Friday, October 22, 2010

Spinning a Yarn: Handspun Singles in S & Z Twist

Once upon a time -- this year, in fact -- I began spinning singles in both S and Z twist, planning to weave a light collapsible-weave fabric. I bought roving from Ashland Bay, their merino/silk fiber, in two shades of green (the two bobbins on the left). Also, thanks to good friend Leslie Mendelson who recommended the site to me, I Googled a company called "Briar Rose" and bought Cormo roving beautifully hand-dyed in two shades of darker green (the two bobbins on the right).

Spinning was easy but slow, because I spun the yarn just as fine as I could (to pun on a popular spinning book, it was unintentional spinning, but what the heck). I spun about a pound of yarn, total, two colors in S twist and two in Z twist, about four ounces each. (I wanted to try different fibers because they will "crinkle" differently.) 

The results are highly overtwisted yarns. Here's what the Z twist in the silk/merino does when you release the tension on a bunch of singles:

Here's what they all do, like teenagers if you don't give them any structure:

Actually, I kind of like them that way....

Using the good old McMorran Balance, I calculated that the singles are about the same weight as 8/2 cotton -- maybe 3200 yards per pound -- but who knows how that will translate when it's woven up? It might take up more space than cotton, because it has a lot of loft. 

Next step: Sample. Yes, I was a good girl. Someone asked me, why would you waste yarn on a sample when it's precious handspun? My answer: I could potentially waste more if I DON'T sample. I need to know what I'm doing and avoid mistakes -- or it will ALL be wasted!

Technical details: I created a sample warp about 6" wide, maybe 2 yards long, at 16 ends per inch, with 1/2" stripes in each of the four colors, always alternating S and Z twist yarns, but randomly placing the colors.

I wove up plain weave, using each of the four yarns as weft and also using a commercially spun overtwist I bought from Laura Fry ("Magic in the Water") online. I tried it in a natural color and in a deep rust color that I had previously dyed.

The sample came off the warp looking pretty much like green gauze -- but, just as Laura Fry has written, there is "magic in the water." Washing it with a bit of Orvus paste in hot water out of the tap, the sample crinkled beautifully. Just what I was hoping for. This, below, is a section of the sample viewed with the warp going horizontally, with a pale green silk/merino Z-twist as weft:

Here's the part I like best, specifically the stripes that are grass-green, which are silk/merino in S-twist. You just have to envision these small stripes as if they were the entire fabric.

Now on to the real warp, which will be about 40" wide, 4 yards long, with 640 ends. I've just begun. (Notice the cross at both ends, just in case I make some kind of error, which happens all too often!)

If you read Handwoven magazine, you'll see the most recent issue is all about "Slow Cloth." Well, this is the ultimate in slow cloth, I'm thinking.

More to come in future posts!

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