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I’d set myself the goal of finishing both sides of this rainbow pillow before the Tour de Fleece begins, and I made it by just a few hours – and a few yards of yarn short, which is totally okay. I slipped in a few rows of gray, also handspun, that I plan to use to edge and seam up the sides anyway.

A pillow form has been ordered and it shouldn’t take too long to finish this up once it arrives. Meanwhile, I can start the Tour tomorrow morning with a clean conscience!

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How many divisions to make? In what direction? How do I get that small amount of aqua spread out as much as possible without losing it? The irony of considering, for more than a minute or two, where to draw the line between “thinking” and “overthinking” wasn’t lost on me. So I cast aside all those thoughts and split each four-ounce piece of fibre into 16 pieces. Here they all are:

(That yellow one towards the left side sure does confuse my camera.) Now I’ll take one piece from each of those piles to make sixteen little bundles from which to spin, in order to evenly distribute the different fibres around the whole project. The plan is to spin a worsted weight yarn, but to help me decide whether to go for a two-ply or three-ply, I wrote up the pros and cons:

Pros of a two-ply: more yardage, more distinct colours
Cons of a two-ply: possibly less even, kind of bumpy

Pros of a three-ply: more blended colours, more rounded/even yarn
Cons of a three-ply: less yardage

Once I realized that “more blended colours” meant “less likely to get splotches or pools of bright yellow” the decision was pretty clear: three-ply it is!

I just have to try to resist starting this project until the beginning of the Tour…

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After a variety of fibre is selected, the next step of a Combo Spin is to unbraid/unfold it all, split it up into smaller pieces, and then evenly distribute those pieces. This is two pounds of wool (with a little bit of silk and bamboo in the mix) unbraided onto my dining room table. It was interesting to feel the differences from one braid to the next – this one is softer, that one is more compacted, this one is thicker, that one is less solid.

In this video from the PassioKnit Spinner, she explains her method for splitting up her fibre: first she divides it into eight pieces the short way, then strips each of those pieces in half the long way. For four-ounce pieces of fibre, that comes out to sixteen quarter-ounce pieces – a pretty good distribution!

Half of the fibre I’ve chosen is tonal or evenly variegated, so it doesn’t matter if I split them up the short way or the long way. They’ll be pretty much the same, short or long. Since I find it easier to spin from thicker chunks of fibre, especially if I’m going to be spinning longdraw from the fold, I’m going to break these up the short way. Here’s a picture of those pieces so you can see what I mean (the stripy one on the left is eight ounces; the burgundy and yellow ones are four ounces each):

For the rest of the fibre, however, it *does* matter. I refolded each of the four pieces of top to find the colour repeat. In this one, each colour only appears four times. If I divide it only the short way, I’ll have longer runs of each colour that appear less frequently. The more times I strip it the long way, the more times each colour will appear throughout the entire project.

It was fun to find the repeats! Some of them were very clear:

But some had a couple of places that didn’t quite fit in with the colour pattern:

I’m not going to overthink it (too much); I’m just going to start splitting it up with the intent of even distribution. I can imagine that bright aqua colour in little subtle lines throughout, or in longer runs in fewer spots, but it’s sure to look good either way!

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I used this rainbow of Corriedale to practice my longdraw spinning, getting even better acquainted with “Persistence,” the 30″ Schacht-Reeves, in the process. (Goodness, I am in love with this wheel.) I split each colour into four even pieces so that I could have two two-ply rainbows.

By the end of the spin (10 ounces/285g or so) I felt like I was getting the hang of spinning from the fold, and eventually I came up with 368 yards of two-ply yarn. The full rainbow wouldn’t quite fit on one bobbin, so I spun half and half. The plying was done on “Grace,” the Sonata, because she’s got a jumbo flyer. Twice, the two bobbins I was plying together matched up perfectly, both in the length of each colour stripe and in the total length of yarn. I love when that happens! The other two times, I had to fudge a little bit.

One of the blue-to-purple bobbins got a little out of order, too. I’m sure it will be just fine in the end, but I’m disappointed that I didn’t catch the mistake before it was too late.

When I first started the spin, I had all kinds of thoughts about what project to make with this stuff, and eventually decided on something quick and easy: a pillow! I decided to knit corner-to-corner to get it as close to square as possible while still using up all of the yarn, and used my little kitchen scale to determine the halfway point. It’s right here in the greens:

I’m considering the possibility of felting this once it’s done, but it’s knitting up far more evenly than I’d expected. I chose US 9/5.5mm needles and I’m pleased with the overall feel and drape of the fabric. Once both sides are finished, I’ll crochet them together with a wide-ish border, probably in black.

The next question is, am I going to spin the Tour de Fleece project the same way? The same thickness? The same two-ply? There are so many options!

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The Tour de FranceFleece begins in just under seven weeks, so I thought it would be prudent to finish a project I began with the momentum of last year’s Tour. Eight ounces of BFL from Three Waters Farm in the “Stone House” colourway is now 580 (!) yards of two-ply fingering weight yarn.

Next up, I’m going to spin that rainbow of Corriedale on the Schacht-Reeves so that I can practice longdraw and spinning from the fold, which is my plan for the big Tour sweater-quantity spin. (Hopefully I can get to a good level of consistency in the next few weeks.) I’m going to split each bit of colour in half, then spin them on separate bobbins to be plied back together. If my spinning isn’t exactly even, that will lead to some good blending from one shade to the next.

(Then I’ll have to figure out what to do with ten ounces of rainbow yarn…)

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In my last installment of “As The Carder Turns” I was wondering how heavy I could make a batt, and the answer is 70 g (just under 2.5 ounces) of Corriedale. I really packed it on, and I’m really pleased with how it looks – even if my camera really has trouble accurately capturing pinks and purples.

“Wouldn’t it be neat, though,” I said to myself, “if I split this in half and carded a good amount of silk into it?” So I did, at least for one of the halves.

Of course, sending it through the carder several more times with a bunch of white silk muted and homogenized the colours. The next “wouldn’t it be neat, though…” is spinning each one and then plying them together!

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I have a glorious rainbow of Corriedale. 254 grams (9 ounces) should be enough for something fun!

I could make… hm….

A cowl? A scarf… maybe brioche! A slouchy hat (crochet or knit)? Maybe socks

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The folks in the Combo Spin team are telling me that I should probably have a full two pounds of fibre for a sweater spinning project, and that means I’m short by four ounces. So on Sunday I got out the drum carder and came up with this batt, in shades of pink with a little bit of green/yellow (that’s showing up as gray, unfortunately) and quite a bit of white alpaca – probably why the colour got so muted. It came out to 36 grams, just over an ounce and a quarter.

It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, so I decided I would just buy another braid of fibre in the right colours. Then I tried something completely different, experimenting with feeding the fibre directly onto the drum instead of sending it through the tray, and got this orange-to-purple gradient with layers of silk between each colour. Fortunately everything went on fairly straight, because I couldn’t figure out how to send it through for a second pass and maintain the layers of colour. I also got more fibre onto the drum; this batt is 48 grams (1.7 ounces).

Next I tried a left-to-right colour blend of four… well, let’s just say they might be the most overplayed colours of the moment, at least in the realm of athletic clothing for people with female-shaped bodies. (At least it’s easy to coordinate my outfit when I go to the gym, since I can only find clothes in these colours…) I let the big drum pull the fibre slowly out of my hands again, and put layers of silk in again. Then I stripped it off the drum, tore the colours apart, and sent it all through for a second pass to get a little more blending where each colour meets the next. This one is also 48 grams (1.7 ounces); I could have gotten more fibre onto the drum if I had had more of every colour, which I didn’t. Oh well.

After that I was curious how many grams of fibre I could fit onto the drum, and succeeded in making a 50g (1.75 ounces) batt of white alpaca. I think I could probably make an even heavier batt of something that’s less floofy and more dense. I’ll have to try that next, maybe with something that’s better to photograph than a cloudy white mass.

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Maryland Sheep and Wool was a lot of fun this year! I drove up with Caroline on Saturday morning and we met Laurie there. The three of us spent about six hours, minus fifteen minutes for lunch, walking around looking at everything! It wasn’t too crowded, probably because the forecast called for rain in the middle of the day but clear skies on Sunday. Indeed, we did get drizzled on a tiny bit, but not a lot. And there was a lot of mud on the ground; I was glad to have my boots. But because we did very little standing around and waiting, I didn’t get very many pictures.

I couldn’t resist pausing for these paintings, though – and later I got a good shot of their subjects.

And then there was the shopping. I went to the festival armed with lists of possibilities. On one hand, if I could find inexpensive DK-weight yarn, I could knit up some more of the colourwork hats that I have charted out. On the other hand, I was invited to join a “Combo Spin” team for this year’s Tour de Fleece, so I had noted down some of the coordinating colours of fibre already in my stash. Whichever I found first, I said, I would go with for the rest of the day.

It was the fibre, and it was the greens and pinks of a rose garden.

First I found some Ashland Bay merino/tussah in the “Autumn” colourway. Their dyed fibre in this blend is apparently being discontinued, so it was on sale and I bought eight ounces of it. I’m sad that it won’t be made anymore and I’m seriously considering looking around the internet to see if there’s any more at discount prices. Once it’s gone, it’s gone – and I really love Ashland Bay fibre. It may not have the prestige of being handpainted but it’s consistent, it drafts well, the colours are lovely, and it feels nice. Ah well.

Then I saw this FatCatKnits braid in “Ranchero,” on both a plain merino and a merino swirl base. After much deliberation, I went with the swirl, and I regret nothing.

My third buy was a Greenwood Fiberworks braid in merino/bamboo/silk called “Spice Market.” There were a few other colourways that would have worked, but I resisted buying them all.

I brought everything home and set it all up on the table with the two braids of fibre that had gotten me started down this road in the first place: Into the Whirled “Martini & Rossi” romney, and Cloverleaf Farm “Cranberry Bog” merino. I bought that merino nine years ago, before I was good enough to spin it, and I’m glad that it will finally be part of a project. But I thought the group needed something else… not just for quantity, but for the overall colour scheme, to keep it from being too dark.

This braid of Romney that Amabel gave me last year seems to fit in perfectly. I might card a few batts to bring the total up to two pounds, because I have a plan for (eventually) making a sweater from this pile of squishiness. (Also because I haven’t carded up a blended batt in a while, and it seems like a fun thing to do on this cool and windy day.)

So what’s a Combo Spin, anyway? The idea is that you take a bunch of fibre with one or two colours in common, split it up into many small pieces, and randomize the pieces to make a blend. Once it’s spun and plied, you end up with a mostly homogenized yarn that looks like it was all meant to be together. The colours get evenly distributed throughout the whole yarn, and the textures of the different fibres combine in really interesting ways. There’s a thread on the Ravelry forums with further explanations and examples, or you can check out this video.

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I was in the artsy-crafts store the other day and saw this ball of Sugar ‘n Cream in a new colourway that I just could not resist (Pebble Beach Ombre). And for $1.20, why should I? So I brought it home with me. At first I was going to make my usual washcloth pattern, but then I had the idea (perhaps inspired by mopping the floor) that I should come up with a textured stitch that would be useful as a washcloth, dishcloth, or re-usable mop pad. It came out so pretty that I wanted to share… so here it is. (It’s also on Ravelry if you prefer a pdf for your library.)

I started with a chain of 36 stitches and a US H / 5mm hook for a washcloth of about 10″ / 25 cm. Any even number of stitches to start will work just fine.

Scrubbing Nubbles Washcloth

Yarn: 1 ball Sugar ‘n Cream or other worsted weight cotton, 95 yards / 57 grams
Hook: US H / 5mm

Row 1: Chain 36. Skip the first chain and sc across (35 stitches). Chain 1, turn.
Row 2: (sc, tr) across, ending with sc. Chain 1, turn.
Row 3: sc across. Chain 1, turn.
Row 4: (tr, sc) across, ending with tr. Chain 1, turn.
Row 5: sc across. Chain 1, turn.

Repeat Rows 2 through 5 until the cloth is the size you like.

Optional hanging loop: When you reach the end of your final row, chain 15 off the corner, then sc back down the chain. Fold to create the loop and sl st to attach the end to the corner of the cloth. If you prefer a border on your washcloths, you can sc around the whole cloth, putting three sc into each corner (except for the one with the loop).

Fasten off yarn, weave in ends, and enjoy your new washcloth!

The texture is so neat that I took a giant picture of it. At 3658 x 2774, it could be used for phone/computer wallpaper. Feel free to download it here.

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