This year I've been working on chipping away at my stash of wool fleeces. I've amassed quite a few over the last four years. When I get one home after a fiber festival, I scour it, which is a time consuming task in itself. Once that's done, I'm properly sore from hauling hot water all over the place, and the clean fleece sits on the shelf for an embarrassingly long time!
This year, with no fiber festivals or other bright shiny things to distract me and plenty of stash to work from, I've turned an eye to these fleeces. Follow along as I spend some time making roving from my swing picker and drum carder!
Jillian Moreno is hosting an informal sample-along on her blog and on Instagram under the hashtag #samplealong. I can't recommend her book Yarnitecture enough, and I even had the opportunity to take her Yarnitecture workshop several years ago.
During the workshop, we spent a whole day sampling different ways of spinning yarn. It was like a playdate for spinners! So often, we feel like we don't have time to play with our fiber before we get down to the business of spinning. We feel like we can't "waste" fiber, especially if it's something special. The irony is that if we take time to sample before starting a big project, we'll make better choices instead of diving headfirst into a project and then realizing that we should have done it differently. (But only after there's no turning back.)
The first step in the sample along is preparing your fiber. I've chosen to spin Monsoon Sunset in Polwarth. Last year, I spun Monsoon Sunset as a self-striping colorway for a cowl, but always wondered what it would look like spun up with different color manipulation techniques. This sample-along is the perfect opportunity to find out! Plus, I haven't spun Polwarth wool since I began spinning, so this is a great opportunity to try a different base.
An important step in choosing how you will spin your fiber is to look at the length of your color repeats. Jillian Moreno suggests trying to lay the fiber out like the dyer might have during the dyeing stage. Above you can see how I apply dye to get long color repeats in my fiber. This is one of the longest color repeats of all my fiber - so long I couldn't get it all in the frame!
This fiber is relatively fresh from the dyepot, so it hasn't had a chance to get too compacted. Plus, I work very hard to make sure my fiber doesn't felt at all during the dye process, so basically I just needed to unbraid it. If your fiber is a little compacted, this is a great post on how to gently open up a braid of fiber.
From there, it was time to divide the braid lengthwise into four long strips. Most braids weigh four ounces, but I dye 6-ounce braids to give plenty of opportunity to sample or spin a few extra yards. Each of my four sections weighs between 1.4 and 1.6 ounces, which I'm hoping will give me enough yarn to have a sample skein and a decent sized swatch of each sample style.
The spinning styles Jillian Moreno is sampling are:
Because of the way the colors repeat in this braid, "flipped" will result in a very similar yarn to "as it comes," so I'll be thinking of a different way to play with the color for that one. While we're supposed to spin our default yarn, the yarn that we spin when we sit down and don't think about what we're going to do, Jillian recommends a heavy-fingering or thicker yarn, which is slightly thicker than my default, so I'll be working with my Spinner's Multitool to keep a consistently thicker yarn.
Now that my fiber's ready to go, I just have to get my wheel ready!
Glacier Sunrise is one of my favorite colorways, and it was a joy to spin too!
This colorway was inspired by this photograph, which I took several years ago at Glacier National Park. I was able to formulate my dyes to match several of the colors in the rocks, sky, mountains, and water.
There are so many different ways you could spin this colorway - it would look great chain plied so the colors match up, or as a fractal. For this project, though, I stripped the braid lengthwise into narrow sections. I spun each ply to between 22 and 26 wraps per inch, using my Spinner's Multitool to check my consistency. You'll notice that there are some thicker and thinner spots in the yarn, and that is where the variation between the wraps per inch comes into play. I plied two singles together, allowing the yarn to barberpole as much as it wanted to. I was surprised that even though I didn't make too much of an effort to make the colors line up, there were a number of places where the colors lined up perfectly before going on to barberpole once again.
After washing and a light thwacking, this yarn is about 11 wraps per inch and is about 400 yards. It would look great as a shawl, cowl, or even incorporated into colorwork in a sweater.
One of the things I love about the Spinner's Multitool is its versatility. Just because the name implies that it's for spinners, doesn't mean you can't use it to make your weaving weaving easier!
In weaving, the sett is how close together (or how far apart) the warp ends are. The sett is often expressed as a number, followed by the term "EPI," which stands for "ends per inch." Deciding on a sett is a skill that takes practice and plenty of sampling, but I like to use our Spinner's Multitool to get a ballpark idea of which sett to choose.
First, lay the warp yarn across the multitool until you find the closest match. This is your WPI, or wraps per inch measurement. In the first image, my measurement is 22.
For a balanced plain weave fabric, divide your measurement in half to get your sett. This gets us 11. While it's possible to warp most looms to 11 ends per inch using a reed substitution chart, you could also choose to round up to 12 ends per inch (for a firmer fabric) or down to 10 ends per inch (for a softer, drapier fabric). If you're using a rigid heddle loom, you'll want to choose the number that is closest to the reed you have.
For a twill fabric, you usually want the sett to be a little denser. A good rule of thumb is that the sett would be 2/3 of the wraps per inch. With the same 22 WPI measurement from above, that gets us 14.5 ends per inch - but let's round up to 15 for the sake of simplicity!
For a warp-faced fabric, you want the warp to be very closely spaced so that the weft doesn't show. A good rule of thumb is that the sett will between 75% and 100% of the wraps per inch measurement you take. In this example, that would between 16.5-22 ends per inch.
Remember: this is just a jumping-off point to get you started! It's always important to sample to make sure you're getting the cloth you want, especially when you're using your handspun yarns.
Here is the fourth episode of the Fiber Sprite Podcast! On this show, I'll talk about projects I've been working on and my visit to the Taos Wool Festival.
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