Thursday, June 5, 2008

Adventures in Spindling

I haven't done any spinning for quite a while. Partly because I had a bunch of knitting projects that clamored to be finished. But mostly because I'd had an unfortunate outcome from spinning a test sample of some new fiber and couldn't decide what to do.

This is the fiber – superwash merino in a mix of purple, orange, turquoise, green, and little squibs of other colors. Very bright and rich. I spun and plied about ten yards of fingering and wound it into a mini-skein. Then I popped the skein into the customary hot water bath and let it sit for 20 minutes.

When I extracted and dried the skein, this is what it looked like – an allover chocolate purple color. Evidently the darkest colors bled and overdyed the other colors. Even the white skein ties emerged medium purple. I was so discouraged that I tucked the fiber back in its box and returned to my knitting.

But then the spindles got restless. (Spindles can be worse than yarn.) They kept tumbling onto the floor or snagging my sleeve with their hooks as I walked past. The worst offender was the Bosworth Mini. Being such a short guy, he sits in a tiny vase near the telephone, and every time I picked up the phone, well . . . .

I surrendered, grabbed MiniBos, pulled out the fiber, and took them both out to the patio for a spindling session. A few sessions later this is what we had – almost a full ounce, which pretty much fills this little spindle. Now I was starting to think – if I could just deal with the color bleeding issue, I might actually get some lovely yarn from this effort. Not that a result is absolutely necessary. Spindling with colorful fiber is a zen thing -- satisfying in itself.

At this point I have nearly another ounce on a second spindle. It looks like less, because this spindle is much larger than MiniBos. It can hold 2-4 ounces easily. So, I'm about ready to ply. Which I will do as usual with my trusting plying box. Or maybe not.

This is the trusty plying box. I have always plied from two long spindles onto an equally large but heavier spindle. Notice how well the two spindles fit into the slots in the box. Will the MiniBos fit into this box? Nooooooo. It is much too short. Erk. I see three options here – find a way to rig MiniBos into the plying box, wind the entire contents of MiniBos onto something that WILL fit into the box, or, possibly, try a different approach to plying. Option number three opens up a whole new realm of possibilities.

And all this fun happens before I even begin to search for a way to finish off this yarn that does not involve immersion in hot water (thereby causing the colors to bleed and overdye). Steaming is one alternative I have turned up. Apparently it's possible to do this with a steam iron or in a pot/rack combination. Anyone ever tried it? I'm wondering, too, if immediate immersion in cold water and vinegar would help to set the colors. Then I could worry about setting the twist. I believe it's the combination of heat and wet that sets the twist, but I'm not sure. My spinning references mandate the use of hot water, but they neglect to say WHY.

The worst-case scenario is that my fingers will have had tons of practice drafting Merino, I will have learned a lot about plying and finishing handspun, and I might even have 400 or so yards of chocolate-purple yarn. I'm good with that.


Delighted Hands said...

Isn't the fact that we conquer all these obstacles part of the charm?! I think I would try to put a straw over your little spindle so he will fit in the plying box with the other one-sometimes simple will work! As for the dye running-heat does set the color and the twist so I would put it on a metal rack above the boiling water in a large roaster pan to accomplish both and without the colors running-hope it goes well!

Marjorie said...

That makes my head spin.

I love to see what all you hand spinners do, but with 9 Rubbermaid tubs of fabric to sew and countless plastic boxes of yarn in my stash, I've evoked the "no new hobbies" rule. I think the yarn on the spindle is beautiful.

Leigh said...

I'm not a spindler, but your singles are lovely! I'm not sure about the bleeding colors, but here's a post that Grumperina did on that very thing awhile back,