Monday, May 15, 2006

What Spinning Teaches Me About Knitting, part 3

In our last episode . . . I thought I had 225 yards of DK-weight yarn, and that this would be enough for a pair of half-fingered gloves. A big part of what I've learned from spinning is how to tell how much yarn I have, and another big part is how to make it go the furthest. So how did I know I had 225 yards?

My first recourse when I have "mystery" yarn (pretty much anything with no label) is a McMorran Balance. It looks like this:

The idea is simple: that plexiglass crossbar is a fixed weight. You cut a piece of yarn and hang it in the little notch at the end of the crossbar.

Then you snip pieces off the strand until the crossbar rests level in its grooves.

Then you measure the length of the strand (in inches or in centimeters, depending on whether your balance is metric or English. The instructions will tell you which.).

Then you multiply that number by 100, and the result is the number of yards in a pound of that yarn.

Next, you weigh your total amount of yarn:

If I have a lot of yarn, I take it to a deli or salad-bar place and ask to weigh it on their electronic scale. But anything under 4 ounces goes on my handy-dandy postage scale. This is what our grandparents used to figure out whether a letter needed a second stamp. You can still buy them at good office-supply places.

Then, the math: if there are 1450 yards in a pound, and I have 1.25 ounces, then . . . hmm. Well, 1450 yards per pound (YPP) means 90.625 yards per ounce (YPP ÷ 16). Multiply that by 1.25, and it yields . . . 113.28 yards of mystery yarn.

There are two circumstances under which I won't use the McMorran balance: sometimes, a yarn is so precious that I'm not willing to waste even 12" of it; sometimes, a yarn is so uneven that I don't think any specific strand can give me an accurate measure.

That was the case with my handspun. So, I resorted to Method 2: counting the strands. This only works with yarn in hanks, not balls.
First, I lay out the skein on a flat surface, and lay a tape measure on top of it in the middle of the hank:

I'm hoping for a measurement of the average circumference of the hank--the average length of yarn in one "lap" around the track. (With my own handspun, I take a shortcut: all my skeins are wound on my niddy-noddy, and I've measured one pass around that as 54" [1.5 yards]. As the skein gets thicker, each pass gets longer, but I ignore that in my calculations, since I'd rather have a conservative figure.)
Next, I count how many strands there are in the hank:

This makes me look like a lunatic, especially with large skeins, but it's worth it.
You can guess the next part: total yardage = avg circumference x number of strands.

In the case of the Blue-Faced Leicester, I had one hank with something like 105 strands and another with 47. This meant 152 strands of about 1.5 yards apiece: in theory, 227 yards.

Next time: what made me think 227 yards was good for a pair of gloves?


Sherry W said...

Very helpfull to me!

One of the best tricks I've learned from you is that little postage scale. I bought one of my own for $2 on ebay and I use it all the time. It even went to Sheep and Wool with me!

Lisa M. said...

Hey, Sherry, did you mean it about taking half the matching Anne? I've had an inquiry from someone who'd like the other half!

Sherry W said...

Yes, but I'd like to see the colors in person first if you don't mind! I can't tell how much purple is in it on my monitor (I'd want more blue). I'll be in Wednesday for knitting circle.