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Jul 15

Default Yarn

Initially when I started thinking about my yarn, I thought “I will make a worsted weight 2-ply yarn.” However when I started to think deeper about my “default yarn,” I realized it wasn’t the weight or ply of the yarn, but the mechanics of how I spin that makes it my default yarn.

Fleece ready to be washed.

Fleece ready to be washed.

I tend to let the fiber speak for itself. Because I still call myself a novice spinner and because I love all yarns, I enjoy spinning many different kinds of fiber. However, alpaca is my all time favorite. With Spinzilla coming up in October, I am brushing up my spinning skills and thinking of what I want to spin for that week. Creating goals for myself helps me follow through and actually accomplish something. I do know: Whatever I am going to do, it is going to be big.

Washed and dried fleece

Washed and dried fleece

I dug out my alpaca fleece I’d purchased earlier this year and started processing it. At a few pounds, its surely enough for a big project. After a little picking, washing, drying, carding, and more picking, I finally had 3 small batts ready to test spin. I spun these on my 30″ Schacht Reeves not thinking of much except for fine and consistency. There are lumps and bumps, nubs and slubs, but I left them all. I enjoy the rustic and casual experience of handspun yarn.

Since I won’t be dyeing this this yarn and I will probably knit it into a sweater with it, I decided I should play with plying techniques to create an interesting texture in the finished piece. I spun some singles, a 2-ply, a 3-ply, and a 4-ply. All of these yarns have a unique personality which will give the finished knit piece a different physical and visual texture.

For the singles I attempted to spin a roughly worsted weight size yarn. However since I have started to spin fine, all of these yarns fall into the DK weight category according to this guide. Since alpaca is a fine fiber, I spun the singles with a little extra twist to avoid drift.

Making a sample

Making a sample “stick” helps to see all of the yarns in one place.

For plying, I turned to my Sidekick, which I keep set up with my Bulky Plyer Flyer. This way I can ply easily and not change bobbins so often.

For the 2-ply, 3-ply, and 4-ply yarns, I spun very fine singles and used them for each of the sample yarns. This gave me different sizes of yarn, though surprisingly, they yielded similar wpi (see above) . That is, until I knit the swatches.

A few things changed as I increased the number of plies. The first and most apparent was the texture and physical weight of the swatch which more dense as I added more plies. The second observation was a halo effect. The swatches knit from singles was far less controlled with a fuzzy, soft texture in the fabric. The 4-ply had a much more controlled look to it, with less of a halo and a very clear stitch definition.

Something to keep in mind is that the singles (being naturally unbalanced) had a clear bias towards the right.

Knit singles - size 4 needles

Knit singles – size 4 needles

Knit 2-ply - size 4 needles

Knit 2-ply – size 4 needles

Knit 3-ply - size 4 needles

Knit 3-ply – size 4 needles

Knit 4-ply - size 4 needles

Knit 4-ply – size 4 needles

For my finished project I think I’ll use the 3-ply yarn as it had just the right density, control and halo for a warm and comfortable sweater with a nice drape.

This experiment taught me that you can achieve varying textures just by changing the number of plies. Also, as always, swatching is critical step not to be forgotten.

I now know exactly what I’m spinning for Spinzilla, do you? Tell us in the comments what your plans and goals are for October 6th-12th. We’d love to hear all about them!