Archive for the “fiber” Category

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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Once I got past the heel of the handspun sock, I realized that with my inconsistent gauge (because the yarn isn't entirely consistent) it might not be a bad idea to work the leg in ribbing. I decided on a 4x2 rib and worked my way up. When I reached my usual stopping point for socks, there was still a lot of yarn left in the ball - which is just half of the total yarn I spun up - and so I decided to make these knee socks! They're so thick and cushy, I'll only be able to wear them in the winter anyway... so why not keep my whole calf warm?

But knee socks require increases to fit around one's calf. I measured the sock, my leg, the gauge I was getting, and then I looked at examples of ribbing increases to see different ways it could be done. The center of the back of the sock was on one of the purl gutters, so I increased in the gutter, one new purl stitch every other round. When I had four purls in a row, I changed to adding one new knit stitch every other round. Before long, I had a whole new rib.

Four rounds later, I did it again but the other way - since the center of the back was now a knit column, rather than a purl gutter, I started adding knit stitches first. When I had eight in a row, I added the new purl gutter in the middle of them.

A ribbed sock stretched over a hand, showing increases in the ribbing.

I think one more rib will be just right to fit my calf, but I'll keep trying it on as I go to make sure! After that I'll just need to figure out if I want to change to 2x2 ribbing for the cuff or do something else. Decisions, decisions...

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Eight (oops) years ago, I bought eight ounces of soft Corriedale roving with silk carded into it, thinking that I would make an airy tweedy yarn. Then I realized that I didn't know the first thing about how to spin woolen, and I didn't want to "ruin" the fibre by spinning yarn that wasn't what I wanted. But now I *do* (sort of) know what I'm doing, and so here's almost 300 yards of soft, tweedy, two-ply yarn that is destined to become a new pair of Fleeps.

The bits of silk were a fun spinning challenge; I had to draft more carefully, and sometimes stop treadling and draft them out separately, to keep them from making big blurps in the finished yarn. It was worth the effort, for sure. The yarn is fairly even and I think it will knit up well.

From afar, the yarn looks like a heathered gray... but up close, it's easy to see the pink, yellow, blue, and purple pieces. I'm really very happy with how this has turned out! It will probably floof up a little more once it's washed, and then I'll probably give it some good thwacks against the side of the tub to full it a bit before knitting.

I'd like my next Fleeps to be extra-warm, so I'm spinning this silk that I bought in May to use as a mitten lining. Switching between a quick magical long-draw for the Corriedale and a slow short forward draw for the silk was an interesting mental shift to make! The plan is to chain-ply it at a tight twist, and hopefully that will keep it from shedding too much against my fingers.

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It's taken a concentrated effort, but over the weekend I finally finished the combospin that I started for last year's Tour de France. It's all spun up, plied, and skeined off - The Woolee Winder on the Sonata makes plying so much faster and easier! I ended up with roughly 700 yards of three-ply yarn from two pounds of a variety of fibre. I'm sure it will poof up and lose some yardage once it's washed, which I'll do later today.

Several multi-coloured skeins of handspun yarn

Now the question is, what to do with it? My original plan was to spin for a sweater, but I don't think I have enough yardage to make that work. Probably I should have gone for a two-ply rather than three, if I wanted sweater yardage. And, if I'm being honest, I'm not 100% thrilled with the overall colour. I put the yellow in for a pop, thinking it would be too dull without it... but it's too much contrast, too much of a barber-pole effect.

Maybe I'll like it better once it's knit up? I'm considering making some treadle covers for the spinning wheels. I often spin barefoot, and wouldn't that be nice and soft and squishy!

Meanwhile, I started knitting toe-up socks from a different handspun yarn, this chain-plied merino that I spun a few years ago. First I tried knitting on US 2 (2.75mm) needles, which gave me a fabric that was slightly too loose. Then I switched to US 1 (2.25 mm), and I'm getting a very firm and stiff sock... but that's okay, these will be hiking/boot socks. And since the yarn isn't superwash, I expect it to get softer and stretchier with wear and time.

The beginning of a toe-up sock using handspun yarn, with random stripes of burgundies and blues

Because they're so firm, though, I'm trying a new kind of heel. I started working increases about an inch and a half before where the heel should start to make a small gusset, and then more increases will get worked into the short-row heel wedges. This should be interesting at the very least, and if it doesn't fit right... well, maybe this yarn wasn't meant to be socks after all. I have 500 yards or so of it, so there are lots of possibilities.

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When I bought the Sonata, I decided that a Woolee Winder was too expensive, and invested instead in a bunch of bobbins. Later, I got the jumbo flyer and bobbins as well, and that (I told myself) was that. But then the Schacht-Reeves came with a WW, and I fell in love.

If you're not familiar with spinning or Woolee Winders, here's the deal: when you spin, the yarn you make winds onto a bobbin. Usually, you control where exactly on the bobbin the yarn goes by threading it around a hook, and when one portion of the bobbin starts to get full, you move the yarn to a new hook. Some flyers have sliding hooks, but you still have to manually move them. The Woolee Winder, on the other hand, has a gear-driven assembly that automatically moves up and down the bobbin as you spin, so you never have to stop and change/move hooks. You can fit more yarn on a bobbin when it's winding on evenly, and not having to pause all the time is nice, too. Here are the two Sonata flyers for a comparison:

A standard Kromski flyer and bobbin on the left, Woolee Winder flyer and bobbin on the right.

Yep, that happened! I saw that someone on Ravelry was selling a slightly used Woolee Winder, in the right colour, with six bobbins included, for the right price... and I jumped on the deal with a minimum of wembling over it.

A Kromski Sonata spinning wheel in walnut finish, in 3/4 view from above, with a Woolee Winder flyer and bobbin visible.

Plying is going to be a lot less annoying now. (I know, some people like plying. I am not one of those people.) The Woolee Winder bobbins may not hold quite as much as the jumbo ones, but I think it'll be worth it to have the faster speeds and more even winding-on.

The Woolee Winder bobbins are just about the same outside diameter as the regular Kromski bobbins, but the shaft is narrower and they're about half an inch taller on the inside, so a lot more yarn fits onto them. Here's a comparison picture with a Kromski jumbo bobbin on the left, the standard bobbin in the center, and the new Woolee Winder bobbin on the right. (Yes, sometimes I tape my leaders to the bobbins to keep them from sliding. Don't judge me.)

three different bobbins for the Sonata

Now I just have to finish last year's Tour de Fleece project... I've made some progress since my last post, but not nearly enough!

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The wheel has been sitting in a corner of the living room for months, looking at me. And so has the pile of fibre that was supposed to have been last summer's combo spin for the Tour de Fleece. I got derailed, and it's taken me this long to get back into it.

Tonight I set the wheel up, oiled it, and got back into the saddle. The impetus? It's a month until Maryland Sheep and Wool, and if I don't finish what I've already started, I won't be buying much, if anything at all.

No new pics tonight because it's dark and gloomy here, but here's last summer's collection of the two pounds of fibre that are going into this spin. The first two skeins are done, but I have a lot to work through in the next month!

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The pillow form arrived during the first weekend of the Tour, and I used some leftover handspun Jacob in a medium gray shade to crochet the two sides together. I'm really pleased with the finished product! My original thought had been to make a felted pillow, but I liked the feel of the fabric - and the size - so I just left it alone. It's heavy and squooshy and comfortable, and looks great on the black leather couch - though its final home will probably be on the futon in my office. This project was fun from start to finish; I got a lot better at longdraw spinning and then it was such a good feeling to knit a quick and easy project with my own handspun yarn on big needles.

The first week of the Tour went well, and then I crashed - but I'll write about that next time. Meanwhile, I'm playing yarn chicken with the socks I started last fall, and I think it's a losing game. I'd anticipated this, so when I grafted the first toe shut I didn't pull the stitches tight. If I have to rip out that toe for the extra yarn I will, and then both socks will be given contrasting purple toes. Not what I'd hoped for, but that's how it goes sometimes.

The safety pins on each sock are keeping the rows lined up, so I don't have to count over and over again to get my socks the same length. This is Socks that Rock lightweight in the Smokey Mountain Morn colourway, and it's the second STR pair I've made that isn't going to cover my toes. (I made these shorter though! and with fewer stitches around! Hrmph.) I have one more skein of the yarn and I'll remember next time to just make contrasting cuffs/heels/toes...

Meanwhile, I've been super busy! I bought a new (slightly used, but new to me) car and sold my old car last weekend, then started a new job on Monday, and I'm excited about both those things - but so drained from having two adventures in one week. Last night when it was still too early to go to bed, but I was too tired to do anything that required any mental effort, I pulled out some Lang Jawoll sock yarn that a friend sent me. She'd somehow made a tangled mess of the skeins without ever knitting any of it... but now they're all detangled, wound into loose cakes, and added to my Ravelry stash.

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