Brave readers, it’s time for the next installment of adventures in spinning cashmere. In the first entry, I wrote about my attempt at drafting the singles and overcoming the idea that spinning cashmere would be as hard as everyone made it sound. At the time, I was working on the second single with the idea that the true test of whether or not I could spin cashmere would be in the plying. If the singles fell apart every couple of feet, then I’d failed. If the singles stayed together, then I could actually spin cashmere without screwing it up.
Did the singles pass the plying test? If you haven’t already guessed from all the pictures, yes! Seeing all the plied yarn on the bobbins was a relief because I wasn’t sure I was going to pull it off until they were done. There were a few times with the singles pulled apart on me, but I didn’t need all the fingers on one hand to count them. Whew.
The final test came with the finishing. Would the skeins be the lofty, airy yarn I set out to spin? Before the skeins went into the bath, they looked a little limp - plenty of plying twist in them, but limp all the same. Finishing the skeins with a soak and a gentle thwack changed them for the better. The yarn plumped up to a beautiful, airy body and texture. Soft too. Oh, so soft. Of everything I’ve spun, this was the hardest to let go of. If the fiber hadn’t been sent to me to spin and then send back, I probably would have kept the yarn as a pet. Have I mentioned how soft it was? Mmmm…
Enough with the daydreaming, onto the technical details. Now that I know that what I did to spin this cashmere actually works, I can share my notes in good conscience. They still come with the disclaimer that I’m still a newb when it comes to working with this luscious stuff though.
I didn’t actually read up on how to spin cashmere before I started the singles. My idea to spin cashmere woolen came from a cotton spinning demo with Stephanie Gaustad when she visited the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild. (Side note: Fiber guilds are great resources and worth joining.) My biggest takeaway was Gaustad’s comment that people thought spinning cotton, a short staple fiber, was hard was because they tried to spin it the same they they spun grabby, long-stapled fibers. Instead, she recommended woolen spinning because the twist would move into the fiber supply and keep things from falling apart during drafting.
I decided to try this idea with the short, slippery cashmere. So, I used a woolen drafting style and let the twist come into the fiber supply. To keep the twist from locking up the fibers, I set the take up low and used a larger whorl. There’s usually at least good foot and a half between my hands and the wheel’s orifice, so this distance let more twist enter the single before it went on the bobbin. As for plying, I didn’t do anything beyond the ordinary tensioning andbalance checks.
I did do some research on how to finish cashmere but didn’t turn up much in my cursory internet search. I was working on a deadline, remember. Ended up following my usual steps for finishing a woolen yarn. First, the skeins soaked in cool water with a little Eucalan for about 20 minutes. After the yarn came out of the bath, and I squeezed out as much water as possible first with my hands and then by rolling the yarn up in a towel. I evened out the twist with a few good snaps around my hands before giving the yarn a few gentle thwacks against the shower wall. Gentle is key here since I wanted the plies to open up but not develop a halo. Then I hung them up to dry, and the wait proved to be the hardest part of finishing. The last step, which I heartily recommend, is petting the yarn like it’s an adorable kitten. So soft...
Fiber: 2 oz cashmere top
Yardage: Mama ~240 yds and Mini ~25 yds
Plies & Weight: 2-ply Sport; Mini skein plied on itself
Start & Finish: November 28 - December 15, 2015