Designing Woman

Yeah, I know. Me Designing != News.

But this is different. Because I’m designing yarn.



But hang on a second. We interrupt this ranting and roaring to bring you the following important announcement:


I was planning to post a little 2008 Retrospective / 2009 Teaser/Preview in celebration of this event… and actually I am still planning same, but I’m going to wait another day or so, because I’ve just solved a technical problem with 2009-#1, and now that it’s started to go right I want to get it a little farther along before I show it to you. Because yes! I have decided to tslough off the tchains of tstealth, at least for now, and go full disclosure for a while.

Until the next tstate tsecret comes along, anyway.

(Of course, the 2008 Retrospective will in any case not be complete until #6 has landed and been discussed a little, after which we can have a nice 2008 Retrospective Appendix with all kinds of big fat open disclosure to warm the cockles of my black – if guileless – heart.)

Meanwhile, back in the fibery studio…

Yarn, people. Yarn design. This is big.

It’s big because I played with fiber for the Lauren Thingy (which BTW in a perfectly horrible and not especially appropriate pun I have begun thinking of as Lauren-Zaccio – go ahead and groan, it’s OK, I’ll wait here till you’re done), and I looked at the yarn I got from it and the swatches I got from that, and I thought about how I wanted it to be different from what it was and how to make the changes I wanted, and… I made them. And all the stuff I’ve been told and taught, plus all the stuff I’ve read, plus all the stuff I’ve discovered accidentally, about how to change my yarn from Yarn A to Yarn B? Came together and worked just the way it’s supposed to.

I don’t know why that’s shocking. Maybe it isn’t. I certainly wouldn’t think much more than twice about it if it were a matter of changing one knitting effect into another. But that isn’t alchemy to me – it’s cool but it isn’t necessarily mystery or magic. This… still is. Or maybe it’s just that I’m still so new to spinning – in real time anyway – that it’s hard for me to get used to the idea that I actually know how to manipulate my spinning to achieve certain results. Survivor guilt? Maybe. I can’t say “it shouldn’t be this easy” because it isn’t exactly easy. But sometimes I do kind of feel as if I skipped a couple of grades, and this is definitely one of those times.

Not sure if I can really illustrate this adequately. I can but try.

Here are the preliminary samples/swatches, lightly blocked:

The first three are not meant to be “real” samples – they’re just my first quick-and-dirty experiments to see how the fiber behaves in different configurations. All spindle-spun and -plied; all worked up on a US #3 needle in my go-to no-brainer swatching lace, English Mesh.

First, 100% pygora:

Perfectly lovely by itself. If I had oceans and oceans of time, I might well do nothing but this, spinning up a mountain of frog-hair laceweight, and knitting up a huge, delicate, infinitely intricate piece of filmy pygora gossamer. Yeah. So not happening this time.

Next up, two pygora/silk yarns; one with the two fibers blended…

… the other with them spun separately and plied together:

By the time I reached this point I was rather expecting the plied version to be the answer; I was having some issues with the two fibers responding differently to washing in the finished yarn, the pygora blooming so much in contrast to the silk that it almost created a little bit of a bouclé effect, and overall making the yarn look more untidy than I expected before washing. Grrrr. In the event, though, I decided the blend was really what I wanted and that I could control its behavior with better prep and more careful spinning.

I want it all. I want shiny but I also want soft. I want smooth but I also want halo. And I even want some reasonable level of stitch definition. I want everything from this one yarn.

So I got back to work with the prep and blending.

Incidentally… here is a little lesson I learned yesterday about cleaning a drum carder. When you think you did a really good careful job the night before? be sure to look at it again in the light of day.

Not so clean after all. Very glad I checked.

Anyway, numerous passes later… here’s my blend sample.

That’s about 10g, with the two fibers mixed 50/50. And that’s what produced this:

I was moderately happy with this. It’s a heavier yarn, about 15 WPI, and it worked up nicely at a larger gauge, on US #6 (um… I think – have some labeling issues to be resolved here before I get too deep in documenting). It’s a great pleasure to handle. But… I think it’s a little too smooth and firm – not enough loft and halo. It’s spun and plied on the wheel, but I think I got too micro-manage-y with it, and it’s just a little overspun for my purposes.

Also, I went back and looked at my carefully-preserved de-hairing debris and decided I had been a little too cavalier about down loss. So I dehaired the down to a reasonable extent – not a perfect job, but hey, it’s pygora AND it’s going to be dyed; the hair is so soft it feels almost like down from anybody else, and the contrasting color, where applicable, totally won’t show in the finished piece. Besides… we’re still swatching, here.

Anyway – where was I? Oh yes, the down. De-haired it and blended it back in to the remaining fiber sample. And spun it up at roughly the same weight, but with a MUCH lighter hand.

With the down added in this is about 60% pygora – that’s a slightly higher down quotient than can be expected for the fiber overall, but it’s still reasonably representative. And here’s the result:

More to the point, HERE is the result:

And here it is closer up:

As I feared, the photographs don’t do justice to the difference – though they do an admirable job of showing up unevennesses in my spinning and negligence in my de-hairing.

But you can still sort of tell that the sample on the right is a lot softer and fluffier, right? without sacrificing too much stitch definition. It’s also a slightly finer grist – 19 WPI to the other’s 15, so about 1,350 YPP instead of 1,170.

Ironically, I’m now back on the fence between these two textures – each of them has features that appeal to me.

So I think at this point we’ll let the bride put in her two cents’ worth. Because whichever she likes best…? I know how to make EITHER ONE OF THEM!

Meanwhile – while I wait for the silk supply to arrive, I guess I got me some pygora to wash.

So I went at it today and got a little more than half of it done.

Poor little goatie – I can’t imagine that that bit of VM was much fun to wear.

Behold my fabulous new fiber drying system…

… with about 10 ounces of clean damp pygora taking the air.

Oooh, gonna have me some de-hairing to do. Good thing I know a few tricks.

And I can beguile the time by mulling over the design elements – I think the final Thingy is going to end up being a variant on the Circle Jacket, and… ooh, shiny… hey, did I mention that this thing is going to have beads?

Did I even need to mention that?

Probably not.