Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Last night at the spin-in I got 2 more of the samples spun up - the acala, which is one of the shorter cotton fibers, and the Egyptian, which I think is sort of in the middle of the staple length spectrum. Here's what I learned.

  1. When they say cotton wants a lot of twist, they're not just whistlin' dixie. I've had the problem of thinking I had enough twist in my single, only to have the plies break while in the process of plying because the twist relaxes while plying. On the acala last night I spun until my long draw had what I thought was enough twist and then I put more twist in before I let it feed onto the bobbin. I only had 1 breakage on that sample whilst plying so I think I'm getting more of a hang on that now.
  2. Patience is a virture. When I was drawing out the long draw, the intial draw was done quickly but the thinning out process needs to be done a little more slowly. Where you have thicker spots along the yarn, it does better and doesn't break as much if you get a little twist in those areas. So I was drawing out, letting the twist come up the strand, then drawing out a little more, a little more, letting more twist come in, etc., treadling all the while. Depending on the setting of the wheel, you may not have to treadle like speed racer, either. It's more about paying attention to the yarn.

2.b. It's amazing how little you need for the initial draw. Less is better because as you draw out to thin the yarn, you'll find you're reaching behind yourself if you're not careful!

  1. I began to be able to feel when the yarn was pulling too fast or too hard and I began to use my forward hand to pull it back towards me if needed to make sure nothing it made it past my front hand without the twist needed.
  2. There's so much to pay attention to - all of your limbs are doing something different so it becomes like patting your head and rubbing your tummy - that it's much better to practice in a quiet place with as few distractions as possible until you gain some proficiency. So far I've been doing it in groups but I haven't been able to pay too much attention to what's going on in the groups or participate in conversations. As soon as I did, whang, it would break.
  3. Speaking of breaking, when you have a break, you lose the twist much more quickly than you do with wool or other fibers so you have to go back pretty far and make sure you've got hold of a bit that still has enough twist to hold together. Then you want to add more twist to that bit before you attach back the pieces that broke off. It's easy to add back those bits by just laying the ends down on the part that's twisting just in front of your fingers. They'll be grabbed up in the twist and you're off again. That's how you add on a new strand of sliver or top or whatever you're using, too.

I think that's all I know - keep in mind it's from a newbie but I think they are all valid points. Several people recommended a book by Paula Simmons called "Spinning for Softness and Speed" for a great explanation of the long draw. I haven't seen it but they thought it was a great book. Don't know about the availability, though, as it seems to be an older book.

I have the Pima sample still to do before I work on the Sea Island, which is supposed to be the ultimate in cotton fiber. She gave us a fairly large sample of the Sea Island so I think I'm going to try to get a good thread out of that and use it for my knitted doily.

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