How I use sample cards

Sample cards are a way to record how you spun a certain yarn. It can help to spin consistently during a bigger project, keep a record of different spinning projects, measure improvement in your spinning technique and so on. Some people use them for every project, some never use them. I think they are a useful tool to spin a consistent yarn and help you in spinning thinner or thicker than you usually feel comfortable.

Sample Cards

Sample cards I used in various spinning projects

I personally use sample cards if I have a spinning project where I have a certain yarn or knitted/woven project in mind and want to ensure that the resulting yarn is what I wanted. I also like them for an easy way to spin an even yarn, especially if the intended thickness of the singles isĀ  thicker than I usually spin.

Sample Cards

The top one is for a yarn slightly thicker than I usually spin.
The bottom one is for a lace yarn

I use plain cardboard for my sample cards; I have DIN A5 cardstock which I cut into four strips before punching a hole in one end and making a few cuts to secure the ends. At the beginning of a new project, I spin a few lengths of singles. I either make an extended sample, i. e. spin, ply and wash the yarn and knitting a swatch before recording the yarn with a sample card. If I am confident I know that the singles will give me the yarn I want, I might make a sample card immediately.

Sample Cards

Those are sample cards for bigger projects.
In addition to the cards, I knitted swatches to decide if I like the fabric.

I usually wind a singles around the card, as well as a ply back (that is, letting a freshly spun singles ply back at itself). I use the hole to hang a bit of yarn from it. Ideally that is the yarn how I want it to look after plying, before it is finished. Often, it is just another ply back. More often than I than not, only write down the fiber I’m using, and sometimes I change my mind what yarn to spin because of the sample but don’t make a new one. This applies mostly to plying, because I can still use the card to reference the singles. If I decide to spin the singles in a different way, I would either have to make a new sampling card or to not use one as a reference.

Sample Cards

Sampling cards for two sock yarns.
Both are 3-ply, one traditional, one chain plied. The top one has a length of the 3-ply hanging from the loop, the bottom one a ply back

While I spin a certain yarn, I have the sample card on or near my wheel (I hang it from the tensioning knob). But I hold onto my sample cards even after finishing a project. That way, I can compare improvements in my spinning and can recreate a yarn if I want to. It is also nice to have a reference what the singles and unfinished yarn looked like when I have used the yarn in a knitted or woven project.

Sample Cards

Initially, I wanted to make a 4-ply with the different colors plied together (top).
I tried separate 4-plies, but decided to use it for weaving and do 2-plies (strand at the bottom left).

It doesn’t take long to make a sample of your spinning and I like to look at my sample cards from time to time. I find their usefulness is well worth the few minutes it takes to make one!

Try it!


The wheels keep turning

The tour is in its last week and Froome wears the yellow jersey for the tenth stage.

I am more or less happily spinning the textured BFL/silk batts. In the hot weather, this has been a challenge and I was glad for the rest days. The second bobbin looks as the first one pictured in my last post and my progress is slow.The more I am spinning this preparation, the better I am getting in not fiddling as much with the singles. Instead of trying to draft out the slubs I started to rub the thicker spots to make the singles more uniform. This is similar to what Judith MacKenzie McCuin does at the plying stage of woolen yarn. I am eager to so how the finished yarn will look like and if this results in a somewhat even yarn.

When I haven’t feeling like sitting down in front of my wheel, I used my Russian spindle to spin up some angora that has been languishing for some time. I want it finished, so I can get to some angora/merino batts I bought in Backnang. The angora on the spindle right now is top that is a bit compacted. I don’t enjoy spinning it that much and have the feeling that my technique isn’t the best. I roll small fauxlags around one finger and spin with a long draw. The thickness of the singles varies a bit and I am not sure I insert the right amount of twist. However, it is a good practice for the batts.

Last year, I was spinning BFL/silk top, also using long draw (nobody would have guessed that’s my favorite draw) and I spun 400g of it. I am nowhere near that this year, which is in part due to the preparation and in part due to the time I spent at the wheel. Nonetheless, I am glad to have this challenge to remind me to sit down for at least a few minutes each day.

Tour de Fleece has started!

So, on Saturday, the cyclists started in Utrecht with individual time trials. I started spinning my batt from World of Wool. It consists of black and grey BFL and 25% Silk noils.

05. Juli 2015-3.jpg

BFL/Silk noils batt

I made a sample card, to remind me how thick I want to spin the yarn. As you can see, the singles has a lot of texture. I plan to make a 4-ply. This should make the diameter more even, but it will still have the white silk noils sprinkled all over it.

Sample Card

Sample Card

I spin with a long draw, letting twist between my hands. I can’t really draw smoothly back, since the batt is not uniform. My draw resembles more a point-of-twist approach, where I ‘feed’ the fiber slowly to the twist in the make. With this fiber, that is a rather slower process as a long-draw (both English or point-of-twist), since the fiber is almost resisting to being made into yarn. That’s entirely due to the mixture of BFL (a wool with a relatively long staple length) and the silk noils (very short staple length with nepps) and not to a poor preparation.

TdF day 1

The singles I spun on the weekend

I have been picking out the biggest slubs and small, thicker parts of silk. The singles still has a lot going on. I made a small sample of 4-ply and knitted a swatch. I don’t have a picture yet, but it looks promising.

Happy spinning,

Suck less

It turns out that blogging regularly isn’t something I am very good at. That doesn’t mean I want to abandon this space though. I have been knitting and spinning a bit in the last months. I was at a fibre festival in my area – the Backnanger Wollfest – and attended two workshops with Abby Franquemont. The Wollfest was wonderful and I met some lovely people, the workshops with Abby were full of information and quite fascinating. I wish I had remembered to take some photos and write a blog post right after it. I did take some notes during the “Getting more done with spindles” workshop and I have the sample of cabled yarn from the “Plying basics” workshop, so I might do a small blog post with that.

For the future, I plan to take part in the Tour de Fleece, a spin-along during the Tour de France (4. July – 26. July) organized in a group on ravelry. I will be part of the Team Suck Less, hosted by the “Friends of Abby’s Yarns” group and I want to suck less at spinning batts. My aim is to spin every day and use the BFL/silk noil batt I have from World of Wool on the wheel and two angora/merino batts from Seidenhase on my new supported spindles.

I enjoy spinning long draw, but have only used commercial top up until now. Spun from the fold or rolled up into fauxlags (hedgehogfibres has some good pictures how she makes them), I can make a nice yarn out of it. Nonetheless, I look forward to using a woolen preparation. I am keen on comparing the resulting yarns to the yarns I spun from a more worsted preparation.


Today, I spent a long time counting. To measure the yardage of a skein, you need to count the number of times you wound the yarn around your winding tool. To get the yardage of three skeins, I counted through several “Gilmore Girls” episodes. I have one more skein of about 400 m, so that should be enough to knit a sweater.

BFL Silk natural

Before spinning this BFL/silk blend, I dyed 100 g in greens and blues. This is meant to be the contrast colour for a fair-isle yoke. I spun all of the fibre with a long draw from fauxlags to get a light, airy 2-ply.

BFL Silk dyed

I look forward to swatching since I want to try a few different fair-isle patterns to be able to decide what works best with my yarn. I like the Freyja Sweater but will probably use a pattern that stands out more when using only two colours.