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.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

YST episode 42 Spinning experiments

Episode 42 of Yarnspinnerstales podcast is posted and continues the theme of intentional spinning of a yarn. For this podcast, and this blog post I share some of the things I learned while trying to follow a statement made by Judith MacKenzie McCuin in the book Intentional Spinning that you can make thicker or thinner yarn with your spinning wheel, by changing nothing but the tension. If you increase the tension and do not change the treadle speed or drafting you will get thicker yarn. The opposite, decreasing tension will create thinner yarn. I knew the spinner's rule of thumb that if you wanted thinner yarn, you should spin with less tension, but this took the idea one step further. It was creating a way to have any spinning wheel spin any size yarn. I decided to experiment with two of my spinning wheels, the electric Roberta, and the Haldane double drive.

Right off the bat, the Roberta has the difference that I do not need to treadle. Instead there are various settings on the speed control, which would relate to treadle speed. I had the advantage that I could keep the speed even, unlike on a non electric spinning wheel. However there is a disadvantage to the Roberta in that it has no way to really tone down the strong pull in created by the bobbin driven set up. Even if I completely remove the tension spring that runs over the flyer, I will still get pull in, due to the bobbin tension always being the same(there is a rubber ring running from the bobbin to the electric motor, speed will change and increase pull in, but even at slow speed there is still a significant pull).

But this is exactly why I wanted to try the experiment with the Roberta, to see just what type of yarn would be spun, trying to keep everything the same except the tension spring. I did do my samples with three different speeds, slow medium and fast. This was a second part of the experiment, I was mainly looking for the ideal speed, given the parameter of increased or decreased tension.

So first I spun my default yarn, both with the tension spring on and off. Both came out to be a 12 WPI 2 ply. These two photos show those samples:

Changing speed made no difference, however I did get a thicker yarn when the tension spring was off, which so far did not match the expected results. It could be because I rarely spin with that tension completely off and it was affecting my spinning.

Next I increased the tension by attaching the tension line and spring and tightening it to the point that the spring was standing taut but not spread open. This increased the pull in dramatically and I immediately was spinning much thicker yarn around 8 WPI. I could get even thicker yarn by increasing the speed, I have the medium speed show here at 6 WPI and got the same thing when spinning at a fast speed (not in photo):

I next reset my Roberta back to how I generally have it set to spin my default yarn. I spun some of that 12 WPI 2 ply, and then started to decrease the tension for a thinner yarn. I completely removed the tension line but was not having much luck creating thin yarn. The next thing to try was to keep the tension spring off and then criss cross the yarn on the bobbin. I saw immediate results, the single thinned out but was not going any thinner than my normal default 12 WPI 2 ply. Here's the photo of all three speeds:
All of the above experiments are based on the premise that treadle speed and drafting stays the same. I finally gave in a split the roving into half of what I had been using, which really thinned the drafting zone. Keeping the other settings the same as above, I finally came up with a very nice even 18 WPI 2 ply.
There's definately proof that yarn diameter can be affected by the increase or decrease of tension. The electric spinning wheel, with it's bobbin driven style may not be the best example of this premise, however I learned so much just doing this simple experiment and now have more skills with the Roberta to spin the type of yarn I want.

Another of my spinning wheels, the Haldane, has had the reputation with me of only being able to spin sock yarn. It is a small wheel, with a small drive wheel which means treadling is often used to compensate for it's lack of range. Likewise it only has two ratios, which I have never understood on a wheel, unless it's just so small that larger ratios would make the operation clunky. But it proved to be the perfect wheel to once again try the tension experiment.

I used the same fiber to keep all factors of the experiment as close as possible. I used a well processed merino top, since I wanted to have a fiber that would draft smoothly and not require me to stop and pick out VM or neps. All the samples were very small, and were created by pulling just spun single off the bobbin and letting it self ply back on itself before measuring the WPI.

First I spun a sample of my default yarn, again a 12 WPI 2 ply. I was spinning on the larger of the two ratios and trying to keep my treadle speed and the drafting the same. I then increased the tension (turn the knob that raises the flyer, tightening the drive band) Of course I felt strong pull in, and also found it was very hard to keep the treadle speed the same, it was much harder to treadle. The yarn thickened up immediately, although it took me a bit of practice to keep the drafting zone even and the twist consistent through out the yarn. The middle sample in the photo below shows my struggle, the bottom sample yarn shows it finally working into a 6 WPI 2 ply:

I reset the spinning wheel back to my default settings and spun some default yarn, and then decreased the tension (still on larger ratio) That yarn is shown as the first decrease tension in photo below which was 14 WPI 2 ply. Then I moved to the smaller ratio and got a finer yarn at 18 WPI (although I had more consistent twist with the larger ratio)

At first I caught myself treadling faster to compensate for the feel of less pull in, but I caught myself doing it and realized I should be keeping the treadle speed the same, and slowed down. I was surprised to find the yarn stayed thin just as before, I just was spinning as much in the same time period.

The last yarn in the photo is an amazing 40 WPI 2 ply that was made after criss crossing the single on the bobbin. It's merino and will relax after sitting, and I just remeasured that WPI as 32 WPI but still, thin is thin!

One comment made in the book is that if you can not go down any more ratios (now true on my Haldane) then you should criss cross the yarn on the bobbin, which is like going down another ratio. I had never tried this on the Haldane, for one thing the way the hooks look on the flyer your first impression is that they are backwards for doing the criss cross. But I found that I really could hook the single on the opposite side and then back to the hook that fed the yarn out the oriface. The only real problem is that the yarn on the opposite side rides very close to the bobbin yarn, it seems to me it could rub as the bobbin fills up.
This angle shows the 'opposite side' on four hooks and then across the bobbin and hooking on the oriface side on three hooks. I found when doing the criss cross, the opposite side is usually on one hook more than the oriface side.

So I have to eat humble pie and no longer say that my Haldane can only spin sock yarn. The wheel is perfectly capable of spinning a lovely lace yarn, as long as I am willing to pay attention and not just sit down and spin my default yarn.

I learned so much from this experiment and I would encourage other spinners to grab some lovely leftover bit of top and try it too with their wheels. You may learn a whole new skill your wheel has, that you never knew.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nostalgic Knitting

My last two knitting projects sent me down memory lane and it got me wondering: Will our grandchildren love our knitting projects of today as much as I love my grandmother's patterns?

Every now and then usually around this time of the year I knit what I fondly call grandmother slippers for someone as a gift. That's because it was the first thing I was taught to knit, by my maternal grandmother. Oh there may have been the endless garter stitch something that was really nothing, but the slippers are burned in my memory as my first project. As are the directions for the slippers, well almost. I can cast on and knit up the first 6-7 inches, but when it comes to decreasing to fit over the toes, I never remember the formula. Oh I have it written down-in my grandmother's handwriting no less, tucked away with the other precious things I want to keep. I may have even transcribed the pattern but who knows where that copy ended up. No instead I do as many of us of the digital age do, and go and search online for a pattern to follow. It turns out that I am not the only one with fond memories of this slipper pattern, although it was someone's Aunt Maggie that taught them. So I knit my slippers like I have been doing so much lately, with the pattern on the laptop beside me as I knit. How different and yet maybe not so different, to compare that to a grandmother sitting in her chair near you, knitting, and telling you what to do next. See, my grandmother really didn't teach me how to knit from a pattern until much later, because so often, she didn't knit from patterns either. It wasn't until I was ready to make things that she would not have knit, that I had to learn to read that special language of knitting.

The second project, currently on my needles is a dishcloth. Now my grandmother was not knitting dishcloths in her early life when she was teaching me to knit. No, knitting dishcloths triggers a memory for me, of her knitting late in her life, now blind but unwilling to give up knitting. Those dishcloths were often crooked, and had unintentional lace openings, as she would miss a stitch. But they were treasured, and definitely put to use. As I sit and knit on this dishcloth today, I am amazed at her ability to continue to knit by feel alone. I find my eyes glued so permanently to the stitches that I only listen to the TV show, how will I ever learn to just knit by feel alone! And she was not doing the dishcloths that are cast on with 35 stitches or so and knit square. Nope, she was doing the corner to corner, increase and then decrease pattern. And yet, I can understand exactly the love to knit that put the yarn and needles in her hands.

I found out this Thanksgiving that the niece I taught to knit two years ago is now knitting Christmas presents _and_ teaching someone else to knit. My heart glowed when I heard that, passing on the art means so much to me.

As does archiving and passing on the patterns. As I sat and knit from the pattern on the laptop, it made me wonder, is this a good archival tool? In many ways, yes, because so much of the information is available to a wider knitting audience. And the patterns should stay available unless we have a true digital meltdown. It's like an instant access to a knitting only library and that is all kinds of good. What I personally will miss is the thrill, laughs and just plain fun of finding a pattern book from the 1940's and looking through that booklet. It has all the problems of archival paper, it's yellowed, it's brittle, it's been written on, torn, and has a missing cover. But there is just something to having those patterns in you hands, dreaming the same knitting project dreams that another knitter also had, that just can not be duplicated by a pattern on the internet. I think this is why, ultimately the book industry will stand firm in this digital age, and why we as knitters will continue to love the new books as they appear. And maybe instead of looking up grandmother's online bookmarks, our grandkids will have the same love of books too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Keep on scrolling

I just posted five (yep five) blog entries today. So scroll on down to be sure you see them all.

Carry on...

A yarn dyeing commission

Even a fiber vendor like myself has their secret fiber obsessions and mine happens to be the vendor Natural Obsessions. There's many reasons, her range of fibers available, her great eye for color, her dyeing skills and most of all, her love of a challenge.

So I sent a challenge her way. I wanted enough hand dyed lace weight yarn in fall colors for a shawl. We discussed the options of different yarn fibers and I finally decided on bamboo. I have four shawls already in wool/silk and thought it was time to add something new to the wardrobe (er I mean knitting stash).

Drum roll please....the resulting yarn is stunning:

It's so hard to capture the true colors when the day is cloudy. I put the skein on the window sill in the daylight for a closeup and more accurate photo of the wide range of colors:

I had a pattern in mind when I commissioned the yarn, however I plan to do a large swatch first to see if that pattern is the perfect shawl for this multicolored yarn. It's such a special yarn, I want to find a pattern to do it justice.

Fiber fair purchases

Back in Oct I went to a fiber fair in Corydon Ind. Of course I bought stuff, what a silly question!

The wonderful white fiber is a blend of merino top and mulberry silk, it's going to be amazing to spin. The small material bag was sewn by a local artist and is for storing your DPN. I loved the fabric but what I loved even more was the magnetic closure she used, no chance of a stray needle migrating out and getting lost.

This is a braid of dyed BFL wool:

And the vendor right next to that was selling the BFL wool sock yarn:

Both are super soft fiber.

I also purchased a raw fleece and you can see a photo of that if you go on down to a previous post (YST episode 38 and 39).

Cleaning out the spinning basket

My spinning basket is probably much too large for my own good, and it seems to accumulate odds and ends of fibers that won't spin into enough yarn for projects. Last month I decided it needed a good turning out, and that I would spin up those odds and ends. Since there was a very wide range of fiber types, I did not try to combine them into the same yarns. I just spun each fiber and got whatever yardage of 2 ply I could from each of them.

Wide variety of yarns on niddy noddy:

The cormo and silk will go in my spinning stash, I am sure I can combine them with something in a project sometime. The white spaelsau will go into my spinning supplies to be used as leader yarn on my bobbins as I need it. The brown alpaca had the most yardage (170 yards) and is a good start for something so into the stash it goes. The final thick black spaelsau is an interesting yarn, not for clothing for sure, but I love how dark this natural color yarn turned out. However I have no idea what I will use it for.

Such fun, cleaning out the spinning basket!

YST Episodes 38 and 39

I've published two podcasts since last posting. Both are on this website or on Itunes at Yarnspinners Tales.

Episode 38 is about what to look for when you are shopping and purchasing a raw wool fleece. You can know so much ahead of time by just studying the different characteristics of the sheep's breed, and by having a general idea of what project you would like to use the resulting wool yarn. In this case I didn't really have any photos to post for the podcast.

Episode 39 continues the discussion, with non wool fibers. The second half of the podcast handles the question, OK now I have all this fiber, how do I store it?!

In between the recording of these two episodes I did have the chance to go to a local fiber fair, and purchase a raw romney fleece. So I used that as one example for storing your fiber. Here's a few photos to go along with that.
Whole fleece:

Lock Closeup

For those that wonder just how much is lost when I take out what I don't like in a fleece:

Final temporary storage until washed:

A Bit of non fibery goodness

First, I realize I haven't blogged in forever. Life is like that for me. I spend an equal amount of time at the computer every day, but what I do on the computer during that time varies extensively. Now and then I realize I have neglected some areas and have to play catch up.

Although knitting and spinning are a major part of my life, I do have lots of other interests, hobbies, loves and commitments. I thought I would share one of those today, my love of gardening.

I love gardening for many reasons, but this fall I got to experience one of those reasons that rarely happen. Things finally fell into place for me to try a fall planting of some greens. And although I will have to harvest the last of them today before the first hard frost hits over this weekend, and although they are still by many standards tiny, they are a chance to experience greens unlike those one can grow in the spring.

Here's a plate of the tender dainties just before I put my chicken salad on top of them:

There are two types of leaf lettuce, green and red as well as baby spinach and chard leaves in that mix. They taste like that perfect spring lettuce.

The thing about spring lettuce is one can get those tender non bitter leaves for only two weeks at least in my gardening zone. The frequent rain and rapidly increasing heat of spring sends the leaves into a frenzy of growth and they are soon bitter and trying to form seeds. Well, who can blame them, that's their job!

However, the drier fall weather as well as a more stable and cooler temps in the fall meant they grew very slowly, staying small and mild.

Why is this amazing? Well, it's all about luck, true luck. The seeds had to have enough moisture to sprout (often the fall is too dry) we had to have enough non frost days to let them even get this big. I could try to do this again every year from now on, and not get this type of success. And that's why I love to garden!

The lettuce just before picking:

Spinach and radishes( did not do as well)

Two thirds of the harvest (I left some in the garden as an experiment on just how long it will survive the cold)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Finished socks

My finished projects have been few and far between this year. I have been working on these socks for far too long, since they were generally my 'travel' knit project. I would work on them only at knit nights, or when traveling. And in keeping with that, they were finished in Sept, while I was on vacation, and visiting my mother.
Yarn: Hempathy by Elsebeth Lavold 3.25 balls
Needles: circs size 2
Method: 2 socks on 2 circs
Pattern: Seduction Socks by Ann Budd

YST Episode 37 September 2009 Spin In

When I do a spin-in podcast, I often will review different breeds of sheep, talking about their history, fleeces and the yarn you can spin from them. Episode 37 (posted Sept 12, 2009 and found here or on ITunes as Yarnspinners Tales) reviews two breeds, the Southdown and Polworth sheep.

Here are photos of each of those samples (you should be able to click on the photo to enlarge). First the Southdown:

And this is the Polworth.

These breeds were opposites in the way I liked to prep the fiber for spinning. The Southdown did better as a combed prep and the Polworth did better carded. Listen to the podcast for lots more details on these two breeds.


Sometimes it amazes me just how fast time flies. I could not believe it was mid Aug when I last updated this blog.

I was busy though, with mainly non fibery things. Work related classes and a certification exam. A wonderful vacation. The never ending housework and gardening, including mowing. Another podcast. Some clothes sewing (mostly alterations). Several batches of tomato sauce made. Some knitting, some spinning, and much handspun yarn listed on my Artfire Store, ZavagantStudio. This is just what I can remember this morning, with only one cup of coffee in me.

Sometimes I wish I kept better journals about my day to day. It just seems that actually doing the 'day to day' gets in the way of doing just that. But really it's like any habit, once established, will be easier to do everyday. And I just have not established the habit of recording my daily life.

Still, blogging and other internet journal records (like my gardening journal and Ravelry) have aided me in getting at least more recorded than I would have before their advent. For this I am truly grateful. There is so much satisfaction in going back on this blog two years, and reading all about what I was doing with spinning and knitting. There's a joy to go and look on my projects on Ravelry and see the completed photos. Oh of course there were dozens of other knitted projects and spun yarns before that, but at least it's a start. I am a firm believer in archiving the day to day of everyone, because ultimately that is our true history.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

YST episode 36 Spinning on a Charkha

I can not believe I am at the 36th podcast! It will soon be two years since I started this creative adventure.

Episode 36 of Yarnspinnerstales is all about spinning on a charkha, and this time I have two special guests sharing their experiences with their Bosworth book charkha. I also do a review of the DVD Charkha Spinning Tips and Techniques, by Elaine Benfatto.

But best of all, there is a Youtube video that not only shows spinning on the charkha but is explained in detail by my daughter. Check it out here.

A few photos just to show you the charkha. First, closed showing that it really is the size of a hard back book:

Next, the charkha opened, showing just how neatly everything fits inside:

And finally, the charkha opened and set up ready to spin:

Be sure to check out the webpage for the podcast, as I have posted lots of links there that relate to spinning with the charkha.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Items for 2009 state fair

Only five items going to the state fair this year. One is my beaded mystery stole, which I have posted about before and so I will not include in this post. The second I've posted a progress photo already, the targhee/bamboo skein of yarn. I've been playing around with arty shots of yarn, so here's one of those with that skein. The photo has not been though any photo shop editing, which I would do before using it, if I plan to sell this yarn. Right now I haven't decided.

The next item needs more explanation. I submitted for the designer yarn category a skein of cashgora goat and silk 2 ply skein. The idea is to try and copy the Orenberg style yarn.

Here's a photo of that skein of yarn.

There's a number of reasons this skein does not come close to true Orenberg yarn. First, cashgora is never going to be a good replacement for the goat down used in the true yarn. Cashgora, at least what I have, is very scratchy. The Orenberg yarn I have has a bit of scratch, but not enough to be uncomfortable. I really doubt I would wear a shawl of my yarn. Second, I did not get my spinning quite thin enough on either single to make the 2 ply the WPI of the original yarn. I'm off by about 4-5 WPI. It felt like I was spinning thin enough, but the final skein after washed was not as thin as the original.

When I was plying this yarn, I did two different skeins. One I plyed with my Ashford, with the lace flyer and aimed for a very loose ply. After it was washed I had quite a few areas in the yarn where the cashgora popped out, like little tiny locks. It was a neat yarn, but not what I had in mind. So the second skein (which is shown above) I plyed on my Roberta, and went for what would be considered tradition balanced ply. I liked that yarn much better and it actually matched the look of the original yarn.

The other thing I about this skein is that I handled it differently than I have most yarns after washing. I washed the skein, hot soapy water, rinsed good, dried in a towel and hung the skein in front of a fan until it was just barely damp. Then I put the skein on the skein winder and wound it off on to my PCV pipe niddy noddy. I was putting tightness into the skein, stretching it while it completely dried, by doing this. Every now and then while it was drying I pulled on the skein so I pulled the area that was wrapped around either end was moved off the curve. I hope that makes sense, I was trying to prevent the yarn developing a permenent curve in it. The only other time I have used this method with a skein of yarn is when I do 100% angora.

The result of doing this with the skein gave a very smooth crisp yarn, with very little halo. That matched the original yarn, at least in appearance.

One of the requirements for this designer category is to knit a swatch, at least 6 inches square. I have always been very uninspired for these swatches in my past entries, so I decided to get very creative this time. Since I was trying to make an Orenberg style yarn, I went to those books I have and discovered that the Gossimer Webs Designs book had a small sampler practice shawl that would be within that size range. It took me two days of knitting and I had a wonderful time discovering the construction concepts of these shawls. The resulting swatch looked like this:

I had to come up with another creative solution to block it. Regular size shawls are blocked with wires and pins, but this little swatch seemed overwhelmed by blocking wires. First I tried pinning it to a towel, like I do other swatches and found I couldn't pull the swatch hard enough, the towel would just scrunch up underneath taking my swatch with it. So I finally hit on the idea of placing a square of cardboard on top of the something soft that pins wouldn't hurt. You could use the bed, but to make mine portable so I could prop it in front of a fan, I use a new package paper towels. The pins just pushed right through the cardboard, into the package and I soon had my swatch pinned out nice. Here's a close up:

It looks so lovely and actually developed quite a halo as I was knitting. I enjoyed knitting with the yarn a lot, it actually had that crisp feeling like linen. But what that means is that the final product is sadly very scratchy. It won't soften either like linen. So while it has been a very fun project, I will not be spinning any more of this yarn. I seriously doubt the spinning judge at the fair will like the yarn either, but probably for different reasons.
The last category I submitted an entry for was to knit something in natural color handspun yarn. You even had to submit a lock of the fiber as well as some of the yarn. I used some Black Welsh Mountain handspun and the pattern Bella's Mittens (look for the pattern in Ravelry it is a free pattern). The mittens are made to go up to the elbow.

I could not get the best photos of these. The yarn is very black but looks lighter in the sunlight. Also it's a bit tricky to take a photo of one hand inside a mitten and the other hand holding the camera to take the photo. But in spite of the mittens looking like cooking mitts, you can get the idea of what the pattern is like. They fit me perfectly because I could try them on as I worked and I got the decreases to hit where they needed to be. And they will be exceptional warm this winter.

After working for many weeks with this deadline looming, I feel lost as to what to work on now!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A knitting spider

I had several titles for this blog story, 1. The bungee jumping spider, 2. The trapeze spider, and 3. Boing boing boing. I decided since this is a fiber blog I would at least give the title a knitting slant.

I live in a very old country house and because of that I tend to 'share' my house with nature, often unwillingly. For this reason, I have learned to be very observant, and am often quick to spy the unwelcome guest.

Now this story starts with my overhead fan. On it, I have a lovely ceramic chain pull, a knob to grab and pull to turn off the fan. It's quite country looking, with a painting of a mallard duck. The ceramic pull itself is hollow in the center. So this morning, when reaching up to turn off the fan, I noticed a brown blob in that hollow center, and thought to myself, hmm dust bunny. Except the blob moved and I immediately knew it was an unwanted guest.

So I did what most anyone would do. I gave the knob a strong flick with my finger, thinking that the insect would drop out and I could deal with it better. The knob swung violently back and forth and yes, the blob dropped out, but with a surprise.

It was a knitting spider, and it was using a lifeline.

I see some very strange and sometimes outright funny things here in this country house. But nothing recently has tickled my funny bone like this high flying spider. As the knob swung back and forth, so did she on her life line, looking for all the world like a trapeze performer at the circus. But the tricks continued, as she swung she also climbed her bouncing lifeline, looking now like the bungee jumping spider. She was tucked back up into her hiding spot long before the knob stopped swinging.

I must confess, she's still there. She's not a scary looking spider, and hasn't moved all day. Maybe she finally feels like the hangover is gone. There are times when I look at that knob and get tempted to whack it again, just for the giggle, but I am kind hearted by nature. Besides for all I know, this is the time she forgot to put her lifeline in her knitting.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Wool Here The July Phat Fiber Box

Remember the awesome birthday gift I got last May? Well, I have been watching the PhatFibers site since then as well as the group on Ravelry. I decided after doing several podcasts on non wool fibers with my daughter, that I would get the July no sheep box. And it was a wonderful collection of shiny goodness and other goodies and I wanted to share it with you.

So lets open the box!

ohh it's just jam packed! Lets start with the bright colors that first catch your eye.
A package of firestar from Gales Art, dyed silk cocoons from Hampton Artistic Yarns (she suggests snipping them up into art yarn) and a shiny purple bag of dyed mohair locks.

Now the 'blues' it amazed me how many samples actually coordinated in their colors. Bag with the purple ribbon, dyed milk top from SilverSun Alpacas, to the right dyed bamboo top from Sweetpeafibers, and in front in the braid dyed bamboo from Moonwood Farm.

More fiber! The blue is dyed bamboo, the brown is natural color llama (I think based on the photos on the label) from the Critter Ranch, and in front a light yellow batt of alpaca and angelina from Maude & Me.

Now the handspun yarn samples. Oh but first in front my favorite thing in the whole box, a tiny drop spindle, with ceramic whorl and a teeny sample of bamboo yarn from Serendipitous Ewe. Love it! If you go back in the back near the box edge you see another ingenious way of displaying a yarn sample, an old fashion wood sewing thread bobbin. This has an amazing lace weight seacell and silk yarn wrapped on it. I want to make it into a necklace! It's from Knit it Up. The pink yarn sample is kitchen cotton from It's a colorful Life. The pink in the back reminds me of the sari recycled yarn, and I was spot on, it's a handspun of tencel, mohair, recycled sari silk, bamboo and ramie from Coolclimates. The green in front of that is alpaca yarn dyed with indigo and osage orange from Mama Jude's (you know how I love the natural dye stuff and this is a very good example of what can be done with multiple dips) Last the black worsted weight alpaca from Northern Bay Handspun.

The pink is reclaimed acrylic yarn from Jag's Funky Fibers. The large batt is a blend of cotton, bamboo and silk or angora from Desired Haven Farm. The lipgloss (Cowgirl lipgloss, it's sparkly!) is from Calizonadesigns. The orange yellow skein of yarn is bamboo from Christina Marie Potter.

Just when you think the box is empty you realize there are patterns in the bottom and some goodies in that clear bag. There is a stitch marker from Marcie Phillips In stitches. There is a stitch marker that looks like peas in a pod (hey, I am a gardener so I love it!) from Yarndemon. There's a sample pack of gift tags, really nice designs to put on your handmade gift with a place for fiber content and care from fibergifttags. And there is a yoyo with a button, ready to adorn some knit or crochet item from desert garden farms.The spiral hat pattern is by Kelly Jensen and the hoody pattern (in cotton of course) is a design by Kira K Designs. The goody bag contains lots of business cards with discount codes for online shopping. I made paper bookmarks to be included in these bags to advertise my podcasts. I put pictures of different non wool fibers on the bookmarks (like silk, tencel, cotton) and then information for the podcast episode that tells how to spin these fibers. I know many spinners are very familiar with spinning wool and I wanted to use this great opportunity to help spinners feel more comfortable with fibers that are not wool. I hope this adds to my already wide and welcomed listener base.
This box sure did brighten my day when it arrived!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Blending fibers with carders

Episode 34 of the YST podcast is posted and is available here or at ITunes by searching for Yarnspinners Tales. In this podcast I talk about what I've been doing a lot of lately, carding fibers for blending. I usually use a drum carder, but in the podcast I talk about both hand cards and the drum carder, comparing some of the pros and cons of each. The first section is very good for anyone that is not familiar with carding, as I cover many of the basics. The second section goes into more details about actually blending, either different fibers or different colors.

Early this spring in a dire need for color, I dyed white Maine Island washed fleece a yellow and orange, in two tones, deep and light. I had done just a sample batt of the dyed fiber and had decided to go ahead and do all the carding as a basic yellow with highlights of orange in the batts. And since these color contrast so well, I decided to use them as the example for carding in the podcast.

Most of the batts look like this:

The difference of when more orange is showing is often just a factor of how the batt is rolled. It could look yellow on one side and more orange on the other. I admit I did not really follow any set ratio for the colors, I was just adding orange to the batts as I thought they needed it. I wanted my yarn to spin with as much variation as possible.

I ended up with a lot of orange left over, and in a snap judgement from a dive into the fiber stash, I thought the orange might look interesting with this left over bit of brown shetland fiber.
It ended up looking way more 'halloween' than it shows in this photo!
Both fibers were very nubby. The Maine Island was that way to start, and the shetland was waste from combing. Although the shetland is much softer than the other fiber, I doubt I will use this in anything but a felted item, probably a purse. I plan to spin all of the batts and then see is I can come up with a striping felted purse pattern.
I had set aside some straight yellow and orange fiber to spin as a sample, and after seeing the purity of the color, I wish I had saved more!

But the carding is done now, and the yarn is spinning up to look like this:

I think the knitting is going to be very nice and tweedy, but in a very bright way.
I also discuss using the carders for just blending fibers, although in many ways the basics of blending are the same, whether you are mixing colors or fibers. Anyone who has a carder and has played with blends knows the possibilities are endless, and that you could give a room full of spinners the same colors to blend and have as many varieties of batts as you have spinners. That is what is so wonderful about the process, each is truly a work of originality.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I should be knitting a sweater but

I have heard the siren call of knitting dishcloths.

A long long time ago, I went to R&M yarns and bought a cone of a 2 ply cotton. I really didn't have a specific use for it but the quantity would easily have made a sweater of shawl.

Just recently I found a dishcloth pattern group on Ravelry and joined and that cone of cotton was easy to grab when I wanted to start my first pattern. I have none of the traditional cotton yarn in my stash, and I had not ever come up with a use for this cone, so it is now labelled as my dishcloth cone of yarn that will probably outlive me.

Here's my first dishcloth. The pattern for this cloth can be found here. It is called Eyelet and Bead dishcloth. It's so pretty, I haven't given it a dunk yet in soapsuds. I have to get over that and remember, I can always make another one, in a matter of three episodes of my favorite TV show.

I admit I still get the giggles when I look at the cone of yarn and try to imagine just how many washcloths can be made from it. Care to guess? I could hold a contest, but I doubt we all will be around 10 years from now when I hit the end of the cone. Here's a picture of the cone.

It's so tall, I had to lay it on its side in order to get the photo to work. It weighs four pounds! But don't forget, there is a cardboard cone in there. Oh and yes, that is a second dishcloth started, it is just pattern number one in a stitch dictionary. It's too scrunched together to see, but there's an easy knit and purl pattern going on.
The small ball is because I needed to knit the cloths with a double strand (making it a 4 ply) in order to get a nice thick hand to the knitting. So I just took some off on my ball winder, and knit from a strand from it and a strand from the cone.
Oh and don't grieve too much over the lost sweater or shawl I could have made from this cotton yarn, I have another one, only in maroon and white, that I like better!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Knitting Updates

I suppose it is only fair that if I get to post something that I am very proud of, I need to post the ones that I am not so proud about.

Recently I needed a very easy mindless type knitting project and when I was going through the stash yarn I found four skeins of this soft and pretty acrylic yarn. I found an afghan pattern in Quick Knitted Afghans called Cross Stitch Squares that I really liked. I knew that four skeins of yarn was not enough for a full afghan, I was going more for a wheel chair lap throw, or baby blanket.
The pattern is fun and easy to memorize and I was enjoying the knitting. The recently I had my knitting with me at my mother in-law's house and she just raved over it. But when she took it out of my hands, what she did was through it around her shoulders, like a shawl. And insisted it was just the right length and would be just perfect for something to throw on in cool air conditioned resturants. Well. I first tried to talk her out of it, saying that it was too square in shape to really work, and she kept saying, oh it goes around my shoulders just fine. See, she's not a knitter, and had no idea that the reason it went around her shoulders just fine was because the knitting was bunched up on a circular needle, giving it that nice round shaping. I knew if I just cast off it would be a rectangle and not fit at all.

But I relented and said that I would have to do a few more rows on it, only increasing the length some. I knew during those rows I was going to have to figure out how to create a shoulder shaping 'after the fact'.

So I discussed it with my daughter, who is more of the knitting designer than I, and also consulted a sweater pattern with a circular yoke style. I was trying to get an idea of how many stitches I could go down over about 10 rows.

The final outcome of that was I took the shawl down from 140 stitches to 64 stitches over the ten rows. I followed the garter stitch pattern that was used at the beginning of the afghan, so it would match that. except that I purled on the wrong side on the three stitches used in the decreases. This made the decreases show up more, following the obvious block look of the body. Finally I cast off, made a loop and found a button and now have a shawllette to give my mother in-law.

A close up of the decreases:

I say I am not proud of it, not because the knitting is bad. It just really bothers me to be stopped mid way during a project. I can't even say I enjoyed the challenge of the design, because I didn't. It did turn out nice and soft, but I have a thing about acrylic garments. You can't really block them and it looks very unfinished to me for that reason. I don't mind that in a blanket, I do mind it in a garment. And I did not achieve the stash busting goal, I now have two skeins of the yarn which I know is not enough for even a baby blanket. I am still thinking about what to do with the yarn.
Other knitting news, I am working on a very fuzzy project, so it may lanquish awhile until the heat dies down. This is in Knit Picks Suri Dream in the color Woodlands. The pattern is Lacey from Knitty.
I am going to look like a big fluffy teddybear in this, but I probably will not wear it outside of the house. This is my solution for the extreme chilliness of my house in the winter and the fact I can not be under a blanket all the time. So I am making a wearable blanket.
What you see in the photo is a sleeve. The pattern is done with the magic loop method and starts at the cuff of one sleeve and continues to end at the other cuff. It's been a bit of a challenge for me since I had never done the magic loop knitting. It was very slow going until I got about six rows done and then everything sort of fell into place and the knitting has not been hard at all. I am interested to see how the how thing knits up. I know it's been really nice to be able to slip the sleeve on and check the fit as I knit. The cuff is intentionally tall in the pattern and I followed that part of the pattern, I think it will help the sweater stay on better to have a cuff halfway up to the elbow.

But as long as the heat lasts (and it's been very hot here for weeks now) I will stick to knitting socks and cotton washclothes.