Finer Spinning

September 7, 2008 at 10:53 pm 1 comment

Over the last few days I’ve been spinning up a few ounces of wool from roving that I dyed turquoise with  touches of indigo and brown.  For the fun and challenge of it, I decided to spin fine, aiming for a yarn that would meet the criteria for the Fall Fiber Festival’s laceweight handspun category.(http://www.fallfiberfestival.org).

Here is my yarn:

It’s two ply, with 460 yards in the skein, and weighs about 2 1/2 ounces.  I spun it on my Schacht Matchless, equipped with the high speed whorl and bobbin.  It’s not perfect yarn, and I might be able to spin even finer if I put my mind to it, but I wanted a yarn I would be willing to knit with, and much finer than this, it gets hard for me to see what I’m doing!  Also, I didn’t want to completely loose the color variations in the roving.

You don’t have to have high-speed attachments or years and years of spinning experience to spin yarn that could be considered “laceweight” (which is, after all, a category that includes everything from frog hair to just under fingering weight!).  But it does take a while.  The thinner your yarn, the more twist it needs to hold together.  To get more twist, you either use a high ratio, or treadle faster and reduce the pull-in, so the fiber you are drafting has enough time to get sufficient twist before being wound onto the bobbin.  Fine singles take a lot of twist, and can also fool you sometimes, in that they can have just enough twist to wind on the bobbin, but fall apart later while being plied.  So the first thing to do for spinning a fine singles is to set up with the highest ratio you have available, and figure out how fast you have to treadle, and how little draw you need, to get the yarn to spin with sufficient twist and wind on the bobbin with ease.

You should also pay attention to the fiber you are using, and how it is prepared.  While shorter staple lengths are ideally spun fine, if you’re new to spinning lace weight yarns, it will be easier to draft and get good results with a medium-long fiber.  Likewise, stay away from slippery fibers to begin with, and make sure your prepared fiber is smooth and free of neps.  I used an ordinary, relatively soft but not slippery all wool roving and found it easy to work with.  To make drafting go smoothly, I first separated it into smaller, pencil-sized lengthwise strips, like this:

Then I began to spin.  You have to train yourself to go slow, and to draft only a few inches at a time and allow plenty of twist to build up before you let the yarn wind on.  Check your newly spun singles from time to time to make sure you’re keeping a consistent rhythm (let them ply back on themselves before going through the orifice. ) Here you can see my drafting zone:

And that’s how it’s done… slowly, patiently.  Relax. unwind.  You’ll get there… just don’t forget to move the yarn on your flyer hooks regularly so it winds on your bobbin evenly (’cause it can really be a problem to unwind if you don’t).  For two-ply, you can spin half your fiber on two different bobbin, or do it the hard way and spin it all on one, like I did.  You’ll notice there’s still some room on the bobbin when I stopped spinning last night:

That’s because plied yarn always takes up more space than singles, and I wanted to make sure I could get the two-ply back on this bobbin.  After I took this picture, I wound the yarn into a center-pull ball on my yarn winder, tied the two ends together, and called it a day.

Today I plied.  If you’ve never plied from both ends of a center pull ball, practice with thicker yarn before you try it with lace, as the singles yarn is energized (i.e., has a lot of twist in it), and you have to keep on top of it to avoid making a kinky tangled mess.  But that’s how I did it (I like not having any orphan singles left on a bobbin, and I’ve plied this way for years).  Here is the full bobbin of two-ply:

See how it’s fuller than the singles?  Same fiber, same bobbin, just more air space in yarn that has been plied.  So when I was done I wound it into a skein and soaked it in warm water to set the twist.  Here is a close-up picture of the yarn with a penny so you can get an idea of the scale:

And that’s it – my “laceweight” yarn.  Though with less than 500 yards, I’m not sure what I’m going to be able to knit with it.  I’ll have to check yardage on lace shawl patterns and see what I can come up with.  But first I’m sending this skein in for the fiber festival!

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Not Ready for HandSpun  |  September 8, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for all the detail you provide. It’s fascinating to read and your yarn is sooooooo beautiful!

    Reply

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