archive for October, 2005
oh bfl you rock my socks . after a rather downbeat spinning week, with the spoiled wensleydale and the mashed-up-by-dyeing cheviot, i realised that i hadn’t spun my whole stash like i’d thought, and i had an untouched bag of “humbug” bfl tops lurking at the bottom of the basket.
and what a joy to spin, soooo smooth, once again i just couldn’t put it down. the top is this lovely badger striped mix and it spins up into a gorgeous tweedy mixture. i had a quick go at spinning from the fold, which was okay, but i couldn’t be doing with joining in small handfuls every couple of minutes, really interrupted the flow. i also agree with yarnhead’s opinion that you don’t want chunks of colour from a stripey fibre, so i’m spinning it from the tips.
the colours stay surprisingly separate as i spin, and combine beautifully when plied (for the first time i’ve done samples and i’m trying to keep to a reference thickness all the way through). i have split the tops because i wanted to get stretches with slightly different colour balances so they should ply interestingly, rather than even out too much. i spun half the bag (50g) in 3 hours last night.
and the finished result:
130 yds, 12 wpi, 3 1/2 oz
i am very proud of this one. it’s got so much life and sheen and bounce. it’s perfectly balanced and (i think) has just the right amount of twist in the single and the ply. there’s some variation in size, but not lots, and only one or two spots where it’s noticeably too thin. compared to my previous efforts it’s really well plied – this time the singles didn’t need as much tension, maybe because they sat on the spools overnight, so i tensioned each one over a separate hook. keeping them apart until they hit the twist made for much smoother plying.
judging how much twist to put into the ply was a “how does it look/feel” judgement again, but helped by my plied sample. the stripes in the top made it really easy to check the twist using the technique from hjs studio – that the individual fibres in a balanced yarn run parallel to the yarn itself, if they’re slanted one way or the other it needs more/less twist. it was reassuring to see that it agreed with the amount of twist i wanted to add based on the instincts i’ve built up so far.
Yarn-A-Go-Go: Technicalities post +comments on different spinning styles, sounds like it’ll be very helpful if i ever get a wheel.
75 yds, 11 wpi, 3 1/2 oz, navajo plied.
my first spinning fuckup. take 1 bag of wonderful slinky, sheeny wensleydale, overspin to buggery and tada! 75 yards of string lesson learned: listen to my instincts, i wasn’t happy with this early on in the spinning. should have run up a couple of short samples. every now and again the loveliness tries to break out in a looser area, should have been able to spot that before i spent hours spoiling it. plus lesson: save the big one for plying, it only makes for achey wrists and grief piled up with 4oz of singles. in fact it might have been using the bigger spindle (greater momentum, more twist) that caused the problems, although i used it no worries for the shropshire and side by side they look like they have very similar amounts of twist, i guess it’s just the fibre just wants less twist (the shropshire was nothing special to look at so lost nothing by being so tightly spun, and is still bouncy compared to the limp wensleydale).
but on the up side the wpi is close, so one mission accomplished at least.
sweetgeorgia – spinning/dyeing/knitting blog, plenty of inspiration to be had.
#7a (mostly greens): 9 wpi, 40 yds, just under 1 1/2 oz
- thick and thin and slubs really doesn’t work with navajo plying. the weight changes become very abrupt and it’s difficult to pull lumpy yarn through the loops. i did actually choose to put a bit of weight variation into it, plus i didn’t predraft so i got natural lumpy bits. didn’t fight it and try to smooth it out which i now know i should have done.
- don’t go too thin as there’s more tension involved in navajo plying so it will snap
- the twist in singles stabilises quicker than you think. i didn’t “overply” this batch as much as the previous ones since it was all spun in the same evening. there was a definite S twist to the finished skein – so much that i’m weighting it – so it needed more twist in the plying. having passed on the advice that if the skein twists Z it needs more Z i’m beginning to doubt it myself, must track down where i read that and double check.
- red & green doesn’t necessarily look xmassy. i had a sudden moment of horror as i was plying it up as i realised what i’d done, but it really does look fine. the darker red is coming out brown in the yarn and i like it, blends well.
i’m on and off with this one, not over-enamoured with the dyed tops, loved it as a singles, had a crisis of confidence once i started to ply but digging it again now it’s skeined up. i’ll be really interested to see where it settles once it’s crocheted. this is the mostly-green skein, there’s a mostly red and an all-green to come.
7b (mostly reds): a paltry 23 yards, also 9 wpi, just over 1oz
so much for trying to divide into 3 equal skeins! then again the red was only 1 of 4. this skein isn’t quite as underplied as the first, but it still has a slight S twist. the dyeing has really taken its toll on these fibres, (noticeably more on the fibre that i overdyed, much better to get it right first time in future) they’re quie matted and “sticky”, if not actually felted. the first skein is quite dry and scratchy so i added a little lanolin to the twist setting wash, which made it noticeably softer.
7c (all green): 32 yds, 1 1/2 oz, 8 wpi
balanced at last! this skein is slightly fatter than the previous 2, but much smoother, since i realised how much difference predrafting makes. i’m happy with the colour mix too. i used much shorter sections of fibre so there aren’t the long single-colour stretches that the others have, which makes for more interesting combinations where you have 1 strand of 1 shade and 2 of another. will be very interested to see how the combinations look once crocheted (these are destined to become a basket to keep finished yarns in, hope there’s enough).
i’m pretty pleased with how these have turned out, considering they were primarily a colour experiment. i tried variations of navajo plying and found my favourite – wound onto a weighted plastic bottle, placed in a wastepaper basket, single run around my body and over my shoulder – the gradual improvement across the skeins is quite visible: another view.
… is currently cooking this is a very very scary thing to do with my best yarn yet.
i went roughly 60/40 merino/bamboo for the second ply and it’s worked out as i wanted – roughly intermixed, not even (as if i could even if i wanted ). i’m hoping this will give some interesting colour effects, as i’m assuming the bamboo won’t pick up an acid dye.
the overall blend works well together, there’s a definite smoothness from the bamboo and a subtle sparkle from the angelina (i would have preferred a little more oomph, but the price of the angelina held me back a little), and it’s gorgeously soft and squishy.
from first impressions it’s surprisingly even across the length of the skein and it looks pretty damn balanced too. i plied every spindle so that it looked overplied judging by the dangle test, but it looked and felt “about right” to my eyes. this was my first time plying 2 separate singles rather than either end of one, and the shoebox lazy kate took a little tweaking. when i was just running the yarn straight off the (cardboard tube) bobbins i was getting all kind of twisted kinkiness, so i went searching for how to tension it. turns out it’s dead straightforward, you just run the singles over a hook. or in my case 2, to get the tension i wanted. handily enough we have a row of hooks along the bottom of the mantelpiece for stringing xmas lights, so i could take my pick. after that it was an easy enough – if long and dull – job.
i’ve gone very unscientific with the dyeing. soaked the skein in vinegary water then dyed with food dye mixed with vinegar in a variety of blues. i diluted the colours a little with more vinegar and water when they didn’t cover the whole lot. i think it might come out rather even and rather dark. if it comes out at all – i realised i have no idea whether our clingfilm will withstand steaming…
and i have a stats: the skein measures in at a whopping 261 yards, avg 18wpi.
and here she is:
i’m so attached to this one it even has a theme tune: elliot smith’s in the lost and found. absolutely couldn’t help myself humming don’t go home angelina…
my camera has such problems with red. this is actually a much deeper, browny red, so the contrasting orange topstitching stands out really well. the orange came from the legs of the crab applique, which i’ve had stashed away for ages (keep your eyes peeled for his friends making an appearance soonish). it’s all sequinny which you can’t really see in the pics except here.
the pattern was simple enough. it took me 4 short evenings: 1 to trace and cut the pattern, 1 to lay out and cut the fabric, then 2 to do the sewing. i laid the stretch cord with the nap running up to make the most of the rich colour. this was quite simple for an ottobre pattern, the interest coming from the chopping up of the pattern pieces, and the pockets. the only change i made was to use zigzag rather than ribbon to reinforce the pockets. i committed a major sewing sin by laying out the facings across the grain to save fabric, but then had to re-cut the straps as i hadn’t added a seam allowance and they weren’t wide enough. it was one of those places where the hem is marked so in theory you don’t have to add extra, but no way was there room to turn under. i did have reservations about the length after comparing the pattern to one of her existing dresses so i did add extra SA along the bottom hem and i’m very glad i did. but then the top edges of the pockets similarly didn’t need the SA adding and they were fine. as it is i now probably have enough fabric left for a skirt or possibly a pair of simple trousers.
size-wise it’s pretty spot on. it looked short and wide in the pics so i went for a 92 width and a 98 length. i think i’ll put an extra set of buttons on above the ones i have, to make it sit where i like on the chest. it’ll then hit just at knee length, with at least 3 more inches on the straps to grow into.
the only reservation i have about this pattern is the suggested fabric. i thought i should be okay with a stretch cord, since they used a stretch velvet, even though i remembered from the brown stuff i used before that stretch cord doesn’t take very kindly to a lot of topstitching. and i had the exact problems i expected: major rippling along the topstitched seams. and of course because it’s cord pressing the living daylights out of it isn’t really an option. i gave it a heavy steam and a gentle press and it’s just a bit wavy now, not enough to be a problem.
overall i’m really pleased with it. it looks much cuter on than it does in the pics. i’ll probably make at least 1 more out of denim or something else easy to sew.
i’m working on 2 spindles at the moment. the first is wensleydale, destined for the rug. it’s such beautiful fibre; soft, super long and lustrous, slippery but with a crimp. but as i turn it into yarn it seems to lose all it’s charm and character. this is the first wool i’ve really felt i wasn’t doing justice. it really wants to be thinner than the weight i’m spinning and i’m having real problems keeping it smooth because of the long staple – once i see a bump coming it’s too late to tease it out. it’s okay when i can really concentrate but that kind of peace doesn’t happen often round here.
as a bit of light relief i’m also playing with some merino and angelina. i was expecting the merino to be tricky but it really doesn’t seem to be. i had a quick try spinning from the fold and while i kinda got it it was more work than the worsted-style spinning from the end of the top that i’ve been doing and am comfortable with. so this lot gets done the relaxing way. i’m trying to get it fine and even and it’s getting there. i’m also trying to work out a way of blending in the angelina without having it sticking out all around like demented tinsel which it really wanted to do at the start. i think i’ve got it now – i’m opening up the chunk of top, spreading the angelina across, trying to keep the fibres parallel, then rolling up like a swiss roll and predrafting as usual. i’m getting thick spots where it’s nearly all sparkle and quite long stretches where there’s none at all but at least it’s fairly well lined up so the tinsel thing’s under control.
i’ve taken the plunge and stuck hooks on both spindles. i found i was getting a much improved spin by hitching as close to the end of the point as possible (i.e. closer to the centre of grvity) but the wensleydale in particular was sliding off too often for my temper. all is now sweetness and light, the hooks are soooooooo much better than the hitch. i’m hoping this will make the wensleydale a bit more enjoyable too, once i can face it again.
my second batch of food dyed tops are cooking now. i’ve gone for overkill on the colours, and despite my firm intentions to do 4 different greens i just couldn’t bring myself to do it, so we have 3 greens plus a red.
dark khaki green: 55g + 16y + 6bk +2r
mid leaf-green: 25g + 25y + 6b + 1bk
lime green: 30y + 9b
deep red: 40r + 15y + 1bk
i altered some of the colours once the fibre was in and it wasn’t looking how i hoped, particularly to deepen the dark green and add blue to the over-yellowy lime. i was quite happy to swish the fibres around in their pots given the cheviot’s immunity to felting. i’ll also be quite happy if there are variations within the colours, i’m not aiming for solids. in fact i really should think about space-dyeing and steaming in clingfilm for the next batch.
update: i think my problem is i’m too much of a perfectionist for this experimental dyeing lark. i’m reasonably happy with the outcome, 3 patchy greens in a variety of shades, though nowhere near as much difference between the colours as i was hoping for. the red’s successful in one way – a good rich red, but pretty much solid, no interesting variation, and it’s still a little primary for my taste, perhaps one more drop of black might have tempered it a little.
now i’m not sure what to do with them. i was planning to do random (small) handfuls then navajo ply, but i’m not sure whether to include the red. i think i might go for 3 skeins – 1 just greens, 1 mostly greens with a little red and 1 mostly red with a little green hopefully that way i can avoid a majorly stripey or muddy brown effect. i guess i could overdye some of the red a little darker. maybe.
not that i have so little spirit for adventure, just that i’m very picky about colours. it might actually be more worth my while to buy dyed rovings, especially with more expensive fibres like merino or silk. what’s fun at 25p/oz becomes less so when you double that and double it again.
update: definitely not happy with the red so i’m partially overdyeing: half the amount water/vinegar so some of the fibre sticks out above it. colour is deep rusty orange: 30y + 5r + 2bk.
ditto with the dark green: 30y + 5b + 2bk.
i did notice more colour bleeding out when i re-wet the top, so maybe it’s worth upping the amount of vinegar in future, sure it can’t hurt.
update: the red came out more orangey but not significantly darker. i think i’m being fooled by the appearance of the black in the dye bath – it’s a lot darker than it turns out in the wool, so i haven’t been adding enough.
update: i’ve got 2 colours i’m happy with – the original “leaf green” (which has turned out more limey) and the overdyed dark khaki green which has come out very camo. now i’m more concerned about turning out usable than repeatable colours so i judged the last dye baths by eye. just straight green for the lime, hopefully with the yellow underneath it should make a reasonably strong, clear mid-green. then red + black and dipping half the red (as i do like the orangey red i already have, it’s just too much all together) this bath was very dark, so i’ll keep a close eye and maybe pull it out half way.
final update: pic of the colours now i’m finally happy. nearlyt impossible to get an accurate colour representation.
almost finished the original seraphina shawl, except for weaving in the yarn ends on the buttons. i hate weaving in, even though the shawl only had 6 ends total i still had to take breaks…
it ended up a little small to stay put properly so i’ve rigged it into this kinda capelet style with the buttons. i think it looks great. this was so much fun to do, it was always my treat project for when i’d done a decent amount on something else. the yarn was lovely to work with, and i love the stitch definition – check out the detail.
buttons are the tagua nut ones i had stashed. i think they go close enough, even though they’re a very olivey green against the blue green of the yarn.
it’s pretty unassuming but i’m very proud of this one. shropshire, 110yds, just over 4oz (i got a generous 120g in my 100g bag), average 10wpi, 3-ply.
described as dark grey, but it’s definitely on the browny side. it took just over 24 hours from bag of fluff to finished yarn. it’s going to be the first of my rug wools, so i’ll try to get the others to match this weight. it’s the first time i’ve aimed for a certain size, rather than just gone for the finest/smoothest i could. this definitely would have gone finer, but i wanted something pretty chunky. i’m pretty damn pleased with the result, it’s dense and strong, but still has some bounce. it’s slightly overplied, but seems to be straightening out as it dries.
it’s still noticeably uneven, but i think that’s a lot of the charm of handspun so i’ll be sad to see the back of it once i get to be any good. i tried my hand at navajo plying and it went fine, once i’d worked out how to get enough tension on the singles to tame the rather lively twist (i ran it around me and over my shoulder, i like the idea of wrapping onto weighted plastic bottles, but i didn’t want to unwind it from the original spindle).
the 2 things i’m most pleased about with this are the length and the evenness of the twist. i managed to get the whole 100g onto my big spindle, though it was getting pretty unwieldy by the end, which works out at 330 yds of unplied singles. all happily plied back together without a break. yay! finally a decent length skein i’ve started to feel the twist in my drafting fingers too, so i can judge the amount of twist in the yarn no matter what the length, same with judging how much spin to put into the ply too. i guess this wouldn’t work as well for a yarn with less twist (i knew i wanted a lot of twist both for the navajo plying and the end use), but maybe my sense will develop so i can feel less twist too. but i’m pleased that i’ve found a reasonably reliable subsitute for looking at how the plied yarn hangs, since i found out that this is utterly unreliable.
the shropshire was nice to work with, 3-4″ staple (have realised my previous measurements will be off as was measuring stretched not relaxed), a mix of dark grey-brown and white fibres, quite crimpy and grabby so easy to draft. coarse compared to the bfl but not excessively so. no idea if it’s recommended for rugs – all the spinning info i can find is that it’s a “medium” wool – but i’m hoping the high twist and navajo ply will help it to stand up.
next batch of ongoing projects:
#1 scarf: will get more bfl for this as i don’t think i can make what i have stretch. can play with other colours then too. having looked again the last batch, although wonderfully soft, is woefully plied, so i might even skip that batch and start with another. i think it would make sense to try to spin it all consecutively as every time i do another spindle the consistency changes again! at least that way i might be able to keep it relatively even. also then i could try to make a much finer (though hopefully just as soft) yarn and use the double sided stocking stitch, which i really like. i think stripes really are the only sensible option here, since as soon as i look at patterns things get much more complicated.
#2 rug: this is my big project. i like the crochet plan, and i think i’ll go with the carrying the yarn technique as i love the colour effects. will have to research good rug wools (i’m thinking lustrous longwools) and techniques (worsted? maybe navajo ply)
#3 baskets, boxes, bowls: these should be handy to use up my experimental yarns, and the cheviot i’ll keep practicing the dyeing on.
#4 mystery project. i’m about to test a bfl sample for felting, if it works i think i’ll get some extra white bfl and use that. or maybe the merino? not sure 4oz will be enough though.
so here we are – the end result of a chain of experiments. hand dyed with food colouring, spindle spun, crocheted, felted (ish). i was planning to spin a super-fluffy white yarn to trim the edges, but it fits madam perfectly now, any extra rows and it would be down over her eyes. i think she’s finding it a little itchy, though she really likes it and wouldn’t take it off for the first half hour.
the yardage was spot on, had just about enough left to do ties for the flaps but i won’t bother as i like it well enough without. i adapted the interweave crochet pattern to fit my gauge and made the flaps wider and more tapered (decreased at both ends not just one). after i’d dyed and spun i read somewhere that cheviot doesn’t felt easily and boy is that true! it’s slightly tightened and fuzzed (and faded!) but hasn’t really felted at all, despite a thorough hand-bashing plus full length 90Âº wash. it fit me just right before fulling and it’s shrunk just enough to fit madam now.
this is a shame as i’d been relying on my large batch of 56s (i.e. the cheviot) for multi-purpose dying and felting experiments. it’s not really soft enough for next to skin so not sure what i’ll do with it now. actually i do, i’ll keep dyeing and have a go at some baskets using the kitty bag technique for extra rigidity.
the colour fading was quite dramatic, which is useful to know. it happened in the machine, not the sink, so i guess if i had a felty fibre it wouldn’t be such a problem. the yarn next to it shows what the edge trim and bottom of the earflaps looked like before the hot wash.
madam unearthed a forgotten toy from her toy box; “mama do you know how to spin this?” (she knows an expert when she sees one). it’s flat plastic top-kinda-thing that makes groovy holographic patterns when spun. this thing spins for ever so it didn’t take long for a certain thought to form in my mind. i’ve heard of cd spindles obviously, but they never seemed like they’d balance well. this thing is smaller than a cd and slightly rim-weighted, and – lets face it – is designed to do just one thing, spin.
i had a trial run just blutacing a straw on the top and using it as a bottom-whorl. it worked a treat and spun really fine, though i couldn’t get up a satisfying speed on it. will take a little more work to turn it into a spindle proper, plus a bit of sweet talking for madam to let me appropriate it. i’m wondering if i could find a plastic dowel substitute to keep the weight right down. would be nice to try a hook instead of a notch and see what the difference is.
Charitable Crafters spinning with beads plus lots of useful spinning links.
cutie for madam? looks like a very interesting technique for a woven-look rug too.