Category Archives: spinning

Reflections on the month of August

Well August went fast. I was off work for the first 11 days of the month. In those wonderful days I spent my time doing a morning run nearly every day, some much needed garden work, lots of reading in the afternoons and of course, spinning and knitting. As I will be spending most the fall traveling around the province living out of a suitcase, I had no desire to leave my home.

My conviction to be a “picker” and knit continental style continues. It’s going well. When I pick up my knitting, my hands automatically go into the picking mode, and for some stretches of plain knitting, I can knit without looking. Not sure if I am faster than I was before, but I am no longer slower. In fact I think I am about the same.

I’ve been merrily pounding out those lovely baby socks from Kate Atherley’s free Ravelry pattern – I wrote about these in my last monthly reflection, that seemed to be only yesterday. I’m onto pair number 6.

While I was off work I  also did some much needed tidying up. After each of my spinning workshops I have a lot of little bits of fibre from the demonstrations and such. I gathered them all up, put them into colour groups and using the blue/green pile, carded up a couple of batts along with some angelina. I spun that up and that’s what you see in the bobbin on the left. The bobbin on the right is local romney, dyed with indigo and carded on my drum carder. It was a left over from the Aldergrove Fair days sheep-to-shawl demo in 2013.

Each one wasn’t really enough to do much more than making a pair of baby socks. . . and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I wanted more yarn. So I plied them together. The result is below – 105y/96m of worsted weight yarn. Just enough to make a nice pair of half mitts. The yarn has depth from all the colours, sheen from the romney and surprise sparkle from the angelina. All this from left overs.

The really important thing I did was I cleaned and tidied my studio. It had really gotten out of control so I took a strong hand to it and rid myself of stuff I won’t be using, and putting all the other things away. A place for everything and everything in its place. And if it doesn’t have a place, that’s a good moment to pause and think – do I want this? Do I have a place for it?

The unfortunate part of the studio tidy-up was that I did it on my very last day of holidays. Right after I cleaned, purged and reorganized, I went back to work the next day. And then was busy the next two full weekends. The result, I have a tidy studio. But I am also having some difficulty remembering where I put some things. Oh sure, it’s a great idea to come up with new organization schemes, but it’s also a good idea to live them for a few days to make sure it goes into long-term memory.

For example, I spend a week looking for my wee box of DPNs only to find them in a most logical spot – in the very box where I keep all my other knitting needles. The upside of that week of searching is that I am intimately familiar with every, and I mean every nook and cranny of this household. And found several things I had thought long lost.

And on the very last day of the month, I visited a woman who very generously gave me the freshly shorn fleeces of her two lovely llamas – milk chocolate and dark chocolate. First glance looks promising. I am going to ask my friend M from the guild who raises llamas to go over the fleeces with me so I can learn more about llama.

And finally, I have news about my cotton plants, but this blog post is already too long, so stay tuned.

Strawberry Season yarn – mostly done

Here’s the Strawberry Season braid, mostly spun up and Navajo plied. I divided the braid into three strips. What you see here is two-thirds of the braid – two out of the three strips. I still have one more strip to spin – and since I like the result of this – 206 yards/190 m of yarn, I’ll be doing the same drill – spinning it fine, and putting a lot of twist into the ply.

In this photo below, it hasn’t been washed yet.

And here it is after it’s been washed, bashed, thwacked and dried and plumped up a bit. It is a lovely yarn and I can’t wait to knit with it. But for the sake of “project completion” I will finish spinning the rest of the braid first.

That’s what I will do today so I can start knitting up some socks.

Strawberry Season – July Fibre Club 2014

The July Fibre Club is a 4oz braid of 85% Superwash Merino wool and  15% nylon. The colours are intense and yet there is a lot of white in between the colours. For me, this is great because the red doesn’t move into the green, it has a space of white, so you get a lovely pink, then white, then light green and then the intense green. It also means that you don’t have complementary colours like red and green blending. It is an interesting result, but not for something that is to remind you of strawberry fields and freshly picked berries.

I am spinning it fine on my Ashford Joy and putting a lot of twist into it. The plan is to chain ply it so I can maintain the colour stretches. The final project goal is a pair of socks.

It’s easy to spin a fine singles with Superwash Merino blended with Nylon. Part of the reason for that is that it isn’t crazy slippery, nor is it sticky. It’s just perfect. The twist doesn’t run away on you and yet you can easily hang on to it long enough to give the amount of twist needed to give the chain ply character.

I’m on holidays this week and the following two, so I am planning on getting this spun up in my spare time.

Will post in progress.

Testing out some fibre

Here is some fibre – cria (baby alpaca) to be exact – that has been sitting in a bag in my laundry room for the last two, maybe even three years. That’s just crazy. Over the weekend I decided that I had to do something about it – spin it up or give it away.
The Backstory:
I’ve been on this de-junking spree lately getting rid of old magazines, clothing, household goods. It’s been making a difference and the house is looking tidy and much more spacious. I’ve also been semi-ruthlessly going through my fibre stash getting rid of things that I really don’t want, making better storage decisions about things I do want to keep. This cria (six bags like the one seen below) has been in my laundry room for a long while.
It was time to make a decision about this fibre so I took a bag of it onto the back porch and opened it. The staple are long, about 10 inches. The fibre was also full of VM – vegetable matter. It called for the combs. What’s seen below are the two test nests I combed. Each nest took four passes of the combs. The total weight of both nests is 11grams, and the total weight of the waste was 5 grams. That’s a lot of work to lose 50%. One strike AGAINST it.

Then I spun up these nests into a 2-ply yarn measuring 20 yds or 18 metres. You see it below. The first picture of the test skein is before it was washed. You can’t see any sheen and it looks decidedly creamy.

2014-05-19 07.10.36┬áThis next photo is the skein washed up. The wash water looked like chocolate milk after the first wash. And here you see the sheen coming through. It’s really lovely stuff. A mark FOR.

2014-05-19 07.38.02

Despite the fact that it really is lovely fibre and spins up to be beautiful yarn, I made a difficult decision. At our annual guild “swap and shop” I gave it all away – for free. I don’t have a lot of time, and what time I have I don’t want to spend it on the amount of fibre preparation that this requires. I know the fibre folks who walked home with this fibre and it’s in good hands.

Now whenever I walk into the laundry room, I just see an empty space on the floor, and not a bag of fibre that gives me stabs of guilt.

Ombre Inspired Spinning

Sweet Georgia Yarns January 2014 Fibre Club is a BFL (75%) and Silk (25%) with a dramatic colourway called Night Owl. Having had success previously with making an ombre inspired yarn, I decided to do the same with this rather than risk the yellows and purples colliding to make mud.

So like before, I separated all the colours into piles and with my hand carders made luxurious rolags. With 25% silk, they are easy to card and the colours blend perfectly. After I finished all the carding, I put them into an order that I think slowly moved from one colour to the next.

The plan is to spin these very fine and Navajo (chain ply) them, making a three-ply yarn. I started spinning these yesterday and am well over third of the way through it. Will hopefully get the rest of it done this weekend.

Will certainly share the results.

A Recurring Theme – The 100-Mile Skirt

I was looking over my blog, reviewing 2013 and I noticed a recurring theme. The 100-mile skirt. This year I have several posts about it, all promising some kind of progress and completion.  Here’s the short story of it.
In October 2011, inspired by Abby Franquemont at the Taos Wool Festival, I decided to make a 100-mile skirt. That meant that I would source the fibre from my area, prepare, spin and knit it. I already had a pattern, from a knitted skirt I made and finished in August 2011. 
Here’s the fibre I chose. Local alpaca – nasty stuff, full of brambles, twigs and other things that stab you. And a braid of fibre from Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club.

I did a few samples and settled on the look that the skein on the far right gave.

The yarn is a 2 x 2 cabled yarn. That means one ply of grey alpaca and one ply of the blue stuff made into a 2-ply yarn. Then you take that 2-ply yarn and ply it again. That meant spinning up yards and yards of each – it was a 4-ply cable to that was a lot of fine spinning.

Here it is being plied again to make the cabled yarn.

And here are the first two skeins, washed and ready for knitting.

I got this far with the skirt and then ran out of yarn, so I had to go back to combing the alpaca and spinning up more singles of each – the alpaca and the blue wool.

And here is the last skein of this yarn. Once this is all used up, I have to go to plan B.
And here it is in progress. This is where we are today — 8 repeats of the lace pattern. I’ll knit until it’s gone and then if I need more length I’ll make a cabled yarn from the blue wool singles that I have left over. Right now it reaches to about an inch above my knee.

Here’s a close-up of those sweeties.

Plan B:  There’s a lot of yardage on these bobbins, so I think, if needed, I could make enough yarn for a half repeat. Enough to give a finish. We’ll see.

88 Stitches, our local yarn shop is hosting a Knit Along (KAL) for the month of January. I have openly announced that I will work to finish this project. I am so close – so very close. So I’ll have some incentive to get this done. . . . of course I have the Norwegian mitts to finish first. When they are done, I’ll re-acquaint myself with this pattern.

Happy New Year’s to all and best of luck and love for 2014.

Spinzilla 2013 – the final tally

Last week from Monday, October 7th until 9pm on October 13th, I spun every single moment I could for Spinzilla – a Monster of a Spinning Contest. I got up an hour earlier than normal and spun in the morning. (Some days that worked better than others.) I carried around my Houndesign spindle and spun in the car, on the train and on the bus during my commute to the city. It is not easy to spin on the bus. You don’t have much room sitting down, and it’s impossible to do so standing up what with all the starting and stopping. And people stare at you. I am used to folks looking over at me while I’m knitting, but they really STARE at you when you haul out a spindle. And of course, I spun in the evening after dinner.

There were many times during the week that my leg or back got sore. When that happened I got up, walked around a bit and then got back to the wheel. Like a marathon, it’s all about pacing yourself. And as you are part of team, you know that everything you do will help the team. I was on Team Sweet Georgia – as all the fibre I used during Spinzilla was from there. It’s wonderfully prepared and the colours are simply lovely. They propelled me forward.

Yesterday was particularly tricky as I was working on a final push – and preparing a Thanksgiving feast.  But I got it done. I finished this duo (London Town in Panda) at 8 pm last night. I only had one more hour left and didn’t feel like starting a new braid of fibre. As well, my back and leg were sore, so I got out my spindle and spindle-spun myself until the clock said 9 pm. Done, done, and so very done.

The final result was 4,496 yards (4,150m) of singles yarn — from 630 grams of fibre – that’s 1.4lbs.  All the fibre I worked with was blended – super fine wool like merino, BFL or polwarth with bamboo, tencel, nylon, and or tussah silk. It was easy stuff to spin fine and once I got going, that was the plan. Yardage was the goal. If the contest was how much weight to spin, I’d have spun chunky weight. But as it was all about the yardage, so I cranked my wheel to the second highest speed and treadled away. 
Here’s the photo of the entire fleet of spun singles. I’ll be spending the next while plying these into two-ply and three-ply yarns and will proudly display the results.
Go Team Sweet Georgia — I hope we do well. I know I did my best for the team. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. 

Spinzilla – Day One

Today is the first day of Spinzilla – a monster of a spinning contest that spans miles and time zones. I am a member of Team Sweet Georgia. (#teamsweetgeorgia) I am working all week so I have to plan my spinning around the work. So, I got up early today and was down at my wheel by 6am. This tray awaited me — 36 carefully prepared rolags that I would spin in order to get an ombre effect. 

I spun until 9am and then started my (paid) work. I took three 10 minute breaks throughout the day and spun a rolag. At lunchtime I spun for half and hour. I had a couple of tele-meetings so was able to spin through those. The fibre is Waterfall – merino, bamboo and tencel from Sweet Georgia Yarns. In fact, all the fibre I’m spinning this week is from Sweet Georgia Yarns. They are of exceptional quality and have such amazing colourways, they are a delight to spin.

At 5:30 I spun for another 15 minutes and then finished up. Here’s the finished braid all spun up. It weighs 128 grams.
That finished I started on the next one – this is a contest after all. There’s no time to rest. Well really, I had a hot bath because my leg was sore. After the bath I spun for another 45 minutes on this – Indian Summer. BFL and 15% nylon SGY.

I’ll see how far I get with this while I watch M*A*S*H Season 3.

More tomorrow.

Getting ready for Spinzilla

Spinzilla is coming up. It’s the first of its kind spinning event. From October 7th to 13th it is “a community wide event where competing teams challenge each other to see who can spin the most yarn in a one-week period.”

What does this mean for me? Well, I joined a team – pretty respectable team of amazing spinners, the Sweet Georgia Yarns team, and I don’t want to let them down. I work full-time so will have to cram in my spinning time in the morning and after work – combined with spindle spinning over the lunch hour.

So this last while I’ve been getting ready.

Getting ready for Spinzilla, a full week of full on spinning, means that:

  • you have to have empty bobbins for all the spun yarn
  • a great deal of easy-to-spin fibre at hand
  • no decisions to make.

I don’t know how much I will need for an entire week. I know that during demonstration events when I just sit there and spin, I can  easily spin 100g in about 4 hours. All of this depends on the fibre of course. Some fibres are tricky to spin and take more time – others spin easily and create great yardage – which is what matters in this contest.
So here at the base of my Ashford Joy is about 3.5 lbs of delicious fibres all ready for spinning. In the next week, I may even draft out some of the braids so no time is wasted.
I am part of a great team and I really don’t want to embarrass myself at the end of the week. So I have to get ready. One week still it starts. . . . . . 

100-mile skirt update V

Here’s the last skein of yarn for the 100-mile skirt. It is 189m and I hope this finishes the skirt. 400m took me to about 3 inches above my knee, and while the pattern does start to flare out quite a bit, I think this last 189m will do the trick.
Here it is on the niddy-noddy:

And here it is, nicely dried after a good soak in hot water.

 Now I have to find the pattern and try to remember where I was. . . .