Celebration 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.

spinning roving in bright colours

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 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 I think is fairly fool-proof (in my mind, at least).

MAKE NOTES Most of all, I keep notes for documenting 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.

DECIDE HOW MANY PLIES 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 starting end on the outside of this ball.  I then place each ball into its own separate storage bag, mark 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, unless I am simply spinning from one end to the other.

DIVIDE THE ROVING FOR EACH PLY 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 this 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 without comment until 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 because I knew what I was doing and had notes. :)  For this spin, I split #1 down the centre, lenthwise, so I had two narrower strips, and wound them both into their own snail-like balls.  I spun both of these narrow strips 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 and balls, which were again 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 with some quicker colour changes, while keeping some overall longer colour changes, which will create some marled sections in the yarn.  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 but is a little less intensely planned than some fractal spinning is where colour changes are strictly manged in a particular order and intensity.

THESE ARE NOT TWINS I also, do not, when spinning for socks, expect to have two identical socks at the end of knitting.  This is part of the charm and enjoyment of knitting with colourful handspun from rovings, IMO.  If you prefer matchy matching socks, you’ll need to search around for a more formal method of fractal spinning to create identical skeins of yarn.

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, using my visual system, 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.

hand spun Finn sock yarn

Technical details

469 yds [428 m] in 4 oz [113 g]; spun forward-worsted on a medium whorl set at high speed (to avoid overtwisting and keeping the singles light and airy) and plied on the smallest whorl available. 12 tpi, plied.  27 wpi (plied).  About 1712 ypp.

Photos © Lori Law.

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