Today I have a knitting update and a spinning question to answer.
First, the shawl. I have completed Round 261, which means I only have 30 more rounds to go!!! Oh, and the edging. Right. But it's getting there!
A question on spinning itty bitty yarn, from bibliotecaria in the comments from the last post: "Can you share some more details of how you drafted it? Set up the spinning wheel? Was it a special flyer or bobbin?" Gladly!!
This was spun on my Schacht Matchless wheel, with the standard bobbin and flyer that came with the wheel. I have the wheel set up for Scotch tension, and am using a thin cotton brake band (#50 crochet thread) and a soft spring. I used the smallest flyer whorl I have, which has a ratio of 13:1. This whorl is listed as giving a 15.5:1 ratio, but I use a stretchy polycord drive band, which has a slightly larger diameter than the Schacht cotton drive band, hence the lower ratio. They do make smaller whorls, up to 27.5:1, but I don't have that one.....yet.
To start, I pull off a piece of roving about five inches long. The silk roving I have is fairly thick, so I predraft extensively before I spin.
On the top is the roving as it comes out of the bag. In the middle, it's spread out so I can see the natural thin spots where it will be easy to split lengthwise. In this case, I would probably divide it into three strips. The piece on the bottom is what I spin from, after splitting the roving and attenuating each strip to about half the thickness of my little finger. I cannot emphasize enough the value of predrafting. It makes spinning fine MUCH easier. But don't do too much at once, because it wants to fly everywhere after it's predrafted.
After the fiber is ready, I just spin. I use a modified worsted technique, always keeping the twist under control- at no time is the twist allowed between my hands, into the drafting triangle. I say "modified" worsted because I have a relatively low ratio whorl for spinning laceweight yarn, so I do two treadles for each inch I draft out, giving about 26 twists per inch in the finished singles. If I had a higher ratio, I would just treadle once. Either way, it takes a lot of twist.
This is what the drafting triangle looks like. Obviously, I would normally be using two hands, but have you ever tried to take a picture of yourself while spinning? Not easy. My left hand would be the back hand, controlling the fiber mass, while my right hand is in front controlling the twist. My sequence of steps is this:
1) Draft one inch by pulling forward with the right hand, pinching off the twist, while treadling once.
2) Smooth in the twist with the right hand by sliding the fingers back toward the left hand. This requires a slight (and I do mean slight) lessening of pinching pressure, but not so much that the twist escapes into the area between my hands. While this slide occurs, treadle again.
It's pull/treadle, slide/treadle. Repeat ad infinitum.
For plying, the sequence is the same, but instead of drafting forward one inch of fiber at a time, I pull forward two inches of singles per two treadles, then smooth them together with the third treadle while sliding my right hand back. This gives slightly less plying twist than singles twist, which produces a balanced yarn. In plying, as in drafting, I don't let the twist between my hands. The reason is the same- to catch in any stray ends and make the yarn as smooth as possible.
Three more tips-
First, when spinning silk or other fine fibers, I don't use my regular lapcloth. I made mine out of duck cloth, and the surface is just too "grabby." I use a silky scarf (I think it's probably polyester, but as long as it's slippery, it'll work) on my lap, otherwise the silk fibers stick to me, the cloth, and everything in the vicinity. The smooth fabric keeps everything under control nicely. A solid color would be better, but Emma happened to have the one in the above pictures in her dressup box, so I borrowed it.
Second, I think plying from rewound bobbins is especially helpful in this situation, when a super-smooth yarn is the goal. That way, when you do the smoothing step during plying, you're going in the same direction that you smoothed the singles, and the fibers lay even flatter. If I didn't rewind the bobbins, I'd be raising the nap on the singles when I plyed, and it could be fuzzy.
Third, it can be helpful to slightly raise your forward hand during the sliding/smoothing steps of both spinning and plying. This helps keep the twist from running up in between your hands when you release the pinch slightly.
So there you go, probably more than you ever wanted to know about how I spin. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Truly, it becomes automatic and relaxing.