Sunday, December 2, 2012

Art Yarn 101: Thick and Thin

I've been making my way through Jacey Boggs' book, Spin Art: Mastering the Craft of Spinning Textured Yarn, one project at a time.  We've done the Racing Stripe and the Auto Wrap.  Next up--Thick and Thin.  

Which is exactly what I spun (right?) when I sat down at the wheel lo those many months ago (eleven) in the middle of Biltmore Square Mall during the Friends & Fiberworks Winter Retreat, which, by the way, is coming round again January 18-20, 2013.  I took a 2 hour workshop with the lovely Julie Wilson of Jehovah Raah Farm.  I wouldn't exactly call it spinning, what I did that day.  It was more like cramming fiber into the orifice and twisting it up in bunches of fat and skinny loops and then joking at the end of the workshop about how it was "art yarn."  Not even close.

But you have to start somewhere and keep practicing your craft, and eventually you get to the point where you've got some mastery over the technique.  Once you have mastery over the material and the technique, then you can begin manipulating the material in more creative ways with intention.  Intention is the key.  Without that, it's just an accident.  Sometimes accidents are happy.  But I'm never fully satisfied with happy accidents unless they sing in harmony with the rest of the composition.  

To spin harmonious and well balanced thick and thin yarn, start with a shorter staple fiber like merino.  Short staple is important to the structure, because when you do a little wrist flip to draft out the thick part, you want to see where to pinch it at the end of the fiber.  You trap those ends in the thin part, and voila!  Yarn that has structure and will knit up into a textural masterpiece.

I had Romney fiber on hand, which I'd dyed in my new colorway, High Desert.  Romney staple may be a little long, and the first bobbin was definitely over twisted and pretty kinky.  Got the hang of it, though, by the end of my batch.  Have a look...

The wrist twist
This is how I hold my hand while spinning the thin section.

Then you pinch and turn you hand/wrist as if turning a key in a lock 
to draft out the thick section.

And here is a swatch, knit on US 10 1/2 needles.  I just love the texture of all those bumpy slubs.  I'm thinking hat or cowl.  Something simple to show off the yarn.

What I would change

I would spin my thin sections a little shorter to give more balance to the thick and thin sections in the finished yarn.  I would spin this yarn on my plying head in order to accommodate more yarn on the bobbing and to get all those fat slubs through the orifice more easily.  

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