Category Archives: drop spinning

Lupine Forest – experiment #2

Welcome to 2017. Here’s a blog post that’s been sitting in my drafts for a while waiting for some photos to attach to it. Finally, I finished it.

A while back I wrote about working with this colourway – Lupine Forest from Kinfolk Yarn and Fibre. I liked the result, but also felt that the purples, the Lupine buds, were lost in the yarn. So I decided to try spinning it differently so that I could try to get the purple buds to POP.

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I spun it on a drop spindle because I made this spinning decision at a guild demonstration where I only brought my spindles. I’d never really tried to spin thick and thin on a spindle, but I am always up for a challenge and the chance to learn new things. I hate making mistakes, which may surprise you for the number of mistakes I make, but once I get over the ego-bruising of a mistake, I have always learned something valuable.

Below is the result. Notice that the purple pieces are thicker than the other colours.

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And here is is next to ball of varigated greens that it was plied with.

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I plied it on my wheel. I wanted to try different plying techniques that I have only learned and practiced on my wheel, so comfort was the key to confidence. First I tried differential tension with the plying that you can see along the bottom right of this skein. I didn’t think I wanted that. Then in a fit of enthusiasm, I made a couple of super coils. I didn’t think that would work with the knitting pattern and plan that I wanted to compare it to, so I continued with straight on plying.

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And here’s the final yarn. The purple pops, and when knitted up into half-mitts it popped a bit. Not as much as I thought it would. So there’s a message to those who think their uneven yarn won’t look nice.

And here it is knit up into my Simple Lines pattern. The purple bits did exactly what I wanted them to do.

And here’s a close-up. I love the texture it brings to the mitts.

And I continued the experiment by doing the thick purple parts and this time plying it with variegated brown instead of with green. I haven’t knit it up yet, but it’s a good example of the many yarns you can make from one painted braid.

Happy Spinning!

A tale of two turtles

So this is a continuation of the last post, where I spun 40 grams of fibre onto my Jenkins Swan. I wound the turtle in that neat and tidy way that I saw most spindlers on Instagram doing. They are lovely. 2016-03-24 15.28.03However, I discovered that when I removed the shaft and arms, the edges started to peel away. I had noticed this on several earlier occasions, but just figured that I was somehow doing something wrong in my wrapping. Not this time. I paid close attention.

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The quality of this photo is awful and I apologize for that. However, You can see the layers clearly coming apart.

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So when I spun the second 40 grams, I continued to wind “over two, under one” but didn’t try to line the fibre up in a neat way. The turtles ended up being the same size, so there goes that theory that winding it neatly allows you to get more yarn onto your spindle. (This was my theory.)

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So here they are side by side. The random wind-on is on the left. The carefully wound one is on the right.2016-03-27 08.10.21

For plying I made a two-stranded ball and to assist me in this I put the turtles into our French Onion Soup bowls. They are the perfect size and heavy. Things went well for the first half, but as the centre hole got larger, the yarn from the carefully wound turtle started coming out in clumps. I think the fibres stick to each other when they are carefully wound like that.

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Here’s an 80 gram double stranded ball that I plied using my Snyder Steampunk spindle. It’s my go-to spindle for plying. It’s heavy, fast and I can get a lot of yarn onto it.

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There’s 80 grams on this baby. Measured out at 192 yards or 177 metres.

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The moral of the story?  Carefully wound turtles, while beautiful, take longer to wind and are not solid stable balls. In the singles stage when the twist is really active, you want as much stability as you can get.

That’s my story.

A decent obsession: my Jenkins Turkish spindles

In the last year or so I’ve fallen in love with Turkish spindles. I consider myself to be a hard-core spindler and work mostly on Houndesign Henry Dervish spindles. They are beautiful tools and at 35 – 40 grams, are of a good weight to make most kinds of yarn. And, they have a slender shaft that allows me to run it up (or down) my thigh and get into really high speed spindling fast.

The Turkish spindles, while of a similar weight, are not fast. You can’t run them up or down your thigh, you have to flick them to put them into motion. So they are slower. This slowness has proven to be a good thing. The slowness coupled with the weight makes a different kind of yarn than what I was making on my Houndesign. The weight of the Jenkins stretches the fibre. The twist enters slower than it normally does, while the fibre is stretched. Once plied and washed, the fibres bounce back and the yarn is soft, lofty, and light.

Here’s my first Jenkins – 50 grams. The turtle (that’s what the cop on a Turkish spindle is called) is blended Corriedale. As I was newly into Turkish spindle spinning, I was following what the spindlers on Instagram were doing to wind their turtles. “Over two, under one” around and around lining the strands up in a neat sequence. It makes for a very pretty turtle, especially when you use multi-coloured fibre like in the second photo – but it is time consuming.

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And this is my newest Jenkins – a Swan 34 grams. After moving away from winding on in a methodical way, I decided to revisit it to see if it makes a difference. Here it is with 43 grams of fibre on it, all carefully wound.

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But look what happened when I removed the arms and shaft. The last layer of wound fibre is peeling off. Not impressed at all. What I noticed in other instances of winding on this way was that the yarn came off in layers and I didn’t like that either.

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I am going to fill this spindle with another 43 grams of fibre and wind it – still “over two, under one” but not worry about lining up the strands of yarn. More like what you see in these photos:2015-11-11 19.37.412015-11-29 08.45.09

I am thinking that the turtle will be much larger because the yarn is not neatly wound. But at least it will stay in place. We shall see.

Stay tuned.

Zombie project – the body

It didn’t take long to knit up all the body parts. Next time I do this, there are some things I’d do differently. Like leaving long tails so I can use that yarn to sew up the parts. After knitting them up, I steam blocked them so they’d be flat. I pressed hard and used a lot of steam because I wanted the fabric to fuse. It worked just fine.

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Then I laid all the pieces out and looked it all over. I quietly reflected on the irony of a knitter who goes to huge lengths so they don’t have to seam things, to a project that contains dozens of seams. Really? What was I thinking?

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It took me an entire day to sew up, stuff and embellish the wounds. You may be quietly saying to yourself that “she needs a hobby” but this is my hobby. Of sorts.

Here he is – and I do think it is a “he”. I still need to do the rest of the face: eye, nose, mouth and of course the Kim Mitchell style hair-do.

1 zombieBut for now, here he his. I apologize that he is naked. That is being remedied – I’m in the midst of spinning yarn for the trousers.

I don’t yet have a name – any thoughts?

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.

Learning to spin faster

I love spinning, especially spinning on my spindles. They are beautiful tools and I take any excuse to spend time with them. I love all kinds of fibres, but especially the variety of wool we have available to us these days. It seems though there are not enough hours in a day to play with spindles, play with fibres, make yarn, and then do something with it, like knit.

I figured that I needed to start spinning faster. What would it look like if I only worked on one project from start to finish? And during that period, tried to spin as quickly and as efficiently as possible? How fast is fast? At least for me.

I work full time, Monday to Friday. So my fibre arts happen in the evenings and on weekends. On Wednesday evening I pulled out the March 2015 Sweet Georgia Yarns (SGY) fibre club installment. It was a 100g braid of 100% corriedale – the colourway is Beginner’s Luck.

Here’s the photo shoot:

This is the fibre opened up so you can see the colour way. It’s blue with several gradations of green. All the colour changes are gentle and not dramatic. I decided that I wanted the colours to blend as much as possible, so I split the entire roving in half, weighed them to make sure I’d have equal amounts, then split the fibre further into pencil rovings and started spinning.

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It took Wednesday and Thursday evening to fill spindle one. And Friday to spin spindle two.
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On Saturday morning I wound the singles from both spindles into a double stranded ball for plying. And brought out my Steampunk spindle by Scott Snyder for the job. I wanted to try to make one skein of plied yarn.

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And here is the spindle, as filled with yarn as you could get. It was getting heavy and I was in danger of running out of shaft to spin. 2015-05-16 19.49.14 2015-05-16 19.49.29

After plying I let it sit overnight and this morning wound it off into a skein.

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One nice skein – measures 241 yds or 223 metres and weighs 109 grams. A decent amount of yarn produced in three evenings, one day and a morning. All found time.2015-05-17 08.16.21 So what did I learn? Here are some things I noticed that can help me spin faster into the future:

1. Have a plan

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this yarn, how I wanted to spin it and how I wanted to play with the colourway. I wasn’t making decisions every time I picked up the fibre. The experimenting was over and I was just down to spinning.

2. Just spin

Yes, just spin. Don’t stop and admire your yarn in between each piece you complete and when you pick up another to join on. I tend to do that and it’s a time sink. Just spin, and spin, and spin.

3. Notice where you are using your time

Take note of how long things take you to do. Getting the fibre onto the wrist so it’s out of the way was taking me too much time. I had to put down the spindle, grab the new fibre, wrap it around my wrist, pick up the spindle and get started again. I figured out a seamless way to grap the new fibre and tuck it into a knitted wrist distaff without having to stop and put down the spindle. That saved a minute or less. But when you figure that you are doing that several dozens of times – it starts to add up.

I also noticed that winding on takes time. And there is the temptation to spin a long amount, but then when you wind that on, in order to keep it under tension I’d have to butterfly it until I can comfortably grab the spindle. So for me, I was more efficient to spin an amount I can comfortably manage and then wind that on.

4. Work with more than one spindle

Now here’s a rationale for having more than one spindle on hand! You can and I have on several occasions spun yarn using one spindle for the entire project. I spin singles one on the spindle and then wind it off into a neat, hard ball. Then I spin singles two using the same spindle. When that is done I wind that singles, along with the singles from the first spinning (the one that is sitting neatly in a hard ball) into a double stranded ball. It is this ball I use for plying.

Working with more than one spindle allowed me to save time winding off the singles yarn. I filled spindle one. Then I filled spindle two. I put both of them into the lazy kate and wound my double stranded ball from both spindles – it took 20 full minutes.

I am sure I will think up a few more things that made this go faster. But that’s it for now. I am going to wash the skein and will measure it again for the final total.

Have a great long weekend, and thanks for reading.

Winter Thaw – Sweet Georgia Yarn fibre club March 2014

The March 2014 Sweet Georgia Yarn fibre club is a delicious 4 oz/100 g braid of Superwash BFL in greens, blues and browns. I spun it up on my Houndesign spindle, and plied on the spindle as well.
I divided the colour way into lengths that went from blue to brown to green. The plan was to further split them into pencil rovings and spin one spindle starting with the blue, and then fill a second spindle starting with the green. My thought was that when it was plied I would get a two-ply yarn that would have blue/green sections and full brown sections.
Didn’t quite work out as my pencil rovings were of dramatically varying thicknesses. But the finished yarn is lovely and I can’t wait to find a project for it.
Here’s what it looked like in progress.
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Taking a well deserved break. . . . .

 Two spindles full of just plied yarn waiting to be wound off on the niddy-noddy into skeins.

And here’s the freshly plied yarn – total of 310 metres, or 286 yards of fingering/sport weight. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for this lovely yarn.

Default yarn busting attempt #1 – results

Last weekend I wrote about battling default yarn. This is what happens when you get really good at spinning and go into the “zone”. For the most part this kind of yarn is fine, but what happens when this is the only kind of yarn you can make?  I want to have a  wide repertoire of spinning techniques and finished yarn. So last weekend I tackled it.
Below are the finished singles from all the batts that I showed in the last post. They were spun from batts which is different from the preparations I usually work with – and I spun as quickly as I could and didn’t overly fret about thin and thick spots.

 I spent most of yesterday plying these from the centre pull balls I had on display above. (The wee one on the far left was some thing that I had on the spindle – it was spun from rolags.)

And here is the yarn, washed, thwacked and drying. It’s a total of 317 yards or 294 metres. The picture doesn’t really do it justice. The colours look much more solid and consistent than they actually are. Each skein has about four colours of wool in it, including bits of silk and shiny Angelina. 
It’s a thicker weight than the yarn I usually produce, but it is still a bit too even for what I was aiming for. 

Back to the drawing board to really try to bust out of default yarn.

Battling default yarn

When you first learn to spin, your yarn is lumpy, bumpy and full of character. If you keep spinning, in a very short while you will be making even yarn, and as many of us have experienced, your yarn will get thin, thin, and thinner. In fact, it will take some effort to spin thicker yarn.

Many of us experienced spinners have noticed that we have a “default” yarn that we spin. That’s the yarn that we automatically make when sit at our wheels or pick up our spindles. Default yarn is not a bad thing, but it does mean that you are spinning the same yarn over and over again.

I have managed to bust the default yarn syndrome when spinning at my wheel. But I have recently noticed that my spindle yarn is starting to have that same look about it. This weekend I decided to battle default yarn syndrome when spinning on my spindle.

First thing I did was I got out fibre that I don’t normally work with in a preparation that I don’t normally use with my spindles. I usually spin up wonderfully prepared rovings from the Sweet Georgia Yarn fibre club. But the yarn I pulled out of my stash was a blend of corriedale, bits of silk and shiny lovely Angelina. I carded these five batts on a drum carder a few weekends ago when I was demonstrating at the Bradner Flower Show.

To get out of the default zone, I decided to spin these up as quickly as possible, not worry about thick and thin bits, and try to spin a bit thicker than I normally do. Here’s the blue batt all spun up.

And the yellow batt all done.

And just at the beginning of the purple batt.

I wind these off onto toilet paper rolls so I can have a centre pull ball for plying. Here’s what that looks like. The yarn on the centre pull ball is just resting in the spindle on the bottom to hold it in place for the photo shoot. To ply I hold the ball in my left hand with a couple of fingers inside it so I can control the yarn that is coming from the inside and around the outside. I let out a good arm’s length of both yarns and then spin it counter clockwise. And then wind that onto the spindle.

This green yarn was made the same weekend as the others, and it was the only one spun up that weekend.

Will post the finished yarns soon. Gotta get back to the purple.

Knit City – Instructors for 2014 announced

Knit City – a modern fibre event – is going big. This year they are going to be at the PNE October 4th and 5th. Last week they announced the line-up of instructors for 2014, and I am thrilled to say that I am one of them.

I am offering two classes: Introduction to spinning with a drop spindle that is suitable for absolute beginners. And another spindling class called Drop Spindling II. This is for people who know how to spin but haven’t tried a spindle yet, or know how to spin on a spindle, but want to take their spinning to a new level and learn some”tricks of the trade”.

I hope you see you there.