Let the sock yarn spinning begin!

Classically, a hand spun sock yarn is made with a combed, rather than carded, preparation of fibres. I started out with my kilogram of Suffolk fleece, and divided it up.  Some has been dyed with legacy unnatural dyes and some with plant dyes.  I started in on combing some wool dyed in shades of blue and green.  I dyed some tussah silk along with the wool (the silk did not take the dye well at all), and have local kid mohair that is plain natural white, and some that has been dyed with dyers’ chamomile, and some I bought dyed by the seller in shades of blue and purple.  I am blending in the silk and mohair for strength and durability.

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I have ‘English’ combs.  I am not sure what makes them English (they were made here in Australia)–I am sure there is a historical reason for the name.  But they are vicious looking things.  When I take them to Guild, there are always onlookers commenting on the fiendish tines.  Unfortunately, I am yet to find a Guildie who can offer me advice on better use.  This seems to be a minority preoccupation at my Guild, or perhaps I’ve just been unlucky.  So.  Step 1 is ‘lashing on’, loading the stationary comb with fibres.

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Step 2 involves combing the fibres off that comb and onto the other.  Done!

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Now, transferring the fibres back to the stationary comb.  It could go on… but this is the extent of my patience at this point.

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Then, pulling off ‘top’ through a diz.  I do love spinning terminology!  This produces a preparation in which the fibres are in alignment, ready to be spun into a dense, hard wearing yarn.

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Some of my top shows that I tried to blend fibres of different lengths.  This is a vice to be avoided in combing.  Combing does a great job of removing short fibres (and burrs and grass seeds…) but if the fibres are of differing lengths, the top will have (in my case) all mohair–the longest fibre–at one end and wool predominating in the middle, with the shortest silk fibres predominating at the other end.  I cut some of the kid mohair locks in half (another spinning crime!) to resolve this issue in some cases, and in others, spun top from both ends to blend the fibres as I spun them up.

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And here is the finished skein.  It is abut 5 ply (fingering), a little thicker than many sock yarns–but after my last effort, where I produced something thinner than sock yarn and have been too overcome to knit it up–I think that is OK.  I have chain plied it, which is not strictly speaking recommended for durability–but this seems to be a much debated point and I chose colour happiness over potentially reduced durability on this occasion. So–I am not quite ready for the knitting to begin, but I am getting closer.  One sock down to the toe on the current pair in progress…

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Sewing

6 responses to “Let the sock yarn spinning begin!

  1. Susan

    I think you did a great job. There are good you tube videos if you want to get real ‘fussy’! Nice colours. I (we) are always confused re Australian/NZ designations re ply……..to us a 5 ply would be HUGE 🙂 We were talking about it at our last spinning mtg. curious.


    • Thanks! I always put the differences down to colonisation… in so many things, Aus and NZ colonial societies took a subservient relationship to England while the US took a rebellious one. We have the English system where curiously enough the relationship between ‘ply’ and anything a spinner recognises as a ply has been broken. So our ‘8 ply’ yarn might only have two actual plies or could even be a single or a cabled construction with 4 plies… and the ‘8 ply’ refers to the thickness of the yarn–your DK. Weird enough. So this is a sport weight yarn (which we would call 5 ply) with 3 plies. Who can explain this stuff? The difference between English and US crochet terms is even stranger to my eye!


  2. Rebecca

    Gorgeous! I have just been reading an article on twist and was wondering what relationship of twist you had between singles and plied. For socks is it usually a tighter twist for ply than singles?


    • Thanks, Rebecca! I think you might be giving me a little too much credit for spinning awesomeness there. I am aiming for a high twist and tightly plied yarn, and that’s about the size of it. I suspect ply twist does exceed the twist in the singles a little, but I can’t pretend that’s by design on my part. I am more technical than some spinners I know, but less technical than others. I think you might be one of those more adept already… and now you’re studying for the certificate, you’ll have even more knowledge and technical capacity as the journey unfolds. I’m more a case of bringing to bear all that I know—which isn’t always a great deal–and building up what I know as I stumble along, experiment, practise or find resources I can use.


      • Rebecca

        Oh gosh, did I just show my inner geek in public? Sorry, I am just so curious to understand how twist affects yarn purpose. It seems such a mystery to me as I am a classic underplyer and am struggling to get twist in the right amount or in the right place. Possibly I just need to relax about it?


      • Three cheers for geeks and the quest for understanding, in private or in public! I just regret I can’t help you out at this stage in my own quest. I am not an underplyer. I tend to use a lot of twist (relative to the spinners I can see at work). I prefer the look and feel of a high twist singles with a corresponding level of ply twist. I think on the upside, I seldom create a yarn with too little twist. One the down side, I am a bit indiscriminate and tend to make yarns that could be softer and more relaxed. When I was spinning my first jumper quantity (grey finn x) the more experienced spinners in my guild’s evening spinning group hovered around me reluctant to say what they were thinking but trying to gently indicate concern that I might be creating wire. I was planning a design that required stitch definition and applying my book learning to the project. In the end that jumper fluffed out so much people ask whether it is made of mohair (nil mohair content) and the stitch definition is so poor no one knows there is a stitch pattern in there anywhere!


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