Notes on spinning and plying

Spinning 

Spinning is twisting fibres together to make a single spun yarn (singles). All sorts of fibres can be spun, but generally speaking, the longer each fibre is (it’s staple length), the easier it is to spin into a yarn. Singles yarn, especially those with more twist tangle back on themselves, and do not usually make good knitting yarns. They are weaker, and will produce a knitted fabric that lies crooked (bias).

When a yarn is spun, the twist of the fibres can only go in one direction, either ‘S’ or ‘Z’ . ‘S’ is is when the yarn wraps like the central diagonal of the ‘S’ and ‘Z’ is the opposite direction, when the wrap follows the central line of the ‘Z’ opposite. On a drop spindle, ‘S’ is created by the spindle being spun anticlockwise, and ‘Z’ is produced when the spindle is spun clockwise. On a spinning wheel the direction is controlled by the direction of the wheel itself.

Plying is twisting two or more yarns together so that they make one, thicker yarn. It is done for various reasons; it will balance single spun yarns and prevent bias twist, it creates a thicker yarn, it adds strength to delicate yarns, and it combines different colours and textures for aesthetic results and can be used to produce a combination of these results.

When yarns are plyed, they should be twisted together in the opposite direction from their original direction of spin, e.g. two ‘S’ spun yarns would be plyed in the ‘Z’ direction.

You can ply your own single spun yarn or make thicker and decorative yarn by plying commercial yarns together.

Decorative effects to try: threading beads/sequins onto one strand, using a fancy and plain yarn, twisting singles and then twisting them again with commercial yarns in the opposite direction to the first twist (cable plying).

Method 1: When plying the same yarn together. Wind a centre pull ball using a ball winder and taking the yarn from both centre and outside ball, ply them together on a spindle.

Method 2: When plying the same, or two different yarns together. Wind the two ends of singles (or commercial yarn) together into a double ended ball, tie the end to the spindle and off you go.

Method 3: Andean Plying. Can be used in either of the above situations.

 Step 1: Hold your left palm facing you with the fingers splayed.

Step 2: With your right hand, take the end of the yarn, and tuck it into your watch band, sleeve, or hold it under your thumb. Do not lose this end!

Step 3: Take the yarn left around the the back of your wrist.

*Step 4: Bring it across the back of your wrist to the right side of your wrist

Step 5: Then take it left across your palm and around your middle finger from left to right.

Step 6: Next take it back around your wrist from right to left.

Step 7: Take the yarn to the right across your palm, and around your middle finger from right to left, then back to the left side of your wrist *

Repeat from * to *

Step 8: When all the yarn is wrapped around your hand, and making sure you don’t lose either end, slip the ring of yarn off your middle finger and twist the whole bracelet of yarn around your wrist so that this ring is on the back of your wrist.

If you need to take a break now, slip the main bracelet onto something like a toilet roll centre, being very careful to keep the ends visible.

Put the bracket back on your wrist. Once it is on your wrist keep your fingers splayed to prevent it slipping off whilst plying. Tie the two ends to the spindle or leader and start the spindle off. Use your fingers to feed the yarn evenly and control the amount of twist travelling up the yarns as you do when spinning.

 

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4 ends of commercial yarn being plied using the Andean method. Finally it is wound into a hank. It could just be wound onto ball for knitting, but if a bit lively it may need to be hanked, steamed and hung before making into a ball.
This is a downloadable pdf of this page. Please note that you are welcome to print this for personal use, but it must not be  reproduced or distributed. Plying  

 

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Hand made drop spindles

I will be running a hand-spinning workshop with the first year knitters next week. We have a couple of spinning wheels, but I have found it most successful for the students to work individually with drop spindles and take turns in the wheels. I make spindles as it gets costly to buy 12 or more of these. The ones this year are made from 50g air-hardening clay and dowel or chopsticks and decorated with beads pressed into the clay. To seal them I’ve painted them with PVA paints. On some the central hole was a little big, so a bit of glue has secured this, and a rubber band underneath. prevents any slippage.

Last year I used Fimo. This made lovely whorls, but was expensive. I found this year’s air hardening harder to work with, but that may be because I added a thicker outer ring to the whorl to improve the mechanics of the spin. I read this on a spindle-making blog, and it works. Just looks messier. I will try one in Fimo next.

Top: all the spindles. Bottom: the Fimo whorl.

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Cutting out fabric shapes

Today I cut out 28 Scabies mites – only need to sew them up now.

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Jacob’s wool blanket

Having worked on this on-and-off for about two years I have finally finished a hand knit blanket. Worked in modular squares it was ideal for travel knitting, so has been around a bit en-route to completion. The yarn is from West Yorkshire Woollen Spinners and seems as if it is going to wear well. There are three repeated garter stitch pattern squares interspersed with plain garter stitch squares in three natural colours. The squares are joined with hairpin crochet and the blanket is fringed in a finer wool yarn with a knotted fringe.

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Knitmaster SC3 linker problems – see my Creative Machine knitting page for more info

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Proofreading…

This week has been a whirl of checking the final proofs of my book, Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting, which will be published by Crowood Press in the summer.

If you have a knitting machine, you will know that this will be one of very very few books that have been published about machine knitting since the 1980s…so look out for it!

In it I explain how to work all the stitches that can be knitted using a punchcard: slip, tuck, fair isle and knitweave as well as cables and manual techniques. The book also compares and contrasts how to knit these stitches by hand and machine, which method is best for which technique and why you might like to experiment between the two methods.

Continue reading

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Binding the floats in fair isle machine knitting 

Find out how to work this, and many other useful and creative techniques in,  ‘Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting’, available next year.

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Fair isle fun

Time to play now that my manuscript has gone to the publishers. 

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Posted my manuscript to the publisher!

Today was a big day. I sent the final manuscript of my latest book to the publishers. When I say ‘sent’, I mean by snail mail, as there are so many images it was too unwieldy to send digitally. I also feel safer knowing its got a physical form.

Taking such a small packet to the post office was sort of disappointing, but so liberating! I know its not over yet, but its well on its way.

P1060800

Lace knitting by machine

this is one of the subjects that are covered in great detail in the book. The technique is compared and contrasted to hand knit lace, and how to move between the two is explored and explained. I’ll be adding more information on the title, contents and publishing date soon.

 

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The death of my steamer

My pretty yellow Fridja garment steamer has died. It’s heating element has gone west. I decided not to buy another of this make as there were a few things that niggled me. Yes it looks cute, but that big front water hopper collected dirt and needed cleaning all the time. The Fridja weighed a lot, and when it’s taken apart you can see that’s because there is a heavy weight in the bottom. Yes it makes it stable, but the weight made cleaning it difficult. I have soaked my shoes many times. Not so bad with water, but when it’s cleaning vinegar it’s yucky. 

The swivelling hanger has pros and cons. Good because you can turn the item to the light. Bad because it swivels when you don’t want it to. The new one has a clip to hold trousers etc straight, which is really useful, and would have been good on the Fridja as clothing swings away and you can’t get any purchase. 

I am disappointed that a new element for the Fridja would have costed as much as a replacement steamer. It’s madness!   I considered this option despite this and would have mended it, but noticed that the hose has a split and the water container valve is a bit dodgy. Plus there is some sort of green mound that grows in it that comes back whatever I do, and the shape makes it hard to clean out each time. 

So bye bye little yellow blob, and hello rather ugly but functional Pur steamer. 

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