Monday, 13 February 2012

Spinning Silk

 It's not unknown for me to get carried away with my purchases at Woolfest each June.  I kind of make it a point to buy something I've never bought before for an experiment.  Here is one of the new things I bought last June, which I've only just got round to trying out.  It's a silk roving and from the colours I think you can see why I fell in love with it.  I decided to set to spinning it up.
I did anticipate that it would be very different to wool, as you can see it has no crimp, just fine fibres lying completely flat next to each other.  So a high twist would be necessary.  It was far more tricky than I thought.  Firstly picking off the right width of roving was a challenge; too thick and you end up with a chunky weight yarn, too thin and it breaks.  And the roving doesn't split evenly, of course not, so you end up with weak spots.  And as for breakages, it tested me almost to throwing it out of the window. I think the general rule with wool is an overlap of 10cm when reattaching - for silk you can times that by three.  Nightmare.  The tension in my fingers and thumb trying to (a) hold it together (b) draw it out to spin a nice fine yarn was tremendous.  And as I drew it out behind the twist, it would push fibres further down into a mess so that then I had to stop, untangle and draw out the muddle with one hand while holding on for grim death with the other so the spun yarn didn't unspin and fall apart.
I am, however, known for my perseverance.  By the end of this bobbin I had got the hang of it.  So here are my tips:

  1. long, long draw, with the twist taken up at least 10 cm from the orifice (15-20cm better), slow the take up by holding it back so that it gets lots of twist before winding on
  2. a roving about the width of a ball point pen
  3. repair any breaks by doing a 30cm overlap, with lots of twist
  4. stop the fibres tangling behind your drawing hand by moving your hand down the roving to ease out the fibres after every twist take-up, while you put a little extra twist in the yarn you've just made
I'm going to ply this yarn to make it stronger. When I started I was aiming for 4 ply, I'll be happy if it is roughly DK!  There are lumps and bumps in here, but hopefully the next bobbin will be better!

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