Archive for the “spinning” Category

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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This project is a gift, so I can't share pictures of the whole thing yet. But holy wow did I ever cut it close on the yarn! The project called for a long-tail cast on over two needles; I overestimated the amount of yarn I'd need and had nearly a yard of tail remaining. Laziness said "it's 168 stitches, you don't really want to start over - and besides, it's handspun yarn and super soft, what if it gets fuzzy when you pull it out and do it again?" I definitely didn't want that to happen, so I just started knitting.

The beginning of a knit project, showing nearly a yard of yarn trailing from the starting point.

You see where this is going, right?

I knit the project, convinced even up to the last round that I would have plenty of yarn. But then I came to the bind-off, which is a really nifty one that I hadn't tried before, and which took up A Lot more yarn than I expected. As I worked my way around, I started to get worried... so I worked faster, because that's how that goes, right? Knitting faster means you might outrun the end of your yarn.

I finished with five inches of yarn left over.

The end of a knit project, showing five inches of yarn trailing from the ending point.

I'll share more details about this one after the gift has been given!

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I have seven bobbins for Persistence, the Schacht-Reeves wheel, so after I'd fully filled six of them with Fleece 412 singles, I used the seventh to ply. And, very exciting, I used the prototype version of a box-style lazy kate that Michael helped me build! It needs some refinement, but it does function. The idea was to have a workaround for the annoyance of having to hold a bobbin in just the right spot while poking the skewer through first one side of the kate, then the bobbin, then the other side. That part of it works well, but I didn't think the tensioning mechanism through at all, so it's still not quite what I'm looking for. Here it is holding all six full bobbins:

Six full bobbins of singles sit inside a plywood box.

Ultimately I'd like to build one with thinner, nicer wood (this was knocked together out of scrap plywood that we already had in the garage) that has slots to hold four bobbins at once. Am I going to make a four-ply yarn? I don't know, but I'd like to be able to!

Conventional wisdom teaches to ply at low ratios, but I'm not sure why, as it goes so much faster on the big wheel with the fast whorl! I counted my treadles to make sure that I got the same amount of plying twist in each section of yarn, and plied all eight of these skeins in a weekend.

That gave me 848 yards of round three-ply yarn to just over a pound of fibre spun up, which is... not enough for the sweater pattern I've picked out. If I can get gauge, I'm planning to knit the Izel cardigan - I love the cable details, the ribbing on the back, and the hidden pockets.

Fortunately, I have enough of The Fleece remaining to spin another thousand yards if I need to, so I'm sure I'll eventually have spun enough yarn to knit a whole sweater. I'll start by spinning three more bobbins-ful and see how far I get! Meanwhile, there's really no reason why I can't wash and dry the yarn I already have, and get started on swatching and... (gulp) actually knitting a sweater for myself.

Eight hanks of brown three-ply yarn sit on a stone countertop.

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Much to the dismay of all my knuckles (which are rebelling, either due to July's heat and humidity, or to the annoyance of holding my hands in a particular position for too long) I've been spinning daily for the Tour de Fleece, and I'm up to three bobbins of singles!

An almost-full bobbin of fine brown single-ply yarn, still on the spinning wheel.

Some parts of the fibre are drafting a lot easier than others. Even though the sheep had been coated, the fleece didn't have zero vegetable matter in it. And it's very fine. Sometimes I have to stop to pick out a nep or a bit of straw, but for the most part it's going well.

I'm definitely leveling up my long-draw skills with this spinning project! Hopefully enough to make a lofty, airy three-ply yarn instead of a heavy, dense one. There's definitely enough fibre here to spin enough for a sweater (I have over two pounds of it) but I have yet more carded fleece in lighter colours that I may add to the project as a contrast colour. That will depend on what I want to knit, which I haven't quite decided yet. Of course.

While the Tour de France may have been postponed, I've been getting out for bike rides anyway. My goal is to ride at least 100 miles this month, which seems like a lot but really isn't. The real challenge is the hot and humid weather, not the biking!

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It's time. It's finally time to spin Fleece Four-Twelve, the one that Carrie and I bought at MDSW a few years ago. I was going to wait until the start of the Tour de Fleece on the 27th, but why wait to begin such an exciting project?

I spun up a quick sample, aiming for a DK-weight three-ply yarn, and I think that's what I've come up with. With my sample yarn washed and dried, I measured 11 wraps per inch and then knit a stockinette swatch on US 6 (4mm) needles, which got me 19 stitches/4 inches before washing. And then I ripped that out so that I could try some cables. Here's a picture of the swatch just off the needles, along with some of the carded fleece...

A cabled swatch knitted from brown yarn with a chunk of carded fleece.

...and here's what it looks like after it's been washed and blocked.

A knitted swatch with cables is pinned onto a green towel.

The fleece is quite crimpy and springy, so I'm trying to spin it long-draw to maintain its bounce and light weight. I don't want this to be a heavy, dense yarn at all. After washing, the swatch is rustic but almost soft enough to wear it next to my skin. Fortunately that's not my plan for it - I want to knit a cabled cardigan to wear when I go snowboarding! I haven't picked a pattern yet, but I think I have plenty of time to think about it.

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