Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cabling Without a Needle

Fiber-folk are a tricky people, aren't we? We gain your confidence by using straightforward names like Knit-2-together (in which two stitches are knit together as one) and yarn over (in which the yarn is wrapped over the needle) and then just when you think you've got it all figured out, we tell you that worsted is a yarn type and a yarn weight and you could have a worsted spun lace weight or a woolen spun worsted weight, or we mention that a cable is a stitch pattern involving changing the order in which stitches are knit, and it's also a kind of yarn that, while involving multiple singles and plying and yet is not considered a plied yarn.

Anyway, today, for Single's Awareness Day Valentine's Day, I'm giving you a little tutorial on how to make that confusing "cabled yarn."

A cabled yarn is, in essence, a plied yarn plied with a plied yarn. It's stronger and more visually interesting than the equivalent yarn made from only once-plied singles. More on its specific properties in The Knitter's Book of Yarn (specifically, page 177) but for now we're going to talk very simply about making your own.

You can do whatever combination of this you'd like - spin three twelve-plies together if that tickles your fancy, but in this case, out of laziness (and so as not to waste a drop of fiber) I worked from opposite ends of the ball twice, giving me a two-by-two cable - a two-ply plied with a two-ply.

Follow the process, and in no time, you'll be cabling without any needles at all!

Of course you'll start with roving. This method is lovely on a solid roving, but particularly stunning on handpaints that can otherwise be tricky to spin. You'll want colors that would blend nicely together - like this pretty purple/blue concoction Coleen gave me for my birthday.

Do think about that color blend - things will merge together, so too strong a contrast in your roving could appear muddy.

You'll begin by spinning your singles.
Most people spin singles with the flyer going clockwise - called Z-twist because the resulting twist on the yarn follows the direction of that center bar of the Z.

In a cabled yarn, you're going to want to spin these singles a smidge softer than you normally would. We'll talk about why in just a bit, but for now remember soft Z.

Next, you'll ply your singles.
Just like any other yarn, you'll ply by putting the yarns together with the flyer going in the opposite direction - if you spun the singles Z, you'll ply them counter-clockwise - S (same reason for the same, just check out the main direction of the letter)

Generally this would be the step right before setting the yarn, so you'd be shooting for an appropriate balance in the ply depending on the intended project. But in a cabled yarn, there's more to be done, so you're going to want to ply this a little tighter than you would for a normal yarn.

Now you've got plied yarn, and you need to ply it back on itself. That means going back in the same direction your originally spun the singles (or ending up with a big mess). Back to the beginning, or Z. Gosh, that's not confusing at all, right? It's easier if you think of this step as "re-spinning" rather than plying, and you always spin in the same direction. So you'll spin, then you'll ply, then you'll spin again.

Remember how, in the first step, I mentioned that soft Z? You'll have that again here.

Think about it - you're spinning Z twice. The second time, you're actually undoing a little twist from the ply where you spun S. So the Zs need to be a little softer, and the S needs to be a little tighter.

You can see here in these very-off-color photos that the resulting cabled yarn looks really bumpy and textured. It's not - it's actually very round and smooth. But those little blips of color have a similar effect to a fabric of seed stitch - visually bumpy, but functionally flat.

It's even more obvious in the knitted fabric - the stocking stitch has great depth and texture, but is in fact perfectly smooth. And you can also see why you'd want to pick colors that blend together well in your roving - everything mixes and melds, and you'll have sparks of the original colors and flames of the blends of them.

It's really a fun way to play around with spinning and roving combinations!


I haven't given any official updates about the walk to Kick Cancer in the Butt lately, and today seems like a good day to do so.

The biggest news is that you can now give directly to the charity here. We've gone over 200 miles so far, and will keep on truckin' so if you want to give by mile or whatever, watch that ticker up top to see how much to donate!

The donation tally on the blog will remain accurate, the tally there won't be because of registration fees and such, but all the money will go to the charity (and for the record, I "donated" my own registration fees).

Six weeks to go - let's break a thousand and really Kick Cancer in the Butt!!!


Blogger Bess said...

Oh your spinning is always so lovely!

7:42 AM  
Blogger Javajem said...

Awesome tutorial A!!

I will have to try that techinique sometime...

I'll be chanting z...s...z....


9:53 AM  
Blogger April said...

Oh yeah! That was a great tutorial. Thanks a bunch. Would you mind checking out an OLD post on my blog and see if you could help me troubleshoot the one and only cable yarn I've made. This was a year ago and my spinnings improved since, but I've not been able to determine if the cable yarn I made should be left as is...or maybe re-spun/re-plied. Here's the post I'd be grateful for your imput. I'm wondering if it's just a characteristic of the fiber (lincoln).

2:16 PM  

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