Saturday, July 17, 2010

How I Spin Beaded Singles

I knew I wanted to spin one of my beaded Singles for Tour de Fleece 2010. Just as I was preparing my fiber, I received an email from one of my customers. She noticed one of my beaded skeins in my shop and asked me how I made it. I wrote a post entitled How to Spin Beaded Yarn over a year ago, but I thought that I might recap today with some added pictures.

When this idea first came to me, I was so excited. My enthusiasm grew when I tried it out and really liked my finished product. I named my first beaded singles skein Underwater Fantasy. It sold immediately when I listed it in my shop. That's when I thought I was really onto something. I shared a couple pictures on the Spin Off Magazine site thinking that the spinning community would really dig it. There were a couple comments, but it didn't get the fervent reception I thought it might. What's the point of telling you this? I guess none really. I just consider my readers friends and I wanted to share this little piece of history.

Okay, back to my recap.

The first thing I do is thread a bunch of beads onto slivers of fiber. I use a bead threading needle, the kind that looks like just a big needle eye. I take a very fine sliver of whatever fiber I'm working with and insert in through the eye of the threader. Then I take the bead and slide it onto the fiber. I've been able to thread pretty small beads. The trick is to put just the very tip if the fiber through the eye so the bead doesn't have to travel over anything too thick.

This particular skein, which measures 140 yards, contains 351 beads, but as you can see, some of the fibers are holding more than one bead.

Once you have a bunch on fiber threaded beads, you are ready to spin. [I also like to pre-draft my main fiber (pink) into a nice pencil thin roving.] You have to decide how often
to introduce each bead and how structured you want that placement to be. Whatever you choose will be part of your individual design. When you get to the place where you're going to spin in the bead, you basically work it in the same way you join fiber when you are spinning any yarn. Be careful not to make each bead placement thicker than then rest of your skein. Just draft the fiber thin enough to accommodate the fiber that the bead is threaded on.

If you're spinning with larger beads, it helps to have your singles be a little thicker to accommodate the weight of the beads. In this case, I've added some larger glass flowers along with my seed beads so I made this yarn at least a medium weight.

There's one more step. I anchor the beads in place by running a fine piece of the main fiber over the outside of the bead and working it into the twist just beyond the bead. This picture is from a different project, but it does a nice job of illustrating how the fiber is carried over the bead. It's anchoring the bead in this manner that makes it possible to spin beaded singles. You don't need that extra ply to stabilize your yarn and hold the bead in place. I like the singles because the beads really show well are there is something very delicate about them.

There's one more thing I should add. You have to be more careful setting the twist on beaded yarn. The weight of the beads can pull on the fiber. For this reason, I spin my singles at a relatively low twist which makes for nice, easy setting. I know some spinners are reluctant to set twist under any kind of tension, but sometimes I allow my beaded singles to dry on a swift. It gives the yarn a little support while it's drying.

This skein, which I named Moonlit Dance, is one of my personal favorites. The base is a charcoal Merino. The beads are ceramic and glass seed beads plus some Dalmation Jasper. I threaded the beads onto a dark turquoise. As I spun, I went back and forth between the beaded turquoise and some teased natural mohair locks. The contrast and the texture really makes me happy.

On a final note, I made a YouTube video about Spinning a Beaded Single. I was only using a Flip camera and I should have talked a little louder so the quality isn't what it could be. However, in the beginning of the video, I show how to thread the beads and you may find this useful.

So that's it! If you have any questions, just leave a comment and I'll do my best to clarify. I hope you give it a try sometime. They are so much fun to make and you can go crazy with infinite designs. With yarn like this, something as simple as a scarf can look like a work of art!


Sonia said...

Thank you for posting this! I have so been trying to figure this out!

I've been following you for a while but this is my first comment. Love your work!

Jenn said...

Hi Sonia, Thanks for your comment and for following my blog! :D

Holly Bee said...

Amazing technique! Thank you for the wonderful instructions. I'm going to have to try this.

WonderWhyGal said...

You are a rock star! Thank you for the instructions and your youtube link...I've been wanting to try this forever and now I have great instruction.

As for Spin Off...they snooze, they lose because you just brought some amazing knowledge to the rest of us.