Monday, September 29, 2008

Decisions, decisions

As I think I have mentioned before (translation: I am too lazy to check) my big project right now is to spin & then knit myself a cardigan. This was supposed to be my big project last winter, but it didn't get very far. But a winter's worth of wishing I had a nice gray cardigan might be the impetus to get me to actually make one this year.

I am using a Churro-Corriedale cross fleece that is nice to the touch but not the softest thing ever -- good, because I want this to be durable and long lasting. What passes for winter here is not all that cold, and I wear a wool cardigan as my outer coat through much of the long fall. When it gets colder, I just put a coat on top; I wear a wool cardigan almost every day and I want this one to be around for a few decades.

Last week I experimented with fiber prep. First I carded a batt, elongated it, & spun it supported long draw from the end for a semi everything style single, which I then made into a 3 ply with a fairly high angle of twist.

Next I combed yarn with both my English combs and my Viking combs, and spun them pretty much the same way.

(For comparison purposes, I noted that there was twice as much waste with the English combs but prep time was a little faster with the English. I also felt they were easier on my wrists, but harder to use in that I won't get them out when my kids are home. I'm afraid I'll stab myself in the thigh due to a sudden shriek or racing child. Prep time with the combs seemed about comparable to carding, though I didn't keep records when I made that batt, either of the time spent teasing or the amount of waste (considerable as there were lots of second cuts).)

Here's the swatch knit up from those three yarns:

On the bottom is the carded fiber. The middle bit is Viking combs & the top is English.

In person the yarn made from carded fiber is much fuzzier. I'm not sure if the difference will persist through many washes or wearings, though. (And in all honesty, my husband says the differences are all but imperceptable to him.)

Here they are knit into a cable (with peculiar errors, but it was knit at a child's birthday party):

The bottom half is carded fiber. Then there's a garter stitch break; next comes the fiber prepped with Viking combs; after a faint black line comes the English comb version.

Here I see little or no difference -- do you?

Then I decided to try worsted prep & worsted spinning, again for a three ply. Because I'm hoping to do this sweater fairly quickly, I spun the singles at an easy size, which was a little finer than the easy size for the long draw. Also, of course, the yarn didn't bloom as much (or really at all). So I knitted this swatch separately, on 5's instead of 7's:

Here are the two yarns that differ the most, the drum carded & the worsted spun. Even though my scanner couldn't quite focus on them you can still see the difference in fuzziness:

Here are the swatches side by side:

Now you can really see the difference. They are both very appealing to me. I like the clarity of the worsted yarn, but I like the fuzziness of the semi-woolen. Should I make a fuzzy-cable sweater if I'm thinking I might also make a twisted-stitch sweater, so that the contrast between the two will be greater? Should I choose the woolenish yarn because the worsted yarn takes twice as long to spin?

Also, and perhaps more seriously, I am planning on knitting as I spin, not spinning all the yarn first and then knitting. This means, of course, that I can't spin all the singles before plying, and so will need to stay pretty consistent as I go along. You can see in the photo of the two yarns that the woolen style yarn is much more consistent than the worsted. I wasn't really concentrating on either yarn, but to be honest I don't think I can maintain concentration across a sweater's worth of yarn, so I thought I might as well sample the way I would probably spin the real yarn.

Comments? Things I should be taking into consideration? I'm going to stuff the swatches into my pockets and carry them around for a week while re-reading all my books on Aran design. Then I will probably knit the Must-Have Cardigan (Ravelry link) except I have to fix that neck. The way that cable gets cut off drives me crazy which is why I've never knit this even though it has been catching my eye for years. Plus I like it in oatmeal, so maybe I shouldn't knit it in gray because I certainly don't want to knit it twice. So maybe I should make Norah Gaughan's Tweedy Aran Cardigan (Ravelry again) which would totally require the worsted yarn except -- hello? Norah? what's with the hip-enhancing band? -- it calls for a different sort of redesign. So like I said, I have some planning & thinking to do while I let these swatches age. But not for too long ... it may be getting up to 90 today, but fall is surely coming.


Shan said...

I envy you all your spinning knowledge. I am just beginning and can't fathom being able to consider all these options, then make it all happen with your own hands.

Caroline M said...

It is a lovely colour isn't it? I imagine that when you fish those swatches out you'll know which one you want as the winner before you look at them. Until they develop touch and feel blogs I can't tell the difference between the preps.

I'm not saying anything about spin-knit-spin seing as I'm as bad myself. I'm doing well if I've spun the second sock before I've knitted the first one.