Category Archives: handspun yarn

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!

Yosemite Colourway: Managing Colours

After my self-proclaimed success pleasant experience with the Lupine Forest colourway, I decided that I needed to stretch myself right out of my comfort zone: colourwise. So when I visited the Peace Arch Weavers and Spinners Guild annual Spin-In a few weekends ago, (where there are VENDORS so you can BUY FIBRE) I came away with four additional colourways from my newly discovered local dyer Kinfolk Yarn and Fibre. One of them was Yosemite (on Organic Polwarth), fraught with primary colours and all the secondary colours but purple. Take note of that.

Here it is on display just hours after I bought it. I met my husband for lunch and simply couldn’t leave it in the car. I had to look at it and start studying it because it scared me. Okay, scared is too strong a word, but was not sure how to work with it. What scared me about it? All the strong contrasting colours. What would they look like plied against each other. Would it be a muted yarn with all the intensity of the colours washed out from the balancing that comes from putting complementary colours next to each other?

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When I approach spinning these lovely dyed braids, I pull them apart and try to line them up so I can see the colours and the colour repeats. Given this, see below, I initially thought about making a 4-ply yarn. There are eight repeats that could work. But I don’t have a lazy kate that holds 4 bobbins (weak excuse I know).  Seriously, I wanted the colours to be strong so the singles needed to be thicker than I normally spin. If I made a 4-ply yarn I’d have a bulky yarn and that wasn’t what I wanted, at this point anyway.

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I decided to make a 3-ply yarn and spin the singles a bit thicker than I normally do. That way the colour intensity would prevail. I divided the roving in three equal lengths. I further divided those rovings into 2 parts, 4 parts, and 8 parts – width wise, as seen in the wee balls below ready for spinning.

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I first spun the balls of four onto bobbin one, and then spun another bobbin with the balls of eight sections. After further reflection I decided that wanted the yarn to be a “wildly dancing fractal yarn” so I needed to further divide it. Thus the bobbin that was to have a roving split only into two sections was divided into 16. Yes, 16. That was challenging, but it promised no long lengths of any one colour.

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This yarn was spun and plied all in the same day. Not because that is the best approach, but because I was impatient to see the result. And here it is. The mini-skein to the right is what was left of the two of the bobbins (the four and the eight).

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I love this yarn. I love the way all the colours come out and are fully present. I didn’t spin it fine, so optical mixing doesn’t have as great a chance to occur, With the thicker singles, the colour is strong. Even though I love it, I am also cautious, because I have had experience with yarn that I loved in the skein and hated once knitted and vice versa.

For now I admire it and make plans for it. A cowl, a pair of mitts and a hat? A scarf? Or another lovely skein that I pet and admire.

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.

Wintergreen: for socks

Over Christmas I suffered a knitting injury. Totally self-inflicted and I have no regrets. However, it did cut into my knitting time and spindle spinning. The adult colouring books satisfied my need to do something with my hands, for only a short while. I was at wits end. And then along came the January Fibre Club from Sweet Georgia Yarns. It was a stunning braid of Polwarth/Silk (85/15%).

I stared at it for a week, petted it for another week and then decided that I may be able to spin on my wheel without doing any further injury and impede my healing. I decided that I wanted to make socks with this fibre. Polwarth with a good amount of silk is perfect. I may have to hand wash them, but that’s okay. I’m not a big fan of the superwash fibres. They have a different feel and while I will work with them, they aren’t my first choice.

For socks I decided to spin a three-ply with medium twist in the singles and a lot of twist in the plying. I wanted a sock/fingering weight yarn, so the singles had to be spun fine. The colours in the braid are analogous, all related by the blues. I wanted the colours to mix and dance against each other. So it seemed a fractal spin was in order. I split the braid lengthwise into three sections. Weighed them and made adjustments so they were relatively even. Piece #1 I spun from one end to the next using a short forward draw, smoothing the yarn as I went. You can see the long lengths of colour on the bobbin.

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Piece #2 I split into three sections. And then I spun each of those three sections from one end to the other. Again, using a short forward draw and smoothing the yarn as I went. And I am not sure if you can tell, but the lengths of colours are getting shorter.

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Piece #3 was split into six sections, by this time they were nearly pencil rovings. Again, they were spun from one end to the next. Short forward draw.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of bobbin 3. And by that time, the colours lengths were much shorter.

I let the bobbins sit overnight and then plied the next day. I put a lot of twist into the plying.

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Here is the yarn on the niddy-noddies, getting all tied up for their bath.

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Here’s what the yarn looked like when it was taken off the tension of the niddy-noddy. Stretched out and the over twist reacting. Nothing a bath in hot soapy water can’t tame.

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I washed it in hot soapy water, rinsed it in hot water with a half-tablespoon of white vinegar. Thwacked it against my bathtub a few times, towel dried it and then hung it to dry, with no tension. Occasionally, as it dried, I’d grab it, shake it out a bit to soften up the silk that sometimes goes a bit stiff as it dries. And here it is. Completely relaxed and ready to be knit into a pair of socks. 412 yards, 115 grams, 6 twists per inch (TPI) but still wonderfully soft.

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And the final shot. For these socks I am going to try the ever-so popular Fish Lips Kiss sock pattern, and see where that takes me.  And in case you were wondering, my right wrist has healed beautifully. This spinning project, that took about a week, didn’t affect it at all. I hold the fibres in the right hand and draft with my left. So all’s good.

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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?

The Blanket Project

Ginette and I decided to collaborate on a fibre arts project. She’s the weaver and I’m the spinner on this project. A client of hers wants a hand woven blanket that is white, soft and uses a good amount of local fibre. So we went out to Ann’s place. Ann has many sheep. Not only does she have many sheep, but she treats them well so their fibre is lovely, soft and top quality for spinning. We came away with these two bags of Ramboulette/Targhee cross. It’s 3.5 lbs and it’s already washed. BONUS. It is in two bags because the locks in one of the bags has the tips cut. Even better.
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Ginette has some wonderfully soft alpaca that she wants to use as the weft, so what I’ll be spinning is the warp. With that in mind, the first thing I sampled was combing it and spinning it worsted. The yarn that resulted was nearly perfect worsted yarn. Strong, lustrous, and smooth. But combing takes time and produces waste. I wanted to know if I could produce a worsted type yarn, but with a faster preparation technique, like a drum carder.

So the next experiment was to drum card the fibre and spin the batts worsted. Here’s my set-up for making carded batts. What you see below are my tools and equipment. From left to right are the brushes, doffers, carding board and drum carder.

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I get the fibre ready for the drum carder by teasing it on the carding board. Just a few passes with my hand cards and it’s ready for the big machine. See how it opens up the fibres and gets them ready for the drum carder? This saves tons of time. I used to this teasing lock by lock. It got rid of more straw and bits, but it took a lot of time.

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Once I have teased up about an ounce of fibre, I start putting it into the drum carder. Nice and slow. Little layers at a time. The fibre was so clean I only needed two passes on the drum carder.

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For that first sample using the carded preparation, I spun with a short forward draw (worsted) and smoothed the yarn as I went. I was aiming for the same thickness as the weft yarn.

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From top to bottom: 1) combed/short forward draw;  2) drum carded/short forward draw with more twist in the ply than in the next sample; 3) drum carded/short forward draw with less twist in the ply than sample 2; 4) drum carded/short forward draw but I let the twist into it, so it’s a modified woollen draft; the sample below the pen is drum carded/long draw. It was a bust – horribly uneven, but I included it the show and tell anyway.

blanket yarn 002Even though I was focused on making a worsted yarn because that’s what I thought was the best thing for warp – the woollen yarn that I made ended up being the yarn of choice.

While we like all the yarn produced, for this project we decided on sample 2 – the woollen sample. It is strong enough to be used as warp – but it’s light and soft, matching the weft yarn better than any of the other samples. It is also faster to spin than the other samples. BONUS. So I need to card and spin 900 yards of two-ply yarn. If I want a blanket of my own, I just need to spin up another 900 yards.

I think I’ll do just that.

 

Spinzilla 2014: Day 4

Here are the results from day 4 of Spinzilla. From bottom to top we have the following:

  • 64 grams and 367 yards of Bluebird Cafe – the second half of the braid that I spun on day 3. Superwash merino, spun fine for plying into a DK. I’ll probably do all my plying on Sunday – as that’s easy to do around making a Thanksgiving feast.
  • 97 grams and 292 yards of Penny Lane – superwash merino. These two skeins were spun to make soft singles. The merino will bounce up once it is washed and will fill out. If it isn’t as thick as I want, I’ll ply the two and get a chunky weight.
  • 96 grams and 280 yards – same as above
DISCLAIMER: I am carefully documenting my progress not to show off, but so I can have a good record of what I managed to spin each day.
Last night I went to the second spin-in hosted by Team Sweet Georgia. It was great to meet the rest of the team and to see old friends. General consensus is that plying is a good deal. You get to finish your yarn and you get credit for plying, which is way faster than spinning singles. So what’s to lose in that.
I also bought a couple more braids because they were the new fall colours – Bourbon and Grouse. Will spin those up today – polwarth and silk, can’t wait.
Over and out.

Spinzilla 2014: Day 2

Day two of Spinzilla was a bit more difficult because I had to go into the city to work. I brought my tahkli along to spin cotton because it is so portable, and I can also get a decent amount of yardage on it. Finally.
So this is the amount I spun over lunch. I haven’t measured it yet. I plan to fill another spindle with cotton, wind them into a double-stranded ball and ply it. Then I’ll measure it. 

I didn’t have much time after work as I had an Executive meeting for the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild. Despite that, I brought my Ashford Joy along to the meeting and spun half of this skein. I finished it up on the morning of Day 3. So the yardage for this has to bridge two days.

And that ends the day 2 show and tell.

Spinzilla 2014: Day 1

I’ve been silent for a long while and there are a variety of excuses for this, but they aren’t half as interesting as this. Ever since Monday, October 6th at 12:00 am I’ve been involved in the second Spinzilla contest.

Spinzilla is a monster of a spinning week. It is a full week where spinners sign up in teams to work to spin as much yardage as they possibly can. I was a member of the Sweet Georgia Yarns team in 2013. I spun 630 grams of fibre resulting in 4496 yds. That’s 2.5 miles of singles!
I am surprisingly competitive, so this year I joined again and have challenged myself to beat my last years yardage. I gave myself an advantage this year by booking off the last three days of the week so I could spend the entire days spinning.
In the next several blog posts I will show you the progression of my spinning.
Here is day one:
This is the first bobbin. It is Temptress a Superwash Merino 80%, Cashmere 10%, and Nylon 10% blend from Sweet Georgia Yarns Fibre Club. I managed to do all this spinning around a work day. One hour in the morning right after I woke up. A half-hour a lunch time. And then when I booked off at 4:30 I spun my heart out putting in another three and a half-hours. 

And here it is wound up on the Niddy Noddy. That’s the way I have decided to measure my yardage. For me it is a more precise way to measure the singles and it also conditions them by allowing the twist to even out as it it wound into a skein. The twist doesn’t leave the singles, it just gets evened out along the line.

And here are two of the lovelies. Almost equal. The top one is 293 yds and the bottom one is 294 yds. Imagine that.

More tomorrow.

Reflections on the month of July

I love the month of July.

It is a month of celebrating – starting with Canada Day on the first, then a nod to my roots – Independence Day on the fourth. A little over a week later, it’s my birthday and after that my wedding anniversary. In the middle of that is the charming Aldergrove Fair. And to top it all off, July is when I usually manage to organize my summer holidays and get a few weeks off work. Delicious.

Fibre-wise it’s been a good month. I’ve got a good start on spinning and plying the July Fibre Club. I’ve reclaimed some local Cormo and am in the process of cleaning it, again. That will be a separate blog post. But the biggest accomplishment for me this month is that I have changed the way I knit.

I learned to knit when I was 10 and since my mid-teens I’ve been a steady knitter. So why would I change now?

I love making yarn almost more than anything. I mostly knit when I am tired of spinning or when I am commuting. I am amazed at the production of some knitters and when I get to the roots of their speed, one common factor is the way they throw their yarn. They are knitting Continental – throwing with their left and picking the yarn to make the loop. I knit English style which is to throw with the right hand and wrap the yarn around the needle before you pull it through. It isn’t efficient at all.

I learned how to knit Continental style at the insistence of Lucy Neadby. At a knitting workshop she showed us some of the best ways to get a smooth and consistent fabric when making intarsia or knitting fair isle. That was to hold one colour in one hand and the other colour in the other. Thus the need to be able to throw with what ever hand/colour was needed at the time.

So I know how to do it, but I only did it when I did colour work. But suddenly I wanted to see if I could knit faster so I could get through more yarn. That’s when I decided to knit Continental, and Continental only beginning with a lovely little project – baby socks.

The pattern is by Kate Atherley and it’s free on Ravelry. It was a quick easy project and one that I could focus my new knitting skills upon. You start with a 2 x 2 rib stitch so it was good to get practice with knitting and purling right from the start. But it was frustrating at the beginning. On my commute to the city, knitting my usual way I could easily have finished the cuff/leg and even had a good start on the heel flap. But not this time. I barely had one inch of knitting to show. Nonetheless, I didn’t give up. Ever time I reached for my knitting, my hands would go into the English throw position, and I had to readjust. By the time I was onto my second sock I was getting a bit faster, at least more comfortable with it.

I finished those socks and quickly moved onto another pair. That pair went much faster than the first, but still it didn’t seem as fast as my other knitting. Now I am onto a third pair and I am happy to report that I can now do the knit stitch without looking. It’s just coming quite naturally. And the purl stitch is actually fun, and easier to do than the English style.

Lesson learned:  You really can teach an old dog new tricks.

I wanted to change the way I knit and so I focused exclusively on changing the way I knit. When it got tough I either put it down for a spell, or just persevered. The change didn’t come over night. It took a while for my hands and my brain to get used to it. I noticed that every morning when I picked up my knitting, it was just was wee bit easier than it was the time before.

Here’s the first pair I knit next to the parent pair that used the bulk of the yarn. Aren’t they the sweetest things?

And here’s a photo of the second pair of socks I knit from leftover handspun. Great pattern – these are the newborn size and used 20 grams of yarn.

That’s it for July. Welcome August and all the new fibre adventures it will hold.