Friday, September 6, 2013

Making Gelato

I decided that for once I would take photos of all the steps of spinning while I was working on "Gelato," my latest yarn.  Because I'm expecting a baby, I decided that it would be better safe than sorry and I'd take a 9-month hiatus from dyeing.  I know that lots of people do dye yarn while pregnant, and I'm probably just being overly protective, but better safe than sorry.  That means I'm not really starting at the beginning.  I'm not starting with a fleece that I wash and clean and dye.  I'm really starting in the middle.

I bought a variety of mostly autumn-colored merino top made by Ashland Bay.  Next, my 11-year-old daughter and I spent a long time deciding which luscious colors to spin first.  We decided on a combination that looked like all the wonderful fruit-colored gelato from a gelateria here:

One of the things I've always noticed is that the colors look brighter before being spun, and the colors look softer after spinning them together.

Next, we took some time to weigh out the colors so that the finished skein would be a standard 3.5 ounce/100 gram skein.  In addition to the merino top, I added some gorgeous soft white silk.

Does the adage about neat desks and empty minds apply to fiber art studios as well?  I hope so!

After that, we took the drum carder to the kitchen so we could be in the midst of everyone.  That's something I love about spinning and weaving--I can do it right in the midst of my big family and all the activity that goes on.

My drum carder makes batts of about 1 ounce each, so I knew I would have to make 4 batts to spin 3.5 ounces.  My daughter and I took each color and divided it into equal lengths and then started lining them up in order on the counter--spice, begonia, yellow, chartreuse, silk, spice, begonia, yellow, chartreuse, silk, etc.  Then we took turns loading the carder, turning the crank, and using a handy dog brush to smooth down the fiber.  Here's the drum carder with 1 layer of each color:

And here it is after we took off the skein:

I didn't think to take a picture of this, but my favorite method for taking batts off the drum carder is to use a long nail to separate the circle of the batt and then use 2 chop sticks, one on each side of the batt.  I roll them together to take it off.  That seems to get more of the batt of the carder than other methods I've tried.You can see here how the colors still look quite bright but not as bright as they did before they were blended together.  I just carded each batt once, by the way.

After carding everything, I got to start my favorite part--spinning:

From the picture, it looks like I use a long draw, but in fact I just held my hand out so the yarn would be more visible.  I actually use a short backward draw most of the time.  You can just see my Lendrum wheel a little bit in the picture and lots of feet.  I think we were all watching a movie while I was spinning.  Much of my yarn is bulky and thick and thin and, well, artsy.  With this one, I decided to spin it fine to see if I still remembered how and even so that the colors rather than the texture would be the focus.

After I finished spinning, I couldn't decide whether to ply it or not, so I used my umbrella skeiner to skein it so I could decide.  I had originally planned to ply it, so I added extra twist to untwist while plying, but once it was done I liked it as a single ply.  Here it is on the umbrella skeiner:

After I took it off the umbrella skeiner, I saw that it did in fact have too much twist to make a good single.  You can never have a completely balanced single-ply yarn, but it's possible to come close.  This wasn't it, so I went back to the original plan of plying it.  I used my ball winder to take unskein it here:

And then I plied it:

I'm glad I did, though the single was nice too.  Since I know exactly how much of each color I used, I may recreate it as a single someday.  To ply from a center-pull ball, you just take both ends of the ball.  The advantage compared to using 2 different bobbins is that you always end up using all the yarn.

Here it is back on the umbrella skeiner again.  I make a square knot where the 2 ends meet, and then I break off the excess beyond that to make a couple loose ties around the yarn.  I used to use acrylic yarn for this instead of "wasting" any of my handspun, but the pictures look a lot nicer when the ties are made of the same yarn.

Last but not least, I wash the yarn using Dawn detergent.  Since it's merino and can felt, I am careful not to agitate the yarn too much, but it's not that easy to felt.  I use hot water for this--as hot as I can stand, and let it sit for about 30 minutes to really soak it.  After that, I use clean water of the same temperature to rinse it until the water is clear.

After that, I hang it out to dry.  I have a long nail into each post of our back porch to hang yarn from to dry outside.  Since we live in Arizona and rainy days are pretty rare, this is easy to do.  Following the thoughts of Jaycee Boggs of Spin Art, I do not weight my yarn.  That way, it doesn't change twist after it's been knit or crocheted.  What you see is truly what you get, and the yarn was nicely balanced after I plied it.

Here are our chickens and ducks who came to see if I had brought them a treat.  They were disappointed when it was a skein of yarn and not a banana or zucchini.  :-)

And here is the finished yarn:

I just listed it in my Etsy shop along with some more pictures here:

If you have any questions about the process or comments, I'd love to hear from you!