Category Archives: cabled yarn

A Recurring Theme – The 100-Mile Skirt

I was looking over my blog, reviewing 2013 and I noticed a recurring theme. The 100-mile skirt. This year I have several posts about it, all promising some kind of progress and completion.  Here’s the short story of it.
In October 2011, inspired by Abby Franquemont at the Taos Wool Festival, I decided to make a 100-mile skirt. That meant that I would source the fibre from my area, prepare, spin and knit it. I already had a pattern, from a knitted skirt I made and finished in August 2011. 
Here’s the fibre I chose. Local alpaca – nasty stuff, full of brambles, twigs and other things that stab you. And a braid of fibre from Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club.

I did a few samples and settled on the look that the skein on the far right gave.

The yarn is a 2 x 2 cabled yarn. That means one ply of grey alpaca and one ply of the blue stuff made into a 2-ply yarn. Then you take that 2-ply yarn and ply it again. That meant spinning up yards and yards of each – it was a 4-ply cable to that was a lot of fine spinning.

Here it is being plied again to make the cabled yarn.

And here are the first two skeins, washed and ready for knitting.

I got this far with the skirt and then ran out of yarn, so I had to go back to combing the alpaca and spinning up more singles of each – the alpaca and the blue wool.

And here is the last skein of this yarn. Once this is all used up, I have to go to plan B.
And here it is in progress. This is where we are today — 8 repeats of the lace pattern. I’ll knit until it’s gone and then if I need more length I’ll make a cabled yarn from the blue wool singles that I have left over. Right now it reaches to about an inch above my knee.

Here’s a close-up of those sweeties.

Plan B:  There’s a lot of yardage on these bobbins, so I think, if needed, I could make enough yarn for a half repeat. Enough to give a finish. We’ll see.

88 Stitches, our local yarn shop is hosting a Knit Along (KAL) for the month of January. I have openly announced that I will work to finish this project. I am so close – so very close. So I’ll have some incentive to get this done. . . . of course I have the Norwegian mitts to finish first. When they are done, I’ll re-acquaint myself with this pattern.

Happy New Year’s to all and best of luck and love for 2014.

100-mile skirt update V

Here’s the last skein of yarn for the 100-mile skirt. It is 189m and I hope this finishes the skirt. 400m took me to about 3 inches above my knee, and while the pattern does start to flare out quite a bit, I think this last 189m will do the trick.
Here it is on the niddy-noddy:

And here it is, nicely dried after a good soak in hot water.

 Now I have to find the pattern and try to remember where I was. . . .

Skirt Update IV

I blew my right knee spinning so the skirt won’t be ready for FibresWest. It’s true. The story is pathetic because it was an entirely preventable injury.

In a short while, I did a marathon amount of spinning to get enough grey alpaca and blue merino/silk onto 4 bobbins. No problem, knee was fine. Then I started plying them last Thursday evening. Remember, this is a cabled yarn so this stage of plying has a lot of twist in it, which required a great deal of treadling. I got this one above started, and then realized that I had a “Wild Silk” spinning workshop on Saturday and needed the wheel, so I had to madly finish the plying on Friday night. I was sitting on the couch and it’s too low so my knee was doing more of the work than usual. But in my frenzy to finish I ignored the pain and never even considered moving to a better chair or position. What’s wrong with me?

And then to add to the problem, I spent the entire next day at a silk spinning workshop. And if you know anything about spinning silk, it’s fine and requires a lot of twist – ergo treadling. Nothing that a couple of Advil couldn’t handle. After the workshop I wanted to get back to the yarn for the skirt so I spent the evening plying the second bobbin.  My knee was aching, but I kept at it because I wanted to finish the yarn, so I could get back to knitting the skirt.

The next day I was limping around the house and couldn’t go for my morning run. In fact, I haven’t been able to do any running since — well it’s only been a week, but I miss it. It’s on the mend, but I’ve learned a good lesson:

Pay attention to PAIN. It’s a signal that something’s not right.

100-mile skirt update

As a result of a great effort, and I kid you not, I now have two decent sized skeins of 2 x 2 cabled yarn.  It is a total of 400 m and 212 g. I know I don’t have enough to make the entire skirt, but I have enough to get started, and maybe even get mid-thigh. But it’s a darned good start and that’s exactly what I need.
As a reminder, this yarn is made up of two strands of 2-ply yarn. In each strand there is a singles of grey alpaca and a singles of blue merino/silk/bamboo.Yes, that’s singles with an “s”, the single strand of yarn that you spin is called a singles. Don’t argue with me, I didn’t make up this spinning language.  
When you spin the singles for a cabled yarn, it’s a good idea to put a gentle twist into it. The fibres I am/was working with are fine fibres and I was spinning a thin yarn, so I made sure that there was enough twist to just lock the fibres into place, that’s a way to ensure a gentle twist.  Then I plied the grey and blue together putting a lot of twist into the ply. A lot of twist into it. So much that I had to take breaks because my treadling leg got tired. Seriously.  And I’m a runner. 
Then I plied those over/super plied yarns together and got a 2 x 2 cabled yarn.  Why all this work you ask?
I am making a skirt that I want to last and look good.  The seat of a skirt gets wear and tear so I wanted a structure that can take wear and tear and bounce back.  A cabled yarn is the answer.  At least that’s what I have been lead to believe.

Here are the finished skeins all washed, bashed and ready to be made into balls and knit up. They are soft, surprisingly light and from a distance they look like denim.  There’s 400 m of it, so it’s enough to really get going on this skirt and then only (hopefully) have a wee bit to spin up to finish.

And then I’ll have a 100-mile skirt.

Imagine that.

Status update on my 100-mile skirt

It’s a hot day here in Glen Valley, threatening to go up to 32 degrees by mid-afternoon.  So I thought I’d catch some time indoors next to the fan and do an update on the 100-mile skirt.

A while back I combed a bundle of the grey alpaca and divided what I had done into two batches.  I’ve spun most of that onto two bobbins — very fine with a light twist. Even though this spinning has produced a lot of yardage, I may need more.  So I asked my friend if she would return the bag of grey alpaca I gave her.  It is so nice to have understanding friends.

I have next to spin an equal amount of the blue fibre — totally amazing stuff from Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club.  Titled “Placid Waters” it is 50% merino, 25%  bamboo and 25% tussah silk.  It has a wonderful sheen and subtle gradations of blues.  As with the grey alpaca, I underestimated how much I would need, so again in a mild panic and relying on the kindness of friends, I asked another dear friend if I could have her braid of “plaid waters”.  She willingly gave up her braid and for that I am very thankful.

Now I have no excuse to procrastinate.  I have more than enough fibre to do the job and a good chunk of time on my hands.  My problem is my own attention span.  I like starting projects and trying new things.  The part where you have to finish is the part that takes a lot of discipline.  Right now, this project is in the spinning marathon phase.  Just sit and spin.  And spin.  And then ply, and ply.  And so forth until I have what I figure is enough to get the job done and the skirt made.

Then it’s a knitting triathlon as there are different aspects to the skirt. That I can manage, what with my transit assisted commute to the city.  I’m aiming to wear this skirt by Thanksgiving.  See if I’m right.

Back to the 100-Mile Skirt

After fiddling round for a while with various cabled yarn experiments, I have finally decided which one I want to make for the 100-mile-wear version of the Claudia Skirt

The one on the far right is the prototype.  It is a cabled yarn.  This cabled yarn is constructed from a 2-ply grey alpaca single and Placid Waters (50% merino, 25% bamboo and 25% silk ) single.  That 2-ply yarn is then plied again to make a 4-strand cable.  It’s a lovely yarn.  It has a wonderful drape and from a distance looks a bit denim. 

So I devoted last Sunday afternoon to combing alpaca nests, and here is what I got  — 22 grams of combed nests.  I haven’t yet done the complex math to figure out how much I need to make the skirt, and therefore how much I need to comb, spin and ply and cable.  Part of me just wants to comb up all the grey alpaca that I have and hope for the best.   It is extremely fine fibre and is to be spun up fine, so this amount, small as it seems, will go a long way.
 

I am going to comb up another serious batch of it and start spinning.  Here’s to lazy, rainy Sunday afternoons and a challenging fibre project!

Cheers.

Overplied, yet lovely

I finally made a decision about this yarn.  It’s been sitting on the bobbin fully plied for well over a week.  In fact I wanted it to be thought it was over plied, waiting to be plied again into a cabled yarn. 
However, I forgot that I over plied the first singles (because I had a particular plan in mind) so when I plied them together, what I thought was over plying was just making a good balanced yarn.  And that’s what you see here.
The problem was I jumped plans.  For a cabled yarn, I should have a put a gentle amount of twist into the fist singles; then take the singles and overply them — which means putting much more twist into your plying than you normally would; and then cable them (ply them again moving in the opposite direction) with a regular amount of twist.  This under twist; over twist; under twist, will result in a soft cabled yarn.
But I didn’t do that. 
I started with the experiement of putting a lot of twist into the singles, then let the project sit for a long time.  I decided when I looked at the colours, that I wanted to try a cabled yarn with it — forgetting the severe amount of twist I put into the singles.  There was so much twist needed in the first ply, that when I tried to make a cabled yarn, it was as hard as a cable.  Not the effect I wanted at all.
I hope this all isn’t terribly confusing. So let me synthesize it — I started with a plan, and I needed to stick with that plan.  I jumped into another plan halfway, and what I did in step 1, really did matter. 
It’s a nice yarn with good colourways.  With a lot of twist in it and, balanced like it is, it will make a very good sock yarn.  It’s not a disaster, at all.
But I still don’t have a cabled yarn.

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.

Experiments with cabled yarns

A while ago I started spinning up some samples to make a cabled yarn for another Claudia Evilla skirt. I wasn’t happy with the first sample, seen on the left. The battleship grey is just too dreary for me, so I abandoned any idea of using the grey alpaca exclusively. I did like the feel of the yarn so decided to continue experimenting with cabled yarns. 
Cabled yarn, as a re-plied yarn, has unlimited possibilities.  For these samples I spun a two-ply yarn (singles with a Z -clockwise twist and plied with an S-counter clockwise twist). Then you take the two-ply yarn and ply that again using a Z twist.  In these samples there are 4-singles.  Because of that, there are wonderful opportunities to add colour and other fibres.  Which is exactly what I did.

If you haven’t yet played around with cabled yarns, I encourage you to do so.  A four ply cabled yarn has more strength than a regular four ply — which is pretty strong.  Taking the first plied yarn and plying it again adds another level of strength.  And if you are using a coloured single along the way, it has a way to tucking the coloured single into the yarn, giving a dotted effect as opposed to a barber pole striping effect that you get when you ply two yarns of different colours.

The first skein on the left is the very first, all grey alpaca sample.  The middle skein has a double grey alpaca ply, plied with a grey and blue fibre from Sweet Georgia Yarns called Placid Waters.  It is 50% merino wool, 25% bamboo and 25% tussah silk. Nice combination for the grey alpaca and to create a fabric that has a good drape.  So altogether that one used 3 grey singles and one blue one.  The skein on the right uses two double ply grey and blue for a total of two grey singles and two blue singles. 

You can see the effect of adding one more blue single each time.  The battleship grey falls into the background and the luster of the bamboo and silk start to take over.    It’s starting to look a bit like denim — and for a skirt, that may not be a bad thing.

Now I have to knit up a sample or two — it’s such a dreary, rainy day I just may get around to that.