Spin Together

Early this month my spinning group joined a friendly competition called Spin Together. The goal was to spin throughout the week. Some people are very competetive about these things and spend gobs of time to spin loads of yarn. I was not in a situation where I could do that (even though I am a very competetive person), so I took a more laid back approach. My goal was to spin every day and to finish some projects I had started.

I spun 5 out of the 7 days, so I didn’t quite meet my goal to spin every day. But I did finish 2 projects, and ended up with some very lovely yarn.

The first project was a handful of Jacob rolags. Deb from Merciful Hearts Farm is part of our spinning group, and she generously shared some sample fleeces with the group. Jacob is a peculiar breed: their fleeces are mottled and splotched with different colours. I had never worked with Jacob or with unwashed wool before this spin. I separated the locks by colour and carded them up into rolags.

I spun the rolags in colour order from darkest to lightest. In order to preserve the colour order in the finished yarn I chain-plied it. I have a hard time getting enough twist in my woolen singles, so they quite often break. To combat this, I started the plying stage with a simple prep step: I chained the singles around a book without adding twist. This allowed me to control the chain length and twist better, and my handling of the delicate singles was much more careful.

You can see that I used my newest toy to spin this sample: it’s the Electric Eel Wheel Nano. The Nano did a great job spinning the yarn, but the fuzzy wool caught on the yarn guides quite frequently. Also, when plying after the bobbin was about halfway filled it stopped wanting to wind on. I will need to play with the Nano more to see how these issues can be worked out.

My second Spin Together project was a skein I started back in April. I used my Majacraft Pioneer for this spin. The fiber was a blend of Targhee, Rambouillet, and Columbia wools from Apothefaery Fibers that I bought at SAFF last year. The colours reminded me of fire and of a clear Autumn morning.

I had spun the singles quite fine, and plied them end to end with a lot of extra twist. This took me about 2 months, then I went to Manila, and didn’t return to my project for over 4 months. My goal was to make a crepe yarn, so at this point I was about 2/3 of the way through the project. In late September I started spinning another singles, this time in an undyed BFL/silk blend. During the week of Spin together I finished spinning these singles, and plied the singles with the 2-ply to finish the crepe.

I knew I was pushing the boundaries of how much yarn my bobbin would hold. The original 2-ply was 4 oz, and the crepe ply was at least another 2 oz (most bobbins hold 4oz or less). In the end the yarn was finished in a very dramatic way. I had gone to our spinning group meetup, and was plying away, hoping against hope that the yarn would all fit. I got to the very end of the bobbin, and my wheel wouldn’t wind any more on. So I enlisted some help: I treadled while another friend walked the plying yarn out behind me, and another friend watched to make sure the yarn didn’t come off my bobbin and get wrapped around the drive shaft!

We worked together to finish this yarn, it all miraculously fit on the bobbin, and I was rewarded with 580 yds of a beautiful sport-weight crepe yarn. Just look at it!

If you need me in the future, I will be spinning all the crepe yarn. I love the roundness of the yarn and the very visible, unusual construction.

Finished Skein: Berries and Chocolate

Last October I bought some fiber for my birthday. This is “Lake Huron” on Targhee by Deep Dyed Yarns.

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A few days later I bought some hand cards at SAFF.

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What’s a girl to do when she has new fiber AND new hand cards? Why card it up, that’s what!

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I had originally planned to keep the rolags in the original colour order that they came in, but then I thought of arranging them in a massive gradient, and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.

Since I now had a box full of beautiful rolags, I had to spin long-draw. Long-draw is a skill I am still learning, so this took me quite a while.

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Once I had finished spinning the singles, I began chain-plying the yarn to preserve the colour order I had so carefully established. My singles broke several times, so finally I ran them back through the wheel to add more twist before finishing the plying. Lesson learned: Make sure your yarn has enough twist before beginning to ply, especially for a chain-plied yarn since there isn’t another singles to provide additional structure!

The finished yarn is a glorious 464 yards of yarn. Since this is handspun and I am still refining my long-draw skills, the yarn varies from almost a laceweight to sport weight, with the majority of the yarn being in the fingering weight range.

I don’t have any definite plans for this skein yet, but it would make a lovely shawl or cowl – something that will use up all the yarn and that doesn’t come in pairs of items. I think it would make a beautiful woven scarf. Conversely, it would be gorgeous as a Lost in Time shawl.

Sampling

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 Love Batts!

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.

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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.

Lilting Leaves

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?

SAFF 2018: The Class

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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The last bit of class was question and answer with Abby and a quick walk through the market to look at all the pretties.

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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!

Finished Object: Autumn Entrelac

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.