Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Saturday, October 9, 2010
While this may seem like a small difference in making the final yarn, the structure of the yarns is very different. The 4-ply yarn is very smooth, with the individual strands lying next to each other and the surface reflects more light. A 4-strand cabled yarn is bumpier and has a pixelated effect. The colors of the yarn become dots throughout the yarn, and the reflective quality of the yarn is broken up. Here is a close-up of the yarn texture between 4-ply and 4-strand cable in a knitted sample:
Since I knew I wanted to make a 4-strand cable, I divided my sample into four sections and spun them separately. I spun the first section on my smallest spindle and decided that it would be a waste of time to wind that small amount of yarn on a bobbin and repeat that four times, so I then spun a short section of white wool to act as a divider between the first and second sections of the colored singles. Then I wound that single on a bobbin and spun the third and fourth singles with white wool in the middle to divide them. So I ended up with two bobbins that would allow me to easily ply two singles together:
So if I divided my sections evenly and spun them consistently, I will be able to ply the yarn from the two bobbins together and the white wool in the centers will match up to mark the division between the two 2-ply yarns. I've spun the first of the singles together and was very happy to see that my approach worked very well:
There was very little overlap of colored yarn to white yarn, and now I'll keep going until the bobbins are empty. When I wind the 2-ply yarn back on a bobbin, I'll fill the first bobbin until I reach the white wool. Then I'll break the yarn and wind the next section of colored 2-ply on the second bobbin. Finally, I'll be able to easily ply those two 2-ply yarns together to create the final 4-strand cabled yarn.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
When I arrived home from work today, there was a large box by the door, which puzzled me. What the heck?, I thought. (Honest, that really was the 4-letter word I used mentally... it was a such tiring day at the office that I didn't even use a more inflammatory 4-letter word as I typically might have.) I figured my husband must have ordered something, but then I saw the box was addressed to me. Huh? What the...? And then I saw the box was shipped from 13 Mile Lamb & Wool Company and I spontaneously broke out into a big happy dance. Beautiful wool fleeces had arrived!!
I dragged the box inside to open it. The dogs found it pretty fascinating, too, enough to even drop the toy they had been playing with next to the box. This isn't the best picture, since Maddy moved and is a bit blurry, but you had to see the size of this box!
And here is my loot - over 20 pounds of raw organic fleeces raised in Montana on a predator-friendly ranch. I love the natural colors - black, white, moorit & grey. I am in wooly goodness heaven.
Oliver was fascinated by the sheepy fragrance and kept sticking his face in the fleece bags. Here he is examining the moorit fleece. He was quite serious about thoroughly performing his quality control work.
I cannot wait to get to work on these fleeces! Behold the power of wool: my day went from tiring/boring/blah to happy dance/joy/anticipation in mere seconds.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
"Almost" August challenge (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore) yarn
Current status & plan: both singles are spun and need to be wound on bobbins; I plan to use my wheel to create the final 2-ply yarn.
Next steps: Untangling first single and reloading it on appropriate bobbin; loading 2nd single on bobbin, plying on wheel, then finishing yarn & calculating skein statistics
English Garden wool sample gossamer yarn
Current status & plan: singles are spun; I plan to create a 4-strand cable yarn from this wool sample.
Next steps: Load singles on bobbins, then spin two 2-ply yarns, reload on bobbins and spin final 4-strand cable yarn, then finish yarn & calculate statistics. Still need to decide if I'll spindle this whole yarn or use my wheel for any of the plying.
Mixed greens yarn
Current status & plan: moss green single is spun and wound into plying ball, mixed green batt single is spun and wound onto bobbin, emerald green single is not yet finished; I plan to create a 3-ply yarn using one strand of each single and will ply the yarn on my wheel
Next steps: finish spinning emerald green single & wind on to bobbin, reload moss yarn on to bobbin, ply singles together, then finishing yarn & calculate statistics
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I have one last drum-carded batt from my Custom Fibers class and I decided it had waited long enough to meet its yarn destiny. It's a blend of emerald and moss greens (BFL and Colonial wools, respectively) with a bit of copper firestar thrown in for a flash of sparkle.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Here is the flow of events:
1. I read Alden Amos' treatise on spinning, paying particular attention to his thoughts on yarn management, including reloading yarn on storage bobbins.
2. I buy a bobbin winder.
3. I decide that despite all advice, it's unneccessary to worry about overloading a bobbin. I am a fully capable adult who can easily manage a very full bobbin. I reason there are no spinning police, so I'm safe with this decision.
4. The spinning powers-that-be decide I must be humbled. My penance will be spending a ridiculous amount of time rewinding the yarn on to an appropriately sized bobbin:
5. I vow to never repeat this bobbin winding transgression and buy storage bobbins with 3" high sides.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
According to iSpinToolkit, one of my favorite iPhone apps, 80 WPI is classifed as gossamer yarn, and if I had a pound of fiber spun at this gauge, I would create more than 10,000 yards of yarn. In comparison, a worsted weight yarn is around 12 wraps per inch and you get about 1,000 yards from a pound of fiber. Needless to say, I feel very sassy about gaining this skill level with my new spindle. While the 80 WPI gauge is for the single and I intend to create a plied yarn with it, the finished yarn will still be very thin and delicate.
Friday, September 24, 2010
You may have noticed that I love my cherry wood Dragonfly spindle, which I bought at Detta's several months ago, because I use it all the time. I'm using it now to spin the second single of my Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore yarn. My spindle is a beautiful, balanced, handmade tool that was created by John Hunter, the owner & expert woodworker of The Dragonfly Workshop. I love that he is a local woodworker based in Bloomington, MN.
Well, it was impossible for me to walk away from more Dragonfly spindles. I have added three more to my collection, and I love the wood colors and the different sizes/weights of these tools:
Large spindle - I'm not sure what type of wood is used, but the whorl is very smooth & dense & maple shaft; 3 3/4" whorl, 13" length; 4 1/8 ounces
Medium spindle - yellowheart whorl & walnut shaft; 2 7/8" whorl, 9 1/2" length; 1.6 ounces
Small spindle - big leaf maple burl whorl & walnut shaft; 1 3/4" whorl; 6 3/4" shaft; 0.6 ounces
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Packing for the trip put a big smile on my face, since I had four pairs of handmade socks to bring with me. Happiness is wearing handmade socks on vacation:
I think the strongest memories of this weekend will be the time I spent on the small fishing boat with my Dad and Grampa, where my job is to play "anchor girl" and ooo-&-aaah over the pretty fish they catch. I lower & raise the anchor as needed when they pick a good fishing spot, and then I sit back, relax, and just breathe. This is probably what made the weekend feel most like a vacation - I actually had a handful of hours with no phones, distractions, or demands. You can hear the breeze through the trees, the occasional call of birds, and the water lapping against the side of the boat. The air is fresh, the light is beautiful, and it feels really, really good to be alive.
And here is proof that spinning yarn on spindles is perfectly mobile - you can spin anywhere. I got several yards of Corriedale-silk blend fiber spun while relaxing on the boat. This photo is deceptive, since there is a wicked amount of multi-tasking going on. I'm holding up the spindle for a photo with one hand, taking the photo blindly with the other, and my foot is keeping tension on the anchor line to make sure the boat stays in the general location where the fishermen want it:
My husband's main hobby is photography and I know that he got a lot more photos than I did over the weekend. I haven't seen them yet, but he always has beautiful shots, and I can't wait to pick out my favorites. There are amazing colors and textures that I know will inspire my fiber & textile projects. I want to explore methods of expressing my love of the northern Wisconsin lakes & woods in fiber. I keep a little black book (literally) of my fiber ideas, so that I don't lose them when they suddenly occur to me, and there is now a page dedicated to my brainstorms for September vacation inspired yarn.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I must be hungry or stressed or something right now, because I immediately starting thinking about comfort food best friends, like peanut butter & jelly or grilled cheese & tomato soup. But in the long run, I'm not interested in using a food-based inspiration, so I prodded myself to think of other favorite Best Friends pairings. And one of my favorite comics, Calvin & Hobbes, popped into my head. Bingo! My vision is to create a 2-ply yarn using a thicker black and orange single plied with a thinner yellow, red & black single. I think the thicker Hobbes single should be striped, while the thinner Calvin single will come from a multicolored roving, so that it has more mixed and unpredictable bits of color. This should be a very fun & colorful yarn to create!
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Even though I didn’t post about this spinning project at the beginning of the month, I did start spinning the fiber on August 1st. On that day I was under the delirious notion it would be possible to start & finish this yarn in a mere 31 days… nevermind the high priority & overlapping work deadlines, medical appointments, family reunions & road trips, houseguests, and oh yeah, regular life & housework. So 23 days later, I’ve managed to spin about half the fiber:
There are a couple of awesome side benefits of knowingly missing the August Challenge deadline… I do not have to follow the rules and therefore I will use my wheel to ply this yarn, rather than using a spindle for the entire project. Also, because I know I am getting a lot of yardage out of this fiber, and I wasn’t very jazzed about the time it would take to wind each single into a neat plying ball, I justified the purchase of a Schacht bobbin winder, which just arrived this past weekend in the mail!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
My National Park choice was simple for me. Check this out… it’s Indiana!
See, there really is more than corn in Indiana. I grew up in northwest Indiana near the southern shore of Lake Michigan. This is a picture from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. I immediately knew that I wanted to create a yarn that honored what I love about this place – the blues of the water & sky, the powdery sand, and the green of the dune grasses.
I purchased a beautiful 4 oz piece of handpainted top from woolgatherings on Etsy.com. She was inspired by a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, but when I saw the fiber, I was reminded of spending time at the Lakeshore:
The fiber is a blend of combed BFL and tussah silk, and I love how the luster of both fibers is like sunlight shining on the lake. My original plan is to make a sock weight yarn with this fiber, so that I can have Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore socks to treasure.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I purchased the fiber from Detta, and the spindle comes from zebisis.
I spun three different kinds of singles - very thin with high twist, thick with low twist, and I tried thick-and-thin drafting, too. Here is a close-up of the different singles texture:
I decided that I liked the thicker single as it was, as well as the thick-and-thin single. I plied the thin single in two different ways - first in a 2-ply and then I tried Navajo (or chain) plying it for a 3-ply. The finished yarns:
So, what discoveries did I make with this challenge? I discovered that I really need to practice Navajo plying, because wow, it's hard to smoothly handle the yarn and keep the spindle turning during plying. I discovered that I have a pretty nice "default" yarn. And lastly, I discovered that I really like making a thicker, low-twist single yarn. It's very soft and it doesn't take much time to create a lot of yarn!
Thursday, July 22, 2010
My latest spinning project uses my mossy green Colonial wool (dyed the fiber myself in that awesome Custom Fibers class) and my cherry wood spindle to see how thin & consistent I can spin right now. I'm feeling pretty sassy about it - I'm definitely improving my drafting skills. Plied back on itself, the yarn is still lace weight!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Vital Statistics: 1.75 ounces; 80% Merino (red) and 20% mixed (green) blend; avg 18 - 20 WPI or light fingering weight; 204 yards
I punished this yarn pretty hard during the finishing process, shocking it with hot and cold water and agitating it a bit. I had used more of a semi-woolen drafting style, and I wanted to make sure the plies clung together. The yarn is nicely rustic and very soft. I predict a pretty lace scarf will come from this yarn.
As for naming this yarn, perhaps I'm inspired by the season and our vegetable garden, but the color suggests Vine-Ripe Tomatoes to me. Maybe the yarn will help the tomato in the photo ripen as fast as possible!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
As I told Oliver, when I caught him enjoying this great "toy" he found this morning, it's a good thing he's already neutered.
To give credit where it's due, I'm reluctantly impressed that a creature without opposable thumbs can manage to strip the cop off a spindle so neatly.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
I wound both singles into balls and put each one into a jar while I'm working with them. Yarn balls are wild creatures that instinctively roll towards dark, hidden crannies, such as under a sofa. The jars are for their own safety, not just my sanity. Plying from two singles is definitely easier and non-tangly compared to plying a single back on itself. And I've had plenty of chances with these singles to practice splicing ends while plying, which I'm trying to convince myself is a good thing. In my efforts to keep the singles as soft as possible, I had some areas where there would be too little twist, hence the splicing together of broken ends. I'm getting better at the technique, so I'm not complaining. Well, not complaining too much.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
This is more fiber from my "Custom Fibers" class. The red is Merino, which is the first time I've spun this type of wool. The fineness and softness are great, but it took me a little while to get used to a shorter staple length to be able to spin consistently.
I drum-carded a custom batt using the red merino and smaller amounts of greens, which are Colonial and BFL wools. My plan is to create a 2-ply yarn, using one single from the batt and the other with pure red.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
and connect to history
the simplest of tools
first is clumsiness
then with growing confidence
the craft becomes art
sneaky wood and hooks
spindles multiply at night
the collection grows
twist runs through fiber
like wildfire through dry grasses
long draw is magic
then fingertips touch the wool
now need more storage
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
It appears this will be mostly a blog about fiber prep, spinning, and similar subjects for the next few months, since I'll need to keep my knitting & crochet projects incognito for a little while.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Vital statistics: fiber = 1.13 ounces; fiber blend = about 2/3 mill ends (80% wool, 20% mohair), 1/3 Wensleydale wool, and a pinch of Firestar; avg 18 WPI or fingering weight; 85 yards
I'm ecstatic about this yarn! I know it has flaws, but it is the finest and most even yarn I've ever spun. This is the fourth yarn I've made using a spindle, and when you compare it to the first yarn I made on a spindle, I'm really pleased with my progress. And since my first yarn was made in a very similar colorway, it's an especially good comparison:
I plied the single yarn back on itself to create the final 2-ply yarn, trying a new method by keeping a center-pull ball on a nostepinne while I plied it. The method didn't help much... I still had to deal with tangles when the ball loosened up. I'm willing to try this method one more time, because I think part of the problem was that my center-pull ball made by hand on the nostepinne wasn't very good. The next time, I'll wind the yarn on my ball winder, then try to slip it on to the nostepinne.
Now I need to name this yarn. Have you ever thought it would be fun to be the person who named paint colors? I give credit to anyone who can think of dozens of names for shades of one color. I always thought it would be an entertaining job, but now that I’m trying to be all clever and unique with my yarn names, I realize it’s tougher that I thought. So far I’ve come up with Deep Blue Sea for this yarn, but I’m not very happy with that since the name was used for such a dorky movie. Maybe I should reference the challenge and name it Elementary Water? I would gladly accept any and all suggestions for naming this yarn!
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
I know that I want to ply this single back on itself to create a 2-ply yarn. The last time I did this with one of my singles, I used a ball winder. It worked okay, but I struggled with keeping even tension on the yarn as I plied it. The closer I got to the middle of the single, the looser the ball became, and I had lots of tangles to manage while trying to ply. So I looked for a different method of plying yarn back on itself.
I researched in my spinning library and hopefully I found an answer in Priscilla Gibson-Roberts book "Spinning in the Old Way." She describes a method of using a nostepinne to wind a center-pull ball and to ply from both ends. The elegance of this method is that the nostepinne helps keep tension on the yarn, so that the center of your ball doesn't collapse as you move towards the middle of the yarn. Plus you can slide the ball towards the thicker end of the nostepinne to park it if you need to take a break from plying.
So I took my nostepinne (a lovely gift from a wonderful friend - thank you again!), and got to work winding my single from the spindle to the pinne. I have to admit, it can get a little tedious... I started to feel a bit like a spider winding silk around a tasty insect morsel. But eventually I found a rhythm to the winding process and I got the single on the nostepinne:
Next step, plying!
Monday, June 7, 2010
The June theme is “It’s Elementary,” and the challenge is to spin yarn that represents one of the elements… earth, fire, water, air, etc., or however you want to interpret the theme. I immediately began daydreaming about elemental colors. When I thought “Fire,” I pictured a glowing bonfire in the fire bowl in our backyard, so maybe that could be black fiber mixed with shades of charcoal and ash with slashes of yellow and orange. We recently planted our vegetable & herb garden, so “Earth” made me think of a mix of dark browns with hints of bright seedling green peeking through the browns. And after drawing a blank on Air, I easily thought of “Water” as waves of dark and pale blues that sparkled in the light.
As luck would have it, I took Jen Cuff’s “Custom Fibers” class at the Textile Center (http://www.textilecentermn.org/) in March, where I learned how to dye & blend white wool roving into my own custom batts. I created this batt of turquoise and navy blues with a little turquoise firestar thrown in for glittery fun:
I decided this would be the perfect fiber to interpret “Water,” and got to work over the weekend spinning the yarn using my cherry wood top-whorl spindle. The spindle is made locally by The Dragonfly Workshop in Bloomington, MN, and it’s become one of my favorites. I had about 1 ounce of my custom fiber, and I’ve spun about half of it so far:
Friday, June 4, 2010
And then I learned how to knit.
I shopped at Michael's and Joann and I was happy. I made a few yarn friends who told me about local yarn stores, but after hearing about luxury yarn prices, I scoffed. Those yarn addicts were just nuts.
And then I went to a yarn store.
I petted the alpaca blends and admired the luster of silk. I marked sale dates on my calendar and discovered online sources of luxury yarn. I decided that as long as I kept to one project at a time, I could justify buying these beautiful yarns. I scoffed at yarn addicts who had huge stashes of yarn. Seriously, didn't they understand the concept of self-control?
And then I had to buy more storage containers.
I kept knitting and crocheting, now using gorgeous yarns, and I heard about some utterly mad people who actually spun their own yarn. Why would anyone want to go through the trouble of spinning yarn when all of these lovely yarns are already available? I scoffed at this foolishness.
And then I received a spindle & hand-dyed fiber on my birthday.
It's less than one year since I received that spindle. I now have 9 spindles, a spinning wheel, and enough fiber to fill three large plastic storage boxes. But at least I wasn't insane enough to start with raw fleece. I had the good sense to buy soft, beautiful top & roving, all ready to spin. I saw no need to mess with fiber preparation. I scoffed...
And then I bought a lovely raw Romney fleece at the 2010 Shepherd's Harvest festival. And I have English combs and a lovely pair of hand carders and I have my eye on a drum carder and I now have the supplies to dye my own roving & top. The Romney fleece is washing beautifully and I cannot wait to start combing it and dyeing it, and eventually make something beautiful with it. I gleefully anticipate the bone-deep, soul-quenching satisfaction of wrapping a gorgeous hand-knit scarf around my neck, made from my own hand-processed, hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn.
But at least I'm not crazy enough to raise my own sheep...