August 2005 Archives



I went and finally did something that I should have done a long time ago and have pushed myself solidly into "world in flux" mode. It seems that most of the major leaps of faith that I have taken in life depend mostly on having some faith in myself. This one is no different.

As I pull my world back into the kind of order I want it to have, I'll be knitting and spinning for sure, but perhaps not as regularly as I would like. Or perhaps more. It's just not clear. And that's all good. I'm one of those people who normally likes to surround herself with order, who likes to have a plan. But I often make my biggest leaps forward when I set the plan aside and get beyond my own box.

And right now it's time to rip off the lid.


From Roving to Single

While I contemplate my future, I've been trying to get in some spinning. Since it's no secret that I am a lover of the jewel toned fibers, it should come as no surprise that my Jewel of the Nile Wensleydale Top from Blue Moon Fiber Arts didn't stay in an un-spun form very long. For once, I can say that the colors in the picture above are quite true-to-life.

Fuzzy and Shiny

While I like the colors and the sheen, I have to say that the jury is still out on the Wensleydale itself. At first, I was amazed at how easy the top was to work with from the point of view of separating and drafting it. But then I found that it was really really easy to pull apart when you didn't want to. I found spinning it to be somewhat challenging even on my lightest weight spindle. The fibers don't like to grab each other very much and I spent a little too much time wondering if drop spindles got their name from the technique or the possible problem that can be had with them. I did learn something, though. It's clear to me that smooth long staple fibers want a lot of twist to stay together and that the process goees better when I put a lot of energy into spinning the spindle and the spindle rotates rapidly.

The Days of Wine and Wensleydale

Because I had avoided plying my last multicolor single, I decided to live on the edge and turn this single into a two-ply yarn to see what would happen with all the color. This is a slightly unfair test because of all the turquoisey color that I got at the beginning, but, hey, not everything about me is scientific. To make my life a little easier I soaked and dried the single to set the twist (and it was relatively balanced after the process) before proceeding to ply the single from a center pull ball.

As it turns out, setting the twist made this plying process a good deal easier than the last time I tried plying from a center pull ball without setting the twist. Yet another lesson well learned.

Wenselydale All Plied Up

No need to adjust your monitor, this skein is, in fact, somewhat fuzzy. Now that I have worked with two long staple wools and gotten a bit of a fuzzy halo, I am beginning to think that this might be one of those things that happens when I spin this kind of wool. Which is to say, either that is just what this fiber type does when spun, or my drafting technique for this kind of fiber is still a little lacking.

Plied Wenselydale Rainbow

And because no post would be complete without yet another closeup, here's the final product in large form. I rather like the colors together, but have no idea what I would turn it into from a garment perspective. It's not particularly soft, but I think I've become spoiled by the Cormo that I've been spinning. Perhaps I will just admire it for a while. But I could, possibly, imagine it as the cuff on a pair of mitts or an accent on an otherwise simple piece.

P.S. Much thanks to those of you who left messages of encouragement. I know that post was very cryptic... right now I cannot be more clear. A blog is a very public space, and sometimes a bit of discretion is required

Summer Reading

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Once upon a time, I used to read a lot of books. I never used to go anywhere without a book, in fact. I had a wide variety of reading interests, general history, mystery, science fiction, sociology, history of science. I was pretty omnivorous. I like to think that I still have pretty diverse reading interests, I just don't have quite as much time to read as widely as I would like. It's hard to have too many hobbies that compete with each other.

While I was in San Diego in June, I got a chance to walk through a Russian submarine. By the end of the tour I'd decided that I wanted to know more about what it would be like to live on one and when wandering through the gift shop of the maritime museum I came across a copy of das Boot, by Lothar Gunther Buchheim.

Sometimes the right book comes to you at the right time and not only provides you with the entertainment of a good story, but also provides you with insights into your own life. One of the guys I once worked for told me that das Boot is one of the best books on managment that you could ever read. And I've got to agree with him. The captain of the U-boat could really teach a lot of people about what the difference between leadership and managment is. For truly, to be manager is not necessarily to be a leader. It got me to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I think leadership really is and to ask myself if I am a leadership person or merely someone who is good at organizing and creating structure.

So if you like your WWII history combined with a good story and a healthy dose of things to think about, das Boot is definitely a good read. I wouldn't call it light summer reading, but it is a book that combines suspense, history and a good story.

A couple of questions came up in the comments to yesterday's post. I'm not sure how well I'll be able to answer them, but I thought they might be of general interest...

When you say you plied from a center pull ball, do you mean from one center pull ball, using both the inner and the outer ends of the single, or from two center pull balls at the same time?

You can do it either way. In this case, it was one single center pull ball and I plied the yarn using the inner and outer ends. You can do the same thing with two center pull balls as well, but since I only had a small spindleful, I chose just one ball. Setting the twist in the single before I made the ball made it a lot easier to control the yarn and prevent it from tangling.

Why do you set the twist on your singles before plying? Isn't one of the purposes of plying to balance the yarn (ply with as much Z twist as the singles have S twist)? If the single is balanced, how do you get a balanced plied yarn?

I set the twist on the single to make my life easier when plying. In the past, when I have not set the twist and tried to ply from a center pull ball, I have gotten a bit of a mess becaust the yarn wants to twist on itself. This a particular problem with finely spun singles that might break easily when I am trying to eliminate knots or places where the yarn had decided that it likes to bond with itself too much. Setting the twist eliminates some of that problem. I'm not very good when it comes to spinning theory yet, but I think even though the twist is set and the yarn is acting balanced, you still have a twist that that plying will complement. I set that twist after plying as well. I think setting the twist is more about convincing the yarn to be straight and behave. It doesn't actually eliminate the twist. But this is just a guess on my part.

Cormo and Silk

Cormo and Silk Twins

Not too much to say tonight. I'm working on one of those projects that relates to my future. Funny how I can go 180 degrees on some issues. Funny, how hard it can be sometimes to turn on my brain and think through a problem. Good thing I have a husband who doesn't let me get away with turning my brain off. A quote from last night "I'm hearing a lot of 'so and so thinks this' and 'so and so thinks that' what do you actually think?" At the time it felt like I'd been smacked upside the head with a two-by-four. This, my friends is how you know you've found yourself a good life partner -- someone who isn't afraid to be honest with you when it counts, even though he knows it's going to lead to an evening with an uncommmunicative and ornery person. But when I woke up this morning, it was clear that he was completely right. So I've been thinking for myself, and a number of things are taking shape in my brain.

One of my big problems or big assets, depending on how you look at it, is that I am inherently an action oriented person. If I'm not doing something I'm generally unhappy. I am still learning patience, to learning to withstand the pressure of watching things I can't control play out so that I actually can have enough information to make a good decision. I think realistically, I'm probably never going to get all that patient, but I can get better at finding things for myself to do that help me get through those times when I need to wait things out. Hence my personal thinking exercise today.

Okay, 'nuff said about cryptic personal things. Onto something of much greater general interest: Hand-dyed Cormo wool blended with silk. The dark blue and green top is Cormo and Tussah, the reddish stuff is Cormo and Bombyx. One spins up like the most incredible dream, the other makes you fight a bit more. When I was at the Fold in Marengo, I learned that even commercial mills don't like Bombyx silk -- it has a tendency to gum things up a bit because of it's nature. Tussah, on the other hand, behaves itself much better. And that is the exact experience I am having. My tussah/Cormo singles are quite even and un-slubby and very fine. My Bombyx/Cormo singles have a lot more texture and are rather less fine than the tussah/Cormo singles. I'd almost say they are a little loftier as well. It will be interesting to ply the Cormo/Tussah singles and compare the the two different Cormo silk blends when plied.

Cormo Waves


This weekend I treated myself to something that I hadn't done in a long time: I slept in until noon on Sunday. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the proverbial early bird, but noon is usually a little past my normal weekend wake up time as well. Sometimes you just have to let your body take the lead and tell you what it needs to do. In my case, apparently, it needed a good long stretch of unconsciousness.

The Next Step in the Cormo Path

This weekend saw a little more progress on getting my Cormo and Silk blend rovings on their way to being a knit up project. I finished off another ounce or so of the red/orange and my first batch of the blue/green made it through the bathing and twist setting process.

Rolling Cormo Waves

I was hoping to actually get this plied as well, but then I went and did something that I didn't think was possible -- I pulled a muscle in my shoulder drop spindling! I spent the better part of Saturday and most of Sunday dosing myself up with Advil to deal with the pain. Now I know I'm getting old, when leaning over a bit to twist a spindle can cause this kind of effect. Maybe that's just one more hint that I need to get a functioning spinning wheel. Good thing I had my Pearl Barred Scarf to work on. Knitting was a bit more comfortable than spinning for me.

My shoulder felt better today, so I'm hoping that there will be some plying in my future. Nothing like having some delightful Cormo yarn slipping through my fingers!

Plied Cormo


To those of you who can't believe that I could incur a spinning injury, well, you have to understand that under most circumstances I am the most accident prone person around. In college I had a friend who nicknamed me the "spillmaster" for my incredible ability to upset full glasses of brightly colored liquid. In high school, I was walking down a hallway once while talking and walked face first into a metal support pole. Graceful and catlike I am not. If there is a way for me to injure myself doing something simple and innocuous, I will find a way to do it.

Plied Cormo and a Subtle Color Difference

Fortunately, like most accident-prone people, I am fairly resiliant and after around-the-clock Advil therapy I was able to get down to the important business of getting my singles plied. I'm now about a 1/3 of the way through my 4 ounces of red cormo/silk. And it gave me a good lesson in what hand-dyed means. Notice that the skein on the top is just slightly more orange than the skein in the middle (the newest addition). Yuppers, this stuff might have come out of the same bag, but there was a lot more red in the second batch. Even so, I still think they are both quite lovely and I'm already looking through my pattern books to find a small lace pattern that might work well. More and more this yarn is telling me that it would like to be a small neck scarf or shawl-ette.

The blue/green cormo has actually received favorable reviews from the man of the house. So who knows. If I can find the right item, it might end up as some manly item... assuming that any manly item can be made out of fingering weight yarn...

Fingering Weight Cormo


I had fun yesterday reading both the sympathetic comments with regards to the klutz aspect of my life and the possible suggestions for how to make something for John out of the blue/green Cormo and silk.

Socks are an interesting thought, but I have a feeling that my wonderful hubster would just wear right through them. He's not very gentle on his socks -- which is to say, if he loves a pair, he will love them to death. He will wear them all over the house and wear them constantly. I have a feeling that the cormo/silk combination would not hold up to his love and devotion. Not to mention the fact that I might accidentally felt them in the wash. But that does bring up an interesting point... are there fiber sources out there that contain superwash wool and a bit of nylon for strength. Or is this something that the intrepid handspinner has to blend herself?

The fingerless mitt idea could be an interesting one. Unfortunately, I've only got about 4 oz of the blue/green roving (and some of it went to an earlier spinning attempt) so I'm not sure there's enough for a scarf. I thought about trying to finally give him the head band he's been asking for, but then the washability problem rears it's ugly head again.

Moral of this story... when buying wonderful fibers, be sure to figure out how many ounces are likely to be required for a reasonable size project.

And to answer Marti, who wondered if I did all this on a drop spindle, the answer is "yes". I'm still not wheel enabled. I actually like the rhythm of working with the drop spindle, and now that I've had some time to get the basics down, I'm thinking that I need to go back and see if I can't figure out how to convince my fingers to spin something that's bigger than lace weight.

Can You Guess?

Mystery Box

What this box of goodies is all about?

More Boxes, Just Smaller


Over the weekend I found myself looking for something to do that required my patience and my attention. I find that sometimes I get to a place where my brain is doing too much buzzing and I need to pull it back and center myself. Nothing works for me like engaging in some crafty medititation. When I rediscovered my stash of Origami paper, I went back to a small library of books containing methods for making origami boxes. Origami is one of those pursuits that requires me to pay attention and be precise -- a perfect form of crafty meditation.

Little Paper Boxes

Just two simple boxes. A small square box that I could use to hold some new bracelets that I have added to my jewelery collection and a hexagonal box that I will likely use to hold some small desk items. The square box has a 4-way partition to make it an ideal container for my bracelet collection.

If you're interested in this kind of origami (which also gets called unit origami because in general these pieces are composed of one or more of the same kind of folded paper structure or unit) I can highly recommend the books of Tomoko Fuse. The book that these boxes come from is Quick & Easy Origami Boxes -- a book that comes packaged with a collection of 6" square origami papers:

Unfortunately, this book, which is a wonderful basic primer, is out of print (but I did notice that Amazon had links to people who do have copies for sale). However, Tomoko Fuse has quite a few other books that can help you get started if you have an interest in folded paper items which can be used for practical things.

Watch for Slow Moving Rainbows

BFL Rainbow Scarf

I think I've probably given the impression lately that almost no knitting is going on chez Keyboard Biologist right now. And this impression is actually closer to the truth than I would like it to be. Between the addition of spinning to my daily craft regimen and increased activity in my social life, I've not been terribly productive on the two pointy sticks and string front.

When I have been knitting, I've been working on the rainbow striped Pearl Barred Scallop scarf. It's growing slowly. It's surprising me a great deal just how much scarf I can get out of 1 ounce or so of finely spun yarn. When it's blocked out, each of those ridges is about 2" apart, so this could turn out to be a scarf with some real length to it. I really like the fact that so far the striping intervals are irregular enough that not much regular correlation with patterning featurs is occuring, which I think helps give it a more sophisticated look... assuming a bright rainbow patterned scarf can be considered sophisticated (I know it can never hope to be subtle!)

I do find myself increasingly enjoying working with my own handspun. The hard part now for me seems to be getting enough handspun to work with on a regular basis.

Thinking about Spinning


I really do love my drop spindles. I love the way they feel and the rhythm of the spinning process. I love watching the yarn on the shaft grow and grow as I work my way through whatever roving I'm spinning from. In chemistry, people talk of state transformations where an element or compound changes from a gas to a liquid or a liquid to a solid by applying pressure or decreasing temperature (or both). The different states, gas, liquid or solid, each have defining qualities that make the states distinct from each other. And the transformations can occur in the opposite direction as well -- going from solid to liquid to gas.

The fiber arts seem to have their own phase transformations... from sheep to clean fiber from fiber to yarn from yarn to knitted or woven object and sometimes from knitted object to felted object. Some of the phases can be reversed... certainly it is possible to turn a knitted item back into yarn and, while not particularly fun, it is possible to return yarn back into something tha has the consistancy of raw fiber. Each phase has it's own unique properties that make it interesting and some input of energy is required to convert each phase into the next.

Right now I am very fixated on the fiber phase. I'm interested in understanding the process of making fiber take up color and making fiber into yarn. I'm interested in understanding the effects of painting a roving in a particular way when it gets translated into a spun yarn. I'm interested in the technology that can be used to turn fiber into yarn.

And thus, when I'm not communing with my drop spindle, I'm working my way through a couple of great books. The first is Deb Menz' Color in Spinning.

This book doesn't go into color theory quite as deeply as Deb Menz other book (which I also own), Color Works, however it definitely explains well the dynamics of color in the process of yarn creation. Why do some colors, even in small amounts, seem to dominate a yarn? How can such a color be balanced? How do different depths of shade work together? What helps to make a color palette, and thus, the final yarn more sophisticated or more boisterous. She also provides excellent lessons in dying and handpainting, including safety tips. And the color photos in the book are just stunning. It really makes me want to jump into the exploration of color in fiber feet first and just keep on going.

The other book that I've been reading through, little by little, in hopes that it will help me understand more about the mechanics and technical terms of spinning, is the Alden Amos Big Book of Hand Spinning.

When I realized that I had gotten the hang of the drop spindle and that it was only a matter of time until I started to do this spinning thing on a wheel, I decided that it was time to invest some more time understanding what people meant when they mentioned "orifices" or "scotch tension" or talked about the "grist" of the yarn. I wanted to know more about why certain wheel styles had evolved. This book definitly provides all that an more. I'm not that far through yet (it's fairly dense and it takes me time to absorb it) but I've already learned more about how yarn is measured and defined than I ever thought I would know and I found his discussion about the process of wool preparation to be fascinating -- in a "that's cool but I definitely want someone else to do it for me" kind of way. Amos has a folksy style that you will either love of be made crazy by, but it's clear that this is one of those reference bible type books that will be a staple in my library for some time to come.

Good Deeds


I know, I know -- two posts in a day, how unusual for the Keyboard Biologist. But this one's important. If you only read one today, make sure this is the one.

When I first got into blogging (my three year blog-iversary is almost here, if you consider my first very lame post an entry) and got myself situated in the ring, I was incredibly fortunate to land right next to Emma. She emailed me to introduce herself as my blog neighbor and as I did more and more knitting, she was always leaving a note of encouragement to spur me on to try new things and feel good about what I had accomplished. If you travelled around the ring enough, you realized that she was doing that for many more people than me. There is almost nothing more precious to receive than the gift of someone's time. And Emma has always been generous to me and to many others with her time and her inspirational good wishes.

She also has been known, for numerous random acts of kindness, long before there was a blog ring to support the activity. I will never forget the thrill of opening up a package from Emma that contained two skeins of wonderful Opal sock yarn to encourage me to not be afraid of socks. What kind of person sends gifts to someone she has never met just to be kind and encouraging? Even my husband was touched. And he got a great pair of socks out of it!

Emma and her beautiful son Oliver are facing the challenge of finding him the right equipment as he grows and strives to become more independent and mobile. I consider Emma to be an important part of my community and life and I'd like to encourage you, if you have the means, to consider helping this lovely and generous knitter and friend. Just click the button below or in my side bar.

The Plot Thickens

Mystery Box with Friend

My mystery box got a new friend today, courtesy of the very nice people at Copper Moose The plot thickens...

P.S. The kindness of the community has helped Emma and Oliver with the first of the items he needs to stay in motion. Read all about the progress here. I am always impressed by the generosity of this crafty community.

Lucky Number Seven


The true success of a marriage lies not in looking just at each other, but in looking forward together.
-- author unknown, at least by me.

Today is the occasion of my 7th anniversary of marriage to the most truly special man I know.

The man who went out and bought me 2 dozen red roses to start my morning with.

The man who never lets me give up on myself.

The man who is the eternal optimist who always sees the good in people.

The man who understands when I am difficult, that it is not personal.

The man who sees my potential even when I don't.

The man who patiently indulges my constant discussion about buying a sheep.

The man who walks by an empty store front in a nice neighborhood and says "that would be a great place for a yarn store".

The man who has graciously consented to let me knit him stripey sweaters and socks.

The man who has never failed me, but also knows when a little tough love is required.

The man who still makes me feel like I am walking on air when he is around.

The man who will play video games with me until the wee hours of the morning.

The man who I know, no matter what else happens, will always be with me.

The man who has so many good and wonderful qualities that I could write this list all day and still not have written about everything.

The man I want to look forward with forever.

I love you, Jasiu. I've never made a better decision in my life than to spend my life with you.

Rainbow in a Bottle


Today I got to spend a wonderful day with a good friend and surrounded by color. What were we up to?

Always Practice Safe Dyeing: Gloves, A Particle Mask and a Plastic Apron

This picture is for Claudia, my dyeing safety guardian angel. I had similar gear and was even wearing my face mask when I took the picture. We both used all this stuff for the whole time we were preparing our stock dye solutions. Dye is not good stuff to wear or to breathe, friends and neighbors.

A Whole Set of Lanaset Dye Stock Solutions

In order to start a more scientific approach to this process we started out by creating a set of 2% stock solutions. Why 2% instead of 1%? Mostly because that is what would fit best into our 16 ounce bottles given the amount of dye we had to start with. These bottles are pretty handy with their capped spouts. They also can withstand high temperature liquids and can be used to store dyes. Dharma Trading Company is the place to go if you need some of your own. Their products are affordable and their shipping is very speedy.

It didn't take us long to start playing with some color...

Caution: Women with Dye Bottles At Work

Paper towels are a handy way to test dyes. These will be the first entries into our "Dyeing Diary". We also discovered that syringes are a handy way to measure dye solutions out. We did get some strange looks from the people in the medical supply store when we asked for them, however...

My Favorite Colorway of the Evening

What can I say? We get a little cool weather in Chicago and I start thinking about fall. This was my attempt to try to get close to the colors in fall leaves. This is probably the color composition that I am most pleased with from the day. The scary thing is, it's completely unusual for me to like colors like this at all. There's not a dash of blue in sight...

Awaiting A Vinegar Bath

You can probably imagine what these are headed for. More on what they became tomorrow when I have some good outdoor light for color photos.

post edited to correct the spelling of the word 'dyeing'... thanks Quirkybook, for the correction... I need to find a spell checker for Movable Type

Experimental Results


So what did all those lovely little balls of wool turn into?

Experimental Results

Julie and I started with about 12 1/2 ounce pieces of Blue Faced Leicester. Why BFL? First, both of us like spinning with it. Second, it's not so hard to get a lot at a reasonable price. The results of our dying experiments surprised us a little bit. Reds, yellows, browns and greens dominated our dyeing process. Pretty strange coming from the original blue undertone girl. Yet I found it almost impossible to put down the warm fall tones.

In the end, I played with three sets of colors.


This is a blend of yellow gold and some varying shades of red violet and red violet mixed with red and red violet mixed with scarlet. It reminded me of the colors that you see at sunset as the sun hits the horizon. Both pieces were dyed with the same set of colors. The upper piece has less yellow and a bit of undyed area (on purpose) while the lower piece has a more saturated bit of red-violet in the corners.

Hawaiian Shore

This set of colors are all diluted directly from regular stock dye colors. The intent was to use different depth of shades and see how that played out. The end result is something that reminds me of the color of the ocean when I was in Hawaii. I wish now that I'd tried another piece with these colors -- one where I used the lightest color as a solid background with splotches of the others. Fortunately, it's not hard to get to these colors, so I should be able to try them again the next time I dye.

Autumn Leaves

If you can believe it, both of these pieces are dyed with the exact same set of colors (the palette I featured yesterday). Pretty amazing the different effects that can result. I'm quite fond of both of them. I find myself amazed and surprised by my love of the brown. Normally I have no interest in brown at all. But, in this case, it brought the whole set of colors together for me.

One thing we were more careful about this time was not oversaturating the fiber with the dye and then cooking them longer than we did last time. After letting them cool, we found that when we rinsed them, almost no dye was released. On our last dyeing adventure, our pieces hemorrhaged dye after the setting process. Getting those bottles with the squirt tops really made a difference because we were able to control the amount of dye that we added to the fiber a lot better than before.

Now the adventure will be in spinning them up to see what happens when the roving becomes yarn. I actually like all three of these colorways, but the proof is really in getting some yarn spun up. The last batch surprised me a lot and some of the rovings I loved in the just dyed form made up only so-so yarn in my book. Do you have a favorite? One you can't abide? I'd love to know.

Sunset Single

Sunset Single on Spindle

Just a quick post to show off the colors in one of my "Sunset" colorways (this is the lower roving in the picture from yesterday). I'm very pleased with the luminous yellows and deep reds and am looking forward to converting this single into a two-ply yarn.

I'm not sure yet whether I am going to spin the second Sunset roving or go to one of the other colorways. I have to admit that my inner blue person is attracted by my ocean inspired colorway. I just love these 1/2 ounce pieces, though. I can easily get it spun up on my drop spindle in an evening. I know spinning isn't an instant gratification sort of fiber art, but I still like it when I can finish something in one reasonable sitting.

Want to see Julie's rovings all brushed out and happy and place a vote for your favorite color in her group? Just click here.

Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow


While there hasn't been a lot of knitting around here lately, there has been a little bit. Look what finally got to be blocked this weekend?

5 Foot of Rainbow Scarf

This scarf is about .8 ounces of hand dyed BFL roving spun into a lace weight single. It ended up about 5 foot long and a little over 8" wide the way I blocked it. Pretty respectable length for a small amount of wool.

Color Progression and Slightly Random Non-random Striping

Stretched out and basking in the sunshine, it occured to me that this scarf would also make a nice table or dresser runner. I am pleased by the fact that the garter stitch bars still stand out a bit after blocking. I am even more pleased by the fact that while the striping is not random in terms of color order, that the widths of the stripes are quite random. This is due to both my spinning and to the fact that I did not spin from exactly equal pieces of roving. I do like the effect.

Scarf in the Breeze

A more classic, if slightly skewed, shot of the scarf just being a scarf. After blocking, the lace holds its shape quite well. No picture of me wearing this thing because, well, it's an 80 degree day here in Chicago. Not really wool scarf weather. Plus, the husband was out doing some yardwork.

Closeup of the Blocked Lace. Nice Points.

No "look what I made" post would be complete without a closeup of the lace pattern after the project was blocked. I cast off the project in the loosest and sloppiest way that I could. Made a big difference in terms of being able to get nice shaping on the cast-off edge. I am not as pleased with the edges of the scarf. I should have added a few selvedge stitches to the edge. As the scarf gets worn, I doubt that will be something I notice much. So it doesn't really bother me too much.

Back and Front of the Lace

The thing that turned out to be a pleasant surprise is that both the back and front of this scarf are attractive to look at. And actually don't look that different from each other unless you are quite close to the scarf. Another little benefit of blocking the bejeezus out of lace -- the difference between stockinette and reverse stocknette becomes somewhat blurred.

So now I can say that I have actually turned some of my handspun into something! How cool is that?

After the Sunset


I'm spinning like a fiend right now -- all my drop spindles are whirling as fast as I can make them go. If I could make two spindles go at once, you know I would be. Dyeing wool is painting on an empty canvas, but it isn't a finished product, at least not to me. The real magic doesn't start to happen until the wool becomes yarn, and until the yarn becomes a fabric.

This weekend, my goal was to get the first of the Sunset rovings to a two-ply yarn and to get my Hawaiin Shore roving (which I have taken to calling "Blue Hawaiian" in my head) spun into a single. I accomplished both goals. Each is it's own story, however. And since the Blue Hawaiian remains to be plied, the Sunset gets to the blog first.

Sunset BFL Single

Unlike the spindle shot from Friday, this image shows off all the colors in this single. Truth be told, I wasn't really looking to have all that pinky stuff in the yarn. I also wasn't intending to concentrate it all in one place. I wanted a more random color distribution, but this happened because of the way I split pieces off the roving as I spun. I split the roving in half, width-wise and didn't realize that the sides weren't balanced very well. As a result, most of the deep gold ended up on one side and most of the pinky stuff ended up on the other. Lesson learned. I will now prepare the whole roving for spinning before starting and randomize the pieces a bit better in the future. I'll probably also stick to horizontal instead of vertical stripes. I dyed this roving this way as a learning experience, and i can definitely say that I learned something from it!

Sunset BFL Single as Center Pull Ball

This is just another gratuitous pretty yarn shot. I thought it looks so nice and happy in that center pull ball. It also gives a better idea of where the individual stretches of color are concentrated.

Sunset BFL Two Ply

Here's the yarn after being two-plied. I like the colors in this a great deal, but would like a little more gold, a little less pink. I did a wraps-per-inch measurement and get about 23 wpi , which makes it a fingering weight yarn. It doesn't really seem that fine to me, but I can see it knitting up nicely on US size 3 needles. Ninaclock asked on Friday what I was going to do with a mere .5 ounces. Well, intially I wasn't really planning to do much with it at all besides see if I liked the result. But this stuff calls out to be knit into something, I think. I'm wondering if I have enough for a small scarf/lacy neck warmer....

Makes me glad I took notes and know how to reproduce the colors!

So now I have to think about what I might knit up with it.



I'm not sure if what I am doing today is so basic as to be unnecessary or if it will be helpful. But I thought I'd use the spinning of my Blue Hawaiian roving as an opportunity to describe how I prepare a hand-dyed roving for spinning. If you can do this in your sleep, just skip down to the bottom few photos which show the Blue Hawaiian colorway in all its spun up and ready to knit glory.

Step 1: Trim off the ends

I find that after dyeing, the ends can be a little matted and hard to deal with, so I just snip the ends off with scissors.

Step 2: Tease the roving

After getting rid of the ends, I spend a reasonable amount of time teasing and fluffing the roving in preparation for dividing it into strips that I will spin from. This helps me get rid of tangles and understand the construction of the roving aand identify the natural dividing lines.

Step 3: Divide The Roving In Half

I try to split the roving into two roughly equal parts as I start the dividing process.

Step 4: Dividing up A Half into Strips to Be Spun From

Then I try to divide the halves into roughly equal width pieces that have an amount of fiber that I am comfortable spinning from. Usually this involves dividing each piece into two until I reach a minimal width.

Step 5: Splitting Complete

I'm almost ready to start working on it at this point. I like to use this stage to see how the different pieces play against each other. Are some more dark or light than others? I've gotten better random color distribution when I don't just work from one side of the roving to the other.

Step 6: Pre Drafting

I take each piece and tug all the way up and down to pre-draft the fibers. I do this by holding my hands about 6" apart and just gently tugging to loosen up the fibers. Obviously it's not good to pull too hard or you separate the fibers. This makes the roving pieces nice and fluffy and easy to spin from. It's also a good way to figure out which end of the roving is easier to spin from. It seems like there's always one direction that works better than the other. I'm not sure if this is because of the scales on the wool, static electricity or some other wooly property that I don't understand.

Step 7: Spinning the Single

Spinning up the stuff on a drop spindle is the subject of an entire post on it's own. If you want a good intro, check out this quarter's Spin Off for a nice intro (there are also a lot of good resources on the web... just google for drop spindle instructions). Here's the Blue Hawaiian yarn as a single. Lots of nice luminous blue and green. You just gotta know, given my color preferences, taht this colorway makes me happy.

Step 8: Setting the Twist and Admiring the Single

After spinning th single, I wind it off onto my niiddy noddy, tie it in 4 places and dump it into a warm water bath with some Eucalan to help set the twist. I don't actually have to do this step, but I find it helps me get better control of the yarn when I'm plying. I was able to wind this single around my niddy noddy 126 times and it's about 54" around one time, so the total yardage is about 190 yards! That's a lot of yarn from .5 ounce. Amazing to think that I have spun enough from this little piece of wool to go up and down a football field almost twice.

Step 9: Two Ply

After setting the twist for the single, I create a center pull ball with the help of my ball winder and swift and create a two ply yarn by spinning from both ends of the center pull ball. I've found that I like plying better when I use my Bosworth spindles which are heavier weight than my Charis spindle. This is a shot of the two-ply yarn after another dunk in some hot water to let it relax and let the twist set. This yarn is happy, soft and balanced. After plying, I've got about 93 yards. It's very similar in diameter to the Sunset roving after plying, but I haven't calculated wpi to confirm.

Blue Hawaiian, The Close Up

Here's a close up of my favorite hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn to date. This yarn is really quite close to what i had in my mind's eye when I started thinking about the color way. I wanted something that would have a tweedy quality when knit up, but would be closer to a solid color. Engaging, but not gaudy. The color in this picture isn't perfect (I think the colors are a tad richer in real life), but close enough to give you a very good sense for what kind of personality this yarn has. Makes me want to grab my knitting needles and dive into the water.