Monday, March 25, 2013

Making the Yarn You Covet

Have you ever found a skein of yarn that was so luxurious and so amazing that you fell in love immediately? And it was either too expensive or maybe the wrong color for you?

Well, here's a story of how I come to find myself spinning up this lovely 50-50 cashmere silk blend from Abstract Fibers in the Maleficent colorway because the yarn I coveted wasn't in *my* colors.

Back in 2009? 2010? at Stitches West, I discovered an amazing yarn, "Kitten" from Tess Yarns. It was an amazing blend of cashmere and silk, and about as soft as the down fur on a 5 week old kitten. The yarn was aptly named. But, it was late on Sunday, and they had sold out of most of their colors.

Although they didn't have the color I wanted, I still bought myself a skein of "Kitten" in variagated grey, and knit myself a wonderful cowl during (just before & after) surgery. To this day, it's my "go-to" cowl, as it's super soft, super cuddly, and just makes me happy. I love this cowl and I love this yarn.

I really wanted to knit another one, but this time in favorite color, red.

In 2012, I went to Stitches hoping to find a red colorway from Tess Yarn in Kitten, but unfortunately the reds they had were not my reds. I prefer a deep dark blood red; their red was more of a dusty rose. But, surely, I thought, someone AT Stitches had a 50-50 cashmere silk blend in my color that was like "Kitten"???

But I was wrong. Vendors didn't have the same blending combination OR they were in the wrong colorway. So, I thought maybe to spin myself my own yarn. After all, I had just learned how to spin, so I was a spinner, wasn't I?

I wandered into Abstract Fibers and inquired about a cashmere silk blend. And lo and behold, they DID have a Cashmere Silk blend, but...alas, not in my colorway. They assured me that they could dye it whatever colorway I wanted. (BTW, full disclosure -- I love Abstract Fibers and might have a "few" of their fiber colorways.....)

Previously, I had spun up their Targhee in the Maleficient colorway, and I really loved the colors. It was all dark redds, purple, and some blacks.


I asked if they could create it for me, and they said YES, it would look magnificent in that colorway. But it would have to be after Stitches some time as they were backlogged. So, I went ahead and ordered/purchased 4 ounces of fiber from them. From previous experience spinning, I know that 4 oz is enough for me to make a cowl or hat or fingerless gloves, so I felt comfortable just ordering this amount.

About a month later, two bumps of 2 ounces arrived at my door. SQUEE! I mean...

Cashmerino silk

It was as soft as a kitten and just absolutely a pleasure to just sit and pet! So, I opted to name this yarn my "Stray Kitten", for it magically appeared on my doorstep and was reminiscent of the "Kitten" in the window of Tess Yarns. (Okay, not really, but go with me here....)

Of course, I didn't spin it right away. I was still a bit unsure about spinning such gorgeous fiber and ruining it. I've never spun cashmere (although I did practice with some yak fibers). At that point, my LYS had started taking registrations for SpinU, so I thought I'd wait until afterwards to spin it this luscious fiber.

As part of the SpinU class, wepun a variety of different ways and yarns, including some more luxury blends. I spun some of Ashland Bay's cashmere silk blend for a sample skein to get more practice for my Stray Kitten. I made a skein of 2 ply sport weight yarn. I was pretty happy with how it came out, and thought to do this for my Stray Kitten.


Tess Yarn's Kitten is a sport weight yarn. From examining the yarn on my cowl, I determined that it was about a 3-ply yarn with some drape so that meant a lower twist angle. Now, I had about 4 oz, and wasn't quite sure how to evenly break up 4 oz into a 3plied yarn without wasting some of the fiber (which I did NOT want to do).

So, I decided a compromise was in order. I still wanted a sport weight yarn, but with 4 oz, I surmised that a 2ply yarn would use all of the yarn up in the most economical way.  So, some spinning math was in order:
  • Sport weight yarn is about approximately 15-18 WPI (according to my Nancy Knick Knack's reference chart).
  • Consequently, a two-ply sport weight yarn requires singles of 30-36 WPI ......
    • 15WPI * 2 singles = 30 WPI
    • 18 WPI * 2 singles = 36 WPI
I played with the ratio on my Sidekick until I got the desired singles (7.25:1 ratio) to be about 32 WPI, and I started spinning.

I spun 2 ounces of singles per bobbin, then plied them together. (This breaks my normal 1oz per bobbin rule, but I wanted a continuous run of yarn and there was only 4 oz and I wanted a 2 ply yarn.)

Afterwards, I plied said singles.

And I got a beautiful 2 ply yarn. I LOVE how the colors play themselves out! It's not a 100% match to Tess Yarn's Kitten, but it's the same weight and the same blend, and lusciously soft. AND it's exactly the color I wanted.

There's 214 yards of yarn....enough for a cowl.

My beautiful Stray Kitten! Now, I have to find a suitable pattern! I can't wait!

But, that's how I made the yarn I coveted.