This is another part of my Spinning With a Purpose series of posts. Missed the others? You can find them here.
I'm off to Scotland this weekend to run 2 workshops. One is brand new and based around spinning hand dyed fibre, the other is fast becoming my most requested workshop, aimed at getting spinners to really think about the yarn they're producing, and being more confident at matching it to a project.
The other posts have shared the swatches I created as teaching tools, but this time I'm going to show you one of the most useful things I think I hand out to hand spinners.
I started getting in to all things yarn related by learning to knit, and because I learned at a time when online shopping, and online knitting communities were just being started I became exposed to a vast variety of yarn. Probably far more than I would have done without being online. I had a reasonable sized budget for yarn, and used to enjoy spending it! I bought all sorts from many different sources.
As a result I got educated pretty early on just how varied commercial yarns really are. I also developed a pretty good handle on just how thin or thick different yarn categories are, and how sometimes yarn companies are rubbish at classifying their own yarn. I got confident making yarn substitutions from those listed in the pattern, and that is a really useful tool as a hand spinner, as you're never going to be using the exact yarn the pattern asks for.
During my workshop I get people to look at the structure of these commercial yarns. We also look at their comparative thicknesses, and discuss how metres per 100g is not always a good indicator of thickness. It's also why doing a straight yarn swap without thinking about what the original yarn called for in the pattern doesn't always work.
This sample card contains yarn of a full variety of thickness, yarn structures, and fibre compositions. It's a really handy tool to keep around purely as a reminder of how commercial yarns can be so very different. It's also a good control card, if you want to spin the equivalent of a commercial sock yarn you really do need to spin something incredibly fine.
When I spin for a specific pattern I usually look carefully at the original yarn the pattern was designed to use. If I'm knitting colour work then I know I need a yarn similar to Jamiesons and Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight, if I'm knitting socks then I need to match something like the Knit Picks Hawthorne, or for a truly hard wearing yarn something of a similar construction to the Aracania, or an Opal sock yarn.
So if you have a commercial yarn stash, maybe pull off a few centimetres and start making your own sample card. If you don't, but know you want to spin for a specific pattern, and are really not sure what the original yarn is like it might be worth investing a few pounds in buying just one skein/ball. Or ask around, why not do a commercial yarn sample swap at your local guild.