn. Here are the singles sitting on their bobbins before plying:

Here's a closeup of the angora tuft single:

...a closeup of the angelina single:

...and a closeup of the pulled silk single:

Each of these yarns would look wonderful as singles, and I almost kept them that way. The variety in the pulled silk single contrasts deeply with the light fluffs of the angora single, yet I am still aware that the underlying yarn is the same. Then I spun them all together.

Neither ply truly shines forth above the others, yet when you get close enough, one ply might have more add-ins contributing to the overall appearance of the yarn in a particular section. The result is a well-balanced yarn, full of color, texture, and variety, without being lopsided in the 'too-much' or 'too-little' categories. I think the thickness of the yarn was key for its cohesiveness, since I really did pack on the add-ins while I spun the singles. Had I been making a thinner yarn, the add-ins would have overpowered the yarn easily. 

The lesson I learned with this project is it's okay to go a little hog-wild when adding visual interest to a yarn, and mix and match add-ins to increase visual variety. This fact alone is part of the reason why art yarns are so beautiful. One caveat though, you must remember to keep in mind the diameter of the yarn you're making and adjust the amount of add-ins accordingly, or else you might end up with a garish and scratchy yarn...and you don't want that. But don't let me stop you from walking that fine edge between too much and too little. Afterall, we each have personal tastes. :) 

If you give this project a whirl, post your pictures on Facebook for us all to marvel at your beautiful creations!