No colour in today’s Sock Study. Think of it as a palette cleanser between a whole year of studying analogous colourways, before I (eventually) get into spinning complementary colourways. Today, I share with you something completely different! Qiviut blend sock yarn.
Oh this stuff! I esplain. No, is too much. I sum up.
It started as a big bag of very expensive fluff from the Qiviut Inc. mill outside of Edmonton. It’s a blend they call Fingram, made of 40% qiviut, 35% superwash merino, 15% silk, and 10% nylon. They put this combination of fibers through their tiny industrial carding machine, very slowly, seven times, and this is what comes out of their pin-drafting machine.
I sampled the heck out of it, producing two tiny skeins of four-ply. One was traditional 4-ply and one was cabled. I go through that whole process in Episode 79 of the Wool Circle. I ended up choosing the cabled yarn. Cabled yarns have a lot more work in them, but the way those stitches just locked together in the swatch won me over.
For a fiber with so much going on, it spun up fairly easily. I kept my draft short, my tension light, and stuck to the same rhythm. Although the qiviut fibers are very, very short, I doubt I was ever drafting just qiviut. There were times when a long strand of silk would briefly dominate, and I’d draft that out. But it was infrequent, and not visible in the singles. I ran across nups, not of qiviut, but of silk, so I just spun them right in. They lend the slightest tweediness to the final yarn. In the whole thing, I could count the number of intermediate hairs I picked out on one hand. I am running out of words to tell you how amazing this prep is.
All the stats on how I spun this are on ravelry.
Cabled yarn is, in fact, a lot of work. I would estimate the singles took me about 16-20 hours, which is about double what a sock spin usually takes me. The two-plying took me a few days of treadling carefully at 40:1. I then swapped out my lace flyer for my jumbo flyer, and treadled like the wind at 13:1 for a whole day to complete the final plying step.
If you don’t know, a cabled yarn is made by twisting your four singles in one direction, then plying them into pairs twisting the other direction, but with lots of extra twist. Then you twist those two two-plies together back in the first direction. If you get it just right, the two-plies lock together into this wonderful chain-like structure, with the singles waving back and forth through the middle of the yarn on different axes. It makes for a very sturdy yarn because so much of each single is protected inside the yarn.
I’ve made one cable-plied yarn already in this study from the carded Radnor. That one ended up a bit thicker than the other Radnor yarns, as those were all three-ply, and this was a 4-ply from the same singles. (Also, I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but I’m starting to notice that carded preps tend to come out thicker generally. Makes sense, with the fibers being all jumbled up in there.) This yarn is very fine. At 24 WPI, it’s my finest singles yet. My singles were too small to register meaningfully on my control card, which tops out at 60 WPI.
So it’s hardly a surprise that this spin took so long. I was (a) doing more singles, (b) spinning finer, (c) had a bit more fiber than usual, and (d) didn’t have all those pretty colours to break things up. I wasn’t doing myself any favours. But then, I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime spin. And I had that wonderful sample to motivate me.
I should probably tell you what the yarn itself is like, shouldn’t I? Its soft, but subtly. Cabled yarns tend to be nubbly-feeling, and it does have that texture, but it has the finest of halos over it – the qiviut, to be sure – almost invisible, but tangible. I’m hoping that the qiviut is really locked in tight in the yarn structure, so it doesn’t rub right out of the fabric, and that it makes the socks extra warm. The yarn has the slightest sheen and bit of tweediness from the silk. It’s hardly elastic at all – not surprising, with nothing but the 35% of merino being at all elastic, and the fineness of the yarn. It reminds me most strongly of that Elizabeth Lavold brand Silky Tweed yarn, without being so wooly. It isn’t quite drapey, and it isn’t limp, it just… hangs, in a decided sort of way.
Though, of course, you might argue I’m doing just that by putting it on my feet and wearing it until it shows holes! But, well…. that’s my plan, and I’m stubborn that way. I’ve given my darndest to make the toughest sock yarn possible from this fiber, and I’m awfully curious to see how it compares to the superwash BFL and Hill Radnor I’ve used so far. Not only in terms of how long it takes to get a hole, but also in how they feel, whether the fabric sags or loses its shape, how warm they feel, etc. I wash all my socks gently, but washing can be tough on socks too.
That makes twelve pairs of socks worth of yarn this year! Not that I set out with that as a goal, but I’m very, VERY pleased with it. Raise a skein to a good year of spinning, and a new year with new spinning adventures!