42 of 51 Yarns: Not Intended for Spinning

Happy Remembrance Day, y’all.

This post is part of a spin-along through 51 Yarns by Jacey Boggs Faulkner, in the Wool n’ Spinning community. For other posts in this series, check here.

This is one spin that I’ve been anticipating for two years. The assignment: make something into yarn that was not intended to make yarn. I’ve collected all kinds of junk, wondering if I could spin it. When the time came, I settled on two materials: fiber thread trash, and cassette tapes.

First the thread trash. Last year, I had a bunch of fat quarters and large fabric scraps that I wanted to make into book paper. I mistakenly thought I had to wash these first, and even sillier, I cut the bigger pieces in half first. They came out of the washer tangled into a nasty mess. All of the fraying edges had tangled together into a rats nest that I had to cut off. It was a big rats nest, and i couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. So it sat in my dresser, as above, until I got around to spinning it.

I spun it straight out of the lump, and it drafted ok, though I had to draft fairly thick to get it to stay together. Some of the strands were very short, and they’d break easily if they didn’t havce lots of company. The singles reminded me of a 100% sari silk yarn I bought on our honeymoon.

I spiral plied it with some leftover ramie singles, just to lock it in place. It made a sweet little skein of rag-looking yarn.

As you can see, in the skein it doesn’t look much different from the pile of scraps, but the individual strands have a lot of character.

Knitted up, it would look just as messy as in the skein, but it could really sing as an accent in a tapestry weave. But it’s not very much, so I’m not going to work it up now. Isn’t it just fun to look at?

Second is the cassette tapes. There were some old sermon tapes lying around the house, abandoned by the previous occupants. My kids listened to them a few times and enjoyed them, but they didn’t need to take up any more shelf space. So they became yarn!

Drafting right off the cassettes. That’s what I’m talking about.

Obviously the “drafting” was easy, i.e. nonexistent, but I did have to crank the tension. I figured out this was because the curling plastic tape didn’t want to bend around the flyer hooks. It needed plenty of extra brake resistance to wind on.

I used seven tapes (did you know that cassette tapes are not all the same length? Even in the same set? I didn’t!) to make three bobbins of “singles” out of two lines of tape each. I only put in enough twist to make them curl into a happy tube. I think they resemble nothing so much as spun coffee stirrers.

I then plied them together, and the resulting had looks kinda cabled. Again I kept the twist quite low; the final twist angle is 15 degrees.

There was no way to set the twist in this yarn that I know of, at least none that wouldn’t melt it, so the yarn has a good bit of kink to it.

I couldn’t bring myself to knit with it, though that might have been interesting. I’m sure it would make an okay shopping bag or something. But I was curious to try weaving it up for a change, so I put it on my “pin loom” (read: Stringbean’s potholder loom).

Now I know what it reminds me of! Wicker! This plastic fabric reminds me of nothing so much as a wicker chair, and it has that same stiffness to it. Woven more tightly, it might be great as a seat of some kind.

Still, I’m not sure that would be a great idea. When I hold the yarn or swatch close to my nose, I catch a whiff of something unpleasant… something like burning plastic. Cassette tape has a thin coating of either iron oxide or chromium oxide, which magnetizes into patterns to record sound information. I didn’t notice anything coming off on my hands or anything, but since I can smell something, I wonder if manipulating the tape that much released particles into the air. Which just makes me think of the “Will it Blend” guy. Who totally blended cassette tapes! “Don’t breathe this,” indeed.

I think the lesson of these yarns is, just because many things can be made into yarn, that doesn’t mean that everything should! Kind of like putting things in the blender. Don’t try this at home.


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