WIP Wednesday

I’m glad it’s WIP Wednesday around here, because frankly, there’s a lot going on at the moment.  I haven’t finished anything for a while, so the WIPs from my previous posts are still hanging around.  And going slowly, I’m afraid:  this is the second sleeve of Myrtle, and as you can see, we’re not far into it yet:

Spinning has progressed: I’ve plyed up a couple more skeins of the alpaca blend, and spun a bobbin full of more singles.  The problem I’ve had with this project is that I can’t currently get comfortable with long-draw.  Comfortable as in physically, ergonomically comfortable: I’m a tall lass, and hold my fibre in the left hand.  I’m currently having some fatigue/pain issues with my arms and shoulders, so the chair needs to be the right height, right position for me to spin for any length of time.  No photos of these; at this point, one skein of freshly-plied yarn looks pretty much the same as the next.

So!  Sundays’ swatch is now a full-blown WIP – more on that another time:

And there’s another WIP, too:

This is a quick little project; I hope to have it wrapped up by the end of the week…

Long draw vs. short draw: Corriedale samples

My word, I’m behind on my blogging.  Eleven days’ silence – more, over a fortnight, if you don’t count my last little pop-in to say I’m feeling quiet.

The humbug Shetland I last blogged about is now all spun up, and even washed.  It’s currently hanging about somewhere in the pile of clean laundry on my stairs; it just needs re-skeining or winding into a ball, and then I can take some beauty shots of it to show you.

Once I was done with the Shetland, I returned to the grey Corriedale.  I spun up a second 10g sample, this time long-draw from the fold, then washed and dried both samples.  Last Saturday – a gloriously sunny day – I photographed them both, side by side:

Even in the small version of this image you can see the difference; it’s really obvious if you click through for the full size version.  The first sample (left), spun from the end of the roving, has two very distinct plies, and a smooth, compact appearance; the second (right) is much fuzzier.  The plies merge into each other, and the yarn even appears darker and more uniform in colour, I think because it is less ‘shiny’.  Also: the fibre ‘wants’ to draft out to a finer single when spun from the fold.

Over my fingers, the differences are again very pronounced:

You can see the overall difference in thickness, as well as the fuzzier, less distinct nature of the long-draw yarn (top).  Neither of these are examples of *great* spinning, but I think it’s fair to say that spinning from the end produces a ‘prettier’ yarn.  Beginner spinners, in particular, seem to value that smooth, distinct-ply, almost beaded appearance.  But, as spinners, we are not creating an end product (let’s leave ‘art yarn’ out of this for now).  Instead, we are creating something that will be used in future processes – whether knit, crocheted, woven or knotted – and the yarn we produce should be suitable for that purpose.  The long draw method (especially once my technique is more refined) will clearly be well-suited to producing yarns for knitting garments, whether singles or plied, as well as some awesome weft yarns.

As for the shipwreck shawl, I might actually get enough yardage out of my two braids, spinning it this way.  I’m still struggling to reconcile my usual expectation of lace yarns (smooth, compact, un-bouncy enough to hold a good blocking) with the character of the yarn I am creating.  A fundamental problem, I think, is that I am using Corriedale, which does not *want* to be a smooth, compact, un-bouncy yarn.  There is no fix for this, except to switch my expectations.  And that may not be an unreasonable thing to do; the large outer border of the Shipwreck Shawl is not actually designed to be blocked, as such.  That’s what gives it that wonderful, ruffled effect.  So.. spin on?

Long draw from the fold

This is addictive.  And fast.  I usually spin for 15 minutes in the morning, and I’m almost done with the first half of this roving:

Baa Humbug (Shetland), in Hawthorn Tree

OK, it’s only a 50g piece, but that’s still pretty fast going for me.

I wanted to spin this for the Fair Isle stash, but I was worried that the tonal variation would make a yarn that was too ‘lively’ for colour work.   I thought spinning from the fold might help blend the stripiness a bit, even if not the variation in greens.  So to spin it, I’m breaking off pieces from the end:

And holding each one folded over the index finger of my left hand:

(That tuft is a touch too long for optimal drafting, incidentally.  I’ve since discovered that it works best when the ends of the tuft don’t go far past my thumb.)  You can’t really tell in this photo, but I’m holding the ends of the tuft lightly-but-firmly between my middle finger and thumb.  Whilst we’re here, look at that photo again.  Squint a bit.  Be imaginative.  Can you see how it sort-of resembles the end of a rolag?  At least, the flow of the fibres is around my finger.  And we’re going to draft perpendicular to that flow, by attaching the leader (or bit of yarn you’ve just spun) to the tip of the fold, like so:

From here, you can spin an impressive English-type longdraw: just start treadling, and pull back!  Get the speeds right, and twist will flow into the yarn at just the right rate to balance your drafting.  (At this point, I tried to video the procedure.  This is a one-handed draw, so theoretically Not Impossible.  However, it’s safe to say that videoing things is even trickier than photographing them, so the output was pretty much all Fail.  I will get J to help me video the technique sometime soon, however.  For sure.)

Now, it has to be said that no woollen-style long draw technique is going to produce a single that is as smooth and even as carefully-spun worsted draw.  And your bobbins aren’t going to look as beautiful and evenly filled:

But, boy, I can’t wait to see this plied.  Spin on!