Friday, 28 October 2011

The Basics: Making Yarn

I found it rather difficult trying to teach myself to make yarn. There are so many options, quite a selection of tools you can use and an endless variety of fibres. The terminology that comes with yarn design is a whole other thing. So I've decided to write this post about my preferences in materials and equipment, along with some new images of my latest yarn. After all, I did find reading tips and hints from other blogs extremely helpful while I was learning the basics.

This post is mainly to show the whole process from fibre to finished yarn. I will be posting some more detailed tutorials on the individual sections soon.

Here is a rough idea of the process:

Select your fibres. 
Personally, I find that merino is a good choice purely for the vast selection of colours available and it is soft and easy to spin with. In this blend I have used 70% red corriedale and 15% each of purple and green merino. Corriedale tends to be a little bit rougher than merino, but the fibres are a bit longer too.

It is important to prepare your fibres properly. You can do this by either using a hand carder (as shown in the middle image below) or with a drum carder. Hand carders are often a better option because they are transportable, small, and they are easy to use for blending smaller amounts of fibres together. A drum carder is much more suitable for preparing larger amounts of fibre in one go (up to 50 grams or 100 grams depending on the model). You can find out how to use carders HERE. The reason for hand carding is to produce rolags (as shown in the right image below) which are then used for spinning.

Now we are ready for spinning!

It is very easy to be lazy and only create singles when spinning yarn (instead of plying two singles together to make a plied yarn). Plied yarns are stronger and the twist on the yarn is an attractive feature. The left image below shows singles on the bobbin and the middle shows a full bobbin of 2 ply yarn. To work the yarn into a skein you can use a niddy noddy

Setting the twist.
Now the yarn is tied at a few points to prevent it from getting tangled. The twist in the yarn is set by placing it in a basin of warm water and a small amount of wool wash (not too hot - you don't want the heat to felt it!). After letting it soak for 10 minutes, excess water is removed by gently squeezing the yarn and wrapping it in a dry towel. I hang my drying yarn over part of my shower and normally add a small weight (I use a shower gel bottle with a big hook) to keep it straight so the yarn isn't crinkly. Once your yarn is completely dry you can twist it into a skein.

And that's it! You can add your new yarn to your stash or unwind it to begin knitting. 

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