Monday, March 23, 2009

Spinning Practicals Part 2:

My exuberance for spinning was short-lived. As I mentioned in a previous post, everyone at home got colds and flu's, and I thought, spreading lots of thin, sneezy fibres round the house wasn't a good idea. So, I stopped spinning and started on the next learning process. Plying and washing.

Again, thank you YouTube for lots of plying videos. I can't remember which ones I watch, but I will look them up again and post them here...

One thing to remember while you are spinning to beat the band, is to leave a free spool for plying. Yes, I forgot, and filled all my spools to the brim, then had to unwind one of them so I could start plying. If you don't have a jumbo flyer and jumbo spool, I recommend you even keep 2 spools for plying, because it build up very fast.


Tools: Lazy Kate or box and knitting needles

Firstly to ply you need a Lazy Kate. The one I got with my wheel needed fixing, so a cut-up coat-hanger and I was ready to go. If you don't have a Lazy Kate, it is very easy to make on. Again, Ravelry to the rescue, there is a group for making all your own equipment: DIY Tools. So, while I couldn't spin, I've had great fun reading up on how to make everything from very basic materials. So, Guess what my next project is!?!?

Back to spinning practicals. So, you have your Lazy Kate on-hand and you start to ply. When I first started reading about spinning, the whole S-spin/Z-spin seemed very confusing. But its not really. Its just what-ever way you turn your wheel/spindle, clockwise or anti-clockwise. I'm not getting into anything fancy, so it was a simple clockwise/Z-spin spinning, and then to ply you do the opposite, spin anti-clockwise/S-spin. This holds the yarn together better.

So, I'm doing 2ply, as my first lot of homespun yarn is all uneven, bobbly, and quite thick. There seems to be different opinions the length of time to start plying after spinning. Mairead told me to leave at least a day, to let the yarn rest. In my main source of info, From Fleece to Fabric by June R. Lewis , it says it depends on the type of yarn, how twisted it is and what you want it for. Letting it rest, will also mean it will set. Setting the Twist is a whole area I have to look into yet. (You can read about it on The Joy of Spinning, a great website for simple practical info and videos). Its all about getting the yarn to relax, and to undo-any over-twisting. Have a read of this by AbbeyYarns, where she talks about the twist in spinning. Between general life stuff, I know I will never get to ply straight after spinning, I know that for sure. I thing for a beginner, I'll just be happy to have something that resembles yarn at the end of all this!


Tools: Niddy Noddy or wooden doweling rods

So, plying over with, its then time for the niddy-noddy. (I love this word!) The niddy-noddy is a tool for turning your spool of yarn into a hank or skein. Again, this is for setting the twist, but generally for getting the yarn into a manageable shape for washing or dyeing.You will also be able to measure the amount of yarn you have.

I have a niddy-noddy, but I found it was a bit small for my big chunky yarn, so back to DIY Tools again, I made my own. Now, I'm not very handy with a drill, in fact, all power tools scare me, so I made my niddy-noddy simply by binding doweling rods together.

Wrap the yarn round the niddy-noddy. An easy way to remember what way to wrap the yarn is to say,
diagonally under, up and over. Again there are videos on YouTube and on the Joy of Spinning , so you can see how its done...Cut several short lengths of yarn and loosely tie the skein in several places. I used a contrasting colour so you can see it better. (There is a very handy knot you can use. It's the same as if you are tying your shoe laces but you only make one bow. This will hold fast, but un-do very easily. I cant remember the proper name of it).

Then, take your freshly made skein off the niddy-noddy off.

Washing Skeins
Need: Baby bath, Baby bath thermometer, Woolite, Flat clothes Rack, Water

After spending all that time spinning and plying, the last thing I wanted to do was ruin it all by turning my lovely hand-spun into a felted mess. So, I googled, and read all I could about washing skeins. A bit dazed from too much information, I decided to just go back to my one spinning book, and use her techniques. All the articles I read went on and on about hand-hot water. But what exactly is hand-hot water? I always have cold hands, and hate hot water, so my hand-hot is different to someone else hand-hot. But I couldn't find a rough estimation of hand-hot, so I am using the child's bath thermometer which has 3 markings, cold, warm hot. Hot is 37 degrees, warm is 31 degrees, so I picked 36 degrees. (Also because of the ad on telly, where the hunky man tells you that is the temperature of the body and also that chocolate melts at that temperature...) You might think I'm being pedantic about this, but I have spent a lot of money on the spinning wheel and fleece, and a lot of time on reading and actually spinning, so I don't want to mess it up in the final stages. I'm precious but I'm not that precious, so I am not using rain-water, which is the best water to use when washing wool. I'm using plain old, hand-hot tap water, which is on the softer side of hard. (I know because we had to test it when we got the dishwasher).

Firstly a few never nevers and an always:
Never run water onto wool. Never wring, rub or generally agitate the fibres. Always use the same temperature of water.

I gathered all my equipment in the bathroom. I filled the baby bath with hand-hot water, 36 degrees, and then gently immersed the skeins into the bath. Leave this to cool, roughly about 45 mins. Then I removed them, gently squeezed, and placed them on the clothes drying rack. Gently, gently, gently, for someone who used to felt a lot this gentle thing is hard going..So, I filled up the baby bath again, to exactly 36 degrees but this time added a small amount of Woolite. The skeins went back in and I very gently squeezed the suds through the yarn. Out again, leave to drain on the clothes rack, but this time I measured the water temperature and its 30 degrees. So, when I re-fill the bath, I kept the water at 30 degrees. Repeat until the water is clear.

One blog I came across, which I cant find now, said its good to gently twack the skeins against the side of the bath. The first man-handling of wet fibre I came across. So, I decided to do it because it would get more of the wet out. So, holding the skin at both ends, I gently twacked the yarn against the bath. Don't know if it did any good, but it didn't do any damage anyway...

Drying Rack

Tools: Adjustable Curtain Rail, optional doweling rod, plastic hangers.

This is where the real Setting the Fibres comes in. The yarn can be tensioned now, to remove kinks and as my yarn was plenty kinky, I needed to tension it. But over-stretch it, and it will loose part of the twist and natural elasticity. The spinning is the easy bit, all this other stuff is nerve-racking!

So, DIYing again, I made a tension rack from an adjustable curtain rail. I don't know where you get these, they were in my house when I moved in. I'd been meaning to get rid of them for ages, but now they have a use! So, I put the damp skeins over the curtain rail and wedged it into the shower. Because I had loads of kinks in my yarn I added a doweling rod through the bottom, and a few plastic coat hangers for a little bit more weight.

Nearly Finished!

So, a few days later, my lovely skeins were dry. I wound them into balls, and they are now sitting waiting to be turned into something. I don't know quite what. The funny thing about all this is I don't really like bulky yarns, thick home-spun knits. I don't wear scarves or hats, I'm not into handbags. In fact I mostly wear cotton!

So, hm mm, what to do...whose birthday is coming up? Oh, my super-cool niece, I'll bet she'll love something hand-spun!!

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