Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shaggy Start

I need to get in training. Star Athena announced a little while ago that the Tour de Fleece will be on again for 2009. Tour de Fleece is an event for the biking-mad and the spinning-mad. Spinners set themselves a personal challenge and commit to spin every day of the three weeks or so in July when world-class bike racers are toiling their way through the thousands of miles of the Tour de France. The combination of the two is irresistible. And Lance Armstrong is supposed to race again this year!

I don't know if you'd call me either biking-mad (I love to watch the racers, not be one) or spinning-mad (it's sometimes an on-again, off-again affair when other things compete for attention). But I'm in. :)

Someone said she would be spinning for socks this time, and I lost my head and said I would too. Now, mind you, I've never spun sock yarn yet. It's tiny, and it needs to be even. I imagine a big bump in the yarn might give you that feeling that you need to take off your shoe and shake it out in case there's a little stone in there. Hence the need for training.

I suppose it was bound to be sock yarn some time soon. I've somehow collected four or five batches of fiber intended for socks. They're waiting anxiously, and I needed to dive in and get the hang of it.

I've started the attempt with the Blue Face Leicester/Mohair fiber from the Little Barn, that I bought at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival last week. I had read some advice from the respected spinning teacher Judith McKenzie McCuin saying that sock yarn needs to be 3-ply, as it's smoother and more rounded than 2-ply. OK, that means the individual strands have to be spun a little finer, then. I looked at my spinning gauge tool that shows the width to aim for to spin various weights of yarn. For a strand to go into a sock-weight 3-ply, the width was narrower than anything shown on the tool.

Gulp.

OK, then. Let's just give it a go.

On my first try, I came up with a few yards of the fuzzy, uneven blue yarn you see in the picture. It's laid over a skein of Socks That Rock lightweight for comparison of the weight. It's a little thicker than the Socks That Rock, not the thinnest of sock yarns itself, but it's in the ballpark.

My maiden sock spinning also produced a noticeably shaggy yarn, with a lot of halo from the mohair in it. While I do think it's cute, I'm aiming for something not so hairy-looking. For the next little sample, I'll try changing my drafting method, and smoothing down the fibers as I go.

I tried to put a lot of twist into it. I've read somewhere that sock yarn needs to have a lot of twist to wear well. Well, I cranked my spinning wheel down so the flyer would whir the most per revolution of the big wheel, and I held that yarn back for more twist until it tried to wiggle out of my hands. When I got done, it was really pretty twisty, I felt. And yet, it looks like the Socks That Rock out-twists it by far. Interesting.

I knitted my little yarn sample into a little swatch on little needles. With US size 1 needles, it knitted to about 7 or 8 stitches per inch. So t is definitely lin the ballpark of something the size that reasonable socks could be made of, although it's too dense and stiff at that gauge. It might need bigger needles, or it might need less twist. Or more.

I can see I'm going to need a lot more training before July. I'm off to a shaggy start. But it sure is a cute little thing!

1 comment:

puffthemagicrabbit said...

Don't forget- thicker socks make nice, cushy, cozy wear-around-the-house type of socks in the winter- so all of your training skeins will make great socks. Before long, you will be down to your wear in shoes socks. (I don't like shoes, so they never factor into my equations)