Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Milestone: Competence in Spinning

In the early going, I read that "spin count" was the fineness that a competent spinner could spin a particular wool.  I then set my definition of a competent spinner to "being able to spin wool at its spin count."

Today, I can spin the common fleece at their spin count with reasonable confidence and ease.  In short, now I am a spinner.

 Learning to spin has been an obsession over the last year.  Learning to spin disrupted my life.  It was worse than learning calculus.  With calculus, there were very good texts and very good teachers to show the way.  Every physics, chemistry, and math grad student could do calculus, and were happy to parade their expertise in their role as teaching assistants.  However, try finding a spinning course where the objectives of the course include spinning singles at 50,000 ypp.  I do not know how many hand spinners can spin fine wool at its spin count, but it is not something that gets mentioned in course descriptions at fiber shows.

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I like yarns plied up out of 10,000 ypp singles.  What I have not talked about it that 30,000 ypp (Shetland) singles are remarkably strong and elastic.  Unless you have handled such singles, they are like nothing you have handled.  As 2-ply they (@15,000 ypp) they are as strong as the cashmere plied with silk yarns used for Russian lace, but they are more elastic.  If you want drape and flow, go with 2 plies of wool. The elasticity of the fine wool singles makes such lace wonderful.  It is not something that we understand anymore.  It is not a property that can be seen when the lace is mounted in a museum case.  It is something that you feel when you wear the lace. These hand spun yarns are much thinner, stronger, and more elastic than the commercial lace yarns.  However Shetland is not as soft and does not have the softness of the cashmere/silk lace yarn.  If you want just soft, go with the cashmere plied with silk.

Other wools can run a bit softer than Shetland, including  Rambouillet and Cormo.  These can be spun fine and plied into nice soft lace yarns. The finest Shetland is about as soft as very good Merino.  However, the Shetland is easier to spin very fine.  I think any competent spinner can spin the yarn for a nice wedding ring shawl.  Since you only need a couple of ounces of fiber, so you can buy the best fiber and still have an inexpensive project.

The idea of lace is all very interesting, but the real point of learning to spin fine was to be able to spin thicker yarns better.  For that alone, it was worth learning to spin fine.

It has also give me a very different view of how wonderful wool yarn can be.


Susie said...

I've just discovered your blog - interesting stuff! Thanks so much for writing. Clearly I have some reading to do to catch up.

I'm looking for a knitting belt and wonder if you have any vendor recommendations, or other suggestions you can send my way. One thing I love about the craft of knitting is there's always more to learn, or you can keep it simple if life is already complicated.

Have you considered speaking/teaching? I think you'd be well-received, and you have plenty of material here for several well-developed courses or one-off talks at shows.

Aaron said...

I have taught. Some forums do not want instructors teaching methods that require special tools with limited venders.

I do make and sell knitting sheaths. However, recently I have been focused very tightly on spinning, and have not kept up with the demand. Part of the problem is that I have some new designs, that are better, but some prototypes failed and I want to avoid such failures in customer's hands. this means a good bit of sitting there knitting and testing. The new designs are better, so the new sheaths are worth the wait. Of course, I am knitting like crazy, so I do not notice the wait. It is only that a knitting sheath breaks and I go make another one (or if I am out, I just grab another one from the bottom of the knitting bag. It is an old one, and I know it works, but it is scratched and beat up so I cannot sell it : (

=Tamar said...

I am consumed with admiration, having made a few attempts at spinning and decided it is not for me. At least not until I knit more than two things a year.

=Tamar said...

Happy Solstice!

Aaron said...

It is not how much you knit, as " Knitting what fits the purpose."

I lose mittens and wear out socks - anybody that puts a lot time in to making me fancy mittens and socks is wasting their time.

My wife on the other hand is very careful of her clothes and likes them very pretty. Anything you knit for her had better be "special".

With spinning, I am knitting more, and producing less. (thinner yarns!) On the other hand, I am happy with what I am knitting.