SAFF 2018: Part 2, The Haul (and Sheep)

It’s been a while since SAFF, but I bought too many beautiful things to not show them to you.

20181028_162540

The Tools:

20181028_162136

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.

The Yarn:

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.

20181028_162751

The Fiber:

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.

SAFF 2018: The Class

20181025_121426

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. 

20181025_121027

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.

20181025_141003

20181026_101703

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. 

20181028_163002

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.

20181028_163409

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

20181028_163154

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!

Twice a Bridesmaid, Already a Bride

I have the most wonderful story to share with you! A few weeks ago my best friend called me to say that her boyfriend had finally asked her to marry him. I squealed and congratulated her and she told me all about the proposal. They are just such a sweet couple. She didn’t say anything at the time about her wedding party. I desperately wanted to be a bridesmaid, but I live 2,000 miles away, so I thought maybe she had decided to ask someone closer to her.

About a week later she sent me this text:

This is the reason we are best friends. Who else would think to propose to a bridesmaid this way? I should add that she is also a knitter, and she is the one who taught me how to tat. Of course, I said yes.

So in May I will be putting on a blue dress to help her with her white dress. I can’t wait!

Calculating Yarn Usage for a Rigid Heddle Loom

When I had my weaving lesson last week my teacher gave me a weaving planning sheet.

project sheet

The sheet takes you through all the calculations you will need to determine how much yarn you will need for a given project. For the warp (vertical yarns) you start with the desired dimensions of your finished cloth, add in extra for take-up and shrinkage, then calculate how much yarn you need based on ends per inch (epi, this is the weaver’s term for how many strands of yarn are in an inch of warp) and the length of your cloth. The process is very similar for the weft (horizontal yarns). The main difference is that the number of ends per inch is predetermined for your warp by the heddle you use (The heddle is the plastic thing in back of the loom that you thread all the warp yarns through. You can buy heddles that have more or fewer ends per inch to weave a coarser or finer cloth.), but the number of picks per inch (ppi, this is the weaver’s term for how many times the yarn crosses the warp in an inch) is determined by how closely you beat your weft.

Confused yet?

So for a “balanced weave” I would have 8 strands going vertically and 8 strands going horizontally. But if I beat my weft closer I could end up with 8 strands going vertically and 9 or 12 (or any other number) strands going horizontally. This also goes the other way. I could have fewer weft (horizontal) yarns than warp (vertical) yarns.

So why does this matter?

The more closely packed your weft yarns are, the more yarn you will use. So if you are really close on yarn it is a good idea to do a few inches as a sample just to make sure you will have enough.

The picture you see above is my planning sheet for a plaid project bag. I want the finished bag to be an 8″ by 8″ cube with a fold-over top. I planned for the front, bottom, back, and flap to be all one piece, then for the 2 sides I skip an inch or so and start weaving the next pieces. My EPI (ends per inch on the warp) is 8 and my PPI (picks per inch on the weft) is 12. But my original calculations assumed a balanced weave. I started the project with almost twice the yarn my calculations said I needed, so even though my math was way off I went ahead with the project.

blue and green plaid fabric on a rigid heddle loom

I guess it’s a good thing I paid attention in Algebra!

Do you have a process for calculating yardage for your weaving? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

How to Crochet a Broomstick Lace Bracelet in 9 Easy Steps!

My husband’s grandma is a crocheter. When we visited them recently I showed her a picture I found on Instagram of a bracelet made of broomstick lace. We realized that we could totally make that, and before I knew it we were in her yarn closet (She has a yarn closet! I knew I married into the right family!!) picking yarn and finding a dowel to make broomstick lace with. She rooted out her crochet notebook from when she taught Home Ec. in the 80s and found the directions for Broomstick Lace:

broomstick lace

She guided me as I awkwardly made a chain and single crocheted a few rows before starting.

broomstick

The bracelet was a rousing success! So fast! So easy! The hardest thing was picking out buttons. I decided to go with blue, since my wardrobe has been skewing toward blue recently.

crochet lace bracelet

It would be super easy to make up a whole set of bracelets in different colours – something for every occasion!

If you want to make a bracelet just like mine, here is what I did:

Materials: 

  • Yarn: 10 yds fingering weight yarn
  • Hook: 3mm
  • 4 buttons, sized 1/2″-3/4″
  • Dowel: 1″ wide and at least 6″ long – it helps to have a very smooth dowel with a rounded end, so take the time to sand your dowel down if it’s not already smooth

Method:

  1. Ch 21, turn work
  2. Skip 1 ch, sc 19, turn work
  3. Ch 1, sc 19, turn work
  4. Ch 1, sc 19, do not turn work
  5. With crochet hook pull up last loop and place on dowel held in left hand. Insert crochet hook in each st of ch, pull yarn through and place on dowel (20 sts).
  6. Insert hook in center of first 5 loops, holding these loops together as one, yarn over and pull off needle, ch 1, and work 5 sc in first set of loops. Work 5 sc in each set of 5 loops until no sts remain.
  7. Repeat rows 4 and 5 six more times, or until the bracelet is just long enough to go around your wrist. Cut yarn and hide the end.
  8. Sew 4 buttons to the foundation rows.
  9. Wear your new bracelet with pride!

Have you ever crocheted Broomstick Lace? What do you think of it?

Happy hooking!

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.