Saturday, November 28, 2020

Making an Extreme Knitting Yarn using the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter

As a serial crafter, I’m constantly making, and each project seems to inspire several more and so I’m always buzzing with ideas of things that I haven’t got time to make...

This project was inspired, both by my recent beta testing of the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter, and a serendipitous wreath I accidentally made several years ago when I was altering a Christmas jumper for my daughter.

I’ve been wanting to purposefully knit a Christmassy loop stitch wreath for a few years now, but I knew that I wanted to use a large number of yarn strands and I’ve always been put off by the monotonous winding and measuring or weighing that would involve.  Once I’d tested the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter, I knew that this gadget would make the task of measuring several equal length balls of yarn significantly easier and less laborious.  
It effectively makes the task of winding off your own jumbo knitting yarns using leftover stash yarns a real possibility!

I have a large cone of 4-ply gauge, cotton chenille yarn that I’m hoping should be perfect for this project.  It was a bargain £6 purchase from a factory shop that was too good to pass by. I didn’t really have a project in mind when I bought it, which is why it’s been sitting in my wardrobe for the last 12 years.  I’m not sure exactly how much yarn is on there, but I’m estimating that it’s well over 2 kilos.

The first thing I needed to do was to work out how long the yarn on my cone was.  For a brief moment I contemplated winding off the full cone for a more accurate measurement, but I quickly gave up on that idea, knowing how much my back would complain afterward... 

I can get a rough guesstimate of yardage by weighing it, guessing the weight of the plastic cone, subtracting that, and then weighing 10 metres to calculate the length of the whole.  It’s the quickest method I can think of: it’s likely to leave quite a bit of waste yarn at the end, but I can accept that for the time and effort saved.

Calculating the length of yarn from an unknown cone

Using simple maths, I can work out approximately the length of yarn I have on any mysterious ball or cone.  My yarn and cone weigh 2335g.  I'm guessing that the plastic cone inside weighs maybe 60g, which leaves about 2275g of yarn.

I measured off and weighed 10m of yarn, without cutting it, and it came to 2.35g.  From here I can work out how much 1g of yarn weighs - 

10m / 2.35g = 4.2553m

So if I know that 1g of yarn measures 4.2553m, I can multiply that by my suspected weight of 2275g of yarn to get a rough idea of the length of the whole cone.

4.2553m x 2277g = 9,689m

So, I estimate that I have over 9.5 km of yarn.  Wow, I'm glad I didn't decide to wind all of that off!

Several years ago I blogged about an extreme yarn that I knitted on my knitting machine.  This was from the same batch of bargain chenille yarn that I'm working with today.  I'd like to wind off enough plies to knit a similar gauge yarn, so I'm guessing that I need to wind it off into about 23 separate balls.  Goodness!  Thankfully this isn't going to take as long to wind off as that one took to knit!

I divided my estimated yarn length of 9689m by 23 to get just over 421m.

So all I needed to do now was to set the target length on the yarn counter to 421m and wind off 23 balls - simple!

Unfortunately, it seems that I wildly underestimated the weight of the large plastic cone inside all of that yarn...

It turns out that it weighed nearly 118g, rather than the 60g that I allowed, so unfortunately I only managed to get 22 balls, rather than the 23 I calculated for, but that’ll be fine.

Knitting from 22 balls of chenille yarn would very quickly result in a hot mess of tangles, knots and frustration, so I decided to split it and divide it into two big balls.

There were two reasons that I decided to split it in two - mainly because I wanted to use this lazy Susan and tray to put a little twist into my multiple strands (and I can only fit 12 on there), but also because I knew that if I didn’t split it, I would eventually have a 2kg ball on my hands.  I really didn’t fancy having to hold that for too long...

Here’s a little animated gif of my makeshift set-up that I used to twist all of my yarns loosely together.

To start my ball off, I used a ping-pong ball wrapped in leader yarn that I usually use when I’m pre-chain plying. I knotted all of the ball ends onto the leader and then started wrapping.  The yarn came off significantly smoother pulling it from the centre of the ball, rather than the outside.  I briefly tried the latter but I soon learned that it was not the way to go.  To hold my yarns together a little, I gave the lazy Susan a little kick every so often.  I didn’t want a lot of twist, just enough to bring the yarns together and make knitting multiple strands easier later.

The twist built up from the ball downwards and so when enough twist had built up to make it resemble a loose yarn, I reached down to wrap it onto the ball and then carried on spinning the tray until the twist built up again.

I made a YouTube video that shows my technique for making an extreme knitting yarn here -

So here is my 2.2kg of extreme knitting yarn.  I’ve got much more here than I need to knit a wreath with, so hopefully, I’ll manage to get a couple of projects out of it.  Christmas is less than 4 weeks away so please check back for an update on my wreath...

Incidentally, if you're interested in how much yarn I had leftover from the remaining yarns once the first ball had run out - 

This is what was left.  It wouldn't be fair to use this as a test of the accuracy of the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter as I was hand winding it using a very unorthodox method, but I can tell you that the balls had between 1 and 20m left on them, with an average of 6.75m.  That’s a discrepancy of between 0.2 and 4.75%.  I’m sure that’s significantly better than I could have achieved by weighing alone.

Incidentally, I later wound it all together into one big ball as I was getting in a mess with two and the difference in length between the two balls was about 24cm.

That was extremely satisfying!

If you liked this article, you might be interested in some of my other spinning related posts - 

Testing the Electric Eel Wheel
Yarn Counter Prototype

Making Super Chunky Yarn
from Crushed Velvet Fabric

Update on my Extreme
Knitting Yarn


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Thursday, November 05, 2020

Testing the Target length setting on the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter

I was asked by Maurice Ribble, of Dreaming Robots, to test out a prototype of the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn counter - an electronic device designed to measure the length of yarn.  

I wrote a blog post about its capabilities, but the more I experimented with it, the more I thought of ways that having the ability to measure and divide up yarn could really come in handy:-

Using the Yarn Counter to divide for graduated sweaters

Having played with the yarn counter now, I can think of a couple of instances in the past, where having the ability to measure my yarn would have saved me a significant amount of time and head-scratching.

A few years ago, I spun and knitted the yarn for this gradient sweater.  The fibre was purchased as two identical gradient packs from Hilltop Cloud and they came as 10 different shades, gradually fading from teal/blue to green.  I had just enough fibre to knit the whole sweater and so I needed to let the fibre dictate where the colours changed.

The pattern was Jewel Lake Pullover which is knitted in the round, from the top-down, with a seamless construction.  I wanted the sleeves to have exactly the same graduation of colour as the body, while using the different colours of yarn as efficiently as possible.  This meant that I had to divide each yarn colour into three sections in such a way that I would have the same number of rows of each colour on both the body and the sleeves.

If I’d had a yarn counter back then it would have saved me a significant amount of time and effort as I could have worked out the length of yarn that I needed of each colour, instead of repeatedly winding and weighing as I had to do in this instance.

Testing the Target length setting

I had an idea for testing the target length setting on the yarn counter, which would also demonstrate an interesting application for the counter, that could come in very handy for many spinners...

 A frequent problem that new spinners come across is:- 

You’ve spent several relaxing hours spinning a full bobbin, using up all of your precious fibre, only to realise that you need another matching bobbin full of fibre to ply it with.  An experienced spinner would chain ply it or spin a two ply by plying the beginning with the end using their favourite method.  Both of these techniques would result in zero singles left over, but also require a little practice and experience.

I wondered if you could use the yarn counter to split your singles exactly, onto as many bobbins as you wanted, and then ply those singles to get zero wastage at the end?

I made a video of this test if you’d like to take a look -

I had an almost full bobbin of fine singles that I’d spun a few months ago.  It was measuring about 35 WPI and so I set the yarn counter for 30WPI and started winding.

Unfortunately, my umbrella swift started to tighten as it filled, so I knew that my measurement by hand would not be accurate.  Never mind, I carried on trying to calculate the length and I worked out that my yarn measured (283 revolutions of the swift x about 1.36m circumference) approximately 385m.  The yarn counter had a readout of 394.

I wasn't happy with either of my figures as there had clearly been too much tension added.  Maybe the yarn had been too tightly packed onto the original bobbin, but my swift was flexing in a way I hadn't seen before, so I decided to remeasure...

I got these Bobbins Up storage bobbins a few years ago when I backed the Kickstarter for the Electric Eel Wheel 5.  They came with an insert that allows you to fill them by attaching them to a power drill.  I’ve never used this functionality before, but this was the perfect time to try it.

It's a great way of filling a bobbin without adding twist.  Wow!  I can see myself using these a lot more! 

This time, the yarn counter gave me a readout of 387metres and I was much happier that I hadn't added too much tension this time.

I decided that I was going to divide the 387 metres into 5 separate balls as it is very difficult to spin a 5 ply yarn from one bobbin. I also wanted a few plies as I wanted to see how much of a length variation I got between them.

I set the target length to 77m...

... and started winding my singles into 5 balls, with the yarn counter buzzing when it had measured 77m.

Here are my 5 balls, with (hopefully) 77m on them.  Well, I make all the mistakes so that you don’t have to...  It really was not a good idea to wind my singles into centre pull balls for plying.  I got in such a mess!  It would have been much better to wind my 5 singles onto storage bobbins so that I could keep them under control on a lazy Kate.

Never mind, after a lot of stopping, starting, and untangling, I managed to ply all 5 singles, with the last ply finishing just 1.5metres after the first one ran out.

I’m really pleased with that.  It means that there was a discrepancy of just 2%.  Given the struggle I had with plying, I think that’s very impressive.

So here’s the 5 ply yarn that I spun -

I can definitely see myself dividing my singles up like this in the future. It opens up a lot more possibilities...


I have another idea for how the yarn counter could be used to make certain knitting tasks easier, but I'll save that for another blog post...

If you've enjoyed this blog post, you might be interested in some of my other spinning related posts - 

Testing the Electric Eel Wheel
Yarn Counter Prototype

Free Hand Spun Yarn Labels

The Evolution of the Electric Eel Wheel

How to Make an Extreme Knitting Yarn
Using the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter


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