2 In Behind The Scenes/ Insight

Behind The Scenes: building interesting yarns

bts interesting yarns Look at that fluff. LOOK AT IT. *grin*

So hello there! I know that I’ve been slacktastic with updating the blog, and some of that was a combo of two weeks of flu and some more of it was a severe case of the Winter Blahs. BUT I AM BACK. I swear.

Today, I want to give you some insight into how I create, and talk about breaking out of comfort zones. I had a visit at the studio this week from the lovely Becky, and she and I were talking a lot about yarn construction and finding ways to create interesting yarns through fiber preparation, or the lack of. Discussions like that are always super energizing to me, because they get me thinking about how I put together my creations, and what I might try next!

Usually, the way I operate is very loosey-goosey. Sometimes I have an idea of what colors and textures that I want to combine, but quite often, I just grab a bunch of things, throw them into a bag, then pull them out and combine wildly. I let the texture shine as much as possible by not over-processing the wool – let the locks be locks, let globs happen sometimes – then consider what plying will do to that nascent texture, and build from there. Quite often, I N-ply to get the biggest areas to twist on each other, and make them even BIGGER, because that’s how I roll. But I will admit, it’s all very intuitive and random, combined with skill.




fiber necklace

The first thing to consider is your fiber preparation, as I’ve mentioned – it’s totally valid to throw chunks and mixes of all sorts of locks and fiber globs into a bag and pull out to spin… or you can card up a bunch of things together and leave some less blended, other things more… or you can mix a perfectly blended batt with loose locks and fiber chunks… or you can spin directly off the end of a commercial or indie-produced roving or top and use your drafting skill to add texture. For *me* – and this is *my* preference, your mileage may vary – I like using either a less-blended batt with a grab bag of extra goodies, or just the bag of stuff alone. That’s where the more interesting combinations come from, in my eyes. This creates the kind of singles that I feel I can personally build from to make cool stuff happen in the plying stage. Again, this will vary, dependent on the artist! Don’t let me squish your creative dreams. *grin*


This is an important part of a creative journey: you should try things that are unfamiliar to you. This means that if your comfort zone is spinning from one end to the other of a top or roving… grab a bag of locks and go nuts. If you hate it, at least you know why! If you love it, then you’ve got another technique to add to the mix. Embrace the new, the unfamiliar, the fiber or technique that seems the hardest/weirdest/least appealing. It will improve your art even if you never use it again, I promise.

2012-10-06 11.14.53

The next part of building your interesting yarn is the plying. There’s a lot of ways to make it interesting – in fact, many books already out there are built on that premise. What I’m going to do it tell you how I make my choices, and trust me, it’s all too often just me being random.

First, I think about whether it should be a two ply, three ply, N-ply, or coiled type yarn. Do I want to run it through the wheel a couple of times, building on techniques? Does the singles look like it needs to really play against itself, or would it be more interesting with the addition of a totally different yarn as a second or third ply? I go to my stash of commercial yarns and handspun yarns that I’ve reserved for plying, and take a look. Sometimes, I’ll add a second yarn and then instead of doing a traditional two-ply, I’ll let it autowrap while I N-ply the main yarn, or N-ply the second yarn along with the main yarn. That’s what I mean about choices shaping the character of the finished yarn – if I did a trad two-ply, the effect would be completely different! [yet still totally valid – just different!]

2013-07-27 16.18.24

Good example, though I apologize for the fuzzy photo – this was a singles that I spun up with lots of thick and thin spots and character… then I plied it while allowing a handspun silk singles to autowrap around the entire yarn. It got a bit crazy, and SO MUCH FUN to spin, and the yarn had a completely different look than if I’d just plied with the silk and the main singles. There’s a lot more energy there, and the silk really shines.

In the yarn in the first and third photos, I corespun the fiber loosely around a cotton core, then N-plied. The resulting yarn is huge, fluffy, textured, and squishy. If I’d corespun tightly, the results would be different. If I did a two ply, it would be something else entirely. This is exactly when playing with a technique pays off – I fell in love with fluffy corespinning for just this reason. It makes the BEST plied yarn!

The main takeaway from my musings today? Try something new, and embrace combining things you might not think to put together that way normally. Take techniques that you already know well, and approach them in new ways. Be loose, be crazy, be free. Get interesting!

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  • Reply
    Spinning My Wheel Fibers
    February 10, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Love it! Thanks especially for the reminder to “be random” because I tend to over-think and then it’s never as lovely as when I just let go and let the yarn tell me what it wants to be.
    Martha 😀

  • Reply
    February 11, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Love this post! 🙂 I’ve succeeded in spinning a couple of the ideas we talked about! YEA!! Will have to come again and show you. 🙂

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