Archive for the “spinning” Category

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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How many divisions to make? In what direction? How do I get that small amount of aqua spread out as much as possible without losing it? The irony of considering, for more than a minute or two, where to draw the line between “thinking” and “overthinking” wasn’t lost on me. So I cast aside all those thoughts and split each four-ounce piece of fibre into 16 pieces. Here they all are:

(That yellow one towards the left side sure does confuse my camera.) Now I’ll take one piece from each of those piles to make sixteen little bundles from which to spin, in order to evenly distribute the different fibres around the whole project. The plan is to spin a worsted weight yarn, but to help me decide whether to go for a two-ply or three-ply, I wrote up the pros and cons:

Pros of a two-ply: more yardage, more distinct colours
Cons of a two-ply: possibly less even, kind of bumpy

Pros of a three-ply: more blended colours, more rounded/even yarn
Cons of a three-ply: less yardage

Once I realized that “more blended colours” meant “less likely to get splotches or pools of bright yellow” the decision was pretty clear: three-ply it is!

I just have to try to resist starting this project until the beginning of the Tour…

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After a variety of fibre is selected, the next step of a Combo Spin is to unbraid/unfold it all, split it up into smaller pieces, and then evenly distribute those pieces. This is two pounds of wool (with a little bit of silk and bamboo in the mix) unbraided onto my dining room table. It was interesting to feel the differences from one braid to the next – this one is softer, that one is more compacted, this one is thicker, that one is less solid.

In this video from the PassioKnit Spinner, she explains her method for splitting up her fibre: first she divides it into eight pieces the short way, then strips each of those pieces in half the long way. For four-ounce pieces of fibre, that comes out to sixteen quarter-ounce pieces – a pretty good distribution!

Half of the fibre I’ve chosen is tonal or evenly variegated, so it doesn’t matter if I split them up the short way or the long way. They’ll be pretty much the same, short or long. Since I find it easier to spin from thicker chunks of fibre, especially if I’m going to be spinning longdraw from the fold, I’m going to break these up the short way. Here’s a picture of those pieces so you can see what I mean (the stripy one on the left is eight ounces; the burgundy and yellow ones are four ounces each):

For the rest of the fibre, however, it *does* matter. I refolded each of the four pieces of top to find the colour repeat. In this one, each colour only appears four times. If I divide it only the short way, I’ll have longer runs of each colour that appear less frequently. The more times I strip it the long way, the more times each colour will appear throughout the entire project.

It was fun to find the repeats! Some of them were very clear:

But some had a couple of places that didn’t quite fit in with the colour pattern:

I’m not going to overthink it (too much); I’m just going to start splitting it up with the intent of even distribution. I can imagine that bright aqua colour in little subtle lines throughout, or in longer runs in fewer spots, but it’s sure to look good either way!

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I used this rainbow of Corriedale to practice my longdraw spinning, getting even better acquainted with “Persistence,” the 30″ Schacht-Reeves, in the process. (Goodness, I am in love with this wheel.) I split each colour into four even pieces so that I could have two two-ply rainbows.

By the end of the spin (10 ounces/285g or so) I felt like I was getting the hang of spinning from the fold, and eventually I came up with 368 yards of two-ply yarn. The full rainbow wouldn’t quite fit on one bobbin, so I spun half and half. The plying was done on “Grace,” the Sonata, because she’s got a jumbo flyer. Twice, the two bobbins I was plying together matched up perfectly, both in the length of each colour stripe and in the total length of yarn. I love when that happens! The other two times, I had to fudge a little bit.

One of the blue-to-purple bobbins got a little out of order, too. I’m sure it will be just fine in the end, but I’m disappointed that I didn’t catch the mistake before it was too late.

When I first started the spin, I had all kinds of thoughts about what project to make with this stuff, and eventually decided on something quick and easy: a pillow! I decided to knit corner-to-corner to get it as close to square as possible while still using up all of the yarn, and used my little kitchen scale to determine the halfway point. It’s right here in the greens:

I’m considering the possibility of felting this once it’s done, but it’s knitting up far more evenly than I’d expected. I chose US 9/5.5mm needles and I’m pleased with the overall feel and drape of the fabric. Once both sides are finished, I’ll crochet them together with a wide-ish border, probably in black.

The next question is, am I going to spin the Tour de Fleece project the same way? The same thickness? The same two-ply? There are so many options!

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The Tour de FranceFleece begins in just under seven weeks, so I thought it would be prudent to finish a project I began with the momentum of last year’s Tour. Eight ounces of BFL from Three Waters Farm in the “Stone House” colourway is now 580 (!) yards of two-ply fingering weight yarn.

Next up, I’m going to spin that rainbow of Corriedale on the Schacht-Reeves so that I can practice longdraw and spinning from the fold, which is my plan for the big Tour sweater-quantity spin. (Hopefully I can get to a good level of consistency in the next few weeks.) I’m going to split each bit of colour in half, then spin them on separate bobbins to be plied back together. If my spinning isn’t exactly even, that will lead to some good blending from one shade to the next.

(Then I’ll have to figure out what to do with ten ounces of rainbow yarn…)

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Maryland Sheep and Wool was a lot of fun this year! I drove up with Caroline on Saturday morning and we met Laurie there. The three of us spent about six hours, minus fifteen minutes for lunch, walking around looking at everything! It wasn’t too crowded, probably because the forecast called for rain in the middle of the day but clear skies on Sunday. Indeed, we did get drizzled on a tiny bit, but not a lot. And there was a lot of mud on the ground; I was glad to have my boots. But because we did very little standing around and waiting, I didn’t get very many pictures.

I couldn’t resist pausing for these paintings, though – and later I got a good shot of their subjects.

And then there was the shopping. I went to the festival armed with lists of possibilities. On one hand, if I could find inexpensive DK-weight yarn, I could knit up some more of the colourwork hats that I have charted out. On the other hand, I was invited to join a “Combo Spin” team for this year’s Tour de Fleece, so I had noted down some of the coordinating colours of fibre already in my stash. Whichever I found first, I said, I would go with for the rest of the day.

It was the fibre, and it was the greens and pinks of a rose garden.

First I found some Ashland Bay merino/tussah in the “Autumn” colourway. Their dyed fibre in this blend is apparently being discontinued, so it was on sale and I bought eight ounces of it. I’m sad that it won’t be made anymore and I’m seriously considering looking around the internet to see if there’s any more at discount prices. Once it’s gone, it’s gone – and I really love Ashland Bay fibre. It may not have the prestige of being handpainted but it’s consistent, it drafts well, the colours are lovely, and it feels nice. Ah well.

Then I saw this FatCatKnits braid in “Ranchero,” on both a plain merino and a merino swirl base. After much deliberation, I went with the swirl, and I regret nothing.

My third buy was a Greenwood Fiberworks braid in merino/bamboo/silk called “Spice Market.” There were a few other colourways that would have worked, but I resisted buying them all.

I brought everything home and set it all up on the table with the two braids of fibre that had gotten me started down this road in the first place: Into the Whirled “Martini & Rossi” romney, and Cloverleaf Farm “Cranberry Bog” merino. I bought that merino nine years ago, before I was good enough to spin it, and I’m glad that it will finally be part of a project. But I thought the group needed something else… not just for quantity, but for the overall colour scheme, to keep it from being too dark.

This braid of Romney that Amabel gave me last year seems to fit in perfectly. I might card a few batts to bring the total up to two pounds, because I have a plan for (eventually) making a sweater from this pile of squishiness. (Also because I haven’t carded up a blended batt in a while, and it seems like a fun thing to do on this cool and windy day.)

So what’s a Combo Spin, anyway? The idea is that you take a bunch of fibre with one or two colours in common, split it up into many small pieces, and randomize the pieces to make a blend. Once it’s spun and plied, you end up with a mostly homogenized yarn that looks like it was all meant to be together. The colours get evenly distributed throughout the whole yarn, and the textures of the different fibres combine in really interesting ways. There’s a thread on the Ravelry forums with further explanations and examples, or you can check out this video.

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For my next trick– er, spinning project, even though the Tour de Fleece has ended and the Olympics has begun, I decided to go with this BFL from Three Waters Farm, in the “Stone House” colourway. I bought eight ounces of it at MDSW wayyyy back in 2011, and I’m a little embarrassed to think of how long it’s been sitting around waiting for me to spin it. Here goes…

threewatersfarm_bfl_stonehouse

Since the last yarn I spun was a barber-poled two-ply, meaning I didn’t try to line up the colours in the two strands of yarn at all, I decided to chain-ply this one in order to maintain stripes of colour in the finished yarn. If the colours played against each other in a traditional two- or three-ply, I think the finished yarn would come out pretty, but overall solid-ish looking from a distance – and that’s not really what I’d like. (Actually, you know what would be interesting? Spinning one braid to be chain-plied, and splitting the other into thirds. Hmmm!)

20160810_three-waters-farm_BFL

The very end of the braid was a little matted together, as they all tend to be, but the strands of fibre loosened up a few inches in and got easier to draft. I’m spinning this fairly fine with lots of twist, since I’ve had trouble with chain-plying lower-twist yarns in the past. It’s so frustrating when the singles drift apart in the plying process! I feel like a more tightly-spun yarn is going to be more durable in the long term, though of course the flip side of that is that the tightness of the yarn can affect the drape of the finished project.

20160810_three-waters-farm_BFL-singles

This fibre isn’t superwash, so I don’t think I’ll use it for socks. Perhaps I’ll make it into a little shawl or wrap – despite (or because of) the August heat, my office has cranked the air conditioning way up, and I need something to keep me from slowly freezing solid… that I can take off as soon as I walk out of the building!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been spinning for nine years already. I’ve come so far from my first lumpy attempts! And it’s just as hard to believe that the blog is almost ten years old… but it is. This has me thinking of doing something special for my blogiversary. Perhaps a giveaway or a contest might be fun. What do other bloggers do? I have until April to figure it out.

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