Category Archives: Abby Franquemont

100-Mile Skirt – Complete – the photo shoot

I started this project in October 2011. Inspired after a spinning workshop with Abby Franquemont, who had plans to make her own pair of jeans from hand woven fabric from her own hand spun cotton, I thought I could do something similar.
I was in love with the Claudia Evilla skirt. While a bit of a knitting marathon, it was an easy knit. I had made one already, knew that the style looked good on my shape, and knew roughly how much yarn it would take.
So I started. Through the course of 2011, 2012, and yikes, 2013 I blogged about it. I combed the alpaca, spun 4 sets of singles, plied the yarn and then plied it again to make a strong cabled yarn that could withstand the wear and tear that a skirt, especially the bottom, gets.
And then I started knitting. I ran out of yarn and had to go back to the combing, spinning, and plying. I combed all the alpaca I had, make all the yarn I could make and got back to knitting. And then I was stuck.
Stuck because I just didn’t have a good plan B if I ran out of yarn. Fast forward to late December 2013.  Local Yarn Store 88 Stitches hosted a KAL (knit along) on Ravelry to help us finish UFOHs (Unfinished Objects with Hope). Among the three things I listed, one of them was the 100-mile skirt.
And I finished it. All that worrying about plan B was all for naught. I ended up with a small ball of yarn about the size of a loonie, 8 metres to spare. 
And here are some photos of the finished, washed and worn skirt.  It is an incredibly warm skirt. And the fact that it requires a second layer under it because of the lace. . . . well, I’ll only be wearing it in January and February. We’re moving into a wee cold spell here in so I’ll wear it to work this week.
Here’s a photo of it being blocked.
After it mostly dried, I hung it over the stove to finish it off and to get the drape going.

The first time I wore it, it was full of static.  It bunched around my legs and drove me crazy.  I was so upset! After all that work and the damned thing is full of static!?!!

Then whilst in the laundry aisle looking for something to remove hair dye from upholstery, I saw something from my past called “Static Guard”.   INSTANTLY ELIMINATES STATIC CLING! was the claim. I bought it. And yes, it has saved me and my skirt from annoying static cling.

Ta-da!

I wore it yesterday to an event at 88 Stitches and was happily reminded about how much I love this skirt. It flows beautifully, is the perfect length, and yes, I have the satisfaction that I made the entire thing.

Workshops, planning, plying, oh my!

Next Saturday I am teaching a drop spindle workshop for our guild.  It’s a good deal for all involved.  Back in September I received a scholarship to attend the Abby Franquemont “Spinning for a Purpose” workshop at the Taos Wool Festival in New Mexico.  A condition of the scholarship is that I share the knowledge gained with the guild. I can do this a variety of ways — but I chose to repay my scholarshop by offering guild members a spinning workshop.  While there are a lot of spinners in our guild, there are not a lot of members who work with a drop (or suspended) spindle. 

It’s a four-hour workshop designed for people who already know how to spin, but don’t know — or want to know more — about tricks and techniques that make spindle spinning functional and fun.

As a result of that commitment, I’ve been unable to get my head into a new project.  Believe it or not, my commuter knitting has been limited to a few rows here and there on UFO’s.  The rest of my time and brain has been devoted to getting the materials prepared for the workshop. 

It’s no small feat.  I know I could just buy all the fibre I need for the workshop and be done with it, but somewhere along my development as a fibre artist, I made a commitment to using locally sourced fibres.  So, in the absence of a local fibre mill to process all the stuff, I am the processor.  I’ve been drum carding and combing local dorset, montadale, romney and alpaca so folks in my workshop have a variety of fibres and preparations to experiment with.

I think I am all ready for the workshop — I’ll do another run-though tomorrow — now I can relax and spin.  That’s what I have here — I’m plying the “July” fibre from the Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club.  Beautiful oranges and pinks.
I split the braid in two.  Spun the singles very fine and am now plying them with a lot of twist.  My  plan is to re-ply it and make a cabled yarn.
Stay tuned.  There’s lots of hockey on tv tonight so I may very well get this done.

Grey Alpaca: Sample #1

The grey alpaca spins up beautifully and effortlessly.  This is important because I have a lot to make if I want to knit a skirt.  I spun this up on my Abby spindle, it’s a simple, inexpensive and highly effective spindle that Abby Franquemont offers as part of her materials in her classes.  I like it because it’s light, fast and I don’t worry about busting it up in my travels.  I take it with me where ever I go and spin when ever I have time (and energy).
For my first sample, I spun  it fine with a “Z” twist.  That’s turning the spindle clockwise to spin. I made sure the fibres were locked, but I didn’t put a great deal of twist into it.  My goal is a soft, but strong yarn to withstand the pressures of being a skirt. I can’t remember exactly how much I spun, but enough to make a good sized sample.  My goal was to make a cabled yarn.  That is a 4-ply yarn, so I needed a lot of yardage on this single.  
After I felt I had enough for the sample, I wound it off making a centre-pull ball, then I plied it, “S” twist – turning the spindle counter-clockwise.  I put a lot of twist into the 2-ply, as much as it could handle.  This is important when making a cabled yarn.  This 2-ply yarn is going to be plied again.  Yes, again. 
In the second ply, it is going to lose some of the twist so you need extra.  I wound the 2-ply yarn onto my hand in the Andean style, making a bracelet so I could spin from both ends of the yarn.  And I plied the 2-ply yarn with a “Z” twist.  Cabled yarn has a lovely texture.  The 2-plies lock against each other giving a purly texture.  The resulting yarn was soft, still fine — which is surprising because it is a 4-ply yarn.  The photos below show it. Not the best images I know.  I am in a hotel room and I took the pictures with the camera on my phone.  To gauge the thickness of the yarn, those needles are 3mm.  

The final sample yarn is 17 metres.  Enough to knit up a good sized piece.

My assessment: while lovely, strong and soft, it is not a beautiful yarn.  It reminds me of a scene in The Sound of Music — when upon arrival at the home of the Von Trapp family, the Captain asks her to change her clothes.  She declares she can’t because she gave all her clothes to the poor.  He looks down at the dress she was wearing and asks, “what about that one” to which she replied, “the poor didn’t want this one.”

I don’t want to make that kind of skirt.

So onto sample #2.  My plan is to introduce a single of tencel/silk, with a bit of colour.

Stay tuned.

Project A: 100 mile skirt with handspun local alpaca

For my 50th birthday, my husband organized a trip for us to the Taos Wool Festival in Taos, New Mexico.  The gift also included a three day workshop “Spinning for a Purpose” with Abby Franquemont.  He scored big with this gift! 

We flew to Albuquerque and drove to Santa Fe right away.  We tooled around the historic plaza area, had a terrific dinner and stayed the night.  The next morning we headed north to Taos, with a stop along the way in Espanola to rent a spinning wheel for the workshop. We took the scenic route to Taos which took us along winding mountain roads.  In the far distance, those are the hills we were heading towards.

The workshop was three days long, from 9 – 5pm and it was heavenly.  Imagine being in the company of 15 other advanced spinners and headed up by the queen of spinning — Abby Franquemont.  She is fun, funny, irreverant and very, very smart.  The course was called “Spinning for a Purpose”, she called it — “Being the Boss of Your Yarn.”  Here’s a shot of the white board on Day 3.  I should have taken a shot of it every day, but alas.

I came back from that workshop newly inspired to make better yarn. I won’t be making the same defaut yarn over and over again.  So here’s my first project:

I am going to take the “nasty alpaca” from the last post, spin it up and knit myself a Claudia Evilla skirt.  I wore the cotton/linen one I made earlier, to the Taos Wool Festival and it was a hit. In fact, I could very well be responsible for a burst of sales of the pattern.  Ruth Sorensen, you can thank me later.

Before the workshop, I would have just dove into the spinning.  I have an ounce of the alpaca combed up, and I would just start spinning it, and then ply it — making the same old double ply yarn that I make over and over and over again.  Not this time.

This time I am going to spin a very soft and fine single, then ply it with a lot of twist in it, and then ply that again, making a cable yarn.  The yarn will be 4-ply, and hopefully very soft.  I’ll knit up a sample and see what it looks like.  Then I’ll try some other spinning technique. I am looking for a fingering weight yarn (fine) that has strength — as a skirt takes some wear and tear from sitting and moving about — and good drape.  It’s a skirt and I want it to flow.

I’m heading downstairs to get working on it.  Will post some shots of the samples tomorrow.  I promise.