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Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Great Thing About Having 2 Spinning Wheels...

...is that you can spin two completely different yarns at the same time!Here is the Opalessence (Merino/Silk/Angora), I'm spinning the singles at 40 wpi on the Symphony,
and here is Frostrosen (a Kitchen Sink Batt from The Knotty Sheep - a blend of Romney/Coopworth and Teeswater/Wensleydale with some Angelina sparkle) and Finn's tail, I'm spinning these singles (not Finn's tail) at 40 wpi on my Rose. OK, so now you're thinking I've lost it - I'm spinning the same yarn in different colors, not completely different yarns. Well, if you only look at the wpi of the singles, you'd be right, but there's a lot more to spinning than just wraps per inch.

I'm spinning the Opalessence using a short draw with a ratio of 20:1. The way I'm spinning this is each time I treadle (since the Symphony is double treadle, I usually use the right foot to count) I draft 1 inch of fibers and allow the twist to enter it. The singles I'm spinning will theoretically be a consistent 20 twists per inch, since this ratio makes the flyer rotate 20 turns for each treadle stroke (which is one rotation of the drive wheel). I say theoretically because sometimes I might draft slightly more or less than 1 inch, sometimes the flyer slows down when it needs oiling and sometimes Finn jumps on Caleb on the sofa and has to be removed. Spinning at my house is never an exact art. The fibers in the Opalessence are all pretty slippery. Merino is the finest sheep's wool available, silk is fine and slippery and angora is fine, slippery and usually has a pretty short staple length. All these factors combine to mean that this roving must be spun with a lot of twist (getting into the yarn pretty fast due to the slippery nature of the fibers) to hold the yarn together. (For non spinners out there who are still with us, yarn is held together by friction which is created by twist - the thinner the yarn, the more twist is required to hold it together.)

The Frostrosen (which is spinning into a really pretty apricot color that just looks like Springtime to me) is a completely different animal. Teeswater and Wensleydale are both breeds of sheep that grow their fleece in long, curly locks - similar to the look of Angora Goats. The Wensleydale can have a staple length of 8-12 inches! Romney and Coopworth are both medium wools, Romney is a favorite for sock knitters (and really a pretty great all around wool as you can find a pretty big range of softness within the Romney breed) and Coopworth, while its not usually as soft as Romney, has a lovely shine. The first wool I ever spun was Coopworth and once I got past the initial skein - crazy amounts of twist - and started really getting a feel for the fibers, a skein of undyed white Coopworth bears more than a little resemblance to pearls. (Yeah, I love Coopworth.) So, the wools used in the Frostrosen are a little more coarse (which makes them more likely to grab each other than slip apart) and have a longer staple length than the fibers in Opalessence. If I were to spin the Frostrosen at a ratio of 20:1 with a short draw, I would end up with an overspun, wiry single. I'm hoping for a soft, drapy yarn to knit a shawl with, so obviously I need to spin this wool differently. The Frostrosen is being spun at a ratio of 12.7:1 and I'm spinning it using the Pink Lemon Twist Long Draw (probably not a perfect long draw since I do use 2 hands, but most if not all of the elements of a technically correct long draw are present, and I do get yarn in the end, so I must be doing something right). Long draw is less obsessive compulsive than short draw so to be perfectly honest I don't really know how many twists per inch the finished single is getting. I allow the twist to start to enter the fiber supply and grab some fibers, while at the same time, I'm pulling the fiber supply away from the twist, so it can't just grab everything. I'm getting a very consistent single, but it's just not as technically exact as the Opalessence. One of the first things a spinner learns is how to feel when there isn't enough twist - this is the slippery feeling you get right before the drop spindle drops. You learn to recognize this and either slow down your drafting or speed up your spinning until you don't feel the fibers slipping anymore. On this Frostrosen, I'm drafting just fast enough to get to the point of enough twist for the yarn, but not letting much more twist enter the singles. This keeps the singles strong enough to be plied and knitted with later, but it also keeps them soft enough to drape.

So you see? I'm not totally nutters here. They really are different yarns and I have to say that I'm really enjoying having two different types of spinning going on. The part that I'm particularly proud of is that 2 years ago, when I got my Rose I didn't know any of this. I would have spun both yarns the same way, not knowing that different fibers need different spinning techniques. When I started spinning the Frostrosen and realized that I was spinning the singles to the same wpi, I also realized that despite this, it was a completely different yarn from the Opalessence. I must have learned something over the last two years about spinning and it might be only me (or other spinners) who is excited about this, but I love that while they look the same at first glance, these singles are really very different!


Anonymous Hope said...

Too cool. I really enjoy reading your blog on a daily basis. It's really exciting to see the spinning, since I'm a newish spinner. Your yarn is always beautiful.

11:51 AM  
Blogger flwrhead said...

Very interesting and informative post, especially for a new spinner such as myself. Now I'm wishing I had two wheels....!

12:05 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

I absolutely love the color of Frostrosen! And you are not the only one who appreciates Coopworth; it's a favorite of mine, too, for much the same reason. I have a Teeswater / kid mohair blend that I can't wait to spin into lace weight. One of the joys of spinning, imho, is that wool comes in such a fascinating array of colors and textures...

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Finn said...

Forget the yarn. Post more pictures of me.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Aurora said...

OK, I totally get what you're saying...and your yarn is, as usual, simply gorgeous.

Can you suggest any good books for beginners like me?

2:26 PM  
Blogger ~Sherie~ said...

The singles are gorgeous. And thanks for that great information. I had not thought about the need for spinning different fibers differently based on their individual characteristics. Great food for thought for us newbie spinners!

And stop with the two wheel thing, you rotten enabler you!! ROFLMBO

2:24 PM  

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