UFO Sighting Confirmed! Scientists Say: Finish Yarn Now!

It’s World UFO day! Instead of little green men, though, I’m looking at a stack of half-spun braids of fiber, bobbins of mystery singles, and little bits of leftovers too nice to throw away—UnFinished Objects, as the knitters say. Have all your bobbins been full for months? Are there projects for which you’ve forgotten what ratio you were using? You may have spun half a braid of fiber, then set it aside for a day (which turned into a month), during which time you forgot the ratio and lost your rhythm. The singles wind up on storage bobbins, tucked away with the remaining fiber (maybe).

I have storage bobbins filled with natural-colored singles that may or may not be spun from the same fiber. (Looking at them, I can spot one that is not like the others…) I have class samples that I meant to finish up. What’s a spinner to do?

I think some of these are Targhee. Maybe Columbia. One is definitely not combed top, though. I wonder where it came from!

I think some of these are Targhee. Maybe Columbia. One is definitely not combed top, though. I wonder where it came from!

Do as I say, not as I do, for one thing…

1. Keep records

I’ve vowed for years to take better notes and store samples. It’s not that writing down the fiber and ratio on a card and making a control card (a plyback sample and some singles) is so hard to do; it’s just so easy to forget. I recently took a class in which Kate Larson showed how she builds her spinner’s notebooks, which made the process much more appealing. (Check out her notebook in her course Finishing Up.)

With a lovely notebook like this one of Kate Larson’s, keeping track of a projects feels more like an art project and less like homework.

With a lovely notebook like this one of Kate Larson’s, keeping track of a projects feels more like an art project and less like homework.

Having lousy handwriting and being prone to losing pieces of paper, I have another strategy: I plan to start taking a photo of my wheel setup with a sample of the fiber in the frame. When I stop to move the yarn guide, I’ll pull off an arm’s length, ply back a bit, and wrap some singles around the label.

2. You always need more bobbins

One of the best purchases I ever made was a bobbin winder and storage bobbins. I’m getting a new wheel delivered next week, and until I collect a stash of new wheel bobbins, I will be winding off most of singles onto storage bobbins.

Why does this help with the UFO problem? It doesn’t eliminate or even reduce UFOs, but if you need to pause in your spinning project, you can easily wind off the unfinished singles and store them with the rest of the fiber (and the sample card!).

I keep the storage bobbins tucked away with the matching fiber. Now, if only I had a control card…

I keep the storage bobbins tucked away with the matching fiber. Now, if only I had a control card…

3. Finish things

When asked for her best advice to spinners, Sara Lamb once replied, “Finish things.” OK, everyone groaned, but she was right. UFOs keep you from moving on to the next spinning project, whether psychologically or because you’re out of bobbins (see #2). If you can’t remember what it is or what it was for, follow a trick from Kate Larson and ply the leftovers all together. (If your resulting skein is very homely—mine is!—a little dip in the dyebath should make it all sing.) Wash it up and put those empty bobbins back in rotation.

—Anne


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