Spinning has been one of my passions since 1982. Fiber animals were added to my addiction 22 years ago. My joy has been raising the animals for quality fiber, spinning the wool from my precious llamas and Jacob sheep, and weaving or knitting the yarn into a finished product.
To begin, I need to state that making handspun yarn is not just simply twisting fiber. Once you start spinning you very quickly realize that there are many ways to spin and different techniques are used to create a yarn that is suitable for a specific purpose. With this in mind, I am sharing some things you might try to incorporate into your spinning when designing a yarn for knitting.
Did you know that there is a right end and a wrong end to spin from when using drum carded fiber or fiber that is commercially processed? Yes, this is a fact. There is definitely one direction that pulls out more easily. The test is simple. Break off a length about one inch in width and gently pull on each end. Yes, one slips more easily. This is the proper end from which to spin. You will be amazed to find how easy it is to draft from the correct end. Your yarn will be nicer as you have greater control since there is no drag or resistance during the spinning process.
For knitting, we need to allow air to be a part of spinning the singles to make a lofty yarn. This is achieved by spinning long draw. In other words, pull out the fiber with one hand, allowing it to twist without interfering or allowing it to feed through the orphus and onto the spool. When you have drawn out about 30 inches in this spinning process, clamp two fingers with your other hand down about halfway on the length of singles that you have made, continuing to treadle and allow that amount to feed slowly on the spool.
These two steps are repeated over and over to make the yarn. Note that once the air has been allowed to be part of the process by drafting with one hand it does not make a difference if you pinch down and put more spin into the yarn. It just makes the yarn stronger. We should always do just a bit of overspinning of our singles to compensate for the amount of twist that is lost in the plying process.
You can spin wonderful singles, but if you ply incorrectly all is lost. There is a right way to ply and a wrong way. Here again we are dealing with direction of the twist of the singles. When using a ball winder do not take one strand from the outside and the other from the inside of the ball and ply. Do not ply directly from two spools from your spinning wheel. Both of these methods are very wrong. You must always ply in the same direction as you have created your singles. So wind the singles from your spool on the spinning wheel into balls. Now you will be starting to ply from the same direction as you spun your singles. The plies will happily interlock. If you do it any other way the singles repel one another and make for a much less desirable finished yarn.
So wind the singles from your spool on the spinning wheel into balls. Now you will be starting to ply from the same direction as you spun your singles. The plies will happily interlock. If you do it any other way the singles repel one another and make for a much less desirable finished yarn.
This last tip has to do with washing the finished skein and setting the twist. Once you have your yarn made into a skein it is ready for final processing. Since we do not wash llama or alpaca before spinning, we need to soak our skein in cold water to remove the field dirt. I let mine sit for about an hour. Then I rinse it several times in cold water.
Next, fill a container with water as hot as you can get from the tap. Add soap or detergent (I prefer Dawn dish soap since it is a degreaser). Stir. Push your skein into this hot soapy bath. No, it will not mat. Do not touch it until the water has cooled down to a comfortable temperature that you can put your hand in. Rinse in warm water as many times as necessary to remove the soap. Now, here comes the wonderful trick and most important part. Fill your container again with water as hot as possible from the tap.
Plunge your skein into that water for about 1 minute (you’ll need gloves). Wring out all the hot water possible and then immediately plunge the skein into water as cold as you can get from the tap for another minute. This is called “shocking the wool”. Again, it does not mat, but releases all the little ends. You will be amazed at how beautiful and special your yarn looks.
If you incorporate these four things into spinning yarn for knitting I think you will find that your finished yarn will definitely be soft, lofty, and most importantly lightweight.
I think you will be pleased when you start knitting with yarn created in this fashion. HAPPY KNITTING!