Saturday, December 21, 2013

How to create handspun texture in yarn

I didn't believe this when I was a new spinner, but nowadays I know how wise my mentors were.  They told me that when you spin long enough, it's almost impossible to make a yarn with a handspun texture.  By handspun, I mean that texture that you tried so hard to get rid of when you were just learning - not-perfect yarn texture.  Lumpy bumpy.

And it's true, to ask my hands to spin a lumpy bumpy yarn again, is really hard.  They have a memory of how to spin a consistent yarn, and that's what they like.  But to a certain extent we can retrain them.

There are some really great techniques for creating a lumpy texture for novelty yarn.  The book The Intentional Spinner is a great source for learning these.  However, they are regular lumps, all a similar size, appearing at regular intervals.  Not that handspun rustic charm that you achieved quite by accident at the beginning.

But don't fret.  There is a way to get random lumpy bumpy yarn again, but this time with a constant twist and integrity to the yarn that makes it easy to work with.  It's called fibre prep.

The key is to blend fibres of different lengths and thicknesses together then spin it.

Here's an example:

Icelandic fleece has both a soft undercoat and a coarser guard hair.

Hopefully this picture shows that the fibres are different lengths and diameters when separated out.

I blended them with alpaca which was even softer than the undercoat but much longer than the guard hairs.

Drafting the blended fibre is a bit frustrating because sometimes things draw out thin and other times you get lumps...oh wait, that's exactly what we want!  This forces you to draft inconsistently, just like a new spinner does.

The key to keep treadling at the same speed.  So if you spin at one treadle per inch of yarn you feed into the wheel, then keep this ratio.  Adjust as needed to keep the ratio of one treadle per inch (or whatever you like - just keep the same ratio).  So if you slow down your drafting because you had to sort out a lump that was a little too big, slow down your treadling to match... draft faster, speed up treadling.  easy...ish.

This way you have a consistent twist throughout the entire skein, even if it gathers in the thin bits, when it comes to the average twist per inch, it's consistent.

I really like this kind of yarn when plied.

This yarn is about 60% icelandic and 40% alpaca by weight, spun and plied on a spindle, and worn around my neck for several days to see how it is going to bloom and wear.  I like it.

I think a cardigan would be really nice from this, with a basic stst and gtst edging, something that shows off the texture of the yarn.

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