Saturday, March 18, 2017


I finished the yarn spun from Olivia’s Romney cross fleece and it came out so beautifully! This top photo is its true color (it was taken outdoors):

FullSizeRender (10)As you probably expected, I made a classic worsted yarn since I had a classic worsted prep (hand-combed top). I used a short forward draw on my 12.5:1 pulley. This was a bigger pulley than I started with but it just felt right somehow. When it was time to ply, though, I needed my smallest pulley – 16:1 (with ten treadles per pull). I think this is technically a little overplied, but it felt appropriate. The resulting yarn is pretty fine. I haven’t measured wraps per inch yet because I haven’t wound it, but you can get a sense of it here:IMG_2767

Initially I was thinking that since this wasn’t super soft, I would weave with it. But it seems softer now. Lace would be appropriate given the fineness and 2-ply structure, but I’ve never been a big lace knitter. Perhaps a SIMPLE lace pattern for a single skein. Any ideas?

This top was beguiling to spin. The change in colors was subtle and dreamy. I took one last photo before starting my final cloud:IMG_2723

Now that I have the basics of hand combing down, I’m ready to try it again. Sasha’s second Fleece Club shipment is also appropriate for combing. Meet Oliver:IMG_2618

Oliver is a CVM (California Variegated Mutant), which sounds ominous but really just means a colored variety of Romeldale. It is a fine wool with 4” staples, which means it should comb well. Sasha also says it can be “flicked” but I don’t have the right tool to try that. I’ll return to my ominous combs.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Always sock yarn

I’ve been making slow progress on my Southdown handspun socks – but I finished one! We have inside photos today due to the 10”+ of snow that are on the ground here today.IMG_2760

I’ve been worried all along that I wouldn’t have enough yardage for two socks. I got 352 yards – but that measurement came when I wound the skein off the bobbin. THEN I set the twist, and this springy yarn definitely shrunk in length. I’m not sure how many yards I really have. When I finished the first sock, I weighed it – it comes in at 44.9 grams after weaving in ends. My remaining ball is 46.7 grams. That is very, very close – perhaps too close for comfort. Handspun yarn isn’t as uniform as commercial yarn.

I also wasn’t sure that I liked the feel of the sock. It’s kinda crunchy. S1 commented that it could probably stand up by itself – and you know what? She’s technically right! IMG_2758

I should block the sock and see if that causes it to calm down a bit. I’ll throw some hair conditioner in there, too, to soften this fiber a bit more. Bottom line: I think I probably put too much twist into the singles. Maybe I need to get some more Southdown from Sasha and try again. Or wait to see what turns up next in the fiber club – maybe an upcoming shipment fiber will be good for sock yarn, too? This is why it’s good to knit with one’s handspun, and wear one’s own handknits. You learn a lot from those experiences. My next handspun sock yarn will be better.


In other news, I have been knitting almost exclusively on my I Love Leftovers sock yarn blanket. During the past two weeks, I have cranked out 19 new squares: IMG_2748

I am close to finishing the first skein of black yarn I have, which I use for the first four rows of each square. When I run out, I’ll count how many squares I’ve done and predict needs. I bought 4 skeins of black, thinking I would also use it to edge the finished blanket. I just love revisiting these little balls of yarn. I always know what I used the original yarn for. Here are a few examples:

Top row, square two (and row 2, square 1): Asymmetrical Cables Socks for S1IMG_0226

Top row, squares 1, 3, and 5 (and row 2 square 2): Gyllis shawl for meIMG_2771

Top row, square 4 (mostly) and row 2, square 3: Braided Cable with Garter Bead socks for S1IMG_7600

Row 3, square 2: This is a really old yarn – in 2005 I made basic cable crew socks for me. These were knit from Koigu and soon developed holes that darning couldn’t begin to fix. I later learned to knit socks on smaller needles and to avoid 100% superwash merino sock yarns.Koigu Brown Socks

That’s enough memory lane for now. The more I work on this blanket, the more I love it!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fleece Club–Olivia

Up until this point, I have only purchased prepared fiber that was ready to spin – cleaned, combed or carded, and usually dyed. But when Sasha Torres dangled a Fleece Club membership under my nose, I decided it was time to stretch my spinning muscles a little and try a new skill. This club includes 3 shipments of cleaned fleece. Not a whole fleece, mind you – just enough to practice with. The idea is that you don’t have to know how to choose a good fleece or clean it, but you can take all the steps after that. IMG_2619

I’ve received two fleece shipments so far and just haven’t shared them with you yet. This is the first one – meet Olivia! She’s a Romney cross – specifically, 75% Romney, 12.5% Border Leicester, and 12.5% Corriedale. The fleece is a very pretty pale gray and the staple length (the length of an individual fiber) is 4-5”. Because of the staple length, COMBING is a better option than CARDING this fiber. IMG_2609

So I got out my new 5-pitch English combs and used a C-clamp to anchor them to my work table. (Side note – thank goodness we got a new dining table last year – now I can be super junky with the old one.) IMG_2611

First you “lash on” the comb by putting some fleece on it. I filled the comb up about 1/3 of the way. Yes, those tines are wicked sharp. I poked myself a few times and drew blood once (a good wash and some Neosporin and all is well). Then you use the other comb to swing sideways and move the fiber from one comb to the other. Like this:IMG_2612

I switched combs and did the same thing again. I made 3 passes before declaring it done, and then I took the fiber off the comb using a dizz (curved hard thing with a hole in it). This is the dizz that came with my combs – I think it’s a piece of PVC pipe:IMG_2616

You get a long piece of fluff when you do this, which I wrap up into a little nest and set aside. It’s so cute!IMG_2625

That is ready to spin. I made a few of these and realized I was struggling due to static electricity. My combs came with a recipe for combing oil that includes glycerin, propylene glycol, water, and mineral oil… but I wasn’t that interested in it. I tried spinning some fiber sprayed with a mineral oil/water mixture during my class earlier this month, and I didn’t like it. I googled to learn more and found out that Beth Smith likes to use a mixture of 1 part Unicorn Fibre Rinse and 5 parts water – and she says it doesn’t go rancid. That was attractive to me, as I felt that any oily mixture I made would definitely get funky pretty quickly. I ordered some Unicorn Fibre Rinse (which is basically super concentrated fabric softener) and indeed, it worked like a dream. I just spritzed the fibers on the comb once or twice as needed, and the fiber behaved. Once I had that, I was able to finish prepping my fibers all on the same day. Now I have a tray of little fuzzies ready to spin!IMG_2658

Now I have to decide how to spin it. I initially planned to do a classic worsted yarn (combing is, after all, a classic worsted prep) and I still might. But after consulting The Spinner’s Book of Fleece, I’m intrigued by the sample that’s spun from the fold. However, I will probably end up trying the classic worsted because I have these nests of hand-combed top that are ready for that.

I guess that begs me to sample. The fluffballs are not super soft, so the yarn isn’t likely to be super soft, either. Maybe I’ll think ahead toward weaving with it. I have a long-term plan to weave fabric on my Cricket that can be sewn into smaller shoulder bags. This might work well for that.


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.