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Thursday, August 14

Spinning Updates...the quest for lace continues!

So, I've been spinning up a storm lately! Lots of alpaca, Merino, Cormo, Shetland, and alpaca/Merino blends, and today I started on some cashmere. My next post will be about the joy of spinning cashmere!

According to standard WPI (wraps per inch) charts, I'm spinning lace and fingering weight yarn, with some sport weight. One of my goals is to get about 800 yards of lace for some future project (I joined a shawl KAL), so part of this spinning has been to play around with getting lace yarn and also sock yarn (which in some cases is interchangeable). I sampled a standard purchased sockweight yarn and I got 21 WPI with it, so I'm pretty close to it in my spinning.

One of the interesting things to note is the various characteristics of different fibers. Mainly, how much the yarn fluffs up after washing in the skein. I always wash my yarn after I've plied it--I skein it up and soak it in hot, soapy water, then a moderately hot rinse (soak), then spin it in the washing machine, then let it air dry. In almost all cases, the yarn fluffed up after washing and drying. Some fibers, like Cormo, for instance fluff up really well. Others, like Lincoln, not so much.

One of my projects was from my friend Maple at North Star Alpacas in Michigan. This was 4 oz of a blend from Indy, which is 74% alpaca, 1% mohair, and 25% Merino, I think. I have two skeins total of 475 yards/4.9 oz/1550 ypp (yards per pound) at 24 WPI. I see this as fabulous sock yarn! With alpaca being roughly 8 times warmer than wool, this blend will make nice, lightweight socks. All in white! I spin the singles with a modified supported longdraw, which incorporates a lot of air into them, and get the firmness and strength via plying. (Aside: I think it's funny when people refer to a single as a "one-ply". Doesn't it take two to ply?!) Yes, those are Tigger's feet in the picture! He likes to "help" spinning, knitting, and picturing.

Another white project! lol. I have bags of white alpaca and brown llama from our friends Chris and Leigh from a couple of years ago, and since I did a major reorganizing of the contents of the fiber room this week, I decided it was time to start using up what I have. I ended up with 233 yards/2.8 oz/1330 ypp at 20 WPI. Really great for more socks!

On to the fiber with some color! lol. I have a couple of Shetland fleeces I bought years ago, and my friend Joanne carded it all for me. I have 4 different colors: a very creamy off-white, a light grey, this one (light grayish brown), and a dark brown. Click here for Shetland color chart.

I have 11 oz of this color, and spun up a small sample of it. I think it would fall under light grayish brown. The fiber has a long staple, is hairy, like mohair, and stretches easily, gliding for a good long draw. Unfortunately, because it's so springy and hairy, I was getting lots of neps in it-- the hair curls up and snags, kind of like a pill on a sweater but it's tangled up in what I'm spinning. Also, little bits of more downy stuff would just come off, so I needed to be fastidious and pick them out. The sample came out about 19 WPI.

The black in picture on the left is a lambswool I was also sampling to see how it would make as lace yarn. It's soft and springy, and a little hairy. I might have problems knitting with it, especially at night, as I won't see the stitches very well. But it would make a nice lace shawl. The knit swatch was made from the first Shetland lace attempt (19 WPI), which is at the bottom of the swatch, and the black lambswool (18 WPI) at the top of the swatch.

I wasn't happy with the diameter of the first Shetland lace attempt, so i did another couple of 1/2 bobbins, and really tried to go for a super thin single. I plied it and washed it, and the lace is pretty nice. This skein (both pics are the same one) weighs 1.5 oz, there are 210 yards, and came out to 23 WPI, so this was my best attempt at lace! It comes out to about 2240 ypp, so much closer to the 2600 ypp standard lace weight.

One note about preparing fibers for lace spinning: It is really important to have very well prepared fiber. The thinner the roving, the better chance of achieving thinner singles. In all cases I attenuated the roving by splitting it into thinner strips lengthwise, then attenuated each strip before spinning it. In the case of the Shetland, it was carded into shorter batts (a square, versus a roving, which is a continuous "rope") and I broke it into short sections then attenuated them. The Shetland also had a habit of nepping, so I had to very lightly attenuate it, but ended up leaving it thicker than other fiber. This reduced the neps and yielded a better single.

There are a couple things here: spinning fiber finely, and spinning fine fiber (also finely). It is possible to spin average wool and other fibers thinly, but the thinner the fiber diameter (Merino being the finest wool), technically one should be able to achieve a much thinner yarn the finer the fiber...

There are other ways to spin fiber fine. One way is to spin from the individual lock, which has been washed, dried, and is then flicked with a little brush which opens up the fiber into a fan-shaped lock. One spins off the corner, and it is easy to spin a super thin single. Best info on this is Margaret Stove's book: "Handspinning, Dyeing & Working with Merino & Superfine Wools". She signed my book in a workshop I took with her in February 1999!