Archive for the “spinning” Category

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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It's rare that I go to a yarn shop and don't sigh over a pile of Zauberball Crazy in all the colours, and now at last I have one of my very own! Friend Monica returned from a trip with this beauty as a souvenir for me: a ball of Zauberball in the "Tiefe Wasser" colourway, which coordinates perfectly with at least 75% of my existing wardrobe. I feel so loved. Next, I get the fun of deciding what pattern I want to knit with it! I'm leaning towards a small shawl - perhaps together with a navy blue, something like Dreambird?

A ball of "Zauberball Crazy" in greens and teals.

Meanwhile, Michael and I are working on plans for a lazy kate. The one I have doesn't fit my WooLee Winder bobbins, and anyway it only holds three. I'd like to be able to ply four singles together, so we're designing a box-style kate much like my current shoebox, but not made out of cardboard or tensioned with a binder clip. I've been admiring plans and pictures on Pinterest, which has, of course, given me more ideas than I have time to accomplish.

Hand-drawn plans for the construction of a lazy kate.

I'm sure the final version of our lazy kate will look a little different from the plans. We'll make at least one rough draft with plywood first as a test piece for both our skills and the design. Then we'll try it with the good stuff, though I'm a little nervous as my primary expertise in woodworking is in making large useful pieces of wood into small useless pieces of wood. We shall see...

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I have just one last skein of the Unicorn Spit fibre to spin!

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

840 yards of finished (though unwashed) three-ply yarn and just over a hundred grams left to go. It's really neat to see how the big stripes of colour in the fibre get so blended into the yarn, which is exactly the heathery desaturated colour that I was hoping for when I chose the "ingredients" for the blend.

I really hope that I come up with enough for a sweater - and if not, I have more yarn (of course I do) that I can use as a supplement. I think a few navy stripes on the sleeves or around the hem might look really nice.

I finally figured out how to do the patterned crown decreases so that I could finish knitting my Passing Days hat, just in time for an unseasonable cold snap.

Pirate, wearing the new Passing Days hat, looking out the window of a moving train at autumn leaves.

It fits wonderfully and I'm so happy with the way it came out! Friend Stef came over earlier this week to take pictures of me wearing it, and we had a lot of fun doing the photoshoot. I'll be writing up the pattern for release in the next few days, so keep an eye out for it!

On the subject of cold snaps, I need a new pair of Fleeps (some people call them flip-top or convertible mittens). I'd like to use this Corriedale handspun for the outside, and line the wrists and mitten-top with this blue silk. I spun both yarns last summer with this project in mind, and I'm excited to get started. So far I've swatched the Corriedale:

A swatch of tweedy gray yarn

I like the drape of it on size 5 (3.75mm) needles, but I want my mittens to be a little more dense, so I tried again with size 4 (3.5mm). It's not much difference - 18 stitches/4 inches as opposed to 17 - but enough to be noticeable, and I think the finished fleeps will be better for it. Hopefully they won't be so thick that I can't move my fingers!

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An Etsy gift card, combined with a sale on some of the (discontinued) Ashland Bay multi-coloured top, combined with a little egging on from a friend, combined with the need to have a little bit of retail therapy, all came together and thwacked me over the head, resulting in a delivery of spinning fibre arriving at my house.

I bought these two braids of merino-silk in the "Del Mar" and "McKenzie" colourways, which may or may not end up in the same project...

Two braids of merino and silk spinning fibre. One is green-blue, the other mostly blue.

...and these four braids of 21.5 micron merino, in the colourways "Sage," "Granada," "Riverstone," and "Borealis" - which will *definitely* become some sort of a fade/gradient project.

Four braids of merino spinning fibre in a gradient from sage green to dark blue.

But I can't start those until I finish the Unicorn Spit, so to that end I set myself to spinning over the weekend, and now I have four completed skeins (adding up to 570 yards of three-ply, before washing) and three more to spin. This should add up to about a thousand yards all together, which ought to be about enough for a sweater, right? Here are the bobbins in my homemade shoebox kate before I plied them:

An unspun bit of multi-coloured spinning fibre sits on the floor next to a shoebox with several bobbins of spun singles.

It didn't take long before I got frustrated at the lack of tension on the shoebox kate, so I punched two more holes in it and made a brake band out of some scrap yarn. One end is tied to the box, the other is tied to a rubberband which I can hook to any of those binder clips, depending on how much tension I need. The plying is going much more smoothly now, thank goodness!

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"World of Wool Custom Blend" was too boring for a project name, so I was going to pick something more descriptive and fun. Every time I look at these colours combed together, all I can think is "Unicorn Spit"... so I guess that's what it is. Not too dignified, but certainly descriptive!

Combed fiber in a variety of greens and blues, with a streak of pink.

Since I haven't done a project this ambitious before, I thought it might be a good idea to be deliberate and careful about how I proceed. So I pulled off about half an ounce of fibre from the big bag and spun it into singles, then made a two-ply and a three-ply (actually chain-ply, but close enough) yarn to test. I even kept little samples of each step along the way, wrapped around an index card and taped on the back so it doesn't fall off.

Reference card with information about the fibre written on it and sample yarn wrapped around it.

Then I washed my tiny skeins the same way I'll eventually wash the full-size ones: by soaking them for fifteen minutes in lukewarm water with a bit of wool wash, draining and squishing the excess water away, wrapping them in a towel and thwacking them a few times on the side of the tub, and finally draping them over a drying rack. This resulted in 22 yards of 16 WPI (wraps per inch) two-ply, and 13 yards of 12 WPI three-ply yarn.

The three-ply is so much rounder and even, and at this point even without knitting a sample, I was already leaning towards choosing it. But being careful and deliberate requires swatching!

Samples of two-ply and three-ply yarn, spun from the same singles.

Once the yarn was dry, I knit small squares of it. First I tried the three-ply on size 6 (4 mm) needles, but that seemed a little stiff. I knit a row of k2, yo as a separator and tried again on size 7 (4.5 mm) needles, and that felt much better. Then I knit the two-ply on size 4 needles. It was quite nice but thinner than I want the eventual sweater to be, so I started playing around with cable crossings just to see what it would look like. The answer was "really good, actually," but it's still not the yarn I'm imagining for my sweater.

Knit samples and leftover bits of yarn.

Overall, I am absolutely thrilled with the dusty teal colour of the yarn and swatches. The different greens and blues all heather together beautifully, and the pink acts to mute the saturation but still pops out just enough to give it some real interest. It's exactly what I wanted it to look like when I chose the eight different colours that went into the blend.

It's not just the colour that I'm excited about, it's also that the feel of the swatch is perfect. It's smooth but not too soft; I don't think it will be itchy, but it should wear well and not turn into a felted pilly mess too quickly.

With the sampling and swatching done... it's time to start spinning for real!

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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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After a wait which *seemed* like a very long time but was in reality only about three weeks, my custom yarn blend from World of Wool has arrived! Here it is still in the bag, which gives a pretty good idea of the eventual overall colour once it's all spun up and the individual wools are blended together. I'm expecting (and hoping for) something on the desaturated teal side of green, with a few heathered pops of pink and lime here and there.

A bag of blended wool in stripes of greens, pink, purple, and white.

They vacuum-sealed the bag for minimal shipping space, and when I opened it up the wool took a deep breath and spread out quite a bit. Close up, you can see the eight different colours that I chose. The fibre is 50% Corriedale, 25% Merino, and 25% BFL. It feels a little bit stiff - somewhat less soft than I was expecting, but then, I chose the Corriedale for sturdiness rather than softness. And, to be fair, I've been spinning that yak-silk blend, so maybe that's thrown me off and I just need to recalibrate my softness-sensors.

A closeup picture of blended wool in stripes of greens, pink, purple, and white.

Since I was already paying for international shipping, I added some undyed wools to my order. There's a sampler pack of Shetland in 50g each of four natural colours, with which I might get ambitious and spin into laceweight for a shawl, and then I got 200g each of Suffolk and Southdown, both of which I've heard are excellent for handspun socks.

A collage of packets of undyed wool.

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It's a month from the end of the Tour de Fleece, and my combospin is all spun, plied, overplied, cable-plied, skeined, soaked, thwacked, and dried!

The singles were quite fine, because I knew the eventual yarn was going to be made up of four strands. I wasn't sure how to determine the final WPI from the singles, as the strands kind of lock together in the plying process, so I aimed for the 42 WPI line on my control card.

Three bobbins of fine singles with a penny for scale resting on a bit of blue and brown fibre.

Sometimes I just had to stop to admire the way the silk strands gleamed in the sunlight.

Blue and brown wool-silk blend. The silk is very shiny.

The next step was plying. I made two-ply yarns that were half Falkland and half Merino/silk, and then ran them through the wheel again to double the original amount of twist. The top strand (shown across the back of my hand) is extra twisty. If I had been making a two-ply yarn, I would have left it at just the amount of plying twist shown in the bottom strand of yarn.

Two strands of yarn over the back of a hand. One of the strands is much more tightly plied than the other.

Then I plied the two two-plies with each other in the direction I'd originally spun the singles, taking out some of that extra twist and creating a very round, but slightly bumpy, cabled yarn. When I skeined it off it was still quite twisty, but a warm soak and several very firm thwacks against the inside of the bathtub evened it out and let it lie straight. That was a relief.

Three skeins of blueish-brownish yarn on a wooden table.

In the closeup view you can see the texture and the way the two strands interlock to form one. Instead of all four strands rotating around, as you'd see with a traditional four-ply yarn, this almost looks like links in a chain.

Closeup of cabled yarn with a penny for scale. It is a little thicker than sock yarn and has a bumpy texture.

In total, I got 364 yards of yarn that's just thicker than standard sock yarn, from eight ounces of fibre. Not too bad at all! Now I need to finish up some of the socks on my needles so I can justify starting a new project with this yarn. I don't know if it will be smooth enough for socks, but I'll swatch and find out.

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