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, September 23, 2011

Fair Skeins 2011

Only a month late, and the last post needed to get this blog somewhat up to date. I put four skeins in the state fair this year. On the top, 100% tencel dyed by Natural Obsessions in a color called Baltic. Below that the beaded yarn:
Less exciting, but just as beautiful, on the top a skein of milk and targhee lamb and below that another fiber dyed by Natural Obsessions fibers, a blue faced leicester roving.
This was the first year that the fair had a category for 'man made fibers' and that was why I could enter the tencel skein.

Spinning beaded yarn

I talk about this process in the podcast in episode 66 but sometimes a photo essay also helps. So I thought I'd blog some of the photos as well as talk about the actual process. This idea has been rattling around in my head for awhile, instead of putting beads into my knitting, how about beading during spinning and then knitting with the yarn. The chance to actually try it though didn't happen until I bought the Aura spinning wheel. It's lovely wide open orifice allows spinning with objects larger than the fiber to pass through and wind on to the bobbin. If you've read the previous posts you saw where during the Tour de Fleece I tried a sample skein using an alpaca single, thin beading wire and beads. It was an interesting yarn, but not one that I really had envisioned knitting something with. So I kept to the basic idea of it, using the alpaca singles, and beads but this time I strung the beads on a thin tatting cotton thread. The idea was to have all the beads threaded onto that ball of tatting thread, and pull the thread up through them as I plied. So the thread had to be thin enough not only to pass through the bead holes but also to flow continuously through those beads as I pulled on it to ply. I set up everything around my comfy chair, my spinning spot of choice. My Roberta electric wheel was to the left of me, to serve as a bobbin holder for the bobbin of alpaca singles. My Aura was of course in front of me, and to my right, on the floor was a lazy kate, holding the ball of tatting thread with the beads. And we off and spinning..... Well, not quite. The fact that the beads were on the floor lower than everything else was a real problem. The beads needed to be higher than everything else, to 'fall' into the drafting zone when I was ready for a bead. Otherwise I was continually stopping, bending over, grabbing a bead, sliding it all the way up, and then putting it into the yarn. It worked, but was really annoying. I thought of asking hubby to hold the beads up in the air for the hour it took me to ply, and then reconsidered, wanting to not live with a cranky hubby. What I needed, a sky hook, really didn't exist, so I rigged up the next best thing. I needed something to hold the thread with the beads near the same level as the plying area. I finally used what was at hand, a collection of wood TV trays that sits in my living room. So the final set up looked like this:

First the lazy kate holding the (now almost gone) first ball of tatting cotton, with the beads strung on it.
Next, note the thread running up from the lazy kate to the TV tray and over it:
A photo showing what it looked like right in front of me
And finally the beaded yarn on the bobbin.
It worked fine and did produce a beaded yarn. The yarn has a few faults, mostly that it is hard to get enough twist around the larger beads. When I do this again (and I will) I have two changes I will make. One I will use consistent size beads, probably a bit smaller than these. Two I will actually do a three ply. This is something I read later in a book. It is suggested to make beaded yarn one should spin a single Z a bit over twisted, ply with a Z single that holds the beads and then S ply a third single. My first try will be a handspun single, but use the tatting cotton for the other two singles. Then I may get brave enough to try handspun for all singles.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Knitters become spinners

It happens all the time...a knitter sees a spinner creating yarn and thinks, oh what if _I_ could do that? So I decided to focus one podcast of yarnspinnerstales to just that process. If you are a knitter and have been thinking about learning to spin, take a listen to Episode 65. It's a pep talk of sorts, but is full of good thoughts about just how to get started with that goal, creating your own yarn. Because I've never know a knitter who had too much yarn.....

YST Episode 64 Interview with a sheep breeder

In the podcast for episode 64 I have a great conversation with a breeder of the Black Welsh Mountain sheep. These sheep, originally from the Great Britain area have been preserved and improved by the efforts of Oogie MeGuire at the Desert Weyr Farm. I belong to an internet group years ago of spinners, that decided to do an exchange of rare breed fibers for spinning studies, and at that time Oogie provided samples of not only fibers from her BWM sheep, but some UK fibers too. Her point was to show that the US breeders had not been select breeding for the fiber in the sheep. Her goal was to breed BWM and improve the fiber, because with it's lovely black color, it's a wonderful addition to any spinners yarn. In our conversation Oogie talks about the process of doing this over the years since that first sampling as well as many other interesting things a breeder comes to know about their flock. She also graciously sent me some new samples, and I can say the fiber really does show improvement. BWM fiber is never meant to be one of the super soft fibers, otherwise it would no longer be true to the breeds' standards. It is one of those very usable middle of the road soft fibers, good for strong wearing fabrics, whether knit or woven. Here's a photo of the new samples she sent:

Fiber gifts and purchases

OK, so although there's very little fiber that I don't love, and lots and lots of fiber that I do love to spin, it's hard to say that I have a favorite. Natural Obsessions Fibers though is one fiber craftsman that time and time again has created lovely colors on wonderful fibers. Over the last couple of months I've been 'improving my stash' with fibers from her offerings on her website both as gifts and purchases. This lovely 100% blue face leicester wool is called Chipolte. I spun some of it into a two ply yarn and entered it in the state fair this Aug. The fiber is nice and soft and I love the color.
I have not spun any of this fiber yet, but what lovely fall colors! It's called Herb Shoppe and it is 75% blue face leicester and 25% tussah silk.
There is nothing better than mulberry silk, unless it's dyed mulberry silk. This is called Elusive because the colors are hard to capture on a camera. That's OK because it's the shine I want you to see!
Want even more shine? Then try tencel, shown here in a very saturated blue called Baltic. I've spun some of this already and the yarn is every bit as lovely as the fiber.
Since I've been at SABLE in my stash for way too long now, I have to limit what I add to it, however, that won't stop me from encouraging others to add to theirs, especially from Natural Obsessions Fibers!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Spinning a lock and from the fold YST Episode 63

This project started as a group spin along study in the yarnspinnerstale group on Ravelry. Remember when I posted here about washing locks in mesh to keep them intact for spinning? These are the locks that I used for this study. I talk about all of this too in the yarnspinnerstales podcast, episode 63. I only have photos for four of them, although for the fifth, I have a video of the actual lock spinning process. It's on Youtube and you can find it here. My daughter did a great job with the camera, it was my fault that we had so much background noise. I was super busy, as usual, and we combined a trip to the Greencastle fiber fair and taping of this video. Since we were spending the day together, we just got it done! The locks I am spinning in the video are from the unknown ewe lamb that was in this bunch of samples that I washed. It really was nice to spin, and the yarn came out super thin, especially considering the fact I was spinning on my haldane, a wheel not really known for spinning thin. So that's lesson number one, and really in my mind the whole reason to fuss with washing locks, is that you can spin a super thin yarn with the locks....usually. I'll show you an exception further down in this post. I had spun the entire amount on one bobbin while doing the video, so to ply the yarn I first wound it on my ball winder. While I was doing that I noticed that the single was very well behaved, no kinking at all. I looked at that and decided to try and knit with the single instead of plying it. I knit straight from the ball winder. I found a pattern from an old book, for a coaster for a bridge table. The set of course had all the suits in different coasters, I just made the heart coaster. This is shown in the photo below:
It was a totally unplanned project, knit up in several hours and gave me so much pleasure as I knit and admired the lovely single wool yarn. But back to the other locks and their results. Here's a photo of the next two breeds I want to talk about, including the yarns I spun by the lock:
The top lock is from a romney and was the shortest of all the samples. In spite of the shortness though, it was very easy to spin the lock. The yarn was slightly rough feeling and is 15 WPI. I know that it would work to do this fleece as locks but since I have others that will be better washed as locks, I will not spend the time doing this fleece that way. Romney cards up nicely also, and this length of fiber works well in the carder. The whole reason for doing the lock washing samples was to decide the final way to process each of the fleeces. The lock and yarn in the lower part of the photo is from a Cormo border Leicester breed. I bought this fleece because I have loved fleeces from this shepherd in the past, and because I loved the color of the fleece. The longer length of the lock made me think it would be a good candidate for lock spinning and it did make a nice 12 WPI yarn. However the feel of the yarn is a bit rough, because lock spinning is basically worsted style spinning. This creates a tighter yarn, which makes any scratchy fibers stick out, creating the rougher feel to the yarn. For this reason, I have decided that this fleece will be washed in my regular method and drum carded into big fluffy batts for spinning a lofty yarn that will hopefully feel a bit softer. The last two lock samples are shown next:
The top lock is from a corriedale fleece. Look at the length of that lock! And with that length, spinning it from the lock was super easy and fun. The yarn is 16 WPI with a slightly fuzzy look to it. My only complaint is the color. It's off white, with a yellow cast, and I would not like the yarn in it's natural color. So this fleece will be dyed. Now that I know spinning from a lock works well, I still have many options. I could wash the locks in the mesh like I did for this study, and then pop them into many different dyes, like in mason jars, coming up with many locks of many colors. Or I could wash the fleece less carefully, and comb the fiber on my large combs, pulling off top. This will give me a similar type yarn to this sample. I would then spin the yarn and dye it later. The bottom lock in the photo is from a cormo. The lock is small and tightly crimped and full of lanolin. I had concerns that it would not wash well in this method, but was surprised to find that the lock was not as sticky as I expected. There was more waste on the combs when I opened up the locks than I expected, so I'd lose fiber to the combing, something to be aware of when I plan my final project. But once I had the lock opened, it spun so nicely, and made a lovely soft 20 WPI yarn. This fleece would not do well with any other processing, and although it's going to be very time consuming to wash this fleece with the mesh method, I plan to do it, and then spin a soft yarn from the locks. It may seem strange to put spinning from the lock and from the fold in the same study. My logic is that really the process is close enough, although I agree the yarns are totally different. To spin from a lock, you open the lock by combing and then with your fingers tease fibers into the drafting zone from one end of the lock, catching more fibers until the lock is gone. To spin from the fold, you fold fiber over your index finger, and tease a bit forward off the fingertip and spin from that feeding more fiber from the fold until the fiber is gone. It's that manipulation of the teasing a bit of fiber in both of them that makes me say they are similar. I did not do a video of the fold spinning, but here's a photo of the fiber folded over my finger ready to spin:
To show the difference between the yarns created by the two methods, I choose suri alpaca fiber, which usually comes in locks when you get the fiber raw. Here's a photo showing the two types of yarn, and a bit of the washed but unprepped fiber:
The top yarn was spun from the combed opened suri locks. This is the case I spoke about above because these locks did not spin well. The combing open process was hard and there was a lot of waste. And the locks are so thin and slippery they were hard to hold to comb. Then once I had opened lock fiber, it would not spin as wool locks spin. There was not that even straight line style of spinning with these locks. So the yarn is thicker, and very lumpy. The yarn on the bottom of the photo shows the same prep, I combed open the locks as best I could, and then I folded that prep over my finger and spun. The yarn is much better, less bumps and more even. Both yarns are super soft, but the top one, having it's unevenness is less so than the bottom. And this is lesson number two, although the fiber is in a lock, it's not always best to spin it in the lock method. As a final photo I want to show a yarn I spun from the fold method, from a top:
The fiber is 100% milk top, natural dyed and called 'Persimmon' It was dyed by Natchwoolie The yarn is so soft and lovely, although the same amount of top that I got only gave me 88 yards of a two ply. I'm still looking for that perfect item to make with the yarn.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

YST Episode 62 two rare breed reviews

I had not done any rare breed reviews for awhile in the pod cast, so for this episode I review my study of the breeds Clun Forest and Black Welsh Mountain. Here's a link to the episode on the website. The clun forest sample that I had was small, but I was able to do some carded and some combed. Here's a photo of those yarns and a sample of the fiber:
The small sample on top was carded and spun on a lightweight drop spindle. The center skein was carded and spun on my roberta. The bottom skein was also spun on the roberta, this time from combed top. You can see the small sample of fiber left, short, soft and slightly crimpy. When I did my sample for Black Welsh Mountain fiber, I was involved in an internet group that was interested in studying the rare breed sheep and their fibers. One member of the group owns Desert Weyr farm and raises BWM sheep. She was very knowledgeable about the breed and had even included fiber samples in the exchange that were from the UK, the origin of the breed. The difference between the UK and the US sheep was distinct, and the farm's goal was to improve the quality of the US BWM sheep and their fiber, within the standards of the breed. The first distinction of the breed is of course the black color. The fiber is of moderate softness and crimp. The difference shown in her two samples was the length of the staple, the UK fiber was longer, and slightly softer. Although much of this can not be shown in a picture, I have photo of both samples that I spun into yarn. First the UK BWM sample:
Note the length on the fiber and compare it to the US sample of BWM
Both yarns are spun from carded fiber. I later learned that BWM can produce a better yarn when combed for top, because the combing helps remove some of the kemp that can cause the yarn to be less soft. The good news is that these samples are over five years old, and that since then there has been lots of progress in improving the fiber from the farm's sheep. I had the opportunity not only to see some of the new fiber from the farm, but talk to the breeder, Oogie for another podcast, episode 64.

A New Wheel YST Episode 61

April always means the chance to go to the Greencastle Fiber Fair, and I was lucky to go this year. I did a bit on 'impulse' buying too: a new wheel:
In case you don't recognize this wheel, it is a Majacraft Aura. I talk all about it in the Yarnspinnerstales podcast episode 61 The first thing I did was go through the various positions of the two bands, and recording just what affect they had on spinning. I found that many of them will not be positions I use, but the fact that the wheel is this adjustable is impressive. Making the chart of the settings will help me months from now when I find that I want to spin a certain way. I love the enormous bobbins, and fantasize about a winter long project of filling them with singles, enough to knit a sweater. I have a tub full of border leicester roving just waiting for that project. I think though the biggest joy is just how well a spinning wheel spins, that is so newly constructed. I have fussed with my other two old wheels for so long, that the joy comes in being able to just sit down at a wheel and spin.
I love having it signed and dated too! Although they use a code for the date, so referring to this Ravelry thread will help. The A stands for Aura, the M stands for 2011 and then the number of the wheel, 101.

Finished socks

Somehow, summer has come and gone, and I have lots of blog entries on my 'list' that I just never found the time to post. I have a dear friend with a similar problem, she actually posted a photo of 'ketchup' since that is what all her posts where going to be. I'll spare you that, but would like a bit of forgiveness, as I do post a series of posts here, trying to catch up on my fiber doings over the summer. Or, even earlier. I think I finished these late March. I am looking forward to cool weather so I can wear them. It always amazes me that photos of socks make it look like I have gigantic feet. I really don't. And these socks fit very well, in spite of looking like they are too wide and would just bunch up in the shoes.

Details: Yarn: Lana Grossa Primo Needles: DPN size 2 Knit one at a time Pattern: My favorite basic ribbed sock pattern, K4 P2