Spinning for Stripes


So you remember last time we spoke I was about to launch into an adventure in plying? Well, I’ve finished my practise run today, and I’m over the moon with the result! I don’t know that you’ll be able to see the effect as it’s very subtle in the yarn and the swatch, but it does prove the concept (and more importantly, proves that I’m capable of doing a double chain-ply!).

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I chose two samples of Ashland Bay for my practise run; one in a charmingly background shade of bleige, and the other in, I believe, the “Daffodil” colourway. I’m not generally a fan of AB top, because I find it to have a “dead” feeling in my hand and it clumps together strongly during spinning and gives the kind of dense yarn that I generally try to avoid. But the AB line fills what I think is an important niche, catering for the batt-making artistes whose work I enjoy so much, and anyway, for the purpose of this exercise it was adequate.

I won’t go into detail on the process – chain-plying (also and erroneously known as Navajo plying) is well-documented on YouTube and the only point of difference here was that I was pulling alternating singles through the loop as I plied, carrying the unlooped single along with the loops. Boring, no? No big pitfalls – have a tensioned Kate, set yourself and your wheel up before you start, and try to keep your loops the same length.

Now to the interesting part – the pictures!! Singles, plied yarn on the bobbin, washed skein and blocked swatch. It’s probably hard for you to see the striping but it is most definitely there, albeit both shorter and more subtle than I intended. The four-ply yarn came out to an 8-10 ply sort of weight, or DK to worsted.

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Topsy Turvy


I’ve reached the end of the Discworld books.

I know. It’s tragic and sad and now that I’m forcing myself to read things other than Pratchett, I’m hating reading again. But never mind, all will be well.

In one often more recent books, we meet a colourful, winsome character dubbed Topsy Turvy. She’s an older dame, the widow of the manager of the Ankh-Morpork bank, and we intersect her life right after his death. She’s wildly eccentric and yet sharp as a rapier, and she sees through our favourite shyster, Moist von Lipwig, right away.

She cracks me up, because she swings violently between unutterably strange and terrifyingly perspicacious. One minute she’s playing up the soft old lady image, doting on her spoilt lap dog (who has, through the cruel whimsy of the newly late Bank manager, become the present Bank manager), and the next she’s cutting intellectual and ethical swathes through the serried ranks of lawyers and bankers breathily gagging for their mouthful of the corpse that is the Bank.

When a friend of mine gave me the above braid (from Knitty and Color, fantastic shoppe) of my favourite fibre, blue-faced Leicester, for my birthday last year and I saw the name of the colourway, I knew this had to become a Pratchett Project yarn, and I knew I had to pay homage to this lady who had such a keen grasp on the finer points of Life, the Universe, and Everything (if I may cross-contaminate my British literary giants, thank you very much).

Now, clearly, anything but a chain-ply or a single would likely end up with the yellow and the purple lining up with each other at some point or another, and we simply cannot have that; Topsy was eccentric, certainly, but far from chaotic. So I want to ply it against some black merino, and just for the sheer fun of it, I’m going to add a giant challenge in, which will also be a nod to Molly’s favourite technique of plying.

I’m going to chain ply the two singles alternately. By that, I mean I’m going to do a chain of the biffle, holding the merino alongside, and then pull a chain of the merino through, and then go back to the biffle, and so on. That should give me a yarn where I move slowly through the colours and they don’t mix, and where I get stretches of intense saturated purple or yellow alternating with stretches of milder colour toned down by the black, and now and then an almost entirely black section. The striping will be incredible.

I’m going to do a test sample, though. I don’t want to spin the whole lot up only to find that I can’t manage this funky technique, and be forced to settle for a 2-ply yarn ( I don’t like 2-ply yarns for knitting – of you’re curious about why, see my post today on my other blog).