SpinzillaReady, set, spin!

Kate Larson has published articles and designs in Spin-Off magazine, Jane Austen Knits, and Knitting Sweaters from Around the World. She keeps an ever-growing flock of Border Leicester sheep and teaches handspinning and knitting regularly in central Indiana and around the country. She manages the Spinner's Connection Blog here at spinningdaily.com and keeps a blog at katelarsontextiles.com. We've invited her to share a little bit about Spinzilla, an exciting spinning event coming up this fall (Go Team Spin-Off!), and a few tips about spinning singles for the competition.   

Handpainted combed top is a great way to get started spinning low-twist singles. To get this effect, split a combed top lengthwise into smaller strips. Hold more than one strip together, taking care to keep them drafting at the same rate as you spin. Photo: Kate Larson.

Kate Larson: Since 1981, Spinning and Weaving Week has been a time to celebrate the continuum of cloth—the history that connects textile artists around the world, past and present, to the vibrant future of our community. The Handweavers Guild of America sponsors Spinning and Weaving Week the first full week of October, which this year is October 7–13.

This year spinners have a new way to celebrate—have you heard about Spinzilla? Members of the Spinning and Weaving Group, a dedicated faction of the National Needlework Association (the trade association for needlework professionals), wanted to create a competition to get spinners motivated and united during Spinning and Weaving Week.

The goal is for each Spinzilla team (up to twenty-five spinners) to spin as many yards of singles as possible in a week's time. Team members do not need to spin together or even live in the same state, and there are over thirty teams to choose from—many of which still have spaces available, including Team Spin-Off. To participate and learn more about how it works, visit the Spinzilla website. The deadline to register is September 23. Join the conversation in the Spinzilla Ravelry Group about project ideas and speedy spinning schemes, you can meet Team Spin-Off there! Also in addition to this post, there will be more tips and advice on Spinning Daily for the Spinzilla challenge.

As the teams are gearing up for the big week, it's good to think about strategy. Again, the goal is to spin as many yards of singles as possible, so time spent plying doesn't count toward the team total. Rather than investing in a dozen new bobbins for your wheel (or plying off all the half-finished projects on the bobbins you already have), here are a few options to spin a finished single yarn during the Spinzilla challenge.

Singles Yarns

A singles yarn can be spun in just one pass through the wheel, making it a speedy yarn option. When the subject of singles yarns comes up, I often hear questions from spinners seeking to make a balanced singles yarn. A good thing to remember is that a singles yarn is by its very nature unbalanced—twist is added in one direction and never released. In addition to their practical uses, these yarns have unique qualities and design potential. Singles yarns are used for woven Navajo rugs, fine knitted lace, and everything in between.

Kate used energized singles yarns to knit this scarf. The merino and silk blends were spun to the right (Z) and knit in strips using only stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch. Photo: Kate Larson.

Engergized yarns. We can create a medium to high-twist single, which is often called an energized yarn. Kathryn Alexander's work with energized yarns in a wide range of glorious colors has inspired many spinners to look at twist differently. When these yarns are knitted, they can cause the stitches to lean and create a biased fabric, depending on the stitch pattern. Learn more about her approach with her Spinning Energized Yarns workshop video. High-twist yarns that have been fulled (lightly felted) are also used in a variety of weaving traditions.

Low-twist singles. The name says it all—these yarns have less twist than a typical yarn that might be used for a plied yarn structure. These yarns are also a great way to experiment with marling (spinning colors together that remain distinct) or creating gradations. I learned to love low-twist singles yarns when I first opened Deb Menz's book Color in Spinning (sadly now out of print). She often uses singles yarns in her stunning knitted pieces. Check out her Color and Yarn Design for Spinners workshop video.

Finishing Singles. Finishing your singles yarns is important. Every yarn structure has pros and cons, and many of the potential downsides of a singles yarn can be improved in the finishing. Durability can be an issue with any un-plied yarn. If you are using a natural fiber that will felt, finishing your yarn a bit more aggressively than usual can increase durability and create a more balanced yarn that can better resist pilling. (However, sampling is a good idea first—fulling is forever!) If you are spinning a combed top, many types of fibers will regain some of their crimp when washed and dried. This will help add loft and drape to your finished yarn.


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