Category: Notional Serpent


Snakeskin


So, weeks and weeks later, I’ve finally got the Notional Serpent yarn done. I finished it last night, washed and whacked it, and tried to reserve judgement till it dried. But it’s not much use, really; I’m just not that happy with it. I’m only halfway through the fibre but I’m going to put the rest aside and practice more with spinning smooth-ish yarns from mixed batts. I might come back to it one day and do Notional Serpent Mach II. But for now – here it is.

Notional Serpent

It’s not that bad, really. It’s just not as even or smooth as I wanted. I think, though, that being knit up will really forgive its shortcomings, and since this yarn was always all about the knitted object rather than being a piece of art in and of itself, perhaps I should be happy with how it turned out.

Stripping Batts


It never ceases to amaze me, how many different ways there are to muck around with fibre. See, I could, if I wanted, just spin straight from these batts. But it would be more difficult to get the effect I want, and to get a nice even yarn (not that it’s turning out to be all that even anyway – singles I hate you!).

So. I have found that for what I’m trying to do, it’s easier to spin from rovings than batts – they’re airier and come out less lumpy. To this end, I sat down to process half the fibre I’ve got set aside for this yarn. First I stripped the batts, tearing them lengthways into narrower batts. Then I pulled them through my dodgy DIY diz, drafting as I went to loosen the fibres and get more air into the rovings. Each roving was then wound into a little rosette.

Stripped batts, diz and rovings

One of the batts had fairly pronounced sections of different colours and textures. Because I’m spinning quite a fine yarn, and it’s going to be a single-ply, this could result large sections of my green being either bright shiny bamboo, or dark brown wool, or annoyingly tufty camel down. I want a more cohesive, mixed yarn, so I stripped that batt quite widely, into only four pieces.

Roughly carded batt - I need the colours to mix a bit more

Then I dizzed them extra carefully, stretching out the sections of bright bamboo or dark wool etcetera, as best I could, to end up with a more mixed roving.

Carefully dizzing the wide batt section

Fairly well mixed roving

And voila! Lots of little parcels of rovings, all ready to spin. But for today, I’ve spent hours chained to the wheel already so I’m not going to start on it just now . . .

Fluffy little roving flowers

Warm Fluffy Snakes??


Now, sampling is something I don’t like doing. I feel like I’m wasting – wasting fibre, wasting time, over-committing to something because once I get on a track I find it really hard to change my mind. But this sampling story is one with a happy ending! I guess I could have been slightly more stringent about it, but I’m not planning a fitted garment with this yarn so I’ll give myself a bit of leeway.

I am planning a single-ply yarn that will knit, in an open lace stitch something like Kieran Foley’s Sound of Waves stitch pattern, into a snakeskin-like colour pattern. In order to get this, I know I need to spin alternately from the three different batts. My only real questions are what weight single to spin, and how long to make the colour repeats.

The first answer is pretty arbitrary – I don’t want anything too thick because that would make the patterning clumsy, while fine laceweight is categorically out of the question, after the Ptarmigan experience. Because the two green batts are quite similar in colour and the green thus dominates the mix, I feel that the yellow will be the counterpoint or feature colour in the mix.

I got a new spinning wheel yesterday, and was fool enough to try and spin my sample yarn on it! Silly me – but there was no stopping me, of course. It’s a Majacraft Aura and I love it, but it’s a bit of a learning curve, so my yarn was a bit . . . well, shit. It’s yarn, by the most generous definition, but it definitely needs improvement, chiefly to get it more consistently in the sport/5-ply weight range I decided on. The respective lengths of the colours varied between about thirty centimetres and about sixty centimetres. I think I panicked a little in the green sections and ended up not making those as long, so it’s a bit shy on the green. Here is a crap night-time bobbin shot that hides the imperfect single nicely:

Notional Serpent sample on the bobbin

I whipped it off the bobbin and onto the niddy-noddy, thankfully without it drifting apart at any point, then gave it a quick wash and hung it to dry overnight. When I came home today, it was dry and ready to knit up!

Serpent sample, wet-finished and dried

I cast on 33 stitches using 4mm needles, and just as I got to the end of the first knit row, I had a brain fart.

Short rows.

Out went all the fancy lace stitches, and I went with erratic, crazy short rows in plain garter stitch. My aim was to pool the yellow in a matrix of green, so I ended up with spots and splodges of bright yellow standing out against that wonderful rich multi-toned green background. And I love what I got. This is my little swatch, which is about fifteen centimetres by eight centimetres. I can’t tell you how much I love it.

Snakeskin swatch

I think I’ll go up a needle size when it comes time to knit, as this is very scarf-like and doesn’t have a lot of drape and I definitely want some drape in the FO. But this is a great start, very very encouraging. It’s highlighting so many things to me – that not only is there endless scope within the fibre arts for creation of a particular effect, but that fibre and knitting are very forgiving crafts that will express your vision very truthfully, if only you have the courage to give something a go.

Notions of Serpents


So what is next? Yes, I’m still with you all, I’m still thinking madly about Pratchett yarns and still well and truly enmeshed in the whole Discverse. So, what is next?

Much of the stories seem to be occurring in the Year of the Notional Serpent. This is yet another quaint, slightly absurd phrase that tickled all my funny bones, and you have to admit, serpents and yarn share a great deal in terms of shape! So my vision for this yarn, to be called Notional Serpent, is to make one that looks like a snake. Not difficult, let’s face it. So, how to add a challenge? I thought on this, and since one mad brain cell still insists that I’d like to knit and exhibit pieces from all these yarns one day, I began to think of a stole . . . a stole that looks like a coiled serpent . . . and its skin, like a python’s, is flecked with a beautiful pattern of greens, golds and browns. Camouflage, modular effects, sinuosity, optical illusions . . . that’s what I want this yarn to look like.

This all happened in my mind a while back, and it happened at just the right time for me to snaffle the perfect batts for my Notions of Serpents. The incomparable Brittany aka Bohoknitterchic updated her shop and I bought three of her smooth carded batts.

I’m still planning for the best way to make this happen, so I’ll be back in a day or two when I’ve planned my spinning technique out.