Cintamani Socks : spin the yarn

by Lori Law

The thing I try to determine, before I spin anything I would like to spin, is what the fibre would do best as, spun up, and what the make up of the fibre (in this case, Finn wool) would be suitable for.

Looking at the intensely coloured roving from Two If By Hand’s Secret Circus Club from 2011, named Over the Top, I couldn’t imagine using it for anything other than socks.  A hat, or mittens, perhaps; but socks called to me.  And, Finn, being a strikingly resilient fibre with some crimp and long stapes, would work fine for socks, so long as it was spun with enough twist to resit wearing, but also avoiding over-twisted wiry yarn which could result, given Finn is generally very forgiving and spins up like butter with not much in the way of noils or other catchy bits.

So, then, what to do in terms of splitting the roving for spinning?  As much as I can sometimes be on the neurotic side when working up designs and bringing visualizations into reality (ie. it’s not unheard of for me to rip a sock design 4 or 5 times, even from completed samples, because it just doesn’t hit the spot as I had wished) I try to let some of that go when deciding how to spin something in particular.  I often wind up spinning on more than one or two projects at a time, so I usually use a system which is fairly fool-proof (in my mind, and it seems to work most times).

Most of all, I keep notes which document things like what I’m about to mention, so if I find myself returning to something months later (like I did, indeed, with this spinning project) I can pick up where I left off and carry on.

Firstly, I decide how many plies I will be spinning.  For two plies, I divide the roving in half by folding it lengthwise in half, end to end.  Then, I separate the roving into two separate pieces across the folded section.  I determine which end of each piece will spin more easily by giving each of the four ends a mild tug, and, once this has been decided, I roll the roving into a snail-like ball, with the end I would like to end the spinning with in the centre and the beginning end to the outside of this ball.  I then place each into its own separate storage bag, mark one of them as #1 and the other as #2 (or 3, etc.).  Then, I note what I want to do with #1 and what I want to do with #2 in my notebook.

In the case of this roving, I’d planned to take (and did actually take section #1 with me to New Mexico, in the fall of 2011, and because of this, I decided before beginning to spin, I would be spinning the singles on the Victoria (which I managed to get through several security checks in a suitcase padded with all of my clothing and most of the knitting/roving I’d also lugged along with me.  [One security guard asked if it was a steering wheel which I thought was probably more implausible than a spinning wheel, but I could be wrong].  And, when I arrived in New Mexico with a partially-full bobbin of singles for ply #1, I carried right on from where I’d left off.  Specifically (I know this, because I make a note for #1 and a note for #2 in my notebook) I split #1 down the centre, lenthwise, so I had two narrower strips, and wound them both into snail-like balls so I knew which end I was spinning from.  I spun both of these end to end.

Next, onto section #2 (which I began after I returned home from my trip to the southwest).  Section two was split into 4 narrower lengthwise strips, which were spun end to end.

Basically #2’s colour changes happened twice as fast down the length as those in section #1, which I hoped would lend a liveliness to the yarn while keeping the overall feel of the roving less intense than if I’d spun both sections identically.  It also lends a uniformness to a yarn with a lot of intense colour because the colours themselves are spread throughout the full length rather than being deeply concentrated in long sections which are slower to transition.

This is a form of fractal spinning, a little less intensely planned than some fractal spinning is.

I also, do not, when spinning for socks, expect to have identical twins at the end of knitting.  This is part of the charm and enjoyment of knitting with colourful handspun from rovings.  If you are not someone who can abide fraternally-twinned socks, I suggest you try Kristy Howell’s method of developing identical socks using handspun, the article which you can find here.

When spinning a 2ply yarn for socks, I generally follow a method similar to what I illustrated in this article, in terms of grist and while I am spinning up the singles, I use the principle of spinning ‘spaghetti‘ (yes, really), because, to me, two spaghetti singles = fingering-weight yarn when plied.

So, there it is.  Very straightforward and a not too fussy way to spin up some lively yarn for a fun pair socks.

Technical details

469 yds [428 m] in 4 oz [113 g]; spun worsted (forward draw) on a medium whorl with a fairly steady draw-in (for the singles, to preserve a little loft) and plied on the smallest whorl available with a steady draw-in, but also wanting to preserve some of the twist in the final yarn, 12 tpi, plied.  27 wpi (plied).  About 1712 ypp.

Photos © Lori Law.

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