Archive for the “spinning” Category

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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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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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.

sheepishcreations_merino-bamboo-nylon1

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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