Category Archives: yarn

Wellspring 1/2 mitts – working with the fibre club yarn

The yarn for these mitts came from Sweet Georgia Yarns Fibre Club – this was the March installment. The fibre is English Shetland, a lovely wool to work with. I spun this yarn up on my spindle. After working with the slippery fibres from the January and February installments, it was a relief to work with fibre that has a bit of stick to it.

While they don’t look exactly the same, they are definitely a pair. The pattern for these mitts is my own, it’s a coin lace with a lovely thumb gusset that grows gracefully out of the coin lace. Knit on 3mm needles with 48 stitches, they knit up really fast. It’s become my standby mitt pattern. It’s all in my head and I can easily make minor variations to mix it up a bit.

I’ll post it on Ravelry soon.

Variations on a theme

I mentioned in an earlier post that I obtained some wool from Acacia Acres farms.  A dark grey romney named Ashley and a white romney named Ebony.

Over the weekend I did some blending.  I made a 50% – 50% blend of dark grey and white.  It makes a lovely light grey that I featured in that earlier post.  This time I spun a couple of full bobbins of the blended grey.  Next I spun a bobbin full of dark grey/Ashley and plied that with the lighter blended grey. Blended greys are on top and the dark grey/Ashley is in the lower bobbin.

The plied yarn from these singles, are the skein on the left.  The skein on the right is a two-ply of blended greys and white Ebony.

And the same photo with the flash on, you can see the barber polling a bit better in this photo.

I am really happy with this yarn — both skeins are going to be knit up into half-mitts.  Haven’t decided if I will do any dyeing with these yet.  But that’s a whole other variation on the theme.

Quickie post — Jenny’s mitts


What you see here is 73 grams and 222 metres of fingering/sport weight yarn all ready for knitting.  I still have another 30 odd grams of fibre left.  But I really think I have enough to knit elbow length gauntlets.

The picture on top shows the sheen that comes through from the blended silk.  And the photo below, without the flash, shows the noils.  The nasty noils that caused me stress but ended up being quite a nice, if not intentional, addition to the yarn.

It may have lots of noils, but it’s really knitting up nicely. Here’s mitt #1. It’s quite an elegant thing.  When I am finished the pair I’ll do a full on post about the pattern and such.   But for now, this is a quickie.

Jenn’s elbow length gauntlets

I wrote about blending fibre for this project in an earlier post.  At the end, I noted that the results weren’t what I was hoping for — too many noils.  I figured I could easily get rid of them so didn’t fret too much over it.  I have 112 g of this blended fibre — wool, alpaca and silk — I am not planning to abandon it without trying a few things.

Yesterday I heard back from Jenn with her measurements and confirmation that she wants me to make these gauntlets — so I confronted the challenge of spinning this fibre into fingering weight yarn.  It was a lovely lazy day. After struggling through a hot spell the threat of rain in the air was a welcome relief.  I set myself up on the front porch, with my wheel, tools, and glass of cider.

As I mentioned earlier, this fibre ended up with a lot of noils in it.  Some of them were from second cuts. That’s when the shearer passes a second time over the piece being shorn and produces very short clumps of fibre. If I had paid closer attention, I could have removed these before I picked and blended the fibre. I was too excited about using the picker to blend the fibre that I didn’t even look closely at the polworth. The other noils are not from second cuts, but seem to be from mishandling of the fibre. The polworth is a fine wool and it can’t take the stress of the picker and then the drum carder.  The fine fibres either break or get tangled and become a noil. Again, something entirely preventable.

You can see the noils in this photo. They are the white bits that are sitting in the fibre. I figured I could remove them so I got out my mini wool combs and tried combing them out. To no avail. The fibre is so fine the noils just slip past the tines and stay in the fibre. I tried drum carding it again, being much more gentle  — but no, they are still all there. Then I tried hand carding them, to pick out the second cuts and comb straight the other noils. Again, it didn’t work.The noils are there to stay.

I started spinning.  As I spun I stopped often to pick out the noils.  It was slow going and not satisfying spinning.  There had to be another way.  The way I finally decided upon was to do a test swatch and as I spun ignored the noils.  It was difficult because everything in me wanted the yarn to be smooth and not littered with these bumps.  But really, what choice did I have?  I could abandon this fibre or I could accept it as it is and see what it looked like spun up.

I spun a small (15g) sample as though the noils didn’t exist.  I washed it up and then to my surprise, fell in love with it.

It’s not perfect yarn, but it is really lovely. The noils from the second cuts pop out on their own in the plying and washing. The other noils just get tucked into the yarn and create a bit a texture. The silk shines through, the wool gives it a bit of bounce and the alpaca some drape. I knit up a sample, see above, of the gauntlet.

I think this will do just fine.

Yarn for a new project

At the Aldergrove Fair a couple of weekends ago, a young gal asked me to make her a special pair of mitts.  She liked the half-mitt style in hand spun yarn — but for this pair, she wanted them to come up to her elbow.  So after a few minutes of finding out what fibres and colours she likes, I agreed to make her a pair.

I’ve got the pattern designed — it’s a variation on the Baby Fan Lace mitts, starting with more stitches and decreasing as you get to the wrist.  And now I am working on the yarn.  She liked the idea of blending alpaca and wool and adding just a wee bit of silk for some luster.  So I set out to do that. Here’s a sample of the blended fibres and knit pattern. The first half (on the left) is the one I settled for, the yarn on the right is wool blended with cinnamon alpaca and silk.
Here’s what it was made out of: beige/cream alpaca, polworth (wool) and some tussah silk.  Blending fibres can take a long time on the drum carder so I decided to use the picker to do the blending.
A picker is a piece of machinery that helps you open the fibres and get them ready for carding or even spinning.  It’s also a great tool for blending fibres so they are mostly mixed before you put them through your drum carder. My girlfriend, from the dyeing days, owns a Patrick Green picker and she kindly let me borrow it for a spell.  Here it is.
It has some pretty sharp teeth, so there’s no sipping wine while you do this.  You have to pay attention on every single swing.  The fibre is fed into the front and on each swing, the teeth grab the fibre, drag it across all the other teeth, and spit it out the back.  All loose and opened up.
Then I took this wool/alpaca blend, added silk and put it through the drum carder.  The results weren’t what I was hoping for — too many noils.  I’ll post some photos of the sample yarn, when I have the issue sorted.

A Good Day to Dye

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a “good day to dye” event at my place.  I pulled all my dyes out of the cupboards and shed, dug up skeins of handspun yarn and all kinds of fibre and called my girlfriend.  She signed on and brought bags of loose fibre, rovings and skeins of yarn.  We had more than enough to play with.  The weather was perfect for this, sunny skies and the bugs stayed away for the most part.

Here is a photo essay of our day.

This is the dyeing studio a.k.a my back porch.

We threw some loose fibre into dye pots and we also painted skeins of yarn and then steamed them.  The skein being dyed here is from the fibre cleaned in my rain barrel experiments.

Here’s my friend painting a merino roving.  After the painting, it got rolled up in cellophane, left to sit for a spell and them put into the steamer.

One view of the drying rack with all the finished projects.

Next day view of the drying rack.  When the rovings were fully dried, I opened then up and am very happy to announce there was no felting at all!

From left to right:
Blue and pink shiny fibre is caesin — the silky fibre from milk proteins; grey/blue roving — straight up corriedale from Humming Bee Farm; pink/orange roving — merino/silk blend; grey/pink skein — cheviot two-ply; yellow/blue skein — polwarth two-ply spindle spun; blue/purple skein — hodge-podge of singles hanging about the studio that got spun into two decent sized skeins.  Variety of fibres. This may be hard to believe and you may think I am making this up, but I actually have plans for every bit of fibre here and each skein of yarn. Stay tuned so I can prove to you it’s true.

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.

Splicing yarn

As much as I love knitting, there are certainly some elements of it I don’t like.  I don’t like joining seams and I do everything I can to avoid that activity.  I don’t like “weaving in loose ends” especially when you are adding new yarn, and like the seams, do as much as I can to avoid that activity.

Lace knitters offer a wonderful option for weaving in the loose ends created from joining new yarn.  Lace knitting is so light and open, if you were to weave in another strand of yarn, it would show and alter the thickness of the fabric.  So they suggest splicing the yarn.  This technique only works on fibres that will felt, so be warned.  You CAN do it with superwash and nylon infused fibres, but they don’t hold as well.

If you are going to splice yarn, the first thing you do is unwind the plies.  The photo is not very good, but it is a two ply 100% wool yarn.  I cut one ply in each strand about 2 inches frm the end.
Then I soak both pieces of yarn in water for about 5 minutes.  This allows the wool to absorb some water and open the scales on the individual fibres, which will make it felt.
When the fibres are good and soaked, lay them across your palm as shown above, laying the single plies from each strand alongside the other.  Then, using your other hand, rub back and forth creating heat and friction.  Don’t be afraid to use a bit of pressure.  After a very short while, the single plies will fuse and you will have one complete strand of yarn. While it doesn’t look exactly like the original yarn, it is the same thickness and holds together.  Once you knit it into your piece, you won’t notice it at all.
Tada!
Now, whenever I need to join another ball of yarn, even if it happens at the end of the row, I fuse the ends together.  It is easy and most effective.  I’ve even done it on the bus, soaking the ends in my mouth.  And it worked.
[I apologize for the quality of these photos. The camera couldn’t be found (again) and once it was located (finally) the battery was done (again). So I had to rely on my blackberry camera phone.]

Experiments with cabled yarns

A while ago I started spinning up some samples to make a cabled yarn for another Claudia Evilla skirt. I wasn’t happy with the first sample, seen on the left. The battleship grey is just too dreary for me, so I abandoned any idea of using the grey alpaca exclusively. I did like the feel of the yarn so decided to continue experimenting with cabled yarns. 
Cabled yarn, as a re-plied yarn, has unlimited possibilities.  For these samples I spun a two-ply yarn (singles with a Z -clockwise twist and plied with an S-counter clockwise twist). Then you take the two-ply yarn and ply that again using a Z twist.  In these samples there are 4-singles.  Because of that, there are wonderful opportunities to add colour and other fibres.  Which is exactly what I did.

If you haven’t yet played around with cabled yarns, I encourage you to do so.  A four ply cabled yarn has more strength than a regular four ply — which is pretty strong.  Taking the first plied yarn and plying it again adds another level of strength.  And if you are using a coloured single along the way, it has a way to tucking the coloured single into the yarn, giving a dotted effect as opposed to a barber pole striping effect that you get when you ply two yarns of different colours.

The first skein on the left is the very first, all grey alpaca sample.  The middle skein has a double grey alpaca ply, plied with a grey and blue fibre from Sweet Georgia Yarns called Placid Waters.  It is 50% merino wool, 25% bamboo and 25% tussah silk. Nice combination for the grey alpaca and to create a fabric that has a good drape.  So altogether that one used 3 grey singles and one blue one.  The skein on the right uses two double ply grey and blue for a total of two grey singles and two blue singles. 

You can see the effect of adding one more blue single each time.  The battleship grey falls into the background and the luster of the bamboo and silk start to take over.    It’s starting to look a bit like denim — and for a skirt, that may not be a bad thing.

Now I have to knit up a sample or two — it’s such a dreary, rainy day I just may get around to that.

Why 100-Mile Wear?

This blog is about my efforts to create clothing items from fibres that come from within a 100-mile radius of my house.  It is inspired by the book A 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating by Alisa Smith and J. B. Mackinnon.  I initially resisted reading that book, feeling that it would have a repremanding and superior tone that would result in guilt and total lack of enjoyment for anything that I ate following that.  But it wasn’t that way at all.  It’s a terrific and inspiring book written in an intelligent and engaging manner. 

And it got me thinking.  How much of our resources are spending moving stuff around the planet, all in the name of fashion?  How many of us have forgotten how to create clothing and fabric, leaving it all in the hands of technology and third world countries?

I joined the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild in January 2000 with a deep desire to learn how to spin, right then and there.  One of the seasoned  members of the guild advised me to get a wheel and buy a fleece.  In a very short time I purchased a second-hand spinning wheel [Ashford Traditional] and started processing a 7 lb fleece from a ewe named Minnie.  The first yarn I spun was over twisted, thick and lovely.  The sweater I made for my 6 year old weighed about 2 1/2 lbs.  I dyed the fibre using koolaid, because they were safe and easy to obtain.  I didn’t have the brain power or space needed to get into dyeing in a “real” way.  The sweater was gorgeous and she loved it, despite its weight.  She wore it with pride until it didn’t fit her anymore.

I loved that yarn and the whole process of making it.  I had to skirt the fleece — take out the inevitable animal bits, then scour the fibres — wash them in very hot water to rid it of lanolin, suint and dirt.  After the washed fleece dried, I hand carded it and spun it up two-ply.

Every spring after that I attended the local fleece sale.  It was a once a year chance to buy a fleece from a farmer in the region.  I purchased many pounds of fibre at this sale every year, looking forward to the heat and sun of summer to help dry the fleeces.  From this I learned that in our area we have the capacity to produce some exquisite fibres.  Over the years I have bought Ramboulette, Shetland, Clunn Forest,  and of course Romney from local sheep farmers. 

Over the next while I will show you [as soon as I can find my camera] yarns and items that I have made with locally sourced wool, alpaca and llama.  You will also hear the whining frustrations from my attempts to obtain more fibre now that the annual sale is no more.

Stay tuned.