Posted by: Leslie | July 4, 2010

Analysis of a competition skein

Judith McKenzie has been known to say that there are two types of spinning: the kind you do for competitions, and your real spinning where you bend the rules to create truly useful and interesting yarns. She’s right in that requirements for skein competitions are rather rigid and almost universally similar, and don’t allow for the experimentation that results in innovative yarns. I still think it’s a good learning exercise to spin for competition (more on this in my next post), but I wanted to take a closer look at the score for a skein I entered at this year’s Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft competition:

It did well, first in its class, and I agree with the judge’s assessment; it also exemplifies what Judith is talking about. Have a look at the scorecard:

Here I lost a point for using three ties, instead of four. I’ve come to find out this year that four ties is the standard, so unless otherwise indicated I’ll be using four from now on. I lost a point on fiber prep as well, and I’m not sure why since there’s no comment. Too bad, since I’d love to know how the prep could’ve been improved, and I thought the original top, hand-dyed from the Projekt B line at Ariadne, was pretty perfect:

Back to the scorecard, I lost points on the evenness of my spinning and especially plying, which I completely agree with–this skein could’ve been a lot more consistent. This photo shows the variation in the yarn that shouldn’t really be there:

What I find most interesting is the point I lost for it being “slightly overtwisted.” It’s true, I put in more pky twist than there was twist in the singles, but that was planned and on purpose to give the finished yarn a bouncier, springier yarn than if the skein had been completely balanced. This is the kind of experimentation Judith was talking about: it may make an interesting and useful finished yarn, but it’s also not adhering to the competition rule of a balanced yarn, so I justifiably lost that point.

I’m still happy with the result, of course, and appreciated the overall comment about how I maintained the colour:

Speaking of MA Sheep and Wool, head over to Mavis Adams’ blog and check out her winning entries in the fine and novelty categories. Gorgeous yarns!



  1. Wow, that’s interesting. I’ve never entered any of my handspun in a competition but have thought about it before. It’s kind of neat to be able to peak at your “scorecard”. The yarn is lovely.

  2. Nice job! I know that since it’s for a competition it has to be close-to-perfect, but that’s way better than anything I’ve ever spun. is that 3 ply navajo plied, or did you do something miraculous to keep the colors together?

    When and were did you take classes with JMM? If you ever hear of her teaching close to us, please do let me know as I’d love to know.

    Gotta love that Projekt B fiber!! Not sure what extra I would do in the fiber prep with that either?

  3. Thanks!

    Never taken a class with Judith (who I believe is just JM these days) as she’s rarely on the east coast to teach. Someday I’d love to take a class with her, though.

    Yep, chain/navajo-ply to maintain the colours. And there’s some nice new merino/bamboo (rayon) top from Projekt B; I’ve got to get in to buy some!

  4. […] mentioned in my last post that spinning for competition requires staying within relatively narrow guidelines, aiming for […]

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