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!

The Thrill of Autumn

I love this time of year. The thrill of Autumn is in the air and the leaves are slowly starting to change colours and fall. The days are beginning to be cooler, making this the most lovely time of year to be outdoors. I love Fall. Fall is when I can start to wear all the beautiful woolens I’ve knit throughout the year. I get to pull scarves and shawls and hats out that may not have been used since last winter. Fall is a time for layering and for earth tones and warm things to drink. In Fall I can enjoy the nip in the air without longing for it to be warm again.

I’ve a colorwork hat in the works that is so very Fallish. I can’t wait for it to be off my needles so I can wear it. I’m using handspun from the first time I spun Batts. They were little tiny things made of Merino, Alpaca, and Bamboo, and I had no idea how to spin them.

wool batt

This may have been my first attempt at woolen spinning, but by the end I was just spinning worsted. The yarn is a 2-ply sport-weight(ish) and is very soft. My contrast yarn is a light fingering weight yarn from Hedgehog Fibers that I bought on my honeymoon. Fingering weight on it’s own wouldn’t stand up well to the sport-weight handspun, so I’m holding it doubled for the most lovely Marl. Really, I can’t tell you how beautiful this is!

handspun yarn

I’m making the pattern up as I go, but for the colorwork section I modified a chart from a book the owner of my LYS gave me for my anniversary (Thanks, Krista!!). And last, but not least, I am using Jane Austen stitch markers. This project is just so perfect in so many ways. I can’t wait to see how it comes out! Hopefully you’ll see a new pattern coming soon. Watch this space!

colorwork knitting with teacup stitch marker

Easy as Pi

I don’t know about you, but this has been the hardest April I can remember. In fact, I dont think I’ve ever experienced such a difficult start to the year. In December I got a promotion at work. I was in a job I didn’t like, and now I have a job that I enjoy a lot. But the job comes with more responsibility, and with responsibility comes stress. Cue knitting to save my sanity.

A few months ago I finally bought the Knitter’s Almanac. I walked through Elizabeth Zimmermann’s fabulous “unventions” and sage advice, and decided that now was the time to cast on a Pi Shawl. Sometimes you start something and you’re not sure why, but it just seems like the right thing for the time. This shawl is what my brain and my heart have needed over the last few months. I sit down to work on it and it helps me to slow down and stop worrying. The yarns are beautiful and make this knitting a very tactile experience.

Earlier this month I got a call that my grandma was very ill and might not make it for much longer. I bought a plane ticket, packed a bag, and went to be with her. This shawl was such a comfort as I travelled and sat in waiting rooms. I showed it to her and she thought it was so beautiful. And then as she started to recover I knit on it in joy, so pleased that I was not knitting in mourning.

So often in my knitting I try to be smart. The easy solution or the obvious solution are not good enough, I have to do it the hard way. But sometimes I need something easy so that my brain can stop working on overdrive. That is what this shawl is for me.

All The Colours!

The yarn is finished!!

There were a few moments during this spin where I wondered if this crazy yarn would work out. What if all the colours paired up garishly? What if I hated it? I voiced my concerns to my husband and he told me to just knit socks with it. If the yarn is awful no one has to see it but me. It can be an exciting sock secret. Now the yarn is done and I love it! My husband has claimed it – he wants the crazy socks all for himself.

Tiddly Bits

I’ve been following Treadle Handspun Yarns on Instagram for quite a while now. Robin spins the most beautifully even yarns – they are such a pleasure to look at. Every now and again she also works up a bag of Tiddly Bits to sell in her shop. Tiddly Bits are bits and bobs of different coloured rovings all tied up and thrown in a bag together. They always sell quickly, and I’ve been trying to get my hands on a bag for months.

tiddly bits

The idea is to reach into the bag and spin the next colour, no matter what it is (or I suppose you could carefully lay them out in colour order if that’s how you prefer it). I started spinning my bag of bits last night and oh, I love it!

all the colours

So many colours just jumbled up next to each other, all willy nilly! I think when the bits are done I may spin up something a bit more staid to calm everything down and make a 3-ply yarn like I did with my SkyWool: 2 fun plies, one calming. Or maybe I’ll really go crazy and ply with a cone of crochet cotton!

Who knows. I have the Tiddly Bits, and the world is my oyster.