March 13, 2007

Sock Yarn Review

This post is text heavy. Those of you looking for a picture and a summary scroll to end.

The review is for Elizabeth, who is thinking of selling some of her skills in the form of dyed roving or handpainted (hand dyed?) yarn. You remember that she gave it to me in awful month February, aka the month of financial woes, in return for some feedback. There is nothing like a huge skien of free sock yarn to pick up your month. I can vouch for that!

Please remember that this review is my opinion only, and a spinner can only improve as time goes by. Furthermore, I believe that Elizabeth was already well aware of the virtues and limitations of her spinning prior to recieving my review. She has in fact already read my review of her yarn. Myself, not being a spinner, did my best job reviewing how well it knit up rather than how well it was constructed, but I took a shot at that too:

"I will start with the most obvious part-the color. There are plenty of methods for dying your yarn and plenty of articles about those methods (like the one in the most recent Knitty). Hot, cold, hand-painted, dipped-I know little about them, except to pick the method that works best for you be it based on cost, time, or amount of materials. The pink dyes you used for me were very thoroughly soaked into the yarn. Rarely did I come upon a bit that was either so very lightly dyed you could not tell if it was dyed or not dyed at all. The transition between the pinks (Shades? hues?) was very gradual, which I personally prefer. It seems to me that the best selling ‘handpainted’ yarns are those that have some depth, whether they change many colors, or many shades of one color. And let’s face it, it’s probably harder for an individual to get multiple skeins identical colors than a commerical business. Also, the ‘handpainted’ quality, or the lack of identical-ness between skeins of the yarn, is one reason knitters are drawn to it. You may want to research some other dyer’s yarns to see what people are buying, rather than base it on what you would want. I suggest looking at sweetgeorgia’s yarn, and Emily Parson’s etsy shop. It’s two different scales of spinning/dying, but I think it will give you a good reference base. Back to your yarn-The dye job was well done. Whatever method you used worked well, I would continue to use it.

Next let’s discuss the weight. It seems to me that the best spinners pick the weight they use the most often and spin that size yarn. What I mean is that the spinners focus on learning one set motions they use on the wheel to get a specific weight. Also, they try different wheels, spindles, pins, bobbins, etc. to get what works for them best for that specific weight. It would seem only natural that you may use one set of moves for a smaller weight and a different set of moves for a larger weight. Once a spinner can consistently spin the same size/weight yarn, if she wanted to then she would move to spinning another weight. You did mention that for the most part it was a little heavier than commercial sock yarns, so I was prepared. The heavier weight is fine, but the change from finely spun to loosely spun made it tricky to knit in gauge. Obviously, knitters want a consistently ‘weighted’ yarn. The difference in weight throughout your skein was probably the most obvious quality about your yarn. Practice makes perfect and fortunately spinning is something you like to do! (Please note dear readers that Elizabeth started spinning in November. Only 4 months ago. So, she knows this fact about spinning.)

In addition the heavier weighted sections of the yarn made it difficult for me, the world's tightest knitter, to keep from having 'knobby' stitches in my pattern. A looser knitter or a knitter using larger needles, may or may not have the same issue. This is easily corrected as we both know with time on the wheel as discussed in the previous paragraph.

Also, I know that the type of fiber makes a different in how you spin it. You would not spin silk the same way you spin highland wool. Even, wools from different types of sheep have different characteristics, such as long fibers and short fibers. I know that the type of fiber makes a difference in the way you spin it and the way you ply it. Unfortunately, I know nothing more about it, so I have no links to share. The wool you spun was a little hairy, so it makes me think that you had some sort of long fibered wool. Now of course, wool will always be a little ‘fuzzy.’ In fact, only when I have bought yarn that was a wool blend did it become less hairy. I also prefer wool blends to straight wool, as I live in the south and don’t need a 100% wool sweater to keep out the cold and snow.

I am unsure of which category this should go, so I’m sticking it here near ‘fiber.’ The type of fiber you picked was soft. Not butter through the hands soft, but still very nice to knit. Only a few times did I come across something my hands recognized as “not yarn.” Those things looked like bits of string, less than a centimeter long. They did not pull off the yarn, but were connected. They were white in color, so they could not pick up the dye. I have run across this issue or a similar one in every kind of yarn I have ever purchased and it bothered me not in the slightest. Being fearful of scissors near my hand knits, I just knit right though those bits. You can’t tell where they are in your knitting after that.

I know there are several types of plying. Unfortunately, plying is the least of my knowledge. I equate plying with the strength of the yarn. Eunny speaks of plying sometimes on her blog, but your best resource (that I know of) is probably Knittyspin, which I’m sure you already know that and several other good places. At any rate, because I know nothing about the art of plying I can’t really comment on its quality. I can say the plied bits I liked best were the similarly colors bits. Not the exactly same colored bits, because that was a little boring, but similar bits. I did not enjoy the very light strands paired with the very dark strains. It had a candy cane effect. The blue arrows are the plys I like, while the green is an example of the candy cane effect. The yarn where there are green arrows knitted up speckled. It was distracting from the actual stitches.

And now that I think about it, (I’m back tracking here, hang on) the yarn didn’t knit up patching or with pools like some multi-shaded yarns do. So the dye job once again, stands up to a high standard.

A breif recap:

1. The dye job was excellent based on:
the shades of the one color used,
b. the gradual transition,
c. the lack of pooling
d. and the thoroughness of the dye job.

2. The heavier weight is fine, however;
a. it was inconsistent thorough the skein,
b. and the change from finely spun to loosely spun made it tricky to knit in gauge.
c. the heavier weight sections and/or loosely spun sections made me personally have a few knobby stitches.
d. I didn’t mention this before, but only in one or two places (at most) do I believe the wool was over spun, making a little kink in the yarn. Not a big deal and is more than likely due to the fact that I tend to twist the yarn in my fingers, but it’s something to think about.

3. Fiber
a. The wool was a little fuzzy/hairy (this is neither good nor bad, as all wool is this way.)
b. I prefer wool blends based on their lack of fuzziness and my southern location.
c. It was soft.
d.The type of fiber may determine the spinning method used.

4. Plying
There are many ways to ply that I do not know about, but I sure the type of fiber affects which one to use.
b. I personally enjoyed the strands that where similarly or complementary colored plied together.
I disliked the very differently or opposing colors plied together, creating what I referred to as a 'candy cane' affect. (technical, uh?)"

I want you all to know that I really enjoyed knitting with Elizabeth's yarn and that I deeply appreciated her kind act. I’ve mentioned it before, but it really did perk up February. When I began to worry about the bills, I knit instead. Every time I picked up the needles I remembered that kindness. I can't wait to pass on the favor!

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