Tuesday, April 15, 2008

unbalanced yarn

In spinning, one of the things we try to achieve is balanced yarn. Basically, if you ply two singles together, the twists of the singles and the twist used to ply them together should all balance each other out so that the yarn doesn't want to twist in either direction any more--if you hold it up, it just hangs down, not pulling to either side.
Everyone seems to agree on that much. What they don't necessarily agree on is whether you really need balanced yarn. Merike Saarniit taught us in our class at Useful Knowledge how to make balanced yarn and that it's important because otherwise the fabric you knit from the yarn will skew. On the other hand, I stumbled across someone else on LiveJournal who posted about making unbalanced yarn and knitting with it. She was really happy with the results and said (in the comments of the original post in the spinningfiber group, which is now defunct) that if you use garter stitch, it doesn't skew that much. One of the things Merike emphasized in her class was that we should listen to everybody who has anything to say about spinning and try it for ourselves, not just listen to her. I have a lot of respect for that.
So, when I had some singles lying around, I decided to swatch them up and see what happened. First I knit. I did some stockinette and some garter before I ran out of yarn. Here's the front (stockinette at the bottom, garter at the top). The knitting needle is there to provide a straight line for reference.

Here's the back:

The stockinette skews like mad, whereas the garter does skew a lot less. Merike also said that you could crochet with unbalanced yarn, no problem, so I decided to try that, too. I had some singles in the maroon yarn that I spun on the spindle a week or two ago; I never got around to plying it. So I used that to do a few rows of dc, a row of tc, and a row of sc. Sure enough, it didn't skew, even in the tall stitches. Then I remembered a really incredible vest that Lynne Vogel showed us in the class on color. It was absolutely gorgeous, and she had alternated between knit and crochet, taking advantage of the skew in stockinette to add little bits of diagonal in the midst of everything else straight. So I added a couple of rows of stockinette to the crochet and then finished with a row of sc. I would have done more, but that was all the yarn.

Here's the front (crochet to the right, stockinette and one final row of sc to the left):

Here's the back:

I love how the crochet looks with the thick and thin yarn, and I definitely want to play with this more. I don't like as much stockinette together as I have here--I would probably do just a row or two between crochet.
Anyway, I had been getting really bored with spinning the undyed fiber, but the little knit swatch is really nice, and it's much softer than I expected from working with the fiber. Also, it seems like lately several of the blogs that I read have all coincided to say that if you're spinning, knit something with your yarn as soon as possible so you can discover the flaws in it. I was pretty happy with my yarn, imperfect as it is, so I was a little nervous about knitting it and getting some big revelation that it's no good after all. However, rather the opposite. I thought it was going to be a big hassle trying to knit my singles, since they have all this mad twist wanting to be released, and if they can't be plied right now, they'll eagerly settle for becoming a big pile of pigtail spaghetti all over the floor. But I leaned an afghan square against the lazy kate and knit right off the bobbin with no problems at all. Actually, I'm pleasantly surprised at how it looks. The natural yarn I used for the knit swatch is much more even than I thought it was when I was spinning it. The maroon yarn is less even than I thought, but I really love the effect in crochet. It adds a pleasant touch of chaos, and the thin parts have a metallic look, like wire. I like it.

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