A Swatch, Some Comfort Spinning

Well, I finally managed to snap a few photos of the autoknitter swatch of that Crown Jewels colourway yarn:

Crown Jewels Sock
Crown Jewels Sock Blend

It’s really a challenge to catch a picture that shows both the colours true, and the sheen that the yarn has — it’s just plain the wrong time of year for good natural light. So these photos are truest for colour, but don’t do justice to the incredible sheen that the superwash/silk blends produce.

That aside, I did a little bit of fine spinning this week. I had a problem, a silly one: I had been leaving one of my two Majacraft lace bobbins tied up with some spun yarn on it from before we moved — since last January or February actually. That’s right: a year of sitting on the bobbin. Why? Because it was this 50/50 merino/cashmere blend that I knew I had another several ounces of somewhere, but it hasn’t turned up yet. So finally I just said “Aw, forget it,” and spun a roughly similar amount of plain ol’ merino to ply it with and clear the bobbin. Plus I bought another pair of lace bobbins so as to not engage in such stupidity again. So I figure with one ply merino and one ply merino/cashmere it’s a 75% merino/25% cashmere yarn. Amazingly, it ended up being just about an ounce — 28 grams. It’s 315 yards, 45 wpi (wraps per inch) in 2-ply form, and so about 5,000 ypp (yards per pound). And pretty much impossible to photograph, being white:

75% Merino / 25 % Cashmere 2-ply

And it seems I’m presently bingeing on the yarn that is screaming “Would you buy a macro lens already?” This is what I cleared off the lace bobbins to get to: a 2-ounce thing of Chasing Rainbows merino/tencel that I picked up at Stitches West last year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are those of you who call me an unrepentant enabler (and you’re probably right), but I’m in no way immune, and particularly to Nancy Finn’s work. She chooses exceptional fiber, and does some of they finest dye work around… and I have never, not once, walked away from a vendor selling her wares without purchasing some. Seriously, not once.

Chasing Rainbows Merino/Tencel, African Savannah, single on the bobbin

But I really feel no remorse about this whatsoever. Spinning her fibers is always incredibly enjoyable, and it was what I decided to treat myself to doing to balance out the lows in a rather long week — did I mention I caught a nice cold, I presume from extra time outside in the chill fixing that garage door?

Chasing Rainbows Merino/Tencel spun fine 2-ply

I split the entire length of the top as close to the center as I could, just eyeballing it; and then I spun it slowly end to end preserving as much of the colour separation as I could, one half to a bobbin. And if I’d had those two more lace bobbins I’d have rewound the singles onto them and plied directionally, but they weren’t here yet. It still came out nice, though…

2-ply merino/tencel

In the final analysis it made for 662 yards, and a 38 wpi 2-ply yarn, which is reasonably even for a little bit of comfort spinning, and with the colour shifts working out fairly nicely throughout the yarn. It’s just got a tremendous shine to it, and the drape is going to be stellar; crocheted lace, I think. But I’m undecided. And I even got lucky with a happenstance beam of sunlight pouring in and hitting the stairs today! I grabbed the skein as fast as I could to snap a few pictures of it.

Merino/Tencel 2-ply

More pictures and closeups and whatnot are here:

Abby’s Handspun Yarn: Fine Yarns

With the acquisition of some fine anti-static graphite powder, I think I’m going to be able to get the lace setup on the Suzie Pro a little bit slicker, and do some really fine yarn soon. But right now… well, right now, I’m going to do another one of those Chasing Rainbows merino/tencels.

Leslie’s Sweater Yarn, DONE!

Leslie’s sweater yarn is now complete, and shipped off to her! I’m left with three partly-full bobbins of single-ply yarn, which I’ll finish up and keep for myself, and two batts that I expect I’ll spin very fine, again, for myself.

Leslie's Sweater Yarn By completion, about 45 hours total were spent on the yarn, from dyeing and blending through test spinning, swatching, iteration, on to production spinning, production plying, skeining and measuring, finishing, and final put-up in 6 center-pull balls, 5 of them at 250 yards and one at 350 yards of higher-twist, just slightly finer yarn intended for cuffs and collars.

Roughly a third of that time could be considered prototyping; producing a similar amount of very similar yarn in the future would probably take around 30 hours.

So, some would ask, is it really worth it to produce a yarn like this, which at first blush looks very much like a millspun yarn, given that it takes that sort of time even for an experienced spinner like me?

I say it is (and hopefully, Leslie will agree when she has the yarn in hand). I certainly put that sort of time into spinning for my own projects, but I will grant you that not all yarn consumers would immediately believe it to be worth the cost. But ask yourself: have you ever worked your tail off knitting or crocheting a project, worn it a few times, and then found it was far more delicate than you expected, and just didn’t hold up? Or washed it and found it completely changed? Heaven knows I have, and it’s a major reason why I don’t often use commercial yarns for serious projects anymore (but stay tuned, you’ll soon see my commercial yarn projects, and those will probably surprise you). In any case, it’s heartbreaking to put a lot of work into a handmade garment you love, only to find you have to relegate it to the “very occasional wear” category or treat it with extreme kid gloves.

Leslie's Sweater YarnIf I’ve done my job right (and I have), that won’t be the fate of Leslie’s sweater. She can rest assured her sweater will fit her lifestyle and last her for many years. This is a type of longevity that most of us no longer expect from anything in our lives, let alone from our clothing — but it wasn’t always so. I myself, as a child, wore sweaters that were made by my great-grandmother, worn by my grandmother, and then by mother, before I wore them. We’re talking about children’s clothes, and household objects, that were made when Babe Ruth still played for the Red Sox. Heck, I own a quilt and an afghan that were made before women had the right to vote in the United States.

There are many factors involved in textile longevity, and I’m not going to promise Leslie that her great-granddaughter’ll be taking that sweater with her to colonize Mars or something. But I absolutely can promise her she can treat her hand-knit sweater like a regular wearable wardrobe item, and expect it to outlast her blue jeans. Her biggest worry should be if it’s going to go out of style, not whether she dares to put it on for fear of it wearing out.

So, yes, I say, it’s worth it to put that kind of time into spinning a well-constructed traditional yarn. Sure, it’s a custom colour, a custom blend of fiber, a one-of-a-kind yarn nobody else has and you can be certain you’ll never run into anyone else with the same sweater; and sure, those are great things. They’re just not the single biggest reason to spend an entire work week (or sometimes more) of an expert spinner’s time on a true designer yarn.