Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lace Single SAL

Lace Single SAL
Originally uploaded by Project Pictures
I've been going through Ravelry and "cleaning house". That means looking at what groups I read and don't read, where I post often, occasionally, or never and then reordering the active ones to the "front" and dropping those I don't really use. I usually end up picking up one or two new ones right before I clean up, because they need to get sorted in amongst the rest and that triggers the whole thing.

One of the boards I added recently was "Spinner Central". This is a group for hand-spinners that work on any tool--wheel or spindle. I enjoyed looking through the more general topics that can be applied to anything. It also has a quarterly SAL/KAL (that's a Spin-a-Long/Knit-a-Long) and we all know I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. I enjoy getting pushed to try new things, and any excuse to post what I'm working on is great!

The SAL this time around is "lace-weight singles". I'm not much of a singles person. I've bought some, commercially made, and spun them once or twice. But in general I love a tightly-plied yarn.

I was in-between projects, and it probably didn't hurt that I enjoyed a beer with my pizza for dinner and as the kids were safely tucked away in bed, suddenly spinning a lace-weight single yarn seemed really interesting. And here I have all these great samples to play with that I had no clue how to use!

Grab bag of Exotic fibers
In specific I had a grab-bag of "exotics" from A Verb for Keeping Warm that I had purchased as part of my Sock Summit '09 loot. Dreamy stuff. Soft. Beautiful colors, all natural or naturally-dyed. I picked three that looked like they might go well together. At "noon", "one" and "two o'clock" there is grey, red, and brown fiber. I wasn't sure what they were, but they were lovely and I thought they'd blend well together.

I started with the silver/gray fiber. Oh, it was soft and smooth and started spinning so easily. About half way through I broke off a few sections of it, and some of the brown fiber, and carefully blended them together in increasing amounts of brown. I hoped this would blend one into the next in a slow gradient. I'm not sure how successful it was, but it's still pretty. And of course next was the chocolate brown and just like the silver it was smooth and wonderful.

But when I got to the red/brown fiber, I started to have trouble. It's quite soft, too, but with a much less silky hand. The staple was much shorter and it seemed slightly "sticky". The fibers wanted to grab each other, rather than slide easily. I struggled with blending the deep brown into the red, but managed to get that far. But my single kept being difficult to manage. I'd draft it apart without warning, or get slubs.

Rather than drive myself crazy, I pulled out my hand cards and re-carded this last roving. I was hoping it would open up the fibers and make them easier to draft, and it did help. But I still had trouble keeping it moving smoothly. I tried some of it on my supported spindle, but it was to grabby to long-draw well. In addition, I noticed as I worked under bright light that when I did draft through a grabby section, there were wisps of "smoke" drifting upwards from the fiber... ACK. It was DIRT.

I pressed on and finished spinning, but with a sad feeling for the state of this fiber. Especially when the first two were so lovely.

After, I went to the "A Verb for Keeping Warm" Ravelry group and posted a plea to help me figure out what the fibers were. I guessed the samples I had spun were gray alpaca, brown alpaca and merino/yak blend, and wouldn't you know it but THE OWNER replied and helped me out. She ventured that I had:
12 o’clock - 100% baby alpaca - silver
1 o’clock - 50% yak / 50% merino
3 o’clock - 100% baby alpaca - brown
6 o’clock - 100% cashmere
8 o’clock - pretty sure it’s 50% camel / 50% silk
10 o’clock - pretty sure it’s 50% merino / 50% silk
Looks like I did a good job guessing!

I'm happy/disappointed with the merino/yak. My bits and samples of this from trying various methods on spinning it yielded yarn that is positively to die for. It's soft and cuddly, springy, and vibrant. But spinning it was a total pain. I might have to try some more to find out if it was the sample, or characteristic of the blend, because I want more of this yarn.

The lace single came out in the end. It's so incredibly soft I want to carry it around and make people pet it. I think I'll be making a Revontuli (pdf link) in a scarf-size out of it. This is another yarn that is going to have to wait for the idea to grab me and say "YES, THIS IS IT!!"

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