Posted by: Leslie | July 18, 2010

Skein competition how-to, Part 2: Basic requirements

The basic requirements for competition skeins vary depending on the class or category and the competition itself. Generally, there are categories based on any or all of the following characteristics:

– Fiber content. Different classes usually exist for 100% wool, plant fibers, blends, etc.
– Number of plies. Singles, two-ply, multiple-ply, etc.
– Natural color or dyed fiber.
– Preparation (i.e., was the fiber prepared 100% by the spinner, or was it commercially prepared in any way?)
– Spindle- or wheel-spun. Sometimes there are classes specifically for yarn spun on a drop spindle.
– Diameter/WPI. Yarns may be divided up into fine, medium, or bulky/thick. Sometimes this is done based on wraps per inch, or WPI. To find out that the WPI of your yarn, wrap it around a ruler several times being careful not to pull it too tight (which will stretch the yarn and make it narrower) or push the wraps too close together — they should be just touching. Count the number of wraps over 1 inch and you’ve got your WPI:

The yarn above measures at about 8 wraps per inch.

In addition, there are often eligibility requirements that you should be aware of. These may include:

– When the skein was spun. Some competitions only allow skeins that have been made in the past year.
– Age/level of the spinner. Be aware of different divisions for youth versus adults, or novice spinners versus professionals.
– Length of the skein. There is usually a minimum length for the skein, measured in yards, and finer yarns often don’t need to be as long as medium or thick yarns.
– Weight of the skein. Similar to the length requirement, with finer yarns usually accepted in smaller amounts. If you’re not sure how much your finished skein weighs, especially if some of your original fiber didn’t survive the spinning process, put the skein on a kitchen scale– it’s accurate enough for the weight requirements for competition:

Just over 2 ounces for this skein.

Let’s look at the requirements for a couple upcoming skein competitions this year, cut and pasted from the festival sites:

Great Basin Fiber Arts Fair

Main categories are wool, non-wool protein, plant, novelty.
· Further divisions may include separate classes for alpaca, llama, angora,
silk, linen, soy, etc.

· In addition, each group may be divided by weight: Fine (20 or more wpi),
Medium (10-19 wpi), Bulky (less than 10 wpi).
· Other divisions may be number of plies or other specific techniques used.
· Fine grist skeins (20 or more wpi) must be a minimum of 40 yards in
length. All of skeins shall be a minimum of 2 ounces
. Under-weight or
under-length skeins will be disqualified.

Finger Lakes Fiber Arts Festival

Category 1: Wool and all other animal fibers except silk. Includes 100% any one animal fiber and animal fiber blends.
Category 2: Silk and silk blends.
Category 3: % plant fibers (single fiber type or combination)
Category 4: Novelty yarns. (Actually anything you’d like to submit that doesn’t fit into categories 1-3, such as plant-animal fiber blends or synthetic fibers and blends.)
Category 5: Young people. Skeins spun by spinners fifteen years old and under. Yarn may be spun of any fiber or combination of fibers. All other entry rules apply.
Spun yarn must be submitted in skeins of at least 25 yards.

As you can see, class divisions and requirements can vary quite a bit. It’s therefore essential to carefully read the competition rules to make sure that there is a place for your skein!

Unless otherwise specified, you can safely assume that the judges are looking for yarns that are smooth, even, and consistently plied. Your skein will be judged on spinning technique, but often the suitability for its stated intended use is part of the judging. For example, if you spin a drapy, delicate yarn and say you’re going to use it for socks, you might get marked down because sock yarn needs to be elastic and reasonably durable. Presentation, or how the skein is tied and labeled, also accounts for points in judging, and is the topic for the next installment of this series. Check back next Sunday!

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