Thursday, September 27, 2012

Old Romney Bird's Nests into a Balanced Navajo-Plied Worsted Weight

Taking up room in my stash were a bunch color-related bird's nests from dye tests I made years ago.  At the moment I'm focusing my spinning on targeting a predictable end result yarn grist after plying.  Much easier to do with a 2-ply, but with each additional ply, the thickness of the single becomes more and more critical.  And I'm also focusing on getting a really balanced skein which I thought would be harder to do with Navajo plying than with 2-ply.  
All these nests totalled 5.5 oz and I haven't tried out my jumbo flyer yet so not wanting to try it on a potential project yarn, I settled for doing it on 2 bobbins.  I've completed the first which goes from lower right in the above photo through one of the two medium-blue/green bird's nests (3rd color over from the top right). 

The ideal would have been to spin the entire 2 bobbins worth of single to keep my grist perspective on the single, and then Navajo 3-ply it all at once but with a full bobbin, there's no way I could wait to see if I'd end up with a worsted weight 3-ply, nor could I stand waiting to see how the color progression blended.  And also whether I could get a balanced skein with chain-plying, using my new-to-me twist control technique.

Well, it is balanced!  Here's the freshly chain-plied skein, right off the bobbin-->niddy noddy, then hung on a door knob.  Not wet-set.  Gheeeeeeeeeee!  
I started out with about 4 treadles per X distance from the orifice, and did the loop test initially to check the twist.  With just a tad of clockwise self-ply action (pretty feeble but enough to pay attention to), I shortened my X distance just a tad.  After a few more checks, I went with it, letting the swoop happen after 4 treadles and not counting the swoop.  Eventually I refined it to 3 treadles, swooping on the 4th and that seemed right.  It worked until the end of the bobbin (which is the first part of the spun single) and wowza, I'd sure started that single out with a crapload of twist.  Not wanting a harsher yarn than I was going to get anyway from these stale nests, I didn't increase my ply twist as it wasn't enough length to worry about.  I'm just making note of it.

I wanted to end up with a worsted weight after 3-plying and voila, I got it.  Yay. 
I've been after trying to gauge singles for a targeted final result grist ever since I started spinning, and with 3-ply, just the teensiest difference in the singles' thickness makes the difference between DK and bulky.  It's a really fine line.  This time I really focused on it though, and early on I sort of identified that spinning the single at 27wpi looked like it would get me there.  (I used my "I-Spin Tool Kit" Ipod App's grist gauge and that little sucker is terrific because each wpi thickness is represented by a white line with red borders so the goal is to see only red on either side of your laid-over yarn.  Much easier to do than that acrylic see-through wpi-marked ruler which I always found useless.)
A couple strand lengths came out bordering on DK and one or two small lengths a little heavier than worsted but for the most part, it's a pretty consistent worsted grist. 

I got 118 yds (less any stretch on the niddy which I tried to avoid this time) out of the first bobbin, total 81.7g, or 2,.88 oz.  That leaves 2.6 oz. left to spin, which I estimate would add another 107 yds. for a total of 225 yds. 

Spinning from stale nests made for some rustic single now and then, and the unwashed yarn felt scratchier than I remember this Romney being.  But with dye tests I would not have used my finest locks.  Maybe even would have used some semi-junk locks (from belly or leg flanks) since my staple length wasn't overly long.  I did, however (well, fairly early on, that is) remember to establish which way the fiber scales lay on each nest to spin from sheep's body to lock tips.  Re that, these were combed nests, not carded, and since I load my combs with shearing ends mounted so as not to peel (strip) the fiber's scales against the grain in the combing, spinning against the grain makes for a rougher yarn.  But the grain was respected and the yarn did soften considerably after washing (Eucalan) so inferior locks or not, stale nests or not, it's project-worthy.    

For later reference, the amount of ply twist was as above, but the amount in the single?  Recall says I got more than a lazy self-ply on loop tests but not multiple, aggressive sproings.  In the very beginning, yes.  I was coming from the merino/tencel "Shiver" colorway laceweight singles in the previous top.  But when I lightened up (pretty early on, before the green was finished), my recall says my loops were forming themselves into just one-stem self-plies that held themselves confidently, but not to a snitty, bratty degree that I had to struggle with to unwind.  Some did though, I did have to hold a few stems secured at tip end to pull apart on occasion but I think I drafted against those.  So I'd say a fair bit of twist, but definitely short of snitty-bratty stage.

I still don't know what twist gets added/subtracted after it goes through the orifice and onto the bobbin, that just remains a mystery because I haven't found anyone who seems to know.  I therefore pull my loops back out, off the bobbin, not just what's yet to go through.