August 1, 2012

Think First, Then Spin

Remember the BFL natural multi I spun up as a 4ply 2x2 cabled yarn last year for the Tour de Fleece that didn't produce enough yardage for the sweater I was planning? So I spun up another pound earlier this year to supplement. Remember, this stuff:

BFL natural multi round 2 closeup

Yes, well, I tried swatching with it, and was surprised to find the yarn doesn't stay cabled when I knit with it. It looks like I'm knitting with two strands of yarn held together (which technically I am). But it's not supposed to look like that! Why? Why? Why? After all that work! Why?

After throwing my swatch across the room in a fit of pique, I retrieved my swatch, and more importantly my needles, from Miss Ginger's clutches (she considers anything that flies past her fair game), and sat down to contemplate my error. I've never had a problem knitting with my handspun before. Why now?

Turns out the "Why" is because I jumped in head first without checking the water depth, i.e. I only went as far as technically learning how to make the cabled yarn but not how the cabling affects the yarn itself and the fabric it produces. Cabled yarn is made by plying together two strands of already plied yarn in the opposite direction they were plied in originally. Which is exactly what I did. I spun my singles clockwise, plied them counterclockwise, then plied two strands clockwise.

I always spin my singles clockwise and ply them counterclockwise. Why? When I started spinning I was "told" that's the way commercial yarn is spun and was the best for knitting. Crocheters and weavers (if they're using a plied yarn vs a single) prefer the opposite. I don't weave, I knit. And I rarely crochet these days. So clockwise singles/counterclockwise plying is my standard yarn. It's like breathing - I don't think about, I just do it.

Can you see where I went wrong yet? Exactly! My final ply is going in the wrong direction. For a cabled yarn I can knit with that stays cabled looking I need to start with counterclockwise singles so my final plying would also be counterclockwise. And I need to think ahead to what my final yarn will be used for, not just that it looks pretty.

Now I could fix the twist direction problem by doing another cable ply (and I will try a sample of this to verify), but that would give me an 8ply 2x2 cable probably mega-bulky yarn. Right now the yarn is a heavy, dense, heavy-Worsted/Aran weight. Doubling it might make it too heavy to work with, or, too heavy to comfortably wear as a garment. I am not nor have I ever been a fan of extremely bulky yarn.

Hmmm, I see another swatch in my future....
Damn. I hate swatching! Seriously.

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