Friday, July 05, 2013

The One True Way to block

My position is that I have been told a lot of different techniques to spin, and most of those techniques are not nearly as fast, as easy, and do not produce as good a product as what is recommended in books like Alden Amos's Big Book of Handspinning.  It is not that I have One True Way, it is that better spinners have better ways.   I am not impressed by what I have been told on the internet (read as Ravelry). The very best advice I have gotten is from Alden Amos, either in person or in his book. Most of what I say, I have gotten from better spinners, and I recite these better techniques to remind people that much of what is repeated over and over on the internet is not best practice.

Blocking yarn was a stone wall for me. First, I had to understand that yarn (singles) needed to be blocked.  It was hard to take the concept of blocking very seriously. However, good blocking of singles is essential to a reasonable process of making 5-ply gansey yarn. The 5-ply that I made before I started blocking singles is not nearly as good as the 5-ply made after I started blocking all singles. And, handling 45,000 ypp (and finer) singles required that they be blocked prior to plying.  Handling wet fines, required a certain set of tools and skills. Nobody would come right out and say that.   I tried everything.

Blocking wet skeins by hanging weights on them is better than nothing.  However, for for the quality of yarn that I want, it is not good enough. It does not work for 560 yard hanks of 80s (45,000 ypp).  Anybody that talks about blocking wet skeins by hanging a weight from the skein is not thinking in terms of full hanks of  worsted "fines" (60s -> 80s).  And the truth of the matter is that for the 12,000 ypp singles for an ongoing knit glove yarn project, blocking wet skeins by hanging a weight on them just does not work as well as blocking on a reel.

Sometimes one does just end up with wet skeins of yarn that need to be blocked.  This may be the result of sizing the yarn for weaving or dying it. In which case, the wet skein needs to be mounted on a squirrel cage swift and wound on to reels. I know sometimes this has to be done, but I still look for better ways to do it.

I know that blocking yarn on reels is not the only way to produce an excellent product, because I also have a very good steam blocker. Steam blocking under tension and wet blocking on reels are different techniques on paths to different yarns.  Every yarn has it own One True Way that will produce the right yarn, faster, better, and cheaper.

I continue to be impressed by the Big Book  Handspinning.  Last week, I was sampling on the loom and after a few inches, I was getting fuzz balls on the warp.  Sure enough, there in the Big Blue Book, are 2 recipes for sizing to protect warp from abrasion.  I had never noticed those recipes before.  They are both being evaluated, along with 3 commercial PVA based sizes.  I may be able to use singles for warp, wind the warp on through the tension box, size the warp on the loom, and then, tension on the warp during sizing would block the yarn?  I have ~ 4 feet of warp path from the sectional beam to the heddles.  The question is will the yarn size together and make a mess?  I will never know until I try it. AVL  is mute on the topic of sizing.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

This is cool!