Thanks for the suggestions on shawls. Several of you suggested Folk Shawls, and frankly, I'm surprised I don't own it. I'll definitely check it out.

Making the Happy Things list yesterday was harder than I thought. But here's an easy one for today:

Happy thing 1: I've met some really great folks through my blog and I really appreciate that. When I started blogging I read about people who made all these friends through blogging and I thought, that sounds cool, how do I get that? It doesn't come overnight. But when you realize it's happened, it's pretty darned groovy.

Enough with the happy mushy talk. Let's talk fiber.

I hope I didn't build up the silk thing too much. I've just had a lot of fun with it and have been impatient to show what I've been working on and get some feedback.

For months now I've been wanting to spin silk singles, similar to the Tilli Thomas silk, or ArtYarns Regal Silk. I bought a bunch of handdyed Interlacements silk top on eBay. I started playing.

loverly Interlacements silk
pretty Interlacements silk top

I spun 2 samples, ~1 oz each, using regular short draw, and spinning from the fold.

Prep

For short draw, I gently predrafted to unstick the fibers. No length-wise splitting. The top looks like the pink end in the photo above.

For the fold, here's how I used to do it:

I would grasp the end, put my other hand further than a fiber length apart and pull:

how I used to pull a fiber length

This method results in pulling off more than a fiber length. With other fibers, as I spun, sometimes I would have "holes" in my fold (if you've done this, you know what I mean).

The way I do it now takes a smidge longer, but is worth the effort and pretty much eliminates the "holes". I learned it from Barbara C-V at my spinning lesson.

I grasp the very end of the top with my thumb and first finger, put my other hand just beyond a fiber length, and pull:

how I now pull a fiber length

The pulled portion is a fiber length long, but not as thick as the full top.

a fiber length pulled

so I place this atop the top so the ends line up, and pull again:

placing the fiber length over the top

and repeat two or three times to get a thicker bunch:

several pulled lengths

Here's the next bunch:

another batch of pulled lengths

As you can see, this method allows for cool color blending to take place. You'll be able to see this in the knitted swatches.

Spinning

I believe conventional spinning wisdom states that spun singles should not have more than a 28 degree angle of twist. I don't have a spinning protractor to measure that, but I'm working on it. Meanwhile, I eyeballed it.

I really struggled spinning short draw. The three things that made it hard for me were:

  • the longer fiber length (6-8") made it harder to maintain an even thickness
  • it was really hard to draft fast enough to maintain low twist in the singles
  • my natural instinct was to spin finer than I wanted; I'm either used to spinning finer or I'm used to thinking in terms of 2 plies

Bottom line: I just need to practice. I improved as I went, but the first stuff is a lot thinner and you can definitely see it in the knitted swatches.

Spinning from the fold, on the other hand, was pretty smooth. The only concern I had was that, in order to effectively spin from the fold, I had to allow more twist. It shows in the yarn and the swatch. It doesn't appear to bias the swatch, though. 

The main difficulty I had was the long fiber length. Occasionally the fibers would get twisted up or the long ends would get caught. I learned to keep the ends out of the way.

Oh yeah, also, I spun the wheel in the "plying" direction. Since most yarns are spun with Z twist and then plied in the opposite direction, I figured I'd skip the Z twist step and spin in the opposite direction, ie, with S twist. As it turns out, ArtYarns Regal Silk has a Z twist, so I think I overthought that one.

On the bobbin:

silk singles: short draw and from the fold
top: from the fold; bottom: short draw

Notice there are more mixed color portions in the from the fold yarn. Also, the from the fold yarn looks more sturdy.

The yarn

As I wound the short draw singles off the bobbin and onto a niddy noddy, I worried the yarn would break. It definitely felt more delicate so I was more gentle (and stressed) with it. I also noticed it had much more of a halo.

Yardage-wise, I ended up with ~80 yards of short draw singles, and ~90 yards from the fold.

Skeinlets:

loverly silk singles
top: from the fold; bottom: short draw

Are ya getting used to the green picnic table yet?

What? You want a close up?

silk singles close up

Tomorrow I'll talk about and show you the knitted swatches!