Archive for the ‘Spinning’ Category
I have plenty of yarn to work through in my handspun stash this year thanks to Tour de Fleece and Spinzilla but deciding what projects to make can be simultaneously tedious and overwhelming. There is one website and one important tool that I use when deciding on a project, Ravelry and my yarn gauge.
First I use my yarn gauge to figure out what my yarn is. Is it worsted, DK, bulky? I wrap the yarn loosely around my gauge and count how many wraps per inch (wpi) I have. I’m using the Fractal spun yarn that I plied from a center-pull ball back in Sept. I ended up with 15 wpi, so I have a fingering weight yarn. Here’s a handy chart that will help to translate wpi into more useful information. You’ll notice that the stitch gauge is roughly 1/2 the wpi.
Now you know your yarn gauge and you can go looking for patterns! Ravelry not only has a fantastic pattern library but they have an advanced pattern search feature that lets you narrow down your search by gauge, yardage, fiber, and more! Go to the pattern tab at the top of the page and you can choose the advanced pattern seach – right there on the left of the screen under the binoculars. Then you can scroll down the categories on the left hand side and narrow down your choices! By choosing Fingering, 300-450 yds and Merino I was still left with over 9,000 pattern choices. So I narrowed it further by choosing a cowl, shawl or scarf pattern and that knocked it down to 3,000 options, but still too many! So I chose adult only patterns and then narrowed my search one more time to Free patterns and that left me with 164, not too bad.
I didn’t want anything with colorwork or with too much texture since I really want the handspun to shine, I want the fractal color shifts to be the star of the show. I found the Terraform Shawl and it fits the bill! Not only is there a bit of stitch work to keep me interested (no worries about miles and miles of mind-numbing stockinette stitch), but the pattern will show off my yarn, and I can just keep going until I run out of yarn. It couldn’t be more perfect! How do you decide what projects are right for your handspun? Have you made anything with your Spinzilla yarns yet?
We just wrapped a big week of events and activities – National Spinning and Weaving Week plus Spinzilla. I watched the gatherings and demonstrations and classes and it got me thinking about community, how we come together around our fiber passions and how different it is for the various forms of fiber fun.
The act of weaving is generally a solitary endeavor, mostly due to the size of the looms themselves. They are not always portable and take up a lot of space, so fitting a bunch of them into a room is a bit of a challenge and it means that the weavers themselves are spread apart from each other. And there is always the concentration factor that makes conversation easier said that done. So weavers tend to gather at guilds and conferences, sharing their finished projects, inspiration and camaraderie.
Knitters, crocheters and spinners, on the other hand, gather while working on the craft, sharing works in progress as well as finished objects. It’s a different kind of sociability and community that can sometimes (but not always) be quite loud and boisterous, as we discovered last week. The tools are smaller so it’s easier to sit closer together and, if you choose your project with forethought, it is possible to continue creating while discussing inspiration, fiber sources, daily life, raising teenagers, movies and more.
And then there’s the crafting in public side of things. We always have demos as part of Spinning and Weaving week and I love to witness the interactions and questions, especially with the weavers who are not often seen throwing shuttles in public. As above, knitters/crocheters/spinners do this on a regular basis, just because they love to work on their projects and pull them out while waiting, bus riding, etc. This public side is great because it draws in people who are curious – those who’ve never seen it or wanted to try, those who remember a relative making beautiful things. It’s wonderful to share that these crafts are alive and thriving and they, too, can join in.
And this weekend is the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, one of the bigger gatherings of fiber aficionados of all sorts. The passion for creating cannot be contained and it will spill over in vibrant colors, enthusiastic conversations and the joy of communing with others as passionate as ourselves.
Now that Spinzilla is over you probably(hopefully) have a pile of new yarn, but what to do with all of it! If you’re like me you’ve amassed quite a pile of handspun this year between Spinzilla and Tour de Fleece back in July.
When I hand-carded this fiber and Navajo plied to create a gradient yarn I already knew what I wanted to make, a smaller version of my Matsumoto Shawl. Since gauge isn’t really an issue with this pattern I let the yarn decide what it wanted to be without fussing too much over how thin my single was. I ended up with a nice, bouncy worsted weight yarn and I love my little shawlette! My finished yarn was 280 yds so the shawlette is about half the size of the sample in the pattern, about 13″ deep at the center back, but it’s perfect just around my neck.
How do you decide what projects to make with your handspun, and what are you making with your Spinzilla yarns?
We are counting down the days to Spinzilla – the international “friendly competition” to see which team can spin the most yardage. We have a great team this year and excitement is running high. Last year I had just learned to spin so it was all new. This year I not only have some spinning experience under my belt, but I realize the importance of preparation so I can optimize my spinning time.
For starters, I am clearing off all my bobbins so I have room for all that new yarn I will be spinning. One bobbin-full I will wind into a ball and ply from inside and out as Sara described in this post. But I learned a new trick this week – I’m going to wind off onto an inexpensive storage bobbin so I can keep it on a bobbin to ply from but have my wheel bobbins free for more spinning.
The majority of my time, however, will be spent prepping fiber. Mostly that involves pre-drafting the roving which will save much time during spinning. And then there’s the playing with cards part – making rolags to blend fibers and colors. Now I just have to decide which set of hand carders to go with, or maybe the blending board from Louet……………..
Do you have any great tips for fiber prep?
Time to go back and visit the single that I spun from the fiber that I hand carded. I did a lot of work to create a gradient, or ombre, in that single and I want to maintain those color transitions in my final yarn. To do that I’m going to Navajo ply my single. This is also known as Chain plying because you are basically making a crochet chain with your hands instead of a hook! You can see how to do that in the 6 images below.
1 – I like to start with a leader that ends in a loop, then I catch the end of my single between the strands but keep the loop of the leader open with one hand.
2 – With the hand that is holding the loop open reach through the loop and grab your single
3 – Pull the single through the loop while continuing to hold the loop open
4 – Pull your new loop so it’s rather large and let the upper part of the loop start to ply together with what remains of your leader (that’s your 3 strands!)
5 – Here I’ve paused so you can see just that little bit of leader that’s left
6 – And now you’re right back to where you started.
Keep repeating these steps until you’ve used up your whole single and you’ll have a beautiful 3 ply yarn that keeps the integrity of your ombre spin. There’s are lots of tutorial videos out there for Navajo and chain plying, and lots of variations on the technique. Find the one that works for you and go for it!
Here’s my finished yarn. Because I spun this worsted from rolags, my single was slightly underspun and I over plied by just a bit to help it all stay together, then I fulled the yarn in the skein. For those of you that don’t spin, I basically felted the surface of my yarn! I know that sounds scary but it really helps to finish a woolen spun yarn. I dropped my finished skein into a bowl of hot water with dish soap and squished and agitated it around for about 30 seconds, rinsed it in cold water and then repeated the wash and rinse twice more. Then I let my yarn soak in a tepid bowl with Eucalan for about 15 minutes, squeezed out the excess water and hung it up to dry. I’ll be crocheting a simple shawl with the finished yarn so you can see those beautiful color changes. Look for that post in mid-October!
Have you ever used Navajo plying? Are you ready for Spinzilla yet? Just one week to go!
When I sat down at my first wheel I was SO excited to get spinning that I didn’t take the time to make sure I had all the tools I’d need. I spun up my first full bobbin of yarn and then I was stuck, I only had one bobbin. I knew that the single on that bobbin wasn’t good enough to survive on it’s own, that it needed to be plied to be a semi-successful yarn. I carefully, and sadly, wound that single off the bobbin with my ball winder thinking that it was a loss until I was able to get my hands on a second and third bobbin and then I would need a lazy kate…
And then I looked at the ball I’d wound, it had 2 ends. I COULD do a 2ply! So I set that ball between my feet, tucked it up to the edge of my treadles and plied away. It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned that this was an actual thing other people did and I wasn’t alone. It’s important to remember that you still have to ply against the twist of your original spin to help balance your yarn, so make sure you check the twist on those ends before you begin plying.
Thankfully my Ladybug has an attached lazy kate and I’ve always got at least 5 bobbins now, but every once in a while I like to wind up a single and ply from the ball. This method is actually how I’ve plied the fractal yarn I’m spinning from this post. I’ll be knitting this up into a simple cowl so you can see the fractal effect on the color changes. Look for that post in mid-October!
Have you ever plied from a center-pull ball? What’s your favorite plying method?
I know, I know, I usually talk about weaving, but today I step from behind the curtain to reveal that I have a powerful obsession with spinning right now. It started with Spinzilla last year, when I made myself learn in order to support our team. Then there was a fiber binge at Rhinebeck and another one at SPA, but mostly I’ve kept it in check. Until now. Spinzilla is approaching again and not only is fiber piling up on my desk, but I convinced Kathy and Steve to bring in special fiber deals and now I have even more to stuff into my fiber closet.
We started by teaming up with Louet to put together 2 great fiber packs. As a newer spinner, I am still learning about different sheep breeds and their characteristics, so I love the WEBSzilla Monster Mile pack. It contains a half pound each of 4 different breeds – Falkland (white), Cheviot (white), Shetland Moorit (brown) and Coopworth (grey). I’m looking forward to seeing how these spin up as well as dreaming about plying and dyeing the handspun yarn. There is plenty of fiber in this pack to spin a monster mile and enough variety to keep the spinning fresh and interesting.
The second pack from Louet we are calling the Spinzilla Fun Pack. It tips the scales with 4 pounds of fiber-y goodness and a completely different assortment of sheep breeds plus some dyed fiber to keep it exciting. The pack contains half pound bags of dyed Merino, Masham Top, light grey Romney sliver, medium Romney sliver, dark Romney sliver, Dorset sliver, Wensleydale sliver, and dyed Karaoke (soysilk) top. Lots of possibilities for blending and plying…
And then, because some of us are completely captivated with gradient dyes these days, we asked our friends at Frabjous Fibers to create a special colorway for us. They started with a base of 70% Blue Face Leicester and 30% Silk and dyed it a beautiful tonal gradient that moves from the deep blue of our logo through lighter shades of blue into grey. It’s packaged like their new Lambs Tail with 5 one-ounce puffs of tonally colored fiber that gradually change shade. I have this piled on my desk right now and I just keep petting the soft richness and marveling at the wavy crimp. I know, I have a problem.
And what of you? What will you spin in October?
When I first learned how to spin fractal spinning was my favorite fancy thing to do. While it’s based on complicated mathematical sets, an endless pattern of fragmented geometric shapes that can be split into parts, each of which is a reduced-size copy of the whole, it’s actually quite simple!
You will want to start with fiber that is dyed in bold and contrasting colors, I’m using Frabjous Fibers Hand-dyed Merino in the kaleidoscope colorway. If your fiber color progression/combo is too subtle then you’ll miss out on the fantastic effect this has in your final yarn. Loosen your braid or bundle and then split it, as evenly as possible, lengthwise into two parts and set one half aside. Now split the remaining half in half again(you now have 3 lengths of fiber), and each of those in half again (giving you 5 lengths of fiber). Be careful to keep all 5 lengths of fiber oriented the same way, you can lay them together and make sure that the colors match, you’re going to want to spin each length starting at the same end. Now spin that first half all by itself from beginning to end onto one bobbin, then spin the other 4 lengths, one at a time, onto a second bobbin.
When these two singles get plied together you’ll end up with a yarn that has varying sections of solid colors and barber-poling because of how the split fibers line up, but which colors are solid and which barber-pole will change because of the way you split and spun the fiber! Keep an eye on the blog later in the month and I’ll show you how it’s done! Are you planning on any special spinning techniques, or new fibers to try out during this year’s Spinzilla?
Check out this post to see how the finished yarn looks in the skein and to learn how it was plied!
This month we’ll be offering a few tips and tricks to make your spinning for Spinzilla, and the rest of the year, even more fun and interesting. First up, rearranging the colors in a pre-dyed fiber braid. You will need a braid of fiber with distinct colors and a set of hand cards for this.
I love the colors in this Gaston colorway on Targhee from Abstract Fiber but I wish they were more gradual, like an ombre, so I decided to make that happen. I unwound the braid and then fluffed the fibers at each color change before gently pulling them apart, don’t worry if you don’t get a clean color separation you can blend that out. Then I made piles with each major color. Once I had the whole braid separated I began laying fiber on one hand carder until it was full, but not so full that I couldn’t see the tines anymore, and used the other card to blend with a few strokes. Remove the fiber from the carder (pay attention to how the tines are bent and roll with that bend to get the fiber off the carders) and roll up your fiber into a rolag for spinning. If your fiber isn’t blended enough for you, or feels a bit rough, you can re-card it until you’re happy. Once I got halfway through carding and rolling I was able to layout all my little rolags in a clear gradient!
Now I just have to finish carding so I can get to spinning! I’m going to want to preserve the gradient that I worked so hard to make, so I’ll navajo ply the single into my finished yarn. Keep an eye on the blog later in the month and I’ll show you how it’s done! You can now see the finished yarn here!
Are you planning on any special preparations or different spinning techniques to try out during this year’s Spinzilla?