Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Turkish delight

So last summer, just after I learned the rock-bottom basics of using a drop spindle, I went on a search for all things spindle-related. I found all sorts of good stuff: bottom-whorl spindles, nostepinnes, spindles in varying weights, all kinds of beautiful fibres, and one item--a Turkish spindle--that I tried a couple times, and then banished to the bottom of my toolkit. (For non-spinners: a Turkish spindle looks like an oversized bottom-whorl spindle, except that instead of a round whorl, it has four arms that resemble helicopter blades.)

I know a bunch of you will be howling right now that the Turkish spindle is your absolute fave, you use it all the time for everything, and how dare I denigrate it, and I just didn't give it a chance, and so on. Whatever--the point is, for me at that time, spinning as I was, the Turkish just wasn't doing it for me.

I found it slow and ponderous, and my singles kept breaking, and I couldn't figure out how to wind the yarn properly once it had been spun. Overall, it was an exercise in frustration.

However, a short while ago I rediscovered my Turkish spindle--not for spinning singles (because for my money, it's still too heavy and slow, though that might be because I've been mostly spinning thinner yarns), but for the dreaded job of plying.

When I first started spinning, I was intrigued with the concept of plying--the way the two strands grip one another, pushing against each other as as each tries to lose its twist, and ultimately becoming stronger in the process--and because I was spinning teensy-tiny lengths of singles, the plying part was not particularly onerous. In fact, we used the Andean bracelet trick, which was pretty cool, and fun to show off at parties. (Warning: Do not ever invite this person to your parties, as she will insist on doing spinning demonstrations and all your guests will eventually leave for the much cooler party next door.)

But as I became more proficient, and started spinning longer and longer singles, plying turned into my own personal nightmare. I tried a number of methods--the squashed toilet paper roll, two small tennis balls in separate bowls, a centre-pull ball that I carefully wound on my nostepinne--but every time, I'd wind up with a hideous tangle somewhere along the way, and I'd either curse a lot for a very long time while I tried to unkink and unknot the mass without actually breaking anything, or I'd just give up and throw away several hours' worth of spinning.

The other problem with my plying was that I couldn't seem to get the twist just exactly right. I kept overplying, to the point where the yarn was begging for mercy. Then I'd have to go back and unply, which did nothing to enhance my enjoyment of the whole thing.

Then I remembered the Turkish spindle. One advantage to this spindle is its helicopter arms: if the spinner winds the spun yarn around them just so, eventually she creates a beautiful, symmetrical centre-pull ball, in which none of the singles attempts to mate with its counterpart. Now, if I could just figure out that "winding it just so" thing . . .

And then, someone mentioned the term "eye of God." You remember those things we used to make in art class with Popsicle sticks and yarn? Only with the Turkish spindle, you wind in a certain rhythm: two over, one under; two over, one under.

If you're careful and take your time, you'll have something that looks like a mushroom, with more yarn on top than below. But that is not all, said the Cat, no! that is not all.

Because once you're done, you simply remove a few extraneous bits . . .

and . . .

Ta-da!! Your very own centre-pull ball, neatly wound and pretty, with both ends easily found (that being my other quibble with centre-pull balls, because I'd almost invariably forget where I put the inside end, and then it would get all tangled and ugly).

And we all know what to do with two ends of the same (very long but neatly wound) singles: why, you ply!
I've tried this on a number of different singles: this one is intentionally thick-and-thin, but I've also plied fingering weight and something between worsted and DK. All have worked phenomenally well. Added bonus: the extra weight of the spindle seems to put the brakes on my over-plying, so that most of my yarns have been coming out much more evenly plied.

1 comment:

Kathleen Taylor said...

I hate to break it to you, but you still need to skein and wash that yarn before you knit with it. It'll bloom and full a bit, and turn into a totally different yarn than it is in the ball. Actually, you CAN knit with it that way, but the finished object may turn into something totally different after washing (something an entirely different texture and size).

That said- if it helps, plying is a pain no matter what. Even if I spin singles on the spindle, I ply on the wheel. It's easier and faster and I do a better job that way.