Archive for the “fiber” Category

According to my records (haha) I bought this fibre in the summer of 2018...

Six round balls of spinning fibre sit on a stone countertop. Each one is made up of a combination of dyed fibre and natural browns and tans. They are arranged in gradient order: dark purple, medium purple, and pink on the top row; dark blue, medium blue, and light blue on the bottom.

...and spun it that fall into a gorgeous gradient...

A skein of handspun yarn sits on a wooden table. It is spun in a gradient of medium pink through dark purple and dark blue to light blue.

...which I've now knit into the "May I Borrow This, Please" shawl (available as a free download on Ravelry), and I am thrilled with it. The pattern is well-written, and I knit the whole thing in two weeks, even with adding another few repeats of the textured stripes because I wanted to use every last yard of this yarn. (Futon for scale, I guess? It was bigger than my towel when I pinned it out for blocking. Oh well.)

A handknit shawl of handspun yarn is pinned out on a towel on the floor to dry, underneath a futon with moon-and-stars sheets and a quilt hanging on the back. The shawl is a shallow triangle with alternating bands of texture and eyelets. It was knit from one narrow pink end through a gradient of purples and blues to a wide finish of light blue.

Here's a closeup of the bands of texture:

A closeup view of the "May I Borrow This, Please" shawl, knit in handspun yarn. The gradient of blue through purple to pink fades off into the background of the picture. Bands of different textures stripe across the shawl.

It's not cold enough to wear it yet, but I can feel that nip of autumn in the air!

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It's here, it's here! The Spinolution Pollywog that I won in their Tour de Fleece giveaway is HERE! Read on for lots of pictures and my first thoughts about spinning on it:

The corner of a cardboard box with a "Made in U.S.A." American flag sticker attached

Since they gave this tiny wheel to me for free, I thought it only fair to do an unboxing post and a review. Let's dig in! The red bag on top of everything held the warranty card, a ratio guide, and the drive band. Underneath it, the packing list and several bubble-wrapped bundles. One held the flyer with a bobbin installed, and a small bit of yarn that I'm assuming was from a test-spin before they mailed the package. Two more bobbins were wrapped together, and then the main part of the wheel was tucked into the bottom of the box. Everything fit perfectly into the packaging and nothing seems to have been damaged in shipping.

Looking into a cardboard box. There are several bubble-wrapped items and a red plastic bag, on which "Pollywog" is written in black marker

Here are all the parts set out on my coffee table. The two-step assembly process was so simple that they didn't even need to include instructions: the flyer goes on top and screws in, and the drive band goes around the 12" wheel and the whorls on the back of the flyer. The tiny treadles flip up and away from the center cam, so unlike my other wheels, putting the drive band on is incredibly easy.

An unassembled Pollywog spinning wheel on a wooden coffee table. The main part of the wheel sits to the left. There are two bobbins next to it, and a third bobbin on the flyer behind them.

I named this little guy "Chance," though I might have referred to him in conversation as "Mr. Tiny" - look at him sitting in front of the 30" Schacht-Reeves! He's so smol!

The new Pollywog spinning wheel looks very small in front of the 30" Schacht-Reeves spinning wheel. They are displayed on the living room rug in front of a pinball machine and one of the stereo speakers.

How about a bobbin comparison? From left to right: a Woolee Winder bobbin from the Schacht-Reeves, the new Spinolution bobbin, and a Woolee Winder bobbin from the Kromski Sonata. That Sonata bobbin holds a lot of yarn! The S-R bobbin is a little shorter than the Spinolution bobbin, but its diameter is wider and it doesn't have that extra chunk of wood taking up space, so I think (without doing any math) that they've probably got about the same overall volume.

Three bobbins, compared in length. The Schacht-Reeves bobbin on the left is the shortest; the Spinolution bobbin in the center is a little bit longer; the Kromski bobbin on the right is significantly longer.

Three bobbins, seen head on. The Schacht-Reeves bobbin on the left is the widest; the Spinolution bobbin in the center is the smallest. The Kromski bobbin on the right is between them in diameter.

Spinolution says that their bobbins hold four ounces of yarn - but the only way I'm going to know for sure is to spin and find out. The next fibre on my spinning list is 200g of grey Suffolk that I got from World of Wool. It's quite soft and with a longer staple than I'm used to spinning - nearly 7" (17.78 cm)!

This picture also shows the integrated bobbin holder. Just behind the flyer, there's a slot which holds three metal dowels. It's magnetized, so they won't fall out. You can (just about) see two of them poking up in this picture, and I've got the third in the centre position with a bobbin sitting on it.

The Pollywog wheel with a little bit of gray yarn spun onto the bobbin and a lot of gray fibre hanging down from the orifice hook.

So now, of course, the real question - how does it feel to spin on a Pollywog?

It's smoooooth. Treadling with just my toes is more than a little strange, but I'm getting the feel for it. It's easy enough to get the wheel going in the right direction with just a light nudge of the flyer; treadling is incredibly light. The treadling mechanism, and the way the whole thing rolls around, is just so cool to watch. (Spinolution does sell a 3D-printed "flipper" accessory that slides on over the treadle to give more of a platform... for $35.)

Pirate's toes on the tiny treadles of the Pollywog spinning wheel.

After about fifteen minutes of spinning, the wheel started to make a clicking noise. Michael and I watched the video about balancing the drive wheel and then gave it our best attempt. We loosened the cam and the two screws, but the wheel didn't get nearly as loose or moveable as in the video. So we aligned it as well as we could and tightened it up again. It still doesn't seem to be balanced, but it's not clicking anymore, so we'll call that a win. Perhaps the wood will shift a little as it gets accustomed to the humidity in our house, and we'll be able to adjust it better.

The only issue I have so far with this wheel being so tiny is that the orifice is really, really low. I don't spin right up next to the orifice in general, but for comparison, the S-R orifice is 25.5" off the ground and I've got the Sonata raised to about 32". The Pollywog's open hook is just 19.25" off the ground. (They do sell a 3" riser... for $55.)

I do like that there's no need to fish the yarn through rings and an orifice tube, but the large hook they've used sends quite a lot of vibration back up the singles to my hands. It's not the worst thing ever, but there's probably a smoother solution to having an open orifice.

Spinolution's user guide says, "Yarn is thumping as you spin: Be sure your yarn is coming from the center of the orifice hook toward your body in a fairly straight horizontal line. A slight angle is possible, but don’t put the yarn at a 45 degree angle up, down, or sideways from the center of the orifice hook." The thing is, with the orifice so low, there's no way for me not to hold the yarn at an angle from the hook? (They do sell a hook tube orifice bar, which they say is "highly recommended for an ultra smooth fine spinning experience"... for $29. The accessories are where they get you, apparently.)

If you want a larger capacity bobbin for art yarns, plying, or just spinning more without swapping it out, they offer a 12-ounce flyer plus one bobbin for $429, which is almost the same cost as the entire original wheel with the 4-ounce flyer and three bobbins at $440. This seems kind of strange, no?

Anyway, back to the good stuff - tension is managed with a spring-loaded block that screws into the side of the wheel, behind the flyer. Its brake is a felt pad that presses on the flyer's shaft. The user guide indicates that this is a reversible piece of wood, but mine seems to be the updated 3D-printed block. Neat! It's quite sensitive and easy to adjust.

In addition to being super smooth, the Pollywog is very quiet. There's no rattling, squeaking, or shaking. The bobbin has a star cutout which fits onto a nut at the back of the flyer and it's magnetized. It snaps together in a very satisfying way when changing the bobbins, but the magnetism isn't so strong as to make the bobbins difficult to remove. The front orifice piece is held on with magnets as well, and it's shaped so that there's only one right way to put it on.

Double picture showing the back of the bobbin with the star-shaped cutout, and the back of the flyer with the magnet and hex nut.

The Pollywog's ratios are 1:2.5, 1:4.5, 1:10, and 1:14 - which is a great starting range, wider than the Sonata's and just as fast at the top end, and I've never felt the need to get the fast flyer for the Sonata! (For $209 (ouch) you can get an accelerator wheel for the Pollywog that acts as a riser in addition to giving you more speeds.)

I admit that I'm a little spoiled by having Woolee Winders on my other wheels, but the peg system on the Pollywog's flyer is easy enough to use - I just have to remember to stop and change the peg every so often! (I should note that they do sell their own version of an automatic winder. Unlike the Woolee Winder, it doesn't require all new bobbins, which is a plus.)

Anyway, that's probably enough for a first impression. Chance and I are getting along pretty well so far, and I'm looking forward to many happy hours of spinning :)

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The surprise part has to come first, because I am just so excited about it - I put my name into Spinolution's annual drawing for a Pollywog wheel and... I won! I got this email yesterday:

Screenshot of an email from Spinolution Wheels telling me that I've won the 2021 Tour de Fleece Pollywog giveaway

And I've spent quite a bit of time since it showed up in my inbox alternating between dazedly commenting, "I won? A spinning wheel? Whoa!" and reading reviews of Spinolution wheels. I don't have an ETA on its delivery yet, but I will be sure to do a review of my own once it arrives! How cool is that!?

Yesterday should have been Virtual Knit Night, but no one could make it - so instead of working on a plain sock, I worked on seaming the Learning Sweater. I stitched up one sleeve and then got some very wise advice that I should quickly baste the rest of it together and try it on for fit. You guys! I've knit a sweater! (Also, just to note, it's very difficult to take pictures of oneself in a bathroom mirror while making awkward poses to illustrate the shape of a sweater around one's body.) Just a few more seams and a neckband to go... and weaving in all the ends, of course.

Pirate models the colourblock sweater, which is basted together at the seams and still missing a neckband.

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Some time ago, I was given multiple bags of alpaca "seconds" - fleece that couldn't be sold for a number of reasons, possibly that it's not soft enough, that it wasn't sheared well, or that the quality is really varied. The stuff I have is... all of the above! But it was free, and I'm having fun going through it to pick out the good stuff.

This bag of fibre came from an alpaca named Valdir, who is apparently part white and part tan:

I'm picking through the bag to find the best of the locks, flicking them open with my hand carder...

Neat rows of alpaca locks lie on a table next to a hand card that has some wisps of fibre stuck in its teeth.

...and putting them all in a box.

Rows of alpaca locks that have been flicked open at both ends and laid neatly into a cardboard box.

All the short cuts are going directly into the garbage, and the soft fibres that aren't in perfect lock formation will go through the drum carder to make floofy batts.

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Next up: 200g of white Southdown (from World of Wool) that is destined to be sock yarn!

Pirate's hand holds a very fine strand of single-ply white yarn next to a two-ply strand over a penny for scale.

The Corriedale singles are resting before I ply them, but this fibre has been calling to me for a while. I've heard that Southdown makes excellent yarn for socks - bouncy and resistant to felting - so here's to experimentation! I haven't decided if I want to make this a two-ply or three, yet. (Opinions? Advice? Input? It's a matter of yardage vs durability, I think?)

I've also heard that the wool from Suffolk sheep is good for socks, so I have 200g of that in a natural grey as well, and will probably spin it next...

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A friend sent me a braid of Corriedale from Into the Whirled, in one of their Firefly-themed colourways. This one is called "The Verse" and it's all sorts of colours - blues and purples, greens and yellows, oranges and tans.

Unspun fibre in vibrant yellows and tans, greens and blues and purples, is piled on top of a partially full bobbin of singles.

My original thought was to try a fractal spin with it, as that's a technique I've been curious about for a while, but then I opened up the braid and thought... you know what, I would really prefer not to mix up purples and blues with yellows and oranges. So instead, I'm spinning a medium-thick singles with the plan to chain-ply and keep the colour progression in stripes.

Considering how tight some of my other handspun is, I'm trying to keep this one a little less twisty. Hopefully that will result in a softer, more drapey yarn when I'm done.

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I had so much fun swatching the Unicorn Spit that I decided to wash and swatch one of the skeins of Fleece.

Well, really, it was mostly curiosity. The Unicorn Spit was so twisty and knitting up at a gauge much fatter than its WPI would have led me to guess, that I needed to know if the Fleece would do the same. So I gave a skein a bath, let it soak for half an hour, rolled it in a towel, snapped it open a few times, rolled it in another towel and thwapped it on the floor, and then hung it to dry.

It is SO BOUNCY. And again, despite the WPI, it's knitting up quite nicely on size 8/5mm needles.
(I'd originally swatched this last year on size 6/4mm needles at nearly 5 stitches to the inch, and now I'm thinking that was way too dense.) Apparently if I want yarn that's actually sport to DK-weight, I'm going to have to spin much, much finer.

I'm going to try a few more textured stitches before I wash and block this, but here's the swatch in progress:

A swatch of brown knitting with plain stockinette at the bottom and cables plus ribbing at the top.

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Remember the Unicorn Spit?

Six completed skeins of yarn with a bundle of unspun fibre perched on top.

I wound up one skein of it for swatching, because the Pirate Socks are still in time-out and I didn't want to disturb them. Here's where things get weird: I'm getting 10-11 wraps per inch on this yarn, so it should be a heavy DK or light worsted weight yarn. But it was a little tight to knit on size 8/5mm needles, and much more pleasant on size 9/5.5mm needles, where I'm getting four stitches to the inch, making it... heavy worsted? Aran? What even.

An in-progress knitting swatch. There is a ruler on top of the swatch with the yarn wrapped around it, showing ten wraps per inch.

The other problem is that it is TWISTY. I'm sure that I washed these skeins before I put them away, so I know the twist is supposedly set, but whooooo it's impossible to knit with as is. I had to stop every yard or so to let the work dangle and untwist the next bit of yarn. This isn't workable for a whole piece, so I'll probably end up running it through the wheel 'backwards' to untwist it a bit, and then re-soak it, and see if that helps.

"But I wanted a firm and durable and round yarn!" says past-me, the spinner who apparently overplied the heck out of this stuff. Ah well. It's still fixable.

The swatch isn't showing any bias because of all the untwisting, so at least I know that it can knit up nicely... at four stitches to the inch:

A knitted swatch of heathery green yarn with garter stitch up the sides and ribbing at the top. Eyelets in each section indicate the needle sizes that were tested: size 8 and 9.

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The absolute last thing I needed was to start a new project, except for the part where I've been having some downtime at work and there's an empty spinning wheel next to my desk. This work-from-home thing is pretty awesome. The desk that Michael and I built is nearly perfect: eight feet long, painted teal and yellow, room for my personal computer, my work computer, the letter I'm writing, and a sketchbook too. It's attached to the wall so it doesn't shake, and braced underneath so it should never bow in the middle.

Pirate's office: a long teal-painted desk on the right with several monitors and a laptop, sketchbooks, knitting projects. To the left of the desk is a window; under the window is a spinning wheel.

Anyway, I found this set of batts in my stash bins while I was moving them around. I bought the fibre in 2009 (yeah, it's been a while) as dyed locks of 25% mohair/75% Finn wool, and carded them into batts by colour so that I could spin a gradient.

A row of carded batts in a gradient from light green through purple through rusty red.

Since I have no idea what I'm eventually going to knit with this, and I'm not in any particular hurry to get the project done, I decided to aim for a light fingering weight yarn. It will take a long time to spin eight ounces of fibre this fine in just the pauses between work, but it might end up as a nice shawl if it's soft enough.

I pulled a strip off the first batt and started to spin, and... whew, the fibre is drafting nicely! It's got quite a bit of lanolin left in it, so it's a little sticky, but in a good way. In a not-slippery way. In a "this is easy to spin fine singles" way.

A very fine single, held over a penny for scale.

When I felt like I'd gotten a reasonably good consistency and thickness (thin-ness?) with the singles, I tried a three-ply plyback test - folding the single strand back on itself and twisting it up as if it were three separate strands going into one yarn. The pale green is my spinning; the bright yarn next to it is a strand of Trekking XXL, which is just slightly thinner than what I think of as "standard" sock yarn. I'm right on target.

Three-ply plyback test, next to a strand of commercial sock yarn as a comparison.

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That secret gift I mentioned in my last post is a neckwarmer/cowl for Grandma! I knit it with a yak/silk blend that I spun a couple of years ago, but didn't know what to do with it... until now. The pattern is Polyphylla, which is available for free on Ravelry.

A cowl, with a ruffled edge at the bottom, knit in handspun yarn. The colours are stripes of dark and light red, blue, and green.

I really enjoyed knitting this pattern, not to mention knitting with my own handspun yarn of silky warm softness. It's well-written, though I was a little bit unsure about the instructions to shift the stitch marker for the beginning of the round. Fortunately it's so easy to see where one is in the pattern by looking at what's already been knit, so I got around the confusion easily enough. The bindoff makes a really nice edge, but as I mentioned in my previous post, uses up a lot more yarn than I expected!

The cowl used one skein of my handspun yarn, and I am absolutely loving the self-striping effect that I produced! The only thing is, I had two... and they had slightly different yardage, and I don't know if this was the 118-yard skein or the 140-yard skein. I'll have to remember to re-measure the remaining yarn before I start another project with it, just to be on the safe side.

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