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A little something

I've been spinning, too.

This is hand dyed Wensleydale top from the astonishingly talented Lisa Souza in the "Petroglyph" colorway, spun as a 2-ply at about a DK weight. This stuff is fun. It's my first time spinning a long wool, and let me tell you - it's so much faster, so much easier to spin than the short, slippery Merinos I've been working with. And oh! The color! It's wonderful.

Eventually, I want to become a versatile spinner, a thoughtful spinner who really knows her stuff and generally makes smart decisions about yarn design based on the inherent qualities of the fiber and the intended use. This seems to me to be an important building block - to understand why this is, and why that isn't, and to know what to do with that information; the whole "walk before you run" thing as applied to spinning. To that end, I'm trying to settle down from magpie spinning and branch out a little - trying new fibers, new weights, and then actually knitting with them to see how they behave. This Wensleydale is a Good Experiment, I think - I've learned a lot just from the mistakes I made spinning this first bump. It needs a softer spin, for sure - though the plied yarn is balanced, it feels pretty harsh (longer staple = less twist needed? Someone help me out here); I was treadling like a madwoman, trying to get all those little hairs to lie smooth. Better to just accept a hairy yarn, I think, and spin softer - a squishy-but-structured yarn should be pretty easy to achieve with this stuff. I have another 3/4 lb to spin, and I'll be focusing on making each skein better than the last.

The color changes are subtle enough that I just might actually wear something knit out of this - it's much coarser than a fine wool, of course, so it should be something jacket-like or otherwise outerwear-y. Something to show off the colors - I'm thinking short rows, I'm thinking panels, I'm thinking bias fabrics (not all at once, of course!). We'll see.

In other news -

(this is the first 250 yards, about 1/4 the total, of the Platinum Merino/Tencel from Mama-E at Cloverhill Yarn Shop; I couldn't wait until I'd spun all the singles to start plying. Cool and brilliant and gleaming - did you ever see anything so like a stream of living metal?)


I have been partial to spinning Merino/silk top lately (although I'm currently spinning a cotton/mohair/cashmere blend); this beautiful Wensleydale makes me want to branch out!

Mmmmm, Wensleydale, Gromit! Sorry, couldn't resist.

You need Alden Amos. Don't fight it.

Hmm, that merino/tencel is calling my name. If only I had a wheel upon which to do it justice! I'm still just a lowly drop spindle spinner...

...lovely work as always! I'm so glad you're back posting again!

Oh so beautiful! I hope that one day my spinning looks something like yours.

Oh so beautiful! I hope that one day my spinning looks something like yours.

RE: your spinning goals. Take a look at Anne Field's book, Spinning Wool: Beyond the Basics. Also, any articles by Rita Buchanan in past issues of Spin Off.

What kind of wheel do you have?

These are just gorgeous and very inspirational - a wheel is on my list for sure, though I don't know how soon I can make it happen...

I love grays, and that platinum combination is wonderful. I like the semi-solids, since there is nothing in them to clash, and they are much more fluid than multiple colors.

Sorta. Consider this: Thicker yarn = less twist required (more surface area and crimpy fibers for friction) The relative thickness of a yarn is it's "grist". Grist is measured in WPI (Wraps Per Inch). Lee Raven does a great "everything you need to know about the nuts and bolts of spinning without being overwhelming" in "Hands on Spinning"

Thanks, Jac Lynn!

I've been doing a lot of reading - Mabel Ross, mostly - and trying to translate the things I've read to what actually happens between my fingers. I knew that more twist is needed to hold a fine yarn together than a thicker one - but my thinking here was that a wool with a very long staple (like, 8") would keep its integrity with fewer TPI than a yarn of the same grist made of very short stapled wool. I guess I'm wondering because this stuff feels very harsh and overtwisted, when Merino yarn of more or less the same grist and the same number of twists per inch feels squishy and soft.

Heather - it's a Schacht Matchless Double Treadle; it's a fantastic wheel.

Oh I'm drooling, what great yarn you've made :)

I have no doubt that you will become a thoughtful spinner. And we will get to learn from your experience! Lucky me.

I have a question: best way to swatch for color knitting? I know it should be on stockinete stitch, but should it be one stitch of each color or say 5 stitches of each color? I assume that 1/1 will pull in more?

Oh, the Wensleydale looks great. Yes, when I have a chance to tell people about spinning it, less twist is more, as far as I am concerned. I have a beloved sweater that can be worn next to the skin because I just "let go" when spinning the longer wool breeds. Give it loft if you want it soft and if you want it to wear like iron, you are right on track. Your spinning is beautiful and I am not surprised, seeing your knitting and designing, Eunny.

Nothing is carved in stone as far as spinning goes, but as a general rule shorter staple, fine wools with a lot of crimp like to be spun fine with more twist. Longer staple, coarser wools with little crimp like to be spun thicker with very little twist. Another general rule is that fine, crimpy wools have more natural grease than coarse, wavy wools. If you spin a fine greasy wool without washing it first and put a lot of twist in the yarn, the grease may make the yarn feel sticky no matter how many times you wash the yarn. However, you can always work around, even completely break, these general ideas as long as you take them into consideration and listen to the fiber.

I've been spinning for 28 years and knitting for several years longer than that and I have to tell you that I am in awe of your work. Everything you do is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us.

I think you're on the right track. Hence, fine short wools are more well suited to being spun into a finer yarn and worn near the skin. So Staple length + desired grist + kind of fiber (the third Musketeer) = how much twist makes the yarn we want. The fiber kind thing is the difference between animal fibers (with crimp structure and little barbs handy for felting) and filament fibers (cotton, silk, man mades, no crimp or barbs). Cotton is a short staple, if you will, slippery bugger that needs high twist just to exist in yarn form.

And since I've de-lurked... I throughly enjoy your blog, your writing style, sense of design and willingness to share so much of the nuts and bolts with us all. It keeps me inspired. You are a woman of many talents!

Wensleydale is like mohair - kind of coarse and tends toward wiry. A rule of thumb: aim to spin a yarn with a final tpi (that is, after plying) that matches the cpi (crimps per inch) of the fiber.

If ultralong fibers are spun with too much tpi for the grist, the resultant yarn is very dense and hairy. As you might imagine, dense yarns make dense fabric with a tendency to sag (or "puddle"). Because of the low crimp factor, W also has little elasticity. Not only is that conducive to spinning a too-dense yarn, it also has no sproing to compensate for the density when a yarn *is* overspun. One more thing - because you are working from combed top, the fiber prep also tends to facilitate the production of dense yarn.

Always remember that for a given twist angle, the number of tpi needed to achieve that angle changes with grist. If you spin Wensleydale pretty fine, with low tpi, and make a 3-ply final structure, you will have a wonderfully smooth, lustrous, round yarn with excellent drape.

I have not enjoyed wearing Wensleydale next to the skin. Even when spun well, I find it prickly. I can even feel it through a t-shirt.

I'm so amazed by everything you do. You are such a great contributor to the LSSK group, you make such amazing designs, you spin, and you raise your growing group of children with so much success. I only have two kids, now knitting designs, and now spinning. I'm already too extended and don't come close to your success.

Thank you so much for your wonderful knitting designs.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

I love the silver yarn! It reminds me of a multi-stranded silver necklace I once wore. The beads were long and thin and it also flowed like a river.

gorgeous shot of the "stream of living metal". it looks lush.

I love your bronze color yarn- gorgeous! To get a less hairy yarn with a longwool like Wenseleydale, spin from the fold - i.e. take a length of roving, fold in half over your forefinger and spin from the tip of that finger, smoothing the fibers down as you go. W. isn't the easiest of fibers to spin, you did a really nice job. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful work with us all. I'm sure it's inspired many of us on to bigger (or smaller) and better things!

I love the petroglyph colors, that yarn that you're making is so lovely.

It's been really inspiring to watch your skills as a spinner grow, I hope someday to do the same.

The spinning is looking gorgeous! I especially love that Platinum from Mama-E, great looking yarn!

Wow! I'm in love with the Petroglyph! Nice job...it's gorgeous.

I absolutely love the colors of the Wensleydale. You have some really great replies here already (shoot I learn as much from your comments as I do your blog at times)leaving me not much to add, but boy do I love your passion, style, and work!

Daggummit, June beat me to my tip. Shcmartypantz. (tpi=cpi)

For a smoother yarn, experiment with your drafting, it seems that the longer the draft, the smoother the yarn.

For learning the idiosyncrasies/unique cababilities of fiber, I like the _In Sheep's Clothing: Handspinner's Guide to Wool_ as a reference. Pictures of the locks and a general description of each breed and suitability.

Question for you: what's the best way to tackle or how do you tackle variegated roving that you've bought (Lisa Souza for example)? Where do you start? What side do you pinch from? Do you sort it out?

I've spun but we never got to that bit and I've a drop spindle and some new roving is coming this weekend!

It's beautiful yarn and I'm not surprised to hear that you want to become a thoughtful spinner. I notice that you are doing up 2-plys. Have you ever done a 3-ply?

The best book hands down to understand why things happen and how to make them happen in the spinning process is "The Essentials of Handspinning" by Margaret Stove, only recently back in print.

Hi Eunny, it's so nice to see all these nice knitting and spinning you've been doing. I was very excited when the latest IK finally appeared in my local BN. And I really like your recent fingerless mitts, that'll be fun to make, thanks for posting the pattern.

Oh Eunny, it's beautiful. I'm still reeling over your endpaper mitts. Your eye for color is just so amazing.
And yes, MamaE's fiber is delovely. I think I may have to pay her site a visit, although spinning anything in this house is near impossible with little hands to reach up and grab what-have-you. I'm such a novice that spinning doesn't make sense to me yet as knitting does. I know my knitting upside-down and backward, and yet when I'm reading Mabel I have to say, "Huh?" After a couple of readings I understand, but my fingers don't seem to get the hang of it. Practice, practice....
Glad to see you back.

I've been away watching my daughter and her partner skate. When I came back to catch up on your blog I see you are creating miracles and wonders just like Rachel and Kevin!! They qualified to skate at the junior level in ice dance at the US Figure Skating Championships here : www.spokane2007.com I am planning to knit your "Print of the Wave" shawl in honor of their accomplishment.

oops correct name would help - "Print O' The Wave Stole" - just marinating over the color.

Hi Eunny,

With a long, coarse wool like Wensleydale, I spend time pre-drafting my roving several yards at a time into the thickness that I want. Stagger the fibers so they will stay together and then when you spin it's easier to get a looser twist.

I usually spin from a fleece and not a prepared roving, which gives me the opportunity to do some hair picking. Of course, I can't get it all, but it helps. I prefer Australian Romneys, since they have a high enough percentage of Merino in them to produce good crimp and springiness without the aggravation of a very short fiber. And they come in beautiful natural colors!

Gorgeous handspun! I especially love the grey/metallic one. I can't wait to see what you make with it. It was fun chatting with you on Monday night at Panera!

I've just received my copy of Interweave Knits with your pattern in it, and your pattern is stunning, thankyou Eunny!

I really love In Sheeps Clothing because I can look up each sheep breed. It talks about each sheep and what it was historically used for. It is really useful if you want to find out which fleeces felt well, which ones are good for garments next to the skin, or which ones are good for outer wear or rugs.

Wensleydale developed in a place where outdoor workers needed VERY tough wind and waterproof garments. I have some spun years ago, it's pretty soft but so inelastic I couldn't think of a use. Slippers? Felted hat? Maybe garments for the inhospitable climate of Dulaan.

My comment went long so I will post the bulk of it to my blog for you today, instead. A quick note on the W. You don't want to put much less twist in the Wensleydale -- look at how nicely aligned the fibers are in the plied yarn. If you spin it worsted it will be smoother. However, your yarn really is *not* very hairy and if you were my spinning student I'd give you a gold star. Looks great!

As for wearing hairy yarns, yes the ends will tickle through a t-shirt, but if you knit a jacket to wear over a thin finewool sweater, you should be itch-free. Might want to add a finewool facing to the cuffs and the collar-bodice seam.

Unlike most everyone else, I have no advice for you. I'm just always amazed at how talented you are - everything you do is just beautiful. The Endpaper Mitts have got me thinking about doing colorwork. They're gorgeous, and, being a librarian, I understood the name (not to mention recto and verso) immediately. They're calling to me! ;-)

I forgot to add a comment before that I really wanted to make.
You are absolutly right on track with your plan to try different fibers and different methods of spinning. Reading the books and listening to other spinner's advice is tremendously helpful but you really have to try things yourself to know what the fiber can do for you and which method of preparation and spinning suits you. what works for one spinner may not work at all for another and the only way to find out is to try several things with each fiber and use what's best for you.
It doesn't surprise me at all the you want to spread your wings and become a more versatile spinner. What would surprise me is if you sat back, looked at your beautiful work, and said "I am so good, I don't need to learn anything more".

I find your enthusiasm for spinning absolutely adorable. Great job on the spinning. I only wish I could afford my own wheel right now. :)

*Grin* I was thinking of Wallace and Gromit too!

I love your yarn porn, Eunny. Luckily none of my co-workers have walked in on me drooling over your beautiful pictures of spun wool. Yet.

Gorgeous! You always inspire me to spin!

Now I really have to leave your blog before I get sensory overload. *fanning self*

Though the brown is pretty, I really love the silver yarn. It just glows.

More gorgeous yarn. Coming to this blog is almost a visual overload... every picture you post is always so beautiful, no matter the subject. If I had yarns as lovely as those you spin, I'm not sure I could bring myself to knit them. I think I'd just want to look at them all the time! I can't wait for your book. Your article and pattern in the new IK (yes, I just got mine) are both great!

I would suggest a book by Peter Teal called Hand Woolcombing and Spinning. I believe that it was originally published in the late 60's early 70's, so the picture quality is kind of weird, but it has excellent information regarding spinning to the crimp (matching tpi to the crimps per inch), he discusses hancombing for worsted spinning, dying, fleece preparation, and more. I found it an interesting, informative read. I had heard that there were plans on reprinting it, but a quick Google around didn't turn up anything obvious. Old copies are around, it shows up on ebay and amazon used books occassionally too.

Your spinning looks fabulous Eunny! I need to bring my wheel downstairs so I can start using it again.

Eunny...I have the same exact wheel as you. Maybe we could spin together sometime. :-)

I agree that Mabel Ross is a fantastic resource. She explains fiber types and spinning techniques in detail, so that you can really choose what you want to do with your fiber.

When you have a new fiber to spin, try spinning tiny plied test skeins using different techniques (not forgetting to block or steam them), just as you would swatch for a knitting project. You will be surprised at the differences, or lack thereof, with different fibers and techniques. Plus, you'll learn really fast!

Eunny, your knitting blog is my favorite--the one I always check first. You have exquisite taste, and a wonderful command of many different techniques. Plus, you share with us all so generously. Thanks!

I've been studying Mabel Ross's technical book also. It's a lot of info in one little book and "study" is the operative word. I enjoy your site immensely. Thanks for keeping us updated on your latest works.

gorgeous spinning, Eunny. the petroglyph skein is mesmerizing.

i don't have any supporting references or authority, but my instincts agree with you about longer staples requiring fewer twists. other factors like grist and surface smoothness are involved for complex relationships, but staple length should be one of the reasons why cotton and buffalo fluff take so much twist.

extreme-case, thought experiment... long strips of paper need fewer twists to hold together than a pile of confetti. also, in a yarn with say 5 tpi, 1-inch fiber would endure 5 twists, while 5-inch ones would endure 25.

I love your knitting, it's gorgeous! But I always have trouble viewing your blog, the pictures never load completely or sometimes not at all. I use Safari, but even when I use Netscape or Internet Explorer, I have the same problems. Do you have any ideas?

A late note, but a note :)
Long staples with very little crimp, don't usually want to be tightly twisted 2ply lace weight. Spin a little as a lofty, light twist single in a fingering-sport range and compare the difference. Singles are not "cheating" and bulkier yarns are not due to lack of prowess - some fleeces just bloom under different conditions :) Long silky locks will always prefer a much gentler spin than the crazy-amazing super crimp locks like merino.

Eunny, I've never left a comment for you before, though I've been following your blog off and on for the past year. I just found this entry--how I missed it originally, I don't know--and I wanted you to know that I really appreciate and admire your approach to this particular craft. I'm a spinner who started out as a knitter, too, and I have been putting the same attention and effort into spinning that I have done in every craft.

It sometimes feels like new spinners are getting stuck in one fiber or one technique over and over again. It's so refreshing to read your words about expanding your experience to include the entire spectrum, and I am so glad to see that you have jumped in to try it in the first place. Your yarns look fabulous!

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