Monday, August 25, 2008

In a designing type of mood

Lately I’ve been in Design Mode and have been writing up a couple of patterns that were rattling around in my head. The first was a scarf I did last year to use up some handspun and some coordinating balls from a sale bin. I had to test-knit another couple of scarves in order to remember what I did--making sense of those little bits of paper with scribbled notes was NOT easy! And I decided that it was a great little design, and just too simple for me to justify actually charging cash-money for it. So the scarf pattern, Handspun Delight, is now available as a free pattern in pdf format (meaning you will need Adobe Acrobat or some other pdf program to read/print it). Please contact me for a copy by leaving a comment containing your email address (this website does not support downloadable pdf’s). I will not publish your comment unless you give permission, but will forward the pattern via email ASAP.

The second pattern, a neckwarmer, should be ready for publication in a few weeks. I still need to finish knitting the first one, have it test-knitted and write up the pattern. And somewhere in there I’m supposed to restock my Etsy shop……

Not that I’m complaining. I love what I do, and I usually end up working 7 days a week just because I like what I do. Sometimes I have to remind myself that there is a life outside of fiber, y’know?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Spinning Sock Yarn--Twist and Ply

While 2-ply yarns is just fine for socks, you may want to consider 3-ply, Navaho ply (3-ply the easy way), or a cabled 4-ply yarn for you socks. 3- and 4-ply cabled yarns appear to make longer-wearing socks, but of course are thicker and can be more work to produce. You must decide for yourself what you want, but you should always ply sock yarn to make it stronger and even out the inevitable variations in thickness we find in handspun yarns.

You should also keep in mind that the amount of twist required in the singles yarn is affected by the amount of twist that will be subtracted when you ply. 2-ply yarn needs more twist, as the tight plying required for sock yarn will subtract twist from the singles; 3-ply requires less twist as there are three strands of singles being twisted in the opposite direction and thus less twist is subtracted from each individual singles. Cabled 4-ply is a yarn that takes some thought and experimentation to come out perfectly balanced—this is one that requires experimentation and note-taking, but is well worth the effort.

Some pros and cons of the different plying techniques:

Advantages: Quickest path to finished sock yarn
Disadvantages: Can wear faster than other techniques

Navaho ply
Advantages: Great way to preserve the striping in variegated singles
Quickest way to get 3-ply yarn
Disadvantages: Little bumps can irritate sensitive feet
Requires finer singles and more yardage than a 2-ply of similar thickness

Advantages: Avoids the little bumps of Navaho ply
Allows use of 3 different (in color/texture/content) singles if desired
Disadvantages: Requires 3 bobbins/cops of yarn, all approximately the same yardage

Cabled 4-ply
Advantages: The longest-wearing socks
Allows for many effects with any combination of singles being different in color/content/texture
Disadvantages: Takes the longest to spin a finished, with 3 steps involved (4 singles, then two 2-ply, then one 4-ply

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spinning yarn for socks 2--consistent weight yarn

Once your fiber is ready to spin, you need to decide what yarn weight you want to spin. Fingering is the commercial standard for sock yarn, but you’re in charge of your yarn now, so DK, Sport or Worsted are all possible. Fingering weight makes something you can wear in your Birkies or to the gym, DK and Sport are good for hiking socks, and Worsted is great for work socks and bed socks. A good way to ensure that you spin a consistent size is to tie a few inches of commercial yarn to the front of your wheel or near where you spindle, so you can easily glance at it to remind yourself of the size you want. Remember that the commercial yarn is plied, so you’re aiming to spin to the size of the singles that make up the finished yarn.

Sample, sample, sample till you achieve the weight you want, and make short notes on how you made each sample (number of treadles, length of yarn drafted till wind-on, etc). For spindlers, you can lay the spun yarn on a piece of paper and draw a line to represent the twist angle, which will give an indication of the amount of twist you inserted in that particular length of yarn. Immediately after spinning a length of yarn, let it twist back on itself in a 2- or 3-ply—this is what your finished yarn will look like. When your sample is the yarn you want for your socks, simply continue to duplicate the steps in the notes you took for that sample, and check your yarn weight occasionally be letting it double back on itself and comparing it to the commercial yarn. By keeping notes and checking your spinning, you can interrupt your spinning and pick it up again later and still be consistent. Keep in mind that sock yarn needs a little more twist and a tighter ply than usual garment yarns because socks take quite a bit more wear and tear. More on this next time….

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sadness and hatred

I'm battling sadness today and have been trying to deal with this since last evening. I come from a big family, you know the kind of family folks used to have to help with the work around the farm and deal with the higher mortality rate in those days. Mom actually lost 3 of her 9 children before I was even born! And we have our share of family spats. Except my family likes to deal with their differences by announcing "I'll never speak to xxxx again!" which I think is an absolutely silly way to deal with things. How will you resolve your differences if you don't speak to someone? How will you even let them know what p*ssed you off in the first place? I mean, I thought that kind of behavior was left behind in 6th grade, know what I'm sayin?

Anyway, I took the opportunity to visit one of the estranged relatives who is "never going to speak to" his mom or siblings again. But I'm the aunt and figured since I didn't have anything to do with the spat and didn't even know what caused it, it'd be okay to visit and invite them over for dinner this weekend. Rang the doorbell twice--no answer so I figured it was broken and I knocked, causing the dog to go nuts--but I heard voices calming the dog and saw someone look out the curtain. Knocked a second time and announced myself, since they hadn't seen me in a couple of years. Their college-age daughter comes out, closing the door behind her, and announces that they are not interested in coming to see me and in fact don't want to see me at all. I ask what I've done to them, and the girl says she doesn't even know me, doesn't want to know me and wants me to leave. What kind of person sends their kid to the door to do their dirty work? Last time I saw this girl, she was about 5 and here she stands sending so much venom my way that it was overwhelming.

I'm not religious, but I do believe in being kind and behaving well. How, and why, do you teach a child to hate someone they don't even know. This girl and her sister have grown up not knowing their grandmother or 4 aunts/uncles, 5 great-aunts/uncles, 30+ cousins and multitudes of second cousins. Because their father is angry at his mother. And their mother is angry with him. It's just so sad that two people and their anger can ruin the childhood of two once-lovely girls. And what will those girls teach their children (if they can find someone who wants to share a life of anger and hatred with them)? Wow. Just......Wow.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Spinning yarn for socks 1--prepare your fiber

I've had several requests to write something on spinning sock yarn. This will be the first in a series of three lectures (ramblings?) about how I construct my sock yarn--YMMV.

Once you've chosen your fiber for socks (you can't go wrong with Posy Toes Sock Fiber), the key to spinning fine yarns like sock yarn is to use a thin fiber source. Meaning, if you're using top or roving (wool that comes in long ropes) it's best to split these lengthwise into strips about the size of your little finger or finer. I typically split top into 8 strips and roving into 4-6 strips. If you've got batts like my Posy Toes batts, you can make strips or roll them into really big rolags (see below for handling rolags).

Next, you'll need to pre-draft or attenuate the strips. Hold the end of a strip in two hands, making sure that your hands are further apart than the staple length of the fiber. In other words, if your individual wool fibers average 3" long, your hands should be 4" or more apart. Gently pull the strip in one direction so the fibers begin to slide past each other. You'll notice that the strip is slightly fluffier and less compressed--that's exactly what we want! Continue working your way from one end of the strip to the other. You can leave your attenuated strip in a heap on the floor and spin from that or, especially if you have feline pets, you can roll it in a ball and keep it in a basket or your lap while you spin.

If you're using rolags made from batts or from handcarding, simple take one between your hands and start stretching it out. Work from one end to the other, and if it's still not thin enough for your likeing work back to the other end. Carded batts take several passes until they're thin enough for sock yarn.

Once your fiber is prepared, there's nothing left to do but spin it up. More about deciding the yarn grist (thickness), twist and plying in future posts.......