I am in between spins at the moment- I just finished something you’ll hear about soon, but right now my bobbins are clear. It was an opportune moment to pull out a big braid I’ve had for a while and do some sampling.
I bought it from the late great Natural Stitches in the East Liberty neighbourhood of downtown Pittsburgh. It was the last fiber stash acquisition before my spinning hiatus, which ended this past January. As such, it’s always been on the top of the pile, but I’ve been too intimidated to spin it. I always felt it deserved to be something fine, and I knew I didn’t have that spin in me.
I’m still not quite there, but I’m getting closer. Close enough that I spent part of the weekend sampling.
I was encouraged by another member of the Wool n’ Spinning ravelry group, mjm, who had recently completed a light fingering weight 2-ply from her yak/merino. That’s what I wanted too. Above you see my three preps for sampling: from right to left, stripped 6x, laid on a handcard and rolled into a rolag (not actually carded; this is what mjm did), and staple lengths for over the fold.
My experience with this fiber was rather different from what I’ve heard from others because of how compacted the fiber was from sitting in my stash for over two and a half years. I’ve heard others say they found it too slippery for standard short forward, but this spin into a fine single with short forward as if that was what it was made for. The compacting helped with that.
By contrast, spinning woollen style off a rolag was pretty difficult. It wanted to be thicker than I was willing to go, the uneven density made it temperamental, and there was no way to deal with all the neps and things. The final yarn is almost too light. Yak already has a lot of fuzz; spinning this way almost made it too light. One wants a shawl to have SOME drape.
A happy middle ground was spinning over the fold. It was challenging enough to demand my attention, but I got a consistent enough yarn to make me happy. Still, I don’t know if it can compete with how effortless it was to spin short forward off the stripped fiber.
As you see, all three tiny skeins barely tipped our postal scale. But through slightly illicit means, I got a much more accurate measurement.
I was able to determine that either over the fold or stripped and spun worsted would give me the wpi and yardage I want. The decision will come down to what sort of spinning experience I want, the behaviour of each skein in a swatch, and how I want to work the color.
That’s the other big question about this spin: what should I do with this wild rumpus of colors?
I’m new to color management in spinning, especially with these painted tops. I find when I’m new at something, the choices can be overwhelming. I don’t know what I want well enough to rule anything out.
I’ll tell you now that I’m spinning for Emyn Muil by Susan Pandorf. Hence the 2 ply fingering.
The choices are many. Gradients are always interesting, but what kind? End-to-end as above, or out-and-back for a mirrored effect? Lined up as much as possible, or intentionally misaligned a little for some extra blending in the transitions? In rainbowish order as dyed, or differently- I’m toying with the idea of grading by value instead of shade (look across the middle of the picture below and squint).
Honestly, I’m not sure I like the reality of gradients as much as the idea of them, either in the making or the wearing. Being inspired by the grey and brown rocks of Emyn Muil, I’m quite tempted to just pull it apart and scramble it randomly to mix as much as possible. Would that make a yarn so busy that the patterning would be pointless? Or would that be mitigated by all the brown that brings the values fairly close together?
Puzzle, puzzle, puzzle! It’s funny, because in all other areas of my life, I like to make decisions as quickly as possible. Unless I’m ignoring it entirely. If I have to face a question, I want it solved. But with these spinning conundrums, I just love sitting with the questions. I like collecting them and tasting each possibility, and I very much like hearing what everyone else thinks. (Hint hint! Comment with your opinions!) Maybe that’s because making a yarn in my mind is much easier than making it in long hours with my hands! I get to sort of date around with lots of different yarns before settling down to a committed spin, which can easily lose its romance. But I feel no guilt for savouring this initial excitement, enjoying all the unknowns. I’ll try to remember this feeling next time I find myself stuck in some transitional phase of life.
Realistically, I don’t have to decide anytime soon; we will be traveling for seven weeks starting on May 15. I am hesitant to start a big spin right before we leave, and I have some other projects I want to finish in the meantime. As much as it pains me, it looks like I won’t be spinning for the next few weeks. But I will enjoy my sewing and knitting, and spin every variation of yak and merino in my head!