Category Archives: plying

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.
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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.

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.

At the Ballet: Sample one

While I did promise that I was only going to spin yarn for my 100-Mile skirt this weekend, the January fibre club fibre kept calling me. I justified it by convincing myself I only needed to spin and ply one small nest so I could do a sample. Sampling is good.
Here it is wound directly from the spindle to a toilet paper roll using my ball winder. I attached both ends to the spindle and plied from this centre-pull ball.
I put a lot of twist into the plying and it shows. This is what it looked like when it came off the niddy-noddy. It’s 54 metres of yarn.

A warm water bath relaxed the twist and it settled into the yarn making for a soft , yet highly twisted yarn. The fibre is 50% merino and 50% cultivated silk. Fine fibres like these can take a lot of twist and still remain quite soft. I love the way the subtle variations of pinks come through.  Now I’m looking forward to spinning up the darker nests.

Bradner Flower Show — Sheep-to-Shawl demonstration

Last weekend the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild spent time at the Bradner Flower Show doing a sheep-to-shawl demonstration.  The fibre we used was actually alpaca, but that doesn’t have the same alliteration as sheep-to-shawl, and the idea is the same.


A sheep-to-shawl is a popular competitive event amongst spinning and weaving guilds. Yes, competitive.  You have a clearly defined team, four spinners, one plyer, a weaver and an interpreter.  The interpreter is the person who speaks for the team, answers questions and helps the general public understand what’s going on.  The loom is warped ahead of time, but the fibre, while washed, is unprocessed.  The task of the team is to card, spin, ply and weave the yarn into a lovely fabric:  a shawl.  The team scores points for completing their shawl within the timeframe, usually 4 1/2 to 5 hours.  The also get (or lose)points  for the quality of the yarn, the complexity of the weave pattern and the finishing. 


We didn’t want to be part of a competetion, but thought that this kind of event would be just the match for the Bradner Flower Show. 


Here’s a photo essay of the various aspects of the sheep (alpaca)-to-shawl event.  Below is stage one: after the shearing that is.  This is the carding phase.  This is where we take the fibre shorn from the lovely alpaca, see her photo there?  and card it into fluffy, manageable batts for spinning singles.

This next photo is a shot of one of our guild members spinning the alpaca into a fine single.  The weave pattern for the shawl is a twill pattern with different coloured warp threads, so we wanted the warp and weft yarns to match.  Near her wrist you can see the lovely fluffy, carded fibre.

This is the plying stage.  We take two bobbing of freshly spun singles and ply them into a balanced 2-ply yarn that we can weave with right away. After this is done, the yarn is loaded onto the weaving bobbins and handed to the weaver.

And the weaver weaves.  The cream coloured alpaca matches wonderfully with the purple, green and yellow of the warp yarns.  Making for a wonderful, springtime shawl.

We finished this shawl on day 2 of the flower show and started on a second one.  The second one has a slightly different weave pattern — still using the twill idea, it is a zig-zag twill.  I am sure there is a better name for that pattern, but I’m not a weaver (yet) so I have to name them as I see them. 

After it’s taken off the loom, it will be washed and fulled and the fringe will be twisted.  The completed shawl will be actioned off at the Beyond Fibre — Annual Artisan’s Sale that the Langley Weaver’s and Spinner’s Guild hosts every year.  This year it’s taking place on Saturday, November 3rd and Sunday, November 4th at the Community Hall on Glover Street in Fort Langley BC.  Hope to see you there.

The magic of rain water

A couple of weeks ago I took some dirty fibre, put it into a lingerie bag and threw it into a bucket of ice cold rain water for over a week. The day I removed it I had to break the slim layer of ice that had formed around it. The water, while dirty at the beginning, was replenished daily from the deluges we’ve been having, so at the end, it was rather clean. I was going to leave it for several weeks, but it seemed so clean already, I got impatient with my own experiment.

So, I took the bag of fibre and tossed it onto the garden for the rest of the week. Over the week, as we had bouts of rain and sunshine, it got soaked and dried out repeatedly. A couple of days ago I retrieved it, towel dried it and put it by the stove to really dry.

I am absolutely amazed how clean this fibre is. There is no dirt in it at all, and only a trace amount of lanolin. Here is a photo of it. Bottom corner are the clean locks, at the top is a combed nest, and along the side is a hand carded rolag from the combed waste.

Here’s the whole lot of the experiment, combed up and waiting to be spun. It’s beautiful stuff — not damaged or affected at all by super hot water or harsh chemicals. 

While it was easy to spin, the trick was keeping it warm.  When the fibre was cold, the lanolin was a bit sticky.  It’s generally chilly in this semi-insulated farmhouse, so I kept the fibre waiting to be spun, on the warming stove in our front room.

Here’s a double-ply skein which weighs 14.5g and is 58 m long. Pretty good sized sample to play around with I’d say.  Because the wool fibres are stretched so much during spinning and plying, it’s good practice to wash or at least wet the fibre after it’s been skeined.  This way it returns to it’s regular size and shape, reducing the risk of surprises the first time you wash a garment made with hand spun yarn. 

I didn’t want to remove any of the lanolin from this yarn, so I’ve wet it again in rain water.  The stuff is ice cold, so I brought a bucket of it into the house, where it may at least get to room temperature in several hours. 

Here’s my lovely skein soaking. I’ll let it do this for a few hours, to make sure the fibres get good and wet and then I’ll hang it to dry.

I can’t wait to knit this up and see what it’s like.  Imagine, this beautiful yarn from fibre made clean with rain water and time, plenty of time. 

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.