This past week has seen a great breakthrough in my inability to ply my hand spun yarn. With the help of a video I downloaded a few weeks ago (The Gentle Art of Plying by Judith MacKenzie), I have figured out what I was doing wrong. It still isn't perfect, but it's a thousand times better than it was before.
This was an undyed organic merino combed top. I don't think the organic part makes an ounce of difference in how it spins but it feeds into my desire to get the chemicals out of my life. I think it makes for a healthier animal, is safer for all the handlers along the way and is better for the earth and water supply. But I digress.
So after letting it sit on the bobbin overnight, this is what it looked like off the wheel. It is very twisty and will wind back on itself at every chance it gets so it's a pretty messy skein right now.
For a long time, I thought plied yarn needed to be balanced coming off the wheel. I'm not sure where I got that idea or if I misheard something somewhere but that is what I was always striving to achieve, but the yarn always looked limp and lifeless. I've since learned that that isn't always the case and that often you do want what appears to be 'overtwisted' yarn. This has plenty of life and bounce. I have 80g (approx 150 yds) of it and see a hat in my future.
But how do I finish the yarn?
I spent the morning trolling the internet on what to do next. I know it needs a bath, but is that all it needs or should it be slightly fulled to fluff up the fibres a bit? What about 'whacking' the skein against the side of the tub to help redistribute the twist more evenly? And how much abuse can the yarn take?
I'm a big believer in the "try it and see what happens" school of learning so I took one of the sections out of my niddy noddy and wound off four mini-skeins. Each skein has about 16 feet of yarn and apart from giving them all a hot water bath to start, they've all been treated differently.
Skein 1: A hot bath with wool wash, squeezed the water out and hung up to dry. I did not stretch this or beat the skein in anyway. (Closest to the wall)
Skein 2: A hot bath with wool wash, squeezed out the water and whacked the skein against the tub. I stretched it out around my wrists and snapped it a few times then hung it up to dry.
Skein 3: A hot bath with wool wash, then straight into the tub which had cold water (I'm on a well - that was really cold water in the tub). I swished it around a bit then back into the hot water for a few more minutes and back into the cold. Squeezed out the excess water and snapped the skein a few times and hung it up to dry.
Skein 4: Just like Skein 3 but this took a lot of abuse. It was heavily agitated in both the hot and cold water and beaten pretty hard before being hung up to dry. (Closest to the camera)
I'll have pictures of how each of the mini-skeins look when they're dry and then I'll decide how to finish the big skein. Stay tuned!