Archive for the “handspun” Category

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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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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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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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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