Category Archives: blending fibre

Z is for Zombie

This year our guild, the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild, worked with the Langley Centennial Museum to plan a gallery show. The show will be in the spring 2017.

We struggled for a while to find a theme that fibre artists in our guild could get their heads and hearts around, and be inspired to create something new for the show. Taking a very linear approach, we came up with this: The A, B, C’s of Fibre Arts. The idea is that everyone will choose or be given a letter. Using that letter they will come up with something related to fibre arts to make, explain, or showcase in some way.

I took the letter “Z”. And immediately thought of knitting a zombie parade. Let me explain. I am not a particularly gruesome person, nor am I a zombie fan. I actually find them quite disturbing and photos of zombie parades quite disgusting. However, a few years ago a friend of mine showed me some photos of knitting that her young daughter did as one of her first knitting projects – it was a knitted zombie. It was the craziest looking thing. Yes it was a zombie, hands rotted off, blood dripping from the eyeball, oozing entrails and so forth. But it also looked so darling having been hand knit.  So that’s what I decided to try. I like the contrast of taking lovely, loving and heart warming crafts like spinning and knitting and making something horrifying and disgusting from them. Besides, I think the kids will really like it.

A quick search on Ravelry and I came up with this pattern by Fiona Goble. I got her book Knit your own Zombie from the library and looked over the entire suite of patterns. This was going to be some fun!

Here’s my plan: All the yarn for the zombies is going to be spindle spun in small batches. This will allow me to mix the colours just right to get the correct “flesh” and “blood” colours. To make the flesh, I started by blending white, orange, and yellow corriedale. I then added some tan alpaca that had serious noils from a bad adventure with a picker – a story for another time. Then to “deaden” the flesh look I added in some green and blue corriedale. I did the early blending on my hand carders, but then moved onto the drum carder to really mix it up and get a good volume of fibre. Here it is right of the drumcarder, ready to be spun.

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I spun it on my Jenkins Turkish spindle. It’s a 50 gram spindle and because of that weight, it stretches out the corriedale. When it’s done the yarn bounces back and gives a light, bouncy yarn. I loved the way the noils were coming through in this yarn. In the finished item, the noils could be viewed as maggots or seeping pustules. I’ll leave that up to the imagination of the viewer.

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And here it is being plied on my Snyder Steampunk spindle. It’s a great workhorse for plying.

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Newly washed and ready for knitting. This yarn did not disappoint. 2015-11-30 07.28.17

I’ve knit up the first zombie and will post photos of him/her tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Making my favourite yarn

For the last while I’ve been obsessed knitting lace shawls, tidying up my studio and finishing up spinning projects with really slippery fibres. With more space opened up in the studio from tidying up, I was inspired to get out the tools/machines and get some wool carded to make my favourite yarn. Wool, plain and simple.

What I have below is my carding board. It’s a great thing that allows me to quickly tease up the washed fibre and open up the locks. I got out some of white and some grey Romney from Acacia Farms.

I teased up some of the white wool and an equal amount of grey. The grey is quite dark so I like the effect of blending the grey with white, spinning a singles from that, and plying it with a singles of the unblended grey.

Here’s what this yarn will look like: each skein below is a double ply yarn. One singles is the blended grey, and the second singles is either dark grey (the one on the left) or white (the one on the right).

Here are some drum carded nests of blended fibre. Many more followed, nearly a full pound! Will hopefully get around to spinning this up over the weekend, and then dyeing the yarn. Will keep you posted.

Jenny’s elegant gauntlets – Complete

It all started in early August.  I wrote about it in Yarn for a new project.  I also shared with you what I thought was a minor disaster, yarn with tons of bits and noils in it. Then, to document the process, I did a quickie post.  So here is a photo shoot of the finished gauntlets.

The pattern for these mitts comes right from Morgan Wolf’s Baby Fan Mitts that you can get for free on Ravelry. In an earlier trial run of this project, I tried to figure out how to make the lace wider at the elbow and then slowly narrow down for the wrist.  Everything I came up with, while it looked good, required a great deal of attention and concentration.  Both of which I have very little to spare.

So I tried an old trick that has served me very well many times.  Instead of casting on with 3mm needles like the pattern wanted me to do, I cast on with a 5mm.  After 3 inches of that, I moved down to 4mm.  Three more inches, and then down to the 3mm, which is where you would probably begin the pattern.  And then I was on my way.  Three inches of that and I started the thumb gusset.

The larger needles at the elbow opened up the lace and made for an airy fabric.  As I moved onto the other needles, especially the 3mm, you can see how the fabric got more dense.

I delivered them to Jenny and they fit her perfectly.  She loves them, which is always a treat for those of us making these items.

Thanks to my model, our youngest.

Jenn’s elbow length gauntlets

I wrote about blending fibre for this project in an earlier post.  At the end, I noted that the results weren’t what I was hoping for — too many noils.  I figured I could easily get rid of them so didn’t fret too much over it.  I have 112 g of this blended fibre — wool, alpaca and silk — I am not planning to abandon it without trying a few things.

Yesterday I heard back from Jenn with her measurements and confirmation that she wants me to make these gauntlets — so I confronted the challenge of spinning this fibre into fingering weight yarn.  It was a lovely lazy day. After struggling through a hot spell the threat of rain in the air was a welcome relief.  I set myself up on the front porch, with my wheel, tools, and glass of cider.

As I mentioned earlier, this fibre ended up with a lot of noils in it.  Some of them were from second cuts. That’s when the shearer passes a second time over the piece being shorn and produces very short clumps of fibre. If I had paid closer attention, I could have removed these before I picked and blended the fibre. I was too excited about using the picker to blend the fibre that I didn’t even look closely at the polworth. The other noils are not from second cuts, but seem to be from mishandling of the fibre. The polworth is a fine wool and it can’t take the stress of the picker and then the drum carder.  The fine fibres either break or get tangled and become a noil. Again, something entirely preventable.

You can see the noils in this photo. They are the white bits that are sitting in the fibre. I figured I could remove them so I got out my mini wool combs and tried combing them out. To no avail. The fibre is so fine the noils just slip past the tines and stay in the fibre. I tried drum carding it again, being much more gentle  — but no, they are still all there. Then I tried hand carding them, to pick out the second cuts and comb straight the other noils. Again, it didn’t work.The noils are there to stay.

I started spinning.  As I spun I stopped often to pick out the noils.  It was slow going and not satisfying spinning.  There had to be another way.  The way I finally decided upon was to do a test swatch and as I spun ignored the noils.  It was difficult because everything in me wanted the yarn to be smooth and not littered with these bumps.  But really, what choice did I have?  I could abandon this fibre or I could accept it as it is and see what it looked like spun up.

I spun a small (15g) sample as though the noils didn’t exist.  I washed it up and then to my surprise, fell in love with it.

It’s not perfect yarn, but it is really lovely. The noils from the second cuts pop out on their own in the plying and washing. The other noils just get tucked into the yarn and create a bit a texture. The silk shines through, the wool gives it a bit of bounce and the alpaca some drape. I knit up a sample, see above, of the gauntlet.

I think this will do just fine.

Yarn for a new project

At the Aldergrove Fair a couple of weekends ago, a young gal asked me to make her a special pair of mitts.  She liked the half-mitt style in hand spun yarn — but for this pair, she wanted them to come up to her elbow.  So after a few minutes of finding out what fibres and colours she likes, I agreed to make her a pair.

I’ve got the pattern designed — it’s a variation on the Baby Fan Lace mitts, starting with more stitches and decreasing as you get to the wrist.  And now I am working on the yarn.  She liked the idea of blending alpaca and wool and adding just a wee bit of silk for some luster.  So I set out to do that. Here’s a sample of the blended fibres and knit pattern. The first half (on the left) is the one I settled for, the yarn on the right is wool blended with cinnamon alpaca and silk.
Here’s what it was made out of: beige/cream alpaca, polworth (wool) and some tussah silk.  Blending fibres can take a long time on the drum carder so I decided to use the picker to do the blending.
A picker is a piece of machinery that helps you open the fibres and get them ready for carding or even spinning.  It’s also a great tool for blending fibres so they are mostly mixed before you put them through your drum carder. My girlfriend, from the dyeing days, owns a Patrick Green picker and she kindly let me borrow it for a spell.  Here it is.
It has some pretty sharp teeth, so there’s no sipping wine while you do this.  You have to pay attention on every single swing.  The fibre is fed into the front and on each swing, the teeth grab the fibre, drag it across all the other teeth, and spit it out the back.  All loose and opened up.
Then I took this wool/alpaca blend, added silk and put it through the drum carder.  The results weren’t what I was hoping for — too many noils.  I’ll post some photos of the sample yarn, when I have the issue sorted.

Blending Fibre — Photo essay

I started with a pile of wool of various colours.  Pinks, burgundys and some natural brown.  Blended that together and made two good sized batts. It’s the dark coloured batt at the top of the picture below.

I had two good sized batts of cream coloured alpaca in my stash along with a batt of pink and purple mohair. Divided the wool, alpaca and mohair into six equal parts that I would blend.  All this fibre is locally sourced.

I put the fibres through the drum carder in layers.  On the second pass through the carder, I pulled fibre off the end of the batt so I would have a chunk the length of the staple.  I put these clumps through the drum carder sideways.  This makes the fibres blend quickly and evenly.

The final pass through the drum carder is done to straighten out the fibres and blend them one final time.

This is batt #6 coming off the drum carder.

I have six of these batts for a total of 1/2 pound of blended fibre.  That was time well spent.