1. I really can not spin a competition quality yarn when using home prepped fiber. This is shown by the BL/Cormo skein below, it is just not up to the level of spinning that is expected by the judge. I am only stating this based on past judgings, however it was useful for me to realize that I am wiser to use commercially made roving for better spinning in all my state fair skeins from now on.
2. High heat and tight stretching while drying really does a better job at setting the twist, especially on merino. And getting the twist firmly set is important in order to have a nice cooperative two yard skein. That is the required put up for the competition, and two yards of a handspun yarn that still wants to kink is unruly.
First up, the skein I love the best and hope is a first place winner:
This was spun from a shetland roving and was a joy to spin. It's a lovely light reddish brown color, not easy to capture in a photo. I have at least a pound more of the roving, and plan to spin enough of this same yarn for a shawl.
Now the hated, required merino skein:
Every year I feel I have spun a better skein than before, and every year, the skein looks terrible after washing. This year I solved that problem by first placing the skein in boiling (yes!) water until wet, let hang and drip for several minutes until cool enough to handle and then stretched it on a plastic pipe niddy noddy I have made. I put that in front of a fan and let dry. The twist is definately set, and the yarn did not 'poof' as it usually has in the past. So once again, I am hoping that I have spun a better merino skein than in year's past.
This is the skein that disappointed me:
This is a Border Leicester/Cormo mix fleece I bought last April. It is a lovely silver gray color, and feels soft as a fleece. I washed the fleece, picked the fibers and drum carded batts to spin. It was nice spinning, although I ended up being a 'picky' spinner and removing any bits and bumps in the batt as I came to them. Still the yarn looks very 'handspun' with thick and thin spots and bumps. It is a perfectly servicable yarn, would make a lovely outer wear type outfit (it's scratchier as a yarn than the fiber). But on the whole I do not feel it is competition quality, although I did decide to put it in as an entry.
Finally my experimental skein:
This is a 50/50 cotton wool roving I purchased last December. I hate spinning cotton, I was hoping that the addition of 50% wool would ease some of that hate. But it didn't. I had to spin this with about a quarter inch draft zone, tedious, time consuming and I really don't like the yarn after all is said and done. I have another 6 oz left of this roving, I am not sure if I will spin the rest or not. This skein also got dropped into a pot of boiling water, which promptly removed a bunch of dye. I actually had wondered if the cotton would change color, since it was suppose to be natural colored cotton. But with the addition of the wool, which could not have been the same color as the cotton must have meant that they had to dye the fiber to get a solid color. The skein did not change color all that much, in spite of the dye bleeding off. After the skein cooled a bit I stretched it on the plastic niddy noddy to dry. But unlike the merino, it didn't set the twist quite completely, and my two yard skein had a bit of twisting. That shows just how over twisted I was getting the original spinning, with my inchworm drafting. It was an interesting experiment, which is something I still like to do with my spinning. It would be much too boring to just spin the easy stuff.