Category Archives: handspun yarn

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.

Night Owl – ombre inspired yarn

I blogged about this fibre a few posts back and now it is all spun up.  I spun the yarn quite finely with a lot of twist as I chain plied it.  You can really see the separate colours in this view.

I produced a decent 235 yard/ 207 m skein, 114g.

And here it is wound into a ball sitting next to another ombre inspired yarn I made during Spinzilla in October. The silk in these yarns really comes through.

Now I’m looking for a project. Thinking about a long shawl/scarf that would show off the colour gradations. What do you think?

Finally getting to weaving

This past weekend I finally got around to doing the weaving on my first floor loom weaving project.The weft is handspun Merino 60% Bamboo 30% and Nylon 10% in a colourway called “London Town” inspired by the 2012 Summer Olympics. But as I weave it up it reminds me a great deal of the colours of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This is three bobbins worth of spinning. I have four more available. The loom has its quirks, but I am getting used to it and am adjusting to the rhythm of it. Busy week so won’t get much more woven until the weekend. Stay tuned.

Weft yarn for my first scarf

Here is the yarn I am going to use as the weft for my scarf. The colourway is London Town, it’s from the Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club. The fibre blend is called Panda – Merino 60%; Bamboo 30% and Nylon 10%. Lovely, soft, silky and with an excellent drape. And at 420 yards, there is plenty for a scarf.
I spun this up during the Spinzilla contest. It was the last full braid I completed. 

Singles ready for plying.

Newly plied yarn in a skein, ready for a bath.

Now I just have to finish dressing the loom, and then can get started on the weaving. I haven’t made any additional progress on dressing it since my blog post about it. And tomorrow the knitting Olympics start, so not sure what kind of effort I’ll have for weaving.

Will keep you posted.

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!

Story of a shawl – Part 2

I tried another shawl with the Waterfall yarn I made during Spinzilla week. This is the Spiral Staircase pattern from Ravelry. Easy peasy. While it does do what I was hoping it would so, show off the subtle colour gradations – I should have used larger needles. This shawl is too small for my liking and the fabric that knit up — on the 4mm needles is too dense. I’m going to try it again with 6mm needles so the fabric will be looser and have a chance to drape.

And I will plan it better, so I use every inch of the yarn, unlike the sample above.

Spinzilla: The Final Photo Shoot

Spinzilla is over and the plying has ended. The first three skeins are double-plied, the next two are Navajo plied, and the last one on the right is a singles, and will stay that way.It has all been washed, thwacked and bashed about. In other words, it’s all ready to be made into some fantastic object.

Though right now, I am not entirely sure what that will be. Some things to consider: all the yarn is a wool/silk and at times, something else blend. It’s sleek, fine, and has potential for a lovely drape.

The only skein I have plans for is the Waterfall one. That one is the fourth from the left. It was done in an Ombre mode, so the colours blend in a long colourway. That one begs to be a shawl. Over the weekend, I’ll tour around Ravelry and see what’s possible.

I will of course keep you posted.

PS – Team Sweet Georgia – the team I spun for, came in 6th out of 34 international teams. I’d say that’s a good showing.

Handspun collection – a fairly decent obsession

I’ve been making yarn since February 2000. I’ve made a lot of yarn in that time and have knit many items with it. Lately though, I’ve been spending more time making yarn than I have knitting. Until Sunday, I had it all stashed in various boxes, bags, drawers and bins. I knew there was a lot of it, and I felt it was time to bit of an inventory. So I pulled it all out and assembled it on my studio table.

And here it is. Some of it has been partially used as you can see by the size of some of the wound balls. But some, and much of it is still in the skein, right off the niddy-noddy.

I make yarn because I love yarn and I love to play with fibres and blends and colours. I do love to knit, really I do, but there is something about making yarn that satisfies me even more.

I had every plan to organize the above yarn; rewind the balls to make them neater; organize them according to fibre content or colour; separate them into project piles with matching patterns. But in the end I left it on the desk for the entire day admiring it and reacquainting myself with many of the skeins/balls. In the end I tossed the entire collection into a large see-through bin. (I’ll eventually sort it out and decide which skeins to sell at upcoming workshops and demonstration, and which ones will get knit into lovely items.)

Then I found more handspun. This is yarn made from the Crazy Batt sessions we’ve had at the guild. I still have about 8 more batts waiting to be spun . . . and I have no plans for this yarn. I just love the look of it.

I know you understand what I mean by that. 

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.

Spinning Workshop: Session Four

Last Sunday we had the fourth and final (for now) spinning lesson at my place. We had a lot that we still wanted to get done so I was quite a task master.

First thing we did was a lot of spinning. I wanted to make sure each one not only had the basics of drafting and putting twist into the fibre, but that they were able to troubleshoot any problems at would arise as they spun. Happy to say that all four spinners are making a continuous thread that gets more and more consistent each week. And for the most part, they can figure out how to fix a problem like over or under twisting, and are in much more control of their wheels. In the beginning, we often feel that the wheel is controlling us and it takes some time before your get the upper-hand. Once you do, you are well on your way to being an independent spinner.

They were all interested in fibre preparation techniques, so to make the drum carding session more interesting, I showed them how to make Crazy Batts. Those are the lovely batts you make from a variety of fibres, colours and textures. The resulting yarn from a Crazy Batt looks something like this:

It’s fun and funky yarn. Below is a small sampling of the fibres we were working with — mostly wool in a variety of colours, but there was also some kid mohair thrown in, you can see that in the top right corner.

Added to the mix was all sorts of other things, bits of silk noil, cut up silk hankies, pieces of commercial yarn that has texture. All this gets made into “fibre sandwiches”. Each sandwich has a layer of fibre, some yarn bits, another layer of different fibre, more texture bits and finish off with a final layer of fibre.This sandwich gets fed into the drum carder.  Usually 4 or 5 sandwiches do the trick and you have a decent sized crazy batt. Here’s what our table looked like when we were in full production.

After making crazy batts for about an hour, I demonstrated how to use the picker.

It’s a crazy looking and highly dangerous piece of equipment that you use to tease the fibres to get them ready for drum carding. If you are into a high level of production, it’s a good idea to have one. But one way or another, it’s a good idea to learn the right way how to use that piece of equipment. You can ruin fibres and ruin your arm if you don’t do it right.

Major rule: never, ever put your hands near the teeth.  However tempting it may be to just pull a bit of fibre out of the way. Always use another tool, never your own hand.

So the class and I are taking a break for a few weeks.  Lambing is coming on and other family obligations have us busy for next few Sundays.  But we are going to start up again with more fibre preparation, more spinning techniques and more fibres.

Stay tuned.