Late for Tea

Is it just me, or is time really speeding along lately? Either way, I completely failed to post my finished hat last Friday as promised, so I’ll chat about it now, instead.

Late for Tea

Behold the glorious cashmere halo!

This hat was a delightful knit after a slightly rough beginning. The pattern is Black Tea, designed by Thea Coleman, and when I handled her sample at a class she taught at Slater Mill, I knew I wanted the exact same hat in the exact same yarn. The yarn is Bello by The Plucky Knitter, a 55% cashmere / 45% Merino wool yarn that I got from a destash on Ravelry because my goodness, I have no idea how to actually catch a Plucky update on the site and I’m not motivated enough to try. If you are, though, the yarn is totally yummy. I didn’t record what colorway I bought but it’s an interesting shade of grey that reads with blue/green/purple undertones.

Knitting the hat with the yarn held double was a little bit frustrating, but I really love the final product. I finally got tired of detangling every five seconds and just unwound the whole cake of yarn and re-wound it into a new ball with the yarn held double, rather than knitting from the center and outside of the cake simultaneously. The sizing of this hat was a little tricky, too. The pattern called for 120 stitches cast on with a 5 sts/inch gauge, which would’ve resulted in a 24″ circumference hat. Since I know that cashmere is an inelastic fiber and I don’t like my hats to be super loose in the brim, I decided to knit the hat at a tighter gauge (7 sts/inch) and adjusted the cast on / brim to 100 sts instead (on size 4 needles) by removing some of the knit stitches, which I then increased to 120 sts when I reached the body (on size 6 needles).

Late for Tea | Woolen Diversions

Hat, relaxed.

I was only able to knit 2.5 repeats of the pattern before beginning the crown decreases and had just 8 grams of yarn left at the end. After blocking, this size worked out perfectly for me. The hat has about a 20″ circumference unstretched and is 9″ deep. I wouldn’t have minded being able to finish another repeat before decreasing, but I think the hat has a nice enough level of slouch as it is. Other than my sizing indecision, the cabling was simple and the whole project felt like it went pretty quickly (despite having to tink back multiple times for miscrossed cables).

I think what really makes the hat, though, is the yarn. In a different yarn with less cashmere content, my sizing changes wouldn’t have worked out so well. The fabric would’ve had too much bounce and not enough drape. But cashmere is so lovely, and held double, it is doubly lovely and extra drapey and dense. So good. I will be living in this hat come fall.

Photo copyright Expression Fiber Arts, click for webpage.

In other news, Sweet Sheep lotion bars (in Lavender) are now available as part of a Self Love crochet cowl pattern kit sold by Expression Fiber Arts. The yarn in the kit (2 skeins of yak/silk laceweight) sounds absolutely divine and I love the idea of giving yourself a luxurious treat.

And finally, I’ve done a little bit of blog housekeeping. I’ve changed the home page to go directly to the blog, updated the About Me page, and added an Around the Web page where I am keeping a list of all of the product reviews I’ve done here, guest posts I’ve written elsewhere, and Sweet Sheep product reviews that other bloggers have done. I figured it would be a good way to keep some really great content in one easy-to-find place!

That’s all from me this week! Even though this is more of an FO post than a WIP post, I’m still linking up with Yarnalong (I’m reading Cider House Rules by John Irving) and Stitch Along Wednesday. I hope you’re all having a good week!

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Tour de Fleece Recap & Sweet Sheep News

Have you guys been over to the Knitted Bliss blog yet today? Julie’s been kind enough to post an Indie Business Interview with me for Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe. There’s a special coupon code available to her readers, too, so definitely go check it out!

I’m happy to announce that I have a new handmade soap available for sale: Ocean Mist! It consists of a lovely pale blue aloe vera gel base scented with Sea Moss (gentle, clean, slightly floral) and contains swirls of goat milk soap scented with Down by the Bay (bright, tangy, herbaceous). If you saw my post on Instagram, you’ll know that I was unsure about my first swirl attempt but I really like how the finished soaps look and will definitely be making more.

In spinning news, I’m happy to report that despite my busy weekend, I was able to power through and finish spinning one last Tour de Fleece skein. I spun some undyed Wensleydale top from Three Waters Farm in a 2-ply to coordinate with a gradient skein of Wensleydale I had previously spun. Unfortunately, I was rushing so much that I spun the undyed singles with the opposite twist than I had the gradient skein singles, so the finished skeins do not have the same direction of ply twist. This will likely not matter too much in the finished fabric, but since I do intend to use the skeins together it bugs the attention-to-detail part of me. Now the question is, do I spin the second 4 oz of undyed fiber to match the undyed skein I just finished in case I need more yardage or to match the gradient skein and use the first undyed skein elsewhere?

Tour de Fleece Recap & Sweet Sheep News | Woolen Diversions

Tour de Fleece 2015 finishes

All told, I certainly did not spin every day I was supposed to, but I did spin far more than I would have and managed to spin three skeins from start to finish over the last three weeks. If you ask me, that output isn’t too bad, especially since it’s three more skeins than I likely would have finished without the tour! (See this post for finish details about the other skeins.)

And now another question: what to spin next?! Oh, the possibilities…

WIPWed #96: Waxing Poetic

Dear socks, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Your slipped stitches gracefully pop out of a field of blues and greys. Your simple pattern brings me joy and you’ve grown so much in only days. What more could I ask for? When you’re finished, you will amaze.

My Favorite Socks Ever:

WIPWed #96: Waxing Poetic | Woolen Diversions

BMFA Socks That Rock LW, colorway Gran’s Kitchen. Click for project page.

I call that Ode to My Favorite Socks Ever because hot damn, I love these socks. The yarn is from the March kit of the Rockin’ Sock Club and I’m so glad I traded my May skein for another of this colorway because I could knit with this and only this for the rest of my life and not be sad. That aqua is just the right aqua and that grey is just the right grey and I love how it all looks mixed together with white. It took a little trial and error to find a pattern that looked good with the pooling inherent in hand-dyed yarn of short color repeats, but the stitch pattern in Dalekanium did the trick. I am really just using the stitch pattern, knitting my sock top-down with whatever heel and toe I choose. (That free pattern is very similar to the paid Atlantic Current pattern, as well.) The slipped stitches are simple yet effective and I am really loving this knit.

Colinton Cowl:

WIPWed #96: Waxing Poetic | Woolen Diversions

Colinton Australia Lace, colorway Dove. Click for project page.

I’m also madly in love with my mohair laceweight Myra cowl. The mistake I wrote about last week wasn’t too difficult to fix, it actually wasn’t a dropped stitch but a completely wrong row so a little careful tinking got me back on track with minimal fuss. The fabric this yarn is making doesn’t look like much (yet) but it feels absolutely incredible. I think sometimes mohair gets a bad rap and this yarn in particular feels very much like silk. I’m loving it.

I’m also loving the project bag I keep my cowl in. A friend of mine from the spinner’s guild made it for me and I absolutely adore it. She said it was very simple to make, just a couple of squares sewn together cleverly, but I love how it opens up  nice and wide and fits my straight needles easily. Thanks again, Christine!

Finally, I’m totally loving the show I’m watching while I knit my cowl: The Vampire Diaries. The Fiasco can make fun of me all he wants for watching a show about teenage supernaturals (When do shows about high school kids get old, really? Shouldn’t they be old already? High school wasn’t that exciting!) but that man is one sexy vampire and I can watch him all night long. Ahem. Sorry. I just… sigh.

Reading:

I finished Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety and think that it was a really insightful, important read. Yes, a little depressing, but not in the “this can never be fixed!” way, more in the “why do people allow themselves to get bogged down like this?” way. Have hope! Keep trying! Sign petitions! Write your lawmaker! Don’t lose sight of what’s right! I think it was overall a hopeful book, although it’s full of depressing facts and history. Books that open one’s eyes to ‘why’ and ‘how’ of certain realities of society are really important, even if they aren’t an answer in and of themselves.

I came across a blog post with an excerpt from Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute Of It by Andrea Buchanan. (There’s also a whole Literary Mama blog I just discovered, too. Good break time reading!) The book is a collection of heartfelt/humorous/smart essays written throughout the first 3 years of the author’s daughter’s life. It sets out to chronicle her reaction to motherhood and compares it to culture shock. I thought it was really well done and read the thing in 3 days. Worth it!

Have you read any good books lately? I think it might be time for me to take a break from the motherhood-related books and read something a bit more light-hearted and fictional.

Linking with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesdays.

 

Singles or 2-ply? I’m biased.

After (finally) finishing my Malabrigo Nube yarn last Friday, my wheel was taunting me with its alluringly empty bobbins. “C’mon, what are you going to spin next? I’m ready!” Not counting all the new stuff in the Spinzilla pack from Louet, my fiber stash has somehow blossomed to about 60 lots of fiber… I was overwhelmed by choice.

Single or 2-ply? I'm Biased. | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf BFL/Silk, colorway Eggplant in Ashes.

I eventually settled on some fiber from Bee Mice Elf that was part of the co-op custom order organized on the Completely Twisted and Arbitrary spinning board last year. I have two 4 oz. braids of the lovely stuff and wanted to spin something special… but what?

Singles in progress

Singles in progress

My first thought for this fiber was a lovely, thick, fluffy singles yarn. I chose the largest whorl of the regular flyer and got going. The single wasn’t very thick at all, it was about a light fingering weight thickness, so I plied it into a 2-ply to compare.

Singles yarn (left) and 2-ply (right)

Singles yarn (left) and 2-ply (right)

In truth, I loved the look and feel of the 2-ply a bit better, but  I always gravitate towards thick cushy yarns and have plenty of that in stash already. Many people on Instagram voted for the singles so I decided to swatch to get a better feel for the yarns.

I cast on with size US 6 needles (16 sts for 2-ply, 20 for singles) and knit small stockinette swatches for both yarns. A charming thing happened with the unblocked singles swatch: it biased! This happens in stockinette fabric when there is too much twist in the yarn (it has something to do with the physics of all knit stitches on one side and all purl stitches on the other). To balance an overtwisted yarn, one could:

  • ply the yarn
  • run it back through the wheel in the opposite direction to remove some twist
  • knit a balanced stitch pattern (like garter, ribbing, or seed stitch)
  • block the dickens out of the finished piece to even things out

Or, one could embrace the bias and use it as a design element, as in the new Bias Stripe Wrap pattern from Purl Soho:

Photo copyright Purl Soho. Click for pattern page.

This wrap alternates sections of stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch to highlight the bias in an overtwisted yarn and create the interesting chevron effect with very simple knitting. So now I’m tempted to spin the rest of my singles up in this overtwisted fashion and knit a simple, striking wrap. What would you do?

Decluttering Like A Boss

I tackled my most difficult #KonMarie decluttering session yet over the weekend. It was, in fact, the whole reason I started cleaning stuff up in the first place: my knitting WIPs and notions. I keep most of my knitting needles, notions, and assorted paraphernalia in 2 small plastic drawers and a basket, all of which were crammed tight and overflowing.

All of my WIPs are kept — honestly, all over the place, but theoretically organized in another set of plastic drawers. I had them sorted by year started (which was super depressing) but then shuffled things around into three categories: socks, shawls, and ‘other’ (encompassing mitts, cowls, scarves, a blanket, etc.). And most importantly, I ruthlessly frogged things that no longer sparked joy.

frogged

Which means I spent many, many minutes ripping back, untangling, and winding yarn back up but man it was worth it. You might be thinking, “Oh my, how can she handle ripping back 5 partially-finished pairs of socks?!” Have no fear, I still have 12 sock WIPs hibernating and 2 that I’m actively working on. I do not lack for sock projects. But at least now I know where they all are, what state they’re in, and where the heck all my needles were hiding. (I will soon be destashing a bunch of needles because I apparently just bought more when I couldn’t find some… woops. My yarn destash is still ongoing.)

I have to admit, decluttering feels really good, and it’s helped me re-focus my knitting efforts. I picked up an old sock WIP that had just one leg done that I’d like to finish by Mother’s Day (one of my Second Quarter goals), and I’m already at the heel on both socks. Turns out, socks are super speedy when you actually work on them. WHO KNEW?!

Speaking of actually working on projects, check out my top 5 ways to procrasti-knit over on Stef’s blog!

IS #88: Ways with Wool and Words

I could easily count a dozen people in the virtual knitting world who have had an impact on my love of this thing that we do with some string and a couple of sticks, but amongst the top 5 would certainly be Clara Parkes. In fact, I’ve already written about her for Inspiration Saturday a couple of years ago, when I went into detail about The Knitter’s Book of Socks. Here’s what I wrote, then:

All of the mildly obsessive, detail-oriented patterns of questioning that make me a good scientist were being applied to my knitting and I couldn’t find answers anywhere, until I read Clara’s books. She is a thorough, concise, and engaging writer, and she gets into the knitty gritty details in a way that makes you want to know them all. Her website features weekly reviews of different brands of yarn, tools, and other books that I love reading because I trust her. If I’m about to try a new kind of yarn, I usually check to see if she’s reviewed it first, just to better know what I’m getting myself into.

In addition to yarn, she reviews knit-related events and this week’s newsletter about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival was chock full of inspiration. I’m not going to reiterate the whole thing here, so do check out the newsletter, but below are a few vendors I’ve suddenly become quite interested in (be warned: Clara Parkes’ writing is the epitome of ‘enabling’).

Yarn Undyed USA:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words

Photo copyright YarnUndyed USA. Click for website.

I’ve linked to the USA website in the photo above, but here’s the UK website of the this UK-based company. Their name sums up what they sell: undyed yarn, usually in bunches of 5 skeins, for professional hand-dyers or amateur dabblers. The UK site has a wider range of yarns and fibers available, but the aran-weight BFL wool (pictured above), the alpaca/silk blends, and the 100% yak yarns have also caught my eye.

Eden Cottage Yarns:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words

Photo copyright Eden Cottage Yarns. Click for website.

Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns has been flooding Instagram lately with photos of her booth set up and show prep, but with such gorgeous, pastel shades of hand-dyed yarn, I didn’t mind. Her colorways have a wonderfully gentle, peaceful quality about them and I look forward to trying her yarns at some point, particularly the DK weight superwash Polwarth base, Oakworth (pictured above in the Robin’s Egg colorway).

Laura’s Loom:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Laura’s Loom. Click for website.

The photo gallery of handwoven pieces on Laura’s site is incredibly inspirational, even for someone who does not weave. She weaves and sells a variety of products, from scarves to blankets and housewares, and she sells the locally-sourced yarn that she weaves with, as well. The care with which she sources her wool, produces her yarn, and creates her fabric is evident in her item descriptions, and I really admire that. One of these throws (pictured above) must be mine someday! And I’m pretty sure I could gaze at her landscape gallery for hours.

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Laura’s Loom. Click for website.

Knockando Woolmill:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Knockando Woolmill. Click for website.

Given my total immersion into the Outlander books lately, it’s no surprise that I’m in love with every tartan product on the Knockando Woolmill’s site. Plus, the colors! Glorious colors! As Clara wrote in her newsletter, the mill has been operating since 1784 and has a fascinating history. If I ever make it to Scotland, I’ll be sure to try to work in a visit. In the meantime, I’m doing my best not to purchase that scarf pictured above before I even finish this post.

Feel free to blame Clara Parkes for any impulse buys, that’s what I intend to do! What’s been inspiring you lately?

IS

WIPWed #78: Cables and Lace

Even though my entire weekend was filled to the brim with knitting-related events at Slater Mill’s Knitting Weekend, I feel like I’ve hardly accomplished any knitting this week! Here are the results of my weekend knitting:

Woolen Diversions

Swatches from classes. Ignore how unappealing and unblocked they are.

The top swatch is a mini version of a Shetland-style lace shawl that we worked on during Gudrun Johnston’s Shetland lace class. I have not finished knitting on the border because my needles fell out so I decided I’d gone far enough. Besides, I’ve already knit a couple of shawls that employ a Shetland-style construction: my Aestlight shawl (designed by Gudrun) and my Rock Island shawl (designed by Jared Flood). Both involve garter stitch bodies, lace borders, and edgings knit perpendicularly to the body. It’s a fun way to make a shawl, I recommend giving it a shot! Gudrun has a new Hap shawl class up on Craftsy, too, which I bet is great (check her blog for details).

The bottom swatches show a couple of the textured cables that we talked about in Thea Colman’s Playing with Cables class. This class was super interesting as it had a roundtable discussion / workshop feel to it. She essentially explained her creative process, demonstrated how to start coming up with designs featuring cables, and how to manipulate cables in subtle ways to make them do interesting things. It was really great to get to know Thea a little bit and hear about her process. Plus, now that I’ve seen so many of her designs in person, I’m itching to knit them all.

WIPWed #78: Cables and Lace | Woolen Diversions

VG Zaftig, colorway Kiss of Cabernet. Click for project page.

So I started one. My original plan for this wine-red yarn was a Filemot shawl, but after I started it and messed up the stitch count in the first repeat a few times, the project quickly lost its charm. I also didn’t like the way the yarn felt in all of the twisted stitches. Instead, I cast on Thea’s Tonic Water cowl and am loving it. The lace is simple to work but complex enough to be interesting, and the yarn is creating a beautiful fabric. I’m excited to add the accent color, which will be the pale purple colorway used in my Lucy Hat. (Color coordination makes me stupidly happy, can you tell?) It’s kind of funny that the first Thea pattern I chose to knit involves no cabling at all. However, as the Fiasco noted, the lace in the pattern is essentially cable-shaped (twisting around itself), so there’s that. All in all, I’m psyched about this project. My quarterly goals are intended to fill gaps in wardrobe and/or to use up specific yarns, so swapping out a shawl for a cowl pattern is still playing by the rules in my book. (Also check out my new stitchmarker’s! They’re from Lisa’s new Etsy shop, The Knitting Artist.)

WIPWed #78: Cables and Lace | Woolen Diversions

Instagram bobbin shot.

As for spinning, I’ve been working my way through the final few ounces of the same Falkland wool that I used for my ply experiment. I had 17 oz to begin with, and have just about 5 oz left. All that white wool is starting to feel a little endless, and I’m itching to get some color on the bobbins, but I’m persevering!

I almost forgot to show you my Knitting Weekend loot! I received two skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca (a Rhode Island company!) as a welcome gift, purchased some cute buttons and a hook gauge from a fellow Rhode Island spinner and knitter who runs the Katrinkles Etsy shop, some fun speckly yarn from Julie Asselin that I gave away in a gift swap to a very yarn-worthy friend, a lovely blue-green gradient from Play At Life Fiber Arts, and (last but not least) two gorgeous, undyed skeins of Cormo/Alpaca/Silk DK weight yarn from Foxfire Fiber & Designs. I’ve got ideas brewing for all of these new additions, but I’m really trying to stick to my goals… Sigh. Discipline is the worst!

What have you been working on this week?

IS #85: Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill

Just a quick post today as I was up quite late last night and ungodly early this morning, but I can’t wait to spread the word. There’s only one thing that can get me out of the house prior to 7am on a Saturday morning and that’s the prospect of sitting in a historic mill, surrounded by enthusiastic knitters, learning from talented teachers, with copious yarn fondling to follow.

IS #85: Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill | Woolen Diversions

Trad Arts Studio at Slater Mill!

Last night was the opening reception for the 2015 Knitting Weekend hosted at Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The reception involved wine and snacks, a combined trunk show featuring designs by Thea Colman, Amy Christoffers, Ellen Mason, and Gudrun Johnston, and a wonderfully inspiring talk about Elizabeth Zimmerman and how feminism and domestic arts intertwine in Adrienne Martini‘s life (the author of Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously). Adrienne was a really entertaining and engaging speaker, if you ever have a chance to hear her speak, you should! You should also, obviously, check out the book. I read it some time ago but remember really enjoying it.

There were samples galore to admire. I fell particularly hard for a gorgeous grey lace cowl with a unique yellow garter stripe. As you know, I’m working on a cowl design myself, and I spent lots of time trying to work out how best to hide the join. In Thea Colman’s Tonic Water cowl, she simultaneously hides and highlights the join with a pop of colorful garter stitch. Genius! I suspect that cowl will hit my needles sooner than later.

IS #85: Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill | Woolen Diversions

Weekend Knitting e-book samples.

Best of all, some of the designers teaching this weekend paired up with some local New England yarn vendors to create a collection of really gorgeous patterns that are being sold as an e-book, the sales of which will go to support the restoration and preservation of the mill. Weekend Knitting from Knitting Weekend at Slater Mill features five accessory patterns: a cabled beanie (Sylvanus Brown Hat by Thea Colman), a rustic shawl (Wilkinson Scarf by Amy Christoffers), some cabled mitts (Bridgetruss Mitts by Alicia Plummer), a nifty hooded cowl (Blackstone River Cowl by Ellen Mason), and a simple-yet-stylish infinity scarf (Slater Mill Cowl by Bristol Ivy). The photo above doesn’t do these knits justice, be sure to check out the pattern pages, and if you like them, know that your purchase will go to support the place that is responsible for housing very active knitting and spinning guilds, as well as a variety of traditional arts programming. If I move away from Rhode Island, I think I’ll miss the mill (and the guilds) most of all.

If you live nearby, you should head on down to the mill to check out the free vendor market. The classes are full, but the market is open Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm and will feature lots of local artisans. It’s also a good time to take a tour of the mill, its history is quite fascinating. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some cool stuff to go learn.Yay, knitting weekend!

Have you taken any good classes recently? Are you involved with your local arts community somehow? What’s been inspiring you lately? Let us know in the comments!

Inspiration Saturday at Woolen Diversions

 

 

Ply Experiment

A few weeks ago, I watched Jillian Moreno’s spinning class on #Craftsy called Ply to Knit: Spin the Yarn You Really Want. If you’re not familiar with Jillian, she writes and edits KnittySpin articles as well as a weekly spinning blog post on the Knitty blog. I enjoy her writing and her spinning very much, so when Craftsy had a sale I figured I’d give the class a try.

Screenshot from Craftsy.

Screenshot from Craftsy.

I don’t intend this post to be a thorough review of the class, but I will say that I probably would have been a little disappointed if I had paid full price for it. I think Jilllian is a great teacher and I love the Craftsy platform, I just don’t think there was enough material in the class that I didn’t already know for me to feel it worth the money. I would recommend it for an absolute beginning spinner. As a very beginner, or as someone who has only spun on spindles and just started on a wheel, it is always worthwhile to watch someone else’s spinning technique. You will invariably pick up little tricks and tips you never thought of if you are primarily self-taught. If you’ve never plied singles together before, the class will likely provide lots of little lightbulb moments all at once. Since I’ve been spinning for three years now (how did that happen?!) and I’m a voracious reader of spinning-related books, blogs, boards, and magazines, not much in the class was news to me. At one point, I thought she was going to start getting into some of the more unusual ways to ply yarns (for art yarns and such), but then she stopped and implied that those topics were for another class.

Ply Experiment | Woolen Diversions

Three bobbins of Falkland wool, ready to ply.

There was, however, one excellent nugget of information that I gleaned from the class, my own personal aha! moment that inspired this post. I’ve sometimes been underwhelmed by my handspun, feeling that some skeins lacked the oomph that other lovely skeins had, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why or what was different. I plied them to the point where they seemed balanced, I did the same to one skein as I did to another, but I didn’t really pay close attention to exactly what I was doing. This class taught me that the secret to great yarn is in the plying twist.

Ply Experiment | Woolen Diversions

(L to R): Ply 1, Ply 2, and Ply 3

You see, I knew that handspun skeins lost some twist after finishing, but I didn’t really understand how much, nor did I know how to tell how much twist was enough to add in the first place. Jillian does an excellent job demonstrating how to detect the amount of plying twist you are adding, and how to get a feel for when enough is enough. So I conducted a small experiment to see what difference the amount of plying twist really made in the finished yarn. I used the same Falkland wool singles for a all three 3-ply yarn samples (spun Z twist on a 8:1 ratio whorl), and I changed the ply twist as follows for each one:

  • Ply 1: ply ratio = 8:1 (same whorl), treadles per length = 5
  • Ply 2: ply ratio = 8:1 (same whorl), treadles per length = 3-4 (roughly alternated)
  • Ply 3: ply ratio = 6:1 (larger whorl), treadles per length = 4-5 (roughly alternated)

By adjusting how many times you treadle before you allow a set length of yarn (whatever is comfortable and consistent for you) wind onto the bobbin, you are adjusting the amount of ply twist that enters the yarn. You also adjust the amount of ply twist by changing your whorl or drive ratio, which determines how much twist energy is inserted with each treadle (higher ratio/smaller whorl = more twist, while lower ratio/larger whorl = less twist). Ply 1 seemed to have way too much ply twist, while ply 2 (not pictured above) had too little with 3 treadles per length, but too much with 4. So I lowered the ratio and aimed for roughly 4 to 5 treadles per length, which resulted in the nice easy loop on plyback that looked just about right, and this amount of twist is what I used for plying the rest of my singles.

I then took a series of notes and measurements about the different yarns. I measured wraps per inch (WPI), which helps classify the thickness of the yarn, and yards per pound (YPP), which you can think of as a measure of the density (or grist) of yarn. In the photo gallery above (hover for captions or click for closeups), you’ll notice that the sample strand for Ply 3 (to the right) is much longer than for Ply 1 or Ply 2. Those samples were strands that were cut until they balanced out on a McMorran Yarn Balance (one way to measure YPP). The Ply 3 strand is longer because the scale could hold a longer length before it balanced out, meaning that yarn had a much higher YPP. (Translation: you could spin more yardage out of a pound of wool at this grist because it is a thinner, less dense yarn.) I used a chart from an old issue of Spin-Off to help determine what the knitting weight was (classifications are not very standardized at all so it differs by source) but another chart you could use is here. The stats:

  • Singles: WPI = 25, YPP = 2,350, knitting weight = laceweight to fingering
  • Ply 1: WPI = 9 -10, YPP = 525, knitting weight = aran to bulky
  • Ply 2: WPI = 10, YPP = 625, knitting weight = aran
  • Ply 3: WPI = 10 – 11, YPP = 900, knitting weight = worsted
Ply Experiment | Woolen Diversions

Swatches, pre-blocking.

While the changes in measurements were subtle for WPI, I was a little shocked at how big of a difference small tweaks in the number of treadles per length or the size of the whorl made in the YPP measurements, or the grist of the yarn. More ply twist (Ply 1) lead to a thicker, denser, chunkier yarn while less (Ply 3) resulted in a thinner, fluffier, more pliable yarn. I commenced swatching each yarn on size US 8 needles in a variety of stitches.

From a distance, the swatches don’t look all that different and their stitch gauges were practically identical, but you’ll have to trust me that they each felt different to knit. Ply 3 (which I knit first) was delightful in every way: fluffy, soft, smooth, and it produced a cohesive, fluid fabric in all stitch patterns. Ply 2 was distinctly beefier than Ply 3, it was a tad thicker and denser and it felt it, but it had a pleasant ‘toothy’ feel to it and I could see adding a little extra ply twist to purposefully make an extra spring-y yarn. Ply 1 was the least pleasant to knit with, I would have wanted to go up a needle size to relax the knitting process. If you look closely, you might notice that the extra ply twist is much more visible in the stitches of Ply 1, making the fabric as a whole look less smooth. The extra twist created great 3D relief in the seed stitch sections, but is somewhat less desirable in the stockinette and garter stitches.

Conclusion: You could certainly not pay much attention to your plying and get a fairly serviceable yarn in the end. However, I did find that checking for the right amount of ply twist (and actually counting my treadles!) produced a yarn I enjoyed knitting with the most. From a practical standpoint, plying ‘properly’ also produced a heck of a lot more yardage than I would’ve obtained from overplying my singles: 375 extra yards per pound of fiber, in fact. Finally, while the stitch gauge or swatch appearance didn’t change much when using the same size needles, the thickness of the yarn and the feel of the fabric certainly did. All in all, I will certainly be paying closer attention to my ply twist in the future and I’m excited to explore its effects further.

If you spin, how do you usually ply your yarn? Do you keep track of how much twist your adding?