Archive for the “handspun” 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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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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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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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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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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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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