Friday, May 25, 2012

Playing with my wheel

I need to work on my relationship with my spinning wheel.  We like each other, but we could know each other a helluva lot better. 

I was getting into a rut using the same pulley size and tension, which is great for producing consistent yarns of a certain size, but not so good for making sure I'm comfortable and familiar with all of my wheel's potential.  So I changed to the fast pulley size and began working on producing much thinner yarns than I ever have on my wheel. 

I'm frugal with experiments, so I typically choose a nice but inexpensive fiber to play with for these skill building projects.   I had several ounces of grey variegated mill ends wool in my stash, so I grabbed that bag and starting playing with it.  I don't know the exact fibers in this bag of mill ends, but it's pretty fuzzy and I suspect there's some mohair in this mix. 

I'm spinning singles with a more worsted style of drafting, because I think the yarn will be fuzzy enough without allowing twist into the drafting zone:

I spun enough to fill three of my 6" plastic storage bobbins, which will give me plenty of yarn for a knitting project, perhaps a hat or scarf.  I usually opt for 3-ply yarns, but in this instance, I will make a 2-ply yarn.  The bobbins are loaded on a lazy kate and I'll work on plying this yarn over the Memorial holiday weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Finished yarn!

My latest random spinning project is now complete.  Here is the metamorphosis from fiber to yarn:

The singles were spun on a 1 ounce spindle using a semiwoolen drafting technique with combed BFL top.  After deciding to make a 3-ply yarn, I used my wheel to ply the singles together randomly to hopefully create the most consistent yarn possible, with no particular thoughts on creating a specific color pattern with the yarn.  I n-plied the last of the yarn in order to use up all of the singles.  I finished the yarn very simply to set the twist - just a soak in hot water, a cold rinse, a few snaps over my wrists, then hung to dry. 

The finished yarn feels light with a nice amount of loft, and a bit of bounce to it.  Even with a slightly fuzzy surface texture (from the drafting style), the natural shine of the BFL wool still comes through a bit and is very attractive.  I think it will eventually make a great pair of socks!

100% BFL wool
3 ply, semiwoolen drafting
104 grams/3.7 ounces, 24 WPI, 360 yds

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shepherd's Harvest 2012

The 15th annual Shepherd's Harvest Sheep & Wool Festival was held this past weekend, and I had an especially wonderful time at this year's fest.  The weather was gorgeous with blue skies, a breeze, and was warm enough to enjoy being mostly outdoors.  I had decided to be brave enough to enter a skein of yarn into the spinning competition this year, so I needed to arrive early at the festival.  One of my best friends accepted my invitation to join me for the day, so I picked her up early and we drove over to the Washington County Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo, MN. 

The skein competition has four categories - fine, sport/worsted, bulky, and novelty.  I entered my skein into the fine category and was nervous and excited to subject my work to expert opinion.  The judges this year were Deb Robson and Shelley Hermanson.  Deb Robson, as you may know, is a fiber superstar (former editor of Spin-Off magazine, most recently co-author of The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook), and Shelley Hermanson is a local fiber expert who has taught countless students all about spinning and knitting.  In fact, when I got my first spindle, I arranged to have a private lesson with Shelley at her home.  So I was very nervous, in a mostly good way, to have these two women evaluate my spinning. 

After dropping off my yarn for the competition, my friend & I wandered over to the animal barns to see the sheep, goats & llamas.  It was really lovely to be one of the first festival attendees to go through the barns - no stress, no crowds, no kids (just the goat variety).  Seeing all of the fiber critters is really special to me, definitely one of the big highlights of the festival for me.  I took pictures of my favorites:

An outgoing, curious Romney ewe:

A sweet and inquisitive Romeldale lamb named Isabelle:

A llama with wicked eye liner:

and I love those long llama eyelashes:

A 12-week old, bottle-fed Horned Dorset ram lamb named Dobbie.  Here he is, content and curled over the shepherd's lap.  Apparently he gets to wear a diaper and come into the house to watch TV with the family.  And he loves playing with the dogs on the farm. 

I fell in love.  I wanted to take him home with me.  Dobbie loves to be stroked and petted - he soaks up all the attention like a little warm wool sponge:

A trio of Jacob ewes... love their horns!

Another trio of fiber females... these ladies are angora goats:

And there were plenty of rabbits at the festival this year.  Here is a young cutey:

After enjoying the animals, my friend and I went to the outdoor arena to watch the herding/stock dog demonstrations.  Another fun highlight of the festival:

In addition to the animal barns and vendor buildings, the festival has exhibits like the yurt and the historical spinning tent:

After enjoying the animals, the sheep herding, and outdoor exhibits, it was time to find out the skein competition results.  I was overjoyed!  I won second place in the fine yarn category!  My hands were shaking as I touched the ribbon and read the judges' comments on the entry form.  It was so exciting!

Still flying high from winning a ribbon, I managed to practice impulse control when walking through all of the vendors.  I didn't buy any fiber of any kind during the festival - no fleece, no prepped fiber, no yarn!  I was sorely tempted a few times, but I stuck to my stash management goals and exerted some retail purchase self-control.  I did bring home a few items, but no new fiber! 

I picked out a llama statue from Peru, a small flock of sheep magnets, and a Kundert spindle.  Kundert is retiring soon, so I grabbed the opportunity to add one of his beautiful spindles to my collection before they become unavailable.  It spins beautifully, so I'm very, very pleased with the purchase.  Plus my friend helped me pick out the spindle, so in addition to being an excellent tool, this spindle will be a favorite souvenir of this festival and will always remind me of spending the day with my friend. 

On Sunday, I had to drive back to the festival to pick up my yarn and ribbon.  Deb Robson and Carol Ekarius, the authors of The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, were having a book signing on Sunday afternoon, too.  So I ended the festival on a very high note, with getting my copy of the book signed:

I hope everyone who had a chance to attend the festival also had a wonderful experience!  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Making slow progress

I'm making slow (ridiculously slow) progress on my latest yarn, but even slow progress is better than none.  I took my six bobbins of spindle-spun singles yarn and loaded them on my ultra premium, high-tech lazy kate (ie. a shoebox with holes poked in the sides).  I should've taken a picture of the kate with the full bobbins, but I didn't, so here's the after picture after the yarn has been plied:

And there the bobbins sat for almost two weeks, as I turned my attention to work getting the house ready for a big party last weekend, then cleaning up after the party, and then doing some major spring cleaning work. 

So on Wednesday this week, I was irritated enough that I hadn't done any plying that I gave myself an hour to get started on this work.  I put the fast whorl on my wheel to fly through the plying as quickly as possible, and I made a good dent on it.  I plied about 75% of the singles together in that hour.  I decided to make a 3-ply yarn with these singles, after briefly considering a 4-ply yarn.  In the end, I chose the 3-ply in order to maximize the yardage I could get out of the original 4 ounce braid of handpainted wool.

This morning I finished the work.  Because I was trying to get through my plying as fast as I could, I didn't pay as much attention as usual to using up my bobbins evenly.  I ended up with two bobbins that had enough singles left on them that I decided to n-ply the remaining singles at the end of final yarn, which makes me even happier that I had decided to make a 3-ply yarn, since the n-plied section blends in beautifully with the traditional plying. 

The plied yarn on the wheel:

Actually, now that I think about it, it's funny that the plying didn't take long at all and yet I still feel like my progress is painfully slow on this yarn.  It's probably more accurate to say my progress was severely interrupted and that's what felt so irritating.  Now I feel an effervescent relief that the plying is finished, and it will be easy to wind off the yarn, wash it & set the twist, and hang it up to dry.  I should be able to finish that work this weekend, and the final yarn will be unveiled next week.