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?


I’ve been in a quiet mood the last few days – and who couldn’t be, with the news that has been flooding in from across the globe?

Everything I have wanted to write has seemed hollow.  There are no words – none at all – to describe the loss of thousands of people, the loss of home and habitat and livelihood.

I’ve been awaiting news that two dear friends have managed to travel safely home, both passing through Japan on their respective journeys; I know at least one has arrived, and the other is most likely just frustrated and delayed, since I know she had managed to re-arrange her flights to avoid the worst affected areas.

How can I talk about the plans for my tiny wee business at a time like this? (I have some.)  How can I wax lyrical about shop updates?  (There has been one).

Instead, I have given, and I sit, and I spin.  And I think, wish and hope.

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!

More thoughts on Shipwreck

In my earlier post, I was grumbling that the Corriedale roving was too bouncy and springy to spin into a laceweight yarn – and yes, it’s definitely not ‘right’ for the yarn I had in mind.

But now… I’m thinking that the yarn I had in mind isn’t necessarily ‘right’ for Shipwreck.  Shipwreck calls for a fingering weight yarn, and lots of it; it’s a big, snuggly shawl.  I’m thinking I can spin a snuggly fingering-weight.

In fact, I did.  This is spun from the end of the roving, so semi-worsted, in about the thickness that the fibre seems to ‘want’.  I washed it fairly roughly to get it to bloom, and I love the end result (though this is one colour only, not the marl I had planned):

Only trouble is, at 30m/10g, I’d have about half the required yardage for the shawl.  (Well, not the only trouble, as a matter of fact.  The other trouble is that Woody wanted some attention too; he seems to have hurt his back or hip on yesterday’s walk, and he’s a bit sorry for himself, and extra-snuggly.  So his nose was in All The Shots this morning, poor boy).  Anyway, I might not manage to make a Shipwreck with this fibre, but I have an idea for an alternative design, drawing on some of the elements from Shipwreck, that I could use instead.

Whilst waiting for the mini-skein to dry, I started playing with some of the Shetland humbug, spinning long-draw from the fold.  Whooooo!  I’ve not done this before, at least on a wheel.   It’s a bit like spinning from rolags, except with less carding.  It’s producing light, lofty woollen singles, , and I think it might work awesomely well for the Corriedale, too.  So I’m going to do another Corriedale sample, and see what weight it comes out at and if I like the fabric.  I’ll probably even swatch.

But only once the Shetland is done.  I only have so many bobbins, after all.

How not to photograph your yarns

OK, it’s Friday, it’s Yarnscape Day – the first one after Textiles in Focus.  Time to do a bit of stock-taking, get everything photographed, and the shop re-opened, yes?  Yes!

Or not so much.  My photography skills have never been what you could call honed, but I’m starting to think there’s a curse going on here.

My camera battery is flat.  OK – charge it.  Start stocktaking.

rose garden: Wensleydale and Princess

Find out battery charger is not plugged in.  Swear.  Waste time on Ravelry, cos there’s no point getting *too* far ahead with the stocktake; I’ll only get confused.

meet the blues

Get going with the photographs.  Fill card.  Fail to find card reader; text other half (can’t ring; he’s at worky-work).

shetland and jacob ‘humbug’ rovings

Make cheesecake whilst waiting for reply.

not today’s actual cheesecake

Reply states that card rearder is where you thought it should be (it isn’t).  Eventual actual conversation locates card reader.

bunnylace in ‘harebell’

Empty card reader; process first batch of photos.

lissom in ‘moss’

Find you’ve left the camera on, so the battery is flat again.  Swear.  Charge battery.

princess in ‘dusk’

Start taking photos again.  After half an hour, find the CF card is still next to the laptop, so all those photos have been going *nowhere*.  Swear.

finissima in ‘midnight’

Re-take photos.  Recharge battery, which is flat again.  Accidentally delete a bunch of photos whilst ‘transferring’ them to the laptop.

smitten in ‘lilac tree’

Retake most of the photos before the battery dies again.  Decide the light has gone for the day, and about a third of the photographs have been taken.

Time for a beer.  The shop update will follow later.

Something new on the wheel

Since finishing the alpaca/BFL back in February, my spinning wheel has been shamefully naked (and probably a bit chilly, to boot).  The reason, of course, being Textiles In Focus.  (Is there anything I can’t blame on that show??)

Now it’s over, I want to get back to my habit of spinning for 15 minutes in the morning, so last night I dug out these two braids of Corriedale roving:

The blue one was a thank you gift; the grey one was dyed by me.  The idea was to ply the two colours together, to get a stormy blue/grey laceweight for the Shipwreck Shawl (Ravelry link; the original pattern is available for free here, from Knitty).

The only trouble is, I don’t think Corriedale is the right wool for the yarn I want.  I have more of the grey than the blue, so I used the grey for a bit of a sample this morning.

Looks lovely, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, if I give this yarn enough twist to look ‘right’ for lace, it becomes quite springy and almost stiff.  Corriedale fibre is quite crimpy, and although it’s relatively fine, it has quite a lot of body.  I think this shawl demands a flow-y yarn with good drape and much less of that woolly bounce and resilience.

My second sample is a bit thicker and more loosely spun:

It might not look quite so pristine as the first, but I think it plays to the natural characteristics of the wool far better.  Although I’ve spun both of these samples from roving, from the end (so at least semi-worsted), this second sample has an almost woollen feel – lofty, open, lots of air.

I think my Corriedale would very much like to be spun woollen.  I have plenty remaining to sample with, so I could try carding some and spinning long-draw from the rolags. (It would make a great addition to the Fair Isle stash, I have to admit).  I could also spin larger quantities of each sample, and wash them, since we know that can significantly change the quality of a yarn.  (Wow, that would be very mature of me).  But either way, I don’t think that these braids are going to become the Shipwreck Shawl.

Dammit, spinning, why do you keep making me think?!  And double dammit, I really thought that the colours would be excellent for the project I have in mind, so it’s such a pain that the texture is wrong.

‘Ello precioussss

…it’sss my birrrthdayy…

No, really, it is.  And what am I doing, you might ask?

Well, basically, nothing.

Textiles in Focus has been and gone; it was, of course, awesome.  And, equally of course, I had no time (and insufficient presence of mind) to take photographs during the event.  All I’ve got for you is a setup-time shot of the stall (which looks suspiciously similar to last year’s layout):

And a few photos of the yarn I prepped for my drop spindling class:

Yarn?  For a class on spindling??  Well, yes.  You see, it’s only a two-hour class, and it was aimed at complete beginners.  It’s very difficult to teach much spindling in two hours-  so I thought I’d level out the learning curve a bit.  Rather than handing out a stick and some fluff and attempting to teach everything all in one go, I went for a stick attached to yarn.  That meant we could play with plying, unplying and cabling for a while, before moving on to fibre.  It worked remarkably well.  By the time we got around to the slippery, tricksy fibre, everyone was comfortable with at least the concepts of holding, starting and stopping a spindle, dealing with unbalanced yarns, and winding onto storage bobbins.  (The practice, of course, takes a little longer).  I think that, with an hour extra (or even a half hour), everyone would have managed to produce a two-ply yarn that they had spun themselves from fibre.

And I think that just about everyone enjoyed themselves.  At any rate, I’m reasonably sure that no-one was unduly traumatised.  And one lady asked if I was available to teach a full day’s course for her guild.  Well, sure I am!  I’m honoured to be asked.  (Also, I was headhunted for several more shows as a yarn dyer/vendor, which is doubly, triply awesome.)

Anyway, back to the birthday thing.  Textiles in Focus ran until Sunday – the 27th.  Every bit of my spare energy before the show went into preparing the teaching materials and the stock for sale.  With only one clear day between TIF and my birthday, I have essentially *nothing* planned – not even a day off work!

But, you know?  I’m OK with that.  I’m perfectly happy to have done TIF for the second year in a row, and I’m more than pleased with the commitment I gave to it.  I’m still quite tired, so I’m happy not to be ‘wasting’ a birthday day off in recuperation.  Instead, I’ll have a quiet evening with J and the hounds, some nice food, a sofa and some knitting.  In a week or two’s time, I shall declare it Belated Birthday, take a day off and go enjoy myself.

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