The Tiniest Little Bit of Spinning Tech

This is a Tuesday, and I’m trying hard to stick to the Tuesdays are for spinning rule, even though Frankenmitten calls out to me from the knitting basket by the chesterfield.  Wanna peek?

I did start with a braid (from Latvian Mittens), and then did a little colourwork thing that seemed sort of snowflakey, then another braid and then started with Annemor #15 from Selbuvotter. So far, so good.. but today is not about the mittens. Forget the mittens.  Until tomorrow, the mittens are dead to you, because  today is, as a I mentioned, a Tuesday, so my wheel is out and I’m a spinner. 

I told myself that if I shifted a little fibre out of the house, my reward could be that I’d bring one of the new bags of wool from Wellington upstairs and start the spinning for the sweater that I’d like to make – Cosima.   I feel good about how much fibre left (tossing that big batt I didn’t care for made all the difference to the list) and so today I trotted downstairs, fetched the biggest bag of brownish grey and sat down at the wheel and was instantly consumed with wave of maturity and intelligence.  (I’m as shocked as you are.) I decided, my friends, to sample.  Now –  I didn’t really, properly sample.  Proper sampling, as it has been explained to me by people who really do things right, is sort of like swatching for spinning.  People who do gauge swatches right knit a good sized chunk, wash it, make notes about it, maybe even go so far as to pin a note on it or (I swear some people do this) affix it in their knitting notebook so that they can remember what needles they used with what yarn so they have a record. 

I’m not that sort of knitter (I do swatch, just not like that) and I don’t sample like that for spinning either.  Properly done, when I sample I should think about the yarn I’d like to have, think about ply, twist,  ratio or woollen vs worsted, and then start spinning little pieces using all the options until I get the yarn that I have in mind.  Then that sample is washed and perhaps even knit… if you’re spinning with a particular project in mind.

Well I am spinning with a project in mind, but that sort of sampling isn’t really me.  I admit, it’s smart. It works.  It gets you a better crap to awesome ratio going down, but there’s something about it that just isn’t me.  Maybe I lack the patience for it, maybe I like the element of risk that not sampling properly gives me… I can’t tell you.  I can just tell you that quick and dirty is more my style, so this is what I did: 

I looked at the yarn that the pattern calls for, which is Cuzco.  I looked at it for about two minutes in Lettuce Knit last week, and then I walked away.  I noted that it was a two ply, that it was pretty bouncy, that it was light, and that it was a chunky weight.  Then I bought the pattern and left.  This morning I pulled out the fibre:

(It’s a corridale, for anyone keeping track.) and I resolved to spin a two-ply chunky weight.  I sat at the wheel for a couple of minutes, and I spun this.

This is not bad yarn, but it’s not what I wanted at all.  It is a two ply (that’s good) but it’s not a chunky (that’s bad)  it’s sort of dense and heavy (that’s bad, since the sweater would weigh twelve kilo’s if I kept that up) and it needed way more bounce and loft to make  it work, and that was sort of bad news for me, because most spinners will tell you that as time goes on, making big yarns becomes harder and harder for them, and that is certainly true for me.   I remembered then that two of my favourite spinning teachers ( Maggie Casey and Judith MacKenzie McCuin ) both say the same thing. That if you want your spinning to be different, you’d be better of changing the wheel than the spinner – sort of like… if you wanted your gauge in knitting to be looser, you’d be better off changing needles than resolving to knit more loosely.  Even if you could manage it for a little while, eventually you’d revert to type and knit your regular way, and that’s what happens with spinning too.  Eventually, no matter what you resolve intellectually, your hands will start making the yarn they like to make, without regard for what you would like to make.  So I gave it a think, tried to remember what I could and then I did this:

1. I moved to a lower ratio on my wheel.  This adds less twist with each treadle.
2. I increased the tension a bit, so that the yarn was "pulled" onto the wheel more quickly, and so that more fibre was pulled into the drafting zone (to make it thicker yarn.)
3. I changed to a full on big sweeping long draw, so that more air would enter the fibre and it would be loftier. 
4. I slowed down my foot, sped up my hands and er… cut back on the coffee for the rest of the day.

When I did all that, I got something way, way, way better.  See?

New one on top, old on the bottom, and while I wouldn’t quite say that victory is mine (It’s too loose now… maybe more ply twist?)  I’m as sure as I can be (without proper sampling, which I’ve already admitted is a buzzkill for me) that this is going to work.

I know. Famous last words. Yarn critique, anyone?