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.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


And lots of pictures to prove it. If you click on any of the pictures, you should get a larger size for better details.

First this is the suri lace scarf that has been on my WIP list on the side bar. I'll get it moved in another editing session. This is handspun suri alpaca fiber, and hand knit. The lace pattern came from an old lace sampler in the Brooklyn Museum and the pattern was notated by Susanna E Lewis in her book _Knitting Lace_. I adapted the pattern to fit into a scarf.

Brown suri alpaca handspun hand knit scarf Posted by Hello

Next is my first finished object from my knitting machine. I have been slogging up the steep learning curve for six weeks now, and have had some near misses, some almost worked items, but this one made it. It is from the camel yarn I recently purchased. I am very pleased with the resulting fabric of this yarn and will probably make quite a few more.

First finished object from knitting machine, camel yarn scarf Posted by Hello

Next pictures show a commercial project I have underway. I will be selling my handspun angora yarn in a local yarn store. I wanted to give knitters some inspiration about using 100 yards of angora, so I bought two commercial yarns, and made them in combination with the angora.

The first is a ribbon yarn. I carried the two yarns, and used the drop stitch pattern.

Ribbon and angora scarf Posted by Hello

I think it looks like a rag rug, but in a good way :)

The next is an eyelash yarn and strand of angora. I cast on 390 stitches on a long circular needle and did bands of the eyelash and angora.

Eyelash and handspun angora scarf Posted by Hello

and a close up so you can see the band of angora:

Eyelash close up Posted by Hello

This scarf is extremely long, skinny, somewhat biased. But I love it. It is very soft, floaty and shiny. Just needs my diamond crusted shades and cigarette holder to be glamorous, darrrllling.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Pounds O' Yarn

Anyone care to guess how many yards are in 45 pounds of yarn?

I find it interesting that sometimes just the information I need appears in a magazine or book right before I need it. I recently purchased 24 back issues of knitting machine magazines. Lots of the patterns are not available to me on my very basic knitter, but the articles have been informative. One article I found last week explained just how to determine how many yards of yarn are on a cone, based on thread count and weight.

But let me back up. I needed this information because I went on a road trip to Adairsville, Ga to R&M Yarns. I found this yarn outlet several years ago when driving to Ga. I made my hubby stop and I found out that the yarns were all on cones, and were mostly usable for weaving projects (and I am not a weaver). So I filed that information away in my head, and would get a card in the mail from them every year announcing the $1.00 per pound annual sale. It sounded tempting, but I was never going their way at the right time to go.

But this year, the website announced, would be the last year for the sale and the price would be $1.50/lb. That's still a good deal, since the yarns average $2.50 to $5.00 per pound normally. So I twisted hubby's arm, roped my daughter into going along, and we heading to Ga for the sale last Sat.

We had to spend the night in a motel Friday night. I admit to a sense of anxiety that it would be a bust, that we had driven 350 miles for nothing. We went there bright and early Sat morning and the first thing we see is a husband carrying out yarn by the black trash bag full. I snicker, I wouldn't be buying _that_ much, and go into shop.

This is a true warehouse. Shelves and large metal carts of yarn on cones all in neat orderly rows for your shopping pleasure. It took over an hour to inspect every yarn, make some selections, re-evaluate the choices and check out. I then realized why the black trash bags. They had a large platform scale, and the cones of yarn were thrown into the trash bags to be bulk weighed. Each bag would hold 16-18 lb of yarn. So I ended up with three bags, and my daughter with one. Fortunately even if someone had laughed at my buying trash bags full of yarn I would not have cared by then. I was on a major bargain high.

Here's the picture my friends have been waiting for. If you are a yarn store owner, or have a major aversion to acrylic fibers, avert your eyes.

Pounds O' Yarn Posted by Hello

There is probably no way for you to see the yarns specifically. So in a short recap there is a wonderfully soft, fingering weight acrylic in cranberry, marine, brown and grey tweed. That accounts for six of the big cones. The four colonial blue cones of yarn is a 2 ply sport weight 100% wool. The two cones of green (thyme) is a 4/2 cotton in sport weight. The large brown and white stripe yarn is a 2 ply cotton blend, over 5 lbs of it in a sport weight size. The three red cones (I wanted a Christmas color) turns out to be thread sized yarn, a wool/nylon blend. One cone is a rayon silver with black dots, I just had to buy that and see how it would look as a knitted fabric on my knitting machine. And one cone is a mystery Trevira. I googled that and found the website for the fiber, it's mainly a blending fiber with the claim of non flammability. They blend it with cotton or wool. This white cone seems to be cotton like, but there is no indication of any fiber other than the Trevira. And finally there are two balls of chenille, that just look like they are made for each other.

And since this was already on my knitting machine, and I forgot to include it, the last cone of the 45 lb is a fawn colored 100% camel. Yeah baby, _that_ was a real steal.

Camel yarn Posted by Hello

So back to my original question, just how many yards do I have? Based on information from the Sept/Oct 1994 Machine Knitter's Source this is how I tried to calculate.


The worsted count system is based on a #1 thread which yields 560 yards per pound. (The #1 thread is comparable in size to a bulky weight or doubled stranded 4 ply knitting worsted in the U.S.) All yarn sizes- 3/15, 2/24 3/12 4/8 etc-are a ratio fraction of the #1 thread size. The upper number of the fraction tells us how many plies are twisted together and the lower number refers to the thread size. Reduce the fractions to compare them to the whole. For example, a 3/15 yarn-3 plies and of #15 thread-is reduced to 1/5th the size of #1. It would take 5 of these threads plied together to equal the #1 thread. To arrive at yards per pound, multiply 560 yards by the number of reduced thread to equal the #1 thread size. In the case of the #15 thread (a single thread), 560 x 15 = 8400 yards per pound. When more than one thread is plied, reduce the yardage by dividing the new yardage by the number of plies used. In the same example, using 3 strand of #15 thread plied together equals 2800 yards per pound (560 x 15 = 8400 divided by 3 = 2800)

=end quote=

They made it sound somewhat complicated, because you can arrive at the same number by taking 3/15 and reducing to 1/5 and multiplying 560 x 5.

Once you have the YPP (yard per pound) you can weigh the cone, and come up with how many yards of yarn are on the cone. Of course there is weight to the cones themselves, and unfortunately that is not a standardized weight, so I tend to round down at the half way point. If the cone weighed 1.25 lbs I used 1 pound to calculate. If it weighed 1.75 lbs I used 1.5. It was all an estimate in the end, due to not knowing the weight of the cone itself.

One other bit of information gleaned from that article. The magic number of 560 is really only for wools. For cottons the magic number is 840. For linens, the number is 300. If the fiber is a blend it was suggested to use the number for the highest content in the blend.

So if the thread counts were listed on the cone, I could easily calculate how many yards I had. But it turned out the only ones that easy were the chenilles. They very conveniently put the YPP on the cone :) 1300 YPP and one cone at 2.5 lbs and the other at almost 3 lb gave me around 6500 yards of chenille. It got harder after that. The thyme cotton for example was listed as a 4/2. I could see that it had 2 plies, so I took the magic number for cotton 840 and multiplied it by the reduced fraction of 2 giving me 1680 YPP. A cone averaged 2.5 lbs for 4200 yards on each cone. Well, it is a guess, but probably an intelligent one.

Not many of the cones had the thread count listed, so for the wools and camel I turned to Amos Aldens grist measurement chart based on WPI. After all, these wool yarns looks just like what I would spin on a good day. The colonial blue was 22 WPI and in the chart that averages 480 YPP. Given that information each small cone had about 500 yards and the large on around 2000 yards. The camel had a 30 WPI and the chart says that is 904 YPP, so I have around 1800 yards of camel yarn. And the red wool nylon thread, well now, that did have a thread count. An amazing 2/45 thread count. Thank goodness I did not have to try and do a WPI on that. Using the calculation of 24.5 x an average of 3 lbs total for all three cones, I get a yardage of somewhere Beyond 39,000 yards. Obviously I was not paying attention to that purchase, beyond the red color!

All of these helpful calculations are not helpful when I comes to the acrylic. I am unfortunately back to the old fashion, knit until I run out of yarn tactics with them.

Grand total yardage? Ah come on, did you really think I would know that? But yes, I did come up with a number, just for the fun of it. I used the 560 magic number for the acrylic, right or wrong, I don't know. But using that and adding everything up, the total comes to 116,200 yards.

You think I have enough for a sweater? BRHAWWAAAHAAAA!


Thursday, July 01, 2004

AHA Moment and Why I Spin

There is a wealth of information available about spinning now. It amazes me that this gathering of information has happened over the last 30 years, and that the internet has been the biggest factor in the growth of this accumulation. The ability to discuss and debate techniques or to share what is learned has boomed even more in the last five years with the arrival of online groups and blogs.

One such source of learning for me has been a Yahoo group called Tech spin. This group has very interesting and knowledgeable discussions on many aspects of spinning.

Recently I was thinking about how to spin a Black Welsh Mountain fleece I have washed. I envisioned a fat fluffy yarn, which I would knit to felt into a bag. There are several immediately concerns about that project, so I asked my questions to Tech spin. First, how to get a fluffy yarn. I thought and even tried spinning long draw from a drum carded fiber. I was not having any luck, I could not draft the fiber that way. Was it because I just can not do long draw? Was it that the fibers were too long? Was my prep not right for long draw? These are questions I asked the group. The second concern was of my own. I was not sure I really wanted fat fluffy yarns to try and felt. But that I knew I would have to swatch to find out.

The group responded with several ideas about long draw. Then Elaine posted a great explanation that, if I really wanted lighter fluffy yarn, I needed 3 or 4 plies, not two.

I will not quote Elaine here, instead try and write what I learned from her post. If a 2 ply yarn needs a certain number of twists per inch (say 12) each single will need 6 twists per inch. But suppose I made the yarn a 3 ply, then each single would only need 4 twists per inch. And less twists per inch means the yarn can have more open space, for more loft, which means a fluffier yarn.

This was a real AHA moment for me and a few others that post to that group. Elaine also suggested that this concept is useful when working with the coarse longwools. The longwools when tightly spun tend to resist the twist, making the wool harsh and dense. Lessen the number of twists per inch and increasing the plies can make a more pliant yarn. Not necessarily softer, but more workable.

She gave us a rainy day project of trying this with two different yarns in our stash, like a merino and a longwool. Spin each the four possible ways, thin and very little twist, thick and very little twist, thin and lots of twist and thick and lots of twist. Make samples of 2, 3 and 4 plies. Set the yarn and then knit a swatch.

Oh course this is just the type of project I love. This was my second AHA moment about just why spinning has become an addictive hobby for me. It's not at all just about making yarn to knit a sweater. It's the fact that from raw fleece to finished sweater, there are about a million possibilities. And each difference is not really a failure, it usually becomes a design element.

So now I understand why I have many unfinished projects. Once I get past the learning of how to wash a particular fleece to give it it's best attributes, I stop washing the fleece. And once I have messed around with the different processing ideas for that fleece (drum card, hand card, dog combed locks, small hand combs, big hand combs) and found the processing that gives the best spinning fiber, I stop processing. I seem to have stopped here though in this trend. Once I sit down to spin a yarn, I pretty much have always spun the same type of yarn, a consistent 15-18 WPI 2 ply. The only time I have actually just played with spinning is when I was working through different fibers for the rare breed study. Or if I am involved in an exchange, where I try a fiber or technique (like spinning froghair-spinning as fine as I could).

Now that Elaine has just invaded my spinning with challenges I will never get a full skein of yarn spun again. I think I am really excited about that!

I am not sure having discovered just why spinning is so addictive for me will make it any easier to explain to non spinning folks. But it helps explain to myself the appeal of yet another raw fleece, when I already have a fleece mountain in the spare bedroom. I am not just buying greasy wool, but the possibility of hours of learning and fun.