Category Archives: Spinning

Twisted Tuesday: join me for spinning and other fiber-related fun

In the past couple of years I’ve occasionally posted something about spinning or other topics related to turning fibers into thread or yarn. I really want to focus on this more, so I got it in my head to set aside Tuesday’s to share some kind of spinning article or other fiber-related fun.

Want to come along and play with me? To give you an idea of what I have in mind, here’s a brief review of  a sampling of past articles like those I have in mind.

With articles like Moody Blues, handspun pima cotton plied with silk, I plan to continue to explore the creative structure of plied handspun yarn along with a dose of serendipity.

moody blues is handspun cotton plied with silk

Spinning a 2-ply laceweight yarn for a scarf unfolds a story about turning fiber into yarn, and then into a knitted lace scarf.

Hand-painted silk roving
Hand-painted silk roving

We might play with a bit a dyeing, too, like in Cotton Roving – braiding, dyeing, spinning and knitting and follow the process through “what will it become”.

Stages of dyeing and spinning cotton to result in a casually rustic lace scar
Stages of dyeing and spinning cotton to result in a casually rustic lace scar

Exploring sources of fiber and making custom fiber preparations is part of what makes the hands-on experience so satisfying, and I plan to share it with you in articles such as Spinning Jacob Wool – one fleece, many colors.

Singles and 2-ply yarns spun from sorted Jacob wool
Singles and 2-ply yarns spun from sorted Jacob wool

I also hope to bring in guest experts to help, or help lead you to them such as when Deb Robson explains scouring fleece.

Another aspect of spinning and fiber-play is the “toys of our trade”. I have plenty of stories to share there. I can even help give you justification for your obsession such as this article on Deco-organizing a spindle collection.

"Deco-organizing" my spindle collection
"Deco-organizing" my spindle collection

I hope you’ll join me over the next several weeks. Tell your friends. The more the merrier. And that will encourage me to do even more. If you are interested in something particular, do leave comments and I will put it on the agenda. Spinn-i-o!

Deco-organizing a spindle collection

There’s nothing more cost-effective than decorating with items you already own. And there’s nothing more satisfying than organizing in a creative way. Put them together and you get “deco-organizing”.

"Deco-organizing" my spindle collection
"Deco-organizing" my spindle collection

Most people collect something and I am no exception. Just one of the many things I collect are spindles. I get weak when I see a lovely or unusual or just-needs-a-home spindle, and next thing I now, I have taken in another one. I’m not terribly good at spindle spinning; I just like to look at them and occasionally handle one now and then. They are my ‘little spinning friends” as compared to my larger workhorse spinning wheels. I love them all; just in different ways.

Anyway, it occurred to me to gather my collection together in a way that both gave me more enjoyment as well as out-in-the-open daily accessibility. What I’ve come up with here is not terribly earth shattering. Anyone can do it (and probably do it even better than my humble attempts). But as I said, it’s sort of fun to be able to look around at what you already have and let it do double-duty in the home decorating arena, all for no added cost.

Recycle a florist vase for holding longer spindles
Recycle a florist vase for holding longer spindles

 

An extra coffee mug holds some of my smaller spindles
An extra coffee mug (another thing I collect!) holds some of my smaller spindles

 

A large glass jar/vase holds larger/heavier spindles
A large glass jar/vase holds larger/heavier spindles

 

A garlic basket I handmade is displayed with some of my other special spindles
A garlic basket I handmade is displayed with some of my other special spindles

OK, I admit it — actually, this no-cost decorating scheme of mine is just a barely veiled rationalization that helps alleviate my inner guilt when I buy more spindles, lol.

 

 

 

5 Favorite Tips for Knitting with Handspun

A number of years ago, I took a comprehensive workshop with Rita Buchanan on Knitting with Handspun. In going through some of my old file drawers in efforts to downsize to near-paperless, I came across a short write-up I had compiled of notes taken at this workshop 15 years ago! (SOAR ’95)

The fundamental message of the workshop was

“In a knitting project, the elements for a satisfying outcome happen in both the spinning and knitting.”

Rita is a fantastic teacher. A short blog post here would not do justice to the depth and breadth of what we covered and I learned in this workshop. But there were several points I discovered (or re-discovered) that have served me well through the years. Here are my “top 5” favorites. Whether it is something new to you or just a reminder, I hope you find them useful when knitting with hand spun yarn or even choosing commercially spun yarn.

Tip 1: Any fiber can be knit on a wide range of needle sizes (e.g. US 0 through 10) to achieve ranges of firmness or drape-iness (but there is a fine line between drape and sag!)

Tip 2: When changing needles in a test swatch by more than a couple of sizes, do a row of elongated stitches as follows: k1, yo across the row with the larger of the needles; then drop the yo on the next row. This will eliminate puckering between the two areas of the swatch.

Tip 3: You can increase the amount of fiber by up to 3 times on the same needle size and there is no significant change to the stitch gauge, but it does significantly add to the feeling of bulk and likely will affect the row gauge.

Tip 4: For lace knitting, a higher twist yarn is better for wear and stitch definition.

Tip 5: For 2-color knitting, a lower twist yarn is better because the spaces between the stitches will fill in so just the color shows. (And here is a corollary side benefit of this if you are stranding your colorwork: the lower density of the yarn will also compensate for twice the yarn being accommodated in each row/round.)

Deb Robson explains scouring fleece

Last October I got a phone call from Anna Carner of Unicorn Fibre who was sponsoring a forthcoming Knitting Daily TV segment. She asked if she could use my model of White Lotus Lace Stole in the taping of the show as an example of a finished piece that had used Unicorn Fibre products. I said, of course, because I do feel that Unicorn’s Fibre natural fiber cleaning products are five star in the care of our precious knits.

White Lotus Stole
White Lotus Stole

Deb Robson is the presenter in Knitting Daily TV Episode 603’s How-to Segment. She is joined by Eunny Jang who asks the questions that you likely would have yourself asked.

This segment focuses on the the process for producing yarn before you even knit a stitch. Deb explains step-by-step the process from fleece to spun yarn, along with examples of raw fleece, cleaned fleece, etc. And at the finale, my White Lotus Stole is pointed out (it’s been on the right side of the table all along), as an example of how raw fleece has been transformed into a beautiful finished piece.

The Knitting Daily TV Episode 603’s How-to Segment is available for viewing on YouTube. Knitting Daily TV also airs on PBS stations nationwide and new markets are being added to the schedule all the time. However, each individual public television station chooses when and if to air the program, so you’ll need to check your local schedule to see if/when this episode might be available in your area.

I also wanted to mention that Deb Robson is working on a new book The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook. Can’t wait!

Spinning Jacob Wool – one fleece, many colors

Jacob sheep are small, multi-horned animals somewhat resembling goats. I love their spotted colors because of the fun I’ve had with their wool fleeces. From just one Jacob Sheep fleece, I can create a palette of tones from light to dark. Let me share with you a couple of the approaches I’ve used to create yarns from these spotted fleeces.

Jacob Sheep photo courtesy of Redflight
Jacob Sheep photo courtesy of Redflight

I was fortunate to be able to attain fleece from Jacobs that had been bred for next-to-the-skin softness. I prefer getting whole, well-skirted fleeces. That way I can do my own sorting beforehand to not only keep the grades of wool separate (e.g. setting aside the softest from the neck area), but to also keep the colors distinct. I do this before washing. Then I pick and card the washed wool, while still keeping the colors separate.

Then the interesting creativity begins in combining the colors in a way to produce a range of light to dark tones for the intended project. One method is to spin singles of the separate colors, then “color graduate” the singles into a series of 2-ply yarns. An example in which I used this method is the Jacob Throw pictured below. The project was begun in the center with the lightest of the 2 -ply yarns and circularly progressed outward to the darkest. More about this project can be seen in the Resource Area of my HeartStringsFiberArts.com website.

Jacob Throw
Jacob Throw - Lace afghan in hand spun wool

Another fun thing I have done with the sorted colors is to make color graduated batts. I lay strips of light to dark on the carding cloth of a drum carder. For producing a 2-ply yarn, I need 2 batts for each resulting color-graduated skein of yarn. I make each batt as identical as possible in both total amount of fiber and amount of each color.

Batts carded from sorted Jacob Sheep wool
Batts carded from sorted Jacob Sheep wool

I spin a singles from end-to-end of one of the rolled batts, then spin another as-identical-as-possible singles from the other rolled batt. It doesn’t really matter whether you spin light to dark, or dark to light — just do the same for both batts. Now, ply the 2 singles together so that the colors basically align. Of course, you could also just use the singles in a project. I’ve included some old photos above and below to give you an idea of how the different stages look in going from batt, to singles, to 2-ply.

Singles and 2-ply yarns spun from sorted Jacob wool
Singles (left) and 2-ply (right) yarns spun from color-graduated Jacob wool batts (in background)

Oh, and you might notice in these old photos that there is a label in the picture. I used to sell my batts prepared this way back when I had a retail shop. I called them “Prismatic Roving”. I offered the monochromatic batts shown here. I also had some I would card from commercially dyed wools to produce a range of hues in a single batt. Those were more “Prismatic” in that they were colorful. But the monochromatic is still my favorite because of its simplistic, natural colors.

I hope to get my fibers and drum carder out again soon and play around with other interesting possibilities. I’d love to hear about interesting things you’ve done (or want to do) with Jacob wool, too.