Wednesday, September 7, 2011


"I love this yarn, but I need more for my project!"

"Do you have a second skein of this lovely silk yarn?"

I often get requests for larger skeins of yarn, or more yardage of the same color blend.

As a spinner who loves fiber and color, I'm in several fiber clubs, plus I scoop up delightful colorways in Etsy updates - my fiber stash is quite large and quite lovely. These beautiful offerings are almost always packaged in 4 oz lots, and since I enjoy variety, I rarely purchase more than one lot of any single colorway.  A skein of yarn spun from 4 oz will be limited in yardage. The limits depend on several things: the grist of the final yarn, the ply structure of the final yarn, and the method of spinning used.

The grist (the wpi, or wraps per inch) refers to the thickness of the strand. Knitters think of this in terms of "bulky, worsted, sport, dk, fingering, lace" and weavers think of similar weaving yarns, such as mop cotton, carpet warp, 8/2 cotton, 22/2 cottolin, 20/2 silk, and so on. The thicker the yarn, the more fiber it consumes in its creation.

The ply structure deals with the actual number of threads that make up the strand. For instance, most handspun is either singles, 2-ply, 3-ply, or navajo-ply (chain-ply). The more plies involved, the more fiber is used.

The methods of spinning include worsted (the method, not the yarn weight), woolen, and variations between the two. Worsted spinning methods keep the fibers aligned as much as possible, making a denser strand that takes more fibers per inch to maintain structural integrity. Woolen spinning methods jumble the fibers to greater and lesser degrees, making a lighter and loftier strand that takes less fibers per inch while retaining structure. My preferred spinning method is more of a woolen technique, giving loft and softness. Worsted-spun yarns consume more fiber in their creation than woolen-spun yarns.

On average, from a 4 oz lot of fiber, I can expect to get:

75-175 yards of bulky (depending on the thickness)
175-225 yards of worsted weight
225-275 yards of sportweight
275-350 yards of fingering weight
350-425 yards of sock weight
425-500 of heavy lace
500-700 of finer lace

Now, for special spinning projects, like my ongoing supply of Black Magic Woman yarn, I special-order larger lots of fiber. My Black Magic Woman yarn takes 6 oz of fiber, so I order it in lots of that weight from Josette at Enchanted Knoll Farm on Etsy. I take requests, too - if you find fiber that you want custom spun, you can order it in a larger lot or purchase two or more and I'll spin it into a larger skein with greater yardage.

And occasionally I will combine two coordinating yet different colorways or dyelots to create a larger skein with greater yardage. I did one a few weeks ago, combining two different colorways to create "Autumn Sunset" in superwash merino - 580 yds of sportweight 2-ply:

 I produced another one this week - I combined two 4.5 oz dyelots of the same colorway to create "Confetti" in merino - 520 yds of worsted weight 2-ply:

 I loved the challenge of getting all 9 ounces of this yarn on one giant bobbin, to make one continuous skein with no knots:

I could almost hear the bobbin saying, "I can't believe I ate the whooooooole thing!!"

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