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mini-skein spinning experiments

After diving headlong into my first handspun yarn, with somewhat mixed results, I’ve decided to step backwards and take a more scientific approach before torturing another big skein. I purchased an assortment of multi-colored 1/4 oz. balls of roving and on each I’ve tried some different techniques. So here are my 5 mini-skeins, all properly washed and thwacked and dried overnight.ย (Thanks for the tipย pdxknitterati! I didn’t even know “thwack” was a word… sounds more like a sound effect.)

hand spun drop spindle yarn differences

#1 is the dk weight yarn I made on my second attempt. I’m still pretty proud of it, it’s fairly even overall, and the ply seems pretty balanced.

#2 is more of a worsted weight, and I wanted to push the limits of how tight I could make the twist, without letting it kink. Ugh, it’s way too tight. It feels like rope. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

#3 is also a worsted weight, but I tried a little less twist. I think it’s pretty good, but there are a few places that are still a bit too tight.

#4 ended up more of a heavy worsted / aran weight, and it might be my favorite, in terms of softness and it seems like a good amount of twist.

#5 I actually drafted out very thinly, but added very little twist, so it looks pretty thick, but there is not enough twist, because it doesn’t seem very strong… it actually broke when I was plying it.

Then I knitted them up into swatches, and these pretty much confirmed my feelings about the skeins. It’s amazing how different they all turned out, when they all started as the same little balls of wool:

knitted swatches from handspun wool

#1, #3 and #4 were my favorite to knit with, and they feel like pretty soft, even swatches. I didn’t like working with #2 at all, it was way too rough. #5 was very soft, and I can’t believe how big a swatch it made, but it doesn’t feel like strong enough fabric. So this was an EXTREMELY educational experiment, not to mention good practice!

The fiber I used was just some basic sheep’s wool, I’m not sure which breed, but it was not as soft as the merino I started with. I’m such a glutton for the softest, most luxurious fibers. I really want to just dig my hands into some cashmere and angora, but those will have to wait until I’ve mastered longer stapled fibers. I found thisย Etsy shop, Woolgatherings, that sellsย reasonably priced fiber, and they are also fairly local up in Washington, but I mostly just fell in love with their photography. My photographer husband has made me a sucker for quality photography as well. I ordered moreย merino… super-fineย this time, and someย baby alpaca, which will be my next adventure after the merino, and I’m planning to try dyeing both of these as well, but I just couldn’t stop myself from ordering aย sampler package of luxury fibersย ย to play with as a treat once I’m feeling pretty comfortable with spinning (I mean… wow… just look at that photograph, can I be blamed?) . I’m justifying these purchases by telling myself they will all go towards Christmas presents of some kind… hopefully!

Also, it turns out Mae is a natural with the drop spindle! She needed very little help spinning her first single, I just drafted it out for her and helped her join the pieces:

mae-spinning2

Fortunately, she is not as critical of her work as I am… she said she likes the “fuzzy” parts. Just look at her graceful form!

mae-spinning4

And here she is making her 2-ply:

mae-plying

mae-parked

And her finished yarn, all washed and hung up to dry:

maes-finished-yarn

And my most exciting news is that my very own Sweet Prince Charming is buying a spinning wheel for me! He’s been doing some photography work on the side to save up money for it, and he wanted to surprise me for our anniversary last week, but there was a vendor error, so that one didn’t work out, but he ordered another from Etsy for me yesterday. I can’t believe it!!! I’m so excited!!! I thought it would be years before I would be able to get one! And of course he did his research and found what he thought would be the very best, easiest to use model for me: a Louet S10 with a double treadle. I can’t wait!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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20 thoughts on “mini-skein spinning experiments

  1. I am so impressed! I told you it was super addictive ๐Ÿ˜› Those little samples are amazing, and I like number 4 best. It looks so good, so even and so squishy. You are a lot more patient than me, I very rarely swatch or make samples, which is something I really should do. I find I enjoy spinning DK best. You’re right, if you put too much twist in it just feels so rough like rope, not nice. Mae seems like a natural, holding it well, and so even!
    I wish there were more fiber shops near me. In the UK it seems to only be spun wool, and if there is any fiber, it’s generally just for felting. I generally buy a lot of my stuff online too. You could always try http://www.worldofwool.co.uk for fibers and stuff. It is a British company, but a lot of people from the US regularly buy from it. I highly recommend it.
    Wow. That is a great husband you have! I wonder when you will get your wheel? Excited for you! My boyfriend is great, but I doubt he knows anything of what I would like, fiber wise. (Though he is able now to tell the difference between knitting and crochet, so that’s a start!!) Great blog post, love the photos.

    • LOL! My prince wouldn’t know the difference in fibers either, he always gives me gift cards for that sort of thing, but I think he’s picking up on my passions anyway, and loves anything technical that you can read reviews on, so the spinning wheel probably seemed like an appropriate challenge for him. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m definitely lucky to have him… 14 years married, 20 years best friends. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for your advice on the fiber shop… I don’t mind buying from the UK ๐Ÿ˜‰ and for all of your kind words as well!!!

  2. Super neat. Love that your daughter is so interested and hubby so helpful! Keep up the good work. I except to see a full sized sweater next! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks so much! I’m very lucky with my family… all around. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve actually never made a full size sweater, although I’ve dreamed about it. It’s always felt too daunting. But who knows? You may have just given me the inspiration I needed to attempt it! How cool would that be, to make it out of my own handspun yarn?

  3. I’m so excited for you!!! I love the pictures of Mae with the drop spindle. ๐Ÿ™‚ This is really an excellent post. It’s so interesting to see your samples here. I’ll have to do the same when I start. Yesterday I had an art sale and one of the ladies that came is a weaver and she also is a distributor for Ashford spinning wheels. She took a look at my old wheel and told me exactly what I needed to do to fix it up. Then she wanted to buy one of my paintings. We ended up bartering. For my painting she gave me two skeins of Alpaca that she had carded, dyed and spun and it is absolutely gorgeous. She even told me the name of the llama, Max. ๐Ÿ™‚ Then another friend I haven’t seen for a long time asked me if I wanted angora from her rabbit for free…She said she just collects it and puts it in a bag, and when there is enough she will just give it to me. When that happens I would love to share it with you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Wow! Congratulations on selling your painting! What an amazing trade… I LOVE working with alpaca… and to have it handspun and dyed is even better! And that’s so cool that she was able to help you with your spinning wheel, too. Now you are all set for the winter. I’m glad my sample idea will be helpful to you when the time comes. ๐Ÿ™‚ And how cool that you are getting some angora for free! Are you serious about sharing it??? That would be incredible!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Just wanted to say, that you and your daughter’s spindle spun’s are streets ahead of my very first samples on a spindle. One day I may show you the horror of what I did hehe ๐Ÿ™‚

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