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.

 

Fractal And Friends

I’ve written often on these pages about Ravelry and the wonderful community of knitters, crocheters, and spinners that has developed there. I belong to a number of spinning groups, and I have found that the members are knowledgeable, generous with their time, and eager to share their experience and advise those of us who are newer to spinning.

One of my spinning groups is Schacht Spinners, which is devoted to folks who spin or want to spin on Schacht wheels. One of the forum moderators started a “monthly” challenge (which sometimes runs more than one month) to encourage us to try different spinning techniques. It’s all very informal; you can participate or not, and you can go at your own pace. No pressure, just an opportunity to learn something new with the support of other spinners.

The current challenge is to do a fractal spin. I’ve done fractal spins before, but I’ve never done one with a gradient yarn. So, with my Schacht Ladybug set up in double drive using the highest ratio on the fast pulley––

A pretty braid of BFL and silk is just begging to be spun into yarn.

A pretty braid of BFL and silk is just begging to be spun into yarn.

I thought this beautiful braid from Friends in Fibers in the Cranberry Bog Gradient colorway would be perfect for a gradient fractal spin.

I wanted to try to make a self-striping, lace weight, 2-ply yarn in which the color changes got farther and farther apart. I want to knit a triangular shawl in which the width of the stripes remains about the same from beginning to end. I want the color repeats to be shorter at the beginning of the shawl and get longer as the number of stitches increases.

I would never have thought to try this if I hadn’t joined this group and this challenge. But one of the participants posted a link to this blog post, which led to this blog post, which led me to say, I want to do this!

The first half is nearing completion.

The first bobbin of singles is nearly finished. I can hardly wait to start the second bobbin. I will be spinning the remaining strips end to end, keeping the colors in the same order (green to dark pink), starting with the thinnest strip and ending with the thickest. And I will be keeping my fingers crossed that the yarn turns out the way I envision it. But if it doesn’t, not to worry. It will be beautiful regardless. When you start with lovely fiber that has been beautifully dyed, it is almost impossible to mess it up. 🙂