Welcome back to another installment of the SGY Roundtable blog post series! In this bi-weekly column, we want to share with you the current discussions and thoughts of some of the fibre artists around the studio.
Two weeks ago we discussed what our favorite SweetGeorgia yarn bases were and why we love to use them. Since all four of our contributors are avid spinners, having a little chat about fibre seemed appropriate!
The topic we brought to the table was…
What is your favourite SweetGeorgia fibre base? How do you like to spin it? What is so special about this fibre? What manner of final project(s) have you created with it?
Ginny // BFL+Silk
My handspun has only recently progressed to the point where the yarn I spin is consistent enough to knit into a project. Perhaps I would have reached my current skill level without BFL+Silk but it’s the first fibre base I was able to create (in my opinion) a beautiful yarn with, and I think the fibre characteristics had as much to do with the results as my meagre skill set!
BFL+Silk is part rustic, part glamourous. In some ways it’s the ‘Shabby Chic’ of fibres. The long staple makes it straightforward to spin and the silk adds a bit of slipperiness and interest. It has the most personality before dyeing — by which I mean it’s easy to tell which box has BFL+Silk in it or if one of the dyeing staff is soaking it in preparation for dyeing because it smells! It smells quite strongly of sheepy silk and I actually love the scent. It fades away almost completely after the fibre has dried.
In the braid, BFL+Silk is plush with a subtle twinkle to the colour that tells you there’s a silk content to it. I used the January 2014 SweetGeorgia Yarns Fibre Club colour, Night Owl, on BFL+Silk to spin a gradient yarn without carding the fibre specifically to retain the shine of the silk. As I was knitting with it I was so pleased to find that the silk remained visible in the stitches I was working up even though the singles I had spun were rather fine (for me, at least!).
A single 1 ounce braid of BFL+Silk is enough for a large slouchy hat, a decent sized shawlette, a pair of luxurious arm-warmers or mitts. It would be very warm and extra decadent as a garment base, and I’d love to spin it up in multiple semi-solids to try some colour work. The halo of the BFL would lock the stitches together and the silk would add a lot of depth and interest to the colour palette!
Liisa // Polwarth+Silk
Before you say anything, I do realize I wrote a 400-word rant against all the follies of luxury fibres in the last post, denouncing shininess and decadence in favor of rustic simplicity. But as the prophets of South Park say, changing your mind is a Canadian custom that we hold quite dear.
Polwarth+Silk is JUST SO FLUFFY.
It’s also very plump and bouncy and vibrant and, yes, a tiny little bit silky, so there’s simply no way to ignore its many pleasantries. It drafts like melted butter and the particular top we dye is extremely consistent and easy to handle.
In my mind-changer defense, there is not that much silk in this blend, and even the little there is is tussah silk, the quiet, unassuming, slightly ugly but still moderately loved little sister of her shinier and more uniform siblings. She won’t get asked to the prom, but is still the unrivalled queen of the geek squad, where all the fun happens, anyway.
Also, while the Polwarth breed is genetically mostly Merino, there is still a full quarter of Lincoln hidden under those fluffy locks — a dark, brooding undertone merged with a body of happy, kind of like a sad clown, or me.
Wow. It’s quite the perfect fibre for me, actually. I should go buy some more.
All this said, I haven’t actually knitted anything made with it. I’m still relatively new to spinning, and as you well know, my methods and considerations rarely go beyond the initial OH LOOK PRETTY MUST OWN phase. Therefore I don’t really have a regular way of spinning it either, besides just taking a chunk and feeding it into the wheel as fast as I can — and knowing somewhere in the back of my mind how much the finished yarn blooms after washing.
But every moment I spend spinning it, or just sitting and ogling it with glazed eyes, is time spent in a primitive, heartfelt state of contentment that no earthly worries can penetrate. It’s just… so… fluffy.
Grace // Polwarth+Silk and Panda
Polworth+Silk was my favorite fine fibre for years. It drafts like a dream and the resulting yarn is super soft against the skin. A few years ago, when Felicia was preparing for her Craftsy class “Spinning Dyed Fibres”, I had the privilege of helping to spin some of her example skeins. It was my first time working with Polworth, and it was an excellent lesson on why it is important to sample your yarn! She gave me braids of beautiful fibre, direction on how to work the colours, as well as how thick she wanted her yarn. In my eagerness to get it finished on time (as well as just plain having fun working with the materials!) I spun all the fibre first, then washed it. Well. Felicia had asked me to give her fingering/sport weight yarn. The Polworth had drafted so smoothly and easily onto the bobbin that I had no problem spinning thin singles. When I plied them together, they looked like they would measure to be just the right wraps-per-inch. However, when I washed them, they plumped up like a balloon! Sooo fluffy and soft, the final yarn was now a DK weight. Oops! Fortunately, Felicia was still happy with my yarn, but I was a little embarrassed about my rookie mistake! I know now when you are working with a new fibre, it’s best to just spinning a little bit of it, wash it and let it dry. Your yarn can change properties immensely in this process! Well, I do that now; I have learned my lesson. Sometimes I even knit small swatches of test fibre before I spin the entire bump to ensure I am happy with all the properties and colour of the final yarn.
I love Polworth+Silk for all the reasons it surprised me. I love how it puffs up after I wash it. I get satisfaction of spinning nice thin singles that results in a beautiful soft bouncy yarn. The thicker yarn knits up quickly into hats and scarfs — my ‘go-to’ projects for this fibre type.
Since I have started teaching spinning lessons here at the studio, I have been drawn to Panda more and more. This fibre blend consists of 60% superwash merino, 30% bamboo rayon and 10% nylon. The bamboo component does not absorb the dyes we use here at the studio, resulting in beautiful white streaks racing throughout the roving. This fibre is magnificent to draft; when I spin it worsted my singles are soft, sleek, and drapey. When knit, the colour takes on a fantastic tweedy look when the white streaks combine with the colourful fibres. I know I can subject it to a little more wear because of the superwash merino content, and it will have stretch and bounce because of the nylon. This is one the fibre blends I pass along to my students after they have tried their hands at BFL and merino; they find spinning it an easy, satisfying treat and they always get beautiful results.
Felicia // Silk, silk and more silk
Like spinning a “default” yarn (the diameter of singles you make when you are spinning on autopilot), I think I have fibres that I default to as well. Silk takes dye like nothing else and I just love looking at freshly dyed Bombyx Silk, dreaming of what beautiful laceweight yarns I would make out of it… those daydreams evolve into thoughts about weaving with handspun silk and then degrade entirely when I wake up to the fact that my hands are super dry and rough from my compulsive handwashing habit. Spinning with pure silk requires soft, smooth, and oft-moisturized hands to produce the slick and shiny yarns I crave. Still, I lean towards silk blends because I love the subtle glitter and lustre… just the tiniest bit of sparkle so that it feels charmingly effervescent rather than blingy or trashy.
While for yarn, I love love love our Merino and Silk blend laceweight and fingering weight yarns, I would have to say that Merino+Silk spinning fibre is not for the faint of heart. Merino is fine wool and paired with the cultivated silk, it begs to be spun fine into delicate laceweight. I just can’t break my addiction to this fibre. I’ve started many a bobbin of this beautiful fibre but never seem to have the stamina to make it through an entire 4 oz braid. So my house seems to be littered with half-filled bobbins of well-intentioned Merino+Silk singles… When you’re spinning frog hair without end, you just feel like a bit more instant gratification, you know?
Enter BFL+Silk. Every time I think of spinning yarn to make a sweater, I immediately think of BFL+Silk. BFL is a longer wool than merino, but still soft and fine enough for next-to-skin wear. Being a longer staple length, it’s easier to handle and more forgiving to spin while watching late night tv. The silk in the BFL+Silk blend just glitters softly, just enough so you know it’s there. And it spins up into a beautiful bouncy yarn.
Spin it fine for laceweight or thicker for sweater yarns… ultimately it will remain beautifully lustrous and warm. BFL+Silk is definitely my go-to fibre. If I could have just one fibre to spin forever and ever, it would be this one!
Thanks for sharing in our discussion about our favorite spinning fibres! Having a trusted fibre blend to work with is essential to a spinner – not only does it make the spinning experience pleasant, but weaving or knitting with your handspun becomes a real joy. After all, when you create your own yarn, you are spending twice as much time with your fibre than if you were to buy commercial-made!
See you again in two weeks!