In preparation for the Great Sweater Spin (the custom blend of fibre I ordered from World of Wool) I busied myself by finishing the spinning project I already had going and knocking out a new one as well.

Michael's mom gave me four ounces of this yak-silk blend from Greenwood Fiberworks a few years ago, and after a lot of waffling over whether I'd be able to do justice to the fibre by spinning it, I stripped it into lots of stripes, spun it as finely as I could while still remaining mostly consistent, and chain-plied it to maintain the colour sequence. It came out to 258 yards when I was done.

skein of fingering-weight yak-silk yarn in reds, browns, greens and blues

This was a tricky spin. The silk fibres tended to slide out first, leaving me with small clumps of yak to deal with. I think that splitting it lengthwise actually helped quite a bit with that, though. Originally, I'd wanted to pull it apart the other way and spin all the blue together, all the red together, etc. It became obvious pretty quickly that I'd need to change my plan. Now I'm considering spinning an equal amount of white silk and knitting a moebius cowl in two-colour brioche...

Closeup view of a fingering weight yak-silk blend

Next, I had six sample ounces of Buoy Blend from Hipstrings. I organized them in a gradient from light blue to dark blue, then from dark purple to light pink, and split the middle four colours in half. The light blue and light pink, I pulled one third off. Then, to offset the colour shift in the yarn, I spun one bobbin that started with a smaller amount of light blue and ended with a larger amount of light pink, and a second bobbin that started with the larger amount of light blue and ended with the smaller amount of light pink.

I think it worked, but I would try to be even more precise if I were to do this technique again.

skein of two-ply yarn in a gradient from pink to purple to blue

I really enjoyed spinning this yarn, and I'm also glad that I got a sample of it instead of enough for a whole sweater. It's soft, but a little hairy and I'm not sure I'd want to wear it next to my skin. The finished skein is 320 yards, and I think this is going to make an excellent wrap, knit on large needles for an airy, lacy look. Hopefully there's enough of it to do what I want!

closeup picture of two-ply yarn

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After a wait which *seemed* like a very long time but was in reality only about three weeks, my custom yarn blend from World of Wool has arrived! Here it is still in the bag, which gives a pretty good idea of the eventual overall colour once it's all spun up and the individual wools are blended together. I'm expecting (and hoping for) something on the desaturated teal side of green, with a few heathered pops of pink and lime here and there.

A bag of blended wool in stripes of greens, pink, purple, and white.

They vacuum-sealed the bag for minimal shipping space, and when I opened it up the wool took a deep breath and spread out quite a bit. Close up, you can see the eight different colours that I chose. The fibre is 50% Corriedale, 25% Merino, and 25% BFL. It feels a little bit stiff - somewhat less soft than I was expecting, but then, I chose the Corriedale for sturdiness rather than softness. And, to be fair, I've been spinning that yak-silk blend, so maybe that's thrown me off and I just need to recalibrate my softness-sensors.

A closeup picture of blended wool in stripes of greens, pink, purple, and white.

Since I was already paying for international shipping, I added some undyed wools to my order. There's a sampler pack of Shetland in 50g each of four natural colours, with which I might get ambitious and spin into laceweight for a shawl, and then I got 200g each of Suffolk and Southdown, both of which I've heard are excellent for handspun socks.

A collage of packets of undyed wool.

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It's a month from the end of the Tour de Fleece, and my combospin is all spun, plied, overplied, cable-plied, skeined, soaked, thwacked, and dried!

The singles were quite fine, because I knew the eventual yarn was going to be made up of four strands. I wasn't sure how to determine the final WPI from the singles, as the strands kind of lock together in the plying process, so I aimed for the 42 WPI line on my control card.

Three bobbins of fine singles with a penny for scale resting on a bit of blue and brown fibre.

Sometimes I just had to stop to admire the way the silk strands gleamed in the sunlight.

Blue and brown wool-silk blend. The silk is very shiny.

The next step was plying. I made two-ply yarns that were half Falkland and half Merino/silk, and then ran them through the wheel again to double the original amount of twist. The top strand (shown across the back of my hand) is extra twisty. If I had been making a two-ply yarn, I would have left it at just the amount of plying twist shown in the bottom strand of yarn.

Two strands of yarn over the back of a hand. One of the strands is much more tightly plied than the other.

Then I plied the two two-plies with each other in the direction I'd originally spun the singles, taking out some of that extra twist and creating a very round, but slightly bumpy, cabled yarn. When I skeined it off it was still quite twisty, but a warm soak and several very firm thwacks against the inside of the bathtub evened it out and let it lie straight. That was a relief.

Three skeins of blueish-brownish yarn on a wooden table.

In the closeup view you can see the texture and the way the two strands interlock to form one. Instead of all four strands rotating around, as you'd see with a traditional four-ply yarn, this almost looks like links in a chain.

Closeup of cabled yarn with a penny for scale. It is a little thicker than sock yarn and has a bumpy texture.

In total, I got 364 yards of yarn that's just thicker than standard sock yarn, from eight ounces of fibre. Not too bad at all! Now I need to finish up some of the socks on my needles so I can justify starting a new project with this yarn. I don't know if it will be smooth enough for socks, but I'll swatch and find out.

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Mom told me that she'd been teaching her granddaughters (my niecelings) to knit, that all three of them had caught on, and that I should bring a project to her house so that we could all knit together. As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn't have anything that was in a good spot to be a traveling project. But instead of saying no, I cast on for a new sock. This is Trekking XXL in colourway 66, which was a gift from Janis to me a Very Long Time ago. Before I started the blog. Before Ravelry even existed. (It was a birthday present. In 2007.) I feel badly that I haven't knit it up before now, but now I am! I decided to go with my own Sibling Socks pattern, as the other pair I have is super-comfy.

The first few rounds of a purplish sock cuff, with the ball of yarn at the top of the picture.

Even though I have several other projects on the needles right now, I'm really glad I started this sock so I could bring it along, because otherwise we wouldn't have gotten this picture of all six of us knitting (well, my SIL is crocheting, but that still counts) together. How fantastic is this?

Also, I should point out, my dad *made* all those yarn bowls. I'm trying to convince him to open an online shop for his work. Aren't they lovely?

Three adults and three children knitting and crocheting on a couch.

Having a new traveling sock gave me something to do at the car dealership while I was waiting for my annual inspection, too. I've made a little bit of progress and now the oil-slick colours are really starting to show up nicely. It's slow-ish going with 80 stitches on size 0 (2mm) needles, but I enjoy the feel of the yarn and I know I'll be glad to have the finer-gauge socks in my drawer when it starts getting cooler out but is still too warm for the thicker ones.

A few inches of sock leg in oilslick colors, in the waiting room of a car dealership.

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These two socks have been stuck at the heels for a few weeks already, and they were holding me up. I like to turn heels when I'm by myself and can keep track of where I am in the process, or inevitably something goes wrong and I have to rip back. I decided that I'd just buckle down and get them both back to the point where I can work on them and hold a conversation at the same time.

The second of the handspun knee socks had some adjustments from the first one so that it will fit better. Fortunately, I'd left comprehensive notes for myself so that I'd know what to do. On this sock, the third wedge of the Sweet Tomato Heel ends with 16 stitches unworked in the centre, rather than eight, and I can tell that this will be a better fit already. I finished the heel and the inch or so of stockinette that comes after it, and got started on the ribbing for the leg. It will be another six inches of knitting before I have to think about increasing for the calf.

These are way too tall for my sock blockers and the ribbing on the leg really makes them look funny when they're lying flat on the table! Once the second sock is finished, I'll get proper photos of them on my feet/legs to show off the heel and leg shaping.

One and a half knee socks in burgundy stripes, and half a ball of yarn.

I also made it past the heel and gusset decreases on the first of my Twisted Stitch Trilogy socks, which is still unnamed, so I've just been calling it Twisted ONE. This will be my next published sock pattern! I'm really happy with everything about them - the yarn, the colour, the texture, the feel and fit. I'll cast on for Twisted TWO with the yarn I bought at Mom's LYS just as soon as this pair is off the needles!

One and a half amber socks, and half a ball of sock yarn, displayed on blue sock blockers.

Right now the handknits are sharing space in a dresser drawer with the storebought socks, but they're all starting to feel a little squished in there. Not that I have a sock addiction problem or anything, but... pretty soon I'm going to need to give the handknits their own drawer.

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Last week I mentioned ordering the sample pack of Buoy Blend fibre from Hipstrings, and today it arrived! The package had a cute sticker on it:

A sticker on the outside of a shipping bag that says, in fancy blue type, "Something fluffy this way comes"

I got six one-ounce samples. They're crisp but not crunchy and smell deliciously sheepy. Seriously, I have shoved my face into the little bundles at least three times already. But wouldn't this make two gorgeous gradients?

Top row: Mussels (rich purple, blue, and brown), Urchin (purples and brown), Rose (pink, cream, and tan)
Bottom row: Depths (deep blue, rich purple, and brown), Bay (medium blues and brown), and Sky (light blues and tan)

Six 1-ounce balls of wool fibre

I can't start spinning it until I clear the bobbins, though. I'm plying my TdF combo spin and wishing that the Woolee Winder bobbins for the Schacht-Reeves held a full four ounces (they don't). And that plying job will take approximately forever, since I mean to cable the two two-plies together - each one has to be awfully overplied first, so it takes twice as long just to make the two-ply part of it, and then I have to ply the whole thing again. It will be worth it!

(And then I've got a bobbin full of yak-silk, and another half the fibre to spin... pics of that later. It's amazing. It's the softest thing I think I've ever touched.)

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Last weekend, in the middle of the Tour de France, I taught a new spinner to make fluff into yarn... and then I sold Patience, the Ashford Traditional, to her. I'm a little wistful, but mostly happy - the poor wheel had been little more than decoration for a while, and it's good to know that she's gone to a new home where she can be useful again.

Of course, I used some of the proceeds to buy new fibre.

I've been thinking that my next spinning project should be a sweater quantity. So first I looked at the "for sale or trade" section on Ravelry, and then I looked at Etsy, and then I looked at a bunch handspun sweater projects. One in particular caught my eye, and led me to buy a sampler pack of Hipstrings' "Buoy Blend". I picked six colours that I thought would go well together, and am expecting the delivery early next week.

Then I thought that it might be fun to try out a variety of wools from different breeds of sheep, and ended up at World of Wool (which is having a sale right now). I got some Southdown and some Dorset, both of which I've heard are great for socks. I got a sampler pack of Shetland wool in four natural colours. And... I designed a custom blend for myself for the sweater-spin. It's 25% merino, 25% BFL, and 50% Corriedale - I'm hoping to get the right mix of softness from the merino and BFL, and sturdiness from the Corriedale. These are the colours I chose, after much deliberating:

Eight colours of wool: navy, lime green, aqua, dusty teal, light blue, off-white, raspberry pink, and grass green.

It will be a while before that shipment arrives, of course, because it's a custom blend and it's shipping from the UK. That will give me time to finish up my spins-in-progress.

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It's that time again! Time for the Tour de France Fleece! For the second year, I've joined Team Combospin - but this year I'm going for something far less ambitious, and picked out an eight-ounce project. I have four ounces each of Falkland and a Merino/silk blend, both from Bullen's Wullens, in similar colourways. The first step was to open up the fibre and see how the colours were arranged. It looks as if there's more brown than blue in both fibres. The Merino/silk has shiny blue silk strands shooting through the brown sections, but the Falkland's colours are more distinctly separated. (Click the picture to embiggen it and see!)

Two pieces of brown and blue fibre folded into S-shapes on a wood tabletop

The second step was to decide how (or if) I wanted to split the fibre up. My plan is to spin a cabled yarn by first making two-plies with one strand of each fibre, and then plying those into a single four-ply yarn. Given how much that will blend the colours together, I decided to just simply break each fibre in half and spin it end to end. In theory, this should provide a subtly striped finished yarn.

By completely randomized selection whim I began with the Falkland, and finished the first half of singles on Saturday afternoon. Here it is with the other, unspun, half:

A bobbin of fine singles with a penny for scale rests on a nest of unspun wool.

The Falkland wool is very pleasant to spin! It's nicely crisp and crimpy, with almost no neps. It drafts smoothly and evenly, and doesn't have any matted sections or parts that just slip apart. I paused frequently to measure against my control card (read more about how to measure handspun yarn on Knitty if you're interested). The finest line on my card is 40, and that seemed like a good thickness for the singles. The finished yarn will probably come out to be a heavy fingering to sport weight after it's washed, but I've never made a cabled yarn before and I'm not sure of the ratio to figure out final WPI from the thickness of the singles. It will be an interesting experiment!

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I don't know if I've ever gone from buying something to finishing it as quickly as this - the silk that I bought at MDSW, not even two months ago, is spun and plied.

I decided to chain-ply it, and as a result it's slightly thicker than I'd originally intended. Here's a closeup with a strand of commercial fingering-weight yarn for comparison:

When I skeined it off, it measured 112 yards - not bad for just two ounces of fibre! I hope it isn't too thick for what I'd intended, which is a lining for my next pair of Fleeps (flip-top mittens, since someone asked). It's not yet time to knit those, so this will get tucked away in the stash until I'm ready to knit it up.

And... that is all the spinning I had planned prior to the Tour de Fleece beginning in a few weeks! I'm excited to try making a cabled yarn for the first time. I know I'm going to have to spin the singles really fine to come out with a cabled sock yarn - just how fine that is will have to be determined by sampling, but I'm guessing it's going to be close to "frog hair". Considering that the project will probably take longer than the three weeks of the Tour, I might even take the time to make a sample card with my singles (low-twist), the overtwisted two-ply yarn, and the averaged-out twist of the two strands of two-ply cabled together, both before and after washing.

(This was supposed to be somehow less ambitious than last year's project?!)

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Last weekend Michael and I went to a Knit in Public event at a local winery, where we met up with friends, drank wine, and worked on our respective socks. This weekend I had the opportunity to go with my mom to her LYS, Laughing Sheep! We spent a while looking through this glorious stack of yarns, as well as all the other cubbies and shelves.

Mom goes to a weekly knitting group at the shop, and some of the local folks were there yesterday. It was nice to meet her group and show them what I've been working on, and I know she enjoyed showing *me* off to them! They're getting ready to do a knitalong for this amazing shawl, Butterfly/Papillon. I might have to borrow the pattern from her after she knits it... isn't this just beautiful?

This tonal turquoise yarn (Classic Elite Yuri, in colourway 5046) came home with me and is destined to be a part of the Twisted Stitches Sock Trilogy, which is still nameless. I'm a few pattern repeats into the second sock of the first pair, and really happy with the way it's coming out. It's been going quickly, so it shouldn't be long before I get to start this new yarn for the second design! (Hopefully I didn't jinx it by saying so...)

P.S. Apparently turquoise is a very difficult colour for a camera. My phone wouldn't accurately capture it so I got out the point-and-shoot, which also had troubles. The yarn showed up as far more blue than it actually is, and I had to do a lot of fiddling with the settings to get a good representation of the colour. Any advice on this subject is definitely welcome!

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