I have been in a yellow mood this summer. I see it in my spinning and my sewing (but not so much in my knitting). It started last year with this incredible batt made by my very skilled friend Dia of Twisted Urban. I began the spinning not long after (I use a short draw when spinning woolen), but I mostly spun at our group gatherings, so my progress was slow. As I spun I formulated a plan to stretch this sunshiny perfection as far as possible: I would combine it with more yellow.
This is a braid of Targhee top by Deep Dyed Yarns in the colour way: 5 Golden Rings. I bought it a few Christmases below when it was grey and cold out and I needed a dose of sunshine. I fluffed and then split the top into nests. This fiber will be spun worsted, but I will try to incorporate as much loft as I can for a semi-worsted singles.
All this yellow needed something to mellow it, so I dug around in my stash and found a bag of Southdown rolags that I had processed from Top a few years ago. The fiber is from Beesybee on Etsy. This will be spun woolen with a short draw like the yellow Batt.
I am enjoying taking this project slow. The yarn will be incredible when it is finished!
I’m at a standstill with a colour decision and I would value your opinion.
Early in 2020 I started spinning up this braid from Deep Dyed Yarns (80/20 Merino/Silk, the colourway is unnamed) that I got in a swap in 2019. I let it sit, partially spun, for over a year before I came back to it.
I had received this braid in a swap in 2018, but had not decided what to do with it. The braid is SuperWash BFL from Two if by Hand in the Public Market colourway.
Several years ago I read an article in Ply Magazine about combining different colourways when spinning and thus creating different, more interesting outcomes through the interplay of colour in the final yarn. This idea grabbed hold of me, and I have been trying to use it ever since (here and here), but my experiments have been mostly combining a single solid colour with a coordinating multi-colour braid. With the idea of combining colourways in the back of my mind, I started to consider what a pairing of these two braids would look like. To me the colours seem like bolder and paler versions of each other: one braid is Mardi Gras, the other is almost pastel. So I spun up the Mardi Gras braid, with plans to ply the two together.
I had always planned to include a third ply in white or light grey to soften the Mardi Gras colours and help tie them into the pastels. I have a package of light grey wool that is similar to the light grey in the Deep Dyed colourway, but a little more brown. I also have a skein of cream mohair yarn (laceweight) that could give a beautiful halo to the final yarn as well as diffusing and blending the bold colours.
I was pretty set on this course of action, when I received a braid of the same colourway (but a 60/40 Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk base) in a swap just a few weeks ago! This opens up the possibility of having two plies of the Deep Dyed colourway with one ply of the Mardi Gras, and I love the continuity of using this third swapped braid.
Now that my original two braids are spun up I am losing my nerve. Some days I think they will be brilliant together, some days I think the combination is horrid. And now I have too many options. Reader, I need your help: which do you think is the best option?
Go with the original plan: Mardi Gras, Pastels, Grey
Go with the original plan: Mardi Gras, Pastels, Mohair
Spin the new braid up and ply with the original two braids
Create two or more individual yarns: 1 ply of Deep Dyed with 1 ply of Grey; 1 ply of Mardi Gras with 1 ply of Mohair
Something else entirely – what brilliant ideas do you have?
This is the time of year when so many of us take time to look back on what we did last year and plan ahead for the coming year. Here is what I made in 2019.
Finished Items: I finished 4 knitting projects in 2019, which is significantly lower than in past years. I’ve had a lot going on with work last year, which has cut into my crafting time. Also I’ve been doing a lot more non-knitting crafts and making a larger variety of items.
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!
It’s been a while since SAFF, but I bought too many beautiful things to not show them to you.
I have been wanting a Turkish spindle for a while, so I bought this beautiful beech spindle. Her name is Tigris (like the river, which I learned has roots in Turkey). Also, I bought a pair of Schacht curved-back hand carders (112 TPI). I’m learning to spin woolen rather than worsted, but it’s so much easier to find combed top than woolen preparations like rolags and batts. With these carders I can convert top to a woolen preparation so I have more spinning options.
I only bought 1 skein of yarn this year (I know, who am I??), but it’s so beautiful! This picture doesn’t really show the soft rose colour off properly.
Since I took a spinning class at SAFF I went a little fiber crazy. Abby was so inspiring and she made me want to spin all the things RIGHT NOW! I bought a lot of combed top, since worsted spinning is my default method and I have the tools to change a worsted preparation to a woolen preparation now. This silver/grey fiber at the top is a yak/silk blend, and the plain white at the bottom is a BFL/silk blend. I’m completely in love with BFL – it’s such a lovely fiber to spin!
I did buy 1 beautiful batt, and my first locks! I have no idea what to do with locks, but they were rainbow dyed and I couldn’t resist.
I also bought my first cotton, and I’ve been having a fabulous time learning to spin it (tip: cotton makes it so easy to spin a superfine long-draw single!).
SAFF is not just about shopping and classes, though. There are also all sorts of fiber animals to see and pet.
So if you have a chance to go to a fiber featival, especially if it’s SAFF, go!! You won’t regret it.
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!
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!
My spinning group is doing a breed study this year and June is my turn to present. I decided to highlight Southdown wool because I think it’s pretty fabulous. “Down” breeds come from the “downs” in England and consist of Southdown, Suffolk, Dorset Down, Hampshire, Oxford, and Shropshire. There are a host of other breeds that are considered “down-like,” but these 6 are the true downs. Southdown is the original down breed. The Suffolk, Dorset Down, Hampshire, Oxford, and Shropshire breeds were all created by breeding Southdown with other kinds of sheep to maximize different qualities.
What’s so great about Down wool? It’s springy with a diorganized crimp, the wool doesn’t have a lot of kemp (chalky, brittle fibers) or hair, and is resistant to felting (this is my favorite part). It’s also important to know that most Down breeds are raised for meat, so often their wool is inexpensive (I get mine here). Southdown wool has a micron count of 23-31 and a staple length between 1 1/2 – 4 inches. Because of the springy nature of the wool and the shorter fiber length, Southdown is best when carded and spun woolen. As with any wool, though, you can use it however you like.
I first spun commercially combed Southdown top as a new spinner over a year ago. I had a spindle and some wool and I wanted to learn everything, so away I went, spinning the wool Worsted (short forward draw). I loved how this yarn came out. The wool was so easy to spin with – just enough drag to draft nicely, but not enough to make me really work for it.
Later, I spun more of this same top when as a learning exercise (I wanted to be able to spin thick singles). The yarn ended up delightfully thick and thin.
I was curious about how resistant this wool is to felting, so I knit up a few swatches to do some very scientific research.
The first swatch was my control: I washed it with wool wash in hot water, squeezed out as much water as I could, and laid it flat to dry.
For the second swatch I let it soak in hot water for a few minutes, then shocked it with cold water. I continued shocking the swatch back and forth between hot and cold water several times and rubbed the swatch to maximize any felting that would take place. Other than a little fuzziness, this swatch looks almost exactly like the first swatch.
With my third swatch I decided to go all out. I washed and dried it with the rest of my laundry. After going through the wash, the swatch looked exactly like my second swatch: a little fuzzy, but still in great shape. It shrunk lengthwise and widened width-wise a little in the dryer. This was the most dramatic change of the 3 swatches, but I still wouldn’t say the wool felted.
I’m wearing a swatch under my shirt as I type this, and it is a tiny bit itchy. If you have sensitive skin I wouldn’t recommend Southdown as a base layer, but it would make an excellent and hard-wearing sweater or jacket. Conversely, because of the springiness of the wool, Southdown would make great socks!
Now that I’ve done a little more study on the breed, I’m taking commercially prepared top and carding it into rolags to see the difference it makes in the yarn.
Earlier this year I made a goal to finish my WIPs, which I then proceeded to ignore. New projects are just so much more beguiling! I did manage to finish one thing though.
While digging through my spinning stash, I found a partially filled bobbin and a few ounces of superwash BFL. The bobbin went back on the wheel and I busied myself with spinning the singles. When it cane time to ply I wanted to do something a little different, so I pulled out my bead stash and decided to add peach glass seed beads and a few rose beads from my wedding.
Do you see the problem in the picture? I strung about 8 ounces of beads on a single. It was bound to be unmanageable and eventually break. Once it did break I changed my tactic: I only strung an ounce (ish) of beads at a time, breaking the single every time I needed to add beads, and rejoining as I plied. It wasn’t the most enjoyable of plying adventures, but look at the resulting yarn!
So lovely! I ended up with 280 yards of DK weight yarn, and it is oh so soft. I would definitely recommend spinning with superwash BFL. It is a dream to work with, although you do end up with quite a lot of fiber stuck to your clothes. I don’t have a plan for this yarn yet, but for now I am content to leave it as a skein of innocence.