Fiber Corner

Daily life of a knitting designer/publisher of handknitting patterns

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New Toy

This week's blog post is late because I was waiting for the arrival of my new toy. A Bosworth Charkha! It wasn't the easiest or most pleasant buying experience but it is a marvelous little machine. The cherry wood is beautiful and it runs as smooth as silk. And I don't think I've ever received anything in the mail that was so impeccably wrapped for shipping. I plan to learn how to use this little baby in my Folk School class with the Spinning Guru in two weeks. I can't wait! Patsy is such an incredible woman and spinner--the kind that never acts like she knows it ALL (but probably does) and always continues to strive to improve and learn more. She's definitely my spinning hero!

Even though there were some busy and stressful days last week, I managed to crank out two kinda different skeins.

In Patsy's Novelty Yarns DVD, she spins a single with Mylar and uses it to ply with different fibers. I had some Firestar laying about that I'd bought for blending and was inspired to spin it alone.
It had a decent staple length (about 2.5 in.) and was actually very pleasant to spin. I ended up plying it on itself and the finished yarn came in at 18 WPI. It made quite a nice yarn; flexible and soft with only a slight crunchy feeling. It would be a little scratchy to use for a garment alone but I could definitely see using it for a few rows on the ribbed edges or maybe as a single stripe. Was definitely Fun!

My Blue Moon roving skein was also fun--a thick and thin slub yarn. Certainly not my usual yarn! Originally, I intended to make a spiral yarn by plying it with a thin singles spun from the carded up roving to produce a perfect neutral (which would coordinate with all the colors). I even went so far as to card up the strip and start spinning but it made me so sad to see the resulting dull grey (at the time I needed color!) that instead I plyed it on itself. Being Merino, it's probably not the most stable yarn since the slubs matched up together nicely and don't provide alot of strength. But I love how the colors look in basically a two ply yarn--so different than the muddiness of the regular 2-ply with the consistantly spun singles. Which is another lesson learned in and of itself.

The discoveries continue...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hitting the Wall

This week it happened. And the name of the fiber was Ingeo! I thought I was ready. I'd tackled silk and done okay. But no, this one got me but good.

I asked my FT friends for advice and Angela suggested spinning it from the fold. This probably would have helped if I was proficient in the technique, I tried it with silk and made quite the mess. Joanne said to try drafting from the other end of the roving. A very good tip as it turns out that Ingeo is a directional fiber and will draft more smoothly from one end than the other. Lisa advised me to give it lots of twist. So, I did.

After numerous tries I finally was able to make an entire skein. It's not a good skein or a pretty skein, but it's a skein.

I found I had to be sure to use a backward moving draft rather than the way I oftentimes spin Merino by pulling some of the fibers forward. Doing that with Ingeo made lots of little bumps. The resulting yarn doesn't even feel nice--sorta like Red Heart and measured in at 11 WPI.

The frustration from the Ingeo experiment is clearly evident in the other skein I spun last week. A Navajo plyed skein from the Blue Moon Merino. The singles were severely overspun as I tried to treadle away my exasperation. But, to get longer lengths of color, I was spinning back and forth across the top, which I'm not very good at either. I much prefer to strip a painted roving down to thinner strips (I know this is a big no no with some people).

I thought I'd like this skein more than I do. The colors look muddy because I had trouble keeping them separated when spinning across the top. It seemed like the fibers from the next color down kept getting pulled into the drafting zone when I didn't want them to. Even without the overtwisting problem, the colors just don't sing to me.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for their comments these last few weeks. I wish I was able to write everyone privately to thank them. It really means alot to me when you stop by and leave a comment. And, encourages me to keep up with writing these posts every week.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Spinning, but no Knitting, Progress

Sorry, no knitting progress to show on my new shawl. I spent alot of time this week wrangling the charts into shape so if things run according to plan, it should be well on it's way by next week.

However, I do have some spinning progress to show. I'd always struggled with the long draw on my Traveller but this week found much better success at it on the Saxony. I had a bag of Pygora cloud I bought from Shady Creek Farm at the 2005 Michigan Fiber Fest. I'd planned to use it on the Russian spindle but figured it would be good long draw practice so I spun up this skein. It was so much fun to do!

It still has some consistency problems, but overall I'm happy with it. I haven't washed it yet, so maybe things will even out when I do. Originally I planned on plying it with a silk thread and think if I had it would have reminded me alot of Kidsilk Haze (or one of it's cousins). It's very soft but still with that slight mohair-y feeling. It also has remarkable sheen without the addition of the silk. This skein came out to just over 200 yds and weighs a little more than an oz.

Since I haven't spun anything on the Traveller since getting the Saxony, I figured it was about time I gave it a little attention. Wow, what a difference it was going back to the smaller wheel. I felt like I was treadling at double speed! But, it's so easy to adjust the tension on it and is like an old friend.
This skein is from the big hunk of Blue Moon merino pictured in a post from a few weeks ago. We're having a very dark dreary day, so the colors are actually a bit brighter than the camera captured. From a small amount I test-spindled, I could see that all the colors could get muddy if I just did a simple 2-ply yarn, so I decided to cable it. Cabled yarns are so much work (and talk about lots of treadling!) but I really like the results and think it will be effective when knit up with all those specks of color.

Next week I plan to spin another skein from the same roving and Navajo ply it. As well as be well on my way on the new shawl. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Beginnings

A new year with new beginnings, it always feels good to me. The last few days of 2006 I tried to clear the decks of all the stalled or unfinished projects. I plied up all the yarn from my spindles and bobbins so I could start out fresh in 2007. I decided to experiment with spinning Pygora on the Saxony. I'm loving practicing long draw with it. No photos as it just looks like white yarn on a bobbin.

Also started a new knitting project. A Faroese shawl out of some Coopworth handspun I spun in the fall of 2005. It was the first batch that I worked on spinning a soft and lofty woolen singles and also tried to maintain consistency between the skeins. I still have about 5 oz of fiber available to spin should I run short. This is a color called Secret Garden from Hidden Valley Woolen Mill. In real life it is much darker than it appears in the photo. Oh, and I'm getting to try out my set of Sheila's glass circ's. It does feel like the knitting equivalent of Cinderella's glass slippers. I think everybody needs to try them at least once!

One of the few projects left over from last year were these Diamond Patch Socks made from Lisa's Merino Sock! in South Pacific. I love how this colorway worked up! And, what's really great is that you can get a pair out of one skein of yarn. Actually, you can get almost 3 socks out of one skein. I ran out on the third sock with only the ribbing left to do. When I put out a call for .2 oz of yarn, it was Denise to the rescue. Thanks, Denise! You have some good knitting karma coming your way, I think!

Why did I make 3 socks? Well, then I can keep one to use as a trunk show model and actually get to wear the other two. It will make my feet very happy! :)

And, talk about new beginnings, here we have my nephew Josh and his 4 month old son, Keegan. They stopped by, along with his lovely wife Erin, on their way to the East Coast.

Josh was just home from his second tour in Iraq and this was my first opportunity to meet my little great-nephew. His daddy was the first baby I ever held, and he is the spitting image of him!

Holding a new little baby--it has to be the best way to start off a new year right!