Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Two thumbs up for non-tangly plying!

The plying of the 2-ply mostly merino yarn has commenced:

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


The singles of my latest spinning project are complete and are wound into balls, ready for plying. But I am too tired for plying tonight. I thought about it very seriously, especially since I will not be plying this yarn back on itself and therefore will not be forced to deal with annoying tangles. In my current sleepy state, that would have been disastrous. But despite the lure of non-tangly plying, I still choose to go to bed now.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Spinning with Merino wool

My current spinning project:

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

Spinning Haiku

fingers draft fibers
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

calculate budget
then fingertips touch the wool
now need more storage

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Since the last few posts have been about spinning yarn, I thought I should post something about knitting or crocheting, since I'm working on those projects, too. I've been working on this really cool pattern, something I've never done before, and oops, that's a gift, I can't write about that yet. I don't want to spoil the surprise. Okay, I'll write about..., no, that's a gift, too. Well, there's the, uh, other gift I've been planning.

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

June Challenge Success!

The yarn is plied & finished!

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

June Challenge... making progress

I have spun all of the fiber... here is the finished single on the spindle:

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

Spindlers June Challenge

The Spindlers group on Ravelry has a monthly challenge, and I am participating in it for the first time in June. The rules are to start & complete a spindle-spun skein of yarn in that month that fits the challenge theme in however you want to interpret it. The skein can be any length, weight, color, fiber – whatever you decide to use to create your vision of the theme.

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 ( 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

Down the Rabbit Hole

When I first started playing with yarn, I crocheted. While I now admit to being secretly envious, I scoffed at knitting. Those knitters were just crazy.

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...