Monday, February 4, 2008

Handspun Novelty Yarn

A couple of years ago I developed a process for making unusual yarns, primarily as a way to use up really neat weaving thrums. For you non-weavers among my readers, thrums are those ends of warp that are left on the loom after the woven piece(s) is cut off and finished. In an effort to use up a lot of my early handspuns, most of which were natural colored and dyed wools plied with dyed silks, I wove up several dozen scarves in which I used really colorful nylon or rayon novelty knitting yarns as warp, along with my handspuns. So I had all these gorgeous thrums left after weaving all these scarves, and I didn't want to just throw them away.

So I divided the thrums into color groups, then I cut them up in small pieces and drum carded them into clean and washed natural colored wool fleece, along with angelina, that mylar (or other manmade) metallic, glitzy stuff that everybody's using these days. After spinning this stuff up as singles, I plied the batch with colorful and shiny poly sewing thread. The result was that I had batches of fantastic, handspun novelty yarn in 800-1500 yard batches of different color combinations.

I knew this would be ideal stuff to knit or weave with and that it would be fun to use, so I knit a sweater that I designed, to see how it would work.

After I got over using so much wool (in reality, I've found that as I've aged, wool started to itch me, especially around the neck, so I very rarely use it anymore, except, perhaps, some merino wool blended with silk or other luxury fibers)...I took the same process to making novelty yarns using silk noil, thrums and angelina. Silk noil, for those who don't already know, is comprised of the short fibers left after the long silk fibers from cocoons have been combed out to make silk top or sliver. Noil almost always includes small bits of cocoon, or if it's tussah (wild silk) noil, often bits of vegetative material from where the cocoons were harvested. The fibers are really short, shorter than cotton, which is a short-stapled fiber, making it a real challenge to spin.

In this case, I hand carded the noil along with weaving thrums and angelina and spun up the rolags into singles. Then I plied with a very fine handspun bombyx singles to produce the finished 2-ply silk novelty yarn.

Last year I started teaching classes in spinning luxury fibers, and making this silk novelty yarn was part of the curriculum. I'll be teaching it again this year, in March in Humboldt County, in June up at Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene OR, and quite possibly in other places later in the year. If you're interested in having me teach your guild or other group, please let me know. I also have angelina for sale at my Etsy site, if you're looking for some of that. Incidentally, some of the angelina colors are heat bondable, meaning you can make all kinds of goodies with it!


Sue O'Kieffe said...

looking at your yarn makes me wish i still knitted. i love the texture of this very yummy...and i must say i love learning what i am about what you do.
thank you, connie.
~sue okieffe

Leah said...

ooo, that sweater is gorgeous!