It’s been quite a while since SAFF, but I’m still working through my class fiber samples. Here are a few yarns I’ve recently finished.
My most recent spin was a BFL/silk blend top in a purple to pink ombre. You can see it on the bottom left in the picture above. I had planned to spin it as a thick singles, but alas, my singles were thin (I need to work on that). So I changed course and chain plied the yarn to keep the colour order intact.
I didn’t add a lot of twist to the singles, and I’m delighted with how fluffy and soft this yarn is!
I also have a pair of yarns I’ve been spinning for quite a while now. In the topmost picture they are the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th samples from the top (these are also BFL/silk blends).
I spun the 2 samples with purple in them (2nd and 3rd from the top) separately, and then plied them with extra twist.
Then I spun my 3rd sample (4th from the top) in the same direction I had plied the previous yarn in and plied the yarns together again to create a crepe yarn.
I ended up with sister skeins. The 2-ply is a fingering weight, and the crepe is a DK weight.
I’m almost done spinning through my class samples. I’ll have to take a picture of them all together when I’m finished. Then it will be time to find the perfect project(s) for them. I can’t wait!
I talked a lot about SAFF after I went in October, but there’s 1 more thing I learned that I didn’t tell you about: I love spinning batts! Batts are fluffy swathes of carded wool and they are such a delight to spin! After sampling some batts we made in class I made it a point to buy one that I could enjoy more fully.
Just look at it. Isn’t it lovely? I bought it from Katelyn of DunnSpunn (She’s fabulous! You should check her out!! She had a pair of batts in her shop that were inspired by Anne of Green Gables and her best friend Diana. I wasn’t fast enough to snag them.) The colourway is called Candied Pumpkin, and it’s 3.1 oz of wool, mohair, bamboo, soy fiber and Angelina. I carefully unrolled the batt, stripped it, and spun. If you’re used to spinning worsted you will be amazed at how quickly woolen yarn spins up. I spun up the singles in an evening and a morning, and plied them with some deep green laceweight singles I had leftover from my Lilting Leaves spin.
I love how this yarn turned out. There are thick and thin spots and locks hanging out, and I have sparkly Angelina all over my house, but it’s so worth it. This yarn is gorgeous, and once I figure out how to showcase it in all its glory I’ll make it up into something lovely.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have another batt lying around somewhere.
Late last year I finished a spin that I had been working on since August. I started with 4oz of BFL dyed in lovely shades of green, and paired it with another 4(ish)oz of deep forest green Merino I had in my stash.
My goal was to spin a 2-ply sock weight, so I spun each of the singles as fine as I could while still keeping them even. Spinning fine takes forever, and by the time I was done with the singles I needed a break. Fortunately, this was around the time I went to SAFF, so I was able to refuel, restock, and be refreshed.
Everything was going well until I started plying, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. For some reason my plies weren’t locking together like I expected them to. I shrugged it off, figuring that a good soak would set everything to rights. Then 2/3 of the way through plying the yarn started doing what it was supposed to. My heart sank as I realized what had happened: part of the way through spinning the dark green singles I had changed the direction of my spinning. About 2/3 of the yarn was an opposing ply yarn, while the other 1/3 was beautiful and balanced.
I can’t tell you how frustrated I was at first. How can you switch directions in spinning without the yarn breaking or drifting apart? I wanted to have 800-1000 yards of yarn that was all the same so I could make something significant out of it. Now my plan was ruined because of a stupid mistake I made because I wasn’t paying attention.
I took a step back to let myself cool off, then made myself consider the pros instead of the cons. I’ve never made an opposing ply yarn before, so this was a learning experience. Now I know what opposing ply yarn does. It’s rather curly and delightfully kinky because of all the extra twist energy the opposing ply brings to the yarn. I wonder how this would change the texture in a knitted or woven fabric?
In a way this yarn is a lot like life. Everything can seem to be going exceedingly well, and then something happens that throws a wrench in your plans. In times like this it’s important to take the time to reconsider your perspective and see if maybe there isn’t a silver lining after all.
I can’t wait to make something out of this yarn. I think a large woven stole would be just delightful. I’m even considering lightly felting the finished fabric because I’ve never done it before and I think it would really finish the fabric in a beautiful way.
We all make crafting mistakes. What stories do you have of snatching a success from the jaws of failure?
I am privileged to live close enough to Asheville, NC to attend SAFF (SouthEastern Animal and Fiber Fair) pretty much every year. This year the first day of SAFF was the day after my birthday, so I decided to make the whole latter part of the week my party. I started by taking a 2-day class with Abby Franquemont. I’ve been an admirer of Abby since I started spinning several years ago, and taking a class with her was definitely on my bucket list. This class was about colour and structure in spinning, and I had a blast!
The first day of the class we dealt with colour. We started with plain red and plain white wool and talked first about how colour is perceived differently by different people and in different contexts. We then took the red and white wool and started to combine them – first just holding them together or trying to combine them by hand. Then Abby used her drum carder to blend the colours – we spun after 1 pass, 2 passes, and 3 passes. It was really interesting to see the changes that additional blending made. Next we combined the same red and a dark brown in much the same manner, except after a few passes through the drum carder Abby added yellow and purple – colours I initially thought were incongruous, but ended up intensifying the beauty of the blend we were making.
After lunch we came back to talk more about how to handle colour within spinning. Abby had taken a bit of a look around the market and returned with oodles of such beautiful fibers to divide among us so we could try them all. We talked about the different ways fiber (and yarns) are dyed and how often hand-dyed fibers will have some kind of repeat if you look for it. Taking a few minutes to assess how a fiber is dyed can inform how you spin it. After the fiber was divided among us all we each started spinning what appealed to us and took the rest home to play with.
I chose to start with this sea-green that gradually fades into a pinkish-brown and then into gold. I split the fiber down the middle, then spun it end to end for a long gradient singles, then plied it end to end for a 2-ply gradient.
The second day of class we started with show and tell – everyone shared with the class what they had finished since the previous afternoon. It was interesting how even though we all had the same building blocks, we ended up with very different yarns. We spent the day learning about topics as they came up – from tips on using a Lazy Kate to plying with an “Andean” plying bracelet to how to ply more smoothly (pro tip: winding off before plying makes your yarn ply better). We talked about”Navajo” or chain plied yarns, cable plied yarns, and crepe yarns. Most of us had never spun a crepe yarn and wanted to learn, so we focused on that in the afternoon, using 3 different colours of wool to create an unintentionally patriotic yarn.
A crepe yarn is a 3-ply construction where 2 singles are spun in the same direction, then plied in the opposite direction with extra twist added for an extra plying step. A 3rd singles is then spun in the same direction as the first 2 yarns were plied, and the singles and the 2-ply are plied in the opposite direction from the first ply to create a balanced yarn. It’s a really interesting construction and is supposed to be extra strong (so a good idea for high-wear items, like socks). It was really interesting to see how different everyone’s yarns were. Even more than before, we started with the same materials and the exact same directions, and yet no 2 yarns were alike.
The last bit of class was question and answer with Abby and a quick walk through the market to look at all the pretties.
I’m the kind of person who doesn’t usually spend money on a class. I’m all about learning from books,You-Tube, or the internet in general because there is just so much information out there these days. What I didn’t realize before this class is that you get so much more from an in-person experience than you can from reading a book or a blog or watching a video. I have been so inspired since taking this class with Abby, and I have been spinning almost non-stop. So next time you are thinking about taking a class – I highly recommend it!
Last time we talked I was beavering away on my entrelac scarf. I kept it in my bag to knit on while waiting and on trips and in meetings (the kind where I join online and no one can see me. Alas, I have too many in-person meetings). Once I understood the basics of how entrelac works it was easy to pick up for a few minutes here and there. It’s just stockinette with the occasional decrease. It turns out that if you work on something consistently (even if consistently just means a half hour a few times a week) it eventually gets done. I’m pleased to show you my finished scarf.
I handspun the yarn over a year ago. My goal was fat singles, but the end yarn was a little more thick and thin than I really like, but there’s a kind of perfection in the imperfection, right? I can’t wait to wear this with a jean jacket this fall.
The materials in this post were put together by my friend Jenn for our spinning group’s fiber study.
Targhee is one of America’s youngest breeds, having been developed this century. The Western sheep industry around 1900 was based on Merino and Rambouillet sheep with the emphasis on raising wool. Shortly after the turn of the century a demand began for lamb and this led to a crossing of the fine-wooled sheep to develop a better lamb producing animal. The most popular method to achieve this goal was the crossing of an English longwool breed with the fine-wooled breeds that were the basis of the Western sheep industry.
To fill this need, the US government began a program of crossing Lincoln rams on Rambouillet ewes, which was the foundation that developed into the Columbia breed. While these crosses were quite popular, many sheepmen felt that the ideal sheep would be 3/4 fine wool and 1/4 long wool, or what was commonly known as a “comeback” sheep, a name that signifies coming back to the Rambouillet from the first coarse and fine cross. To meet this demand, the US Sheep Experiment Station was begun in the fall of 1926 to lay the foundation for such a breed.
The foundation was a group of cross-bred ewes, consisting of Rambouillet, Lincoln, and Corriedale blood that were bred to 9 of the station’s smoothest, thickest Rambouillet rams. After 3 years of the program, 201 first-generation ewes were carefully selected and bred intensely. After 3 generations (about 1938) it had become apparent that a desirable breed had been developed and a larger genetic base was needed. New breeding schemes were developed, using the same original breeds, and the number of Targhees was boosted to over 1,000 sheep. The breed was named Targhee after the national forest where the animals grazed during the summer.
Each ewe will average a 10-14 lb fleece that has a micron measurement of 21-25 and a staple length of 3-5″ with a yield of 50-55%.
Jenn provided us all with a handful of Targhee fiber, and it was luscious! I spun a fine single on my drop spindle, wound it into a butterfly, and plied it back on itself for 15 yards of a fingering weight 2-ply yarn. I will definitely try this one again!
This year I am challenging myself to try new spinning techniques. I learned to spin almost 2 years ago, and until this year almost all of my spinning has been using short forward draw and commercially prepared top to make a Worsted style yarn. When I bought 12 oz of Southdown wool a few weeks ago, I decided the time had come: I would perfect my long draw and learn to make my own rolags.
Rolags are the most “woolen” of any fiber preparation, woolen referring to preparation and drafting techniques that lead to an airy, fuzzy yarn (as opposed to a sleek and shiny yarn made from “worsted” preparation and drafting). Rolags are made by hand with hand cards. I don’t have cards of my own, so I borrowed some from a friend (Thanks, Jenn!), and now I want carders of my own. How many more weeks until SAFF?
To make a rolag, you start by pulling off a handful or so of your fiber and placing an even layer over the tines of one of the cards so that 1/3 to 1/2 of the fiber length hangs off the end of the card. It doesn’t have to be pretty or aligned. We’ll work on that in the next step.
Once you’ve got some wool on your card, grab it in your non-dominant hand with the tines facing up. Grab the other card in your dominant hand with the tines facing down and with a gentle sweeping motion just barely catch the ends of the fibers with the tines. Do this again 2-3 more times, working your way up to the edge of the card. The tines of the 2 cards should never scrape against each other.
You can see in the picture how some of the wool has transferred to the second card (that was in your dominant hand). Now comes the tricky part. You need to transfer the wool from the first card (non-dominant hand) onto the 2nd card (dominant hand). Start by switching which card is in which hand. The 1st card will now be in your dominant hand and the 2nd card will be in your non-dominant hand. Hold the cards horizontally so that the tines are face up and the handles are facing out. Move the 1st card (dominant hand) so that it is about half a fiber-length from the edge of the 2nd card (non-dominant hand). Rotate the 1st card so that it is vertical, hold down the edge of the fiber, and rotate the card until it is horizontal again with the tines facing down. The fiber should all by lying on top of the 2nd card. Congratulations! That’s as hard as it gets!
Your fiber won’t be perfectly aligned yet, but it will be more aligned than it was at first. Continue carding until your wool is as tidy as you want it to be. I used combed top for this project, and it took me about 3 passes to be satisfied.
Once you are happy with your fiber prep, it’s time to roll it all up into a rolag. You’ll start with all the wool on one card. Take a pair of straight knitting needles (any gauge or material will do) and slide one below the end of the fiber hanging off the edge of your card and the other over the wool to sandwich the fiber in between them. Roll the needles and wool toward you in a burrito until all the wool is off the card. Move the rolag back to the far edge of the card (with the needles still in the center) and roll toward you again to lock the fibers in place. Remove the knitting needles. Voila! You’ve made a rolag!
I have had so much fun making these rolags over the last few weeks. I hope you have a fantastic time, too! Warning: Making rolags may be addictive.
P.S. If you ever need a judge wig, rolags make a pretty good facsimile!