Category Archives: Spinning

A different take on making lemonade out of lemons

Have you heard the saying “making lemonade out of lemons”. It means to make a bad situation seem better.

Here’s my take on it when dealing with rough, dry hands that can plague those of us who love to spin and knit with silk.

Even the barest little roughness can snag the silk fiber, making an otherwise pleasant experience into a irritatingly bad situation.

Lemons to the rescue.


Simply grab a lemon and cut it in half. Rub the piece of lemon on your hands, then dry your hands on a paper towel.

The lemon juice will leave your hands feeling silky soft and smooth without any oily residue that oftentimes is left by hand lotions attempting to smooth the skin. Also, of course, your hands will smell lemony fresh!

Keep the piece of lemon handy for rubbing on your hands again as needed. It’s a quick and effective way to turn an unpleasant silk spinning or knitting session into a pleasurable, snag-free one.

Oh … and with the rest of the lemons, you can make lemonade!

p.s. If you don’t have a fresh lemon, bottled lemon juice like ReaLemon works just as well.

An excuse to work with hand-spun yarn

It’s so nice to have an excuse to work with my own hand-spun yarn. I really enjoyed making this Blackberry crescent shawl even though I was on a deadline.

Here is a version of one of my newest released patterns called Loganberry. I dubbed this hand-spun merino-silk version with the name Blackberry because of its color. Make sure to click the photo to get a better view of the texture and subtly varied colors.

my "Blackberry" version of Loganberry Crescent Lace Shawl
my "Blackberry" version of Loganberry Crescent Lace Shawl

 

The yarn is hand-spun merino/silk plied with hand-dyed silk hankies. The yarn structure is a 2-ply (S) of:

  • merino/silk blend spun Z
  • hand-dyed silk hankies spun Z
Blackberry Handspun Yarn
Blackberry Handspun Yarn

Actually, I’m not back to actively spinning yet. (but hopefully this will start getting that back into my life priorities). I don’t have a date on the tag for when I spun this yarn, but it was probably around 1998! It was time for it to become something else, don’t you think?

Blackberry Crescent Shawl in progress
Blackberry Crescent Shawl in progress

The merino/silk fiber was from Lambspun in Colorado (they are still in business). Unfortunately I did not make a record of the exact name from Lambspun on my tag, so I am not sure if there actually was one. The hand-dyed silk hankies came from Woodland Woolworks, which closed not too long ago. I really liked that place for the range of spinning tools and fibers they carried. Good thing that I still have a good stash of some of my favorites from them.

The Loganberry pattern was launched at TNNA. I knit the original Loganberry in a new yarn that Mountain Colors just came out with (a luscious cashmere/silk blend called Louisa). I had so much fun knitting up the sample model in the Loganberry color of their yarn that I wanted to do one for myself. However, there was not enough time to get more yarn dyed and mailed to me in time to knit before the show, so that was my excuse to check my handspun stash. I always have some sample models at TNNA that are made in handspun (there are some spinning vendors and shop buyers there), so I figured that having the sample at the Mountain Colors booth and another sample at my own HeartStrings booth would cover even more bases.

Although I had not planned to make this additional model until just a few days before the show, I’m glad I had an excuse to enjoy knitting this handspun. The shawl moved along really quickly (the Hiya Hiya needles I was using helped a lot, I think) and I had the knitted shawl completed and blocked in plenty of time before the show. It looked nice on display, too! Others thought so, too. In fact, Nancy George of Knit Stop in Indianapolis talked me into selling it and it now is on display in her shop. If you are in the area, be sure to check it out!

Twisted Tuesday: What do these lovely Cotswold wool locks want to become?

Kim Caulfield of Far Out Farm in Cornersville, TN gifted me with some lovely sheared locks from a Cotswold sheep Saddleback several years ago. She challenged me to “play”, doing something wonderful with them. But then life took a turn and several years passed. That was then and now is now, and I am ready to “play”.

Unwashed Cotswold fleece
Unwashed Cotswold fleece

What reminded me of these locks awaiting the challenge is that I had written last week about the Fleece Piece Keeper sort and wash bags. Those mesh bags made the job of washing the locks in small batches to preserve the structure so easy. Actually I had washed the locks almost immediately after I received the batch of locks from Kim.

Some locks in the mesh bag ready for washing
Some locks in the mesh bag ready for washing

Then carefully laid the bundles of locks out in layers on towels. Much later after everything was thoroughly dried, I rolled the towels carefully, again carefully so as to not disturb the lock structure. Those rolled bundles of towels with their treasure is what awaits me now.

Locks laid out on towel and dried
Locks laid out on towel and dried

I’m so glad I could find some photos of the initial fleece and washing so that I might document this journey. Even though the journey is already a long one with my temporarily setting aside the project!

Coincidentally, Joe Zachry over at The Fleece Report is featuring Cotswold this month. In his report, he explains “Typically the Cotswold is found in natural white, however, there is a recessive genetic note which produces a black sheep (with the long locks of various shades of greys with a delightful tint of umber)”. And that is obviously what I have here. Just beautiful.

Cotswold locks - Beautiful shades of gray and umber
Cotswold locks - Beautiful shades of gray and umber

 

I think these locks are just so lovely by themselves. I wish you could be here to admire and touch them in person. Although I have a bunch of dyed Cotswold, I still think the nuances of natural colors within the locks is just breath-taking. i.e. God’s colors.

I’m thinking of doing some kind of tail-spun yarn. But then what? Or maybe just weave the locks into a hand-woven tapestry?

* Play, fondle, admire; repeat from *. Am I in an infinite loop? Can you help me decide what these lovely Cotswold locks will become?

Twisted Tuesday: Piece Fleece Keepers

Sort and Wash Mesh Bags
a.k.a “Fleece Piece Keepers”

I love to discover and re-purpose things that probably were never intended to use with my fiber addictions. That is why for this Twisted Tuesday, I want to tell you about these poly mesh bags and how they can be used with washing fibers for spinning, for dyeing, controlling balls of fine yarn, and with caring for your small accessory knits like socks.

Cotswold wool locks in mesh bag for washing
Cotswold wool locks in mesh bag for washing

These mesh bags are sort like the bags that onions are packaged in at the grocery. The difference is that these are reusable, hold up to heat, and are nonreactive to chemicals.

Just for fun, I dub them “Piece Fleece Keepers”. I’ve found so many uses for them, that I am not sure what other fun, all-inclusive name I might give them. I use them to:

  • confine fiber and yarn in wash or dye baths
  • preserve lock structure of fleece while washing or dyeing
  • keep socks and other small items sorted in the wash and protected from excessive rubbing
  • fold the bag over multiple times and use it as an ‘elastic’ cradle to control a center-pull ball of fine lace yarn
Corral fine lace weight yarn in an elastic-like mesh cradle
Corral fine lace weight yarn in an elastic-like mesh cradle

Best of all, they are low cost and re-usable.

For use in wash or dye baths, I just fill loosely and tie off the end with a temporary overhand knot. You could also lace with a cord near the top and pull that tight and tie off.

Mesh bag used as a sock sorter in the wash
Mesh bag used as a sock sorter in the wash

Looking for a cute gift-packing idea? Tie a mesh bag into a bow, and it makes a decoration that can be undone later for use. Both festive and useful!

There are some of of these mesh bags listed at Shopatron if you’d like a convenient source. They are available in packs of 6 bags. Your choice of either all white, or a color combo (2 each of yellow, red, and purple).

Sort and Wash Mesh Bags - Available in packs of 6 bags

p.s. Since the bags are so cheap, the minimum Shopatron shipping is going to be quite a bit by comparison. So consider buying several, or purchase together with one or more of the  yarn paks for HeartStrings patterns you might have been wanting to get. That way, the overall shipping cost will be spread out.

Shades of red in hand spun Romney wool

Happy Valentine’s Day! On this day, it seems apropos to celebrate Twisted Tuesday with this collage of graduated red skeins of yarn I finally finished spinning not too long ago.

Shades of red in hand spun Romney wool
Shades of red in hand spun Romney wool

The batts from which I spun this yarn had been dyed by Rhonda Selser (of Ewe Mom’s, DeRidder, LA) from wool she sheered and carded from her own Romney sheep. What was so intriguing to me was they way in which she had dyed the pound of batts. It was hard to resist the lovely shades of red, too.

I did not see Rhonda dye the batts, but she explained that she had laid the stack of batts atop the dye solution in a large cooler. Then very slowly let the batts sink so that the bottom layers resulted in the darkest shades (having been in the dye bath longer and therefore having a chance to grab more of the dye particles) and the top layers the lightest.

I didn’t think about getting photos years ago when I first began spinning the batch of batts. Then I set things aside and didn’t get back to spinning for several years. But this project had always been on my mind and has been one of the first that I got out when sorting through my spinning stash recently. These pictures don’t give true color because I grabbed them indoors under poor lighting, but you can see some of the batts and little “nests” of fiber that I stripped from the batts and pre-drafted.

The sequence I used for spinning was to start with the lightest batt and proceed to darkest. I spun a fine singles on my double treadle Majacraft. After 2 bobbins where filled, I plied those together. Then filled up 2 more bobbins, and plied, etc. You’ll notice one skein which is much smaller than the others. That is where I was having trouble with my wheel (the drive band gave out). Not being able to readily get a replacement in, I experimented with some make-shift solutions. That is a whole ‘nother story, lol. But I did finally manage to get things going again.

Now, having completed the spinning, I am just enjoying the pretty skeins. Eventually, I guess I will decide what they will become in their next life. Meantime, it doesn’t feel like they want to be hurried, and the eye candy is plenty enough satisfaction to me to claim this as a ‘completed project’ for now.

Hand-spun skeins of Romney wool in a series of red shades
Hand-spun skeins of Romney wool in a series of red shades

Hope you are enjoying some pretty red things for your Valentine’s Day, too!