Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

This is part 3 in a series reviewing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarns Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving. Here’s Part 1 and Part 2

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

When last we left our intrepid handspun, it was still on the bobbin and plotting it’s escape… I’m pretty sure the grand plan was to look really pretty so that I’d have to skein it up. Well, it worked because I couldn’t resist anymore. I used a swift to wind the skein and popped it off to get a better look at the yarn. The neps and clumps of wool, which has been the determining factor for how the yarn was spun , were still visible but didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. In fact, the neps along with some uneven tension they created during plying gave the handspun a bit of rustic charm. The chain-plied single was both distinct and rather plump. Plus, It didn’t look all that different from a yarn drafted with a more conventional method.

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

I quickly measured the wraps per inch, and dunked it into a cool bath with Eucalan for about 20 minutes. The water had a slight blue tinge, but the yarn didn’t leave any dye on the white towel I used to squish out extra water. Then I snapped the yarn across my arms a few times to even out the twist. Those steps are all part of my usual yarn finishing routine. On a lark, I decided to also give the yarn a few good thwacks against the shower wall with the thought that it would make the neps less visible. Then I hung the yarn to dry overnight. 

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

There’s a reason I only sometimes “thwack” handspun, and this yarn is a perfect example why. Thwacking definitely made the neps less visible but it also changed the yarn’s surface. The distinct “plies” relaxed which means that a lot of the finer details were lost. The bloom also gave the yarn a bit of a halo - great for hiding neps but at the cost of making the yarn a little prickly. I’m not particularly sensitive to prickle, so I could still wear this yarn next my neck, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for a cowl. The yarn, and the roving it used to be, was definitely softer before it got a good thwacking. If you like the character neps can add to a yarn, just snap the yarn to even out the twist and hang it up to dry. 

There was one other change to the yarn after finishing, wraps per inch. Before getting a bath, the WPI averaged 7-8 which put into into the aran-bulky range. After washing, the yarn was definitely a bulky weight at 7 WPI. Pre-bath measurements also told me that I had about 158 yards but I’m sure there’s less now that the yarn has plumped up. If I’m doing my math correctly, that would mean I turned 294 yards of pencil roving into a 474 yard single.

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

Since we’re talking about a chain-plied yarn, here’s where two of the chains linked together. This bulky change is actually an exception in the skein because I was able to find it. In spite of the thick and thin nature of the single, the joins between links are generally invisible. It probably helps that I made fairly large chains, usually 18” or longer.

The other good thing about making long chains while chain-plying a single with a distinct stripe pattern is that it helps colors shift from one to the next without muddying them. While most roving is one long length that’s been dyed, Rainbow Roll is a combination of pre-dyed wool carded in stripes. Check out these photos of Noro’s yarn being made to see what I mean. Sometimes the color is solid and other times a heather where colors overlap. Chain-plying helped blend those two different kinds of color.

I got so caught up in how to deal with neps, that I forgot to mention vegetable matter earlier. There was some VM, but not much and it was easy enough to pick out. I also noticed a small amount in the bottom of the sink when I took the yarn out of the bath. The roving definitely didn’t feel dirty while I was spinning it. 

The Noro Rainbow Roll is spun, chain-plied, and finished! It became a beautiful handspun yarn, but what's my final verdict? | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 2

Now that I’ve got a fresh skein of handspun in the stash, what’s my verdict? Sometimes being stubborn is a good thing. Figuring out how turn a nep-filled roving into yarn without hating every second of spinning it became a puzzle I had to solve. I’m absolutely thrilled with the yarn Rainbow Roll became, but I know the process required to get there isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It was frustrating before I found a solution and afterward the spinning never did go to autopilot. Nor was this the kind of project where I could do anything I wanted. The fiber called the shots 100% and completely changed my original plan. If you want autopilot spinning where you’re in control, pick something else and save the Rainbow Roll for knitting or weaving. Just don’t tug too hard. If you're up for some focused spinning, Rainbow Roll will certainly fit the bill.

Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 1

Rainbow Roll and I had a frustrating start, but we still created some beautiful handspun yarn. | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 1 - withwool.com

This is Part 2 in a series reviewing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarns Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving. Here’s Part 1. 

Today I plied, but I’ve been spinning the Noro Rainbow Roll every day since February 23. It’s been an experience. 

Rainbow Roll and I had a frustrating start, but we still created some beautiful handspun yarn. | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 1 - withwool.com

I gave the fiber one last look before sitting down at the wheel, and noticed neps, small clusters of fibers that have tangled into knots, on the outer rim of the roving. At the time I wasn’t sure if the neps were localized in one spot due to handling or were present in the entire batch. The only way to find out was to get spinning. 

My original plan for this fiber - it was what I had in mind when I bought the Rainbow Roll - was to spin a fingering weight single to preserve the color repeat and then full it to improve durability. I found the end on the outer edge and started drafting from the outside in. Once I was a few feet into the roving, I could tell that I was going to need a new plan. The neps weren’t localized to one spot. They weren’t caused by rough handling or improper storage. These neps were created when the roving was carded. At first I thought it might just be in a particular color, but the neps were consistent and constant throughout the entire 3.5 ounces. Picking them out, a fairly common thing to do with neps, wasn’t an option for several reasons. One, the neps were very close together and often several to an inch. Two, when there weren’t neps there were clumps of wool and picking them out would mean pulling the roving apart. 

Rainbow Roll and I had a frustrating start, but we still created some beautiful handspun yarn. | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 1 - withwool.com

If you’re weaving or knitting or felting with the roving, neps aren’t a big deal. They can add texture and interest. If you’re trying to spin fiber filled with neps, it’s just a giant pain in the ass. Wether you’re aiming for a smooth worsted style yarn or an airy woolen style, neps muck up drafting. The first 2 colors I spun from the roll are an annoying combination of weak blobs of wool and tightly spun thread. Definitely not the fine single I had in mind. My frustration was growing which meant I had just two options - quit or completely change gears. 

A video posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

The blue and purple is what the single looked like when using the first drafting method. The green and white used the second drafting method. | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 1 - withwool.com

So, I changed gears and decided to modify how I drafted. My initial drafting method was to draft fiber from the roving and then let twist enter said fiber. On a complete lark I decided to reverse this process. I let the twist into 6 or so inches of pencil roving, and then pulled on the roving to even out the single. It actually worked. The single was more consistent, and the neps seemed more like an intentional texture than a hinderance. Don’t misunderstand, the single was still on the wild side. I’d just found a method to work with the roving that didn’t make me want to quit. Good thing there’s lots of different ways to make yarn, huh?

Rainbow Roll and I had a frustrating start, but we still created some beautiful handspun yarn. | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 1 - withwool.com

I finished drafting the yarn on Friday and let it rest over night before plying. What drew me to Rainbow Roll in the first place was the color and I wanted to maintain that clarity as much as possible. The best way I know to keep distinct color is chain-plying. So I set up the bulky bobbin and flyer and got to work. Once I found my rhythm, plying went very quickly - less than two hours and I was done. Well, done with the more consistent part of the single. The bobbin was literally full at the same time I started into the weak early section. Seemed like the perfect time to call it quits.

I haven’t skeined the yarn yet or given it a bath to set the twist, but I’m very happy with what ended up on the bobbin. It’s colorful, soft, bulky, and has a certain rustic charm. I want to knit it and wear it which is a far cry from the frustration of when I first started spinning it.  

Rainbow Roll and I had a frustrating start, but we still created some beautiful handspun yarn. | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 1 - withwool.com
Rainbow Roll and I had a frustrating start, but we still created some beautiful handspun yarn. | Spinning Noro Rainbow Roll Part 1 - withwool.com

Review: Comparing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarn Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving

Pencil roving can be spun, knit, or woven into beautiful things. This review gives a head to head comparison of 2 different pencil rovings, Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Bulky 2-Strand. | Review: Comparing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarn Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving

Pencil roving makes up just a fraction of my fiber stash, but it’s something that fascinates my spinning brain. Maybe it’s the color. Maybe it’s all the possibilities of what can be done with it as soon as it’s in your hands. Spinning of course, but also knitting and weaving. Maybe it’s that I can go into autopilot when I work with it since it’s generally an easy spin. Pencil roving isn’t the easiest thing to find since regular roving and top are much more prevalent. So, I always keep an eye out which is how I’ve come to have stashed two different but intriguing pencil rovings - Imperial Yarns Bulky 2-Strand and Noro Rainbow Roll. In the interest of spinning, let’s do a little head-to-head comparison. 

I went to Atelier Yarns for the first time a few weeks ago. The shop was well stocked and the Bulky 2-Strand was right up front, though I would have found it if it were in the back too. There was a mix of colors - naturals, solid colors, and a selection of heathers. I fell hard for the indigo heather, a mix of purple, navy blue and teal green. The roving was pleasantly soft, but what made me buy the roving was the yarn that tied up the bundle. The 2-ply was made from the same roving and had a deliciously rustic look. I wanted to spin that same cushy yarn.

Pencil roving can be spun, knit, or woven into beautiful things. This review gives a head to head comparison of 2 different pencil rovings, Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Bulky 2-Strand. | Review: Comparing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarn Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving

The Noro Rainbow Roll came into my stash thanks to the internet. I saw it online while I was browsing Eat.Sleep.Knit for gift yarn. My first thought was, “I can get Noro’s gorgeous, long color repeats without fear of interrupting knots, and spin it into a fingering weight single that won’t come apart if I pull too hard? Gimme.” That’s pretty much how it ended up in a box at my door.

Pencil roving can be spun, knit, or woven into beautiful things. This review gives a head to head comparison of 2 different pencil rovings, Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Bulky 2-Strand. | Review: Comparing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarn Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving

The Rainbow Roll and Imperial Bulky are packaged differently. The aptly named Rainbow Roll came wrapped around a cardboard tube in a wide roll which shows off the different colors and their repeat. Imperial Bulky comes wound as a cake like you’d get off a winder. 

The rovings handle color very differently. Rainbow Roll, this is color 1009, is uniformly dyed into colors that follow a repeating sequence. Some colors, like the bright blue, appear to be a solid, while other colors, like the light blue and green, have a heathered appearance. The Imperial Bulky, Indigo Heather, is evenly heathered throughout its length. Note: Imperial Bulky also comes in solid colors. 

Pencil roving can be spun, knit, or woven into beautiful things. This review gives a head to head comparison of 2 different pencil rovings, Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Bulky 2-Strand. | Review: Comparing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarn Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving

One more note about the color. On the whole, the Rainbow Roll appears to have more vivid, vibrant colors than the Imperial Bulky. 

What about vegetable matter, AKA VM? Both have some VM, but not much and it all appears to be in small pieces. From looking only at the outer layers, there appears to be more VM in the The Imperial Bulky, but I won’t know for sure until I actually get into the cake. 

Now, let’s touch ‘em. Both pencil rovings are made from 100% wool (neither specifies a breed on the label). I find the Imperial Bulky to be the softer the two, but only barely. I would wear both of them around my neck. How soft they are as yarn, will come down to how they’re spun.

The yardage and put-up of these bundles is where the two rovings start getting very different. The Imperial Bulky is 4 oz/113g and 200 yds/183m. However, as the name implies, The Imperial Bulky 2-strand, is 2 strands of pencil roving that are intended to be knit together to form a bulky yarn. The recommended gauge on the label is 12 sts and 16 rows = 4 inches on US 13 (9mm) needles. What one could do, is separate the two strands - easy since the two aren’t twisted together at all - and get double the yardage with a smaller gauge. 

Pencil roving can be spun, knit, or woven into beautiful things. This review gives a head to head comparison of 2 different pencil rovings, Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Bulky 2-Strand. | Review: Comparing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarn Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving

When the individual strands of both rovings are held next to each other, they appear to be the same thickness.

Rainbow Roll is 3.53oz/100 g and has 294yds/270m of roving. The Rainbow Roll label has no suggested gauge or needle. What the label does say, in part, is this, “This product is not a yarn and is not twisted…” The Rainbow Roll Ravelry Page does categorize the roving as bulky. A quick skim through project pages on Ravelry shows that most people used needles ranging from the US 7 to 13. 

It is only one strand, which isn’t big deal if knitting or weaving, but makes it harder to get the colors match when spinning 2-ply yarn. You could definitely break the roving into separate repeats of color. You could spin a single and chain ply it. Or you could just spin it and let the colors fall where they may.

Pencil roving can be spun, knit, or woven into beautiful things. This review gives a head to head comparison of 2 different pencil rovings, Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Bulky 2-Strand. | Review: Comparing Noro Rainbow Roll and Imperial Yarn Bulky 2-Strand Pencil Roving

As long as we’re talking numbers, what about the price? I paid $20 for the Rainbow Roll and $18.95 for the Bulky 2-Strand. Seems pretty similar at first glance. However, Rainbow Roll comes to $0.068 a yard and Imperial Bulky is $0.094. Still reasonable; however, if you’re working with one strand of Imperial Bulky instead of 2 at a time, the price goes to $0.047 because there’s now 400 yards instead of 200.        

Part 2 of the comparison focuses on spinning the roving. I might love spinning them. I might hate spinning them. But spin them I will…for science! The Rainbow Roll is going on the bobbins first, and I’ll be sharing the details as I go.

P.S. The next few weeks are going to be all over the place (literally) for me, so the posting schedule is going to be a bit different. Instead of long, detailed posts, I'm going to be posting short snippets a few times a week. Thanks for sticking with me!

What's up, pencil roving?

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Tour de Fleece may be over for the year and I’ve finished the Tour’s spinning but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving my goals behind. I’m spinning most everyday and I’m working up to spinning in public again. I’m still eager to try new things too. The closest, new thing at hand was the pencil roving I bought during the Tour. Time to satisfy my curiosity.

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Once I got the label off, the roving was packaged just like a skein of yarn unlike other bumps of roving that come braided or chained. There’s no need to put it on a swift before it can be used though.

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Looking closer, the roving is actually 2 smaller strands that were easily pulled apart. I’m not sure if this is how all pencil roving is packaged or something unique to Pagewood Farms but I like it. The strands were obviously dyed together and have the same color variations. Being able to easily split the strand in half makes it easier to spin color matching singles. This hank is a semi-solid blue so being able to spin matching singles doesn’t matter much but it would be a big help with a more variegated hank. Having 2 strands is also less work too since I don’t have to figure out where to split the fiber in half. 

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Separating the two strands seemed like the right thing to do, so I got right to work. Then I wound the strands into cakes for easy access during spinning and for pre-spinning storage.

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I’ve often read that pencil roving is great for beginners since the fibers all run in the same direction and there’s not a lot of excess fiber to worry with. These reasons make pencil roving easy to draft for the beginner and advanced spinner alike. I’ve only spun a bit over an ounce of the stuff so far, but my experience is that both of these things are true. The spinning it is quite easy and I’d recommend it if you’re still trying to teach your hands how to draft. Muscle memory is such a large part of spinning that can easily be overlooked in the beginning for the theory of adding twist to fiber. Making yarn is a physical process that uses your hands but also entire body. You must train yourself well.

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I’m taking advantage of pencil roving’s qualities to spin a heavier yarn. After spinning so much fingering weight, I want to make sure I can still spin a worsted weight or thicker yarn. It was a bit of struggle to get my fingers to relax and not keep such a death grip on the fiber. The beginning of the single is pretty fine but has gotten thicker over the following yards. Only the plied yarn will tell, but it seems like I can still spin a worsted weight yarn. If only my fingers weren’t turning blue in the process.