Archive for the “fiber” Category

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:

2016MDSW_fleece1

2016MDSW_fleece2

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:

2016MDSW_herding1

2016MDSW_herding2

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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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This is the official end of 2015 tallying-up post!


Incoming fibre:

None. Zero, zip, zilch. That took a lot of willpower!

Outgoing fibre:
4 ounces Bonkers merino-tencel, spun into 250 yards of two-ply
4 ounces Bullens Wullens merino-silk-bamboo, spun into 105 squooshy yards of chain-ply
4 ounces Rambouillet, spun up forever ago, finally chain-plied into 268 yards
quite a lot of mystery wool, spun longdraw, 922 yards of two-ply

12 oz plus however much mystery wool there is; I didn’t weigh it.

20150711_tdf15_plying


Incoming yarn:
1 ball Cascade 220 Superwash in gray (220)
2 balls Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed in Serpentine (294)
2 balls Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed in Peppercorn (294)

5 balls / 808 yards

Outgoing yarn:
1 ball Cascade 220 Superwash, Dave’s Hat (220)
.66 ball Lily Sugar & Cream in Pink Camo for a washcloth (100)
1 ball Knit Picks Andean Treasure for Stef’s Handwarmers (110)
1.5 balls Jo Sharp Classic DK wool for my own handwarmers (160)
2 balls Patons Kroy in Summer Moss Jacquard, sold (332)
2 balls “Starry Night” handspun given to Mom (256)
.33 ball Knit Picks Andean Treasure and half a ball each of gray and white Cascade 220 Superwash for Michael’s Bicolour Hat (37, 220)
2 balls Noro Silk Garden sock for the Rhinebeck Shawl (656)
1 skein handspun merino/silk for Mom to make a hat for Grandma (170)
2 balls Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed in Peppercorn, Michael’s new Fleeps (294)
1 ball Berroco Sox for a pair of mindless stockinette socks (440)
1 ball Loops & Threads Impeccable for the Such a Square afghan (192)

16.5 balls / 3187 yards

Plus, Dad gave me this awesome yarn bowl:
dad_yarnbowl1


The Year in Crafting:
I feel really good about my projects this year! I got a lot done. They’re all together on a 2015 Projects page.

Favourite project:
It was a tossup between the Bicolour Hat and this, but I gotta say… it’s the Schultertuch. I loved making it! I still don’t know when or how or where to wear it, but it’s gorgeous and I love just looking at it.

schultertuch_finished


Patterns Published:
Only one this year, the Carved Lines Armwarmers – I’m really happy with the shape of these! I have a bunch of ideas for new patterns too, including a colourwork hat that I charted out a few weeks ago, lacy socks, cabled socks, mittens… it’s a long list!

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I seem to be turning into one of Mom’s “enablers”. First, I gave her the Starry Night yarn, which was some of my early handspun, from which she knit a beautiful hat for herself. She took my leftovers from the twins’ sweaters to make hats for them, and the remains of the yarn I used for her gloves to knit a replacement for the one she’d misplaced (which is sure to turn up, now).

After Thanksgiving, she asked me if I had any handspun yarn that would be good for knitting a hat for Grandma – something neutral but not gray, something that would go with any colour coat. I dug through the stash and came up with something good… and then I realized that I’d never taken a picture of the yarn! So, to rectify that mistake, here is the original merino-silk blend of fibre from Lovesticks, in the colourway “Beyond the Garden Gate,” that I bought from another Raveler’s destash back in 2009:

Lovesticks Merino-Silk Blend

Here is the finished yarn, 170 yards of a three-ply that looks like a light worsted weight. It’s reasonably well-balanced, but almost certainly needs a bath before Mom can knit with it. I found a simple top-down hat pattern to be sure that she won’t run out of yarn before running out of hat, and I can’t wait to see the finished project! This is a win all around: I get yarn out of my stash, Mom gets to knit with my handspun, and Grandma gets a new hat that can be from both of us.

20151212_handspun

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Pictures of bobbin after bobbin of the same gray mystery wool are getting repetitive, so here’s the Rambouillet that I finished chain-plying just before the Tour de Fleece began:

zen_yarn_garden_rambouillet_plied

It came out to 268 yards of fingering-weight yarn that’s perfectly coordinated with my wood floor, and once again I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. Maybe it’s time to list some of these handspun skeins for sale, since my collection of them keeps growing.

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My weekend had no plans and nothing scheduled, so I got a lot of spinning done! First, I plied the first four bobbins of light grey onto two jumbo bobbins and skeined off about 350 yards of yarn. Then I finished spinning a second bobbin of medium grey. The fibre is drafting a little more smoothly now as I get towards the centre of the ball of roving, but there’s still a lot of neppiness which is leading to a “rustic” sort of yarn. I’m okay with that!

20150711_tdf15_plying

The jumbo Sonata bobbins aren’t quite large enough to hold all the plied yarn from two S-R bobbins, so I started filling them to only about 90%. These two on the right will be plied together for a marled look, as my ambitious plan for this sweater is to knit a gradient from light at the top to dark around the hem.

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I also managed to get out for a bike ride this weekend between the rain storms. It’s been so wet lately that the good mountain bike trails have stayed closed, so I took the road bike out for a twelve mile jaunt through the hills. The next few days are supposed to be very wet; I guess that means my workouts will be indoors until it dries out.

Today is a rest day for the Tour, but I might end up spinning anyway – or I might take the opportunity to catch up on the housework I’ve been neglecting!

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So far I’ve been averaging a bobbin-ful of the gray mystery wool every day! Yesterday I watched Stage Four, the one with the cobblestones, while finishing up the fourth bobbin. I found a little more wool in the same shade of gray, but the roving is much thinner than the first batch and it isn’t drafting well, so I set it aside. If I need it, I’ll spin it up later.

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I moved on to the next darkest shade of gray and was immediately annoyed by it. The lighter gray had some vegetable matter and a few lumpy, neppy pieces. This medium gray seems like it’s *all* lumps and neps. I’m hoping that it’s just the outside of the ball of roving with the problem, and that it will even out as I get more towards the inside. If it’s still really bad after two bobbins, I’ll set this colour aside too, and move on.

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It was a slog to get through, but I finished the Rambouillet project one day before the Tour de Fleece began! This project has been languishing for five years; I spun the singles for the 2010 TdF and then let them sit and sit and sit. My plan had been to chain-ply, and then I realized that the singles didn’t have enough twist for that. I moved on to thinking I would just finish them as-is, as a lightly fulled laceweight. Then I realized that I’d never actually knit anything with that yarn, and that what I really needed to do was add some more twist and go back to the original plan. That’s what I did, and it’s come out to 268 yards of light fingering weight… though I still don’t know what I’ll make with it.

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And then on Saturday, the Tour de France/Fleece began! My main project this year will be spinning for a sweater on the new Schacht-Reeves and plying on the Sonata’s jumbo bobbins, using several pounds of mystery wool roving that I got from my friend Josh a few years ago. I have four different natural colours, and I started with the lighter gray. I’m starting to get the hang of the longdraw, though some parts of the roving aren’t drafting as smoothly as others.

I had friends visiting for the long holiday weekend. On Sunday morning we watched part of Stage Two of the Tour with breakfast, then went out for a 12.5 mile bike ride in the hills. After everyone had gone home, I settled down to spin while watching 1776, one of my July 4th traditions (I was a day late, but that’s okay) and by the time I called it a night I was well into the third bobbin. I’m absolutely loving how the Woolee Winder just lets me spin and spin without fussing with hook changes, and the thicker yarn sure does spin up fast.

20150705_collage

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The blue merino/silk/bamboo that I started earlier this month is all spun up and wound off. Here it is showing off its lovely sheen before calling it a night and heading into a nice, warm, relaxing bath!

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I’ve had problems with my singles drifting apart when I chain-ply, so this time I thought I’d put in a little more twist. Well… it was a little too much, probably because I didn’t fully account for the fact that thicker singles need less twist in general, and as a result they had an obnoxious tendency to corkscrew up as the bobbin unwound. This made chain-plying tedious, as I had to stop after making each chain to assure that the singles were straight, unwind any corkscrews that had formed, hold everything taut, build up some twist, and let it all in at once before it could kink up again. If that doesn’t teach me to spin a little looser, I don’t know what will.

So the plying, which is never my favourite thing to do even when it goes well, took longer than I wanted it to. But it was worth the effort – it came out to just over 100 yards, and I’m rather pleased with the shiny, squooshy result. Spinning thicker was a good challenge, since my default is rather fine yarn, but many of my project ideas (mostly hats and armwarmers) would do better with a DK or worsted weight.

With this yarn checked off the to-do list, there’s just one more bobbin that needs to be plied in order to clear them all before the Tour de Fleece begins next weekend. I think I can, I think I can…

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Here we have the twenty-five yards of my very first attempt at a woollen longdraw, knit into a twenty-six stitch swatch. I started first on size 10.5 (6.5mm) needles, decided after a few rows that it was far too loose, and went down to size 9 (5.5mm) for the rest of it. That’s why the bottom of the swatch appears to be flaring out; it actually is slightly bigger! After deciding that the size 9s were just about right in terms of how the fabric felt, I experimented a little bit with a few cables and a little patch of seed stitch. I wanted to see how much definition I would get with the textures, and the answer is “very little.” I’m relieved, as if they’d stood out nicely I would be tempted to knit a cabled sweater! Instead, I can plan for plain stockinette with a bit of ribbing for shaping, which should be a quicker project.

longdraw_swatch

After the swatch had soaked and lightly blocked – just stretched into shape, no pinning – I measured 14 stitches to 4 inches, which puts the yarn solidly into the bulky/chunky range. The fabric isn’t next-to-skin soft, but that’s okay for the kind of sweater I’m thinking of knitting. I’d like to see if I can get down to more of a worsted weight yarn, though. More test-spinning and swatching will certainly be required! I have enough of this roving to do as much testing as I need, and still have plenty remaining.

The only issue (which isn’t really an issue) is that testing takes a lot of not-spinning time. Spin the singles and give them a day to rest. Ply them, soak them, and give them a day or two to dry. Knit the test swatch, block it, and then wait for *that* to dry. Meanwhile, the Tour de Fleece is starting in two weeks! I’ll need to know exactly what I’m spinning, if I want to make this roving into my TdF project. It’s looking like I’ll end up doing a bit of this, but also working on some of the pretty dyed top I have in the stash – which I won’t mind doing at all.

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I plied almost all of the rust-and-cream singles in one go on the new Schacht-Reeves. *Almost* all, partly because one bobbin ran out before the other, and partly because the plying bobbin was full. Then I evened out the remaining singles onto two bobbins so as not to lose those last few precious yards, plied that and spliced it into the first bit, and eventually counted off 250 yards of yarn when I skeined it.

rusty-shine1

After a soak and one or two thumps against the side of the bathtub for good luck, it settled into a soft, balanced yarn that’s just slightly thicker than fingering weight. There are one or two spots where the singles were overspun and I didn’t catch it in the plying, but I’m sure I can work around those when I come to them.

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The 50% tencel gives such a nice sheen, doesn’t it? 250 yards isn’t quite enough for a pair of socks, so perhaps this yarn might eventually become a pair of armwarmers instead. It’s been so hot lately that I’m having a hard time thinking about knitting cold-weather wear, but I do like to have ideas (vague as they might be) for my yarns.

I’ve started to chain-ply the blue merino/silk/bamboo singles, and I’m about a quarter of the way through that. After that’s done I’ll chain-ply the Rambouillet, and then the bobbins will be completely cleared for the start of the Tour de Fleece. My spinning plan for the Tour is starting to come together. It’s ambitious, but I’m looking forward to the challenge!

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