Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Friday, December 31, 2004

What's in Your Resolution

To keep the list from getting too detailed and therefore overwhelming, I limited myself to a five minute jotting of what I'd like to do this next year.

Make a sweater on the knitting machine
Make charity blankets (warm up america) on knitting machine

Try several things on the triangle loom
Regular shawl with commercial yarn
Regular shawl with hand spun yarn
Felted shawl with handspun wool
Blanket with wool locks (two triangles)

Work through the knitted squares in the Great Aran afghan book

Locate and buy Barbara Walker treasury books (I have one volume already)
Read Barbara Walker non knitting books from library

Go to the main library more often! (great collection of needlecraft books)

Wash four complete fleeces and document spinning of those fleeces

Write comprehensive article on doing the breed sampler
Research any breeds missing from sampler

Finish daughter's cotton sweater
Start sweater for me in handspun

Felted cat cuddler in handspun

Play with beaded tapestry crochet design idea

Sewing projects
Tree skirt with exchange blocks
Blocks for floral spring exchange
Scrappy quilt top
Corduroy slacks for me


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Machine Knit scarves

A sampling of the 18 scarves I made on my knitting machine.

OK, so they are basic, not fancy and acrylic. Still, they were welcomed by everyone that got one for Christmas, and I had lots of fun feeling productive. I used the thin yarn my standard machine needs, knit them twice as wide as needed and doubled the scarve longways and sewed a seam. I left the ends open but once I had turned the scarf inside out, I closed the ends with the fringe.

I am still at the base of the learning curve on my knitting machine, and I get frustrated everytime I try something new. These scarves gave me a project that required no new learning, gave me the fun of seeing the yarns I bought turn into cloth and satisfied my need to give handmade gifts to my husbands large family.

Machine knitting is deceptive though. One thinks a project can be whipped out in a fraction of the time it takes to do by hand, which is true. What a knitting machine does not do, is cut the finishing time on that project. It takes just as much time to finish a machine knitted item as it does a hand knitted one. I think my knitting and spinning buddies thought I was going to be putting fringe on scarves till the day after Christmas, it was my constant project over the month of December meetings.

Still the finish work is what makes the project look good and it is worth the time in the long run. When I had all 18 scarves all washed, fringe trimmed and a final pressing, folded up and ready to wrap, they looked great.

I really need a challenging project now on the knitting machine. I have the time and no pressure of gifts to give. I think I need to paste a picture of these scarves by the knitter, just to keep the enthusiam they created into the next project.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004


We have said in our spinning group that every woman needs a tiara. So for Christmas, I made one for everyone!

I have discovered that in the world of machine embrodery there is someone that sells just about anything digitized for sewing. Several months ago I found a source for sewing out these freestanding embroidered tiaras.

I started these on a whim, as a joke for my spinning buddies. As I worked on them though, I found I really enjoyed seeing the tiaras develope, and had fun digging through my stash of ribbon and shiny stuff to decorate them.

The tiara itself is sewn onto a stiff water dissolvable plastic called Romeo. It is put in the hoop, the software for the tiara design transferred from my computer to my Pfaff machine, and then sewn out with shiny embroidery thread. After the stitching is done, I could pull away the big pieces of Romeo, and then soak the tiara in hot water until the Romeo between the design areas dissolved. This left the embrodery stiff and if I propped them up in a curved arrangement while they dried, the fit the curve of an ordinary headband. I glued ribbon to the headband, and then lashed the tiara to the headband with more ribbon. The final touch was to glue 'jewels' on spots that the embrodery widen to allow just such decoration.

Everyone was very pleased with their tiara. The fushia one went to Anita, who will now forever be called the Knitting Goddess (she does know just anything you want to learn about knitting). The green one went to Theresa, our gardening goddess. The black and silver went to my once goth daughter, now fantastic knitter. One is a very pale silver, that went to Viki, our spinner of cobweb (I thought silver was like spider web in the morning). And finally to the center of the fiber universe, Annie, a white one, which she promptly had to hand over to her future heir and daughter, the princess. Maybe she will get it back, while the princess sleeps.


Monday, November 29, 2004

A Picture worth many words

About three months worth of spinning

I could just leave it at that, but well I have never been one to post a picture without saying something about it!

The lincoln and shetland were samples given to me by various spinning buddies. The color in the photo is not true, the bottom shetland is a lovely gray. So is the angora next to it, in fact they almost match exactly in gray coloring. I have no plans for the shetland and lincoln, I think the small skeins like that will eventually be put in the aran afghan that I have plans to knit.

I have no plans for the angora, I probably will sell that skein. The black welsh mountain was spun with the plans of being knit into a felted bag, with needle felted flower design on the side. The mystery fiber (CVM?) is very slubby and I have not really decided if I will do anything more than maybe make a square for the ongoing warm up American afghan that my knit group works on all the time.

The alpaca is of enough yardage of the same color that I could get a shawl from it. I have to swatch and decide just what type of shawl I want to make. I am still considering whether to dye that yarn or not, it will depend on what pattern I finally pick.


Recent machine knitted project

I just knit this last Friday and Sat, and crocheted the edging at my knit group on Sunday. I really like the drape, and feel of this blanket. It surprised me since I was mainly selecting the yarn for the fact it was thin enough to work with the standard machine, and was a non pink or blue color, since the recipient is not going to know the sex of the baby until birth.

Here's a link to Elann's site to show you the yarn. It is in the color rock candy.

I always learn more with each project I knit on my machine. This was the first project I worked with yarn not on a cone. I know why machine knitters prefer coned yarn. I could get 50 rows from one ball of yarn, and believe me, 50 rows can go fast, and all of the sudden you may or may not notice you are out of yarn. If you don't notice, the knitting machine zips your stitches off the needles and the project falls to the floor. I took to watching the yarn in the feeder very very closely for just that reason. It's worth the effort for a very lovely yarn, however if one can find a very lovely yarn on a cone it is all the better.

I used five balls of yarn. I made the blanket 180 stitches wide and 250 rows long. My tension was loose at 9 on the carriage and +2 on the mast. I used a half of a ball to do crochet edging around the blanket. The edging consisted of a row of single crochet, a row of double and a final row of single. Nothing fancy, but it served to stop the edges from rolling. I washed and threw the blanket into the dryer on low heat, and it came out ready to use. No pressing, which is very impressive for a stockinette stitched blanket.

The picture is not that great, but the blanket turned out better than my expectations.

Machine knit baby blanket in Microfiber

My current project on the knitting machine is an acrylic scarf for everyone in my family for Christmas. I have 10 knit up, washed and pressed. I still need to sew the scarves together in half long ways, to make a doubled fabric. And I have 8 more to knit.


Time Flies

And that must mean I have been having fun.

I literally took a break from the computer for most of the months of Sept and Oct. I did get to read blogs about once every two weeks. And there is always email, and the occasional fiber group that I remain active and receive their mail.

But the outside chores are done now, and I find I now am spending my typical 2 hours or more online. Sometimes I am just playing those darn addicting computer games. Sometimes I am reading blogs or live journals. And I am going to try and get back into blogging more now too.

It's been a nice break, and it's nice to be back. I still like the idea of a photo and written journal of my fiber work. I feel by taking this break I did lose some of the daily tidbits and will only be able to update some of the highlights.

Meanwhile, the baby bunnies have been growing and are now a month old.

Month old and surprisingly still in the basket, although I had to snap the photo fast.

There is a fourth bunny, and it is definately a runt. I am sure it is the one that was out of the nest over 24 hours. I am not sure that it will make it. It is literally half the size of it's siblings, and I feel that may mean it is not able to compete for food. I do not want to remove it from the mom just yet, it may be only getting it's nourishment from her. And it needs the warmth of it's sibs now that it is in the 40's in the barn. So time will tell. It looks just like the one in the front of the basket in the picture, only half the size.


Thursday, November 04, 2004

Everyone say AHHH

Pepper's babies, 10 days old

If you want to know the story about these baby bunnies, read the post below this.


Friday, October 29, 2004

And Then There Were Four

This is a bunny tale. However, it is not a fiber bunny tale. At then end of September, we received a phone call from my sister in law, asking if we could adopt a rescued rabbit. Since I have empty cages in my barn, and it is really not a problem feeding 16 rabbits instead of 15, I said yes. The "oh by the way" turned out to be they thought the doe had been bred. It was not really clear how they had decided this, but she was given the information that if the rabbit was pregnant, it was probably due around Oct 15th.

So I got the bunny settled into a cage, and held her now and then and she seemed to be settling in just fine. She's an unknown breed to me, I will have to get a picture posted and see if I can find out if she is a specific breed. Right now, she is just one of those lovely little pet rabbits a short haired, silver with black tips on her fur.
Around the expectant date, I gave the rabbit several big handfuls of straw. She promptly went into nest making mode, something I never get tired of watching. The doe will go through the straw, almost piece by piece, picking up certain ones in her mouth. More and more gets added to the mouthful, until eventually she goes to look for a place to put it. This involves hopping around from corner to corner of the cage, sticking her face down like she is trying out the straw for size. Eventually she makes a nest out of this process.

As much as I would love to watch this all day, I had to go to work, and I left her in the process of nest building, expecting baby bunnies in a day or two.

Or three, or four, or five....by the time five days past the due date had gone by, I decided she had just been spoofing me, and was not really pregnant. She dismantled the nest, ate some of the hay, chewed on the plaster board I had set under the nest, and basically just acted like a typical bored bunny.

So it was with surprise on Sunday night, Oct 24th that my husband announced when I walked in from work, that I had to get out to the barn. At first, with a few geriactric bunnies in the barn, I thought one had passed away. Oh no was his reply with a twinkle in his eye. It was then I knew, she hadn't been spoofing at all, but had had nothing with which to build a nest! My husband informed me that when he had gone out to feed that night, he saw lots of fur in her cage. Then looking down on the ground below the cage, he saw a baby bunny. It was warm, dry and had a full tummy. Searching again thoroughly, he found two more under the cage. In all of her dismantling of the nest, she had moved the solid boards, and in all of her trying to rebuild the nest, the babies had dropped through the wire. We were very lucky that it had probably not been all that long that the babies had dropped out of the cage. So we got the cage all arranged, the babies on the board, the fur around the babies, and gave her more hay. I saw her gently place hay on top of the babies and felt sure she knew where they were and would take care of them. I am still dismayed that she would not use the five gallon bucket attached to the cage for the nest. All of my angoras have instintctly used the bucket for a nest, but this bunny wanted the one corner of the cage from day one, and I worked it out so she could have the nest there.

Three babies. Oh I didn't care that they are not my fiber type bunny, a baby bunny is adorable no matter what breed. I went to bed smiling that night.

Monday I was off for the day. I went out in the late morning and checked on the nest, and they were snug and warm. I didn't disturb them much, and went about all of my day off chores. Later in the evening I went out to actually feed all the rabbits, and check again. As I was opening the feed can (I keep the 50 lbs in a metal trash can) I looked down on the floor beside the can, and there was a baby bunny! On the floor! At first I thought one had gotten out of the nest, but it was very far from the nest, we are talking at least 10 feet from directly under the nest and on another level of barn floor. Astondingly it was still moving. I picked it up and it was very cold, but I immediately took it inside and warmed it up in my hands for awhile. In a matter of minutes it was squeaking away and trying to nurse on my thumb. After about 20 minutes I felt it was warm enough to join the others in the nest. It only took a quick head count of those in the nest to discover that this was an additional bunny, and that it had amazingly been out of the nest for 24 hours and was still alive. So Then There Were Four.

I am happy to report the mother accepted this new arrival, because the next morning I picked each bunny up to inspect them, and they all are fat and thriving. I can not even tell if one will be a runt, from this experience. But time will tell, as they grow. Unfortunately, all four bunnies are the exact same coloration, there is not going to be any way to tell which one was the lucky well travelled bunny. If I could, I would name it Peter, for the others, all looking exactly alike, have to be Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail.


Saturday, October 23, 2004

Classes at SOAR

My first class Friday morning was Making Your Old Wheel do New Tricks (which had many other versions suggested for the same class, like making your new wheel do old tricks). This was taught by Maggie Casey. Although she stated in her introduction that she was quite willing to take a hammer to a wheel if necessary, I seriously doubt that would become necessary under her skillful hands. She knows many wheels, inside and out. The class of eleven all gathered with their wheels, and in introductions stated just what problems they had been having with the wheel. I took my Haldane, a wheel I have had for two years, and that I only seemed to be able to spin sock weight 2 ply yarn on it. I wanted to learn if it was indeed the wheel’s limitation, or my not understanding the wheel’s potential. I use this wheel all the time as my travel wheel, like for my Tuesday night spinning group. It fits so nicely in the front floorboard of my car, and is light enough for me to carry with one hand.

The first thing we did was to take the bobbin and flyer off for a good cleaning. None of the wheels there had too much wear on the shafts, but if there was it was suggested that a light rub with a very fine steel wool or green scrubber pad would help. We also used a rig-up by Maggie to clean inside the bobbins. She took a heddle from a loom and tied just short and narrow pieces of cloth on one end. This could then be pulled though the bobbin to clean out the inside. She said she got the idea from watching a gun being cleaned. The rag on the end does make it a tight fit going through the bobbin but that does give it a good cleaning.

Other areas to clean were where the bobbin rests. I had always thought I was cleaning and oiling the wheel, but even I found one spot (one end where the shaft fits into a leather hole) that I hadn’t cleaned and a Q-tip removed a big build up of dirt.

And then we all oil everything, and were given hints as to whether our particular wheel needed oil in certain spots or not. Some wheels have the areas encased and so do not need oil. Others like mine benefit from oil on the actual wheel and shaft, and at the footman and treadle joint.

Next we talked about drive bands. Some drive bands were replaced on some wheels. Mine is a double drive, and probably could have been replaced, however the driveband on it right now is nicely sewn with a whip stitch, and we all agreed it was better to leave that alone until I really felt it being too loose. After discussing the condition of our drivebands, Maggie went into the different types of drives. The double drive band is the most traditional and most efficient. It allows yarn to wind on by the slippage method. The single drive allows the yarn to wind on by stalling the bobbin. And the Irish or Indian head tension, allows the yarn to wind on by stalling the flyer. This is all a bit over my head, however my fingers know the difference. I have a wheel of each type (and that was luck, I did not plan it that way) and have to change how I spin with each one.

We learned how to count the ratios on our flyers. You do this by putting a brightly colored yarn on a hook of your flyer. Then you slowly turn your big wheel one complete revolution and count the number of times the colored yarn goes over the top. I found out my Haldane had one ratio of 8 to 1 and another of 9.5 to 1. Not a big difference, and when I pondered outloud why there would be such a little bit of difference, Maggie replied, it just looks prettier with two ratios Well, in truth I knew the wheel was ratio challenged when I bought it, I only really wanted it for it’s overall size. One useful thing to remember, when dealing with a wheel with many ratios, is that a larger whorl =slower=less twist. Or the reverse, the smaller the whorl=faster=more twist.

Once we had given our wheels a good going over, we all started spinning. First just whatever type yarn was our habitual spinning. Then using what we had learned about drives and ratios, we worked on spinning finer. And later, doing the opposite, spinning fat yarn.

Maggie's whole point was that so many of us long time spinners learned on a very limited wheel (like the Ashford traditional) made back in the 70's. We taught our fingers how to make the type of yarn we wanted. The wheels being made today are highly engineered, and so we need to learn to let the wheel spin the type of yarn we want, not our fingers. For those in my class with the newer wheels it was very informative. My little old Haldane, is still only going to make very fine yarn if I control the process with my fingers. However, by having it in much better working position, I was able to spin much finer than sock yarn and I was very pleased with the resulting yarn samples.

There was so much more information in the class, I can only hit on the highlights here. And to be honest, if it didn't relate to my wheel, I only listened halfway, and wouldn't trust my memory now. Let me just say I highly recommend taking a class with Maggie, if you want to make the most of your wheel.

Combing class

I honestely have never seen so many combs in one place at one time! The teacher, Robin Russo had a variety of types (and I will not try and list each type, my memory would not guarantee that I get that right) and provided washed fibers for sampling. She had a lovely notebook page made up, with a space to write the fiber type, and
holes punched so you could attach the yarn sample. Yes she had us spin a sample of yarn, not much, maybe a yard or so, from every fiber we combed.

I have two sets of combs, the large Indigo Hound 5 pitch, which I did not take, and a handheld set of Forsythe 2 pitch. The class was listed as making the most of your hand held combs, so that was what everyone used. Robin had some larger combs mounted to a table for demo and for a few to try if they had not experienced working with them.

Robin was very insistent about using specific combs for specific types of fibers. In general, the number of rows of teeth determine how quickly the fiber can be processed. The diameter of the teeth determine what kind of fiber can be used on that comb. The length of the teeth will determine how much fiber the comb will hold.

She had samples of three types of wools so the class could see and feel the difference. She used a border leicester for the coarse wool, a romney for the medium type of texture and California variegated mutant (CVM) for the fine wool. All were lovely samples, and she suggested we split what we combed and spin into yard samples of bulky, sport and fine. I used a drop spindle for my sampling, it's just so much faster to spin up some, and let it self ply back on itself. Since I was using a lightweight spindle, trying to get bulky samples was hard. But I certainly enjoyed spinning super fine samples from the wonderful combed top, especially with the very fine CVM wool.

She also had a selection of exotic fibers, angora, mohair and alpaca. We combed each separately and made our sample yarn.

The most fun was getting into blends. She had lovely little bags of dyed silk, mohair locks, angora and white cormo. She had written suggestions of blends, like silk/angora or mohair and wool. I love combing mohair. It just burst into the shiniest top, and glowed with color. The cormo was too short in staple to really work with the very long locks of mohair so we were give coopworth instead. It was a good lesson to see that the staples of the fibers being blended need to be close in length.

That reminds me of an important point I learned, especially working with mohair. She had combing milk, and also plain olive oil and just plain water available and encouraged us to dampen the fiber slightly before combing. Her comment was if it use to have oil in the fiber use the oils, if not use the water. So no oils for the non lanolin
exotics, just water. I have been quilty of combing without that step and I got to experience the difference it makes. It really made the fiber manageable to have it just slightly damp.

I also have to report that I combed every single fiber on my Forsythe 2 pitch without a single bit of problems. The only fiber I had just a touch of problems with was the angora (and me the angora raiser! but I generally card my angora not comb it) The biggest problem I had with the angora was instead of wanting to fly all over, like it
usually does, I got it too damp and it stuck to my fingers

I also got to see Robin demo a set of Russian paddle combs. Oh now those are very nice! I think because they have so many close set teeth the colors are blended beautifully and compared to my wide set teeth on the Indigo viking combs, the top coming off those russian combs was very lovely and very fine.

I think that hits on most of the highlights of the class. If you have a chance to take a class with Robin, I would give a thumbs up for you to do so.

Tapestry crochet
Elaine Benfatto

This is going to be a hard class to describe. It really would be good if at this point you click on Elaine’s name and link and go to her blog to see pictures of some of her work in this technique. You will have to go back in time to her entries sometime around Aug or so.

I can not begin to try and tell you just how to do the technique especially if you are not familiar with crochet in the first place. Elaine had a good teaching challenge, with various levels of crocheting skills among her students. I was impressed with one teaching aide she used, a very thick yarn and a crochet hook about the size of Texas (well, you know what I mean) The students all sat on one side of tables, so that we all faced inward. She sat in the middle of the tables, and would demonstrate what she was saying with the fat yarn and hook. Made it very easy to see without all crowding around her. She also spent most of the class checking and working with each one of use individually.

What makes tapestry crochet so unique is that you work with two colors, making designs. You only crochet with one color at a time, and the other color is hidden under the bars of the color you are using. This makes a very stiff fabric, so much so, that if you make upright circles or squares, you get crochets bottles or boxes. And since the unused color is hidden, the project is completely reversable, or if not reversed, at least very usable without strands of color running on the back side.

Crochet makes a specific shaped stitch too, that will not work with regular knit patterns. So for designs, Elaine has researched Indian beading work, in particular the brick stitch. These tend to fit the crochet stitch better. So many of the designs are very Indian in motif.

I picked up the technique quickly but found it difficult for a number of reasons. First I had to relearn how to hold my crochet hook. I have always held my hook like I hold a pencil to write. This technique requires more of a stabbing into the work below it, especially if you work in the very fine cotton yarns and tiny crochet hooks. It is easier if the hook is held in an overhand method, your hand is on top of the hook, thumb on the left side of the hook, pointer finger on top and the other three fingers to the right side.

Another new skill needed is to tension two colors at the same time with your non hook hand. It is not necessary to do this, but just like working two colors in knitting, it goes quicker if one does not need to drop and pick up colors all the time. Dropping each color produces twists. Elaine has worked up a ‘path’ so that both colors are wrapped on your non hook hand, and the hook travels in and out of the colors. This way, no twist is developed, and one does not have to stop and realign the yarns all the time.

I could not get this technique into my fingers in just the class time. But I think given some time to work with it at home, I will be able to develop the needed skill.

Time flew by in this class, as we all worked on a small bag. I got mine about 2/3 done, and changed colors several times. I also worked on putting a triangle in as a design, because it is important to be able to see just where the color changes in the decreases to make a nice looking motif. This will be true of any design motif used, even following a chart it will be necessary to know when to pick up the new color and when to return to the background color.

There has been just a little bit written about this technique, so it really is an exciting new area to develope as more and more of us learn the technique.

Spinning with Spindles

I thought there were a great number of hand combs in that class, but it didn’t compare to the variety of spindles spread out in Andrea Mielke’s spindling class. She had done a fantastic job of gathering just about any type of spindle imaginable.

I think most of us in the class already knew how to spin on a spindle. Like me, most in the class had a particular type of spindle that had given them a hard time and were there to maybe pick up hints and tips for that.

So most of the class was made up of talking about each type, and what makes a good one in that particular class of spindles. She had spent time to create a very informative handout to take with us, a written reminder for those of us that by the fourth class of SOAR, now had overloaded brains.

The first thing I learned is that drafting for a spindle really is different than drafting for a spinning wheel. For successful spinning with a spindle one often has to be able to manipulate and draft the fiber supply with just one hand. Those of us use to a spinning wheel quickly discovered what a change this is, when we played with the most basic of spinning techniques, the hooked stick and fiber rolled on our laps. I also noticed that Andrea was holding her fiber differently, not pinched between the thumb and pointer finger, but pinched with the thumb and back two fingers (little finger and ring finger). The fiber supply was tucked between her pointer and middle finger. This feels very foriegn to my fingers that are use to the inchworm pinch method of spinning wheel spinning.

After we played with the hooked stick and trying to draft with one hand, we went on to construct a simple spindle by putting either a toy wheel, or CD's on the stick. She had these prepared before class so it was a simple matter to just slide them in place. We talked about the top whorl and bottom whorl, and how the leaders are placed for each and the yarn is wound on after spinning to create the cop.

Now we were ready to spin. All of us of course went right to our most comfortable way to spin (top whorl for me) but were encouraged to try different ways. So I slid my CD's to the bottom of my spindle and spent the rest of the class getting use to the feel of a bottom whorl. It really was nice in the lightweight CD style spindle. My only previous experience was with the very heavy wooden spindles that are so common for bottom whorl.

As we spun, Andrea showed us several 'tricks' to just make spindle spinning easier on your body. One is to spin horizontal to your body, so you are drafting out and away instead of up and away. The second was a tip for when the spindle reached the floor. Instead of leaning over and picking it up to wrap the yarn on, she wraps the yarn around some fingers of her drafting hand, bringing the spindle up to her! Then grab the spindle with the non drafting hand and wind on as usual. So simple, and yet so hard to remember to do!

The rest of the class was demonstrations of the different types of spindles, and a chance for us to try any that we wanted. I finally learned how a turkish spindle comes apart so the cop can be removed (shaft pulls up and out and then each 'arm' pulls out, leaving the cop). She demonstrated spinning with the Navajo spindle, and I spent some time trying that. It looks deceptively easy and is not. I could not keep the spindle spinning evenly with just a roll on my thigh. I could not keep it up and away from my thigh to let it continue spin. It all has to do with the spinner putting tension on the fiber/yarn to control where the spindle goes, and like any other of our fiber pursuits, takes practice to learn.

The same was true for any supported spindle I tried. When she sat and spun coton on a tiny Akha spindle she made it look so easy. The spindle kept going, the fiber flowed effortlessly out of her fingers, and the tiny cotton thread just flowed. I could not even keep the spindle going :) So it will be lots of practice for me. But that is not really surprising. One of the first things we teach to someone trying to learn on a wheel, is just treadle the wheel until they can make it do what they want. I need to just spin the spindles until that skill in is my fingers.

I think what I enjoyed the most about the class is just actually seeing all of the variations that have been created to spin yarn in a very portable way. Every culture has their own version, every woodworker their own designs, every inventor their own attempt to create the perfect spindle. It was fascinating to be able to examine these examples closely and even give them a whirl if I wanted.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

SOAR detailed report

Our drive to SOAR was beautiful. Good thing too, since it took over 14 hours! I did not realize that Pennsylvania was set up with a big city on its western border, and one on it’s eastren and little in between. We drove a straight as an arrow route 80 right through the middle of the state.

The colors on the trees were not quite peak, but were still quite showy. I noticed the fact that there were trees with leaves a true red. That is very different than my area, where we get russets and maroons, but not true reds.

As usual for me, I arrived at the very last moment. The welcome for the retreat people was just starting. After introductions of the Spin Off staff, they then asked each of the teachers for the classes to be offered to say a few words, starting with what fiber animal they would be. Some of the comments were great. And every teacher gave a glowing report of what their class would be like, that I became undecided about which one to take. I thought I had it all solved before I left home, but after hearing the introductions, I wanted to take them all!

The sign up for classes was a well controlled chaos. Everyone had been given a colored slip of paper. All the blues sat in one section, all the yellows etc. Then a random color was called and that group got to go to sign up sheets set up on big tables in the room. Each class was being offered four times, twice on Friday and twice on Saturday. So your group went up a total of four times, signing up for your first choice then second choice etc. That part was easy, deciding what would be my choices was hard! And just to make everyone’s boredom easier, while waiting their turn, the SOAR staff gave away lovely door prizes.

I will give a description of the classes later. Let’s roll onward with just the extracurricular activities.

Thursday evenings dinner broke us into the routine. The dining room was set up with large tables, and you just chose one to sit. There was a menu printed for that day, and after being helped along but those that had been there for several days, we told the waiter which meal we were choosing from a selection of seven. A lovely appetizer was at each place, and after dinner you could go to a dessert table that was just decedent. Yes I ate dessert every night

After dinner, there was a fashion show. This was a very informal show, although it did have the category requirement of something to wrap around you. So there were scarves, lovely fine spun shawls and more of intricate patterns. There was even a boa, with a felted snake head at the end.

They had packed even more into the evening by offering a talk by Judith MacKenzie with slides, but I was truly weary by then, and went to my room to bed.

The next two days fell into the pattern of breakfast, first class, lunch (with drawings for more doorprizes), second class, meet my hubby at the bar for happy hour, dinner and then settling into a group somewhere to spin. The market was open now and then, and many folks shopped. I waited and went shopping Friday evening. At that time they were drawing names for doorprizes and you had to be present to win. So that’s when almost all of us went shopping. It wasn’t crowded though, as most had already done most of their buying and where just socalizing around the door.

It was fun to shop at vendors new to me. I go to many fiber fairs in my area, but the vendors stay the same. SOAR was giving me the chance to shop from some of the New England vendors. I purchased a pound of colored blue face leicester roving, it is a deep chocolate color and very soft. I bought 6 oz (all that was left of the color I liked) of a merino/silk dyed roving. That roving seemed to be a favorite of many of the spinners, and the teachers often had some for use in their class. I got a silvery/purple color. I also bought two 4 oz hanks of roving of a merino/tencel blend that I think I like even better than the merino/silk. It has a better shine to it. It will be interesting to spin. And last of all I bought a flicker card to use to clean my drum carder, or to flick locks from Strauch. And he had a tiny little hand card, it looks just like it belongs on a christmas tree as an ornament. What it really is for is to clean out your hand cards. I thought it was just great, and it now resides in my little bag that has my bottle of spinning oil too.

And best of all, while shopping, my name was called and I won a lovely door prize, a pound of dyed polworth top, from Rovings. Lovely fall colors of oranges, gold, red and browns.

I managed to get to the gallery three times during the weekend. It wasn’t that it was so big, that it needed that much time. I just went when I had a few minutes to enjoy again all of the beautiful things on display. The variety was amazing, as well as the creativity and technical skill. It was all set in a small library which just added to the cozy feeling of all of those wonderful scarves, shawls, sweaters, hats, wallhangings, rugs, oh my the list is endless. I have set myself the life goal of having something wonderful that I have made in a SOAR gallery sometime.

SOAR ended on Saturday night with the big spin in. The common rooms at Pocono Manor were large and full of windows. It was such a joy to sit in a class and look out over those colorful hills, and it was amazing to walk into a room Saturday night and see circle after circle of spinners with the wheels flying. Laughter abounded, flashbulbs flashed, winners of doorprizes whooped, and in the quieter moments lovely music was provided by harp and flute. I didn’t take my wheel that night, but sat and spun with a spindle.

Sunday was the long drive home, and I spent most of my non driving time knitting on the cotton sweater I am making for my daughter. I am finally seeing some progress on it! It’s not hand spun but yarn purchased from Elann. By Sunday I think my fingers were ready for something other than spinning. It didn’t last long though, because by Monday afternoon, while taking a break from laundry, I went right back to doing some spinning.


Friday, October 15, 2004

Consolidating some of the past blog entries

I know I have the Sheep breed notebook information in several entries over the last years, so here is a listing of the dates. Just click on the archive on the side bar to get to the right month.

Breed notebook (past to recent)

Oct 14 2003 Breed Notebook part 1
Mar 12 2004 Rare Breeds part 1
Mar 19 2004 Rare Breeds part 2
June 11 2004 Working with Rambouilette
Sept 22 2004 Breed notebook
Sept 25 2004 Rare breeds
Non rare breeds

You really do not have to read them in order.

Also posts relating to washing fiber at home:

Oct 17 2003 Net bag washing fleece
Sept 14 2003 Washing cormo locks

Now you don't have to wade through all of my other posts to find these entries!


Saturday, September 25, 2004

Breed Notebook Notes, Rare Breeds

This post completes the samples that I have purchased of rare breed fibers. The first post with additional breeds can be found in the March 2004 archives.

Rare breed Status: Rare

The sample were long loose locks of washed wool. The color changed dramatically on the lock, going from deep black at the root, to white at the tip. Most of the lock was a lovely silver gray color. To me the fiber looked like Lincoln, but with a softer hand.

Combing: What I observed while combing was that the locks were splitting about halfway along the length of the lock. Half of the lock would end up on one comb, and the other half on the second comb. The fiber never would completely transfer from one comb to the other. I tugged on a lock and the same thing happened, so unfortunately this particular sample must have had a break in the fleece. And even though the combs went easily through the fiber, when it came time to pull top off the combs, it was difficult, and would only come off in what seemed like short stapled fiber.

Carding: This fiber is so much like Lincoln, I could not help but compare it to Lincoln as I was carding. Karakul seemed easier to card than Lincoln and the batt had more intregrity to it, unlike Lincoln that just seem to want to fall apart. Also, the karakul fiber blended better since all of the locks opened and were carded. When I carded lincoln, I had lots of little curls in the batt that did not open during carding.

Combed top: This spun into a nice smooth yarn, but I could not use any kind of drafting except a very short draw. The yarn was very slippery, and I found I was really pinching tight to keep the twist out of the fiber supply. The fiber felt rough on my fingers as I was spinning. My sample skein is only 5 yards at 11 WPI and is very twisted, showing that I still overspun the yarn.

Carded batts. Much nicer to spin, which just a regular drafting speed. The yarn is a lofty but scratchy 15 yard skein, at 11 WPI.

Leicester Longwool

This washed sample was a lovely light silver color with tan tips. The locks were long and very open with little crimp.

This must have been one of the first samples of the pack that I worked with, because it was all carded before I started taking notes. So I really did not get a combed sample, and now that I know about lock spinning, I would have tried to save some locks for that method too. As it was I only had carded batts to spin.

Carded batts: I am sure carding is not the best way to handle this type of fiber, although the batts were nicely carded and lofty. The yarn is a lovely tweed color, but the texture of the yarn makes it unusable for any type of clothing. My sample skein of 2 ply was 15 yards that measured 9 WPI. There was a very strong halo to the yarn accounting for alot of the scratchiness, I think.

I am sure there are better ways to process this fiber to give a wider range of uses. I think if it was lock spun, a wonderful crewel embrodery yarn could be created, there is plenty of strength in the yarn, and lock spinning or combed top would cut down on the fuzziness.

Rare Breed Status: Watch

This washed sample was made of long loose shiny locks in a white color with dirty tips. I decided to set some of the locks aside for lock spinning a sample.

Combing and Carding: The open locks combed easily and the top pulled off easily. In looking at the comb waste it seemed very nice fiber, just short. So I teased that open into little puffs to spin also. The locks were easier to card than I expected, the length was not a problem and the carded batts held together well.

Comb waste puffs: I have seen Icelandic fiber sold in 'clouds', these puffs of fibers reminded me of that. I found what looked open and easy to spin was not, the fibers were too mixed up to draft easily. I used a medium weight spindle to spin my sample, but was fighting all the time to keep the spindle turning, so that weight was not correct for this sample. My sample skein was 2 yards of a very fluffy loosely spun 2 ply at 8 WPI. I had occasional tips sticking out of the yarn, which were too deeply spun into the yarn to remove like a nep. It was a neat effect, but I could not get the effect consistently.

Combed top: I thought this was also hard to spin, due to the slipperiness of the fiber, I think. I used a heavier spindle for this and had better luck with that size as far as the spindle continuing to spin. I had trouble making joins while spinning due to the slickness of the fiber. My sample skein was very fuzzy for top and was 3 yards of 2 ply at 8 WPI. The luster of the fiber showed most in this skein.

Carded fiber: I spun this skein on my Roberta electric set with a high pull in tension and very slow speed. I used a very long drafting zone with almost no pinch behind that. It was pleasant spinning. My skein of 2 ply was just over 4 yards at 9 WPI.

Lock spinning: I had set four locks aside to try this method. One had a very matted butt area that I cut off. I combed each with a metal toothed dog comb, combing from the middle out on each end. The locks opened up nicely and most of the VM just fell out. I found while spinning I had to use a higher twist than the other samples, or the yarn just drifted apart while spinning. It was very easy to spin a thin single this way, although the yarn is so fuzzy, it deceives the eye as to it's thinness. My 2 ply skein spun this way was 4 yards at 18 WPI.

Rare breed Status: Recovering

Clun Forest

The sample I worked with was a washed off white fleece. It had a large amount of VM in the sample. The wool had a soft hand with a very springy feel to it.

This fleece was surprisingly easy to comb or card. It seemed perfectly suited for my small hand held combs, coming off in a very nice top. Since I had seen in other fibers that fleece that combs well often does not card well, that was what I expected. But I was very surprised to find that Clun Forest also carded up into lovely batts with my hand held cards.

Combed top: This was a delight to spin. It drafted easily into a long draft, and gave a nice smooth fine yarn. The only thing I observed was that it was such a smooth yarn, that it was difficult to make joins, when I started a new piece of top. I also noticed that this fiber needed a high twist, and that it really was unwilling to hold the twist. I especially saw this when I was plying, that the thicker areas in the singles were almost unspun. It was also interesting to observe that the yarn really expanded once there was no tension on it. I measured this sample of yarn as 15 WPI. It was a very generous, 25 yard sample.

Carded batts: I used more twist while spinning this. I tried two types of drafting, a moderate drafting zone gave a thicker yarn, with the neps often disappearing right into the yarn. An inchworm draft gave a much thinner yarn, but I had to stop and pull out the neps, which slowed down the spinning. The neps were not in the combed top, making it the better prep. This skein was 14 yards which measured 13 WPI, and was a very nubby looking yarn.


The sample was an off white washed wool, that looked and felt like little puffs of cotton. There was lots of crimp to the fiber. There were also lots of short pieces in the sample, second cuts, so unfortunately that affected the spinning and the yarn.

Combing and Carding. This was one of those fleeces that are like night and day between combs and cards. Combing was a wonderful surprise. The fiber would transfer all back to the original comb. The puff of fiber on the comb was barely an inch long, but what was surprising was that I could pull off long top from that little one inch puff. In fact it was so much fun, I ended up combing all of the fiber. I used the waste from the combs in hand cards for the carded batts. I tried a wide tooth carder first, but did not like the batt. My fine tooth cards gave a nicer batt although since it was waste from the combs, there was VM and neps in the batts.

Combed top: This was as wonderful to spin as it was to comb. I spun my skein on my Roberta electric into an evenly smooth, fine yarn. It was very soft and springy and measured 15 WPI.

Carded batts: It turned out to be foolish to try and use the waste from the combs in the batts. I did spin the fiber on a drop spindle but it turned out to be a very lumpy yarn, almost looked like a beginner's spinning! I did not like the skein at all, but do not feel it is the fiber's fault, just mine.


Breed notebook notes, non rare breeds

I have finished all of the samples of different sheep breeds that I purchased several years ago and am working on writing up the notes I took while spinning them. Below are the notes on breeds that are commonly available both as meat sheep and spinner's fleece flocks. There is no particular order to the list, it is just written as it appears in my notebook. It is by no means complete as to all of the breeds, it is just what was included in the 20 samples of fiber that I purchased.

The sample was a very white fleece with open, nondistinct locks. I know this breed is dual coated, but that was not at all obvious when just looking at the sample.

Combing and Carding: My small handheld combs passed easily through the fiber, but I found it very difficult to pull top off of the combs, even when I pulled just the smallest amount of fiber. For carding, I used my fine tooth carders on the waste from the combs, but found that the batt did not hold together well. It seems that Icelandic would do best with no more prep that washing the locks, removing the outer coat and spinning from the locks. I could not really do that with this sample, I just could not see any difference in the fibers.

Combed top: This wanted to be spun with a very long draw. The fiber felt very harsh but the resulting yarn was very smooth with a slight halo. The 14 yard skein measured 15 WPI.

Carded batt: This was nice to spin and gave a soft puffy yarn of an off white color. The 12 yard skein measured 15 WPI.

Even though I could not see any evidence of the two coats in the fiber sample, it became very obvious that they were present after I combed the sample. What happened during combing was I pulled the harsh outer coat (thiel) off leaving the softer tog. So the yarn from the combed top was shiny and harsh and the yarn from the carding was the softness of the tog.

This washed sample of fiber was in very tight clumps of short white fleece. Occasionally a lock was visable but most of it was in clumps. The staple appeared to be about 2 inches in length and the fiber has a cottony feel.

Combing: The fiber combed easily with my small handheld combs. A large amount of waste was left on the combs when I pulled off the top. The waste was very full of neps and clumps and was not really good enough to use.

Carding: I did not like the way this fiber carded. I tried both my wide tooth cards and my fine tooth ones. Neither set of cards would produce a batt that held together. Also there was a large amount of neps in the fiber, which was carded right into the batts.

Combed top: Here again was a fleece that showed a big difference spinning combed and carded top. The combed top was wonderful to spin, drafting easily. The fiber and the yarn had a nice spring to it. My only observation is that I had trouble joining new pieces of top while I was spinning. Also in spite of the easy drafting, occasionally I would hit a thick area of the top, and it just would not thin out. So I did not get the usual consistently thin yarn that I often get with top. My sample skein of 2 ply measured 16 WPI.

Carded batts: Very soft fiber, but very neppy. At first I was having a very difficult time spinning the batts. I tried on my Roberta first, and could not get a good draft going. I tried on a drop spindle, but ended up with a very lumpy yarn that I did not like. I took the time to really predraft the batt to very thin, and then spun that on the Roberta and I was able to get a yarn that I liked. It was still very thick/thin, but consistently so. The 15 yard skein measured 10 WPI.

The washed sample of fiber was a very white color, with only a slight yellowing to the tips. The locks were open with a wide wavy crimp measuring about 6 inches long. The fiber felt rough to the hand.

Combing and Carding: I combed all of the sample fiber and used the comb waste in the carded batts. The combed top was slightly stiff with a nice luster in it's appearance. The comb waste carded nicely into batts, with very little neps or VM in the fiber.

Combed top: I spun this on my Roberta electric and found it to be an easy fiber to spin. I did have trouble making joins, the slicker fiber not wanting to 'catch' like it usually does when I make joins. The 18 yard skein measured 14 WPI and had an itchy feel to it.

Carded batts: I spun this sample on several different drop spindles. A medium weight spindle worked best. This is a very good fiber and fiber prep for beginning spinners, it works well with the 'park and draft' method of spinning. All of my samples skeins ended up very bulky and loosely plied.


Finally a colored sample of fiber! This washed fleece was a dark brown color with sun bleached tips. There was very few intact locks, and the staple measured around 3 inches. The fiber is soft to the touch and very springy, from the high crimp.

Combing and Carding: This sample was almost impossible to comb with my hand combs. What I did comb came off in very short puffs, I could not pull a connected top at all. The fiber did better with hand cards although not the fine tooth cards, just the wide tooth cards. It did make a nice lofty batt.

Combed top: What little sample I had made a lovely lace yarn. It was very hard to draft with anything but an inchworm short draw. My sample skein was only 6 yards of 2 ply but measured a nice 19 WPI.

Carded batts: This did not spin as well as I had expected. It was very hard to get a smooth yarn, and the VM would not just drop out as I was spinning, like other fibers. I would live with the bumpy yarn though because of the lovely brown color, and because the wool was very soft to the touch. I spun a large 35 yard skein that measured 13 WPI.

This washed sample of fiber was in long loosely crimped locks. The fiber had been picked apart after washing so there were no intact locks left. The color was off white.

Combing and Carding: The fiber was easy to prep with both combs and hand cards. The combs produced a crisp feeling top that was medium soft to touch. The cards produced a fluffy batt with very few neps.

Combed top: Very lovely to spin, drafts easily and spun into a smooth yarn that fluffed up more than usual for top. My 12 yard sample skein measured 11 WPI.

Carded batts: I discovered that the nice fluffy batts were not easy to spin. The fibers seemed too tangled to draft easily, even with predrafting. My 2 ply sample skein measured 11 WPI. It surprised me that I got the same WPI in both yarns, when one was so much easier to draft.

This sample looked just like all of the classic Romney fleeces I have seen. The loosely crimped locks were open and showed some luster. The fiber was medium soft to the hand, off white in color with slight yellow staining at the tips.

Combing and Carding: Both types of prep work very well for this fiber. The combs go through the fiber easily, although the top was slightly difficult to pull from the combs. The carding produces nice fluffy batts. The two preparations look almost similar, except the carded batts still contain the VM that falls out when the fiber is combed.

Combed top: Very easy to spin producing a thin yarn with a halo, unlike most combed tops. The yarn was still scratchy. I thought this would be a lovely fiber to use when making crewel or needlepoint yarn. You could get a nice thin 2 ply yarn, and the luster in the fiber would make any dyeing look wonderful.

Carded batts: It becomes very obvious why this is a great fiber for those that are learning to spin. The fiber in the batts drafts easily, and the wool has a great 'grabbing' ability, when making joins. The only thing I observed is that the VM was not just falling out of the drafting zone as will often happen when I am spinning. I also noticed it takes a higher amount of twist than I expected, probably another reason it is good for beginner spinners! My 2 ply sample skein was 13 yards and bulky at only 10 WPI. The yarn felt scratchy to the hand, and had a larger halo than the combed top skein.

Blue Face Leicester
This washed sample of fiber was in tiny corkscrew dreadlocks. The locks had lots of sheen and were very soft. The tips were bad on all of the locks, so I removed them by just tugging on the tip and pulling it off.

Combing and Carding: This was a hard sample to process with my home hand tools. If I bought a whole fleece like this I would send it to a commercial processor. I could not get the tiny locks to open with my combs, so I had to open each lock before putting it on the combs. There was a large amount of waste on the combs after combing, but I was able to pull some top from half of the sample. The fiber carded nice but the batts still contained a high amount of neps.

Combed top: Again this fleece proved the value of combing a neppy fiber even if it is a large amount of work compared to carding. There was a difference of night and day between spinning the combed top and carded fiber. This top was lovely to spin and the resulting yarn was very soft with just a slight halo. I only had a 6 yard skein of 2 ply from my combing, which measured 14 WPI.

Carded batts: I would not consider spinning this type of fiber normally, as the resulting yarn was so bumpy it was unattractive. It was full of neps that could not be removed while spinning. I got so tired of trying to pull them out, that I just spun the batts up with the neps in it. The yarn was very soft but too full of neps and VM to be of any use. My sample skein was 11 yards of a single which I didn't even bother to measure WPI.

I have spun over a pound of BFL commercially prepared top and it makes a lovely soft yarn, although the above skein from my combed top did feel softer to me. This was just a good learning experience that I do not want to home process BFL and so will not buy that type of raw fleece.

This washed sample of fiber was mostly in open puffs, having been picked open after washing. The few intact locks in the sample were open with a wavy crimp. The color was white with a slight discoloring to the tips.

Combing and Carding: Of the two processes, this fiber is better when carded. It combed easily enough, but unless I pulled very carefully the top would come off in short bursts, not a continuous top. The hand cards made very nice batts, especially if I took the time to card the fiber twice.

Combed top: I spun this on a meduim weight spindle, and it was really nice to spin. The fiber does not work well with the park and draft method, it needs a continuous draft with the spindle. My 7 yard 2 ply skein was 16 WPI and had a lovely feel to it, not exactly soft but pleasant.

Carded batts: I was surprised to find so many neps in the batts as I was spinning, I did not see them while carding. I used a long open drafting zone on my Roberta and did not try to spin it thin. The 2 ply skein was a generous 28 yards that measured 14 WPI. The yarn was creamed color and has a very crisp pleasant feel to it. I liked both of the skeins, with just the right amount of uneveness to look handspun, and the perfect balance of crispness with softness to the feel.

This washed sample of fiber was in wide, open wavy locks with little crimp. It was cream colored with some yellow on the tips. The was a light luster look to the locks, and they felt slightly scratchy.

Combing and Carding: I found that this fiber combed best when the combs were very loaded with fiber, unlike many of the fibers I comb which did best with just a small amount on the combs. I could not really pull off a connected top, just large puffs of fiber. The waste was very short and not usable. The open locks carded into nice batts with just one carding, although I had to deal with lots of static, so this fiber is best dealt with in humid conditions (or premoistened slightly before carding)

Combed top: This was very nice to spin. I was drafting very thin and thought I would be getting a thin yarn, but the 2 ply measurements surprised me by only being 13 WPI. The skein was 12 yards. There is a good slick feel to the yarn with little fuzz, so it would work wonderfully for a crewel work yarn or warp for rugs. I really liked the off white color of the skein, it looked like an antique white. This skein was balanced when I released the tension, unlike the carded batt skein.

Carded batts: This was also very enjoyable to spin, the fiber drafts easily and the fiber has a pleasant feel to my fingers as I spun. The yarn was thick and bouncy and surprisingly softer than I expected. My skein of 2 ply measured 10 WPI and was not balanced when I released the tension, so I did overspin or overply. I imagine that would be corrected with a soak in hot water, but I did not wash any of my sample skeins since the fiber was already clean.

This sample was supposedly washed, but it was a dirty looking white. The locks were very short, tightly crimped and non distinct. There was a soft cottony feel to the fiber. When I picked open the locks, there was a distinct sticky feel of lanolin, so the washing had not removed all of the lanolin.

Combing and Carding: I could not comb this sample. I do not know if it was due to the shortness of the locks, or the residual lanolin. But it was very hard to pull any top off of the combs. Carding was fairly easy and produced nice batts, although again the fact the fleece was not clean did affect the quality of the batts. If this had been a larger sample, I would have washed half of it to see the difference, but did not try and split up such a small sample.

Combed top: There was very little to spin so I used a medium weight spindle and made a 3 yard 2 ply yarn that surprised me by measuring 18 WPI.

Carded batts: The stickiness of the fiber made it hard to draft and the yarn was dirty looking. Looking back now as I write this, I should have tried heating the yarn in the microwave for a short few seconds and see if that helped the drafting. I know this is a trick spinners use when they are trying to spin 'in the grease'. My sample skein was spun on my Roberta and was 22 yards of 2 ply that measured 14 WPI.

This sample was very white with a soft cottony feel. The few intact locks were tightly crimped. Most of the fiber had been picked apart after washing. The fiber was very clean and not felted with surprised me, as I know cormo is hard to wash at home and remove all of the lanolin.

Combing and Carding: This was a wonderful fiber to comb. I had to watch and not overload the combs. If just the right amount of fiber was put on the combs I could pull off a continuous top. Too much or too little and I would only be able to pull short bursts of top. I saved the comb waste for carding with the batts, even though it seemed high in neps. I had to watch and not overload the hand cards also. If I got the right amount on the carders, I got a nice batt, and many of the neps popped to the top of the fiber on the cards and could be pulled off before doffing the batt from the card.

I took the time to diz the combed top. I did not do this while the fiber was on the comb, but after I had pulled off the top. I took the top and started several fibers through the pinhole diz and just pulled the entire top into a much thinner longer top this way. I had about five yards of top when I started but I did not measure the diz top, it was much too thin to be handled while measuring.

Combed diz top: This was absolutely wonderful to spin. I had to put a cardboard box lid on my lap to keep the fiber from sticking to me, because keeping the fiber free flowing was very important while spinning it. I found my drafting area was thinning this already thin top by about half, so I was spinning very thin for me. It is hard to make joins when it is this thin. The join has to start far up from the end, and be very thinnly added so the yarn does not show thickened areas in the joins. My single measured 35 WPI and I was able to make that top spin into a whopping 30 yard skein of 2 ply that measured 22 WPI. The yarn looked like wonderful lace weight while under tension, but as soon as it was released from the niddy noddy, it looked like sock weight, it puffed that much.

Carded fiber: I found out the comb waste really was not worth saving, even though it felt fine to my hand, it was full of neps and made a very lumpy yarn. In the spirit of 'waste not, want not' I think I would take this type yarn, and make washcloths. The bumps should be nice scrubbing feel to them, and the yarn is definately next to the skin soft. My 2 ply 12 yard skein measured 12 WPI.

Lock Spinning: I had saved 18 intact locks from the sample to try lock spinning. I opened each lock with a metal tooth dog comb, combing from middle out at both ends. The locks were easy to spin, and always surprise me by just completely disappearing into spun yarn. The resulting yarn measured the same as the combed top, a pleasant surprise, since if one can lock spin the same type yarn, why bother with all of the processing? My 7 yard sample of 2 ply measured 22 WPI.

This sample was not well marked and I purchased it way back when I was not labelling very well. By the markings on the bag, I think it may have been a polypay/karakul cross.

I purchased this sample raw, so I had to wash it. The long open wavy locks were very dirty and canary stained in various areas of the locks. The dirt washed out easily but the tips remained somewhat matted and dirty. The fiber washed clean with no stickiness with just regular hotwater heater temperature water.

Combing and Carding: The locks were just a bit too long for both the combs and carders. The combs went through the fiber fine, but the top was hard to pull off. I would get one good pull of top and then the rest were short burst, telling me there was a wide varience in the lengths of fibers in the locks. The locks did open up and card on the hand cards but the longer length made it harder to card.

Combed top: This spins wonderfully just like all top. The yarn was a smooth, crisp 2 ply. The 10 yard sample measured 14 WPI.

Carded batts: These were nice to spin, drafting easily with a soft feel to the fiber. There was not much loft to the yarn though, which surprised me for carded batts. The canary staining on the fiber blended into the yarn to give the skein a nice antique white color. My 13 yards of 2 ply yarn measured 16 WPI. This is one of the few times I found that the carded fiber gave a thinner yarn than the combed top.

Canadian Arcota
This was another sample of fiber I purchased just because I had not seen the breed's fleece. The fiber was raw and in short, moderately crimpy locks. The locks all fell apart when washed probably because the fiber was very dirty and took two washes and three rinses to come clean.

Combing and Carding: This fiber was very hard to comb. The combs did not want to pass through the fiber, the VM did not fall or comb out as usually happens with combs, and the top was hard to pull off of the combs. Enough said about that! Before I tried the hand carders, I decided to pick the fiber apart. I found it was very hard to pick apart, not because it was sticky with lanolin, just because the fibers had become very tangled in the washing process. I am very careful when I wash fleece, little agitation beyond moving the handfuls of fiber from wash to rinse water. So the tangling surprised me. I noticed while picking the fiber that it has a very cottony feel to it, and I think that is what was causing the tangling. The VM would not fall out when picking. I did card the fiber with my fine tooth hand cards, twice, but still was not very happy with the resulting batts.

Combed top: This produced the better skein of the two processes, but it was hard to spin and I consider not worth the work, even though the resulting yarn is next to the skin soft. It would be interesting to spin commercially processed fiber from this breed, to see if that would take care of so many of these problems. My small 5 yard skein puffed alot once released from tension and measured 14 WPI in the 2 ply.

Carded batts: This also was not fun to spin, in spite of the soft hand, it somehow just does not feel like 'wool' to me. My sample skein was spun on my Roberta, and the 8 yard skein of 2 ply lumpy yarn measured 9 WPI.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Breed Notebook

is actually a misnomer. What it is turning out to be is a massive group of yarns, fibers and notes with no useable way to contain them. I was so hoping this morning, when I worked on this final step of the project, that it would be complete and stunningly contained in a notebook. When I finally finished putting everything into plastic sheets, it filled _six_ notebooks!

The problem is that I spun an average of 10 to 15 yard skeins, twice, once for a combed preparation, and once for a carded prep. I love the concept because many times it really showed that a fiber was more suited for one prep or the other. However, these are very bulky to stuff into a plastic sleeve and that is how one notebook grew into six.

It has always been my intention to use most of the skeins to knit a sample square of the fiber. I have not actually decided if I want to go as far as to knit a sample from both the combed and carded skeins. But even when I use up at least one of them, I will then take the remaining yarn and have the traditional smaller sample skein for the notebook.

I had tried to sidestep the knitting for right now, because I wanted to take the notebook to SOAR, to share. I am not sure now if I will do that, I am still racking my brain for a better method of containment, if I want others to look at it.

I am also trying to decide how I want to seperate the different breeds. I could go by the micron/softness scale or I could go with a rare breed section and a section for those that are commonly available. I could do it alphabetically too, and seriously I think that is what I will use in the end.

I have written two previous posts about this project, with my notes as I spun the different breeds. I still have one more post to do, with the remainder of the breeds. At that time I plan to do a checklist of breeds I would still like to add. Hard to believe there are more, but if one just looks at even the rare breed list, there are plenty to add.

So it is with a heavy sigh that I have to report that this project, so far three years in the works, is not really completed. It's pretty nifty, to see all of those samples and notes, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with all of the fibers. Maybe that is why I am feeling patient that the project has plenty more to do on it yet.


Friday, September 10, 2004

Thoughts on Spinning Yarn to be Judged

I seem to always turn my spinning adventures into learning experiences. And then share them. Getting five skeins of yarn ready to be judged ended up being quite a learning experience.

First of all I found out I can not just take the category entries and hit my stash of handspun yarn. For all of the skeins stuffed in that stash, none of them fit the requirements exactly. So if you are going to enter a competition, print off the categories, and the specific requirements, and then plan to spin.

Now I was able to take one skein and make it fit a category. To do this I had to weigh the skein and figure out about how much to remove from it to make it 2 oz. Then I had to take what I thought was two oz from the one yard skein that it was in, wind it into a ball, and then reskein it into a two yard skein. It all ended up enough work that I determined it was easier to take fiber and start from scratch for the rest of the categories.

I found out that when the requirement states 2 yard skein, it was meant exactly 2 yards. I do not have this size of niddy noddy, and was trying to make do with two TV trays set beside each other so that I would have close to 36 inches. What I really ended up with was about 33 inches, and that didn't total up to a two yard skein. And the judged noted that as a comment for each skein. I understand the reason for a large skein for judging. It gives lots of open surface area to judge the spinning, and also when the skein is held up, shows the balance of the plying. I was thinking that my 'almost' two yard skein would meet those requirements. The judge however, read the requirement literally. And I learned my lesson, next year I will make a niddy noddy from plastic pipe that is 36 inches to a side.

So it teaches me to be literal also. It may not always help though. I discovered that the judge evidently did not review each category while judging. I saw the quilt judge do this, before stepping up to the quilts we had laid out for that class, she took the fair book, read aloud the class and it's requirements. I know the spinning judge did not review the category requirments because I had a comment on one skein that it did not meet the 2 oz requirement. The category that it was entered in, had no weight requirement at all. I can see meeting requirements stated, but it will be hard to meet those just in the judges' minds.

Well, that was just a minor rant. Quirks of judges are just one of the spinning worlds challenges.

Next big thing I learned: I do not know how to spin a 'designer yarn'. I have not done well in this category for the last three years. Last year, I combined angora and tussah, in a yarn. For this category it is required to knit a 6 inch swatch with the yarn. I loved the fabric that resulted from that yarn, but I would be the first to admit, the yarn itself was pretty boring. This year, I tried a novelty fiber, by taking the buffalo/wool blend I purchased. Again the swatch was stunning, and the yarn just moderately appealing.

I do have the book Spinning Designer Yarns. So lesson learned. I will be reading the book before I enter next year. Designer yarns have nothing to do with the fiber content, but how the spinning is done.

One of the hardest lessons was over the WPI on my yarns. The judge disagreed on every one, and since I was in the building at the time, actually came over to the quilt area to talk to me about it. She was mostly concerned that I was measuring and reporting singles, because my WPI numbers were so much higher than hers. I explained that my technique was for the 2 ply, that I was using a WPI tool made from wood with a cut out inch notch and that I had taken my method from a certain big tome of spinning, that everyone quotes as the bible. Basically I read the method as wrap five times, push the wraps so they butt against each other, wrap five more and continue until the inch is full. I still think there is nothing wrong with this, if one is very careful not to pull hard on the yarn. I think in my zeal to get those wraps to lay nicely abutting to each other, I was pulling on the yarn, and thereby increasing the wraps per inch. I do not know just how loosely the judge wraps the yarn, I get the feeling it is just a toss it around an inch ruler method. However, this judge has high creditials, so I took this as good teaching, and am now wrapping and measuring with a very light hand. My knitting later will probably thank the judge for teaching me this, as I will probably not end up with gauge surprises down the road.

I learned that it pays to enter something in every category, because by doing so, I surprised myself by spinning the best merino yarn I have ever spun. I wouldn't ever choose to spin merino for a competition, but the category specifically required merino. And after two years of only moderately impressive merino yarn, this year the trick was to use a 100 micron top, and my lace flyer. The yarn flowed effortlessly, and looked it when it was done. It's a good thing I bought a pound of the fiber, I definately learned I want to spin some more.

And last of all, I learned I will do it again. And encourage others to do it too, because when all is said and done, I do not worry about winning the ribbons. What I like to see, on that opening day of the fair, is all of those lovely skeins, in wonderful colors hanging for all to see.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

Pretty Ribbons

From the 100th State Fair

Can you match up the ribbons with the skeins below?

State Fair Skeins

None of them won the blue ribbon. From left to right, the gold skein is the one I dyed this spring with ragwort, it got a green third place. The pink/brown skein is a blend of wool and buffalo that I bought. It got the pink ribbon, an honorable mention. The white skein is lincoln lambswool, processed by a spinning friend of mine that raises the sheep. It and the last blue skein (a wool and angora blend dyed by me) both got second place red ribbons.

Here's the blue ribbon winner:

Blue ribbon winner

I spun this skein on my Ashford tradition with a lace flyer, using 100 micron merino top.

Thanks for letting me brag a little.


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Still trudging up the machine knitting learning curve

Machine knitted red lace scarf Posted by Hello

This got a blue ribbon at the State Fair, in the machine knit category. The judge's comment was 'very nicely done'.
I was impressed with it even before I took it to the state fair, but that came from the fact that I got through the whole scarf in one sitting, after only one false start. In fact I was almost late for work that day, I had started on the scarf before work, and it was going so well, I didn't want to stop. 'Just one more pattern repeat' became my mantra.

I love the edges on the scarf. I did just a quick cast on and knitted on waste yarn. And at the end, I did rows of waste yarn. Then I raveled that back and put the live stitches onto one of my skinny lace knitting needles. I probably could have transferred the end of the scarf to the needles directly, but as I was running short on time, it was quicker to just zip six rows of knitting on the waste yarn.
So once the live stitches were on the knitting needles I did a regular cast off on both ends. I like this finish much better than the hemming I did on the camel scarf.

There are several other differences that took this project one step up the learning curve. I did the lace pattern repeats with very few plain knit rows between them. And I used a finer yarn, which turns out to be a good thing. The drape on this scarf is fantastic.

I made this scarf for my mother, who is a 'red hatter'. These groups of senior citizen ladies meet for outings all wearing their red hats, and purple outfits. I thought the scarf was a perfect addition for her outfits. Since the yarn is acrylic, it will be comfortable in her Florida area.

I love this old knitting machine, except for one thing. I find as I am knitting along, it is not the relaxing zen experience it should be. Instead I am holding my breathe with every pass, wondering what will go wrong. This does mean though, that the victories, like this red scarf, are even more special.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I have a top ten list too

My list is the top ten questions I am asked while doing a demonstration of spinning angora at the fair. Also included are the snide remarks I have often thought of making along with 'The Real Answers'.

1. How many rabbits does it take to make a sweater?

What I'd like to say- none, rabbits do not know how to knit.

The real answer - It depends on many factors. If the yarn is spun very fine and lightweight, you might get one sweater from one rabbits yearly production of fiber (8-12 oz of fiber) Realistically, the way I spin, it would probably take about three rabbits' yearly output for enough yardage for a sweater.

2. If I buy a rabbit will my doberman get along with it?

What I'd like to say - Sure, for about two minutes.

What I usually say - This rabbit is not for sale.

3. How come the rabbit sits there so still for you?

What I'd like to say - Drugs, man, drugs.

The real answer - Angora rabbits are raised being handled from very young. Their frequent grooming sessions has them handles all the time and that constant handling tames the rabbit. Also, breeders select for that quality, so flighty, hard to groom rabbits are culled.

4. Doesn't that hurt the rabbit when you pull out his hair?

What I'd like to say - Yes, but all angoras are masocists and he thanks me for it.

The real answer - Every animal, including humans lose hair at some point. The angoras have been bred over many years to encourage this trait. They go through a releasing molt at least three times a year. This is no different than your cat or dog shedding their fur.

5. What's your rabbit's name?

What I'd like to say: Why name it? It won't come to you when you call it.

The real answer: ForSale. OK sometimes the rabbit really does have a name, or I will make one up right then and there. I haven't any one question why Bob the rabbit is now Sue the rabbit.

6. What is your dog's name?

What I'd like to say: My dog's here?

The real answer: This is an angora rabbit. His name is Sam (see above).

7. Is that hard to do? (asking about spinning).

What I'd like to say: Yes I am a trained professional, do not do this at home.

The real answer: No, all it takes is lots of practice and since I think it is fun, practicing is fun too.

8. Is that from that rabbit? (referring to what I am spinning)

What I'd like to say: Yes.

The real answer: This rabbit is not shedding his fur right now, so I have fur from another rabbit that is. That's why the rabbit on the table is brown and what I am spinning is gray.

9. Will the rabbit bite me?

What I'd like to say: If your fingers look like carrots.

The real answer: Only if you stick your fingers into his mouth. If you pet him gently on the back he will enjoy it as much as you do.

10. How much would it cost to have a sweater made for me?

What I'd like to say: Go get a loan.

The real answer: I do not market angora sweaters, the manufacturing industry has made the cost of angora sweaters reasonable enough, that it is worth your money to go buy one that way. The only thing I could offer would be an original design and then you are buying a work of art, not a sweater.


In spite of hearing the same questions a million times all day, I still love doing this every year at the fair. I got there at 8:30 and stayed until 4:30 at what will probably be the biggest crowd day of the fair this year. Since I only had three rabbits at the fair, I decided to take a 1.5 oz bag of fur that I had collected previously, and four knit items made with angora. When there was not a bunny on the table, I spread out the knit item for people to 'pet' I told them it was like petting the bunny only better, since the knitted hat did not run away. But no bunny even tried to run away that day. When I put a bunny on the table it was an automatic kid magnet, and there would be a dozen kids around the bunny in no time at all. The rabbits very patiently accepted all of the cautious and enthusiastic pats. I saw one bunny yawn, the biggest bunny yawn I have ever seen, I guess this is just much too boring for his lifestyle :)

I found this year I was answering more questions about just how spinning is done. Maybe I felt more confident to give that information, or maybe I just finally worked out a spiel that was understandable in laymen terms. I had many people thank me for explaining, because when they just watch, it does look like magic. Once they understand that the key thing is controlling the fiber and twist, the comprehension is visible on their faces. I liked seeing that.

The rabbits are home now, back in their cages and enjoying a well earned treat and snooze. I will not be taking the rabbits back to the fair, but I think I will try and get a spinning demo set up one time at next year's fair in the textile department. Hopefully, I can get some of the local spinners to join me, I think it would be welcomed by the textile department.

The fair is still going on this week, until Sunday, but I will not be back until Friday. I plan to go and see the sheep then. On Sat I have volunteered to work at the textile departments information booth for four hours, and then will go to listen to some music and relax with a beer. Then finally on Monday it is go and pick up all of my entries, and enjoy the ribbons attached to them.


Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Bunnies' Last Hurrah

Today was bunny judging day at the State Fair. I had three rabbits there, although I had originally planned to take six.

I knew that one French senior doe was not going to go. I had tried to hold her in coat until two weeks ago, when she stopped eating, a true sign she just had to have that coat off. Bald rabbits just do not belong on the judging table, and she was in such a molt that her whole coat plucked clean. She's much happier now, after many treats and hay and no six inch fur coat. I was not happy, she won best of breed before and I wanted to show her again. Also, it meant only five rabbits to go to the fair.

So Wed morning I head out to the barn to do last minute checks on the five. Well, both french bucks were still straggly looking from pluckings, even with the pluckings being 6 weeks ago. They do not grow the coat as fast in the summer. I picked the one that had the better coat, and left the other one at home. So then there were only four rabbits to go.

Except looking at the white french buck, who was truly miserable in the long coat, and thinking about taking that miserable rabbit in long coat to the hot fair grounds for four days, I took pity, plucked most of the coat off, and left him home too. So then there were three.

And three is a nice number anyway. I have a three hole carrier cage. So with three bunnies and all of their trappings packed into the car, I headed for the fair barn. I got everyone settled in, and then had an enjoyable lunch with hubby before returning home.

This morning I needed to be at the rabbit barn by 8 am. Not because the rabbits would be judged that early but mostly because I had no idea when they would be judged and one is suppose to be there for the judging. Besides, arriving that early got me a fairly nice parking place.

Since I had very few rabbits, and since they were already groomed and I was smart and put them on wire risers and not the shavings, I actually had nothing to do until the judging. So I volunteered to be a comment writer for one of the judges. As it turned out, that was the best thing I could have done. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, and even stayed on after the angoras had been judged, to continue as a writer. I learned alot, grew a healthy respect for the judge, and found out that even after seeing over 150 rabbits pass by me, by the end of the day I was still fascinated by the cuteness of the critter in general, no matter what the breed. I am a die-hard bunny lover.

I found it interesting that the judge used the same routine with each rabbit. It impressed me that the 150th rabbit got the same attentive look-over that the first rabbit did. When the judge first picks up the rabbit he sets it on the table, runs a hand from neck to back end, and then pushes in on the tail end, rounding up the rabbit's body. The judge does that with every rabbit, and then runs his hand down the rabbit again, feeling that round shaping. That is how the body type is judged. Then the judge grabs the bunny by the scruff and ears and turns it on it's back. Teeth are checked, all four paws are checked (for color of toenail, or fur markings) sex is checked (and yes there are bunnies that change sex from owner's cage to the judging table LOL) undercoat is ruffled or maybe blown upon to check the fur and tail is checked. The rabbit is held up to the judge's face to check eye color and markings on the head. Next it is set on the table again and the judges hand runs over the head and ears, looking for ear faults. Finally the coat is judged, often by running the hand up and down the coat several times. Do that with 10 rabbits in a class, decide how to rank them all from 10th to 1st, remembering which of those many little black mini rexes was just which rank, and you too can be a rabbit judge.

I also finally understood the logic behind some of the 'best of' awards that are given. Let's take the angora breed as an example. The breed is angora, but there are four varieties of angora, the French, Satin, English and German. So one variety is judged at a time, in four classes, Sr Buck, Sr Doe, Jr Buck and Jr Doe (this is determined by age of the rabbit at the time of the show) Each first place of each of those classes (lets say French) are then judged against each other and the BOV (Best of Variety) is awarded. But to provide a pair, a BOSV (Best Opposite Sex Variety) is picked. If the BOV is male, the BOSV is female. Those two varieties stay on the judging table. The next variety is judged (let's say English) in the four classes (Sr buck, Sr doe, Jr buck, Jr doe) and the BOV and BOSV is picked for that class. This is continued until all varieties are judged (in angora's case, four varieties). There is now potentially 8 rabbits set aside, all best of variety. These are judged against each other, for the grand winner called Best of Breed (BOB) And to give a pair the opposite sex is award the Best Opposite Sex (BOS).

This is what I kept track of all day long :) I had to write it down before I forgot it again.

The logic of these awards is to give breeders an idea of what would make good breeding pairs, based on the judge stating the animals display traits close to the breeding standard. There is multiple awards, to give some depth to the choices. Can't get a BOB for your herd, then go at least with a BOV.

But I have stray far from my original posting idea, my bunnies last hurrah. That is because this was truly my last bunny show and the rabbits showed well. After Sunday, when I can take the bunnies home, they will be officially retired. No more breeding, no more fiber shows, no more judging tables. Just comfy cages, hay to munch, snoozes when needed and the occasional interaction with that human that feeds and grooms them. Life should be good in their old age, and I will still have plenty of angora fiber to spin.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Two afghan squares completed

White on white flower square Posted by Hello

I had an interesting time designing this square. I had the general idea in mind, but have never actually graphed a design to knit. So being fool hardy, I just grabbed some graph paper and starting drawing. I knew I needed a 12 inch square, so I randomly picked 5 stitches to an inch, giving 60 stitches. Then I took my graph paper and marked off a square 30 X 30 blocks and called each block 2 stitches. Then I started drawing in the flower. The design looks somewhat blocky of course, since it is made out of blocks LOL.

It looked good on paper. But it only took me knitting one row to realize I had not taken into consideration that the block was not going to be the same gauge in rows as it was in stitches. In other words each row in the design was definately more than two rows to get a 12 inch square. Gasp! I had to actually calculate it! Or more accurately what I did was figure it out on the fly, as I was knitting. Since the first three lines at the bottom of my pattern were just knit and purl rows, I measured after I had done 1/2 inch of knitting. I had done four rows. That would mean I needed 8 rows per inch, over 12 inches gave me 96 rows. I had 30 graph lines so divide 96 rows by 30 design lines and I would need to do 3.2 rows per graph line. Hmmm. Tricky.

Then it got even more complicated. I knitted another 1/2 inch and got the gauge of 7 rows for an inch. Not the 8 that I had expected from the first measurement of gauge (did all of this futzing tighten up my tension?) So back to the calculator. If I was getting 7 rows to an inch, and needed 12 inches, I would need to do 84 rows. Divide 84 rows by 30 lines of the graph and each line would be 2.8 rows.

I should have just picked a pattern in a book!

So here I am trying to figure out how to make each line on the graph be either 3.2 rows or 2.8 rows. I did it the good old fashioned seat of the pants way. I guessed. I knitted 3 rows, 3 rows and then 2 rows per line and continued that progression up the 30 lines of the graph. At various points along the way, I would remeasure, and find that I was right on a gauge that if I continued this way, when I hit the last of the 30 lines I would have 12 inches. And to my amazement, this is exactly what happened.

Who said woman can not do math!

Besides that was only half the fun of doing this pictorial knitting. The other bit of fun was figuring out how many stitches to make in a knit and how many in a purl, for the design to show. I had to figure that out for each row too. And keep track of which row I was on with tick marks on the side of the graph.

In spite of all of this, the square knitted up reasonably fast. I did about half of it, once I got going in about two hours, because once I got going I was really excited about seeing the picture develope. Plus I was loving the yarn I was knitting it with, a skein of corriedale that I had spun earlier this year. The fiber was processed at woolyknob fiber mill, and I was impressed with the yarn when I spun it, but even more impressed as I knit with it. There is just a special feel to the yarn, that is indescribable, and that kept me saying over and over, "I love this yarn!"

Since I got this square made in such a short amount of time, I decided to do a second square. Something simple!

It's not ribbing, it's Brioche Posted by Hello

This square is knitted from the sample skein I spun of the Border Leicester fleece I had processed at woolyknob.

Even though I thought I was picking a simple pattern, I had to frog the square twice in order to get the 12 inch size. I was measuring 6 stitch (two rib bumps) per inch when I'd get some knitted, and that seemed like I should be casting on 72 stitches. That is what I did at first and the square was way too big. So I cut back to casting on 60 stitches, and it was still too big. I couldn't figure out why I was not getting 12 inches with those number of stitches. At knit group on Sunday, I started once again, and something finally clicked. In this brioche stitch the first row after casting on, is a set up row. And in that row you S1 purlwise, yarn forward and K1 causing a YO and therefore INCREASING your number of stitches from your cast on row. No wonder my next knitted rows resulted in squares much too big. I cast on 48 stitches, did the set up row, and then was off on the real brioche stitch. I find that stitch to be very mindless knitting, once it is set up and going. It is S1 purlwise, yarn forward and then K2 together for row after row until the piece is complete.

This is a very dense, squishy fabric. It's color is a deep brown and I feel the depth of the brioche stitch matches that density of color. I loved this square, and plan to be using brioche for other projects in the future too.