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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The coolest birthday present

My daughter got me this fiber mystery box for my birthday. These boxes are the brainchild of Phat Fiber. Once a month boxes with samples from Etsy sellers is put up for sale on Phat Fiber's Etsy store. April box's theme was 'green' and so the idea was captured with either green color in the dyed fiber samples or yarn reclaimed. There was a very unique yarn created from soft cotton sheets, cut and plied with thread. A few of the natural fiber samples included angora, mohair and something called South Africian Fine Wool Top. There were patterns and also three wonderful stitch markers. It was like getting a present full of presents!

A few close up photos:

The grass is green, the socks are not

Finished in six weeks. Probably the fastest I've ever done a pair of socks. They fit wonderfully.

Project details:

Yarn: Sock It To Me! Collection
Color: Puzzle
Needles: two size 2 circs
Pattern: Cat Bordhi's basic sock on two circs sock pattern

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Episisode 29 podcast pictures

The April Spin In podcast is posted, you can find it here or in ITunes under Yarnspinners Tales.

I took quite a few pictures that go along with the podcast, but you can enjoy the photos without listening too. The first segments of the podcast are discussions of two sheep breeds, both of which are double coated fleeces. The first called Spaelsau, is from Norway. A big thank you to one of my listeners Silja, for sending me some black and white fleece from this breed of sheep. I was able to wash it and spin some sample skeins to keep in my breed notebook.

Spaelsau was created from an original old breed of Norweigen sheep, bred with Icelandic, Finn and some Faroe Island sheep. The long outer coat of the fleece is rough but spins into a very strong yarn, useful for many non garment type uses. The under coat is softer and can be carded and spun into a bouncy yarn useful for hats, mitten and socks.

This is a sample of the unwashed white Spaelsau:
And this is the unwashed black Spaelsau:

Note the very long locks, and the obvious coarser outer coat in the black:

After separating most of the rougher outer coat, and washing the remaining undercoat the Spaelsau looked like this:

These are the sample skeins of the white, with carded and combed fiber (try clicking on the photo for a larger version if you want to read the tags)

And the black:

My favorite sample skein was from the black undercoat carded and spun into a very low twist, bulky yarn. Here's a picture of that skein (it's softer than it looks in the photo)

Since most spinners will not be able to get a fleece from a spael sheep, I did a second review of a more readily available double coated sheep, the Icelandic. Here's the sample skeins from that review:

In the Yarnspinners Tale part of the podcast I talk about a recent road trip to a spinning and weaving store The Woolery Recently this mail/catalog only business moved to Frankfort Ky, expanding the business to include a store front. This puts the store about 45 minutes from me, and I am quite excited about that. We spent over 2 hours browsing, talking to the owners, and trying out different spinning wheels. I focused mainly on double treadle wheels, and found one I really like, so now I am hoping there's a new wheel in my future.
Another wheel we spent time looking at which I want to write about here, is the Road Bug wheel by Merlin Tree. The wheel is small enough to fit on the floorboards at your feet in a car. Now, I really think road trips are for knitting and have no desire for a wheel this small, but the wheel has some interesting design features that made it worth a few photos here. The design feature is the fact that it has no drive band and that it works by friction (thus creating the term friction wheel).
First a photo of the wheel, from one side showing the treadle, bobbin storage and fly wheel. The fact it is sitting on the table and the hands next to it should give you a bit of sense of the size of the entire wheel.

If you look closely on this side you can see the friction drive. A black roller sits at the end of the bobbin/flyer and that same roller also snugs up next to the fly wheel. As the spinner treadles, the fly wheel turns, turning the black roller, which then turns the bobbin. Pretty ingenious design!

It took my spinning friend Viki a bit of fiddling to get it spinning, but we had just put the wheel together (straight out of the box) and after getting the flyer mechanism placed correctly, as well as getting the oil worked in, she was soon spinning just fine on it. There's a bit of a trick to getting it to treadle just right, it really needs a toe/heel motion. Also if you sit the wheel on the floor, it is way below your waist. That's not really a problem since you can angle the yarn up to you as you spin, but does mean leaning over to do anything with the bobbin.
While she was playing with that, I test spun four other wheels, two Majacraft and two Kromski. Then there was all that browsing of fiber, books, and yarn to do. All too soon we had to head back home, promising ourselves another road trip soon.

A Big blocking adventure

The Serendity stole (aka Mystery stole) turns out to be a hard critter to block. If I could get down on my hands and knees and if I had a stretch of floor that no one walks on, I could block it there. But my usual blocking place, the bed, just did not have enough length. And if I was going to do it in sections (not being able to find room to do it all at once) I decided I might as well put it on something of comfortable reach. So it's blocking on top of my dining room buffet on a thick tablecloth. Well, part of it is blocking, about 3/4 of the length. When that dries I will do the other end.

(Yes that is my wine cellar under the buffet).
I did run wires through each edge in the YO's that the designer conveniently put between the shawl and the scallops. This is also something new for me, I have not used the blocking wires until now. I had to run the wires through the top line, pin that down, run wires through the bottom line, pin that down, and then pin each scallop and the bottom edging.
The pictures are doing a pretty good job at showing the lace design, but the beading is lost in the color. The beading is much more obvious in person and really adds to the design. And the angle of this above photo did not quite catch the grafted area although there is just a hint of it in the lower right corner. The graft did not disappear completely with this blocking, I quess I could have pulled on it harder, but was already at my limit of space, sideways, to block it on top of the buffet. I can live with a slight line being visable at the graft.

I put the crocheted edging on it, that was not in the designer's pattern. I did not feel the edge would not roll, even with blocking and there is a lovely line of beads there that i did not want to get lost in the roll. So the crochet edging was something I found in a very old crochet edging booklet that I have. Usually I am not real fond of crochet edgings, but I like this one and feel it blends well with the scalloppy design of the long edges.
I spritzed the shawl heavily with water after it was pinned, I did not wet the shawl first which is another new thing for me. I thought it best not to wet the whole shawl if I was not going to block it all at once. I am sure I got the shawl good and wet though, judging from the 'wet wool' smell. Now the only problem is keeping the cat off the very inviting surface.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Grafting the mystery stole

It's done! I joined the two halves last night and am really pleased with the result. I need to do something lovely on each edge, probably a crochet to keep it from rolling. And then I will block it and get photos posted.

It was a very unusual way to do the kitchner join and the actual process was not described well in the pattern directions. I did read everyone's input about the process on the yahoo group connected with the shawl, but still felt it was a process that would either present itself logically to me as I attempted the join, or fail miserably. I was not about to accept failure, because the thought of trying to unjoin something made of those tiny stitches was unacceptable. The alternative was for it to work the first time.

So I took the one piece of advice I had seen the most often, to first purl (wrong side row on each edge of the area to be joined) with a very large, and strongly contrasting yarn. I was knitting the shawl in lace weight yarn and so I choose a bit of worsted weight handspun in white that was conveniently laying around. Cotton was recommended and I can see why, because my choice of wool meant the lace yarn often wanted to stick to the wool yarn when I was removing the contrasting thread. But I didn't have cotton thick enough and all it meant was a bit more caution as I removed the wool.

The first step was to purl each section's wrong side row with that contrasting yarn. Then I slipped each section's stitches from the circular needle I had been using to a long straight needle, one size smaller than the circular to help the actual edges lay flat and not follow the curve of the circular needle. I made sure the two straight needles holding each section would line up right, so right sides of the two sections were on top and the end on the knitting needles were to my left. I started the kitchner stitching from the right of the shawl where the points of the needles were.

The first dozen stitches were very fiddly. For one thing I was trying to work with the shawl laying on the table and stretched out flat. As I completed the set of kitchner I would release the stitch of the contrasting yarn and pull it out. The actual sewing of the kitchner was going through the lace yarn, NOT the contrasting white yarn. So the sewing was happening below the stitch that was on the needle. However, it made it pretty easy to see the lace stitch and to slide my threaded needle through it, either knit or purl wise.

After that first dozen stitches I gave the sewn area a good tug, and that's a good thing because it really did need to be loosened and stretched along the seam. When I did that, the seaming practically disappearred. Kitchner is amazing that way.

Once I got the rhythm going, I realized it would be so much easier if I had the knitting needles up off the table and held in my left hand side by side. Then it was really easy to get a rhythm going and keep track, the front needle always had a knit direction, slip the contrasting stitch off and pull out, front needle purlwise in next stitch, back needle purlwise and slip contrasting stitch off, then knitwise in the next stitch, back to the front needle, etc etc.

It took about three hours to complete the grafting. The stitch markers had been left in place from the original patterning, and that really helped keep the grafting even. The only thing I would have changed was I did a few knit stitches with the contrasting yarn instead of purls, following the original pattern and it was harder to graft those stitches. I would purl everything for that one row, just to have all the stitches going the same direction. Otherwise, I really was impressed with how using the large contrasting yarn helped with the grafting process. I hope my explanation here will help me remember how it was done, and maybe help someone else that attempts it also.