July 12, 2014
by Jenny Bannock
Work continues on the green silk. No pics today, because I spent all day Friday at the ER with Dashing. He’s okay, but wow, are we getting to know Hartford Hospital REALLY well.
That doesn’t mean I can’t talk about the spinning — this may be the finest yarn I’ve ever spun. Actually, it IS the finest yarn I’ve ever spun, at least in this quantity. Tussah silk can be incredibly wonderful to spin fine. The filament is already fine and straight, and the fibers are very long. I’ve set my wheel to a light takeup on my fast flyer in order to spin this without snapping or fighting with the yarn. The result is a fine, yet solid, singles.
In every online spinning group I belong to, I see the same beginners’ question come up time and time again: How DO you spin fine yarn on purpose?? The easy answer is to practice, but there’s a lot more to “practice” than just spinning for many hours. You have to be observant of many things at one time, things that you won’t always notice at first but will once you spend a lot of time at the wheel.
There are a few things that help with any kind of intentional spinning. My list is simply a set of observations and preferences, so please, do not take this as SPINNING LAW or something. Every spinner has their own set of rules and guidelines, and far be it from me to insist that my way is the only way!
1. Understand your fiber. Knowing your fiber will help you determine what kind of yarn you’ll get out of it. Superfine yarns work best with organized preparations like combed top or even very well-organized roving. Fibers like silk and longwools are excellent choices for fine spinning because the longer staple means you need to twist fewer fibers together at any point along the yarn. Shorter or more elastic (read: crimpy) fibers automatically add bulk.
2. Understand tension. The precise amount of tension on your wheel determines how strong its pull on your yarn will be. A superfine yarn shouldn’t have too much tension, as that causes you to clamp your fingers on it to maintain control and makes it more likely that your yarn will snap.
3. If you find your hands ache after spinning, you’re gripping your fiber far too tightly. This goes for any spinning, any thickness. Fix this by…
4. …Adjusting your takeup in tiny increments. On my Lendrum, there’s a distinct difference in tension even if I turn the knob almost imperceptibly. Adjust as needed until you find that sweet spot — and be prepared to adjust throughout the project. Tension changes depending on how thick the bobbin is at the point where the yarn wraps on, so there will be a noticeable difference between the uncovered shaft and a section with yarn built up on it.
5. Hold your hands apart. When drafting, you want to grasp only a few fibers at a time in a smooth, even motion. If your hands are too close together, you’ll end up with too many fibers and may even get an unwanted clump. Generally, keep your hands apart the length of the staple. There are exceptions to this, but that’s where I’d start if you find you’re having trouble.
Again, this isn’t the be-all, end-all of spinning, but I hope it helps you find a place to start. Spinners, feel free to comment about any other suggestions you have. I know I have a few newbie spinners who read this blog, so advice is always a big help.
Ever onward on the Tour de Fleece!