Monday, December 16, 2013

Sampling before spinning - how to improve your spinning skills through samples

I'm getting quite a collection of little samples of yarn kicking about the place.  The more I sample, the more amazed I am at the variation and results I get.

Each fibre and combination of fibres gives a different kind of yarn.  The best thing is that each sheep can give a different fibre, even different shearings from the same sheep can be drastically different depending on diet and other factors.  That's the great beauty of working with natural materials, infinite variation.

To spin a sample, I first begin with a washed (or sometimes unwashed) handful of fleece.  Roughly 2 to 10 grams, whatever fits on the handcards.  I card one rolag and then grab my spindle.  I spin the fibre in whatever way it feels like.  This is key.  for the first sample, it's up to the fibre how it wants to be spun.  Then, once I've seen how that turns out, I will try different fibre prep, different methods of spinning, and even different blends of fibre, until I find a yarn that I'm thrilled with.  Usually it's the very first sample that I fall in love with.

Sampling takes all of 3 minutes to card the wool and spin.  

The biggest advantage of sampling before setting out on a large spinning project is that you don't waste your time with a technique that the fibre refuses to cooperate with.

Another good reason to sample is that you can abuse the sample to see if it will hold up to different finishing techniques.

Yet another advantage to sampling is when you are blending different fibres together.  Each fibre alone will have it's own characteristics, but depending on what ratio you blend them, the resulting yarn can be something vastly different.  Observe.

This is a blending sample I did from two icelandic fleeces.  The yarn on the far left is 100% Cloud, the one on the far right is 100% from the sheep named Bell.  It's the same amount of fibre, spun on the same spindle using the same method.  But do you notice how short and fluffy the one on the left is compared to the one on the far right?  Bells fleece has less crimp and therefore has less bounce when it is spun.

The yarn in the middle is 50/50 Bell and Cloud.  You can see how it shares many of the qualities of both fibres, but it has a texture that wasn't expected.  It's almost silky, but also wiry at the same time.  Very confusing.

The remaining two yarns are 25/75 blends, the one second from the left is mostly Cloud, the one second from the right is mostly Bell.  What really interested me is the Mostly Cloud yarn had more bounce to it than the just cloud yarn.  By adding just 25% of Bells fibre we got an unexpected result.

So it wasn't just colour, but texture and drape that was affected by how we blended the fibres.

One final reason to sample is that you can use the collect of tiny yarns to make some beautiful knitting.

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