Beehives and halos and coils, oh my!

I decided to get a little bit experimental with my spinning this past weekend and try my hand at art yarn. I really like the way art yarn looks, and I love the spontaneity that goes into making it, but I've been focused on getting my fundamentals down and haven't tried to make any myself yet. The Interweave store has recently started carrying Jacey Boggs' Sit and Spin DVD (you may remember Jacey's fabulous coils from the cover of the Winter 2009 Spin-Off), so I took a copy home this weekend to check it out.

This DVD is just the creative kick-in-the-pants that I needed to start experimenting at the wheel. The five segments of the DVD cover different art yarn techniques from puffs to coils to wraps and beyond, and there are several different yarns created using each technique. This DVD is fun and funky and a great introduction to art yarn. Jacey's teaching style is calm and logical, and I found myself ready to try out techniques right away. I decided to have a go at cocoons (from the "puffs" category) because they seemed fun but not too advanced. You can see my results in the photo at left—made from gray alpaca with green mystery-stash-wool cocoons.

A cocoon yarn is basically a singles yarn of whatever size and style you choose with fun puffs of fiber added in every now and then. Here are the basic steps (I also attempted some illustrations):

  • As you're spinning your singles yarn (blue), stop wherever you'd like to place a cocoon (green).
  • Split your fiber supply and sandwich in the tips of your cocoon fiber, holding the cocoon fiber perpendicular to your singles (A).








  • Roll the singles yarn along your fingertips while feeding in cocoon fiber from the side—your cocoon will begin to build around your singles yarn. Keep rolling until you've got a cocoon you like—they can be as big or as small, as short or as long as you want (B).
  • When you've got a good cocoon, break off your singles fiber below the cocoon. While treadling, hold your singles fiber perpendicular to your single and let the tips draft on around the very base of your cocoon. This 90-degree draft-on helps secure the cocoon in place and begins your new stretch of singles yarn (C).
  • Spin some more yarn and add more cocoons when you're ready!

I think the hardest part of this technique is getting your hands and your various fiber bits to work together. It took me about half an hour to get my hands, my brain, and my fiber all on the same page, but I'm feeling pretty confident now, and I like how this yarn is turning out—I'm thinking about making a hat out of it. I'd love to hear about your experiments with art yarn—and see photos!



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