A handspun yarn’s (condensed) journey

(Right, so WordPress decided to delete all the words I had written for this post the first time. Let’s try again, shall we?)

Let’s establish, first and foremost, that my blogging skills are terrible. I had another blog post thought of a while ago (four months, but who’s counting?) that would be the intro for this post, but let’s just wing it and explain things in a paragraph or two:

I decided to learn how to spin, the perfect hobby for a fibre addict. Not on a bicycle, which seems to be what ‘normal’ people think I’m into now, but wheel spinning, the kind that produces yarn as an end result. I found out where my local guild was, then proceeded to contact them to rent a wheel, and practiced at home and during our bi-monthly meetings. It seems I wasn’t too bad at it, and I was soon making decent enough yarn. (Note to self, look for photos of that first yarn to show.)
After my renting period was over, I wanted my very own wheel, and finally decided on a very nice model that I’ll talk about soon (promise!)

Since some people have asked me how one makes yarn, I have some photos here to show you a bit of the process. Sorry if some images are a bit dark, our lovely London gloomy weather has been its usual self today.

Let’s begin, shall we?

First, you’ll need some wool, which you can find in different formats, like batts or roving. Then, you add twist to that wool to make it stick together; if you look at wool under the microscope, it has little scales, which will stick to each other when you spin them together. This is what makes yarn really strong – you couldn’t pull it apart with your hands if you tried, when it’s spun tight enough.
The type of yarn you get when you spin, at first, is called a singles. You can leave it as it is, or you can ply it with another singles (this is called a 2-ply) or more (three-ply, four-ply, etc.) The photo below is of a singles that’s been spun to be plied later.

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The next image is of a plied yarn (top) and the singles I had left from the plying (bottom; this means that I had more yardage on one bobbin that the other, and when I was done plying this was what I had left). I’ll have to think about what to do with it someday.

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After I took the plied yarn out of the bobbin, I had to wrap it together (you can use specialised tools for that, or like me, use the back of two chairs together) to form a skein. If you look at the next image, you will note that the yarn is severely twisting to one side. This is not something you want happening, and is called an ‘unbalanced’ skein. However, I had yet to wash my wool, so the twist hadn’t yet set. Keep reading.

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To finish the yarn (this is the name of this last process) one can wash the skein, or steam it with an iron. I prefer washing, so that’s what I did. I used hot water and a bit of laundry detergent. I soaked it for about 15 minutes.

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Next, I soaked the yarn in clean hot water with a little bit of distilled white vinegar. Vinegar helps neutralise the alkalinity in the detergent, which can be bad for animal fibres. After this, another brief soak in clear hot water so my wool doesn’t smell of a fish and chips shop, and that’s it.
Notice how I keep saying “hot water”? Temperature needs to be constant, so as to not shock the fibres, so the soaks need to be kept short (no more than 20 minutes) and agitation needs to be kept to a minimum, or I’ll end up with felted (or fulled) wool. Finish this stage with a nice tug or two of the skein to align all the fibres.

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The final stage is to carefully remove the excess water and hang the yarn to dry vertically, and without weighing it (some people like to add weight to it to keep it straight, but this will disguise a badly balanced skein, preventing one from seeing how it would really look when knitting with).
See how the fibres have relaxed after their bath, and how the skein now rests perfectly balanced? Disclaimer: Better Half’s arm was not harmed during the making of the next photo.

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Finally, a close-up of my pretty skein of wooly yumminess!

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I hope I managed to explain a little about the spinning/yarn making process. Let me know if you have any questions, and please feel free to add more information in the comments section.

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5 responses to “A handspun yarn’s (condensed) journey

  1. Beautiful yarn! Thanks for sharing the process. You’ve come a long way in a short time! 🙂

    • Thanks, Marilyn! I didn’t go through the entire process (didn’t want to bore anyone to death) but I hope I conveyed what goes on in yarn making. Can’t wait to make more! 😀

    • Thanks, Debbie! For now, I’m just happy looking at my yarn 🙂 Since last spinning this, I also learned that what I made was a worsted-type yarn, and now I want to learn how to make wooden-type yarn… I’m sure you knew the difference, but I didn’t! Loving all the learning experience 😀

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