For my next trick– er, spinning project, even though the Tour de Fleece has ended and the Olympics has begun, I decided to go with this BFL from Three Waters Farm, in the “Stone House” colourway. I bought eight ounces of it at MDSW wayyyy back in 2011, and I’m a little embarrassed to think of how long it’s been sitting around waiting for me to spin it. Here goes…

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Since the last yarn I spun was a barber-poled two-ply, meaning I didn’t try to line up the colours in the two strands of yarn at all, I decided to chain-ply this one in order to maintain stripes of colour in the finished yarn. If the colours played against each other in a traditional two- or three-ply, I think the finished yarn would come out pretty, but overall solid-ish looking from a distance – and that’s not really what I’d like. (Actually, you know what would be interesting? Spinning one braid to be chain-plied, and splitting the other into thirds. Hmmm!)

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The very end of the braid was a little matted together, as they all tend to be, but the strands of fibre loosened up a few inches in and got easier to draft. I’m spinning this fairly fine with lots of twist, since I’ve had trouble with chain-plying lower-twist yarns in the past. It’s so frustrating when the singles drift apart in the plying process! I feel like a more tightly-spun yarn is going to be more durable in the long term, though of course the flip side of that is that the tightness of the yarn can affect the drape of the finished project.

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This fibre isn’t superwash, so I don’t think I’ll use it for socks. Perhaps I’ll make it into a little shawl or wrap – despite (or because of) the August heat, my office has cranked the air conditioning way up, and I need something to keep me from slowly freezing solid… that I can take off as soon as I walk out of the building!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been spinning for nine years already. I’ve come so far from my first lumpy attempts! And it’s just as hard to believe that the blog is almost ten years old… but it is. This has me thinking of doing something special for my blogiversary. Perhaps a giveaway or a contest might be fun. What do other bloggers do? I have until April to figure it out.

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At last, the Purple Pansies yarn is finished – though it no longer looks very purple-y; the orange really dominates the final yarn to my eyes. I plied while watching Mr. Robot, I plied while watching Doctor Who, I plied while watching the Olympics… and last night, I skeined up 348 yards of fingering-weight yarn.

The fibre, a blend of 60% merino, 30% bamboo, and 10% nylon, came from Sheepish Creations on Etsy. I bought two braids of fibre from them a few years ago (the other was 100% BFL, which I spun into Something Cheerful in late 2014) and I was happy with both. The blended fibre did take more concentration to spin than the BFL; I’m not sure if it’s because of the shorter staple length or the slipperyness of the bamboo and nylon strands. Either way, I did enjoy spinning it, and I would definitely buy more fibre from Sheepish Creations in the future.

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I’m quite pleased to have gotten the sock weight yarn I was aiming for. The white strand laid across the top of the skein in the close-up shot below is a commercial sock yarn (Opal, one of the ones I think of as “standard” sock yarn) – and while the Opal is four-ply and my handspun is two-ply, it’s about the same thickness overall. 348 yards should be almost enough for a pair of socks, but I think I might use a different yarn for the toes, heels, and cuffs to make sure that I won’t come up short. Yet another drawback of having surprisingly long feet…

Of course, that might mean I have to buy some more sock-blend fibre in a coordinating colour. *innocent face* I’ll keep my eyes open for that if I go to Rhinebeck this year!

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Over the weekend I finished spinning the Purple Pansies singles, and so yesterday (Monday) I sat down at the wheel to ply. This is perhaps my least favourite part of the whole process: pull out a length of singles, treadle a certain number of times, let the newly plied yarn wind onto the bobbin, repeat ad infinitum. Boooo-ring!

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I’ll admit that I’m enjoying watching how the colours are lining up in the yarn. The distinct stripes of the singles become muted, especially so in this stuff because purple and golden-orange are on opposite sides of the colour wheel. There are three ways that the colours can come together: orange/white, purple/white, and orange/purple – and of course, at some point, it’s possible that two orange or two purple sections of singles will line up with each other. It hasn’t happened yet, though.

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The yarn looks like a light fingering weight, based on the leader of sock yarn that you can see on the bottom-left there. It might poof up a bit after it’s had a bath and a good thwack against the side of the tub. Eventually, I’ll get around to knitting it into a pair of socks… someday!

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Over the weekend I finished the first half of the Purple Pansies. I’m really pleased with this spin; despite the short staple length I’m not finding the fibre particularly difficult to work with, and the singles are coming out reasonably even. I’m a little tempted to chain-ply each half to keep the colours and striping clean, but then I don’t think there’d be enough yardage for a pair of socks, so I’ll stick to the original two-ply plan. Purple and orange together make muddy brown, but it should still be interesting to see how the colours will come together in the final yarn.

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And of course, I watched the end of the Tour. Here’s Chris Froome and the rest of Team Sky celebrating his victory with a photo-op moment, not long before riding into Paris. I’m so impressed at their ability to ride more than two thousand miles (3,519 kilometres) over three weeks – and that the entirety of the team finished the whole Tour! It’s made me want to go for a road ride myself, except for that the heat index has been between 105-110 degrees F (40-43 C) all weekend, and the heat wave isn’t supposed to let up for quite some time.

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It feels very strange this morning not to be putting the Tour coverage on. I’m going to try to finish the second bobbin of Purple Pansies this week, and remember how much I enjoy spinning so that I don’t go so many months without touching the wheel again! There’s been so much to take care of with the new house – but now nearly everything is unpacked, almost all of the windows have curtains, I’ve had blinds installed in the living room, and it’s not yet time to worry about painting the walls. I’m starting to settle into a good routine, so I should be able to get back to the fibre.

On an administrative note, apparently the plugin I use to share posts on social media was setting everything on G+ to private, and I had no idea. In addition, G+ doesn’t allow you to retroactively edit the sharing settings of a post. How silly is that? I think I’ve fixed the problem now, but if you’re one of my G+ followers, you might want to come visit the blog directly – there are posts you’ve missed! (Does anyone even use G+? I’d mostly forgotten it existed at all, to be honest…)

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With a week left in Le Tour, I dove into the stash and came up with this beautiful fibre from Sheepish Creations that I bought at the end of 2013. The colourway is called “Purple Pansies,” and it’s a blend of 60% superwash merino,
30% bamboo, and 10% nylon. That kind of fibre blend just cries out to be spun into sock yarn, doesn’t it? So I didn’t spend too much time wondering about how I was going to spin this one.

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The purples and golds are splotched onto the white fibre in a nice distribution, though not in a regular pattern. That made it easy for me to decide how to split it; I simply folded it in half and tore it, and I’m spinning each half end-to-end without paying any mind to how the colour plays out. When the two strands are plied together, there should be some interesting spirals and striping as the colours line up and separate again.

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Because I mean for this stuff to become socks eventually, I’m spinning with a lot of twist (but not so much that it feels like wire) with a short forward draw. I usually prefer a backwards draw, but the staple length here is short enough that I feel as if the strand is always just about to pull free, even with the brake tension set very lightly so the wheel isn’t tugging at the new yarn too much. It feels like slow going, but on the plus side, I find it a lot easier to spin evenly when I’m not going too quickly.

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I had a much-needed weekend of being a hermit, and of course that included starting each day with a good breakfast, watching Le Tour, and then lots of spinning. (I also put away my laundry, did some other chores around the house, and went to the gym – but it was just so good and necessary to have a weekend all to myself!)

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On Sunday I finished spinning and skeined up the three colours of Ashland Bay merino/tussah blend, ending up with around 115 yards of each one. The yarn still needs to be washed, but it’s around sport weight. Having two almost-equal skeins of each color will make it easier to knit paired items, should I choose to do that – though I have no idea what I’m going to use this for.

350 yards is too much for a hat, but not enough for a shawl. It would be more than enough for armwarmers – possibly even two pair if they aren’t super long ones. Ideas are more than welcome! What would you make with this yarn?

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When I bought the fibre, I was in the mood for stranded colourwork. However, there isn’t a lot of contrast between the purple and teal yarn. This is easiest to see by looking at the picture in grayscale; you can barely tell the two apart. That means they wouldn’t really show up well next to each other, and the white yarn would have to be used as the contrast colour between them. For inspiration, I’m looking at patterns like the Dither socks and Dither scarf, where one colour is gradually worked into the next.

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My Tour de Fleece got off to a slow start, but this weekend I picked up the pace. I’m starting with this Ashland Bay merino/tussah blend that I picked up at Maryland Sheep and Wool way back in 2011. I have two ounces each of three colourways, so I split each one into quarters to make two equal skeins of two-ply yarn. The blend of colours in the purple one (“Concord”) is fantastic – and yes, all that does come out to be a heathery purple, as you can see in the plied yarn below.

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I like to watch the Tour de France while I spin. On Sunday morning I first watched the F1 race and then the Tour stage, and listened to the purr of the Sonata as the riders climbed up yet another mountain and complained about the spectators who run alongside them on the road. Some of them do get frighteningly close!

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By the end of the weekend, I’d spun and plied all of the purple and half of the white (the colourway is actually called “Lilac”.) The third colour is a dark teal blend named “MacKenzie”. As usual, there aren’t any plans for what to do with the finished yarn, which seems to be plying up at a sport or DK weight. A hat? Armwarmers?

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Then I get the fun of choosing the next fibre to spin and which wheel to spin it on – last weekend I unpacked the Schacht-Reeves, which has come through the dangers of moving house completely unscathed, and is all set up and ready to go. I’d have to carry it down two flights of stairs into the living room if I wanted to spin and watch the Tour at the same time, though.

Speaking of “unscathed,” did I mention that I had to glue the Sonata back together? The upright had split where the rod for the mother-of-all drops in, almost certainly because I’d overtightened it too many times. (Hey Kromski: it would be a significant design improvement to have a metal sleeve in that hole.) I repurposed one of the syringes that I usually use to transfer ink, and injected wood glue into the crack, then clamped it and left it to dry. Now you can barely tell where the crack had been, and I’m being much more careful about tightening the screw – though that does mean the MOA is more prone to shifting around.

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The weather this past weekend kept me indoors, and I decided to use some of my time to start carding Fleece Four-Twelve. I chose a section of fleece at random (it was the piece nearest me on the floor) and started by opening up the locks on the teasing tool so that the carder wouldn’t choke on them:

washed-fleece

Then I fed them to the carder sideways (yes, sideways!) until the drum was full, packing it down a few times with a scrub brush so I could fit more fibre on. Even with the drum carder, it’s a slow, slow process. Too much fibre at once, or cranking too quickly, will cause lumps and bumps in the batt. The fibre needs to go on the input tray in a super-thin layer – so thin that you can read the “keep hands clear” sticker on there. (They aren’t kidding. The licker-in drum will mangle your hands if you get too close. Those pointy bits are *sharp*.)

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After the first pass through the carder, the batt was super fluffy but not done yet. It needs to be run through at least once more to get all those fibers aligned and the batt even all the way across. I’d like to get to that tonight, after grocery shopping and cooking dinner. If Four-Twelve really is going to be my Tour de Fleece project, I need to move the carding way up on the priorities list.

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(I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not going to get all that fleece carded in time for the TdF, though.)

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The eight-pound fleece which Caroline and I are splitting came from Sheep #412, as the envelope tucked in the bag informed us. Four-Twelve (a merino/rambouillet cross) spread out nicely on my floor for admiration, and we were surprised to discover that it had a bitty white streak in one corner. We’re going to keep that separate, though there might only be enough for a bit of duplicate stitch on our finished projects.

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Four-Twelve was a coated sheep and the fleece had already been skirted, thank goodness, so there wasn’t much to pick out or discard. It smelled sheepy, but not dirty or disgusting. We gently loaded lingerie bags, filled the sink with hot water and Scour, and started the washing process (which is mostly a waiting process). Each batch took three washes and a rinse, then we laid it all out to dry upstairs… except for one of the bags, which we put on the sweater-rack in the dryer, because we were really impatient to try it out.

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I spun a couple of rolags into a quick sample of chain-plyed yarn, soft and bouncy and poofy, and I’m pretty sure that the eventual yarn will be a true three-ply. This seems like it will be perfect for the sweater I have in mind – something like Alpengluhen, October Frost, Jackaroo or the Stonecutters Cardigan – a nice round three-ply yarn will be great for stitch definition and cables.

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Once all the fleece is dry, I’ll be spending lots and lots of time with the drum carder. Making a few rolags to test out the fibre is one thing, but there’s no way I’m hand-carding half a fleece!

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Hello, friends! It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been super-busy! Most of the year so far has been swallowed up by the process of packing, cleaning, fixing, selling one house, and moving into another. Whooo! But now that is pretty much taken care of. The mountain house has been sold, and while I miss it, I know it was the right decision. The new house is lovely, but a time-consuming work in progress as I unpack and arrange everything just so. But today I took a break from all of that and went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival with a friend.

We bought a fleece.

2016MDSW_with_fleece

I hadn’t had plans to buy anything in particular; packing up my yarn to move had helped me realize that my hobby has become more about collecting yarn and fibre than actually doing anything with it, and that’s not the road I want to go down. So I haven’t actually purchased any yarn since my birthday in January, when I bought just one 50g skein of white sock yarn for a specific project and purpose. It’s not that I was opposed to buying something today, it’s just that I wasn’t planning to. I was open to the possibilities, of course.

So we went into the fleece show and sale, and were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over one too-expensive merino cross in particular, when a lovely volunteer whose Ravelry name I promptly forgot (sorry!) came over to ask if we had any questions. The next thing we knew, we were following her all over the barn, sticking our hands into giant bags of fleeces and discussing their relative merits… and then we found The One.

It’s an eight-pound merino/rambouillet cross, it’s a lovely dark brown with silvery bits, and it was in our budget. So we bought it. I took a couple more pictures after I got it home:

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Anyway, we dropped the fleece off in the car and did a bit more shopping, and then I tried out my camera’s zoom lens on the herding demonstrations. I think it worked pretty well:

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We couldn’t hear a word of the explanations, but it was still really cool to watch the dogs happily doing their work. They’re obviously having a great time out there; border collies need to have a job and these dogs were just so eager to get out and do what they were meant to do. At times I could swear they were laughing at the sheep!

The fleece-cleaning will begin in a couple of weeks, and then we’ll decide whether we’re going to comb or card. Our goal is to have it all ready for the Tour de Fleece in July – how great will it be to do the TdF with an actual fleece this year?

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