Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dreaming at the Wheel and Yarn Lots

I spend a lot of time at the spinning wheel. More than an hour most days. Apart from a little time at the start of each new project to re-set my hands and techniques, spinning often is a nearly mindless activity for me. It gives me a lot of time to think and to dream of future projects. Sometimes I plan what I am going to do with the yarn I am spinning and sometimes I dream about the next project, or the next one.  Usually I get a bee in my bonnet to try a different fiber (Longtime wool fan, I have spent the past two years becoming familiar with cotton, have been experimenting with silk, and have recently rediscovered my love of flax). At other times, I want to try a different technique, and get away from the fine high twist yarns that I most frequently spin. These days, unless I am planning on making a small project like socks I almost always purchase fiber in pound increments, as I like to have enough of something to make a substantial project. I get my best inspiration during the long stretches of time it takes to finish a large batch of fiber.  I spent many of my years as a spinner dreaming and not paying attention. I thought that spinning was something you needed to feel instead of something that could be reduced to records and numbers. I do think that spinning is something that you need to feel, at least enough to get muscle memory, but I now recognize the usefulness of keeping a record if you want to have consistent yarn to make larger projects.

Sometimes I don’t wait to finish the current project before moving on to the next, knowing that I can always return and finish something off. I do, however, try to spin relatively consistently over the large projects, and that often means at least finishing all the singles at once. If I am spinning something close to my default yarn, or a technique that I am very familiar with I will make sure to have good notes and samples ready before I stop to provide me with the knowledge I need to produce the same yarn when I start spinning again. For example, I was spinning earlier this summer a large batch of wool which will be used eventually for weaving. I stopped, in order to move on to something else (in this case I spun some sentimental wool brought for me from Germany at a very different grist, finished some silk and cotton projects, a spindle project, and then now have moved on to more and finer cotton). I do know from my notes that I was spinning the weaving yarn using a modified supported long draw on the second  to the large notch of the fast whorl (13:1) of my matchless, treadling my normal speed. I have a sample of the singles, the plied and the plied and finished yarns to refer to and will be able to re-create it at will. If I had not done that, I would have a tough time making the same yarn and have different “lots” of yarn to use together. I have sweaters that look like they are made with different yarns, simply because I got better at making the yarn or forgot how I had been spinning between starting the project and finishing.

I rarely if ever use exclusively one technique and most often use modified long draw or modified short forward, which superficially look similar yet produce very different results. The modified long draw I use lets the twist into the drafting triangle but supports the not fully spun yarn as I pull forward from the fiber source and then let go completely to let the twist move back. I can use one or both hands to do quality control to tug out slubs and occasionally can smooth down the yarn.  The modified short forward (or backward, as I don’t notice much of a difference the way I do them) does not allow the twist into the drafting triangle. I draft a length of yarn, pinch off the twist and then let more in, drafting out slubs and doing quality control in what is effectively a double drafting second pass. I don’t have any hard and fast rules about what technique to use, but do a little sampling at the beginning and pick the one that feels the best or produces the yarn I like the best for the purpose. They do produce different results, the modified long draw can be slightly more “woolen” looking and trap more air and the modified short draw can be more dense and hard wearing, though not always.  They can sometimes result in the opposite depending on how much quality control I did on the yarn and what fiber I was using. The point is that the yarn is different from one to the other.

If I spun the first half of the project using one technique and the second using the other, the yarn that results is very different and after a couple of instances of having this happen to me, I have learned to keep at least a minimum of records. I am not one for elaborate charts of Yards per pound and ounces and wpi and tpi and angle of twist. I think all of that is very useful, and when I have had to measure them they have always been learning experiences, but I do keep a minimum of what techniques were used, what fiber, and a sample of singles, so I could replicate if necessary

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