I Have a Cunning Plan!

At last – and with two days to spare – I have a plan for my Spintentional Spinalong yarn!

As I promised in my last post, I took the time to re-make the third sample for my upcoming spinlaong. This third sample was a three-ply yarn from three separate spindles, rather than my default chain-ply.

Unfortunately, I got the same results as my previous attempt. One spindle ran out yarn before the other two, which resulted in a lot of wasted fiber.

Once again, the thee-ply approach wastes yarn
Once again, the thee-ply approach wastes yarn

(I used entirely different spindles on my second attempt at the three-ply yarn, so I couldn’t blame FNG for the unfortunate results if the sample went wrong again. Which it did.)

But the sample gave me what I needed: the certainty that the three-ply option was the wrong one for me. Here are the two samples together—chain-ply on the left and regular three-ply on the right.

Chain-ply sample
Chain-ply sample
Three-ply sample
Three-ply sample

Here’s a closer comparison of the two samples.

Suitability for LaceEqually suitableEqually suitable
Wraps Per Inch (Approx.)1616
Grist113 yards per ounce,
i.e., less dense
94 yards per ounce,
i.e, more dense
Color QualityMore clearly definedMore blended
Amount of WasteMore efficient use of singlesLess efficient use of singles
Total Yardage (Estimated)453 yards378 yards
Fiber Preparation NeededNo prep neededBraid must be split into thirds lengthwise
Other FactorsChain-ply “lump” in finished yarnMuch easier to ply

Let’s go through the considerations, one by one.

Suitability for Lace. Both samples are three-ply, so neither is inherently more suitable for lace than the other.

Wraps Per Inch (Approx.). We previously established that wraps per inch can be a matter of interpretation. A highly motivated spinner could pack more wraps into an inch’s worth of space, or there may be a lot of subjectivity as to whether they think the yarn is closer to the “16” or “24” w.p.i. groove on a control card. But both of my samples were relatively similar, as far as the yarn thickness goes.

Grist. I am still learning about grist, but what I can tell is this: 113 yards per ounce (the chain-ply) is less dense than 94 yards per ounce (the regular three-ply). That said, I suspect that the difference in density is more “spinner error” than an actual feature of either a chain- or three-ply yarn. Either way, for a garment as small as a smoke ring, grist won’t matter…hopefully. For a sweater or dress, that extra weight could add up into a garment that is cumbersome to wear.

Color Quality. Given the dynamic colors of my braid, the plying approach could really change the look of the finished knitted garment. The chain-ply provides crisp, clean colors, while the regular three-ply offers muted, blended shades. Oh, and while we’re talking about colors, here is a photo of the second Targhee Fossil Fibers braid laid out in the color order I plan for the smoke ring.

My new targhee braid for this spinalong
My new Targhee braid for this spinalong

Amount of Waste. Whoops. With all the previous considerations, I had no strong preference between either the chain-ply or the three-ply. Even with the color comparison, I could go either way. While I generally prefer the “cleaner” colors of the chain-ply over the marled colors of the three-ply, in this case I could see either option as being attractive for the cowl. But I have a strong preference when it comes to how much fiber might be wasted. I only have four ounces. I only have 28 days to spin. Okay, neither of those are hard and fast limits. I have over three ounces left of the original braid; plus, I could spin into March if needed to get the yardage to knit the smoke ring. But it will be so much easier and simpler, if I stick with the chain-ply approach to maximize my yardage.

Total Yardage (Estimated). Note this estimated yardage is basted on grist alone, not the amount of waste. The actual number could be very different for either approach. For instance, when you start the singles yarn on a supported spindle, there is often a bit of uneven, lumpy yarn at the very beginning. (Or maybe that’s just me.) I often discard these extra bits while plying, which shortens the overall yardage. Luckily, if I appear to be short on yarn, I could always just make a shorter cowl!

Fiber Preparation Needed. This seals the deal. One of these two options is MUCH easier to prep. They both need the colors flipped so the green is outside and the yellow/orange rests in the middle… spoiler alert, I already did that step, as you can see in the photo above. But the three-ply would require me to split the whole braid into very even thirds down its entire length. Talk about tedious! I could spend the next few days fussing with that task. Or I could just mark the braid in sixths (to make sure no one spindle ends up overloaded) and rest my fingers for Wednesday.

Other Factors. In the “last and maybe least” category, here are two other considerations about chain-ply versus three-ply. One: a chain-plied yarn will form lumps in the finished yarn where the singles fold back on themselves in the chaining process.

Chain plying forms a lump where the singles yarn folds back on itself
Chain plying forms a lump where the singles yarn folds back on itself

I mentioned this previously when discussing how to plan for a gradient spin. Which this spin technically is. Again. Because somehow gradients seem to be what I spin most. Not everyone is a fan of these lumps, but I haven’t really noticed them in any of my knitted projects from handspun. Probably because I rarely ever knit my handspun!

Second: it is just a fact that a chain-ply is more of a pain than a regular old three-ply. Even if you make a chain-ply ball first, separating the mechanics of chaining from the business of plying, it’s still more complicated and involved than just plying from three (or six, for the whole braid) different spindles.

But…I’ll waste singles if I don’t chain ply.

And it’s so fiddly to separate a four ounce braid into three equal parts lengthwise.

Heck, chain-ply it is! Maybe I’ll try the regular three-ply for the hypothetical future fingerless mittens, when time and yardage are less of a factor than the upcoming spinalong.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.