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.

No comments: