As I might have mentioned previously, there's been lots of behind the scenes stuff going on recently. One of which has been developing a new workshop. There's a lot that goes on when I come up with teaching ideas.
After all there's a whole day to fill, and I like to make sure it's done professionally. That means writing a plan, creating visual aids, and quite often coming up with samples to show to people. It takes days when I add it all up (good job I don't really, I teach because I love it, rather than because it makes any sort of monetary sense!)
The latest workshop I've developed is called Spinning with a Purpose, and it's designed to get people to think about their yarn rather than just spin something and hope it works. It focuses on woollen vs. worsted, the effect of ply number, and why sampling is a "good thing" particularly when spinning for a garment. We also dissect lots of commercial yarns to really work out what the industry means when it describes something as DK weight.
There's quite a lot of things that we're always told are true, but it's nice to have concrete proof in front of you, so to that end I've been spinning and knitting a small mountain of swatches.
,In an ideal world nothing beats handling them to really get a feel for how they work as fabric, but I thought I'd share them via the blog as well. There are a lot, so this will be a semi-regular series of posts for a while.
One of the things that I hear quite often at guilds when I visit, and read even more online, focuses around leaving singles as singles.
A single is just 1 ply, just one length of yarn. It will be what is sat on your bobbin before plying.
Singles yarns are great, they're quick to spin, make a lovely fabric, but they are something you have to plan for. And it's the planning part that I wanted to illustrate with swatches.
I always sound like a bit of a grumpy guts when I tell people that if they want singles yarn they need to have spun it with an appropriate level of twist for it to be a singles yarn. If you intend to ply, then your singles need enough twist for them to hold together during the plying stage. That level of twist will be much too high for you to be able to use the singles without plying. Not unless you want a fabric that looks like the one above.
That swatch was square when knitted, there are no sneaky increases and decreases hidden the borders! Twist is stored energy, and when you knit with it that energy causes the fabric to lean more in one direction. It means that any item you make will also lean and twist.
If you spin a yarn intending for it to be a single you put in less twist, the yarn will always be unbalanced, as normally you ply to even out the twist energies. But if you spin for a single the twist level is significantly less, and the final fabric will have minimal skewing and twisting.
And no, you can't just hang the singles up with a weight dangling from them. The only people who should treat yarn that way are weavers. If you're a knitter hanging a weight from your yarn as it dries will just cause you even more problems. As soon as you get that yarn wet again you reactivate all that twist, and the item will be just as skewed and twisted.
So in short, don't do it!
If you want to spin singles you need to plan to spin singles, not just decide to do it later because you can't make a decision about plying.
Here's a close up of the singles used to knit that swatch. They're not exactly mega twisty...
I tend to like my yarns when the singles aren't too tightly spun, and tend to put slightly more plying twist in. Purely personal preference, but I find it gives me a nice durable fabric as the ends of the fibres are trapped by the other ply, but it's still soft due to the lower twist in the singles.
If spinning singles sounds like your sort of thing then the Winter 2015 edition of Ply magazine is a must read. You can buy it direct from the Ply magazine shop, or if you're in the UK or Europe it's cheaper to go direct to Janet at the Threshing Barn.