I’ve had a couple of questions about how I steam-finish my yarns – which is a little funny to me because I only just sort of muddled my way into it out of necessity for this project! So I thought I’d take some photos and explain my process in case it helps anyone else. This is the good process, by the way – not the one that resulted in scorch marks!
First, make sure your yarn has room to breathe. Don’t be too tempted to put lots and lots of yarn into your steamer in one go, because then the steam won’t make it to all the strands, and additionally if you’re steaming to bring out the bloom, you want to make sure there’s room for the strands to expand to their fullest potential.
I used a stock pot with a couple of inches of water in the bottom, and a pasta colander. Make sure your yarn isn’t going to be sitting in water; but also, you want to be sure that the pot won’t boil dry. Now, the colander doesn’t sit snugly in the pot because of the handles, so I had to seal the gap with a couple of tea towels and a couple of tissues. (Yes, they were clean, hehe.) This is the setup:
The yarn I was steaming this time around was the Hedgehog yarn, which I needed to puff out as much as it possibly could. So I spun the 4oz of polwarth in 1oz lots, then plied them into two lengths of yarn that were about 55g each. That left plenty of room in the colander:
Then I brought the water to the boil and popped the yarn into the colander. With the lid back on, the steam bath was all a go, and I let it sit in there for three or four minutes. Then, wearing rubber gloves!!!, I turned the yarn over and put the lid back on for another couple of minutes. Done! And here’s the result – these two skeins started out the same size. The skein on the bottom of the photo has been steamed, the one at the top hasn’t.
After having to wait for a while for my leg to recover, I’ve finally managed to complete the Sudden Hedgehog! I eventually decided to tie the hedgehogs on with crochet cotton, after everything else was done. So this is a really good example of the miracles of experimenting and sampling, because I learnt so much during the making of this yarn. I really set myself free from the “lust of result” and allowed myself the room to make mistakes and let things just happen. And here is the result – the perfected (well, almost) Sudden Hedgehog.
And the gratuitous macro shot:
Before finishing - nice, but a bit lifeless.
After steam finishing- WOW! Look at that bloom!
Yep, the biggest lesson I learnt this time around was how to finish polwarth top! I’ve done the 2-ply with thick and thin before, and I recall that the finishing was pretty brutal on the soft fibre (that was South African, similar in feel to polwarth). So this time I thought I’d try steaming it, rather than a hot bath. I put it in my veggie steamer with just enough water in the bottom of the pan to produce steam but not to touch the yarn, gave it five minutes then turned it over for another five minutes, then pulled it out – it was so so so puffy! I can’t believe how much it’s bloomed with this finishing! I wish you guys had Squoosh-O-Vision! It’s stunning.
But all in all I’m not happy with it. The hedgehogs just aren’t sticking properly and they need to be lighter-weight. I’ll tie them up with some fine crochet cotton next time, and deconstruct the twine to make fuzzier, lighter hogs.
Last night I started my first Pratchett yarn! It was just a thick and thin undyed polwarth single, but it was still exciting!
I had some trouble at first rediscovering the technique for thick and thin, so the first ten metres or so will be a bit lacklustre, but after a while I was cranking out giant fat sections between itty-bitty thin bits. I’m a bit uninspired by the Ashland Bay top, which feels “killed” in my hands, as compared to polwarth I’ve handled before which makes a whole career out of the word “squooshy”.
The yarn was spun on my Ashford Traditional (single drive), using the bulky flyer on the largest whorl (4.5:1) and reeeaaaaalllllly slow treadling.