Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Monday, January 05, 2009

On the reputation of singles.......

Singles always get a bad reputation, haven't you noticed? In yarn, I mean. I like to think the world has evolved enough that we, as human beings, are less quick to judge and measure based on things like whether or not we are 'attached' or, in the case of yarn, 'plied' to another. If such judgment is still rampant, I likely would be the last to know as I've not been single in some 16 years plus a dating period. So, if the world is still infantile, hateful, and selective based on the most primal need of human existence - to find only things that are like us and be terrified of anything or anyone who chooses a different path, please don't tell me today. I mean, I kind of know there's potential for it but, ahem, I am practicing ignorance (quite good at it, aren't I - LOL) for an attempt at inner peace at the moment. Or not.
single again 004
It could be that I've just fallen so deeply into the pit of yarn lust that I am actually living and experiencing the world through the concerns of my yarn. Ahhhh, but that is so not surprising. I've long since been aware of the deepest levels of dorkdom that I can aspire to and, perhaps, even attain in this life. So, tell me, why do singles get treated with such disdain. At best, singles are passed off as an option for thick n thin yarn play for a squishy hat or scarf or, worse, labelled 'art yarn' and, thus, consecrated in the 'you only want a little of this because you can't really use it for anything' category. I mean, I took these batts and made them all into this pool of yarn love and, I've got to tell you, I'm itching to use them up in a project! single again 045

I've been loving singles for a long time so I've asked quite a few people why they don't love/trust/accept singles. Here's some of what I've heard in reply: Well, not here just yet because I need to type this sentence to tell you that I'll randomly be putting in some singles who need to be cuddled and loved and appreciated for their contribution to the fiber world and will note the yardage, fact stuffs, etc. after the reply they appear by in italics. So, again, here's some of what I hear and my response to the 'evidence against singles':

single again 022 - CopySingles always pill.
This is true and false. I've only been on this planet some 37 years so I'm no expert but one thing I think I can say with certainty is nothing does something EVERY TIME. Life as we know it is just too random and chaotic to allow religious repetition. There's always room for a heretic to bounce in and radically shift the scales of the word 'always'. Some singles do pill. Some plied yarns pill. The propensity to pill, in my experience, is more due to the quality/structure/blend of the fibers. If you've spun a yarn with a wildly varying mix of staple lengths, you know what I mean. When I blend my angora bunny into a batt, I have to be very careful. Angora, being a staple of less than 3 inches, generally speaking, likes to pill when carded with a 5 inch staple of wool. Still, when done carefully, it can be avoided. An addition of a stronger, yet, more slippery and less spongey fiber like silk or bamboo can significantly improve results. Likewise, breed differentiations, health of the animal, processing, etc. can greatly change the fibers that go into your spinning stuffs or commercially spun yarns. Singles don't determine pilling. Wool pills, sometimes....this one is credited to chaos - not singles. Life varies. Wool is alive. (This little skein is an 88 yard single spun from 1/3 of a jester batt that I had left over from another project. She is a silk/wool combo with some blingy stuffs in their and is included in the project pic above. Proof that singles make a great project as you can add little leftover bits from your stash together and make something fabulous)

single again 023 - CopySingles Bias
Again, the notion that something always does anything just baffles me. Yes, some singles will bias. This is mostly due to a common error that spinners make (especially when beginning) of over twisting the yarn. I've come to particularly despise this notion, though, because it really isn't fair. Some singles will bias. Some, though, like some of the popular lopi or noro style singles will fluff up and knit beautifully into a project. If you have a yarn that is mostly even but has a very few 'too tightly spun' spots, try going down a needle size or two and that can help correct a bias. Also, spin more. I don't like to waste anything so I don't advocate being a perfectionist or anything. I like plying when plying is appropriate but I also think that even to make a good plied yarn, knowing the first step - an awesome single, is the best start. As you improve your singles, you'll find that spinning them just a bit bulkier results in a gorgeously pillow soft yarn. It's the notion that the plying corrects the error of the over spun yarn in the first place that irks me, I think. Oh, who am I kidding? It's mostly just the lack of fairness in declaring all singles as 'biasers' that gets my goat. single again 035 I knit with singles often. For the first few years that I was both a spinner and knitter in the wild and desolate area of Northern Maine - I was pretty much on my own. A group of other 'wannabe spinners' and I got together every few months to exchange ideas and have an excuse to pot luck but, beyond that, I was learning on my own, which is to say my errors were my teachers. I learned singles spinning and I never looked back. bows head in thanks to Paula Simmons..... I had no idea that the bias against singles was so strong until, at a fair one day, a woman picked up a hat of mine and remarked that she loved the yarn and how the heck did I knit those singles without a bias because singles always bias. I was astounded. I thought I must be knitting wrong (self taught knitters doubts, heh heh) or something because ALL singles bias and none of mine would do that. Really, I just look like I'm still bugged about it. I'm over it, promise! snork.single again 043 The sparkling beauty on the left top of this ,rant paragraph('Jadis' batts - spun in a 265 yd./2oz. skein of cool bliss) is part of a duo that began this whole project. The skein to the right and her knew they were destined to appear in a project together on account of their story. That lovely periwinkle skein on the right ('Ice Queen' 350 yds./3/6 ozs.) is the yarn I spun from my sweet David's batts (ComeInSpinner on Etsy). They arrived at the same time as I was developing a new colorway for the coming week I was calling "Jadis" in tribute to my fave character in the Lion,Witch & the Wardrobe series. It was so weird because David called these beauties 'Ice Queen' and, together, they whispered and enchanted me, too, just like their namesake. See how they're sitting, together, here, closely chaperoned by that dark purple and bossy ball of jester batt yarn in the back?

spinning therapy 023Singles break.

This is a totally understandable fear and,also, often true. It is tricky to find the balance between over-twist and spun so loosely that the yarn breaks with the slightest bit of tension. And, let's face it, no one wants to knit something that will unravel too quickly after the 'falling in love with your knits' process has occurred. But, finding that balance has grand rewards. I've found, most of the time, that singles are stronger than we give them credit for. A break or two in a skein doesn't necessarily mean that knitting that yarn is hopeless. Again, a slightly smaller needle than the project or yarn gauge would usually call for can do wonders to repair a weak yarn. I know it defeats the purpose to do so, but you could also knit two single strands held side by side if you're wanting to knit your singles, but worried that they won't wear or knit with the strength you need. And, of course, if you find your singles are continually 'breaky' - that means you probably want to add a little more twist. I am particularly smitten with this project - my conch shell vest from 'Dazzling Knits' spun with Cotswold singles and a thrill to knit. Who knew that the girl who lost her enrollment in the honor's program (and, thus, the scholarship) on account of the fact that, though she made straight A's in everything else and had a tutor, seriously failed Geometry, would be knitting modular? Proof that life laughs at you if you don't give in and giggle soon enough!

single again 069Singles aren't 'real' yarn.

I confess, I've only ever heard this once but it made smoke fly from my ears and took all the kindness and strength I had to smile and nod and button the opinion machine (aka - mouth) and say nothing. I just listened while a fellow spinner told me that thick n thin yarns were for people who couldn't care to bother with proper spinning and that no one in their right mind would spin a single for something like, gasp, a sweater. I had a sweater wip in my bag at the time and I swear I broke a sweat worrying about whether or not she'd seen me knitting on it earlier that day. I said nothing, but I haven't seen her in years. single again 068 Singles are certainly REAL yarn. They are great yarns to use in a soft sweater that massages your skin while keeping you warm. I have, literally, worn my single spun sweater out. And, for the record, it outlasted two commercially spun/handknit sweaters that were 4 ply yarns. Seriously, though, if you think I'm still upset about this, trust me she's totally lying, I'm way over it. (Rolls eyes) Another shot of my vest in progress because I'm so darned in awe of how a pile of little shells - such as those mangled little shells on the top left - get tamed by the circular needle and begin to feed on each other to become something like this (pic on the right). Smitten may not be the word. Picture a 5 year old getting JUST WHAT HE WANTS on Christmas morning under the tree. That's more like what I'm feeling for this project at the moment.

All that said, I am taking the evening to spin up a skein of sock yarn that I've been dyeing to knit. She will be a two ply. Then, I'm launching into spinning a 3 ply sweater's worth of yarn so, clearly, I am not entirely devoted to singles. All I'm really saying is - give peace (and singles) a chance. Oh, that and that I have had this nagging 'you haven't done something you should have done by now' feeling for a few days and realized (smacks forehead in disbelief that the time flies so quickly) I hadn't drawn the winner of the December Great Giveaway. So, I did, and Lorraine has a surprise of yarn lovin' coming her way. Woot Woot! The next Giveaway will be announced Feb. 1st. Okay, who do I think I am? It will be announced sometime AROUND Feb. 1st. There. That's better. This whole 'be more realistic in 2009' gig is a challenge!