archive for 'spinning'
this is my happiest project in a long long while, the one that convinced me it wasn’t an even slightly lunatic idea to fill my peaceful little craft room almost to bursting with an enormous, expensive new loom. this is the project that made me think “oh right, i’m supposed to be a weaver!”. i’ve come down a little from that high, i know i’ll always be a dabbler, but it does feel that weaving absolutely has to be a part of that dabbling, to round it out somehow.
anyway, the project started as an impulse purchase from squoosh on etsy. i’ve long yearned after the beautiful hand dyed fibres i’ve seen us spinners using, but that haven’t been available here (although i see that’s gradually changing, the most luscious fibres still seem to be over there). so when a friend mentioned that she’d like to learn to spin i thought it was an excellent excuse to get out my wheel again, which got me thinking about fibre, which got me browsing etsy, which is where we came in.
then i decided to try weaving it on my spears #4. i think last time i mentioned spears looms here i was still on the #2 which wasn’t a happy experience, but the 4 turns out to be pretty usable. the front and back beams have teeth to hold the warp and secure with wing nuts – a much better arrangement than the smaller loom (although i believe the #3, the inbetween size, has the same mechanism as the #4). the heddle has wire loops which can be awkward as the ’slot’ threads can catch on these, and there’s no place to rest the heddle in up- or down-shed positions, you just have to hold it. still, i’d done a practice scarf on it that had turned out okay, although it showed i needed to be more attentive to skipped threads as they’re not as easy to invisibly mend afterwards as i’d hoped.
it turns out i much prefer the colour of the cashmere, but i do like the gleam of silk from the other warp thread and the subtle lengthwise striping counteracts the horizontal stripes in the weft, so its all good. i had a sudden panic about uneven shrinkage and decided to give the warp a hot soak before i put it on the loom.
the weaving itself was trouble free, and seeing the cloth building up was a genuinely magical moment – something so beautiful and i made it i didn’t have as much length as i’d have liked but i made a consious decision not to make a scarf. i warped it the full width of the loom so that it would be cloth rather than a strip, and if it ended up being too short to use for much so be it. it just about serves as a shawl, but i haven’t made any firm decisions what to do next – the ends are hemstitched but i haven’t knotted the fringe or even cut it equal yet, it just lies around so i can stroke it occasionally as i pass…
but i have to say this is one of my “oh wow” crafting moments (that i think tend to occur most often when you first realise you can do something, hence my addiction to trying new things), i’m beyond proud of it, i really really love it
so today when i was given something wonderful – a whole afternoon to myself – i decided to get round to a bit of finishing. i feel sooo cleansed and productive. after 3 weeks of school holidays the feeling of making genuine progress, of doing a job and it not being undone behind your back 10 minutes later, is a rare relief.
i worked through my mending pile, sewing buttons, darts and binding, i learned how to kitchener stitch knitting and how to hemstich handwovens, and while i’m not blogging everything just now (which marks a project as well and truly finished) i took pictures which is the time consuming bit. i’ve even done some long-overdue paperwork and i may yet get round to my teetering pile of admin before the night’s out.
i only warped the loom shown in the picture last night and the project is still ongoing, but i did finish the shandy, and a couple more
now i’m pretty sure i’m safe posting this as i’m pretty sure my recipient doesn’t read here. anyway, even if she did she won’t know she’s my recipient until too darned late.
as soon as i heard of coloriffic swap-o-rama’s existence i started getting excited. how much fun would it be putting together a colour-coded swap for a crafty chick? it takes a while for new memberships to get processed, so when i finally got in it felt like i’d been granted access to some amazing secret club. and it has been such a pleasure putting together a package in springlike greens and blues (oh and it’s pure co-incidence that it co-ordinates so well with the new look blog, i swear) my only problem being trying to stick to some kind of a budget and not just adding every cool thing that sprung to mind.fantastic tutorial from craftapple. the process was nice and straighforward except for the rayon embroidery thread that just wouldn’t unwind off the spool properly and kept wrapping itself around the spindle pin and fucking up the tension. honestly, i could sew for about 3 or 4 inches before i had to stop and untangle it each time. turning the reel the other way up helped a bit, and for some reason the green thread was much worse than the blue.
i had to unpick one side of the first one as i’d sewn it too tight, but once i found how much slack i needed to leave the other came together seamlessly – so to speak. i really like how these have turned out and i can see myself doing more variations in future.
i’m just a little concerned that my offerings aren’t quite pale enough for the colour theme. pastel figures hardly at all in my stash, i’m a saturated colours girl all the way down the line. so although the blue/green combo suits me down to the ground, i’ve failed to really nail the mint/sky blue thing which is a bit of a shame. still, i had to use some of what i have and this is the best i could do. hope it will do.
this yarn looked lovely, a smooth even singles, with this one i thought i was finally getting the hang of spinning the alpaca. but in use it turned out to be quite wirey and decidedly unlovely. the fact that the needles are too big doesn’t help much. i’ll probably carry on with this, if only to get more practice with the branching out pattern.
whereas this yarn’s official title was “crappy alpaca”. it was from a freebie bag joanna gave me to play with that was so full of vm i had to throw most of it away. it was slubby, uneven and so softly spun it barely held together in places. so as a yarn it looked dreadful, but knitted up it’s a dream, soooo soft and light. there isn’t much stitch definition (which is a blessing given the state of my lace knitting), but otherwise it’s perfect. who’d have thought it?
125 meters (have decided to go metric ), just over 50g, approx 12wpi (not fully metric ) – just a smidge heavier than i would have liked, but not bad for a first try at spinning to order.
i recorded the details of the blending process in an attempt to keep some consistency between skeins:
- weighed out 300g total fibre, using 4 different blues and 2 pinks.
- divided up each colour into 6 equal pieces, then compiled 6 batches consisting of all colours (50g per batch).
- each batch spins up to one skein (2 ply so half a batch onto one bobbin).
- process each batch:
- separate the colours into 2
- take half a cardful from one pile, blend into a more even purple
- add more fibre from the second pile so the card is full and blend lightly (2 or 3 passes across the cards)
this turned out 16 rolags, some noticeably bluer, others more pink. i plied the 2 halves together to even out the colour differences, so all the pinky ones went onto one bobbin, all the bluey ones onto the other.
one down, only five more to go.
for madam’s jumper. her requested colour scheme is the last one and that’s pretty much what we’ll go with, once i get up the nerve.
branching out: i’m sure it’s ubiquitous for a reason and i just can’t think of a better use for the measley 100g of black alpaca i’ve yet to spin.
have been working up to it and i think a fine singles will be the way to go. i’ve been practising with different preparation techniques. while joanna may be able to spin the stuff just flicked open i’m just not skilled enough to do that and turn out a yarn i’m anywhere near happy with. i’ve carded the flicked fibre and spinning from those rolags is a joy, but i’m going to experiment with just carding and see how well that deals with the vm. i found with flicking the locks i lost a lot of fibre i.e. my final skeins weigh in at just under 70g from 100g of raw fibre.
it would be nice to think that i can skip straight to the carding stage and save prep time as well as be able to use all the tangly fibre that gets discarded when you flick and try to keep the locks intact.
i really need to find an efficient processing method since i have a large amount of raw alpaca winging its way to me as i type (i hope).
i might find out if it’s possible to widen branching out if it turns out i get 75g plus out of 100g.
i’m toying with the rather ambitious idea of spinning yarn for a jumper for madam (although not as ambitious as planning to knit it myself – nanny’s volunteered for that). i’m really not convinced that i’m up to spinning around 400g anything like consistently but it seems like a challenging next step.
if we don’t use one of nanny’s existing patterns i quite like the look of childhood from knitty. it looks like it’s a worsted weight yarn (what on earth is the uk equivalent?), roughly 11 wpi, 250g of the body colour, 150g for the stripes.
another full coe submission here. i find these an absolutely fascinating read and very educational. whilst i might not aspire to actually completing anything along these lines i certainly aspire to those mad skillz.
i tailed right off the fibre work over the summer, it’s just been too damn hot – aside from the crochet blanket i have (intermittently) on the go which looks set to take at least a year. but a trip to the craft fields at the big green has got my juices flowing again so i hauled my wheel out of semi-retirement as soon as we got back.
i decided to splurge a bunch of birthday cash on something fibre-y but dithered excessively about which way to jump. in the end i decided that right now i want to focus on the spinning over the dyeing (plenty of time for that) so went for a kilo of different coloured merinos and a pair of hand cards. at first i thought i’d made a mistake going for the fine cloth carders but after a bit of reading it turned out i just didn’t have a clue on technique and once i was doing it properly it worked a dream (although i still have to use my hands to get a decent rolag – can’t manage it between the cards).
i’m going to have so much fun playing with blending on the cards and just by predrafting various colours together, and the cards are working a treat on the raw alpaca i’ve been struggling with. i remember now how much i enjoyed spinning from rolags at the spinning day and i can’t wait to get the wheel out tonight (i’ve spun up a little on the spindle, but the rolags are a little tricky to handle with it).
yay for carding
(note the plural )
for the first time in what feels like months i’ve actually finished something! fingerless mitts made from this pattern from handspun merino/silk blend, dyed with food colours. a lovely easy knit, although i did have to rip back when i realised there was no way my holey m1s were ever going to be taken for a deliberate lace pattern as i’d hoped i was finding getting into the back of the loop almost impossible beause it was too tight. i finally managed it by going into the front of the loop and then sliding over the left needle while staying under the yarn (if that makes any sense at all).
i’m much happier with the yarn than i was when it came out of the dyepot. it was lovely to work with and there’s just enough colour variation to be interesting but without being out-and-out variagated, which i’m not so keen on. the sheen of the silk really shows too. the rather unattractive bloom on the yarn which i took to be felting i now think was just patches of very fluffy merino. knitting has made those patches pack together and become denser, more colourful and less alarming.
i got my dyepot out for the first time in ages last night. apart from a non-trivial dropping-a-bottle-of-colour-all-over-the-kitchen-floor incident it went pretty well. in keeping with my ongoing turquoise fetish i managed to mix a very nice blue-with-a-hint-of-green. the yarn went in first, handspun merino/tussah blend. the silk took up the dye a little more than the wool, but it’s rather less exciting than i hoped, perhaps it will improve in the knitting. it’s the first time i’ve dyed merino and the yarn felted a little. i’m not as conscientiously gentle as i realise i should be when i dye and i’ve avoided merino thus far because of that. it’s not a disaster but it is noticeable, though i’m not sure whether then end result would have been better or worse had i dyed the fibres before spinning.
second in, along with another hefty glug of vinegar and a colour top-up, was a piece of felt. it’s a mix of merino and bfl. the top layer of one side is bfl and the sheen it gives compared to the merino is noticeable and rather lovely. this took the colour a treat, and while it’s not totally even i’m very happy with it. shocking the boiling hot felt out of the dyepot straight into a bowl of icy cold water tightened it up a treat too. i just love the waffley, seersuckery texture of well-and-truly-fulled felt.
thesilkworker.com: fantastic resource for spinning silk which, typically, i didn’t find until after my first attempt.
as mentioned previously i’m going through a turquoise phase at the moment. turquoise and hot pink is my particular favourite combination. in that spirit i ordered turquoise silk and pink wensleydale locks from fyberspates (delivered in person – now that’s what i call service!). i didn’t intend to use them together but now i think i might have to.
i’ve spun up some of the silk on the wheel. it’s come out fat, soft and fluffy, which was rather a surprise. one of the things i’m really enjoying about the wheel is that it leads me – the yarns are much looser, noticeably less dense and more fluid than the rather over-analysed, often over-spun stuff i was turning out on the spindle. i’m sure that will change with practise, but for now it’s a pleasant change of pace.
i’m not sure whether the finished yarn will actually be any use for its intended purpose (bag strap, probably crocheted), but it’s been fun to get my hands on the wheel after a long time of being too busy to play (i’m really too busy tonight too but am bunking off – shhh!).
my spinning super power has returned – i spun 2 1/4-bobbins just trying out the silk, judged by eye. it turned out they were exactly the same length – to the inch – over 68 yards (and yes, thanks, this time i’m sure it’s yards ).
oh and have i mentioned how mch i love my skeiner? have i? well not today i haven’t. i LOVE my skeiner.
i adapted this from the tapestry crochet kitty bag pattern. this only bubbled back into my consciousness because i was trying to work out how come i get so many search hits for variations of crochet hello kitty (kitty from this pattern, hello from the url). and i guess this post will prolly just compound the problem – sorry guys, no hello kitty here.
i was fascinated by the idea of tapestry crochet (aka mosaic crochet) – that you carry alternate colours of yarn within each stitch so you can create a 2-colour design without floats on the reverse of the fabric. the extra yarn makes the fabric stiff and perfectly suited to the containers i’m rather taken with, and desperately in need of – having very little storage space most of my stuff is on display.
i spiralled a base, but had to rip back a fair way to get it to sit flat. is there some kind of formula for making the increases so you get a properly flat round irrespective of the weight of the yarn?
even though i faithfully counted a hundred stitches in the final round (twice!) for a multiple of the 10-stitch pattern, i found i had loads of extra stitches once i’d completed the first pattern round. this actually worked to my advantage as it turned out i wasn’t happy that the sides were shaping up as i wanted. i had major splaying with the previous container i made, so i reduced a stich every other round between the first and last repeats, until the gap was the same as the other repeats. so now it has this fantastic gently curving shape.
the tapestry technique is a little unweildy but fairly easy to adapt to. my biggest problem was the yarns twisting together as i worked. it got more complicated when i introduced the third thread for the green eyes, especially since that thread was doubled, but since it was only for one round it didn’t get impossibly messy. i used a fairly small hook for the weight of the yarn (3.5 mm i think), and worked as tight as i could, and was heading towards blisters by the end.
there wasn’t quite enough yarn to complete the final row, but i figured the extra height was worth the not-quite-joining-up, and it would never have been perfect since it’s worked as a spiral so there would be a jog at the end no matter what.
fate stepped in when it came to blocking. i tried every round object in the house until inspiration struck – it turned out to be a perfect match for one of my saucepans. i stretched it, steamed it over the kettle for a couple of minutes then let it cool in situ.
i’m really pleased with this, especially since the final idea and execution only took an evening’s work plus a little finishing and blocking, instant project . i love how the colours work together – alone the shropshire was much browner, but given the creamy white contrast it comes over much more grey. the colour changes also really helped me come to grips with the structure of a crochet stitch, that the final loop of the previous stitch sits above the next one (if that makes any sense at all).
i’m really keen to explore the technique further, viz:
- explore interplay of colours, textures. e.g. hairy herdwick or something pouffy (coils? boucle?) with sheeny wensleydale
- empahsise spiral structure, chevrons
- random motifs and placement, pixelation
- traditional fair isle designs
- add surface embellishment, embroidery
and with two colour geometric designs in mind, with perfect (psychic!) timing whip up sent me to folkology today. i’m entranced by these, although reading urbanspinner reminds me they’re not easily translated into tapestry crochet because of the slanting structure of the fabrics (sitches placed above each other are offset). bummer.
edited to add: urbanspinner has some great posts about her work with tapestry crochet. i particularly like her use of two constrasting multicoloured yarns in this bag: a cunning way of adding more colour interplay without extra threads.
not enough yarn to make it a partner
the yardage on the pattern said 80, but i guess that must be per mitten. there was 177 yards of this bfl when it came off the wheel (before washing and dyeing) but the one mitt took 5-and-a-little-bit colour repeats and i only have 3 left. i didn’t swatch since it was easy enough to try as i went along and it’s bang on size-wise.
i’m in a quandry what to do next: spin some extra and try to approximate one of the colours then use that for the cuffs? spin some extra and dye to a co-ordinating colour then intersperse that as another stripe? spin some extra don’t even bother to frog the first and just have them unmatch? just do something different with the yarn? i do love the mitten though, fits perfectly (apart from over-tight cast-off, obviously) and is super cosy and soft.
the pattern was great, really easy to follow, and i learned how to make 2 stitches together. wasn’t sure what “reverse loop” was so did “knit left loop then knit right loop” as per knitting help. also learned how to pick up stitches around the thumb which worked out really well with no gaps (once again yay for kh).
the yarn is the very first thing i spun on the wheel and i’m super pleased with how it turned out. i had to keep hauling it off the bobbin and running it through again to add extra twist when i was plying, i much prefer a nice tight ply, and it came out absolutely totally balanced
the self striping was a cinch too. i just wrapped the yarn around 2 chair backs the length of our front room apart to make a really long skein. then i marked it into 3 with yarn and each third went into it’s own bowl of dye in the massive pot. the only tricky thing was handling a skein that length, especially for rinsing, but in the end i just hauled it of all the bowls and dumped into the sink (handily enough our front room isn’t exactly huge, so the skein was just about manageable).
the colours were supposed to be greyish-purple, greyish-green and grey, but came out damson pink, khaki and greyish-pink respectively. i lost my nerve with the purple and addded extra red after the skein went in, hence the pinkness. i wanted to add a little warmth to the grey so mixed in a spoon or 2 of the “purple” bath, but that red sure is insistent, a little goes a long way. again to help the colours blend i added a little “purple” to the green and again the red has dragged it too far towards brown. all that said i love the accidental result (accurate colours here).
the thing i liked best about all this is that it didn’t take much longer to do than it did to write up. it was fluff at lunchtime and knitted before bed.
i have a hank of handspun and a hankering for fingerless mittens. this pattern looks like it fits the bill. i even have 5mm dpns *happy dance*.
do i bother to stripe-dye the yarn first or dive in with it hot off the wheel?
i have a very special bag to make (luckily for someone who doesn’t read here) and have been mulling over the possibilities for a while. it’s gradually coming together and seeing this bag over at fivegallonbucket has pushed me a little further in the right direction i think.
the base will be black alpaca a) because i have some and b) because the recipient is allergic to wool. she reckons a wool bag should be okay since she wouldn’t be touching it all the time, but i’ve heard alpaca can be better for some allergies so i thought that would be on the safer side. i’ll line with some yet-to-be-acquired fabulous fabric, hopefully silk. i’ll spin some silk for the strap (have just ordered from fyberspates) and probably blend the silk and alpaca for some accent yarn.
now i’m having happy thoughts about felting some round beads or, if the alpaca’s not keen to felt, making pompoms (though making sure they don’t fall to bits is the challenge there i reckon). a handful of co-ordinating glass beads and we should be there i reckon.
# 1 – adult alpaca, spindle spun, plied.
i spun this from a few handfuls or raw fibre at the spinning day on saturday, the first alpaca i’ve tried. it’s fluffy but quite hard (overtwisted). i found i had to put a lot of twist in to get it to hold together at first but once i’d settled into it i should have reduced the twist.
# 2 – baby alpaca, fluffed, not combed or carded, wheel spun, singles. 4mm needles.
i was amazed by this – it seemed really marginal whether it would hold together at all, and turned out a wonderful soft, fuzzy fabric. this was the second yarn i spun on the kiwi after a little bfl top. i kept it as a singles as there clearly wasn’t enough twist to ply. i picked out the largest lumps of vm but hoped the other bits would kind of work their own way out during spinning and washing (some did, some didn’t). i also thought i’d done for it when i washed it rather roughly and it seemed to have felted into one big mass. it withstood being pulled back into strands while wet and skeined off pretty well once it was dry. (i have to add that i LOVE the skeiner – the fuzzy, loosely spun, tangled skein would never have made it into balls without it). there’s a lot of thick-thin variation (very rough average 15 wpi) and i think the needle choice was about right, the fabric’s quite open, but the fuzz fills any gaps nicely.
i love this so much i’m seriously thinking about spinning enough for my first jumper – will subject the swatch to a little abuse. i’m sure i’ve heard that alpaca doesn’t pill but that it can shed a lot. the pattern at the top is (a very rough attempt at) the crocus bud pattern from belle epoque (knitty). it’s the closest i’ve found to what i’m looking for but not quite there i think, i’d rather someththing with a higher, maybe square neckline, and a little more fitted. i’m also having serious doubts about spinning 500g of the stuff anyway near consistently.
# 3 – baby alpaca, combed, fluffed, wheel spun.
i lost a fair percentage of the fibre in processing. not having proper equipment i busked it with an old comb (plastic, teeth too close together) and a dog/cat paddle brush (like a mini carder, teeth also probably too close together). i can see why joanna recommended combing, that seems to be the most efficient way to get the bits out – might see if i can make a trip to the pet shop and see what they have in the way of combs.
while the fibre prep was better i think it’s way overspun for a singles. now i realise it needs a lot less than i always thought to hold together, especially on the wheel where there’s less tension on the fibres so it’s not going to drift apart as you spin. the finished skein has a deal of residual twist (compared to no.2 which hung pretty much straight) and is kinked up in places. i wouldn’t want to weight it while it dries since there’s little enough elasticity in the yarn already, don’t want to kill it altogether. i’ll still knit it up and see how it compares to no. 2 through a few wash/wear cycles, so i can fine tune.
oh wow oh wow oh wow.
and i cannot believe how much faster a wheel is than a spindle. i have 2 mini skeins of alpaca hanging to dry already (one completely raw, just fluffed a bit, the other with all the crap combed out and then fluffed) plus half a bobbin of white bfl. i’ll spin up another half then ply the two.
and that’s with assembling the wheel and the skeiner and giving the wheel a couple of coats of wax (the skeiner only got one but it got sanded first – i discovered the sandpaper they send you too late for the wheel). the skeiner totally rocks, although it’s almost as big as the wheel istself.
and i have nothing but praise for the wheel. i got this impression that somehow it would be shoddy or second rate as it seems to be generally dismissed as a beginner’s wheel. maybe i’ll find that i outgrow the high speed kit, or that it goes rickety with age, but right now i think it’s fantastic. the wheel runs on ballbearings so it’s smooth as anything. the double treadles are great, i can get it to start in either direction without having to push the wheel itself which i had to do on the traditional i tried out on saturday. it has an intermittent mystery squeak that’s so far proved immune to copious oiling but i’ll track it down.
i really cannot get over how fast this thing is munching through my fibre stash, i’m onto the higher of the 2 standard ratios already and the bfl’s looking like it’ll turn out a decent, usable yarn. although i don’t have much choice how thick it’s soming out, it’s still perfectly passable. the alpaca’s going to take practice but i think the second (singles, the first time i haven’t plied, cos was too loosely spun) might actually be usble for something delicate.
oh and the wheel and front room in general now smell heavenly as they recommend you rub the screws in candlewax to get them to go in smooth. the only one i had about is an ancient scented one from habitat that i’ve kept forever as it is the most wonderful scent i’ve ever smelled and i never wanted to use it up. it’s called euphoric (petigrain, geranium and orange) and i keep grinning as i get little whiffs of it, and having brief flashbacks to the time i bought it, about 5 years ago.
now all i have to do is work out how to get my cunning decoration plan to work…
i’ve ordered my wheel – a kiwi with all the bits (although the jumbo flyer is out of stock and should follow within the month).
i really really wanted a lendrum but when i contacted the only uk supplier i was informed there’s a 3 month waiting list. that kind of pissed me off as i specifically asked him not much more than a month ago if there was likely to be a wait and he didn’t mention one. tbh i’ve been utterly underwhelmed by their service on every occasion i’ve contacted them, so i’m very happy that my custom has gone elsewhere.
i dithered a bit on the kiwi as i suddenly realised that although it’s pretty compact it doesn’t fold, which was high on my priority list. but we’ve decided that if we can’t find a corner to squeeze it into (and it would be a squeeze) it can always sit up in our bedroom during the day and just come down in the evenings.
i’m also not over keen on having to finish it myself, but i guess that’s how they keep it affordable. was pondering whether to do somthing fancy, but read a good point that dings and chips would blend in much better with a natural/oiled finish. but will scout around and see whether inspiration strikes.
i ordered from www.twistfibrecraft.co.uk who couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful over the phone. they seem to be cheapest in the uk by a reasonable margin. the whole kit & caboodle, including high speed kit, jumbo flyer and skeiner (which should come in very handy, i get horribly frustrated dealing with skeins and i keep wrapping my pvc niddy too tight and snapping the joints) came in at less than the lendrum (wheel only) and shipped free. the order should dispatch today from the distributors, so with luck might be with me by the weekend