During the month of October, 2022, I hosted a “fiber prep” spinalong on the Spanish Peacock Flock Facebook group. (There are more spinalongs being planned, if you want to join in the future fun!)
If you missed the background for this spinalong, you can read it in my previous post. But I will summarize a few key elements here. My goal was to turn a long braid of color like this…
…into much smaller repeats of color, like this.
In fact, I decided divide each of those lunch meat tubs of color in half, for 24 separate chunks of fiber, each weighing about 0.2 oz. I wanted a yarn that once chain-plied would feature four color repeats, like the transitions represented in the digital image below.
Why? I discovered during our first spinalong of the year—a “gradient”-themed event—that I find long gradients of color to be B-O-R-I-N-G. Boring to spin, boring to ply, boring to knit. You might have thought I’d have learned that lesson during my never-ending Tour De Fleece 2020 spin. And yet.
I also decided the fiber needed a little something more. Hence, the addition of sparkle from Mylar glitz.
One question I struggled with: how much fiber to sparkle? It was hard to find a definitive answer. Most sources I consulted generally agreed sparkle (whether Mylar glitz, Angelina, Stellina, etc.) should be used sparingly, but failed to offer specific quantities. They also suggested putting the sparkle down on the blending board first, so it can be seen on the outside of the rolag. So I draped a few glittering bits across the teeth of the board and then the wool-solk blend over top, 1/24th of the braid at a time.
But how would the Mylar glitz impact the drape and texture of the finished yarn? I know, I know—I should have knitted a swatch test to make sure the ratio of Mylar to fiber, combined with my intended spinning and plying approaches, produced a yarn I would actually use. (Who am I kidding? I rarely use any of my yarn!) I did, in fact, blend and spin sample rolags, but ran out of time to ply or knit swatches before the official start of the spinalong. In the future, I will budget more sampling time before the start of a project.
I decided to spread the 24 chunks of fiber across six supported spindles, resulting in approximately 0.8 oz of fiber per spindle. For my hand strength, this was an ideal weight. I know some spinners can wind an enormous amount of yarn onto one spindle, but not me!
The best part of this spinalong is that rolags are so easy to spin! I was making great progress and by day 4, I was already onto my second supported spindle.
Yes, all the spindles matched or otherwise coordinated with the fiber. But you expected that from me, didn’t you?
During the month, I decided to blend the rolags as I needed them rather then prepping them all at once. This turned out to be a smart choice, because by day 6, I realized smaller rolags were easier for me to handle while spinning. I modified my approach to use a more narrow strip of the blending board surface. I also created three rolags from the the 0.2 oz of fiber, instead of just two.
NOTE: Mike had to sand the dowels smooth for me to prevent the rolags from snagging on the wood when I tried to slide the rolags off. Some artists use plastic knitting needles instead of wood dowels. Unfortunately, when I tried this approach, I couldn’t squeeze the two knitting needles together tightly enough to pull the fiber off the blending board.
I also found that if I put the Mylar glitz on the bottom layer of the blended fiber—as instructed by the Internet experts—it didn’t stay mixed very well with the rest of the fiber as I spun it. So I also adjusted my blending process to put a small layer or the wool-silk blend on the blending board first, then spatter glitz across the board, then continue layering until all the fiber was on the board. The glitz still tried to escape the rolags while spinning, but not so dramatically.
By day 22 of the spinalong, I only had two spindles’ worth of fiber left to fill!
And then I made two tragic mistakes that brought my progress to an abrupt halt.
Mistake one: I noticed that with the purpleheart Russian (second from the left in the photo above), I formed a football-shaped cop easily and naturally. All my cops for whorled supported spindles tend to be simple cylinders. (Even when I wind extremely fancy cops.) So, I decided to try winding a football on the upside-down Bob, spindle #5 (far left), on purpose. This required extra concentration, which slowed down my spinning. People who intentionally wrap specific-shaped cops tend to be passionate about the subject. But to be honest, I did not notice any difference in the spindle’s physics that I could attribute to the football shape that made it worth the extra time it took for me to build.
Mistake two: for the sixth and final spindle, I opted for a Turkish spindle. Forward momentum screeched to a stop, because a Turk begs for a fancy cop, called a “turtle” for the shape it makes. Wrapping a turtle is a very meditative, deliberate, and slow process.
Why the Turk? I had one more coordinating spindle—a Spanish Peacock Tibetan with a purpleheart shaft—but it still carried fiber from a previous spin. Why did I clear the previous singles yarn off the Turk but not the Tibetan? I couldn’t remember, but I decided interrupting the current spin to ply a previous one would cost me too much time. In retrospect, this may have been a poor choice. That sixth spindle took forever!
I finally finished the fiber prep spin a few days after the official end of the spinalong on October 31st. This is still a remarkable spinning accomplishment for me—4.8 oz of fiber on six spindles in 35 days.
How will the yarn turn out? Stay tuned! Although it may be a while, because I firmly believe in letting the singles rest. A long time. Sometimes as much as two years, like my aforementioned Tour de Fleece 2020 project!