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!
One of the most fun parts of my job is spinning up samples of fiber so people can have an idea of what it might look like once it's spun. (Of course, there are many, many ways to spin a braid - each of my samples is just one possibility!)
This sample is Hush, spun from merino fiber. It's also available on Falkland fiber. For this sample, I stripped the braid into narrow sections of top, and spun my singles to between 48-56 wraps per inch, using my Ultimate Spinner's Multitool.
After plying, a washing, and a light "thwacking," the two-ply fluffed up to about 22 wraps per inch. I have about 600 yards of this two-ply.
I had a lot of singles left on one bobbin. Sometimes it's fun to try different plying techniques, so for this mini-skein, I spiral-plied my singles with a gray commercial laceweight merino yarn. There are about 80 yards of this one, and I look forward to playing with the texture in my weaving!
Like lots of projects, I started Jillian Moreno's sample along with lots of enthusiasm, and then got sidetracked close to the end. But, I've finally finished, and have the results to share.
I started with one of my 6-ounce braids, using Monsoon Sunset in Polwarth, dividing it into four sections. Since most braids are 4 ounces, my 6-ounce braid gave me a little extra to work with in sampling.
First up was "as it comes," where you spin without manipulating color in any way. For this colorway, which has very long repeats, this resulted in a long self-striping sequence. As I'd already spun and knit a cowl from Monsoon Sunset using this technique, this was the most predictable of my four samples.
The next technique was "flipped." At the outset of the sample along, I'd assumed that this would get me the same results as the first sample. However, Jillian Moreno has an ingenious solution for spinning "flipped" when the color repeats are symmetrical - she simply starts at a different point in the color progression. This sample resulted in an overall more tweedy/marled look, but still kept the long repeats.
The third sample sample used the fractal spinning technique. Fractals are really fun to play with, and blend long color repeats in one ply with shorter color repeats in the second ply. You can see that effect here, as the swatch represents a long color repeat of orange, and is plied with shorter repeats of the other colors in the braid.
The final sample was "drafted together," also known as "combo drafting." In this technique, you hold two sections of differently colored fiber together while spinning. This results in at least two colors of fiber in the single, and four or more colors of fiber being possible in the plied yarn. I found it to be the most difficult to spin, as one piece of roving tends to want to be spun at a time, and it's hard to make two play along! This was helped a little bit by pre-drafting the fibers together. Because of all this color play, there's lots more blending happening in this yarn, and it had the most surprising swatch. It still has some long repeats of color, but an overall tweedy effect.
All in all, the sample along was a lot of fun! I've created some laser tags to go with the samples and swatches, and they'll be on display at my upcoming shows this year. Be sure to stop by and check them out!
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.
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