Saturday, December 19, 2015

I am the Boss.

I do not let the fuzz from a a sheep tell me how to spin.  However, a number of spinners say that they sit down to a pile of fiber and let it tell them what to spin.  That is like a painter letting the color in one tube of paint tell him/her what to to paint.  No, the artist uses a palette to make the color that the artist wants.

When I sit down to spin, I have a vision of what I want to spin. Before I sit down, I think what the function of the object will be, and I decide on a yarn structure. I decide on the grist of the singles, whether the singles should be spun woolen or worsted, and what textures of fibers are appropriate.

Over time, and as I developed more skill, I have moved to finer yarns. My first goal when started spinning was 5-ply, sport weight,  gansey yarn. Now, I find myself spinning mostly fingering yarns yarns of 3 to 6 plies with the occasional 6-ply lace weight sock yarn.

Often, I get it wrong. Something about the yarn is wrong. Then, as I sit there knitting or weaving, I consider the how to make a better yarn.  Usually, I decide on a different grist or yarn structure. Yesterday as I was knitting my replica Patton's Beehive 4-ply, I decided that I wanted such a yarn from a slightly coarser fiber.  Thus, the next batch will be spun from the flock run long wool that I get from the Woolery.  I think up the structure of my next yarn as I knit the last yarn.

For any given texture of fiber, there are several breeds or hybrids that can produce fleece that are appropriate.  I do not really care which I use.  In many breeds, the differences within a fleece or the differences between different fleeces in the breed, or the differences between the fleeces of the same animal in different years are greater than the differences between breeds.  I would say, that the great appeal of Merino, is not so much its fineness, but its uniformity.

I am not a big fan of fiber blends.  I think that having a blend of different kinds of fibers in the drafting triangle, interferes with the draft and the ratchet of the yarn.  Even the flock-run medium long wool that I get from the Woolery, has been sorted and graded to provide reasonable uniformity within the fiber.

I am not a fan of adding nylon to yarn - not even to sock yarn.  Just spin the sock yarn from a more suitable wool than Merino.

Many spinners spend a lot of time studying the details of the various breeds spinning little bits of fleece. Except, unless the fleece has been well sorted and graded (rare in the US) little bits of fleece say little about the all of the grades of wool that one can expect from a flock of that breed. However, many modern spinners seem not spend a lot of time learning the techniques needed to produce the various yarn structures or the virtues of the different yarn structures.

Every 2 or 3 years, the local spinning guild devotes its programs to breeds of  sheep and their fleece, with everybody spinning little bits of different kinds of  fleece. However, they seem not to have any interest in being able to sit down and spin fine.  Being able to spin fine would open up new yarn structures, that would allow them to knit and weave new kinds of objects.  Others in the guild would consider spinning the replica Beehive that I spun the other day to be a challange in fine spinning.

Knowing the virtues and vices of the various yarn structures is more important than knowing the nuances of  breed fleece characteristics.  Knowing yarn structures is harder than knowing the details of fleece characteristics.  To know yarn structures, one must be able to spin the yarn strucrures consistently, and then work with that yarn.  One does not learn about a yarn when it is sitting in the stash or even on your desk.  One learns about yarn by making objects, and living with the objects.

Moreover the required yarn characteristics depend on how the fabric will be constructed.  Thus, there must be a vision for the object that flows down to fabric construction, then to yarn structure, and finally to the required fiber.  However, if I know how to spin, then all I really need to know about the fiber is the reburied spin count and staple length.  Does that mean the the spiral crimp that makes Suffolk so wonderful for socks does not matter?  No, it means that the spiral crimp will enhance a well spun sock yarn, but first one needs to know how to spin an excellent sock yarn structure. Suffolk has a spin count of between 48 and 58, so it is very reasonable to spin it fine enough to make wonderful sock yarn.

The bottom line is that if you are a good spinner and a good knitter than an hour's worth of spinning will take 5 hours to knit.  Thus, you might as well spin the very best yarn to make that 5 hours of  knitting worthwhile.

1 comment:

Amanda Cromwell said...

I've just now found your blog and the backlog of information that I now have to sift through...thank you for keeping it up to date, and continuing to share your experiences.