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. (Thanks for the tip pdxknitterati! I didn’t even know “thwack” was a word… sounds more like a sound effect.)
#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. 😦
#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:
#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 this Etsy shop, Woolgatherings, that sells 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 more merino… super-fine this time, and some 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 a sampler package of luxury fibers 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:
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!
And here she is making her 2-ply:
And her finished yarn, all washed and hung up to dry:
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!!! 🙂