Sunday, April 20, 2008

Coned yarns are a different ball of yarn

I recently bought a cone of 2/8 Shetland tweed from Webs, and have been playing around with it a bit to see how the yarn behaves. As outlined very thoroughly by the Yarn Harlot a while back, coned yarns are different in some respects from yarns that come in skeins or balls. Until I read her post on the subject, I didn't realize that coned yarns still have spinning oils on them, which significantly changes their look and feel. But after washing they really come to life, softening and fluffing up significantly. (Oops - sorry; I thought I had a picture of a washed skein but it looks like I deleted it already. Please click here to see the difference in before and after washing).

Another trick of coned yarns is that while one can easily determine the total weight of the yarn, they're not usually labeled with the yardage. There are a few ways I can determine yardage. One is to skein off all of the yarn on my clock reel, which makes skeins that measure 2 yards in circumference, and (blessedly) has a yardage meter to count the number of revolutions it makes. I therefore know how many yards are in each skein I make.

Secondly, I can use a McMorran Balance (see the first picture in this post) to make an estimate of the yardage I have. A McMorran Balance has a small arm that balances on top of a base, like a child's teeter-totter. A length of yarn is laid over a notch in one end of the arm, with the ends hanging down evenly. This forces the arm down at that end, like the teeter-totter with only one person on it. I then snip off tiny bits of the ends of the yarn until it raises itself into a balanced position on the base.

It's a little hard to see, but the strand of yarn is lying right next to the tape measure in the photo, and measured 22 inches. I then multiplied 22 inches by 100, which gives me an estimated number of yards per pound. It's almost magic. By this estimate, I have 2,200 yards per pound (before washing). Considering that I have 2 pounds of the yarn, that gives me a whole heck of a lot of yarn.

Swatching has just commenced to see what gauge this yarn works up into, but at this point a single strand on size 2 US needles is coming out to about 6 stitches per inch. Given the sheer quantity of yarn I have I'm seriously thinking of using it doubled with larger needles. I'm not sure yet what it will be made into, but as it's not the softest yarn even after washing it will most likely be a cardigan that will be worn over other clothing, rather than a pullover or blouse-like sweater. However, I have just begun the back of the Hex Coat and have a long ways to go before I feel like I really have it far enough along to be able to risk starting another project. Here's hoping I can remain faithful to the Hex Coat before the siren song of new yarn gets to me!

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