Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Spinning in Color

The class totally rocked. (Come on, it was color spinning with Lynne Vogel! Of course it totally rocked!) It was more information than I could absorb in one day--luckily I took notes! But even aside from the fabulous information, it was so great spending the whole day hanging out with really nice people, and playing with gorgeous fiber.
The night before, I figured I better practice with the spindle some, since it seemed like everything else was always getting in the way. I'm definitely getting better at this!

I adore that maroon roving. But look what I got in class!

It's hand-painted blue faced leicester from Three Waters Farm in colorway Royal Family. It's exceedingly soft and the colors are gorgeous to the nth power. (The picture doesn't do it justice.) If somebody locked me in a cell and fed me only bread and water but I had this roving and something to spin it with, I'd still be happy as a clam.
So you have this gorgeous roving, and you want to make gorgeous yarn out of it. If you're really good at spinning, perhaps you could make singles--then the colors would all be exactly as they are in the roving. But at this point in my development, my singles are a crazy mess, way too uneven to try to make something out of. Even if you didn't mind the overtwisted parts and the near-certainty of skew, there are a bunch of undertwisted parts that would be prone to breaking. So basically, I want to make a plied yarn where the colors look good.
One option is to intentionally not line up the colors from the original roving, so you end up with different colors plied together. If all of the colors in the roving look good together, this can make some really beautiful yarn. Another possibility is to divide a piece of the roving lengthwise, spin both halves identically, and ply them together. This makes perfect sense, but is difficult to achieve. Some folks in the class did it, though. A third option is to make a single and Navajo ply it. In Navajo plying, you take one single and pull it through itself in loops to magically make a gorgeous three-ply yarn where all the colors line up. This was beyond me this past weekend, but I will be learning it as soon as I can. It is super cool. Meanwhile, here's what I made on the spindle. I was trying to get the colors to line up, but as you can see, I utterly failed. This fiber had a much longer staple length than I had been working with, plus it was combed instead of carded, so it took me a while to get used to. So many little pieces of fiber were lost to yarn breakage and other mess-ups, it was really hopeless that it would line up the same. But it's pretty yarn anyway, so I'm happy.

I also got to try out some spinning wheels. One of them was a Journey Wheel, a very clever wheel that folds up into its own wooden box so you can take it with you. Unfortunately it weighs about 15 pounds, which is definitely on the heavy side for schlepping through the airport, but it's still a super cool idea. It didn't have a ratio low enough for me to really keep up with, so I ended up spinning some really crazy out-of-control yarn, which was so unruly it wouldn't even submit to being photographed. (Semi-serious here, I really couldn't get a decent picture of it.)
Then I tried another one, which I can't for the life of me remember anything about except it had a much lower ratio and was super easy to spin with. (It wasn't a folding one, though, and I want to buy a folding one. I still wish I remembered what it was.) Anyway, I was still in frantic spaz mode from the other wheel, so I ended up making crazy thick yarn that reminds me of these hair ties I used to have when I was a little girl.

For as enormously thick as it was, the thickness and twist did come out much more even than I had been achieving, so I'm proud of it too. And anything with these gorgeous colors is just irresistible. I wish I had taken a picture of the singles when they were on my wrist for Andean plying, an extremely cool new trick that I also learned in class. Basically, you wind the yarn around your hand in a clever way that results in a bracelet of yarn that you can pull from both ends for plying. This solves a small problem I had been having with plying the singles from my spindle. I had been simply putting the single around a chair leg and walking it through the house until I had the ends together, and then plying my way back to the chair. Merike Saarniit taught me this at Useful Knowledge, and it is the ultimate in simplicity. If she had tried to teach me anything more complicated that day, my brain would have exploded. However, as we say in computer science, this approach is not scalable. I was already running out of house to stretch it through, plus my cat started participating way too much. Andean plying solves both of those problems for me.
Of course, even though I have all this great fiber waiting for me at home, I couldn't leave without buying something.

This is South American Punta roving from Hoobody Fibers, hand-dyed by Meg of Yarn Expressions herself. (At least, I'm pretty sure that's what she said.) It's really pretty, and it's not colors I would normally choose. After seeing the gorgeous results everyone in class was getting from colors I wouldn't have picked, I decided to get something outside my usual zone (but clearly pretty) to play with. Can't wait to see what happens with that!
Meanwhile, I found out that Yarn Expressions rents spinning wheels! They don't carry the Kromski Sonata, which is still the one I'm stalking on the internet, but I rented a Majacraft Little Gem. So at my house right now is a spinning wheel--squee!!! More about that tomorrow.
One last observation about the class: I was really struck by how absolutely beautiful everyone's yarn was, even the yarn in colors I thought I hated. Gorgeous. Yet, many people in the class were very frustrated. Even though they had made this incredible yarn, it wasn't what they had been trying to make, so they were mad. I do this to myself a lot, but for some reason I wasn't on Saturday, so I could see it from the outside. Wow. Note to self: relax! Don't worry too much if you don't get exactly what you were trying for, just be happy if you make beautiful yarn! Or even if you don't! (Well, maybe that's asking too much. On the other hand, I've found that no matter how ugly I think something is, somebody thinks it's great. So I guess even ugly yarn is something to sell on etsy.)


Lynne said...

Hi Cara

I still love that huge yarn you spun in class. It's common for new spinners to spin thick yarn, but yours was lofty...and that is a trick. That wheel, BTW, was my Schacht Matchless with the largest whorl.

Happy Spinning, Lynne

Cara said...

Thanks, Lynne! You rock!