My stash of fibers extends beyond yarn into quilting fabrics and a variety of fleece and other fibers that range from raw to ready-to-spin. I spent so much time through winter looking for ways to use some of my yarns, especially the small bits and odd-balls, that I completely forgot to open the other closet door. That, I did just in time for the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene this summer. Happily or not, I realized I have a lot of fiber to spin before I start buying more. I went to Black Sheep Gathering this year seeking ideas and tips to improve my spinning rather than looking for more fiber to cram into my already pretty full closet. (Yes, I did actually buy 4 ounces/113 g of Alpaca roving, but it was just 4 ounces…just four.)
After the excitement of the weekend was over, I made time to research a new technique Dianne Wright from Wandering Pines Ranch mentioned. (She dyes and spins some lovely Alpaca and wools.) This stash project was all about getting my spinning fingers back in shape and trying out Fractal Spinning.
I started with 3.6 oz/102 g of Corridale pencil roving, dyed and purchased about two years ago. I’d originally picked this one up to teach my son and one of my friends about spinning with a drop spindle. Neither took to it, and I set the remaining 3.6 oz./102 g aside. I’ve brushed right by it many times since, stopping only long enough to admire the colors. The dyeing process had made the roving rather tight, so it didn’t draft easily, and it hadn’t occurred to me until this year that I just needed to fluff them up a bit to make drafting easier.
For this project, I focused on getting an even, consistent single. Consistency in the thickness of my singles is my biggest challenge. I’ve been aiming to spin sock weight yarns, although mine generally come out closer to a sport to chunky weight; the thinner spots are usually close to sport weight but the thicker ones can be pretty chunky. For this project, I decided to let sport weight be my goal, with the hope that I’d get a 2-ply yarn that measures in at approximately 11 wraps per inch (wpi) or approximately 200 yards for 3.6 oz/102 g.
My secondary goal was to try out a version of Fractal spinning. According to the various articles I read (This one was my favorite), the general idea is to divide your roving (that’d be the fratal or fraction part) and spin it such that when you ply your colors will overlap, creating a blended stripe when you knit your finished yarn. Most techniques include dividing a thicker roving along the length. Since I was starting with a pencil roving, which is too narrow to divide lengthwise, I divided it in half, with approximately 2.3 oz/65 g of pencil roving for each ply. I kept track of the original ends of the roving so I could begin with the original start and finish of the roving. My hope was that one ply would mirror the other and thus shake up how the colors plied together so the resulting stripes when knitted would have the blended look that is the hallmark of the fractal spinning technique.
This project took me three nights to spin, ply, and another hour or so on the fourth night to finish since my plying night was shortened by an evening engagement. All in all, it turned out to be about 2 episodes of Daredevil and another 4 of The X-files, for an approximate time perspective. I ended up with approximately 164 yards of yarn that weighed in at 3.4 oz/96 g ounces and 11 wpi.
I’d forgotten, alas, that I can comfortably fit only about 2.5 oz./65 g of 2-ply yarn on one of my minispinner bobbins. I managed to cram 3.1 oz./88 g ounces on one bobbin, cut the plies, and finished the rest with a second bobbin. Next time, I plan to divide my roving or top into 1 oz./28 g sections to avoid the over-filled bobbin challenge.
Despite the overfilled bobbin debacle, this turned out to be a really good return to spinning project. I’m happy with the resulting yarn, which I’ve set aside for a fall or winter knitting project, and I’m feeling confident that I can spin a good yarn from the next roving or top in my stash.
- Fluff your roving before spinning–gently pull the fibers a part just a little width-wise so it’ll draft lengthwise easier as you spin. You can do it as you spin or when you’re preparing your fiber for spinning.
- Plan for the bulk of your plied yarn when you spin your singles–plied yarns take up a lot more space on the bobbin than do singles. Estimate how much finished yarn you think you can fit on your bobbin or drop spindle and spin just under half that for each bobbin of singles so you don’t need to cut or divide your singles as you ply.
- Keep track of your ends for Fractal Spinning with pencil roving–Make a small, loose knot in the end of your pencil roving before you divide it, and think of that as the original beginning of your roving. After you make each divide, make another small, loose knot in the end of the new length that corresponds to the original beginning of the new piece. Conversely, you can tie a length of thread or yarn around the ends rather than make a knot. However you do it, marking the original direction the roving was in before you divided it will make it a lot easier to keep your singles going in the direction you want.
For more information on Yarn Weights and Sizes: