I was thrilled when the folks at Schacht asked me to participate in Schacht’s 50th anniversary fun with a blog post, and even more excited when I learned I’d be spinning a special anniversary colorway dyed by Felicia Lo of SweetGeorgia Yarns.
I knew I would love it even before I’d seen it; I’m a longtime fan of Felicia and her saturated approach to color. When I opened the package, it was even better than I expected. Barry’s Jubilee has deep blue and purple, an earthy brown and lots of fades to white lifting the colors a little brighter—it’s gorgeous. The fiber blend is 85% Polwarth / 15% tussah, so there will be some puffing up of the yarn in the finish.
I was tasked with spinning the fiber two different ways. Easy, you say. In theory, yes, but I could only pick two!
For my first yarn, I decided to lean into the colorway and the strength and durability that the tussah imparts to the Polwarth. I spun a chubby low-twist, woolen-drafted single. I used my Matchless and the whorl I call the Salad Plate (the slow speed whorl with ratios of 6:1 and 7.5:1) in the smaller groove.
The finished yarn flows from color to color in clear stripes. The colors are deep and matte; the yarn is soft and light. It doesn’t bias when knit.
For my second yarn, I chose to do the opposite: mix up the colorway without adding additional colors. Many spinners would mix the colors as much as possible in the ply, making a marl or barber pole yarn. I wanted the colors blended and mixed, to layer the marling. I would make a marled pair of singles, then ply them together.
To marl the yarn in the single, I drafted the colorway on itself, a technique some spinners (including Felicia Lo) call combo drafting.
Here’s how I do it. I divide the fiber vertically into strips about one finger wide. I hold 2 strips together with each starting at a different spot in the colorway. (Sometimes it works just to flip one of the strips and start at the opposite end of the original flow of colors.)
I like to line up my pairs of strips and roll them into nests before I start spinning, so I can just keep spinning rather than fiddling with fiber preparation. I divide my nest into piles for each ply. I spun a 2-ply yarn, but you can use this technique with as many plies as you like.
When I spin, the 2 strips of fiber overlap slightly and draft together as one fiber.
Sometimes one of the strips falls away when I’m not paying attention. I just pick it up and put it back beside the other strip and keep drafting. The idea overall is a randomness of color, so if one strip is absent for a few inches of yarn, it’s really fine.
What happens in the spinning is the 2 strips, as they draft together, create a marl or barber pole in the single.
When these singles get plied, the marl in singles combine into a double marl in the ply, with colors combining in speckles. The yarn looks like confetti, especially compared to the singles yarn. I like this style of mixing up colors better than just letting the colors barber pole in the ply: with a layered marl, the colorway gets shaken up like the snow in a snow globe, with an organic randomness.
When I knit these skeins, the magic really happens. The singles are airy and look like saturated velvet, with the colorway striping clearly. The doubled-marled swatch is tweedy, striping with much less clarity. The colors swirl and dance, the dots of color giving the surface visual motion through their random combinations.
I like both of these yarns equally, but what I love is that they look so wonderful side by side and could be combined flawlessly in a single project.
Note from Schacht:
Over the next few weeks, Deb Gerish, our project manager here, and a spinner/knitter extraordinaire will be walking you through our June spin along! She will also be spinning her yarn two different ways, and knitting up two different cowl projects! Stay tuned next week for more! If you’re participating in the spin along, please use the hashtag #schacht50years on Instagram!