Category Archives: 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 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.

The Big Leap: SGY February Fibre Club

The February fibre club is a superwash Targhee. The colourway is called The Big Leap. Fine, soft wool. Would be a good candidate for sock yarn, but after spending 10 days spinning 413 yards of three-ply yarn for socks last month, I wanted something different. My fellow spinner friend Rachel was playing around with singles, so I thought I’d try my hand at them again.

I split the top into eight equal sections and spun them with just enough twist to lock the fibres. I tried to make them at least a DK weight. Targhee has a lot of crimp. My hope was that the DK singles would plumb up after washing and end up a wee bit thicker. Here’s what the eight nests looked like, ready and waiting to be spun.

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And here’s the bobbin, a mere two hours later! After the marathon of spinning for the sock project, this two-hour spin was a dream!

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I wound it off the bobbin and onto a niddy-noddy. Tied it up with figure eights and let it sit overnight. Here’s what it looked like when I took it off the niddy-noddy. Active twist, but not crazy so. (Terrible colour due to poor lighting, but you can still see the twist.)

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Then it went into a hot, soapy bath. I squeezed and squished it to get the fibres fully saturated with soapy water and moving back to their original crimp. Even though it is a superwash wool, I still shocked it, by tossing it from the hot soapy water into ice cold water. I was hoping that at least a few of the fibres would full and make for a stronger singles.

And here it is, dried and happy for its photo-shoot. I hung it to dry for the day with no weights. It is a lovely, soft yarn. 363 yards of soft, goodness. Not sure what to make with it yet. I am just happy to hold and admire it.

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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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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.

We have yarn!

For the last while I’ve had this blanket project on the back burner. It was meant to be a straightforward spinning project. Spin the warp for a handwoven blanket. The fibre, while clean was a bit sticky so it had to be rewashed. Then it needed to be carded. I originally thought to comb it, but really wanted this blanket in my lifetime. So onto the drum carder it went, as you can see below.

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For warp you need a strong yarn, so worsted spinning would be best. But as it’s a blanket I also wanted it to be soft and warm, so wanted a bit more air in the yarn. After some sampling that I noted in the last post I used a short forward draw that I let the twist into it, so it’s a modified woollen draft. And it didn’t smooth the yarn at all while spinning. Just pinch, draft out, let go. Repeat a million times. In the next couple of photos you may just be able to see how fuzzy the yarn is.

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And here are three newly plied skeins totaling about 740 m of two-ply yarn. I haven’t washed them yet. I plan to spin it all up and wash them all at the same time. Now that Fibres West is over an my workshops are behind me, I can devote all my time to this project.

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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.

 

A Fibre & Colour Challenge

At the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild Annual Artisan Sale I sold my Candygram socks to a fellow artisan. Similarly inspired by the colours in the socks she bought, she asked me if I ever worked on commission.

My answer, “It depends. What are you looking for? Tell me more.”

So she showed me this photo of Turkey Tail Fungus that caught her attention.

It’s pretty amazing stuff in terms of colors and shapes. So I agreed to try to recreate this look and feel into a pair of socks. Crazy challenge in some ways, but so weird and wonderful why not try?

I have a few strategies at hand.

Plan A: easiest one is to over dye a pair a pair of socks that I have on hand. They are pink, orange and yellow – with an over dye of indigo they may just give me the look I’m after.

Plan B: spin a braid of  Sweet Georgia Yarns “Bourbon” but add some burgundy and white bits. Lots of work to spin, ply and knit. But will certainly do the trick.

Plan C: . . . hasn’t been thought through yet. That will involve space dyeing a skein of sock yarn that will do wonderful striping. But that’s Plan C. And we hardly ever get to Plan C right?

But then as I write this and think it through, there is also the wonderful curly element that needs to be considered. I must hit the pattern books to find the right way to describe this. I may even need a Plan D for this project.

Thanks Dawn for the challenge!

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 3

Day 3 of Spinzilla proved much more productive because I booked the day off work. I had as much time to spin as I wanted. Talk about delicious.

So here’s what I produced. I finished the second half of the blue polwarth/silk you see at the top. Then I spun up the pink polwarth/silk you see in middle. And in the evening, I spun half a braid of Bluebird Cafe from the Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club, September. It’s Superwash Merino and spins like a dream. All these fibres spin wonderfully.

Oh, and during my breaks from spinning, I tidied my studio. I reorganized all my tools and fibre from the Knit City workshops I did over the weekend.

The total yardage for day 3 is 973 yards. Not bad at all. This year you get credit for plying your yarn, so I may take a break from spinning singles and ply the Temptress skeins from day 1 and the Bluebird Cafe skeins. We’ll see. Right now I am just having fun busting through my stash and making a dent in it.

Tonight’s the second spin-in at the Sweet Georgia Yarns studio, and I’ll get to see other members of the team, and see what they’ve been up to.