Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Almost Tutorial: Unplying Plied Yarn

Sometimes when I have an idea for a new how-to or tutorial, I just go ahead and take pictures of the process. It allows me to capture that moment in the process where I'm right in the middle of learning/figuring out what I'm doing. In the best case, it means that I don't have to do the tutorial photos for the second iteration of the project and instead I can focus on working out any snags and streamline the process. Occasionally, I need to play around a little longer to understand what I'm doing and digest the information so I can deliver a cogent tutorial for ya'll. Well, as simple as unplying yarn sounds, everything refused to cooperate.

I started off by choosing the yarn I didn't like as a plied yarn. It's not really that bad, but I had been staring at it for more than two years, and I still didn't feel inspired to do anything with it. There was a hundred possible reuses for this yarn, but I decided to try something new. I mean, it was already 'trash' in my mind, so I couldn't actually ruin it, right? It's amazing how that line of reasoning can be so liberating! Let the deconstructing begin:

I've become a smarter person over the years, which is one of the fabulous perks of getting older. I spent a few days thinking and imagining how I would deconstruct this yarn, and this was my first solution: use wheel bobbins! And then I remember that I'm only thirty and not as smart of some of you who are older than me. Wheel bobbins turned out to not be the best tool for this project. In fact, they were probably the worst tools I could use.

I thought they would make sense as the perfect tool for winding yarn because that's what they're designed to do...hold yarn as you spin it. Here's the moment I captured when I was feeling smug about this working out like I imagined:

Wah wah wahhhhh.... This was a case of things sounding better in my head rather than in reality. As a rule, there is always an easiest way to do something. Most of the time, we end up choosing an easier way of doing something, and move on with our lives, never thinking of the easiest way of doing that same thing. It's only when we realize that there must be 'an easier solution' that we begin looking for the easiest way of doing that thing. Well, I was about halfway through the unplying stage of this project when this thought kept rushing to the front of my mind every two seconds. Clearly, the bobbin method was seriously flawed. I had to manage the two, awkwardly dangling bobbins, and make sure the yarn didn't untwist too much in the non semi-felted places and fall to the ground. It was a slow and stressful process. So, I put it on the to-do table for about a week.

As much as I would love to tell you that I found the easiest way of unplying yarn, I can't. After I mulled over my problems, I'm fairly confident that I came across one of the easier ways of unplying this yarn, though not the easiest. I'm still not even sure an easiest solution exists without a specific 'un'plying machine. That said, the easier solution I discovered is elegant in its simplicity, even if it will take longer than the hypothetical easiest solution. Bobbins weren't the right yarn holding tool, but drop spindles are. Their specific design is well suited to dangling, and large spindles exist for packing on loads of yarn. Duh. I'm not sure why drop spindles weren't my first solution to this problem and why it took a problem with the bobbins to force me to think of another way of doing this project. At any rate, this will be a little nugget to tuck in the back of my memory for future such occasions.

Since I was already half started with the bobbin method, I just began unplying at the opposite end with the spindles. It was a balancing challenge, but the spindle method turned out to be more than twice as fast as the bobbin method. In the end, the yarn was unplied and extremely soft. I have since skeined and washed the yarn, and now comes the hard part: figuring out what color to dye it and what I'll use it for. I'll refine my technique a little more, then I'll post the tutorial for unplying yarn in the future. Hurray for making mistakes and feeling a little dumb, yet smarter, in the end!