Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Thoughts on Spinning Yarn to be Judged

I seem to always turn my spinning adventures into learning experiences. And then share them. Getting five skeins of yarn ready to be judged ended up being quite a learning experience.

First of all I found out I can not just take the category entries and hit my stash of handspun yarn. For all of the skeins stuffed in that stash, none of them fit the requirements exactly. So if you are going to enter a competition, print off the categories, and the specific requirements, and then plan to spin.

Now I was able to take one skein and make it fit a category. To do this I had to weigh the skein and figure out about how much to remove from it to make it 2 oz. Then I had to take what I thought was two oz from the one yard skein that it was in, wind it into a ball, and then reskein it into a two yard skein. It all ended up enough work that I determined it was easier to take fiber and start from scratch for the rest of the categories.

I found out that when the requirement states 2 yard skein, it was meant exactly 2 yards. I do not have this size of niddy noddy, and was trying to make do with two TV trays set beside each other so that I would have close to 36 inches. What I really ended up with was about 33 inches, and that didn't total up to a two yard skein. And the judged noted that as a comment for each skein. I understand the reason for a large skein for judging. It gives lots of open surface area to judge the spinning, and also when the skein is held up, shows the balance of the plying. I was thinking that my 'almost' two yard skein would meet those requirements. The judge however, read the requirement literally. And I learned my lesson, next year I will make a niddy noddy from plastic pipe that is 36 inches to a side.

So it teaches me to be literal also. It may not always help though. I discovered that the judge evidently did not review each category while judging. I saw the quilt judge do this, before stepping up to the quilts we had laid out for that class, she took the fair book, read aloud the class and it's requirements. I know the spinning judge did not review the category requirments because I had a comment on one skein that it did not meet the 2 oz requirement. The category that it was entered in, had no weight requirement at all. I can see meeting requirements stated, but it will be hard to meet those just in the judges' minds.

Well, that was just a minor rant. Quirks of judges are just one of the spinning worlds challenges.

Next big thing I learned: I do not know how to spin a 'designer yarn'. I have not done well in this category for the last three years. Last year, I combined angora and tussah, in a yarn. For this category it is required to knit a 6 inch swatch with the yarn. I loved the fabric that resulted from that yarn, but I would be the first to admit, the yarn itself was pretty boring. This year, I tried a novelty fiber, by taking the buffalo/wool blend I purchased. Again the swatch was stunning, and the yarn just moderately appealing.

I do have the book Spinning Designer Yarns. So lesson learned. I will be reading the book before I enter next year. Designer yarns have nothing to do with the fiber content, but how the spinning is done.

One of the hardest lessons was over the WPI on my yarns. The judge disagreed on every one, and since I was in the building at the time, actually came over to the quilt area to talk to me about it. She was mostly concerned that I was measuring and reporting singles, because my WPI numbers were so much higher than hers. I explained that my technique was for the 2 ply, that I was using a WPI tool made from wood with a cut out inch notch and that I had taken my method from a certain big tome of spinning, that everyone quotes as the bible. Basically I read the method as wrap five times, push the wraps so they butt against each other, wrap five more and continue until the inch is full. I still think there is nothing wrong with this, if one is very careful not to pull hard on the yarn. I think in my zeal to get those wraps to lay nicely abutting to each other, I was pulling on the yarn, and thereby increasing the wraps per inch. I do not know just how loosely the judge wraps the yarn, I get the feeling it is just a toss it around an inch ruler method. However, this judge has high creditials, so I took this as good teaching, and am now wrapping and measuring with a very light hand. My knitting later will probably thank the judge for teaching me this, as I will probably not end up with gauge surprises down the road.

I learned that it pays to enter something in every category, because by doing so, I surprised myself by spinning the best merino yarn I have ever spun. I wouldn't ever choose to spin merino for a competition, but the category specifically required merino. And after two years of only moderately impressive merino yarn, this year the trick was to use a 100 micron top, and my lace flyer. The yarn flowed effortlessly, and looked it when it was done. It's a good thing I bought a pound of the fiber, I definately learned I want to spin some more.

And last of all, I learned I will do it again. And encourage others to do it too, because when all is said and done, I do not worry about winning the ribbons. What I like to see, on that opening day of the fair, is all of those lovely skeins, in wonderful colors hanging for all to see.



Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the wonderful and insightful account of spinning for competition. I cannot count the number of time I thought I could just raid my massive amounts of yarn for skeins! And a million congrats on your winning skein -- it is a thing of beauty.

Actually your post also brings up my biggest problem with the spinning-for-skein-competition thing. When the yarns knits up (or weaves) well, what does it matter how uninspiring the skein might have looked? I guess my preference for how the fiber looks in its final incarnation might make me more of a product spinner/knitter than I have ever thought I was. But surely one of the most interesting things about the whole process is how a roving that looks one way turns into a yarn that looks a different way and then into a garment that looks still more different!

Thanks for the post!


Annie said...

You learn from spinning and knitting adventures, and I learn from reading your blog! Thanks for the info on the KY state fair. I'm definitely going to enter next year. In fact, we might want to make it part of our Tuesday evening activities once the categories are announced. Thanks! --Annie