Spinning experiments

Suzie Blackman
Thursday, 25 February 2010

Dyed Wensleydale locks, chain plied

When I bought my wheel back in April 2009, although I ordered a range of fibres, I got hooked on spinning dyed merino top because of the amazing range of colours available. With hindsight this wasn’t the easiest thing to learn with – it has a tendency to make a wirey, compacted yarn, even after carding. It’s taken me a while, but now I’ve tried out everything in my fibre stash, with mixed results…

First of all I tried dyed maroon Wensleydale locks, which almost put me off spinning for good. My batch was matted, tangled and full of twigs and second cuts. I was very disappointed because I’ve seen some really exciting yarns spun from locks. I had to give up after just 40 g as it was such tough going. I ended up with an interesting-looking, lustrous yarn but certainly nothing that was worth the pain. Not a good start.

Pencil roving, 2 ply

Next I tried some pencil roving. It turned out to be nearly as tough going -hard to draft, it’s fairly coarse and I was fighting with the clockwise twist it already has as soon as I started spinning. Next time I’d spin it anti-clockwise. It is however an amazing shade of electric blue, and I got it relatively even and fine (5 ply / sport weight-ish). I will make a pair of gloves with the first batch (150 g), but there’s still 250 g left to spin! Buying that much without trying it was stupid – there’s an important lesson there, always buy a sample first!

Humbug BFL, chain plied, dyed with Lemon Lime Kool Aid

After that I moved onto carded BFL – a dream in comparison, so easy to draft. In a couple of hours I made a 50 g chain-plied sample skein and Kool Aid dyed it green, it turned out great! I used it almost immediately for a hat. I have a 500 g bag of brown & white mix BFL (I take it back about not buying a big bag, this stuff is great) which I’d love to make something substantial with, but that’s quite a commitment. Not to mention, how would I keep my spinning even over 500 g?

Hand-painted merino top

Finally, I picked up a nice looking hand-painted braid of merino top from a Raveler having a destash (well, I’m always happy to help others). I was amazed how different it was to spin than the dyed top I’m used to, proving that not all merino is equal. It made a fine, squishy, lofty yarn. I got 550 m of 2 ply, light sock-weight from 110 g – easily the finest I have spun. Sadly the bold yellows, oranges and splashes of purple melded together into a peachy shade that I’m not overjoyed with. I will probably over-dye with pink to give me a rich red. I’m also unsure what to make with it, it’s not strong enough for socks. Maybe this Japanese Feather Scarf or a large Ishbel? Any ideas?

2 ply merino from painted top

The author

Suzie Blackman

The dyer, designer, photographer, creative technologist and maker-of-things behind It's a Stitch Up. She lives in East London in a home filled with colour, fluff and house plants.

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