Part Four: Spinning

This is the part where I find out if I should have dyed my wool before carding or if I was right to do it after and, well, I was wrong.  This time.  So I’ve re-carded it all  and am ready to start spinning.

Like carding, there are many ways to spin yarn, and many many many different kinds of yarn to make.  You can use a spindle (top or bottom whorl, supported, Navajo . . .) or a charkha (what Gandhi used) or a spinning wheel (Saxony, castle, modern, single or double treadle . . .).  Heck, you can even use a plain old rock if you’re patient and particularly desperate.  I’ve done it, just to see if I could.  As for types of yarn, there are more of them than there are tools to spin with.  Thick or thin (or both), woollen or worsted, plied or not, long or short draw, potential decorative elements, all these things and more contribute to what properties the yarn you end up with have.

My spinning wheel is a Louet Victoria, a double-treadle folding travel wheel.  Which is perfect for me because I live in a small basement suite, so when I’m not spinning I can just fold it up and stash it away somewhere.  Or on nice days I can go and spin in the park.


My Spinning Wheel

For this project, I’m not going to be too picky about how I spin.  I’m going to knit the tea cozy in the round (no seams!) and then felt it, so in the finished product you’re not going to see much of the actual yarn itself.  I’m going to a relatively thick (though I generally spin thin, so it won’t be true ‘bulky’ yarn), and probably just single ply.  Although depending on my success with the making the yarn thickish, I might ply it anyways to thicken it up, so the tea actually stays cozy.

Step One: Spin.  See video.  The carding one was too much fun, I wanted to do another.  Plus it’s almost impossible to describe how to spin, even with pictures to help.

Step One-and-a-half: Ply.  This would be step two, if I was doing it, but I’m not, so I’m just putting it here in case you’re wondering when it happens.  A brief explanation of plying:  Spin approximately the same amount onto two bobbins.  Spin the two parts (plies) together, spinning the opposite way.  If the singles were spun clockwise, ply counter-clockwise.  Ta da!  You now have a 2-ply yarn.

Step Two: Make a skein.  Using a skein winder, niddy-noddy, a swift, or your friend’s arms, wind the skein off the bobbin and into a nice long loop.  Like a coiled up extension cord.

Making a skein

Making a skein

Step Three: Set the twist.  When the skein is removed from the skein-making device, it will sproing and twist around all over itself, which is kind of inconvenient, and also causes problems when it comes to actually using the yarn.  Knitting, for example, particularly with energized singles (not plied and twist not set) make the knitting slant off to one side, instead of gong straight up.  So you have to set the twist.  To do this, fill a sink/bowl with lukewarm water, and soak the skein for a while (I usually do at least 20 minutes).  As with dyeing, a squirt of soap at this point will help the water penetrate all the way through.  Once it’s thoroughly wetted, take the skein out, squeeze out the excess water, and hang to dry.  It will drip, so over a sink or bathtub is usually a good idea.  It depends a bit on the weight of the yarn, but I usually find it dries if I leave it overnight.

And now we’re all set for Part Five:  Knitting!  Well, almost.  First there’s Part 5a:  Swatching and then part 5b:  Designing the Pattern.  So I guess knitting is actually Part Seven.

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