Adventures in Plying


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I had a very long and difficult yarn spinning lesson yesterday.

It made me very glad for all those years in Tech Support. (Yes, I’m going to degress a moment.) Because working in Tech Support, I had tremendous amounts of information thrown at me in chunks. I suspect it is the way the left brain works. I said that to say this: my instructor has tremendous knowledge of wool, spinning and all aspects of the craft. It all tumbles out in huge blocks of information that need to be absorbed quickly. That’s not easy to do.

The reason it was a long and difficult lesson is that I had to work with my first few skeins of yarn. I had to correct my own mistakes, and there were a hell of a lot of mistakes in the three skeins we plied into one, two-ply skein of yarn.

She’s the kind of instructor who gives praise, but not pointed praise. She says things on the fly. “I can see you took yor time with this.” She said as we worked over some odd spots in my yarn. “I can tell this was the first skein. The other two were so much better.”

There is no whining in Tech Support, so I didn’t let my own mistakes drive me to distraction. There were some doozies. I sat down at 2:30 pm and finally gave up my seat at the spinning wheel about 6:30 pm so she could run the wheel the last half-hour. My back was trashed by that time.

The first step in plying is to get the yarn (called a ‘single’ because it’s a single-ply) onto a spinning wheel bobbin. Since I had no bobbins at home, everything was in skeins. This isn’t a good idea.

After a couple of days in a skein, the yarn kinks. It twists back on itself and sets that way. Interestingly enough, there are a couple of ways to correct that.

(Fans of ’50 Shades of Gray’ should stop reading now. We’re going to fix the yarn by removing the kinks. Sorry.)

We used an industrial steamer. We put the yarn on a skein winder to stretch it. Then we steamed the yarn until it relaxed and the kinks came out.

At this point, I could re-spin the relaxed yarn, using a spinning wheel. What I learned is that I didn’t put enough twist in the yarn to ply it. There were a few places where it was too thick and yet was barely holding together. There were also snarls, places where the loose fiber got caught in the twist and plenty of breaks in the yarn.

I do not like spinning wheels. Or, should I say, I don’t like THAT spinning wheel. It has one peddle, which puts my back out of alignment. After 3 hours I was in agony. My instructor took over the peddling so I could get the plying finished.

I worked up a sweat, but we got it done.

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