The Favor of a Reply

Spinny post! Spinny post!

Hey, I’m entitled. I’ve earned it. I was good. I did my Pattern Purdah thing like a trooper, and I got it all done in pretty good time, and I’ve already started work on the next bit of Pattern Purdah, so… wait a minute, why am I making excuses? I’ll spin if I want to, and I’ll blog about it if I want to, so there.

Oh, wait, though. First - there’s something I keep meaning/forgetting to say about the York & Lancaster sock. It’s a little embarrassing, actually. Or amusing. Yeah, that’s it, amusing. Remember how I mentioned that the whole heel thing would have been enormously easier if I’d made the sock cuff-down? how that would have bypassed the whole problem of calculating the pattern matching? Yeah, well… it wasn’t until I’d almost finished sock #2 that it hit me: this is in fact the first tsock I’ve designed that is entirely reversible. The stitch patterns are non-directional; there’s absolutely no reason you couldn’t flip the whole thing and do it cuff-down. Of course, I’ve just done a cuff-down flap/gusset design for the club, and you wouldn’t want two in a row, because that would be boring, right? but nevertheless it would be a perfectly logical and reasonable thing to do. In fact, I’m thinking maybe next year I should re-write it to include both options. Maybe. It’s too late to do it for this iteration, because the patterns are already printed, but if any of you Flock-Folk would prefer to work it cuff-down, just let me know and we’ll work out the details together as you go.

So anyway… in the interstices of hard labor in the salt mines of pattern-writing, I’ve been unintentionally demonstrating the truth of the adage that spinning on a spindle is “slower by the hour, faster by the week” as compared to spinning on a wheel. As in - it’s amazing how much spinning you can actually get done in the course of a few quick spindle-breaks here and there.

First of all, I finished spinning the last little skein of the sock yarn I showed you the other day. And having done so I took a long hard look at it, and a long hard feel of it, and I decided that that hard feel still just… felt too hard. That, in short, I had gone way overboard in my zeal to over-ply. Mind you, I wanted it tight-plied; but what I had was definitely too much of a good thing. Luckily for me - you can’t frog spinning, but it turns out you can fine-tune plying. Or rough-tune it, as the case may be, because what I ended up doing to this yarn was hardly subtle. I put it all together into one skein, balled it up, took it to the wheel, and unplied the hell out of it. Then re-washed and re-set it, and - holy schlamoly, what a difference!

It’s at moments like this that I really wish somebody would come up with a touch-and-texture plug-in, so that you could reach in and feel how soft this yarn is compared to the previous version.

Finished Sock Skein

That’s 315 yards altogether, of a quite respectable 4-ply sock yarn, if I do say so myself.

Finished Sock Skein Close-Up

QUITE respectable. Firm. Soft. Sproingy. Actual Sock Yarn, Actually Spun By Actual ME.

OK, I’ll try to stop hyperventilating now. But… it’s pretty exciting.

Also. The more I think about it, the more intrigued I am by the playing with the plying. Of course the goal is not to need the remedial kind, but when you’ve committed yourself to a particular one-of-a-kind fiber and spun up your whole supply, it’s really heartening to have that option. The merino-mohair I showed you the other day was also the result of remedial plying - in the other direction. I’d wanted it loose - but I had made it a bit too loose. No problem. Stick it on the wheel and add a few extra twists per yard. Soak. Whack. Hang. Done. Beautiful.

Last night I spun up some more of that marvelous red/pink merino/tencel from Abby via Glenna. Remember this overtwisted sample of 2-ply?

I think I forgot to show you the fiber. (Huh. That’s disingenuous. I know I forgot.)

Abby Merino/Tencel

I’ve been deliberately spinning the singles a little thicker than my usual frog hair, just to see what I can do and how smooth I can make it. Anyway, I hadn’t picked up this stuff in a while and I actually didn’t remember how much I’d done to date. Well, last night when I went to wind off the latest copp I was surprised to find that I had two more already wound off. So I thought… maybe the fiber is trying to tell me something. Maybe it wants to be a 3-ply. (My first such, in fact.)

Abby Merino/Tencel 3-ply


Soft and sproingy, a little heavier than sport weight. I love this. I’m going to finish it out this way, and it will be… I don’t know yet what. Something lovely.

Which I guess is part of the point.

I’ve just about wrapped my mind around this now, the fact that it is perfectly possible to spin, and spin well, without actually knowing what you’re making (other than yarn, a beautiful achievement in itself, I hasten to add). So different from knitting, where every step is directed toward a specific goal. You may not know when you buy the yarn, but you pretty much have to know before you cast on, and if you don’t know in the first place you have to hope that the yarn will tell you. Fiber evidently does the same thing, but at a remove. It may tell you how it wants to be spun, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you know how it wants to be plied. And even once you know how it wants to be plied it’s perfectly possible to do the job without knowing what the yarn is going to want to be. This, for ME? Little Miss Detail-Oriented Design Concept? is huge.

So I can spin that raspberryish stuff for look and texture alone, without straining the brain cells reaching after a sense of purpose. That will come later… or not, and either way it’s OK on the ooh-soft-pretty-shiny side of the spinning equation, the thought-without-a-thinker side. The side where I buy fiber out of pure and uncomplicated sensory lust, where I can have a serious credit card accident in the presence of a new batch of Abby batts without having, or needing, the slightest idea of what the fiber will become.

(What, did I say that out loud, about the serious abbybatty accident?

Um, yeah. It’s called Peaches -

Abby Peaches Batt

- and it totally got me where I live. It’s Corriedale/Silk/Alpaca/Mohair, and as you can see from the sample it spins up into something that slips over the edge of peach and starts to trickle off into dusty rose. Soft and a little fuzzy, as of course a peach should be; spins like a dream, needless to say. And all I know about them aside from that, all I NEED to know about them, is that they are beautiful now and someday they will become something else that is also beautiful. And, well… yes, I did say “them.” I might have bought more than one. I’m not sorry.)

Meanwhile, though, on the other side of the spinning equation, there’s that whole different way of going at it - the fiber you choose not only for a particular purpose (i.e. a particular type of yarn) but for a particular project and a particular design. I’ve just done this for the first time, and in characteristic fashion I’ve taken an immoderately huge bite out of it, though not necessarily more than I think I can chew. And I’m finding that it has a fascination all its own.

I can’t tell you any details of the design, because it’s a wild and complicated one that I haven’t fully thought through yet, and I won’t really be able to start executing it any time soon. But it’s been pretty thrilling just to gamble on the choice of fibers, test out the theory, and determine that it actually is going to work the way I want it to.

What I wanted was something in deep greys, with both cool and warm overtones, something that would work well for both socks and lace, because I’m planning to do versions of the same concept in both forms. So here’s what I got.

A big whack of this merino/tussah blend:

SilverFox Fiber

The colorway is called SilverFox; it’s a commercial prep (Ashland Bay? Louet Sales? almost certainly one or the other), but it could almost have been blended to order for what I want, with the cool greys and the touches of silver and soft chocolate. The blend is 70/30, and it probably would do the job just fine on its own… but I got greedy for variety and experience, and I couldn’t resist buying a smaller whack of this tencel as well:

Slate Tencel

I don’t know the first thing about the mechanics of blending fibers - well, actually maybe I know the first thing but I sure don’t know the second - but I love the steely shine on this, and I love the idea of adding a little extra strength for sock purposes, and I just had a feeling it was worth trying to bring these two together.

So I experimented with a small sample… and I think I was right. Assuming I haven’t screwed up the math (not necessarily a safe assumption), the blend I ended up with is about 60% merino, 25% silk, 15% tencel.

Two sample skeinlets, about 30 yards each:

Grey Sample Skeins

Looks like the same basic charcoal grey? Look closer.

Grey Sample Skeins

The color variation shows up better here - and so does the fact that one is a tight 4-ply sock weight, the other a loose 2-ply laceweight, about 26 WPI.


Grey Sample Skeins

Wish you could feel, too. What I just can’t get over, what never stops blowing me away, is the tactile difference. They’re both made from the same batch of singles; the difference is all, all, all in the plying. The laceweight is soft and light; the sock weight firm and solid. Same fiber, same colorway; two completely different yarns with completely different personalities.

And one of them is definitely, ineluctably, unmistakably… sock yarn.

It feels like sock yarn, it quacks like sock yarn, and it LOOKS like sock yarn.

Grey Sock Yarn Close-Up

Oh, I’ve got a lot more Pattern Purdah ahead of me, and a mountain of mission-critical knitting to be done before Rh*n*b*ck. But somewhere in there… somehow… you’d better believe I am going to make the time to find out whether it KNITS like sock yarn.

Some things just can’t wait.



And they didn’t. Big surprise.

I wrote the above late-ish last night. Guess what I did next?

Yup. Swatched all three. Big surprise.

Lace swatch, blocking:

Grey Lace Swatch

Turns out this is the wrong gauge for this stitch pattern, which really ought to be knit more densely to showcase the purl texture in the middle of the panel. But yo! It’s lace! Knitted by me from my handspun!

Here’s a toe in the Abby sock yarn.

Abby Sock Yarn Toe

Walks like sock yarn. Quacks like sock yarn. Knits like sock yarn! It’s a little denser and heavier than I usually look for, but hey - it’s my FIRST, and I’m getting my standard gauge of 8 SPI. This is going straight to the back burner for now, but it’s going to make a beautiful simple sock when the time comes, all tweedy and subtle.

Abby Sock Yarn Cake

Unless I change my mind and keep it in the cake so I can just gaze at it and admire the interplay of color.

Speaking of walking, quacking and knitting like sock yarn… check it out; another toe:

Grey Sock Toe

I just can’t get over this. Still a tiny bit dense, but I have apparently learned an enormous amount between my first sock yarn and my second. Again, I’m getting gauge, and a nice firm soft stretchy socky fabric.

I. Haz. Made. Teh. Sock. Yarnz.

23 Responses to “The Favor of a Reply”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Oh my. It’s all beautiful. You should be proud of your spinning. I am in awe, myself.

  2. Connie Says:

    Oh, not fair! You’re making me want to spin. **pouts**

    Absolutely scrumptious, though–can I come live at your house?

  3. Melanie Says:

    Beautiful! No fair, though. Your sock yarn actually looks like sock yarn! Mine’s still very beginner-ish…

  4. Elayne Branson Says:

    Your handspun is kickass beautiful!

  5. Xeres Says:

    I curl up in a foetal ball of envy. I wants to make Teh Sock Yarnz too !!!! I want handspun socks. You did Good.

    PS don’t you ever sleep????? lol

  6. Deidra Says:

    Not fair. I have not yet received my Abbybatts fix from my credit-card falling-down incident that happened on the same exact day as yours. I did, however, get my AbbySilk from Beth. Oh, la, la. You say you like saturated, you should check that out next! And Boogie had some serious sock batt up called “Oil Slick” that was all dark and sparkly and so you, but I swear someone swiped it off the site before I could tell you about it on Ravelry. And no, it wasn’t me. I still haven’t stopped pining for Nightwatch.

    Your spinning skills are amazing. I can’t believe how fast you’ve come so quickly. But I am laughing about how you’re amazed you can play with fiber and not have to be as detail-obsessed about it. I do hope you have enough room for all the fiber you’re going to need to feed that feeling. “Feel the Fiber, Tsock Tsarina, let it flow through your fingers. It will tell you what it wants to be” Bad take from Star Wars. hehe.

  7. ZaftigWendy Says:

    Looking at you, Kickin A and Takin Names!


  8. onafixedincome Says:

    Sheesh. So much for the plebian stuff, eh? *evil grin* I can’t wait til you try the Angora….

    Other than that…I give up. I’m a total beginner with major issues compared to you. I bow to the Mistress.

    (Psst! Hey guys, look! It’s SPIDERWOMAN!! :) )

  9. Veriton Says:

    I I I I have no words.
    Beautiful, I like the gray one, send it over
    and the one from the abby batt too, send that one over too, I’ll give it a good home, promise!

  10. elizabeth R Says:

    Hey! Those sock toes are pretty! By what method did you make them?

  11. Marina Stern Says:

    Gorgeous, every one.

    And thanks for the kind words about my first attempt at dyeing. My email’s out of order, interfering with my reply.

    Currently working on panda cotton socks for wool-allergic hubby. Maybe when I finish them, he’ll fix my email.

  12. Marina Stern Says:

    On second glance– is it a trick of perspective, or do you make right and left socks?

  13. thetserf Says:


    I’ve been slowly spinning off the yellow silk.

  14. Mardi Says:

    Well, um. I can’t remember - was all the sock yarn spun on spindles but plied on the wheel?? If you’re spinning that frog hair on the wheel, well, I’m just going to give up and lay down in the road and off myself. Dayum!! That’s amazin’!

  15. Kelly Says:

    Yep that’s the beauty of spinning, you just spin the fiber however it tells you to spin it and ply it the way it tells you to and then worry about what to make with it later!! Sometimes you know going in what the end result will be and other times you just spin to make the yarn!! Sooner or later the yarn will tell you what it wants to be.
    Your yarns are incredible!! Love the toes!!!

  16. Sharon Rose Says:

    I had an actual visceral reaction to those grey fiber clouds…. yum…. what a lucky and talented girl you are! :)

  17. colorlessblue Says:

    You sucked me into pining for subtle, blended batts, instead of the usual spacedyed rovings that I oggle all the time. I have something on the way home now and I really hope my spinning improve enough for me to try the sock yarns before it arrives here.

  18. Marcy Says:

    YaaaaY! You can haz handspun! :D

    My little heart just went pitty-pat at that grey blend yarn. Woh.

  19. Programmer at Arms Says:

    That 4-ply yarn is amazing. Love the colors, too. Go, you!

  20. alwen Says:

    Yarn - so shiny. WANT!

  21. Cyd Says:

    They all look so yummy, and really, simply amazing. I wish I could reach through the monitor and smoosh them. Great work!

  22. yberry Says:

    I keep reading your exploits and going “tsk… tsk…” at your evident madness, and yet, bit by bit I come to realize that I want to be you when I grow up.

    Oy vey.

  23. RobinH Says:

    First of all- nix on the touch plug in - it would be lovely for yarn, but rapidly coopted for other purposes too disgusting to describe in a comment (or anywhere I would want to appear in my internet history file…).

    And? That sock yarn is all kinds of lovely! Guess we won’t hear you complaining about having nothing to knit for a while, eh? Pretty! I can’t wait to see the lovely greeny stuff in sock form :).

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