Category Archives: drop spinning

Love Letters completed

In my last blog post “Spinning on the Road” I had a good deal of the February Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club spun up, ready for plying.

Well last weekend I plied it all, gave it the boiling water treatment to finish the silk, and now have 460 yards of fingering weight yarn in three lovely skeins.

This colour way has clear contrasting colours, in the sense of light sections and dark coloured sections. I didn’t know how I wanted to spin it until I came across two azalea bushes- one pink the other purple – in Charleston, South Carolina. They were in full bloom and growing against a grey stone wall. I was smitten with the way the pinks, purples and greys all worked together. At that moment I decided that’s the look I wanted for the end project. In my mind, that called for a stripped yarn – one singles of the light and one of the deeper colours.

This isn’t an azalea – as I didn’t take a photo of those bushes – but it  has a similar effect. It’s an ornamental cherry in my neighbour’s yard.

At the spinning stage. You can see the different colour ways in action here.

Here I am spinning up the last of the lighter colour way.

And here’s the lot of it, plied and skeined. See how skinny these are? Remember this photo and compare it to the finished skeins. You see, fibre gets stretched out a lot during processing, spinning and plying. This yarn needs a good long soak in hot water to help it bloom and plump out again.

And here it is in the hot water bath getting the “treatment.”  What’s the “treatment” you ask?

Fill a cauldron with water.  Add a bit of soap, I added shampoo, about a tablespoon. I slipped the skeins in and slowly brought it up to a boil. I lifted and moved them a bit to avoid hot spots. The second it started boiling, I lowered the heat enough to keep it on a simmer. I let it simmer for 30 minutes then took it off the heat and let it cool enough so I could handle it. Not the best photo, but it shows what’s going on.

After the hot water treatment, I rinsed it, adding a squirt of vinegar to the rinse water. Then I towel dried them and hung them to dry.

And here are the lovelies. All plumped up and ready for some project. The yarn is soft and silky. It would make a wonderful shawl. All of this spinning was done on my drop spindles.

Spinning on the road

Over the last week and a half, my husband and I traveled to Georgia and the Carolinas. We landed in Atlanta, rented a car and drove north to the Appalachia mountains. I’ve always wanted to see the John C. Campbell Folk School and maybe even attend some workshops, so that was the first stop. We spent the morning there, touring around the workshops, grounds, History Centre and Craft Store. Then we drove to Asheville, North Carolina. A lovely, funky, totally accessible town/city situated in a valley in the Appalachia mountains. After a couple of days there we drove to Charleston, SC visiting the capital, Columbia NC along the way. Two days in Charleston and then we went onto (my new favourite spot) Savannah, GA. Two days there and then we made our way back to Atlanta, stopping for a day in the city of my birth, Augusta.

When you are on the road, site-seeing and touring around, you do a lot of sitting, reading and watching. While it’s always good to have a break from the regular routine, my hands got itchy do something creative. Luckily I brought along my Houndesign lace weight spindle and some fibre from the Sweet Georgia Yarn’s February Fibre Club, so every evening while hubby searched the channels for playoff hockey, I spun.

The fibre is a Merino 50%, Bamboo 25%, Silk 25% blend. The colourway is called Love Letters. From the insert: “. . . this sweet little colourway, Love Letters, reminds me of the innocent days before texting and snapchat. . . .Tiny packages of mild chocolate kisses and cinnamon hearts. Trepidatious steps into young love and new crushes.”

Here’s what the colourway looks like when you break it into the dyed sections. A grey that moves into white, onto pink and then a purple. It took me a while to figure out how I wanted to spin this up. When you are faced with a colourway that has serious light and dark spots, when making a 2-ply yarn you can easily get yarn that has two light singles and two dark singles and lots of barber-polling. I’ve made that kind of yarn before and while the skein looked nice, I didn’t like the way it knit up. Besides, I really loved the pinks and purples and wanted them throughout my yarn.

I decided to separate the pink/purple from the grey/white sections and spin them separately. Then I made pencil rovings from each of the sections and spun that up. With pencil rovings, I was making short sections of pink and sections of purple so these colours were fairly evenly distributed in the pink group. I did the same thing for the grey/white section.

When I filled the spindle with one colour group, I wound it into a tight ball and set it aside. Then I filled the spindle again with the second colour group. After that, I took the first ball and combined it with the singles on the spindle to make a two-stranded ball. Here’s a photo of my make-shift lazy kate; a paper coffee cup with the spindle stabbed through it to hold it tight and provide a place to hold the other ball while I wound the final ball for plying.

And here is a photo of the pink/purple singles still on the spindle. To the left of it is a two-stranded ball ready for plying. Below that is a tightly wound ball of singles, waiting for the spindle to get full so it can be wound into a two strand ball for plying.

I have a little more to spin and then I can get down to plying. Because I filled each spindle to capacity, I need to use a large spindle for plying – that’s why I had to wait until I got home to do that stage.

Stay tuned.

FibresWest 2014 and spindle spinning classes

FibresWest 2014 is coming up on Friday, March 21 and Saturday, March 22 in at the Cloverdale Fair Grounds in Surrey, BC. The event runs from 9:30 am to 6 pm on both days. Admission is $8, seniors and students get in for $6. And kids under 13 are free.

It’s a great fibre event. This year is their 6th Annual and each year there are more vendors, more classes and more excitement. Coming a near 1/2 year after Knit City, it’s just the fibre fix we need to get us through the year.

This year I am teaching an Introduction to Spindle Spinning on Friday morning.

And on Saturday morning I am teaching an Advanced Spindle Spinning Class. Please visit FibresWest 2014 for all the details about these (and other) classes. Hope to see you there!

The Candygram Socks

Sometime back in March 2013 (was it really that long ago?) I spun up the February Fibre club yarn called Candygram. It is lovely stuff with just a wee bit of sparkle – not enough to make it tacky, but enough to make it special. Recovering from a spinning-inspired knee injury, I spun this 100 grams on my drop spindles. You can find all the info about this fibre and the spinning in this blog post.

Once it was spun up I stared at the yarn for a long time. I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like the purples and lime greens together and thought they’d look muddy when knit up.

Well I was wrong. Really wrong. This was a case of ugly yarn, lovely result. The yarn actually striped up when it was knit, and even those rare times when the greens and purples collided, it was actually okay.

So here they are, a pair of socks. Just my basic “mindless-knitting” sock pattern. They aren’t exactly the same, but they surely are a pair.

Flash off.

 Flash on.

Just to make sure I didn’t get SSS (second-sock syndrome) I knit them mostly together. Cuff on #1, cuff on #2. heel flap on #1, heel flap on #2, and so on right down to the decreases at the toe. I recommend doing socks this way — it’s easy to remember the pattern when you are doing on piece following another. And for me, I know that once I saw the result of the yarn, the mystery was over and I could easy be left with just one sock. Nope, not now. I now have a lovely pair of socks to show off at the next fibre event!

Knit City 2013 – Intro to spinning with a spindle class

On Saturday I taught a class at Knit City 2013 in Vancouver. It was an early class. I had to be up at 6am, to pack the car and leave the house by 7am, to get there by 8am, to set up the class and teach at 9am. I tossed and turned in bed from 3am onwards. Convinced that I was forgetting something, I taught and re-taught the class in my dreams. By about 4:30am the idea of flat tire on the Port Mann bridge had me consumed. I am just being stupid? or is this an important premonition?

It ended up that I was just being stupid. Surpised? The workshop went well, people who signed up learned to spin and had achieved the learning goal they identified at the beginning. That’s pretty good for a three-hour workshop. It all went so fast that today I keep going over things that I meant to tell them; things that I would normally mention in my longer workshops, but never had time in this one. Does it matter?

People wanted to learn how to spin and I really worked hard to show them how it happened. I gave them one-on-one help when needed and then backed away so they could do it. That was the hardest thing. I kept wanting to fill the space with the stuff that I needed to tell them. But I know how annoying it can be to have someone tell you something that may be important – Do I need to take notes? – while you are concentrating on getting this spindle to keep a spin while learning the process of drafting out fibre.

I’m having the post-workshop blues. You wait and wait and plan and plan for the event and then poof! — in three simple fast hours it’s all over. And now I look back and ask — did it make a difference?

It did for me, because I have learned some important things that will help me on my journey to being a spinning instructor. I think/hope it did for the participants. They smiled, laughed, expressed their frustration when things weren’t working, shared their pleasure when it did, purchased spindles and thanked me profusely.

Are they just being “Canadian”?

March Fibre club: Wellspring colourway in English Shetland

Here’s a photo of the March Fibre club yarn, nearly complete. It’s English Shetland wool that is a delight to spin, especially after spinning the slippery silky/merino/nylon Candygram last week. I am spinning this yarn to be a worsted weight and it spun up fast. All of it has been spun it all on my Houndesign Henry’s Dervish spindle.

I just have two more sets of singles to ply and then I’ll finish them off by boiling and bashing them around. That way they’ll get slightly felted and it also may even out the colours a bit.  The dark colours may lose a bit of dye and the lighter ones may pick it up. At least that’s what I hope will happen.

Two days later:

I finished up the yarn. And then I put all the skeins well tied up with figure eights, into a pasta pot with hot water and a bit of shampoo. I brought it to a boil and then held it at a simmer for 15 minutes. In that time the twist relaxed, the yarn evened out and the colours became a bit more even. The dark sections lost some of their dye and the lighter sections picked it up. I like this yarn a lot better now.

Not sure what it will be. There’s 100+grams of it. Enough to make a set of half-mitts and a hat. Or it could just go into my yarn collection.  I seem to be much more prolific making yarn than I am knitting these days.

Candygram yarn complete

The yarn is all done. Here it is right after being made into skeins.

and here it is all washed and bashed up, ready for knitting.You can see how the yarn softens up and gets its bounce back after a good hot soak. In some sections it’s a sock yarn, and in others is a sport weight.

Not entirely sure how it’s going to knit up, in terms of how the colours will behave with each other. The yarn itself is lovely and soft and strong, so it could be a pair of socks. But the colours and patterning are really asking for it to be some kind of small shawl scarf.  
Then again I could just put it into my yarn collection with all the other stuff that I make. I simply love making yarn. This fibre club is a great way to satisfy my need to constantly explore fibres and colours and get out of my regular rhythms.  
I’m onto the March fibre now. I’m determined to have the Jan/Feb/March fibre spun up before the next cycle begins. January fibre is a merino/silk blend that will take a lot of discipline. That’s why I’ve jumped to the March fibre.  It’s a nice Shetland wool with greens and blues. Easy spinning, worsted weight. Will go fast, I type hopefully.
Will keep you posted.

February Fibre Club: Candygram

Sweet Georgia Yarns Fibre Club is a fun way to experiment with fibres and colours. It’s also a great way to boot you out of any kind of a fibre/spinning rut you may be in.  You sign up for three months at a time. Once a month you get a 100g bag of unspun fibre with a description of the content of the yarn along with some spinning suggestions.
The fibre for February is called Candygram. According to Felicia Lo, “All these saccharine pinks, lilacs, light lime greens and pale blues remind me of those little candy hearts that you get at Valentine’s Day.” And boy, she’s right. These are not colours that would have every chosen for myself. But that’s the fun thing about the Fibre Club. Once you have them, you have to work with them. And it ended up being really fun. I love these intense bold colours and the splash of silver glitter that ekes out one in a while. 
It is made of 63% Superwash Merino Wool, 20% Silk, 15% Nylon, 2% “Silver.” And it was prepared as a pencil roving.  A sleek amount of fibre, about the thickness of a . . . pencil.  
I’ve been off spinning with my wheel due to a spinning injury, and since the spinning workshop last week, I’ve been full on with my spindles. So this is being done entirely with my lace-weight spindles for the singles, and my heavier, Henry’s Dervish for plying.
I actually have crafted a detailed plan for spinning this yarn.  But I won’t explain my thinking until I am sure it worked.  Why bother otherwise?  But here it is nearly done – all the fibre is spun up and I am at the plying stage now.  
From left to right you will see, a larger spindle that I am using for plying with about a third of the plying done.  Next to that you will see two sets of purple balls next to lace-weight spindles full of singles. These are waiting to be wound into two-ply balls which make plying so much easier. The wee green ball at the bottom is the left over from winding a double-ply ball.  I am sure there will be others so this one will get incorporated into the final plan.  The mini skein at the very bottom is one of the sample I did as I tried to figure out how to get the best out of all these colours.

Will post the final results.

Dyed rovings for the spinning workshop

Last Saturday, I taught two Introduction to Spinning with a Drop Spindle workshops. From 8:30am – 12:30pm and again from 1pm – 4pm. It was intense and fun. Each of the students, and there were eight in each class, were able to spin a continuous thread, and most of them made a small skein of two-ply yarn by the end of the workshop.
As a a treat I sent them home with 25g of white BLF and 25g of dyed BFL rovings. Rovings that I dyed myself.  Here’s the photo essay of that process:

I soaked the rovings overnight and then applied the dye in a rainbow-ish pattern. After they dyeing, I rolled them in cellophane and let them sit for a few days. Overnight is probably enough, but things got busy with work so the steaming part was on hold.

I steamed them for a total of 45 minutes. Flipping them every ten minutes. After four flips, I turned the heat off and let them cool down in the steamer. About three hours after that, I unrolled them and let them cool even further.

Here’s what they looked like after I rinsed all the dye out of them.

And here they are, all dry and ready to be rolled into nests to be tucked into their bags.

I wish I had made one of these for me, so I could see what the spun yarn looked like. Next time. . . . . better planning.

Drop Spindling workshop at Fibreswest

The drop spindling workshop at Fibreswest filled up really fast — thanks everyone who signed up.

Because it filled so quickly we’ve decided to offer a second class. If you are interested in learning how to spin on a suspended spindle and haven’t yet signed up, contact and put your name on a wait list.

If there is sufficient interest, we’ll put on another class. This new class will be held in the afternoon spot.