I’ve been doing a lot of the latter and none of the former for the past couple of months. Right now I have a dozen skeins that need to be “boiled” and another half dozen to catalogue/process. I’ve got two bobbins of yarn that need to be made into something, and four that need to be cabled up into a yarn.
That’s giving me fits. Not so much because it’s hard, as tedious. Cables are a commitment. It sounds simple enough, overtwist a set of plies, then counter-ply them to make a balanced yarn from those yarns. Oi! I did one of those last month. It was a learning experience. I didn’t overply the initial yarns enough. They were willing to plyback on themselves, so I thought I was in the green. Nope. When I tried to ply the cables I got either a slack yarn that looked lifeless and thin, or I got a kinky mess which was going to make ugly fabric. It toko me somewhere between 50-100 yards of crap yarn to figure out just what the source of the problem was.
Then I had to unply the failed portion of the cable. That was… not fun. The cable had twist energy in it. That had to go somewhere… but there wasn’t really anyplace to put it. As you unwind the yarns from the cable, and into the constituent, the twist you have put in… moves further up the cable making it tighter, and tighter, and tighter, until it won’t move. So I had to play out a long run of yarn, to let the energy dissipate. By long run I mean it was going from the back of the house, to the front, and then back again. When it locked up, so I couldn’t move it back to the bobbins anymore… I walked the twist to the front of the house, and got the yarn to relax. Then I repeated the process. It was frustrating. The yarn has spring, so it would seem I was getting nowhere; because it would shorten from the extra twist making contract. Then I’d walk it out, and the yarn would be at least as long as it had been.
So I spent about 6 hours undoing 20 minutes worth of plying, so I could uptwist the 2-ply I’d undertwisted (relative to the twist needed to make the cable), and then spin it up. Part of what makes cables so labor intensive is one can’t take any sort of real break. If the overtwisted plies sit too long before being cabled up, they “relax” a bit, and get set in their ways, which makes the finished cable less than ideal (esp if some part of the overplies are inconsistent*). So what should have been a couple of hours… became an all day project.
On the flip side, I need to get those bobbins clear. I ought not make the same mistake again, because I’ve (so I tell myself) learned a lesson: cables take a LOT more overtwist than one thinks. It’s also probably a factor that my plying wheel is scotch-tension,which doesn’t add any more twist when it’s winding on. I’ve probably gotten used to my double-drive doing that, so I’m guessing I was probably compensating a bit; for a thing which wasn’t happening. Regardless I still wouldn’t have had enough twist in my 2-plies… cable takes a lot more twist than one would think. I’m guessing it’s because of the spring the yarn gets from being plied. I’ll have to do some short runs with inelastic fibers (e.g. silk) to test this.
I’ve also been doing some drop spindle with carbonised bamboo. It’s interesting. It’s got the positive lock up of silk, with some of the very concrete sense of draft, but unlike silk the loose fiber is prone to felting up, so I’ve had to change how, and how much, I keep in the working space.
What I really need to do is set a time every week to write something, just to keep my hand in, so I don’t feel I’m letting people down for vast gaps in publication.
*As with any yarn, reeling the bobbin off after spinning, and before plying, helps a lot. Both in keeping the tensions more even, and in giving the yarn a chance to even out inconsistent twist, and reduce the chance of it being a problem in the finished yarn