Fall In The Springtime

Apropos to nothing, I drive my husband, who is a retired editor, just a little bit crazy with the capitalization I use in the titles for my blog posts. I capitalize the first letter every single word, even the articles and prepositions. I know they are not supposed to be capitalized, but I like the way the titles look when the first letter of every word is capitalized, so I do it even though it breaks the rules. It’s my blog, and I can do what I want. 🙂

Now on to the serious business of knitting and spinning. It seems like it has been ages since I blogged about knitting. The only knitting I have OTN is a very boring “vanilla” sock in gray that I cannot even finish until I find the rest of the yarn. I know it’s somewhere in my house, but I’ll be damned if I can remember where I put it. I’ve looked in all the likely spots, but no joy. I also seem to have misplaced my knitting mojo. If you happen to see it, please tell it to phone home. I miss it.

On the other hand, there is no question as to the location of my spinning mojo. It’s right here where it belongs. And since there is no knitting to talk about, let’s get started on the spinning.

Last fall I bought a 3-installment, double-shot fiber club from Sweet Georgia Yarns. The owner, Felicia Lo, is an absolutely brilliant dyer who uses very saturated colors that produce fiber/yarn that seems to glow with its own internal light.

The first installment of my club, which for some reason I spun last, is a 50/50 blend of Merino wool and silk that spun up with a beautiful sheen. The colorway is called Fall Bouquet.

The silk content and the rich colors make this fiber practically glow.

I decided to spin each braid end to end, then ply the two singles together for a subtle barber-pole effect.

I packed a lot of yarn onto the first bobbin.

When plying this yarn, I did a little experimentation. I love spinning in double drive. In double drive, the drive band is doubled in a figure 8 and one loop goes over the flyer pulley while the other loop goes over the bobbin pulley. When you treadle, the drive wheel turns both the bobbin and the flyer, but at slightly different speeds. This results in a gentle but steady take-up onto the bobbin. This works really well for me when spinning, but I haven’t yet gotten a feel for plying in double drive. I need a stronger take-up, especially when I chain-ply my singles. For this reason, I normally ply in Scotch tension, which is also called flyer lead.

In Scotch tension, the drive band is just one loop that goes around the drive wheel and the flyer pulley, and there is a separate brake band goes on the bobbin. When you have tension on the yarn, the bobbin and flyer spin at the same rate, and this puts twist into the fiber. When you let up on the tension, the flyer spins faster than the bobbin because you are slowing the bobbin with the brake band. The result is that the flyer wraps the yarn around the bobbin.

As much as I love my Ashford Traveller, I’m not very fond of its Scotch tension set up. I really need to play around with it and try to find a set-up that works better for me. I had been doing my plying on the Lendrum, which is a single-drive wheel (Scotch tension only), or on my Ladybug, which is a multi-drive wheel that works really great in Scotch tension. But I really wanted to ply these singles on my Ashford because of the larger bobbins, so I tried something new. I plied this yarn using Irish tension.

Irish tension, which is also called bobbin lead, gives the spinner a very strong take-up, that is, the yarn is pulled onto the bobbin pretty hard. In Irish tension, the drive band goes over the drive wheel and the bobbin, so that when you treadle, the drive wheel turns the bobbin directly. The brake band goes over the flyer pulley. When you hold the yarn under tension, the bobbin and flyer turn together at the same rate, but when you let up on the tension, the flyer slows or even stops, and the yarn winds onto the bobbin.  You usually don’t need much, if any, tension on the brake band when using Irish tension. Just the friction of the band material itself often provides all the braking you need.

I found the Irish tension set-up on my Travvy was much more to my liking than the Scotch tension, so for the time being, until the spirit moves me to fiddle around with the Scotch tension set-up, I will be using Irish tension on my Travvy for plying.

But for spinning, double drive is still my spinning heaven, and my Traveller is a sweet dream in double drive.  I used the sliding hook flyer, which has larger bobbins than the Ashford standard flyer. Four ounces of fiber fit on a SHF bobbin with room to spare, so I spun each braid onto its own bobbin.

But when I plied the singles, I couldn’t fit all eight ounces of 2-ply onto a single bobbin, so when I wound the yarn off the bobbins onto my niddy noddy, I actually spit-spliced the yarn to join it and ended up with a single skein. A big single skein. 220 grams, 837 yards of a heavy fingering to sport weight yarn.

The yarn is soft and shiny because–Merino, silk!

If you are wondering whether the other two installments of my Sweet Georgia Fibre Club turned out as well as this one, you won’t have to wait long for the answer.

 

Cloud Dust

I’ve been having a lot of fun trying out the various features of my new Ashford Traveller spinning wheel. It is a double drive wheel which can also be used in single drive, both flyer lead, aka Scotch tension, and bobbin lead, aka Irish tension. If you are interested in the differences between double drive, bobbin lead, and flyer lead, click here and page down to the heading “Types of Flyers – Single drive versus double drive wheels” for a pretty good explanation. Or watch this video.

Anyway, when I first got the Travvy, I did some spinning in double drive, and it turned out very well. I was surprised by how easy it is to treadle a spinning wheel in double drive. I thought it might be just the Travvy, but then I set up my Ladybug in double drive and, lo and behold! the treadling was amazingly light. And the light, steady uptake really suits the thin and highly twisted singles I prefer when I spin.

I’m definitely a double drive convert, but that doesn’t mean I have abandoned Scotch tension. I love spinning in Scotch tension. I love the control I have over the take-up by just making minute adjustments to the brake band. And when I am plying yarn, I sometimes want a stronger take up than I can get with double drive. And I have to say that while spinning in double drive on my Ashford Traveller is a dream when I am using the regular flyer, when I tried the fast flyer in double drive, it was very fiddly. I’d be spinning along just find, then suddenly there would be absolutely no take up, then there would be, then there wouldn’t be. I had to keep readjusting the tensioning knob and I just couldn’t find the sweet spot where the take up was constant. No doubt it is due to operator error. My drive band was obviously slipping too much at times, and not enough at other times, and I need to experiment with different drive band materials to find what works best with the fast flyer.

But in the meantime, I decided to try the fast flyer in Scotch tension. I’ll say right off the bat that I am not in love with the Scotch tension set up on the Ashford. The brake band is nylon fishing line and the tensioning is done with two springs. The fishing line is a bit stiff and doesn’t wrap around the wooden tensioning knob as easily or evenly as string would, so it takes a lot of fiddling to get everything the way I like it.

I tried using some crochet cotton in place of the fishing line, but even thin, smooth mercerized cotton created too much drag on the bobbin pulley. So I put the fishing line back on.

There’s always a bit of a learning curve with a new wheel, and with experience, I am beginning to get the feel of the Scotch tension on this new wheel. I had this lovely fiber

Superwash BFL/Nylon in Cloud Dust from Spinneretta’s Studio

which I will admit was an impulse purchase. But I thought it would make a lovely 3-ply sock yarn since it is superwash wool blended with Nylon. I undid the braid and divided it lengthwise into equal 3 strips. I just eyeballed it when I was doing the dividing, then I weighed each strip on my kitchen scale. They were surprising close in weight, but I did have to take a small amount off one of the strips and divide it among the other two to get 3 bumps of equal weight. I then spun each bump onto a separate bobbin on the Traveller using the smaller pulley on fast flyer and Scotch tension. I wanted the singles to be fine enough that plying 3 of them together would result in a finger weight yarn, and I wanted to put a lot of twist into both the singles and the plied yarn so that it would wear well.

I plied the 3 bobbins of singles together with the same set up as I used for spinning the singles except I used the larger pulley,

Cloud Dust 3-ply on the bobbin

and I ended up with this lovely skein of sock yarn. The Ashford fast flyer works perfectly in Scotch tension, and with a little trial and error, I’m certain I’ll get it to work well in double drive.

A skein of handspun sock yarn

Now to choose a pattern. I might just go with my stand-by favorite, shadow rib.