Friday, February 24, 2017

A scarf, a skein

IMG_2641I finished S1’s handspun scarf. It’s not as long as I would like- only 56”. Overall, I’m so pleased to have used this 409-yard skein of handspun from 2011. This is the way she likes to wear scarves right now, and even though it doesn’t have long tails hanging down, it will provide snug warmth around the neck under a coat (and not as much chance getting the ends stuck in a zipper!):


And remember how I told you she lost the first scarf made using this pattern? On the very same day I finished the replacement, she found the original. Go figure.

In other news, I finished this lovely skein of yarn – this is Rambouillet from the Sheepspot Fiber Club:IMG_2607

I’m always fascinated by how the colors change from fiber to yarn. This is what the top looked like when it arrived:IMG_2447

I looked at the color chapter of my new(ish) copy of Yarnitecture (which is so great, by the way) and decided to try the “do a flip” technique on this braid of fiber. You split the fiber vertically, then spin the first half as it comes and the other half from the opposite direction. But when I flipped my halves, the dye pattern was the same! So I broke one half into two pieces, choosing a place to tear it that would make the colors NOT line up in plying. Then I spun this very soft top worsted-style, but more loosely than I normally would. I did this in an attempt to make the finished yarn softer than the yarn I usually get. Here is what my bobbins looked like before plying:IMG_2562

When I plied, I overplied a little bit. I knew I needed to get more twist into the yarn to make it strong and stable, but I put more into the ply twist than the singles twist. Did it work? I think it did! The resulting yarn is quite soft (ask the knitters who snuggled with it last night). I don’t know if it will wear well once knit, but it’s still pretty soft now:IMG_2605

My finished skein is 346 yards and weighs 96 grams. I had a little waste at the end, but not much… I tried something new to minimize waste. My bobbins are never equal but I don’t like to “waste” singles that are left over on one bobbin. Instead of winding off singles onto another bobbin and trying to equal everything out, I wound the remaining singles onto my hand using the “Miss America” technique (a variation of Andean plying). Since only a small amount was left, I was able to spin a 2-ply off my hand using the singles left on one bobbin. I got a little tangled at the very end and had to throw out some singles, but I think I know how to fix that next time. If I work this out well, I’ll try to document it in the future.

In other spinning news, I’ve been working with my new English combs. More on that in an upcoming post.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

All the handspun

In 2016, I resolved to knit more with my handspun. I had only moderate success – I made four projects from my handspun yarn (though one was an adult sweater). For 2017, I renewed the resolution. Something is different this year because right now, I have THREE handspun WIPs! Would you like to meet them?


IMG_2510The first project is one I’ve had in my Ravelry queue for a little while. Part of my 2017 resolution is to always have a handspun project waiting in the wings, pattern and yarn pre-selected. This is 3-ply Whitefaced Woodland that I spun last fall. I am not sure that I love it. I know the ball of yarn looks dreamy in the photo, but the feel is pretty tough. I tend to like a tight angle of twist in my yarn, and I think I went too far on this one as it is a bit wiry to the touch. Also, I had to fuss with the pattern (Sugared Maple mitts) quite a bit to get it to work with my yarn/gauge. I cast these on a couple of weekends ago and then stopped.

I stopped because I was so much more excited about my NEWEST handspun yarn – the Southdown!


I finished making this yarn on January 29 and started the socks on February 3. I was anxious to see if I’d really spun yarn that would work well for socks. This is just my basic vanilla sock with a garter rib stitch pattern (K one round, 2x2 rib the next round). So far it feels lively and springy and I’m very happy with it. Stay tuned to find out if I have enough to finish the pair.

And finally, I started a new scarf for S1:


She lost the one I made her most recently and really misses it. She went to the pile of handspun and rummaged around for the softest yarn. To my surprise, she came up with this skein that I made back in 2011. My blog post about it reveals that I wasn’t very impressed at the time – I felt it was underplied and not very attractive. The fiber content is 50/25/25 merino/bamboo/silk. I think the combination of fibers and the loose plying contribute to the softer feel. IMG_2480

At 14 wraps per inch, it is technically fingering weight yarn – but it feels a little more substantial to me. I think the bamboo and silk give it some mass that an all-wool yarn wouldn’t have. Anyway, I like this yarn WAY more in its knitted form than I did in the skein, so this is a huge win for everyone. We get it out of stash, replace a needed garment, and learn something all at the same time.

Handspun FTW!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Things that have fallen off my needles recently

I started this pair of socks back in mid-December… just to have a really simple project for office knitting and such. And now they are done!IMG_2458crop

They are very simple. With the long, gradual color changes that this Crazy Zauberball yarn makes, I wouldn’t dream of doing much more than this. This is my plain vanilla sock – top-down, eye-of-partridge heel, round toe. It weighs only 67 grams, so I have a fair bit of yarn left over. IMG_2464crop

If you’re into make your socks match perfectly, then this isn’t the yarn for you. There’s no way to make it match up. You just have to love the wabi-sabi. Also, it’s a 2-ply yarn, which means the yarn isn’t round. It fights you a little bit. I think the result is worth it, but it’s definitely not my favorite sock yarn, structurally-speaking.

Here’s another thing that fell off my needles recently – another pussyhat! This is #8:IMG_2469

I made it as a replacement for Jocelyn, who gave her hat to a girl who was marching with her (Jocelyn was the original owner of hat #5). The game card is from Sorry, which obviously had to be edited in this context. The yarn is Encore worsted, from the Hendon Stash. (I felt like that was a proper noun.)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A day for learning

Many of you know that The Mannings closed  a couple years ago. Two of their anchor teachers, Tom Knisely and Sara Bixler, opened a new studio called Red Stone Glen Fiber Arts Center, where they offer many weaving, dying, and spinning classes. I finally found a class that met my needs and fit my schedule, and yesterday I spent the day with Tom and two other spinning students.IMG_5410

One of the things I learned is that I’m no longer an intermediate spinner – at least as far as wool is concerned. (Caitlin, you were right!) But because the class was so small, Tom adjusted and worked with us wherever we were.

One skill I was very glad to have some assistance with is preparing fiber with cards and combs. We made rolags with hand carders and combed wool into top. I own some hand carders (purchased at KDO last September) but haven’t even used them yet. I JUST got the first shipment of Sheepspot’s Fleece Club, which sends smaller amounts of cleaned, undyed fiber that still needs to be carded or combed before spinning, so this was just the information I needed right now.

I spun my sample of combed top very fine and made a quick, 2-ply sample using the “Miss America” alternative to Andean plying (you can read how to do this in Patsy Zawistoski’s article in the Winter 2016 issue of PLY magazine). I set the twist on my tiny skein last night, and look at the result – I got some really fine yarn at 19 wraps per inch! IMG_2475

I quite enjoyed spinning this hand-combed top… enough that I started to ask questions about which combs I should buy. And buy them I did. I ended up getting the 5-pitch English combs, because they will work well a range of fibers. They are more expensive than the other Viking combs I considered, but I could see myself wanting to move beyond the single or double-pitch Vikings and then I would just have to invest again. So I bought a tool that is a little bit more than I need right this minute. They have 5 rows of tines in graduated lengths and are quite wicked to look at: IMG_5422

Then we moved on to silk. I had a fine time spinning it (both bombex and tussah), but things got rougher when we got to cotton. Tom showed us how to card cotton into punis (which are just the as rolags – but for some reason you use the word “puni” when they are cotton). Making these is fun. You end up with an airy tube that is both substantial and light. Punis are spun woolen-style (aka longdraw) because the fibers are so short. My longdraw with wool is quite competent, but it just doesn’t feel the same with cotton. I’m willing to work on that a bit. I’m not sure I’d want to knit with handspun cotton, but I’d weave with it. Here are some cotton combs with punis I made:IMG_5420

Then Tom got out some flax. This stuff LOOKS a lot like hair, but it feels much rougher – like straw. IMG_5419

I had a hard time with it. It needs a LOT of twist, and even though I spun on my smallest whorl (16:1), I just couldn’t seem to treadle enough before winding on. It is hard to imagine how something so rough and brittle becomes a very soft fabric after being woven and washed. Because of cotton (which also needs more twist than wool) and flax, I am beginning to see how spinners end up with multiple wheels. The Ladybug has been a fantastic beginning-intermediate wheel for me, but she does have her limits.IMG_2457

Here is how my bobbin looked when I got home – a little bit of this and that, all jumbled together. The grassy gray stuff near the middle is the flax.

All in all, it was a great day. I returned home with some new perspectives on how to spin the prepared fiber I already have, as well as plans to stretch my skills by preparing fiber myself.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Southdown Sock Yarn

Remember that lovely bump of fiber I received in December that was kind of green and kind of gold? It was Southdown top from the Sheepspot Fiber Club.IMG_2199

The Breed School chat convinced me that this fiber was destined to become sock yarn. Back when I was first learning to spin (in 2008), I wanted to be able to make sock yarn. I knew a good sock yarn was made of at least 3 plies, but I couldn’t seem to spin my singles skinny enough to make a sockweight 3-ply. Eventually I gave up. But no more! I think I can do it now. (Practice really does make perfect…)

Even though I spun this worsted-style, with a short forward draw (aka “inchworm”), this braid worked up quickly. I didn’t even pause to get a photo until I was 2/3 done:


Having just read an article about how to make handspun yarn that feels soft and not wiry (which I cannot find now – let me know if you know what I read so I can link to it), I worked hard to spin my singles more loosely than usual. I normally like a pretty tight twist angle, so this was different for me. My goal was to ply more tightly than I had spun the singles (to give the sock yarn strength) – but supposedly this would result in yarn that wasn’t wiry. And it’s not – here is the result:IMG_5407

352 yards in 94 grams. Instead of labelling it and adding it to my mound of handspun yarn, I wound it into a ball and measured WPI (wraps per inch) on my handy tool – I got 14 WPI (assuming I did it right). I think that qualifies as sock yarn, don’t you? Ravelry says 14 WPI = fingering so I’m going with it.IMG_2435crop

It occurred to me that perhaps I was subconsciously trying to replicate the structure of Crazy Zauberball sock yarn. Have you ever worked with it? The twist angle is pretty shallow. Also, it’s a 2-ply yarn. I grabbed some of my latest and compared:FullSizeRender (8)

On top – 14 WPI on my handspun. Next is the 2-ply Zauberball. The bottom strand (next to the ball) is my handspun. I think that angle of twist looks pretty similar, don’t you? AND… I think my handspun might actually be a little finer!IMG_5409crop

I know the color on these photos is all over the place – but the yarn also looks quite different depending on time of day and indoor/outdoor light. Outdoors, it definitely looks like 1970s Harvest Gold. But inside, the greens really emerge. It’s quite captivating.

Since this is already wound into a ball, I’m going to put it in queue to become socks sooner rather than later. I’m anxious to see how it will wear. My next decision will be whether to do a plain vanilla sock, or something with a bit of pattern. Maybe a rib variation or something with a waffle weave look.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


5 of us

I have been furiously knitting pussyhats since getting home from our holiday travels, but haven’t had a chance to post about them. I made seven in all. Two of them were for S1 and me, which you see on our heads in the photo above. We made the journey into Our Nation’s Capital in a caravan of 5 buses filled with 242 local folks; the buses were arranged by our local YWCA. There were some other buses leaving from Gettysburg and many folks drove closer and used Metro or MARC to get into the city. We knew many, many people who participated. The group pictured above is our “buddy group” – we managed to stick together throughout the entire march. I learned that it is challenging but not impossible to keep five smart, resourceful women together in a sea of hundreds of thousands!IMG_2337

I hacked S1’s and my hat with a duplicate stitch pride rainbow to give them a little something extra.


While we were in Texas last month, I offered to knit a hat for my dear college friend Stephanie, who marched in Austin, TX. Here are some photos she sent. If I had realized her mom was marching with her, I would have made her one, too – and her partner, Don!Austin 3

Austin 2

Austin 1

Even though the Texas Capitol looks a lot like the U.S. one architecturally, the live oaks and short-sleeved t-shirts give away the location. (Texans usually remind you at this point that their Capitol is a little taller than the U.S. Capitol. It’s true.) The local newspaper reports that there were 40,000-50,000 folks there.

If you follow my friend Steven on Instagram, you already know that he marched in Austin, too. I didn’t have to make him a hat, though – boyfriend can knit his own! (Steven, hope it’s okay I copied this from your feed.)steven


I also knit my sister a hat – she marched in Atlanta where she lives. That’s her on the left at her sign making party:Atlanta 2

And here’s a shot she sent me of the Atlanta march, which drew about 60,000 folks. Some of them were librarians in town for the ALA Midwinter meeting. Atlanta 1

I had a little extra yarn, which turned into a hat that my friend Jocelyn took. Then Julie passed me more pink yarn and I produced two more hats, which went to Kerri and Denise. All three of those hats ended up in Washington, but I don’t have photos (yet). FullSizeRender (6)

I’m sure you’ve seen aerial photos of the marches by now – the pink-tinged rivers of people are instantly recognizable and now unforgettable. No one will ever be able to use those photos to fake attendance at another event on the mall. And what a refreshing change from those red hats made overseas. I know a good bit of the pink yarn we saw was probably spun in overseas mills, or made from Australian wool. Mine didn’t happen to be – I used Great White Bale and Quince & Co. Lark, both grown and spun in the U.S.  Nevertheless, those pink hats were mostly made by American hands to participate in our American democracy. That’s a pretty patriotic thing to do.

I’ll end this with just a few of the hundreds of smart and sassy signs we saw yesterday.IMG_5291





Sunday, January 15, 2017

Greenbow–a rainbow in green


My greenbow spinning project is done! I started with 24 ounces of “Romoca” fiber (a blend of Romney wool, mohair, and alpaca) from Singleton Fiber Mill and ended up with about 1300 yards of 3-ply woolen-spun yarn. I stored about an ounce of singles on each storage bobbin and wound off every time I filled my four wheel bobbins – when I was done I had this:IMG_5024

You can see a lot of color variation in the bobbins. Of course, the variation you see is only on the top layer… no bobbin looks the same all the way through. You can really see lots of red, yellow, blue, and brown if you look at the roving:IMG_8961a

Making a 3-ply instead of a 2-ply helped blend the colors even more.

Because this project was larger, I finished (washed) the skeins in two batches. This gives me the chance to show you the difference between a freshly plied but unfinished skein, and a finished one:IMG_5106

The one on the left is unwashed. The skein does not hang in a nice loop when I hold it up – it twists (which you can see even when it’s laying flat). The one on the right has been washed and is much more relaxed and balanced:IMG_5107

When you look very closely, you can see that the unwashed skein looks a little more wiry. The washed strands are relaxed and fluffier.IMG_5111

Because I spun these woolen, they are full of air and very squishy. I just love how this project turned out! Someday this will become a sweater for me. IMG_2330