Pretty much from the day I got home from my level 4 class, I have been mentally planning my project for the final. What else does one do while spinning for hours and hours. Maybe I am the crazy one, but I spend my spinning time pondering.
My first pondering, was that I had this bag of Yak fiber that I had picked up in Taos about 3 years ago now. It’s hard to believe it has been that long, but time flies. I got the go ahead from my teacher that it’s a “legal” fiber as we studied the down fibers this year. I tossed around blending it with something, doing something with 100% Yak etc.
Then this summer I started my foray into weaving… and ended up with a rigid heddle loom this fall. Then a plan came into my head, I could spin and weave a shawl. I was super excited and started sampling and doing some yarn calculations. I ended up realizing that I would not have enough Yak to use it on it’s own. It could be a stripe of sorts. I have 6 colors or more of alpaca. I decided I would do a plain weave scarf with two colors of alpaca. I picked my colors and started sampling and stalled for weeks. Part of that was that the idea of hand carding the alpaca for 400 yard of each color seemed really boring and not something I wanted to do. My yarn was not quite the right WPI for the project… I really just wanted to drum card it, but that would take 5 min instead of hours and this project needs to be at least 75 hours… So I was stalling.
Then my husband commented on this triangle shawl that I wear all the time. It’s just a basic triangle. No lace, nothing special. Every 10 rows there is a purl row. It’s made out of about 8 oz of handspun. Probably around 800 yards. I’m estimating because I don’t think I actually wrote it down. I can’t find the pattern anymore. So I have no idea what the name of it is. What my husband noticed was that it is basically a half Shemagh which he uses when hiking. “Can you wrap it around your head?” he says… “well yes”, I answered. I had knit it especially for hiking. Although it’s my biggest shawl so I just end up wrapped up in it a lot. It’s also this amazing color way, so it’s stunning for dress up. The fiber blend is superwash merino, bamboo and nylon from Susan’s spinning bunny. That led into a discussion about what would be the best fiber for a winter and or a summer half Shemagh. In the midst of this discussion, we decided that about 800 yards of fingering weight sock yarn was what he needed. I told him I could spin it after I finished my final project, but he probably would not get it soon.
The idea kept going round and round and round in my head. I have merino, yak, silk, alpaca…. you name it in my closet. Finally, a couple of days ago, I said to him “you know, if I knit it as my final project you would have it by this winter.” Today, I spent about 3 hours sampling.
I decided that I would start with a blend of 60% merino, 20 % silk, and 20% Yak. The Merino I started with is that same Brown I have been spinning and processing all year. The silk is this gorgeous red eri I got at my class. Finally, the Yak. What you will notice in the above photo is that both the Merino and the silk have been cut. This is vital when blending it with something like Yak which has such a small staple length. The other thing to notice is that the Yak (top right) and the silk (bottom) are both .2g. It was shocking. There is literally 3 times the volume of silk for the weight. These were carded together into a puni
It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the caramel of the red eri was stunning in this. When I sample, I card 1g punis or rolags or sliver (depending on the project). It makes the calculation easy. I spun up three, 1g punis into an eight yard skein. Doing the math:
- For an 8 yard skein, I used three 1 g punis (Meaning that 1 puni basically = 8 yards)
- I want 800 yards, so I would need at least 80 (I rounded up on this one figuring I might squeak out 10 yards)(which was probably being way too optimistic)
- That means I would need at least 80 rolags per single
- each single would require 48 g merino, 16 gram of Yak and 16 g of silk.
- Which means that I would need a total of 144 g merino, 48 g of Yak and 48 g of Silk.
We now have a BIG problem. I only have slightly less than 16 grams total of the red eri silk. After pricing red eri silk, (ahem) I decided that I really needed to find a different solution.
Solution 1: use Bombyx. I have a little over 47 g of Bombyx in my stash (yes I weighed every last bit I could find) I could also decrease the percentage of silk to 10 %. I have enough Yak to potentially increase the percentage to 30%. I can also change to the white Merino instead of the Brown. So I spun up a second skein.
The only problem is that it only ended up being 5 yards! ARG! Again the numbers speak loudly. To make 800 yards I would need a total of 288g of white Merino, 144g of Yak, and 48 g of Bombyx. Now I don’t have enough Yak! On the positive side, the color ended up being a beautiful light grey. It’s not as soft as the first yarn. The brown Merino is considerably softer than the white.
More thinking. I needed another fiber that I have in mass quantities as a filler. It has to be alpaca. So I made a third skein. I went back to the brown Merino and decreased it to 50%, added a fawn alpaca at 30%, Yak at 20% and Bombyx at 10%. It has a soft hand like the first yarn. It ended up being 7 yards. So by the numbers I would need a total of 171g of Merino, 68.4 g of alpaca, 34.2 g of silk and 68.4 g of Yak. I have enough of everything.
My husband had been gone all day with the eldest at a swim meet, so when he got home I showed him all three. He loved the color of option #2 and the hand of option #3. What I decided to do was use the recipe for option #3 and change it up in the following way. I am using the white merino, and black or potentially a combination of black and white alpaca. It may just end up giving me a charcoal, he would prefer the lighter grey. I am kind of excited and it’s too late to go over and sample another skein.
Now the hard part starts, I need to wash, and comb 171g of Merino. That and card 114 rolags per single. In case anyone realized my mental disconnect about not wanting to card enough rolags for the woven shawl ahem… I am going to be carding at least the same amount if not more for this. Well, probably not more. I needed 400 yards of warp and weft for the shawl, so that is 800 yards total. The difference is that blending fibers is way more interesting than just carding one. At least in my humble opinion.