Friday, 12 August 2011

Inconsistent? As if…

Please welcome another really informative spinning post from guest blogger Cecile (Ways of the Whorl).
For quite a while after I started spinning, and to some extent this is still true today, I just spun for the fun of it, spinning away like there was no tomorrow, like the sheep would grow more wool… which apparently they do, phew, that’s a relief!
But eventually came the desire to spin wool with a larger project in mind, and with it, the need to spin consistently from one spindle to the next. So far, my spinning hasn’t been exactly inconsistent, but then again I’ve not spun large quantities, and have tended to do it in short amounts of time, which means it’s easier to keep the same characteristics in the singles from start to finish.
3-plied merino fibre: laceweight and bulky skeins (copyright Cecile)
I now have it in my mind to spin a whole sweater’s worth of yarn on my spindles. But the consistency becomes paramount if I want the sweater to fit properly. So before I go ahead and commit to spinning for one big project I decided to make sure I had all the help I could get in making my yarn follow the standards I’m setting.
At my first ever spinning meet up at Tricolette London on Tuesday, Caro had the handiest of cards on which to check her single thickness as she was spinning it. It is sometimes sold in a clear plastic format, and is called a spinners control card, but it does not seem easy to find in Britain. Caro was kind enough to forward me her card to print out, for the Ravelry users, there’s also a printable version in one of the UK Spinners threads.
This allows to check WPI (wraps per inch) which should give a more consistent yarn weight all round. But there is another consideration which will affect the qualities of the finished yarn: the amount of twist. Wheel spinners, control the amount of twist by keeping an even rhythm in the treadling and feeding the yarn to the bobbin. For spindle spinning, the speed of the spindle is constantly changing from the moment it’s flicked into motion and each flick is sligtly different, which makes such control more difficult to count. But there again a Raveler found the solution to keep checks on the amount of twist. She advised to check the number of twists per inch (TPI) of the finished yarn by allowing a length of single to kink back on itself every so often, and checking it against a gauge.
Ravelry trawling also enlightened me about the wonders of reference cards… and I decided to try them out. There are of course as many possibilities as there are spinners, but here is what I’ve decided to have on my reference cards:
  • the name of the fiber and where it was purchased
  • the date I started spinning it on, and if known (if I spin with a specific project in mind) the spinning requirements: WPI, weight, yardage, qualities of yarn (woolen, worsted, semi-, number of plies and type)
  • a piece of the single laid out straight so as to compare the size as I’m spinning
  • a piece of the plied yarn unwashed, with the TPI count written out
  • a piece of the plied yarn washed and set
It looks like quite a lot of information, and I am not entirely sure I will manage to be systematic enough to record all this on every sample. But if I need to be really consistent for a big project, I hope this will help me avoid ending up with only half of my yardage actually knitting up at the gauge I’d calculated with my sample…
I’m already thinking of sewing myself little project bags for spindling with a pocket in front in which to keep these reference cards handy while I’m spinning.
How about you? How do you make sure your spinning is consistent? Do you find other information useful on your reference cards or do you simply use another method altogether?
The images in this post are copyright of Cecile from Ways of the Whorl. If you wish to use the images please request permission from Cecile.

1 comment:

  1. These are all really interesting tips. I have never really tried to spin anything consistent. I keep thinking that some day, I will. For now I have lots of mismatched skeins that I am not enough brave enough to knit up, but I'm coming up with ways to incorporate them with mill-spun or other hand-spuns into some larger projects.


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