Spinning

Spinning Stats

I’ve been keeping track of the time it takes me to spin 100 grams of singles so I can get an idea of just how long it’s going to take me to spin enough yarn for a sweater. It’s not nearly as bad as I expected.
I spin about 32 grams of singles in an hour, or about 100 grams in 3 hours (I weighed the fleece and clocked how long it took me to spin it).

But how many grams do I need for a sweater? According to my very handy The Knitter’s Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements, for a sweater with a 40″ circumference, I’ll need about 2088 yards of sport weight (knitted a 6 sts/inch) or 1475 yards of worsted weight (knitted at 5 sts/inch). Based on the yardage reported on ball bands of wool yarn, sportweight yarn has about 300 yards/100 grams, or 3 yards/gram; worsted weight has about 200 yards/100 grams, or 2 yards/gram. That means that I can divide 2088 by 3 to give me the number of grams of sport weight I’ll need (696 grams) and I can divide 1475 by 2 to give me the number of grams of worsted weight I’ll need (738 grams). Given my spinning rate of 32 grams/hour, that means that it should take about 22 hours to spin enough sportweight or 23 hours to spin enough worsted weight.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account the time it will take to ply the yarn, but that part goes pretty fast. I think it’s fair to estimate that I can produce all of the yarn I need in less than 30 hours. That’s less time than it should take to knit the sweater! Until now, I thought that spinning would take twice as long as knitting (I also foolishly thought that knitting was more enjoyable than spinning). Now my curiosity is sparked–I plan to clock my knitting time, too, so I can compare the two.

In any case, I’m going to get about 30 more hours of pleasure out of this sweater than any I’ve knitted before!

I Must be Nuts

Several months ago I purchased some Ashland Bay 100% merino fleece to spin. I had no idea of how much I’d need for a sweater so I decided to get the entire two-and-a-half-pound ball (better too much than too little). The photo below doesn’t do the colors justice–it’s a luscious blend of olive and brown with highlights of yellow, teal, and magenta.

I haven’t spun since October, so a few days ago I decided to take a break from editing and see if my fingers remembered how. After a half hour so so, I was back into the swing of it and remembered just how much I enjoy spinning. About 5 hours later, I had a full bobbin of reasonably smooth singles.

Now I’m all excited to turn these singles into a 3-ply yarn that I will use to knit a sweater for MYSELF. I figure that if I announce my intentions, I’ll follow through with them. To keep things on track, I’m going to announce a deadline, too.

I hereby commit to spinning enough yarn for a sweater and to knit that sweater by June 1, 2011.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

What I’ve Been Up To

It’s been more than a week since my last post and I’m feeling a little guilty. Here’s what’s kept me away from my computer.
Last week, our son Alex returned safely from Nicaragua. I’m happy to report that he looks and acts much the same as when he left. He had a fantastic time and is considering returning in a couple of years as a supervisor; he’s already talked on the phone with a few of the families he met. School starts tomorrow so he’s been off with his friends most of the time. I did catch him relaxing in the hammock he bought before he boarded the plane home.
I finished the repeat Beginning Spinning course I signed up for this summer. I have 930 amazing yards of two-ply Corriedale yarn to show for it. I haven’t decided what to do with this yarn—maybe a vest or some tightly knit, highly textured mittens. For now, I’m happy to just admire how clever it makes me feel.
I also knitted a pair of socks with my handspun for SpinOff magazine (it won’t be published for a few months) and a pair of gloves for Piecework (which also won’t be published for a few months). I bought the fleece for the socks (100% superwash merino) from Traci Bunkers at The Estes Park Wool Market in June. I spun the yarn on a spindle I bought the same day, then plied it with a wheel I borrowed during the spinning class. I purposefully spun the yarn as thin as I could, but after I plied and washed it, it came out more of a sportweight than the fingering weight I was after. To make sure I had enough yarn, I worked a short-row heel (which I believe uses less yarn than the more traditional round heel with gusset). I always count the number of rows in the leg and foot of a sock so that I can knit the mate to match. What I failed to take into account is that my handspun is not as uniform at mill-spun. One of the socks is considerably larger than the other. One of my feet is bigger so maybe this won’t be a problem.
I used the new Quince & Co Chickadee yarn for the gloves. It was a dream to knit with and I couldn’t be happier with the stitch definition!
I’ve also been experimenting with different ways to work a round heel on toe-up socks. This is the type of three-part heel that you usually see on top-down socks: heel flap, heel turn, and gussets. I’ve knitted five full-size samples and several small sections of just the heel turn. I’m getting close to working out my favorite method for various sizes and gauges. Stay tuned.

Feeling Clever

Since buying a spindle at the Estes Wool Market last month, I’ve spent much more time spindle spinning than knitting. In fact, this may be the longest stretch I’ve ever gone without knitting. Instead, I’ve been spinning fleece that my cyber friend Anne from Reading, Pennsylvania, sent me, as well as fleece I bought at the Wool Market. Not knowing how to ply on a spindle, I just keep spinning more and more singles.
Now I confess to a bit of OCD on my part—I decided to take Maggie Casey’s Beginning Spinning class again this month. I figured that much of what she said the first time went over my head, some because I didn’t realize it was important at the time and some because I was concentrating so intently on what I was doing that I, well, didn’t pay attention. An important part of the class is that students take home a different wheel each week. This is an ingenious way to get students to choose a favorite to buy. Part of my incentive for retaking the class was that I’d have a wheel to ply all of those singles. So instead of spinning new fleece, I spent most of Friday plying all the singles I had accumulated.
Finally, it was time to knit! I ended up with 165 two-ply yards from 2 ounces of red/blue/purple dyed fleece I bought at the Wool Market. I knitted a swatch to determine that I liked it at 6 stitches/inch on size 4 needles. Based on The Knitter’s Handy Guide to Yarn Requirements, I knew I had enough yarn to knit a pair of fingerless mitts. I then followed the mitten instructions in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns. I worked the cuff, back of hand, and top edging in a k3, p1 rib in which I slipped the center stitch of the k3 column every other round to make a raised rib pattern that wouldn’t interfere with the beauty of the yarn. I worked the back-of-hand pattern on a little more than half of the stitches so that it would completely cover the back of the hand when worn.
What a joy it was to knit with my own yarn! I had been advised that handspun yarn had more life than store-bought. No kidding! The yarn had the most amazing “boing” as it formed stitches—I think each stitch had a life of its own (maybe I put a little too much twist in the yarn?).
Next up: a shawl from the 257 yards of yarn I spun from 8 ounces of fleece that Anne from Reading PA gave me! (Perhaps I’m entering my red phase.)

New Tricks

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? This is shaping up to be a year of firsts for me—I started this blog in January, then created a website (well, actually, my friend Lori created it), and last night I took my first spinning class. This may not seem like such a milestone to those of you who caught the spinning bug when you started to knit however long ago, but up until very recently, I had no interest whatsoever in spinning. I enjoy knitting so much that taking time to spin yarn just seemed like a recipe to delay the fun. In fact, I took the same type of personal pride in saying I don’t spin as I took in saying that I don’t crochet or that I only wear handknitted socks. I like to think I’m a purist (some would call me a snob). But, it seems that the same alien ship that abducted me and programmed me to embrace the internet also planted a spinning seed.

So last night I learned about fleece and got instruction on using a drop spindle from Maggie Casey, author of the esteemed introductory spinning book aptly titled Start Spinning (available from my favorite publisher, Interweave Press). And you know what? I liked it! And it didn’t seem to take that long to spin a length of singles (you can see it on the spindle in the photo below). I now understand why all of those people at Interweave brought their drop spindles to company meetings. Might I become one of them? It’s hard to say at this early date but I no longer put it out of the realm of possibilities.

My homework this week is to wash a pile of fleece from Hannah the ewe, card a few rolags, and practice spinning. I’m anxious to get started.