I've been playing with string.  Today I'm turning the yarn I have into the yarn I want.  The Oregon knitting teachers and I are beginning our very first knitalong (Join us, Do!) We decided to make adult Tomten jackets, based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's sensational classic. 

What I have in mind is to make my Tomten as a swing coat, with trapezoidal sides.  Naturally, this will require a boatload of aran-weight yarn.  Fortunately for me, I was lucky enough to have been gifted with 4 huge cones of scottish shetland 2-ply:  

Absolute pounds of yarn, with the only trouble being that it's much too lightweight for what I propose.  My new pal Shelia January wisely counseled me that 2 or 3 strands of this held together would pass nicely for the weight I need.  But of course, simply holding the strands together would be far too simple for someone like me (OCD Much?).  For one thing, these cones are anything but portable, and I winding them into smaller bites is almost the same amount of work as actually plying them into cablespun yarn.  Add to that the fact that I think all this yardage needs washing (lotsa spinning oil from the mill in it), and you can see the direction things took:

Shelia pointed out that to cable the strands, I would first need to add a bit of twist, in order to get a balanced yarn.  So through the wheel it goes.  I'm treating the 2-ply finished yarn as if it were singles, adding more twist in the same direction it was plied at the mill, and then re-plying it the opposite direction.  Then a luxurious soak in the sink, and an eternity to dry.  Who knew?  Turns out 6 plies of shetland can really hold onto moisture!

Presto!  Fluffy, balanced cablespun shetland!  And I even like the color.  At least for now - we'll see how I feel about it after preparing the 10 or 12 skeins I estimate needing.  Still, it's totally worth the trouble for a free Tomten.

Join up with us on Ravelry!  There are some DEEPLY talented knitters in this group, who happen to be teachers and designers, as well.  I can't wait to find out what we do!  Also, the pattern/formula is available in several different versions, and suggestions for modifications abound, so the sky's the limit.  See you on the Dark Side.  I'll save you a seat.