Archive for the “spinning” Category

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.


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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:


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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!


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.


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.


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.


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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A week and a half ago, I went up to Connecticut to check out a 30″ Schacht-Reeves wheel with a Woolee Winder and every size whorl, and I fell in serious like. It’s too soon to call it love, but I think we’ll get there! She came home with me and I set her up in the living room without too much trouble. Her crank had flexed by a millimeter or two in transport, which was causing one of the footmen to rub, but I was able to gently bend it back into place. She’s running smooth as silk now!


My next problem was finding the right kind of string in my stash to use for a driveband. I could swear that I had some #3 crochet cotton around, but it’s all disappeared, and the #10 is too fine. Eventually I went with some leftover Sugar ‘n Cream – it’s a little thicker than ideal, and it stretches annoyingly, but it works for now!

The wheel and I got further acquainted by plying the rust-and-cream singles, which almost matched up in length and almost entirely fit on the Woolee Winder. I adjusted that so it would wind more evenly, and decided to make use of the fast whorl to add more twist to some Rambouillet singles I’d spun up forever ago. My original plan had been to chain-ply those, but the singles didn’t have enough twist to stay together while plying. Frustrating! Then I’d thought to just wind off the singles and make a slightly fulled laceweight yarn, but that’s not the kind of thing I’m ever going to knit with. So, in not very much time at all, I ran ’em through the S-R and added twist where necessary. I’m glad I did, because some spots were really underspun and some were almost wiry-hard, and now everything is more even. I also got to test the Woolee Winder bobbin size and found that they have easily as much capacity as the ones for the Kromski – *and*, as a bonus, they fit on the Kromski’s tensioned lazy kate!


Once that was done, it was time to try actually spinning on her. I’ve heard that big double-drive wheels are supposed to be excellent for woollen longdraw, so I got out some of the mystery roving that my friend Josh gave me a few years ago. It took me a little while – and swapping out to the largest, slowest whorl – to get the hang of it, but I spun up 25 yards or so, plied it, wound it off, gave it a bath, thwacked it a few times against the side of the tub, and laid it out to dry. It’s more even than I had expected! I can’t wait for it to be fully dry so I can knit a swatch. If all goes well, my plan is to knit a handspun sweater for myself, though I think I might want a slightly thinner yarn than what I’ve made here. I have four colours of the mystery roving (white, two shades of gray, and a chocolate brown) and just under a pound of each colour. That should be more than enough! I may make that into my Tour de Fleece project, though I’m still tempted to spin lots of pretty colours – I suppose I could do both and switch off…

In keeping with my theme of naming wheels for qualities on which I’d like to meditate while spinning, I’m leaning towards calling her “Persistence.” What do you think?

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While I was letting the rust-and-cream singles rest prior to plying, this blue blend leaped out at me and demanded to be spun. It’s 50% merino, 25% bamboo, and 25% tussah silk from Bullen’s Wullens, which I bought at MDSW back in 2010. That’s not the oldest fibre in my collection, sad to say, but I’ve gone through what I have and made rough plans for it – which fibres I can coordinate, which should be spun on their own, vague ideas of how to spin and ply, and possibly even what kind of project I might want to knit up with the finished yarn.


I challenged myself to spin a slightly thicker single than I usually do, with the intent of chain-plying to make a light worsted weight yarn so I wouldn’t have to worry about splitting into three equal parts or having any left over. Chain-plying isn’t my favourite thing to do, but then again, *plying* isn’t my favourite part of spinning, so… Anyway, I got out my trusty Spinner’s Control Card and got to work, stopping every few metres at first to double-check that I wasn’t reverting to my usual thin singles.


It seems to be working! I’m about 2/3 of the way through the fibre now, as a rough estimate. Rather than let the full length of the top drag around on the ground, I made a crochet-style chain of it using my fingers. As I spin, the next bit of chain pops free.

Spinning slightly thicker is a challenge – I should see if I can do a reasonably balanced worsted single, yikes – but I think this one is coming out nicely. It’s got a lot of twist, which should make a nice bouncy yarn. I’m excited to see what it looks like after it’s plied and washed!


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