10 July 2012

Pink Slime

You'll recall I used this burst of intense summer weather to dye some fiber. During the Independence Day holiday and following weekend, I spun that fiber up into yarn. I'm trying to decide whether or not this yarn can be labeled as "successful." I was aiming for a peachy-pink color that would emulate the traits of dewy European fairy-princess flesh -- pale, pink, soft, with a gentle glow.
Pink Slime/Gore/Road Kill hand spun, hand dyed, hand carded mohair
Yes, it really is this color, which is why I photographed it outdoors.
A couple things happened along the way. Firstly, the core fibers I dyed with pink lemonade Kool-Aid had quite a bit of brown kemp. The brown didn't show much in the rolags, but it did show when spun into the core singles. I didn't take a picture, but the core singles were noticeably both pink and brown, rather than just pink.

Also, the core singles required a lot of twist. Mohair is slippery! Duh! When spinning 100% mohair, it keeps drafting even when you think it should be done. I spun on a fairly high ratio and put in lots of twist. Otherwise I could tug on the yarn and it would draft.

Let me state right here it is not Jacey Bogg's fault that I am a poor corespinner. I took a two-day workshop with her back in April. It was very good and I learned a lot and if you want to improve your spinning skills, you will pounce with the enthusiasm of a cheetah chasing a gazelle if a similar opportunity is available to you. I also purchased her video Sit and Spin! and I've watched it repeatedly. And I own her book Spin Art and I've read it cover to cover. So I thoroughly recommend her. I think I take readily to knitting because it is intellectual. But I think spinning is much more physical. So much of spinning is feeling it in your hands. My hands just aren't that sensitive, so I just don't take to spinning with the same natural ease I feel for knitting. So this is not at all the teacher's fault.

Corespinning consists of a core (often a singles) and a layer of fiber wrapped perpendicularly around the core. It looks easy to do and I am pretty sure it is easy (for other people) to do. When you make a singles-based corespun yarn, it will by definition have some overtwist. A singles yarn, by definition, can not be balanced. But Jacey pointed out that if you corespun around a plied yarn, you should be able to have a balanced corespun yarn. So I decided to try that.

I encountered a couple of issues. You'll need one hand to hold the core plies as they come together. And you'll need a second hand to hold the cloud of fibers to be spun around the core. Depending on how you are used to holding singles during plying, you may need to hold your singles differently from your usual method.

I am also learning more and more that part of the secret to successful spinning is proper fiber preparation. My outer layer of pale yellow and pale pink fibers had been carded together by hand. They had become a little compacted, and midway through the spinning I ended up carding them again to open them up. For corespinning, you want your outer fibers to be a very loose cloud. The fibers should be sticking out like little feelers desperate to catch something.

Here's what I know now about corespinning as you ply.
To encourage the outer fibers to catch and wind on, hold the cloud at the back and let the front of the cloud brush against the plying core.
Keep the cloud against the core as you "draft" the core plies. If the core plies don't slip in your hand, then they don't turn. If they don't turn, the cloud doesn't catch and wind on. And if you move the cloud off the plies as you "draft," then the cloud fibers don't catch. You have to keep the cloud against the core as the plies twist together. (I have a lot of trouble with that part, as I tend to lift the cloud off the plies as I "draft!")
Try to keep the cloud perpendicular to the plying. If you start to draft it, you end up with a peculiar three-ply yarn instead of a corespun 2-ply. (I ended up with quite a bit of that!)
If your core and your cloud are the same color, it is hard to tell how much cloud is being spun.

The yarn was very compacted on the bobbin. It was also not balanced. So I balanced it using my trindle. As you can see from the picture, the yarn did begin to bloom.
More balanced and blooming on left, tighter on bobbin at right.
It looks pinker and prettier indoors than outdoors in full-spectrum light.

Because I really don't trust the fluff to stay put -- a little of it did come off during balancing -- I decided to shock the yarn during finishing in the hopes of fulling it slightly. I skeined the yarn and subjected it to my usual regimen of five minutes in the steamer to set the twist. I then moved it directly from the hot steam sauna into a bath of filtered ice water. It fluffed right up like an upset porcupine!

The final yarn is about 100 yards of wildly uneven, wiry pink mohair coated in a deceptively soft-looking but prickly layer of pink mist. And here's the rub: is it just me, or does this look like the color of mammalian innards? I just look at it and think pink slime or pink gore or road kill. Does anybody out there want to knit a road-killed armadillo or opossum? If doctors can bury their mistakes and architects can plant ivy, I suppose fiber artists can apply more Kool-Aid and call it art yarn?

1 comment:

Laura said...

I like the color! But then, I'm kind of in a girly mode, with the Princess around. I'm sure that 100 yards of lovely pink mohair would knit up beautifully! Give it a try - it might look better knit than in a ball.