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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

State Fair 2007 skeins

It's that time of the year again, and I managed to get four skeins of yarn spun to put in the state fair. As usual, I learned several things while getting these skeins ready for entry.

1. I really can not spin a competition quality yarn when using home prepped fiber. This is shown by the BL/Cormo skein below, it is just not up to the level of spinning that is expected by the judge. I am only stating this based on past judgings, however it was useful for me to realize that I am wiser to use commercially made roving for better spinning in all my state fair skeins from now on.

2. High heat and tight stretching while drying really does a better job at setting the twist, especially on merino. And getting the twist firmly set is important in order to have a nice cooperative two yard skein. That is the required put up for the competition, and two yards of a handspun yarn that still wants to kink is unruly.

First up, the skein I love the best and hope is a first place winner:

This was spun from a shetland roving and was a joy to spin. It's a lovely light reddish brown color, not easy to capture in a photo. I have at least a pound more of the roving, and plan to spin enough of this same yarn for a shawl.

Now the hated, required merino skein:

Every year I feel I have spun a better skein than before, and every year, the skein looks terrible after washing. This year I solved that problem by first placing the skein in boiling (yes!) water until wet, let hang and drip for several minutes until cool enough to handle and then stretched it on a plastic pipe niddy noddy I have made. I put that in front of a fan and let dry. The twist is definately set, and the yarn did not 'poof' as it usually has in the past. So once again, I am hoping that I have spun a better merino skein than in year's past.
This is the skein that disappointed me:

This is a Border Leicester/Cormo mix fleece I bought last April. It is a lovely silver gray color, and feels soft as a fleece. I washed the fleece, picked the fibers and drum carded batts to spin. It was nice spinning, although I ended up being a 'picky' spinner and removing any bits and bumps in the batt as I came to them. Still the yarn looks very 'handspun' with thick and thin spots and bumps. It is a perfectly servicable yarn, would make a lovely outer wear type outfit (it's scratchier as a yarn than the fiber). But on the whole I do not feel it is competition quality, although I did decide to put it in as an entry.
Finally my experimental skein:

This is a 50/50 cotton wool roving I purchased last December. I hate spinning cotton, I was hoping that the addition of 50% wool would ease some of that hate. But it didn't. I had to spin this with about a quarter inch draft zone, tedious, time consuming and I really don't like the yarn after all is said and done. I have another 6 oz left of this roving, I am not sure if I will spin the rest or not. This skein also got dropped into a pot of boiling water, which promptly removed a bunch of dye. I actually had wondered if the cotton would change color, since it was suppose to be natural colored cotton. But with the addition of the wool, which could not have been the same color as the cotton must have meant that they had to dye the fiber to get a solid color. The skein did not change color all that much, in spite of the dye bleeding off. After the skein cooled a bit I stretched it on the plastic niddy noddy to dry. But unlike the merino, it didn't set the twist quite completely, and my two yard skein had a bit of twisting. That shows just how over twisted I was getting the original spinning, with my inchworm drafting. It was an interesting experiment, which is something I still like to do with my spinning. It would be much too boring to just spin the easy stuff.
And speaking of boring, I hope I haven't bored you as much as I do Barker, while I spin:

Ah the joy of dog days!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dog days and deadlines

It's officially too hot to be comfortable outside, the first really for this year. Not unexpected of course being August. My dog looks at me like I am crazy when I open the door to offer the wide outdoors to him, he's just as much a creature of comfort as I am. Two times a year I make it a point to just shut the doors of the house for a full weekend and do nothing but knit or spin. Once in the middle of winter, usually right after the holidays, and once in the dead heat/humidity of our summers.

Besides I truly needed this uninterrupted weekend of fiber. Oh not for stress relief, no, it's purely a deadline thing. I did it again, waited until too close to the state fair to get everything ready that I so enthusiastically predicted I would have completed when I submitted the entries last June. Oh I certainly could let the fair go by without taking my entries in. Especially this year, in their eyes I was a senior citizen and did not have to pay any entry fees! But the challenge always gets in my mind, and I can not be at peace unless I try to get as many ready as possible.

Consequently, I have been spinning for several hours this morning, and knitting for two hours before finally deciding my hands needed a break (which actually typing feels almost therapeutic at this point, lots of stretching and flexing). I will do the same tomorrow and any time that I have off during the next week, until I finally have to submit my items Sunday, Aug12th.

There will be pictures, I promise. Just not in this post.

Meanwhile, I discovered something else yesterday that just needed to be shared. I went to my local library and found out I really do not own every knitting book printed (HA!) My bookshelves only look like I do. I was able to find five knitting books to check out. I informed the library clerk at the desk that it was going to be a very hot weekend and that I had no intention of stepping outdoors, as an explanation for the five books. She didn't seem impressed. Maybe she had to work this weekend, which would make me grumpy too.

Here's a bit of digression, which will be an explanation of why I chose several of the books. I recently, thanks to Bravo TV channel and DVD recorder, recorded two seasons of Project Runway. I found myself totally hooked on this show. I avoid all reality or competition shows, but this one hooked me. It's mostly because the challenges are very good, and designers all have their unique take on the challenge and because of very good taping and editing the end results are always a wonderful piece of eye candy as they models walk down the runway. Of course the show gets into the real life bickering that reality TV is all about. What I hadn't realized would hook me is that really does give one a feel for the participates personalities and really adds interest to the show. The whole surprise of this for me was just how interested I have become in the actual process of design, fashion, and creativity as it relates to the fashion industry. Heaven help me, I even went and bought the recent Vogue magazine, and read it for exactly what they intended, looking at every ad to see the designers name, and just what they were featuring this fall. BTW, one designer showed everything in what looked like hand knitted fabric. Once you stop looking at the 90 lb string bean woman, and only look at the clothes, Vogue can actually be quite interesting.

Coming from that angle it is no wonder the book Couture Knits by Jean Moss caught my eye. One thing I learned from Project Runway is that only certain licensed (in Paris) designers can call their creations a couture fashion. The implication is that the design is one of a kind, and hand made, generally with many fastidious details such as beads. Even if Jean Moss has not carried the true couture concept, I believe she has captured the essence that knitting can truly be designed to be unique, and fashionable beyond just your standard cardigan.

Along this same theme, another book that caught my eye was The Art of Knitting by Francoise Tellier-loumagne. Translated from French this book is mostly full page close up pictures of the stitches, textures and surfaces of actual knitting. These photos are often accompanied by photos from nature that the knitting mimics. It is a 300 page book thick with visual images, that can inspire any designer.

The rest of the knitting books are truly just for browsing as I take a break from my fiber over the next three weeks. There is the Mason Dixon Knitting, that I have thumbed through now and again, but never sat to read the included stories. There is Holiday Knits, more daydreams than actual plans for holiday gifts, but who knows, I may find a project or two to tackle before the holidays. Three renewals, three weeks each, gives me nine weeks to get something done! And finally there is Knitting Tips and Trade Secrets, which I wanted to take some time to see if it is worth adding to my own personal library.

But mostly I will truly cherish the hour that I grab now and then with my early morning cup of coffee, as I turn each page and absorb the whole idea of actually designing fashion that just happens to come from my knitting needles, and not my sewing machine.