Class Notes: Mastering Thickness

Rita’s third class expanded on ideas presented in the first two classes,  with extra emphasis on  mastering the ability to create yarn of any thickness.  She started the class by pointing out that,  contrary to what we might normally hear,  any fiber can be  spun thick or thin  –  it just takes practice and determination.

The key to spinning thicker yarns is to be aware that producing thick yarn means using lots of fiber quickly. Just as in previous classes, she showed us how to be aware of our hand movements and our treadling speed. To spin thicker yarn, we needed to allow more fiber into the draft zone with our front hand and feed the twisted yarn into the orifice much more quickly than if we were spinning thin yarn. Now that I stop and think about spinning thick yarn, It’s much harder to produce a thick consistent yarn because hand movements must be quick. Predrafting fiber well also helps make things go smoother.

Mast_thick_sticks To practice spinning thick yarns,  she had us spin fiber into a single thread at our “normal” thickness. Once we had several yards of this thickness, she asked us to create and attach three samples of this yarn to a stick.  My “normal” thickness is the first stick which is marked 25 at the top.  The 25 indicates the number of single thread wraps per inch. The single thread is the first sample at the top of the stick and is wrapped around a 1 inch computer label (see previous class notes on detail on wraps per inch). The next two samples are a two and three ply yarn plied from part of the single thread.

Once we established our normal thickness she had us make two more samples but this time our singles were to be incrementally larger. The reason she had us make both a two and three ply sample was to demonstrate that the three ply yarn wasn’t really that much thicker than the two ply yarn. If you want thicker yarn it’s better to start with thicker singles rather than plying several small singles together. After all, thin singles take much more time to spin.

During our spinning practice someone brought up the technique of spinning from the fold. I’ve tried this a few times but haven’t been too successful with it since it quite awkward for me to do. Well, Rita has a bit of a twist on this technique.

To spin from the fold, pull lengths of fiber from the roving and organize them into a neat pile on the palm of your hand. Fold the pile in half and hold it between your thumb and index finger, with the folded side up.  Position the hand that’s holding the fiber between the fingers  so that the end is parallel to the orifice and start to spin from the tip of the fold.  This way of spinning from the fold was new to me.  When I’ve seen this demonstrated in the past the spinner would fold the fiber around their index finger and spin from the tip of the finger. Rita’s way seems to be a much easier way to keep the fibers organized.

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