Thursday, April 27, 2017

Making stretchy yarn

When I first started spinning, I was fascinated by the process of making yarn .It is magical.You start with fiber that pulls apart so easily but then you add twist, and it becomes strong and holds together. Just by the application of twist.

However, as a knitter, I was a little disappointed. I am used to the elastic properties of wool and the yarn I made was not elastic. In fact, most of the yarn I have made has been used in shawls and scarves and cowls. Things that don't require elasticity. My yarn was even and soft and completely inelastic. I watched videos. I watched Margaret Stove make lovely elastic yarn and explain how she did it. But I wasn't able to replicate her results.

A couple of years ago, I took a singles class with Amy King. Amy is the low-twist singles queen. At the end of the class, she mentioned that she uses low-twist to create elastic sock yarn. I was intrigued and I asked her how she does that. Her method is to spin a very low-twist singles and then ply with the normal amount of plying twist that one would for that weight of yarn. As you may remember, we normally add twist to the individual elements of the plied yarn (the singles yarn) and then balance that twist energy by adding opposing twist in the plying direction. This is called a balanced ply. But in this case, we add more twist in the plying than we added in the singles. So the yarn isn't balanced. I spun a tiny 3-ply sample in that class and I was awed by the fact that it was indeed elastic.

I came back inspired and was discussing the topic online in one of my Ravelry spinning groups. I wondered how different blends would react to this process. One of the very lovely spinners in that group sent me 3 samples of roving she had - about 8 gm each. I intended to do some experiments with them but got distracted by other things. The rovings sat there.

While I was spinning the collapse weave yarns, another member of the same group posted about a class she took with Jillian Moreno. They had spun a variety of yarns in the class. One of them was a crepe yarn. A crepe yarn is one where you spin 2 singles yarns in one direction, then you ply them together with a lot of plying twist. You spin a third singles in the same direction as the plying twist and then you ply the plied yarn and the singles in the original spinning direction,. The reason you add more plying twist is because you are going to be plying again in the opposite direction.

This is a photo from Sarah Anderson's Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs. I took it to show someone the structure of crepe yarn. Anyway, this spinner said that the crepe yarn was very elastic. This discussion inspired me all over again. And in my experimental scientific mood following the collapse weave experiments, I finally picked up those rovings and did my stretchy yarn experiments.

 The first one was a Corriedale roving. Corriedale is a medium wool but it has a lot of crimp and it puffs up and becomes very soft and fluffy after the yarn is finished by washing. I expected this to become a nice stretchy yarn if I used Amy King's low twist singles with a high twist ply. And I was proven right. This skein stretches from 11" - 13" easily. Once released, it snaps back to its original length.

Next up was a Corriedale/silk blend roving, which you can see spun up and waiting to be plied above. I expected that the addition of the silk would reduce the elasticity. I wanted this as a comparison to the plain Corriedale I spun first. So I used the same technique. I did a low-twist singles and then added more plying twist. As I expected, it was still stretchy but much less so. The skein also relaxed a lot more. Wound on the same niddy-noddy, the skein was 13" when relaxed and stretched to 15", but relaxed back to 13" again.

The third roving was a Romney/silk noil blend. Romney is a long wool and thus does not have as much crimp as Corriedale. It has a wave. I thought I would experiment with the crepe yarn to see if it would add elasticity to what I expected to be the least elastic of the 3 rovings. 

This photo shows the 2 initial plies and the 3rd piece that is waiting to be spun in the opposing direction to be added after the first two are plied together. This skein relaxed the most. It was 15" long - also wound on the same niddy-noddy. It only stretched to 16" but also went back to 15" when released. Crepe yarns have texture, which you can see in the photo below.

Yardage also varied a bit. The Corriedale gave me 29 yds. The Corriedale/silk yielded 17 yds for the same weight, and the Romney/silk resulted in 17.5 yds for the 8 gm weight.

I think this is the first time I've been relatively scientific about my spinning. I mostly just spin and then decide what I'm going to do with the yarn based on its qualities after I am done. There is one more yarn structure I need to explore. It is called an opposing ply yarn and it is very stretchy. Another description of it is here.

Those of you who know the scientific method know that this is kind of scientific, but not quite. There are too many uncontrolled variables, and the fiber itself is very different. I want to add to this set of experiments by using a plain roving (not a blend) that I have and spin all three yarn structures with the same fiber and compare them. But that is for another time.

I started spinning the mystery wool (from a couple of posts ago) for socks using the low-twist singles/high-twist ply method. I am part-way through the first of the 3 singles.

The fiber looks like this. I divided in in 3 lengthwise instead of stripping it widthwise because the non-blue sections are sparse and I wanted them more distributed in the yarn.

On the weaving front, I did a quick little project. I had been saving an old pair of jeans that were worn and too big because I know denim is great for upcycling. In a Ravelry group devoted to rigid heddle weaving, the April theme is weaving with fabric. I was inspired to cut up my jeans and a T-shirt that I didn't like very much to make a rag rug.

I used the method described in this video to make the yarn. I used a thick, rustic cotton I found at a big box craft store as warp. To pack down the weft and create a thick, stiff rug, I used a hair pick. I had bought the hair pick to open up locks of wool and spin directly from them. But it was the perfect tool to pack down the weft and make the rug.

Another rabbit hole was exploring options to finish the edges. Who knew there were so many ways to finish rugs. I ended up doing a single Damascene edge and then making overhand knots to make a fringe. Typically, one would weave the ends back into the body of the rug after a single Damascene edging. But I found that too difficult with the cut up fabric. Hence the fringe.

One technique I want to try is a Maori edge. I had some leftover warp so I found some bulky Lopi-lookalike and wove a little sample. I plan to finish this using the Maori edge so I can see how easy or fiddly it is.

Now I am going to take a break from weaving to plan my next weaving project and finish up my Calmer hoodie. I've finished the pockets and now I need to join the pockets to the body and finish the bottom of the sweater. Then I have sleeves and a hood to knit. So that is a project that needs some time spent on it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Results of Collapse weave experiments

The collapse weave experiments are done and I have my plan for the Tour de Fleece. As I said last time, I planned to do four sets of samples. Each set consists of two identical samples: one to remain unwashed and the other to be washed and finished.

I hemstitched each sample. I did not size the singles. I think I need to do this because the single got very twisty and was difficult to weave with.

Sample set 1: This was done with a high-twist, very fine, dyed Polwarth single. It was spun with Z twist from top. Spun with a short forward draw. The discrepancy between the thickness of the warp and the weft meant that this became warp-focused and the color variation in the weft is not visible. But I liked the feel of this. With a thinner warp, this would be a lovely fabric.
This is one of the samples on the loom.

This is the completed set. Washed on the left and unwashed on the right. The unwashed sample is curling from the twist I think.

Sample set 2: a thicker, lower twist single spun Z from a cream/taupe striped Corriedale roving. This was spun with a supported longish draw. I striped the weft by packing it down more densely to create stripes. This is my favorite and what I will be spinning for during the Tour de Fleece.  I will weave a scarf with self stripes in the warp and the weft using the same singles yarn.
On the loom.
Completed set. Washed on left and unwashed on right.

Sample set 3: Singles were spun with S twist from gray Corriedale roving. Spun with a short backward draw. This is what the dyed Polwarth would look like if the singles were thicker. The gray makes the colors in the warp pop.
On the loom.
 Completed set. Washed on left, unwashed on right. This is also curling but see how nice the fabric is on the washed sample. I liked this one a lot also.

Sample set 4: Same singles as above but I added stripes of the warp, which wouldn't change in the finishing as it is a balanced yarn.
 On the loom.

Completed set. Washed on left, unwashed on right. This also makes an interesting fabric and something I may try with a different warp at some time.

Overall, I found the process fun and I learned a lot. Sarah Anderson recommends sizing with a xanthan gum solution to control the twist while weaving. It washes out in the finishing. That is what I plan to do. I want to spin a thicker, slightly lower twist singles from the dyed top and do the self striping, which will provide some structure to the fabric. The only question in my mind is whether I ply the warp yarn and just use singles in the weft or use singles for both.

Next, I am playing with spinning stretchy yarns for socks so stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Collapse Weave Exploration

When I spin or work out, I need entertainment. Sometimes I listen to podcasts. But frequently I need something to look at. Spinning and weaving videos work well to entertain me. They inspire me, give me new tips, and reinforce older ones. Things that went right over my head when I was newer to spinning make sense now when I watch those videos again. Some of my favorites are by Sara Lamb, Sarah Anderson, Judith MacKenzie, and Patsy Zawistoski. The first three teachers have videos on Interweave and Patsy Z's are available via DVD on her website.

Anyway, I was watching Kathryn Alexander's video on Energized Yarns and she mentioned that they can be used in weaving. Then I watched Sara Lamb's video on Spin to Weave and she talked about weaving with them. I did some googling and found a book by Anne Field called Collapse Weave and most of the other information on the web was related to her book. There was a few independent blogs and artciles but not much. Knitty had a blog on it. I bought the book and read as much of it as made sense to me. But I am smitten.

The book is mostly about weaving on a floor or table loom and I haven't figured out my floor loom yet. Therefore, that was not an option. But some of the early stuff in the book is simple plain weave or tabby. I felt I could do something with that. The basic concept is that you spin singles and leave them as energized yarns. The energy goes dormant as the yarn sits, or you might have to tame it by wetting and letting it dry with a weight on it. Sometimes you even have to add sizing if you want to use it as warp.

However, after you weave, you soak it in water to finish it and the pent-up energy is released and it makes the cloth turn into a 3-dimensional work of art. I bet there are some works of horror too. But we won't think of that.

The next stage of this journey had to do with the Tour de Fleece. Someone on Ravelry asked what my plans were for the Tour de Fleece this year, and suddenly I thought about weaving singles for a collapse weave project. But I didn't want to spend a lot of time spinning something that wouldn't work. And that led me to the experiments in this post. I need to spin and weave some samples before I plan my Tour de Fleece spinning.

I decided to try 3 different types of energized singles. Maybe these distinctions won't make a difference but I have to start somewhere, right?

I spun these three yarns.
 From left to right: dyed Polwarth top spun worsted with a Z twist into a fine, highly twisted singles yarn; cream undyed Corriedale roving spun longdraw with a Z twist into a slightly thicker, highly twisted singles yarn; gray undyed Corriedale spun with a short backwards draw with a S twist into a slightly thicker, highly twisted singles yarn.
 The top 3 cones are my warp. I chose some linen/silk that I had on hand from Colourmart. I wanted something that wouldn't shrink to provide structure in the fabric. I also am not sure which of the colors will look good so i decided to try them all.
 I've warped the loom and put on a header and am ready to go. The warp is 4 yds long. I used a very wide sett - there is a lot of room between the warp threads to give the energized yarn room to move. I plan to weave 4 sets of samples. Each set is 2 identical samples: one will be washed and finished and one will remain unwashed for reference.

  1. A 12" sample with the dyed worsted fine singles as weft.
  2. A 12" sample with the cream woolen yarn as weft but make stripes of more closely packed weft and a balanced weft which will be spread further apart. 
  3. A 12" sample with the gray semi-woolen S twist yarn as weft
  4. A 12" sample with the gray yarn striped with the warp yarn
The objective of the two striped samples is to experiment with differential shrinkage. This is where one yarn shrinks a bit more than another one and creates a gathered or crinkly effect. If you remember seersucker fabric, that is achieved by differential shrinkage.

This is a search for collapse weave projects on Ravelry. This is another blog with some details of collapse weave. I provide these as references in case you are intrigued by my journey and want to follow along.
And now that I've finished that spinning, I am pondering my next project. I want color. I pulled these 4 braids out of my stash but I'm torn as to what to spin. I've asked on Instagram and on Ravelry and so far the Fiber Optic gradient has a slight edge although all 4 braids have received votes. What do you think?

The knitting is also making progress. I've finished the body and need to pick up and knit the pockets next.
Then come the sleeves and the hood. This is a mashup of Giorgia, Cross Pockets, and Rogue. The raglan shaping is from Giorgia because my row gauge matched that pattern more closely than the row gauge on Cross Pockets. The body below the armhole is mostly based on Cross Pockets because I wanted to see how that design looked on me before I went through the effort of figuring out the shoulder and armhole shaping at my row gauge. I also like the hood shaping on Rogue so I am going to adapt that for the hood. The color in this photo is a little washed out as I used the flash to eliminate shadows. It is a bit brighter than this. A rose color. The yarn is Rowan Calmer in the colorway Mandarin.

And that's all for now, folks!