The Big Reveal

As promised yesterday, I'm delivering the photos of my climb through the Pyrenees that results in my first real skein of yarn. The roving is some generic Louet sliver that came along with my Learn to Spin kit from Webs. I've been practicing with this Big Bag 'o Wool since the start of the Tour. It's spent time on the floor, time in the Sierra, and even time in the garbage can when I couldn't seem to even get started.

My first big breakthrough was learning to pre-draft. Realizing that I could save myself oceans of frustration by starting with a smaller and more malleable bit of fiber was the thing that finally pushed me over the hump and got me rolling. I was able to get a spindle full of thick-ish singles that I wound off and set aside, but I didn't want to call that my first skein. I also didn't want to give up until I was able to get the spinning wheel going.

Next was just me and the wheel. Pre-drafting and general techniques being ok, it was all about adjusting tension, tying on a leader and not getting hung up on the amount of twist or being afraid of the yarn winding back on itself. Thanks to some great advice on from the Louet Lovers group on Ravelry I was able to get the singles to wind on the bobbin. Once that happened, it was all about practice. Me and the bag of sliver. Me and the wheel. Me and all those bobbins. I resolved to use that first bobbin for just plain practice. Striving for consistency and learning to adjust tension, fill a bobbin and just get "comfortable" adding twist to fiber. Two solid nights of that and I moved to a new bobbin. Here's the result:
This is just over 30 grams of fiber, wound quite thinly. My goal was to get something that would allow me to do either a 2-ply or 3-ply resulting in fingering or sport weight. That's my workhorse yarn for socks, mittens and the like and if I could do that, it'd be like conquering the world. I also got very comfortable spinning a thin yarn.

My Maggie Casey book told me that a good way to test if you were satisfied with the single and the amount of twist was to allow a portion of the yarn to wind back on itself. It'd give an indication of what the final yarn's thickness would be like and also help to determine how much twist to put in during plying. So, when I finished spinning the amount of fiber I was aiming for on the bobbin, I let the last few inches of the single wind back on itself and I got this:

Not bad. Not bad at all. At risk of exhibiting hubris, the plied (plyed?!) single reminded me of the Satatkieli yarn I'm using for my Latvian Mittens. The individual plies on that yarn are very distinct and gives it a "ropey" look. Personally, I liked it, but knew it would be problematic if the yarn didn't soften up after washing. Regardless, this is practice and was in line with what I was shooting for. Good stuff, time to ply.

I'm still new to all of this and like to do things incrementally, so rather than jumping off the cliff and going for Navajo plying, I stayed safe and just did a simple 2-ply using my lazy kate and two bobbins. I also resurrected that first bobbin full of yarn since I felt most of it was useful, thought longingly about either a glass of wine or a beer, and got busy.

I have two tips for any new spinners that are wanting to do some plying. First, whatever phones might ring that you want to answer should be nearby. I think you can see where this one is going. Second, if you're watching TV and would want to answer the phone, it'd be a good idea to have any/all remotes nearby so that you can turn down the volume and pause the VCR/DVR. Again, proof is left to the reader.

So, two phone calls, Stage 11 of the Tour, an episode of Top Gear, a wash, a soak and a rinse later, I had this:

My first skein - resting comfortably in the hedge. I suspect that it will never get knitted into anything - at least not until after SOAR. It's my mascot for the time being and the launch pad from which I will improve and grow. I love this little thing.

Finally - my thanks to The Harlot and to Katherine for giving me the shove I needed to do this. My mind and heart have been working overtime ever since. What a wonderful thing to have a craft.

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