Category Archives: local fibre

Spinzilla 2017 – it’s a wrap

Spinzilla ended Sunday, October 8th at 11:59:59pm. It ended for me at 10:40pm.

It was a good week of finding ways to fit spinning into my life. I worked all week so had to find time in the morning and evenings to spin. And, when I could, I spun at work. On Tuesday, I had my wheel with me because I was heading to the Team Sweet Georgia spin-in that evening. I brought my wheel into my office and spun a bit during a department conference call – about twenty minutes. Other times, I had my Jenkins Turkish spindle with me and spun during phone calls and over lunch hour.

My plan was to spin the entire bag of “Daisy”. Daisy is a sheep owned by a fellow guild member -1/2 north country Cheviot, 1/4 Suffolk, 1/4 Romney Dorset Karakul. Quite a variety and lovely, lovely wool. Last November, I¬†bought a large bag of Daisy carded up into inviting rovings and had plans to spin it for a sweater. Perfect task for Spinzilla. I really thought that would take my entire week, so I didn’t have much of a back-up plan. Fortunately I have a bit of a stash so when I finished spinning Daisy on Friday evening and plied it up on Saturday morning, I spun up some Clun Forest I bought from my neighbour.

On Sunday evening at 7pm, after plying all the Clun Forest, I still felt like spinning. I had about 7grams of spun fibre on my Turkish spindle so grabbed the bag of that fibre, (Shetland 70%; Silk 30%) and finished spinning all that up while I watched two episodes of Shetland. Fitting isn’t it? It spun quickly due to an excellent fibre prep and silk. And I plied it while I watched Scott and Bailey.

All in all I had 6 bobbins of Daisy, 3 of Clun Forest, 1 Shetland/silk, and small bobbin of Turquiose Perendale/silk I spun at the spin-in after I spun up all the Daisy I bought with me. That all measured out to be 1,683 yards of 2-ply yarn, which translates into 5,049 yards of spinning for Team Sweet Georgia.

I’m happy with this result. I managed to spin a decent amount and I stayed sane. I didn’t stress myself out with trying to spin, spin, spin. I relaxed, went running on my days off. Did errands, and prepared an entire Thanksgiving Dinner.

I’m extra happy because I have all Daisy spun up and enough of it for a sweater – 1,100 yards. The Clun Forest is going to be added to the Clun Forest I spun for the last Spinzilla, dyed and woven into a shawl/blanket.

I love Spinzilla. It forces me to focus exclusively on spinning, and while it is only a week long, that is long enough to get a significant amount of yarn made. I also love it because it brings a community of spinners together, the members of our Team Sweet Georgia, and also other spinners from all around the world spinning for this competition. While there are team prizes for the most spun, and individual prizes for the same, I like to think about the grand total that all the teams are creating. Can we beat the total we reached last year, and if so, by how much?

So that’s ones in the books. What’s next?

(Photo on top is all skeins washed and drying in the Monday sunshine.)

Knitting on the Go: Part 1

I live in the countryside outside of Vancouver. I work in the city. While often I am able to work from home, I do spend a considerable amount of time commuting each week. As a result, I’ve learned how to knit on the go.

Knitting on a bus, train or even in a car can be a tricky business.  You don’t have a lot of space, in fact there is very little elbow room.  It’s often difficult to consult patterns, especially ones in books.  With the exception of mitts or hats, it is hard to try things on for size. I leave early and arrive home late so many times it’s dark on the bus. Because of the myriad of distractions around you, the knitting you are doing needs to be fairly mindless, but not too much so or it will lull you in sleep.  And finally, some people are self-conscious about knitting in public. People tend to stare at you and some even ask questions. With all these challenges in mind, why on earth would you even try?

I conquered the process of knitting on the go due to the basic facts that on my commute I have an abundance of time, my hands are free, and I desperately need something to distract me from the tedium of the travel around me.

So here are a few things I’ve learned. First, the item I’m knitting has to be compact. A pair of socks, mitts or a hat are great things to knit on the train. Having a pattern that is easily to memorize is an added bonus. That’s where these lovely mitts come in. They are from the yarn I dyed on a Good day to day. The yarn for these mitts came from the Magic of rainwater experiment.

I love the Baby Fan Lace mitts by Morgan Wolf. They are lovely to knit and the fan lace pattern is easy to memorize. The only problem with knitting these is when I come to the thumb gusset. It’s not a difficult thing to do, but it does require concentration. The thumb gusset increases happen on every third row and the fan lace pattern is over four rows. So to stay on track you need to follow the lace chart and check off your progress. This is a wee bit tricky on the bus/train as you need to keep the pattern nearby and a pen at ready.

So here’s my solution to that problem.

I decided to try something different around the treatment of the thumb. When I got to the place where I’d start the gusset I did so by defining the stitches for the gusset with yarn overs. Then I stopped the lace pattern and knit in straight stocking stitch. I marked each increase row with a yarn over on each side of the increase. Because I was putting in these yarn overs I had to decrease on each side of them as I did not want the gusset increases to come from yarn overs, but from “make one left” and “make one right”.  [I’ll write the whole pattern out soon.]

The point I am trying to make is that by using yarn overs as a “marker” I could do a couple of things. I was able to add a decorative element to the pattern which also served as an easy way to read my progress. It’s easy to count what row you are on after a yarn over, something that you could do by feel and in dim lighting. After I set aside the thumb stitches, I continued in the regular pattern right to the end.

So that’s a way I did minor adjustments to a pattern which enabled me to knit it with ease on the bus.

I love these mitts.  Everything about them. They are truly 100-mile wear.

Local fibre from Acacia Acres

At the Aldergrove Country Fair this July I met a sheep producer who runs Acacia Acres (sorry, no website yet) in south Langley. I knew her from the fleece sale last year as she and her fleeces cleaned up on most of the awards that year.  We got talking about fibre and knitting and such and over a few meetings we have struck up a deal where I make her and her family knitted items from her fibre, and she pays me for my work in her lovely fibre.  I get all the benefits of having sheep and lovely fibre, without having to raise the animals myself and neither of us has to fork out any cash.
So I came home from Acacia Acres with 10 pounds of washed fibre and 2 pounds of an assortment of unwashed fibres from 4 different sheep.  In exchange for this fibre I am going to make 6 pairs of 1/2 mitts and 3 x 3 inch knitted samples from the four different fleeces.
As I didn’t have to waste any time washing fibre, I got right to work as soon as I got home.  The wool in this picture is from the fleece of a very happy romney sheep called Ashley. Ashley’s fleece won the Grand Champion prize at the Lower Mainland Sheep Producers Association annual fleece sale this past September 22nd. The wool in this picture is from Ashley’s fleece from last year. Just as lovely, soft and wonderfully grey.  Here it is hand carded into rolags.  The staple on this fibre is about 3 inches long on average, so it’s a dream to hand card.  
What you are looking at is 86 g (3 ounces) and 144 m (165 yards) of fingering/sport weight yarn. Look at that steely grey colour and sheen on the yarn.  That’s what I love so much about romney, the sheen. 

From that skein I made these 1/2 mitts — with slightly less than an ounce left.  What’s left in is the ball on the right. The mitts are made on 3mm needles and 44 stitches. They are medium to large size for they are intended for a young man.  

In addition to five pounds of Ashely’s fleece,  I also got five pounds of washed fleece from Ebony. Ebony is a white romney and such a lovely white she is. Here is a close-up of a skein of double-ply Ebony. I drum carded the fibre this time.

It is such a luxury to get washed fibre to work with. Even though you still have to do the fibre preparation, at least I didn’t have to spend time washing up this volume of fibre.

This is another large skein of fingering/sport weight yarn. This one ended up being 100 grams (3.5 ounces) and 155 m (168 yds) of fibre. Here it is on the niddy-noddy.

This weekend I spent time exploring this fibre. I had already made two large fingering/sport weight skeins of yarn, so I was ready to try other yarns. Below are two skeins: the white one is a three-ply of the Ebony (71 g/ 2.5 oz and 61m/67yds). I would call this one a worsted weight yarn. The grey skein is a 50/50 blend of Ashely and Ebony, you can see how much lighter the grey is. To thoroughly blend it I drum carded it. I put very little twist into the singles and made them much thicker than the previous yarns. The result:  a light, lofty yarn.(107 g/3.75 oz and 103m/112 yds)

 Here is a photo of the whole family. Ashely, Ebony and the blend.

Now that I know how the wool will behave when being made into yarn, I am going to spend some time dyeing and blending the various colours.  It is so much fun to have this much wonderful fibre to play with.

Thanks Jacqueline and Linda!