Wednesday, July 31, 2019

If You Want To Get All Technical About It

With enough cute corgi pictures to keep it interesting ;-).  And some stats at the end that will probably surprise you.

Even 20 looks overwhelmed with trying to decide how to decide which singles to ply to which to get the most evenly matched skeins in the end. 

Here is what we did:

We re-weighed each finished ball.  The reason?  A big fluffy pile of wool doesn't necessarily weigh the same as a compressed ball of wool.  I used my "science" scale to get really fussy technical.

I then put each ball in a water pitcher (so it wouldn't bounce all around the room) and pulling from the outside of the ball carefully wound it into a two yard skein.

Noted yardage.  I love, love, love having a counter on my skein winder*.  It's life changing...well spinning life at least...but spinning is wait, sheeps are life... ;-)

I tied a piece of yarn to the loose end of the single.  I did that so I'd easily know which end I was supposed to start with for plying.

I also tied a couple of tight bow knots to secure the rest of the skein.  I used the bows to be easy to untie but also to help keep track of the outsides of each skein.  

Next, the Jethro cipherin'.  Skein #11 actually weighted 2.024 ounces.  It is 220 yards long.  Solve for x to get the yards per ounce, in this case 108.7.

You can do the next part by hand...or use a spreadsheet.  I like math, but love spreadsheets ;-).

I sorted the skeins by yards per ounce and then paired of skein #6 with skein #17, #4 with #9, #3 with #7...  

Making sure you have the two loose ends facing the same direction...

 ...and the bows are all facing up (if facing down then the skein is twisted)...

...and your skein winder securely anchored with a corgi butt...

...ply as usual.  My skein winder has a tensioning feature and I cranked it down pretty tight so I didn't go free wheeling off into space.  

The final results?  

First I re-weighed all the plied skeins.  The yardage of each skein could only be as long as the shortest single so there were leftovers on several of the skeins.  The leftover singles were all on the thinner side (longer yardage per ounce) so when they were plied together, the resulting two ply is significantly thinner, hence separated out at the bottom.

Ply shrinkage - when you ply the two singles, the plied yard will end up shorter than the original singles because as you twist the two yarns together, the yarns are no longer straight.  The more you twist them, the shorter the yarn will become.  

That skein with the shrinkage of 14 was either plied with more twist or I wrote something down wrong.  Just looking at the finished skein I can't see a significant difference from the others so regardless it will knit up just fine.  Likewise with the shrinkage of 4 yards.  

Verdict?  I am much, much happier with my finished yarn.  The difference between skeins now is much less than any yarns I've spun previously.  Plus I found it interesting to track all the stats.  

While I was thinking along the lines of statistics, I decided to track my time spinning and plying.  It took me 27 hours to spin the singles and 6 hours to ply them.  I didn't figure in my time cipherin'.  That would have been an embarrassing number ;-).

Want to take this a little further?  If I paid myself $10 an hour, that's $330 just for the spinning work.  It costs $10 per sheep for shearing and about an hour for skirting, so another $10 there.  $24 to wash and $27.50 for processing into roving, not counting gas and time going up to the mill and back.  

Just counting BASIC yearly costs for hay, grain, bedding, vet costs us $100 to produce a fleece.  That doesn't include mortgage, insurance, utilities, fuel, buying the sheep, farm equipment... Also, spinning wheels aren't cheap.  Neither are the workshops I've traveled to take to learn to spin the yarn...

The moral of this story?  I might just print this out and hand it to the next person who can't believe I can't sell them a hand spun and hand knit sweater.  That's $501.50 Just. For. The. Yarn.  Figure in the weeks I spent knitting the Muffin sweater?  Even if it wasn't would be priceless.

*     *     *     *     *

*My skein winder is from Nistock Farms.  Even if they weren't good friends of ours, I would say this is the very best skein winder I have ever used.  It's solid and stable, easy to use winding on or off and being able to easily count yardage changing ;-).


Karen at longwell said...

I am in awe! You are, by far, the best teacher yet! And it is inspiring to see the "bottom line" financially. Those not in the business of fiber have no way to know the true cost of producing a finished product! Thank you for such a complete explanation as I will view my own spinning and producing in a clearer light now!

Anonymous said...

I have always known I would never spin for someone else and now I know Exactly WHY!! :)) I have spun for sweaters for sister and husband but that is different.
Good job 'splaining that out. Yes, Sheeps IS wool ~!

Michelle said...

I can just hear your voice narrating this; it makes me smile. And thanks for all your hard work on the cost calculations; I'm going to bookmark this page for reference for those who ask ME if I ever sell my handspun! (And mine would cost more because I am a slower spinner than you . . . we won't even talk about knitting.)

Laura L. said...

Wow. Just wow. Sometimes it's good to figure all that stuff out. I think you should start selling sweaters for what you actually have in them. :) Love the Corgi butt!

Cheryl West said...

It is really interesting to have a total breakdown of all the cost and time involved in the journey from sheep to finished sweater. I am so impressed with your knowledge and skills.
Thank you for the explanation.

Sheepmom said...

Excellent post! Great way to wrangle all those balls of singles into reliable consistent plied yarn. I never would have thought of a spread sheet. We'll call this The Dunham Method. ;-)

Kim said...


Math is why I married an accountant. I only do knitting math. It never even occurred to me to so SPINNING MATH.

I am most fascinated with your method of organizing your singles to end up with a consistent yarn. I’ve always plied every 2 bobbins and mostly just HOPED I was consistent enough for it not to matter. I feel somewhat humbled and ashamed of myself for not taking more care!

sophy0075 said...

I don’t have a corgi butt handy. Will a fat cat butt (the one I just posted on Instagram) do?

Seriously, that was some serious measuring effort, not to mention the plying, spinning, carding, scouring, and sheep raising. For all the work, $500 for a splendid hand knit sweater made from the wool of named and loved sheep should be twice that!

I need orange said...

Interesting! Thanks for sharing all the details.

Spreadsheets rule, don't they? :-) :-) :-)

(so lovely, being able to comment all I want, instead of not at all!!!! Yay!!!!! :-) )

FullyFleeced said...

wow. that was cool.I'll have to bookmark this for the next time someone asks me to spin/knit them a sweater. And I love how you weigh and measure the singles then pair them for plying. I usually just spin two bobbins at a time, ply, and hope for the best :) Might have to take a page from your book there!

Gemma's person said...

Corgi butts aren't cheap either.
Looks the Corgi was going for the blending in idea of where to lay!

Far Side of Fifty said...

You are a math genius:)


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