Archive for the “spinning” Category

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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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.

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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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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:

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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!

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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.

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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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