Recently in Spinning Category

Spinning and Quilting

I've been much more modest with my spinning and quilting starts.  Amazingly enough, I have just one of each type of project in process.  I'm currently spinning up a batch of Fiber Optic Foot Notes Unspun Pencil Roving.  The roving is a blend of Merino and Nylon and I think the colorway is "Black Coffee".  It's a beautiful mix of browns and reminds me not only of swirling coffee with a little cream here and there, but also tree bark from an old and experienced tree. 

I hope you don't mind if I briefly divert your attention from the fiber to the little red scale that was helping me weigh it out.  It's an EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale that I was asked to take out for a spin* and see if I thought it would be a helpful tool for knitters and spinners. 

Previously, I'd been using an Ikea scale, and I found it a little flaky, and this scale showed up at just the right time.  It's a very simple scale -- it tares, has an auto shutoff and does measurements in both English and Metric units.  The fact that it can handle up to 11 lbs means that you can actually use a substantial "weighing boat" to hold whatever you're weighing -- something I find handy when I'm dealing with a large volume of fiber. You can switch back and forth between English and Metric with a touch of a button (handy for those of us trying to remember how many grams in an ounce or vice versa) and it can provide 4 units -- lbs, kgs, oz and g -- nice for when you have large amounts of fiber or yarn to deal with!  I found that it did a good job from a consistency in measurement of the same items and that it measured stably, even though it is a fairly light weight device. In short, for the money, it turns out to be a very nice little scale. A nice stocking stuffer for the knitter or spinner on your holiday shopping list!

20101121_CoffeeOnBobbin.jpgI used it to help me make sure I had equal amounts of roving for each of the 2 plies I plan to spin for this yarn.  I've got the first bobbin finished and I've just barely started the second.  I'm hoping to try the finished product out in a pair of socks.  Since the coloring is subtle, I think it would be a nice yarn for a pair with a simple pattern or texture once it's plied up.

20101121_CurrentQuilting.jpgMy current quilting project is my Lincoln Park Patchwork quilt in red/orange and blue/green batiks.  This project is destined to be a twin-sized quilt that I will gift to my lovely little girl when she gets her first "big girl" bed.  It's an easy project from a construction stand point, but I've stalled on it because it's actually quite hard to sew whenever the kid is awake.  Ms. Z is fascinated by my sewing machine.  This is a good thing, because I hope to share my crafty mojo with her someday.  It's also a bad thing because sewing machines are dangerous to curious little fingers and I don't want her to get hurt on it by accident or to try to start turning it on by herself.  She's getting bigger, though, and that move from toddler bed to twin bed isn't going to be long in coming, so I'm hoping this winter to put in some quality time on this.  I love the bright colors, and I know that they're going to be great therapy when the dead of winter hits.

*In the interests of full disclosure, I was provided the scale for free to review and also selected the color on my own.

Fiber Optic Photo Essay, Day 5

Happy squooshy relaxed yarn.  Clearly I'm being drawn to particular color themes lately.

Fiber Optic Yarns, Foot Notes Unspun Pencil Roving
80% Superwash Merino, 20% Nylon
Colorway: Honeysuckle Rose

Amount spun: 4 of 4 ounces
Amount plied: 4 of 4 ounces
Total Yards: 420
2 Ply Fingering Weight
Yarn Still Seeking Destiny

A brief review: this pencil roving was great to spin.  Easy on my hands and almost no nepps or anything else that slowed me down. I couldn't really tell that the nylon was there  This roving was unique in that the pencil roving was already split in 2 lengthwise, making it very easy to separate, though, clearly, I did not spin evenly enough to get exact matching and discrete color regions. 

The colorway, spun up, makes me think of faded deep pink roses, the end of life browning seeping through the petals.  Very vintage-y.  Very warm. 

Fiber Optic Photo Essay, Day 4

2 ply yarn on a 4 ft niddy noddy.  What do fuchsia and gold make? 

Yarn under stress. 

Must be time for a warm bath.

Fiber Optic Yarns, Foot Notes Unspun Pencil Roving
80% Superwash Merino, 20% Nylon
Colorway: Honeysuckle Rose

Amount spun: 4 of 4 ounces
Amount plied: 4 of 4 ounces
Total Yards: 420
Goal: 2 Ply Fingering Weight

Fiber Optic Photo Essay, Day 3

Saturday afternoon productivity.

Fiber Optic Yarns, Foot Notes Unspun Pencil Roving
80% Superwash Merino, 20% Nylon
Colorway: Honeysuckle Rose

Amount spun: 4 of 4 ounces
Amount plied: 4 of 4 ounces
Goal: 2 Ply Fingering Weight

Fiber Optic Photo Essay, Day 2

And then there were two.  Plies, that is. Is there anything better than spinning in the sunshine with a soft breeze?

Fiber Optic Yarns, Foot Notes Unspun Pencil Roving
80% Superwash Merino, 20% Nylon
Colorway: Honeysuckle Rose

Amount spun: 4 of 4 ounces
Goal: 2 Ply Fingering Weight

Fiber Optic Photo Essay, Day 1

First spinning of the spring.  My wheel is now feeling useful again.

Fiber Optic Yarns, Foot Notes Unspun Pencil Roving
80% Superwash Merino, 20% Nylon
Colorway: Honeysuckle Rose

Amount spun: 2 of 4 ounces
Goal: 2 Ply Fingering Weight

Silk Road, Friday

~160 yards of two-ply 100% silk yarn from 1 ounce of hand dyed tussah silk. 

20080710.BallOfSilkjpg.jpgIt always hurts a little bit to go from the pretty twisted skein to the center pull ball.   But I love to see the color progressions.

20080710_SilkAndWPITool.jpg23 wraps per inch with the help of the WPI tool my dad created.  Certainly in the lace/fingering weight category.  And all ready to become a little something special for my summer wardrobe.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a comment on my post yesterday.  I appreciate all the compliments on the yarn as well as your help making sure that my comments worked again.  It is such a relief to have that part of my blog functioning again.  I always love the new features I find in updated blogging software, but I just don't have the common sense sometimes to leave well enough alone now that my blog software maintenance time is more limited.

Silk Road, Thursday

After plying, the yarn had almost no extra twist.  Ah, balance!

20080705_8_Soaking.jpgFinished yarn in a cool bath with a little gentle baby shampoo  Not an iota of dye came out of this fiber. 

After much fiddling I think I have rooted out the problems with my comments.  I know that yarn getting a bath is not the most inspiring subject material, but if a few people would be so kind as to leave a comment just to help me confirm that they do actually work, I'd be much obliged!

Silk Road, Wednesday

Gentle stripes.  Just what I wanted.

20080705_6_PliedMacro.jpgShades of wildflowers in macro.  Yarn is not quite as blue in real life.

Silk Road, Tuesday

And then there were two.  Pretty bobbins of silk on my father's lazy kate.

20080705_4_PliedBobbin.jpgAfter plying.  Strangely enough, the plied yarn looks similar to the singles... spinning always surprises me.

Silk Road, Monday

I have renewed my relationship with my spinning wheel this summer.  A short burst of spinning a bit of my moorit CVM was enough to remind me how happy and relaxed spinning makes me feel.  Like Julie, when I got the most recent issue of Spin Off I found the Morning Surf scarf gallery very inspiring.  Color and texture!  I decided to treat myself to a little stash diving to find something that would be satisfying to the fingers and the soul and came out with an ounce of hand dyed tussah silk that was a little extra that was packed into an order of luxury sock fiber from Abby Franquemont's  Ebay store.  Just an ounce, so I decided that I would spin some reasonably fine singles and create a two-ply yarn and make a small summer scarf.

20080705_FranquemontSilk.jpgPretty, no?  It reminded me of summer wildflowers, and it was a joy even to pre-draft. The rest of the week will be a little photo essay of my trip from fiber to finished yarn.  First stop: my first bobbin of singles yarn.

After I finished my first bobbin, I wished I had about 4 times as much of the stuff.  But sometimes I think rarity adds to the special joy of working with a unique fiber.


Limeola sock yarn, anyone?

This is the final result of my Bonkers Superwash Merino in "Limeola" spinning project.  Two plies of tightly spun singles happily twisted together and enjoying a little time in the sun after a bath and a rest.  Now they are soft, squishy and delicious! I've got just about 4 ounces and just about 400 yards.  Just perfect for a pair of socks.

There will be much stripeyness in this yarn, which is exactly what I wanted.  As I plied, it was clear that there would be relatively long sections of stripeyness, which is the way I like my stripes!

20080426_LimeolaClose2.jpgA happy Limeola rainbow, or perhaps water fall.  This shot made me think of water flowing over mossy rocks, and captures well the true colors in the skein.

Finishing up this yarn makes me really feel bad about how little use my wheel is getting right now.  I love to spin, but time is short, and the time it takes to complete even a small project would take me several days worth of nap times.  I should have done more spinning when a certain small person was less mobile!  Ah well.  I have no doubt that my wheel will wait patiently until I can eke out a bit more spinning time. 

This picture, taken after dark, courtesy of my daughter who didn't do anything predictably today.  Some days, being a mom is a blast.  Other days, I know it's a good thing, but it just wears me down.  And on those days, not only do I feel worn down, but I then make myself feel guilty about not giving the baby the happy attentive mom she should have and I worry that my inability to smile at her through my funk is scarring her for life.  We're scaling back the nursing (read: I've gotten to the point where I can no longer take all the crazy baby behavior in this arena and I would like to have my body back) and I think that's wreaking a little bit of havoc with my hormones.  And that, when combined with the grey weather, makes me a not so upbeat mommy.

Anyway, when she finally settled in for an afternoon nap, the sun was out and it was warm enough to sit out on my balcony.  I had been thinking about knitting, but then I noticed these two lonely bobbins sitting on my bookcase --  I finished those up in September with the idea that the plied product would be a gift for a friend.  I haven't had a chance to use my wheel since!  Remembering how centered spinning always makes me feel, I grabbed my wheel and my lazy kate and those two bobbins and sat out in the sunshine for an hour and a half and plied those singles into a real live 2 ply sock yarn. 

20080409_LimeolaPliedClose.jpgI know there is good luck and something special about this sock yarn because when I finished plying, the singles ran out at the exact same time -- that's never happened to me before, in spite of all the weighing out of fiber that I do.  I'm looking forward to hanking it up on my niddy-noddy and giving it a good bath so that it can relax and I can feel the real final product -- both the colors (there's a lot of great green hiding a layer under) and the hand.  Since these singles have been sitting for so long, the twist was completely dormant.  It made for easy plying, but it also means that the final yarn is going to be different than what I see on my bobbin. 

Working with my wheel was excellent therapy for the afternoon.  It didn't chase all the weird energy away, but it did help me get a little of my mommy equillibrium back.

Fraternal Limeola Twins

A Second Bobbin of Limeola Single

With the help of my daugher (she sleeps in her Baby Bjorn when I spin) I have gotten the second bobbin of my Bonkers Limeola superwash merino spun. The roving that I had shifted from the very limey green seen in the first bobbin to the pale aqua of the second bobbin, so I spun the fiber for the second bobbin so that I could demonstrate the extremes. I think the colors go well together, when next to each other, but I am curious as to what the resulting yarn will look like when plying occurs.

More Limeola Close Up

Plying, unfortunately, may take me a little while to get to. Not only is it hard to come by the two straight hours or so I will need to ply and deal with the final yarn, but I only have 6 bobbins for my WooLee Winder and now all 6 of them are in use... so I may have to work on some other things to free a few of them up before I can ply (yes, I do have the plying head, but for sock yarn like this, I like the results I get from my WW bobbins a bit better).

Which means I have to get back to working on that big bale o' moorit CVM....

Limeola Single

Two Ounces of Limeola Superwash Merino Single

Buying a little fiber at the Michigan Fiber Festival does seem to have got my spinning pump primed again. One morning, while Z was sleeping, I pulled my spinning wheel into my office and pulled out the Limeola superwash merino that I purchased. As it turns out, spinning is a very nice, relaxing thing to do while keeping an eye on a sleeping baby. It didn't take me too many nap sessions to turn this first 2 ounces from roving into single.

Limeola Single Close Up

When I started spinning this yarn, I didn't have a specific vision for it. It's a superwash merino, so I had decided that I would turn it into a 2 ply sock yarn, similar to what I have done before with the same kind of fiber, and then I'd make some socks to commemorate the end of the summer or something like that. As I was spinning, though, I got the distinct feeling that I was not the final destination for whatever would come out of this yarn. I was the one putting the twist into the fiber, the one who would turn a pair of singles into a two-ply yarn, but I wasn't the one who was going to take this yarn to the next level. I have an inkling of this project's final destination, but no idea of it's final incarnation.

Sometimes it's interesting how fiber talks to you when you're working with it.


1 Ounce of Heartbreaker

Apparently, when it comes to my spinning, I lack a certain amount of resolution. Especially when faced with the prospect of experimenting with some special fiber. What you see above is clearly not a skein of the CVM that I am supposed to be working on.

You see, on Sunday night, I decided that no harm would be done if I pulled out my Franquemont Fibers "Heartbreaker" and just weighed it. You know, so that I would know how much I had to deal with. But then it went a bit farther. I decided that, since I wanted to create striping intervals of my own design, that it would be good to know just how much of each color I had. So I opened up the little batt-buns and separated out the colors and weighed them. Then I got a bit carried away. I decided that I would "sample" a little bit, just to see what the superwash/silk/nylon blend spun up like, since firestar nylon is a new fiber to me. And then I realized that if I was going to spin just a bit, I might as well think about the color progression. How to make stripes that would knit up well in a pair of socks? And then suddenly I was separating the colors from one of those little batts into multiple small bits in a particular order and telling myself that one ounce of fiber really wouldn't take all that long to spin.

Which did, of course, turn out to be true. I can spin an ounce of fiber in about 3 hours. Especially when it is as well prepared as this fiber. No pre-drafting necessary on this stuff. It just slipped effortlessly through my fingers and into a single.

My goal with this fiber was to try to create two singles with similar color intervals, that, when plied, wouldn't barberpole very much. I've spun enough sock yarn now that I am pretty consistent within a particular range. So I wasn't too worried about my ability to get similar lengths of single out of equal weights of fiber. What I was concerned about was getting the equal weights of fiber. My scale, while okay for amounts above 5-10 g or so, doesn't do very well in the 1 gram range that I needed. So in the end, I decided that I would just have to wing it and use my eyeballs to "measure".

Heartbreaker Color Progression on my Niddy Noddy After Plying

My results were mixed. On one hand, in most cases I did get the color bands that were supposed to over lap to over lap. And I did get pretty equal amounts of single on each of the two bobbins. On the other hand, I am pretty sure I ended up with a good deal more barberpoling than solid region once I got past the halfway point. I did contemplate breaking the singles and adjusting, but the nylon added some tensile strength that made this stuff harder to break and join easily. So after trying that once, I gave up and just spun my way on through.

Heartbreaker's True Colors

Although the final result is not as close to what I initially envisions as I would like, it's hard to be disappointed in these colors, or in the resulting yarn after plying. I will tell you that this yarn is somewhat overplied (i.e. not balanced) and I will probably have to run it back through my wheel and remove some of the twist (or maybe not... it is for socks after all, and I don't think it's unbalanced enough to have a sever bias in a garment knitteed in the round).

From the 31 g that I spun, I ended up with 110 yards of 2 ply yarn -- pretty respectable, I think. Since this was about a quarter of what I ordered, I should have plenty of yarn for a pair of socks when the project is finished. When I soaked the yarn after plying it gave off no dye whatsoever, and it has a nice soft hand now that it is dry and skeined.

The nylon didn't turn out to be a problem to spin, but I did notice that the fiber was a little rougher on my fingers than straight wool or wool silk blends have been in the past. I can only assume that this is due to the nylon being a bit more durable than my skin. But this is sort of a minor quibble when I think about the added durability that will be present in the final yarn and knitted product. And it in no way detracts from how nice this fiber was to spin or how nice it will feel when worn in a sock.

I am not sure how I am going to handle the next three batts. A part of me would like to find a more precise weighing device, but given that I have just made another rather large purchase (more about that on Friday) I am not really prepared to invest in an expensive gram-sensitive balance at the moment. So, more than likely, I will end up using the eyeball method again. Any suggestions out there from anyone else who has tried this sort of thing?

Dad's First Three Ply


While I've been busy working on log cabins squares and my quilting project, my Dad's been busy working on his spinning technique. Dad's mostly been working with undyed fibers and has played with blue faced leceister and corriedale. When he visited me a couple of weekends ago we headed up to see Toni Neil at the Fold so that he could talk about some of his current woodworking projects and get some advice about tools that spinners and knitters like to use. While we were there, he also got a chance to try out a couple of spinning wheels and got a few pointers from Toni on technique.

Just like me when I started spinning, Dad is working on trying to create consistent singles. And every batch of fiber he spins just gets more and more consistent. Since he wants to play with his own lazy kate design, he's been trying out plying. And his results are really beaultiful.

Worsted-to-Bulky Three Ply

I haven't seen the yarn in person, but you can just tell from the picture that that natural colored yarn is just beautiful and squishable. One thing that makes my spinning very different from my Dad's efforts is that his singles tend to be wider in diameter than mine are, so he ends up with very different final yarns. I can't wait to see this yarn in person. And I can think of a number of projects that would be lovely for the yarn.

The blue singles are on bobbins that Dad made himself for his Ashford Traditional wheel. Lately Dad's been experimenting with bobbin construction and balance and he's been happy with the results. Nothing like getting a woodworking engineer guy involved with spinning! I'm always looking foward to seeing where he's going to go next.

Spinning Romney

Romney on My Bobbin

Given my current fascination with knee socks, log cabin squares and fingerless mitts, I haven't gotten very much spinning done. But I have started a new spinning project. Remember this fiber? Lovely hand -dyed Romney roving from Fleecemakers. I'd never spun Romney before, but I've read the blogs of plenty of people who have nice things to say about it. This stuff is plenty soft, and the colors are deep and rich so I thought I'd try spinning up a bit to see what it wanted to do.

So far, the single I am spinning is considerably thicker than what I "normally" spin. I suspect this is because the fiber is a bit longer staple, but I think it also had to do with my attempt to get bits of all the colors blended into most areas so that I could avoid that whole stripey yarn thing. It may sound kind of funny, but I'm rather excited about this single, not so much because of the great color and soft hand of the fiber, but because I seem to have gotten some place where I am making more decisions about what the diameter of my single is going to be like. I think if I were to turn this into a two-ply, I'd get something closer to worsted weight rather than the something on the light end of DK weight, which is my "normal" result.

Now that I've finished up that pair of knee socks (more on that tomorrow when I can take some pictures during the daylight) and while I'm still thinking about designs for mitts, I suspect I'll put a bit more effort back into spinning. After all, I still have a whole lot of moorit CVM waiting to become yarn as well!

Tweedy Handspun

Left: Ball of Fine Wool, Angora and Silk from Jane Purcell

This picture is a repeat from my trip to the Michigan Fiber Festival last August. Unfortunately, it seems to be the only image I have of the 4 ounces of Wool, Angora and Silk roving that I bought from Jane Purcell (sadly websiteless, because her color combos are incredibly vivid and engaging). Those of you who know me in person probably know why I was drawn to this roving: the vivid color in that blue/green range that I just can't seem to have enough of. Unlike many rovings I'd purchased previously, this roving had also been blended so that the colors ran vertically through the roving instead of horizontally. And I was curious as to what kind of final effect that would create. Once I picked up the roving, it was hard not to pick up several more. To be honest, I now wish I'd given in to temptation. The wool/angora/silk combo is pleasantly soft and lofty and 4 ounces only gives you so many options.

When I started spinning, I was thinking something in the neighborhood of a 2 ply sport-to-DK weight yarn. I have to be honest, though, I really haven't gotten to the point in my spinning where I'm sophisticated enough to sample and work towards the yarn I envision. Mostly, I just start spinning a single and spin it where it "feels" right. Probably once I have become a more accomplished spinner, I'll push my fiber around more. But for now, I'm content to let the fiber lead.

2 Ply DK Weight Wool/Angora/Silk

The result of my efforts is this skein -- about 300 yards of tweedy happiness. It's about 14 WPI, which puts it in the light DK range. I wish that my camera could handle this saturated teal well -- all the pictures I took had a much bluer cast than is true to life.

Wool/Angora/Silk Close Up

Part of letting this fiber do what it wanted to do was to let the lighter green areas be a little slubby. I'm not sure, but if I had to guess, I'd say the light green fiber is probably mostly silk, given the way it behaves. Because there were little slubs in the fiber, I just let a lot of those come along as they wanted to. Between that and the general distribution of the light green and just a touch of midnight blue throughout the teal fiber, the result is a yarn with a lot of depth and dimensionality to go along with a very tweedy disposition. Something that appeals to me a great deal and tells me a lot about the kinds of rovings I should be looking for in the future. This is one of the first yarns that I have spun (besides the moorit CVM) where I really feel that I could make an actual garment out of this.

But, of course, 300 yards doesn't get me very far along the road to a garment. But I am thinking it might make a absolutely lovely pair of fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm while I use the computer -- now that the winter weather we expect to be present in January in Chicago finally seems to have come home to roost!

Yarn Finishing


After talking about spinning up John's "Boyfriend" sock yarn, a couple of folks asked me how I "finish" my yarn. Finishing involves all the things done to the yarn after it's plied. My finishing regimen is relatively simple and has been derived from information from other spinners and bloggers. But it works for me. Rather than just typing out my "recipe" I thought I would illustrate the process with some pictures. In this case, I'm working with some "Sock Hop" sock yarn from Crown Mountain Farms. Since I'm planning to make knee socks fromt his and my Sloopy remnants, I wanted to make sure there were no differences in how my yarn and the CMF yarn was processed following spinning. And really, this process can be used for any commercial yarn when you aren't so sure about how it's been treated or handled.

Step 1: Wind Up Your Yarn

If your yarn is already in a skein, then you can skip this step. Otherwise, I niddy noddy or a reel are handy tools for converting a ball into a more manageable skein.

Step 2: Preparing for Yarn Bondage

Tangled yarn more or less sucks. I cut 4 ties to bind around the yarn in four places (you might choose more if your yarn is particularly slippery). In general, I prefer to make my ties out of yarn that is unlikely to bleed color, but the content of the ties doesn't reall matter. In this case I used white Plymouth Galway, but I've used other things as well.

Step 3: Tie Your Yarn Up

I use figure 8 ties in four places that are relatively evenly distributed across the hank to prevent tangles. I try to avoid tying things up too tightly so that I don't have an area where the yarn is compressed or limited by the ties. I also always do this while my yarn is on the niddy noddy. I think it's just easier that way.

Step 4: Give Your Yarn A Bath

Generally, I do my soak in warm water. I have never measured my preferred temperature, but it shouldn't be uncomfortable to put your hand in, and except in special circumstances I never use cold water (note: this is just me... your mileage may vary and you should always take your fiber and how it has been dyed into consideration when you pick water temperatures... if in doubt, cooler is better). Just a pleasant warm bath. I add a little Eucalan for aromaticity and to help clean the yarn if it needs it. I also think Eucalan and other no-rinse wool-washes make life a lot easier since you don't have to spend a lot of time rinsing. And then I take the yarn off the niddy noddy and submerge it in the bath. I let it soak for 20-30 minutes at least so that it can relax in the warm sudsy water.

Step 5: Put Your Yarn Under Pressure

After draining off the water, I press the yarn against the side of the sink to help remove as much water as I can. Depending on the fiber content of your yarn, you can be more or less aggressive about this. Since this is superwash, I could pick it up and wring it and agitate it without worrying about felting, but other yarns require more care. Always err on the side of being gentle if you think felting could be an issue. The idea is just to make the drying process easier and shorter by getting out as much water as you can here.

If a lot of color has bled out of the yarn during the soak, I will rinse several times in cool water until the color exhaust subsides, but otherwise I don't do any rinsing at all.

Step 6: Towel Your Yarn Off

Next, I place the yarn on a nice thirsty cotton towel (cotton likes water more than wool does, so it's easy to get the yarn to share with the towel) and then I roll the yarn in the towel and compress the roll to squeeze as much water out of the yarn as I can. This is clearly an optional step, but I think it helps to speed up the drying process. If your yarn likes to bleed color, you might want to have a couple of ratty old towels dedicated to just this process, rather than using your good towels. Also, you probably want to stay away from towels with a smooth chenille-like finish, they don't absorb as well as the regular terry finish ones.

Step 7: Give Your Yarn A Whack

This is an optional step. Some spinners do it, some don't bother. I do it if I remember and if my yarn isn't likely to release dye onto my white counter top. I think the idea of whacking your yarn against a surface is to help even out the twist. If I whack my yarn, I do it two or three times before shifting to another part of the hank for my grip.

Step 8: Hang Up Your Yarn

The last step is to just let the yarn alone to dry. To do this, I hang it over a hanger and just let it hang loose without any weighting other than it's own natural weight. Usually I hang it over a place that can get wet and can be cleaned easily if there's some residual dye leakage, like a tub. I also like to have a place that is relatively warm and/or gets good airflow to help speed the drying process. I figure faster drying is good for two reasons 1) less chance of yarn mildew (yuck!) and 2) I get to enjoy the finished yarn sooner.

So that's it! At least for me. I think this process varies a lot from spinner to spinner. Some people will never choose warm water. Some folks like to use dish detergent or shampoo as their cleaning agent. Some whack some don't. Some swear that hanging a yarn to dry instead of lying it flat may make it harder to detect an unbalanced yarn because the natural weight of the yarn holds down the twist. There's definitely more than one way to finish a yarn.

Finished Boyfriend

A Bowl of Finished "Boyfriend"

Once I've got all my singles prepared, it's hard to keep me from wanting to sit down and ply them up. This was particularly true with this batch of superwash merino in "My Boyfriend's Back" from Crown Mountain Farms. I really wanted to make John a special pair of socks, and I really wanted the yarn to be ready by Christmas. So I fired up my wheel on the 23rd of December and armed with a bunch of podcasts, I plied up all 8 ounces. I could tell as I was plying that this yarn was going to be perfect for John. It had nice long stretches of color and there weren't too many bright patches or patches that might inadvertantly be misconstrued as pink. Most of it was dark and a bit moody and what I thought was just perfect for a pair of socks for John.

"Boyfriend" 2 ply Before Finishing
"Boyfriend" 2 Ply After Finishing

These before and after finishing shots are to help visualize how much a yarn can change from right after you finish plying it, to after it has a nice bath and a chance to dry. While in the top photo the yarn has been stretched over the niddy noddy a little bit, it still has that flat quality to it, even when you take it off the niddy. After a warm water bath with a bit of Eucalan, the yarn really comes to life. It poofs and contracts and gets some of the loft that you expect from a merino yarn. I let my yarn hang to dry, but I don't weight it at all. After finishing, it is also twist neutral (i.e. balanced).

One thing that did occur when I gave this yarn a bath was that I had a lot of red dye exhaust. Even after several rinses in cold water, I never got the water to run clear or even close to clear. I know that red dyes have a tendency to do this, and, as the wise Claudia has said on her blog, this is just the price we have to pay sometimes for beautiful vivid reds. However, I emailed Teyani to find out what she knew and to let her know about my experience. Of course, Teyani recommends sticking with a cool water bath, but she also told me that what's in your water may have an impact on color bleeding. Apparently, with her water, which is not city treated water and has no chlorine or fluoride added, she sees a little dye exhaust, but after a rinse it's pretty much stable. However, with customers that live in places with treated water, they often see what I saw when the dyes used were vivid reds or blues. Interesting, eh? So if you're an urban spinner of hand-dyed rovings, you may want to consider cooler finishing baths when working with intense colors, and you probably need to expect that you'll always get a bit of bleeding from the yarn, so you really want to make sure you wash whatever you make with the final yarn with like colors.

At any rate, I'm extremely happy with the finished product and it received an additional endorsement from the man who will be the recipient of the socks. Now all I need to do is finish up a few of my other projects so I can cast on for his Christmas socks! (Good thing I made sure that there was an XBOX360 under the tree for him as his big Christmas present, eh?)

P.S. to Rachel... "grist" is essentially a measurement of the number of yards of yarn per unit weight. In the US this is often measured as yards per pound and can be used like "wraps per inch" as a general means of comparing yarns or determining if one yarn can be easily substituted for another.

Boyfriend Bobbins


First off, my dad would like to say how much he enjoyed reading all the comments about his rocking chair. I think it pretty much made his day. I know they made mine. And the chair has a long and cherished life ahead of it. And there will be a few more stories to tell about it when the time is right.

In the meantime, I have more spinning to show for some of my blogging break.

Two Bobbins of "Boyfriend"

This is the entire 8 ounces of Crown Mountain Farms Superwash Merino in "My Boyfriend's Back". I divided it in half and then spun each half onto a bobbin. I love these capacious WW bobbins -- 4 ounces of single on each and still plenty of room for more! So nice for spinning up something for a big project. From what I can tell, the singles are pretty close to what I spun when I spun up the "Hang on Sloopy" so I'm anticipating similar grist yarn and yardage after I do the plying.

As with the Sloopy, this stuff was beautifully dyed and really a treat to spin. The colorway was inspired by a request I made for a more man-friendly dark red yarn. Teyani did a lovely job using several depths of shade of what I think is one red dye so that there are areas that are almost black. These dark areas really help to set off the brigher red areas, but at the same time, tone everything down and give it a more masculine quality. John took one look at these bobbins, nodded, and said "if it keeps looking like that, I could probably wear it".

Definitely an edorsement to go to the next stage with.

P.S. If you want to see what Boyfriend looks like when it's been plied and knit into socks, you can check out this recent post on Teyani's blog. Clearly John has good things to look forward to!

The First Bobbin of "Boyfriend"

The First Bobbin of "Boyfriend" Sees the Light of Late Afternoon

Right now I'm finding it a bit difficult to come up with interesting things to post about given that I am in the early-to-middle phases of a number of projects. The bobbin above is the first 4 ounces of Crown Mountain Farms superwash merino top in "My Boyfriend's Back". If you remember the last time I talked about this sock-yarn-in-progress the picture had a lot more light colors in it. I've officially moved into the darker regions of the yarn which is very red-black. When I last talked about this yarn, I mentioned that for this batch of rovin and my batch of "Sloopy" it seemed like part of the batch had a lot more undyed regions in it than the other part. Teyani left an interesting comment on the post which I think bears repeating for anyone who is interesting understanding why the superwash merino is dyed the way it is, and how Teyani and her Sock Hop spinners create the Sock Hop yarn.

Yes, the white is indeed intentional - for the purpose of making the barberpole yarn. What we do is to split the hank into three sections prior to spinning - light, medium and dark, and then randomly spin from each section, so that the lightest part is spread throughout. makes for some deep striping.

In this case, I just split the batch in half -- the first half contained the lighter third and part of the medium third. The second half (which I have just started) will contain the second half of the medium third and the dark third. It's my hope that this approach will keep my final product a bit darker and thus will keep the resulting socks on the more "manly" side of the spectrum.

As with every other time I've talked about this fiber, I am still very much enjoying spinning it. And apparently I am not the only one. If you want to see the final results of another one of the Crown Mountain colorways (one that I have in my stash and can't wait to spin) Wendy has spun up a skein of two-ply "Do You Believe in Magic". Gorgeous stuff!

My Boyfriend's Back


Don't tell John, but I've been hanging out with my Boyfriend quite a bit lately.

Crown Mountain Farms Superwash Merino in "My Boyfriend's Back"

I'm a little over halfway through my first bobbin of "My Boyfriend's Back", another batch of superwash roving from Crown Mountain Farms. This picture is not entirely representative of the roving, because the bit I had just spun had a lot of white areas in it. I don't know if Teyani does this intentionally, but in both batches I have spun so far, half of the roving has a good deal more open white area than the other half. For stripey sock yarn, this is an excellent thing, because those white areas help to set up a lot of nice contrasty stripes.

What makes me most happy is that while this area has lighter red areas, it really doesn't veer into the land of pink. It maintains a sort of stately and sedate deep red color (I know, I know, the photo reads pink, but that is because the color defiition is a bit poor in this flash picture).. So far, this color has been mostly acceptable to the male for whom the yarn is being spun. Because he has bigger feet than I do, I decided that rather than spinning it up in 4 ounce batches, I would divide the roving in half and spin it all up as one batch (I mean one batch made up of two plys, not one single ply) so as to have one solid continuous yarn. I still have a lot of spinning to go, but I am already at that place where I can't wait to ply and see what shows up!

Big thanks to everyone who left supportive words for me yesterday. I am working on the socks, and the more I knit, the happier I get with what I see. My Sloopy yarn is like knitting with sunshine, and the fabric is firm but soft, so I think I will have a good and durable sock. Good therapy for the grey rainy weather we are getting in Chicago right now.



I am not going to rant about about airlines, or weather delays or running around airports. Or about the fact that 4 out of the last 5 flights I have been supposed to be on with Chicago's "hometown" airline have been delayed by an hour or more. I could. But I won't. I suspect my annoyance wouldn't be all that entertaining. But I must say, I am extremely tired of hearing about weather delays, and I am particularly intolerant of this when it occurs on a day where there has been no truly bad weather throughout the country.

Ahem. Perhaps I did need to do just a little bit of ranting. I feel much better now.

From a fiber processing perspective, I'm actually feeling quite productive. I've made progress on John's grey socks (one finished, the second started) and I've plied up the second skein of moorit CVM. The second skein is just under 400 yards, so I'm right about at the 800 yard total mark. And now it's time to start spinning up more singles. Good thing I have a couple of fun audio books to listen to while I spin.

More Oatmeal 3-Ply and Sloopy 2--Ply

But before I got back to the business of spinning up more CVM, I took a little break that I had promised myself and spun up the last 4 ounces of Hang on Sloopy superwash merino from Crown Mountain Farms. I did something a bit different with the second half. In stead of splitting the roving into pieces vertically, like I did for the first skein, I decided just to tear off a couple of feet, pre-draft a little bit, and spin the roving without dividing so I could get longer stretches of color that would, hopefully, also lead to wider stripes in the socks. In the picture above, the orange skein on the left is the original skein, and the skein on the right is the new skein. Hard to tell much difference this way (or unhanked) so I guess I won't have my experiental results until after I do some knitting. One thing did come as a big surprise however.

Skein 1:
Finish Date: 7/25/06
Yardage: 320 yards
Weight: 110 g/3.9 oz
Grist: 1312 YPP (yards per pound)

Skein 2:
Finish Date: 10/31/06
Yardage: 340 yds
Weight: 108 g/3.8 oz
Grist: 1431 YPP

To me, this seemed remarkably consistant for someone who put 3 months between spinning up each batch. During my next "CVM break" I'm going to start on the 8 ounces of "My Boyfriend's Back" that's destined to be socks for John. Funny, how when you're working away at 2 lbs of fiber, spinning up 4-8 ounces of anything just seems like a little breather project!

Bobs and Bits


I'm afraid this week, much of what I am going to post is going to be incremental improvements on previous projects that you have already seen. However, in order to sweeten the process, I am also going to show off some fun things that I have discovered recently that I thought would be fun to share. So the bobs are my current projects and the bits are the interesting finds.

And Then There Were 2: Getting Closer to Plying my Moorit CVM

I have now finished spinning 2 bobbins of the moorit CVM roving. I'm now 2/3 of the way to getting to ply up my first mondo skein of 3 ply, which I hope will end up being somewhere between a DK and worsted weight yarn when all is said and done. In the process of spinning the singles for this project, I came to realize that it would be impossible for me to get sidetracked into any new projects if I didn't get some more bobbins for my WooLee Winder. How boring would that be? So now I have 3 new bobbins (for a total of 6) in my collection. This means that I can work on my CVM, but that I can also get started on the sock yarn I want to make for John for Christmas.

The Ball is Still Large

And just for the record, I thought you might want to compare the current state of the CVM ball to the last picture I took. I tried to take it in the same location so that you could see the size relative to the post on my table on the balcony. Clearly Mr. Fiber Ball is still quite large. I would estimate that I have spun somewhere between 9 and 10 ounces at this point.

And as for the "bits" in this post:

Paper Goods: Greeting Cards (top left) Knitting Print (bottom center) and a Redwood Datebook (top right)

I headed out to the Renegade Craft Fair, that is held in Wicker Park every September. Wicker Park is less than a mile north of where I live, so it's a nice walk from my house. It's always fun to see what crafty people who have other crafty passions besides fiber are up to. In particular, I like to see the paper artists. I discovered a new one that I love and revisited an "old" one that I had to get a little more goodness from.

The new one is Katie Muth, an artist from Toronto. The box of cards contains 8 cards, 4 of which are that lovely ball of yarn and 4 of which are the knitting hands (bottom center). I loved the Knitting Hands so much that I also bought an individual signed print that I am going to frame and hang in my fiber room or some other place that I like to sit and work.

The "old" one (I put the old in quotes because I discovered the work of this artist a couple of months ago) is Jill Bliss. Something about her whimsical flowers and plants -- along with the fact that she puts them on quad-ruled papers -- just makes me smile. I purchased a copy of the Redwood Forest Datebook for next year. What makes it so nice is that there are no actual dates printed on the pages, just blank weekly entry pages so that you can number as you go. Not a bad thing for someone like me who might forget her datebook for weeks and then might have several weeks where she needs to write a bunch of things down.

The Spinning Roving Swap is in full swing now. Since it's been a little while since I've worked on my "100 Things About Me" sort of entries, I thought this might be a fun thing to do as a blog post rather than just sending the answers to my pal. So without further ado...

1) How long have you been spinning?

I started spinning on a drop spindle in May of 2005. In the fall of 2005, with the help of Toni Neil at the Fold, I got my mom's old Ashford Traditional into good enough shape to try out a wheel. In January of 2006 I bought my Lendrum DT -- so only about a year and a couple of months at this point.

2) Are you a beginner, novice, or experienced spinner?

I think I would consider myself a novice spinner. I can spin fairly evenly and consistently, I'm comfortable with longer and shorter staple fibers, I've made 2-ply and 3-ply yarns. I'm developing a good sense for when to use the different ratios on my wheel. However, I've never spun anything extremely fine, Navajo plied, or tried any interesting techniques like creating boucle yarns. Clearly I have lots to learn.

3) Do you spin on a drop spindle or wheel, or both?

The first 6 months or so I was dedicated to my drop spindle and I currently have 5 of those. But since I bought my wheel, I have to admit that I really haven't been interested in my spindles at all. So I think it's fair to say that any spinning I do, I want to do on my wheel, even though I know how to use both.

4) What types and weights of drop spindles (or what type of spinning wheel(s) ) do you currently own?

I own 5 drop spindles -- 2 Bosworth spindles, the heavier one is close to 2 ounces, the lighter one is around 1.5 ounces. I also own a Charis spindle. a Kundert spindle and a Golding Ring Spindle. The Charis and the Kundert are on the lighter side of things, the Golding is closer to the lighter weight Bosworth.

My wheel is a Lendrum DT with the deluxe package -- so I have the normal flyer, fast flyer and plying flyer head. I recently invested in a WooLee Winder for my wheel, which I absolutely love and now can't imagine spinning without.

5) What type of fibers have you spun with before?

I've spun solid wools (merino, cormo, corriedale, coopworth, blue faced leicester, wensleydale and CVM), I've also spun solid silk and some silk blends (cormo & silk, merino & silk) and some alpaca blends (cormo & alpaca & silk).

6) What fibers do you prefer to spin with?

So far my favorites are cormo, CVM and corriedale and cormo blended with silk. I really like how these fibers have a nice balance of softness and springiness and a reasonable staple length. I love wools with a significant amount of natural elasticity like CVM and Targhee. And silk and silk blends just generally make me happy. That said, I currently am working on a 2 lb bale of CVM roving and have beautiful chocolate brown CVM fleece on order for the spring, so I'd prefer not to add any more CVM to my stash for a while. I also have about 2 lbs of hand-dyed merino/silk blend coming my way soon as well, and a pretty solid stash of superwash merino for socks.

7) What fibers do you dislike?

Not a big fan of the long wools. I'm happy I got to try spinning coopworth and wensleydale, but I can't see knitting anything out of those yarns and longwools don't fit my spinning style very well. I don't dislike cotton or flax, but, to be honest, I'm not really interested in them because I don't really much like to knit with those kinds of yarns, either. I'm also not really interested in synthetics or the corn or soy silks.

8) Do you prefer natural colored fibers, or handpainted/dyed fiber?

I like both. But when it comes to hand painted/dyed fibers, I really prefer semi-solids or rovings where the colors have been prepared vertically rather than horizontally -- in other words, I really don't want any more rovings where I am going to get a lot of striping, although I love blends that give me subtle color variations and depth.

9) Would you prefer all one type of roving or smaller amounts of different types to sample?

I like to have enough of anything to do a project. While I love the little test skeins, they don't end up doing much except sitting around my fiber room. I'd much rather have all of one type of something, or a small collection of fibers meant to be in the same project.

10) What are you favorite colors?

Jewel tones. I am very much a "winter" when it comes to colors that I can wear. I like my colors to have cooler/bluer undertones, and blues and teals are my favorite colors over all (that said, the 2 lbs of merino silk I mentioned earlier is going to be a teal color, so I don't really want any more of that kind of color right now). I also love deep rich purples, burgandies, and emerald greens. I've even been known to gravitate towards the occasional fuschia.

11) What colors do you dislike?

Not a big fan of pastels, and while I like yellow and orange, they don't really look good on me, except as socks. So any color that has a serious yellow undertone is probably not a good idea.

12) What would you like to do with your handspun yarn, or what do you plan to do with it? (pattern clarification here)

I'd really like to make myself a pair of fingerless gloves with long cuffs to wear in the winter (it gets cold in my office and when I'm using my computer my hands get pretty frigid). I'm also open to lovely lacy scarves and shawls when it comes to my handspun. Socks, are also a possibility, but only if the fiber is machine washable.

13) What spinning projects are you currently working on?

Right now I am currently spinning up 2 lbs of moorit CVM roving that I am going to 3-ply and and make into a cardigan sweater. I am also working on spinning some superwash merino for socks for myself and my husband.

14) Do you have a wishlist?

I do have an Amazon wishlist. But it's probably not very useful for a spinning swap. But if my Pal should want to find it, it's there.

15) What are your other favorite hobbies?

I'm a geek toy junkie -- I love my iPod, RAZR, digital camera, laptop computer and my Palm device. I've been known to indulge in the occasional RPG. I like to do the occasional bit of gardening, I enjoy reading, traveling, most any fiber-related art that I've tried. My husband and I are having a lot of fun homebrewing beer and I think it's pretty fair to say that I am a bit of a foodie and never say no to an exotic chocolate or the chance to try out a new good wine or beer.

16) Do you have any allergies (pet, smoke, food, fiber,etc...)?

I'm latex, smoke, pollen and mold sensitive, but don't have any severe allergies to anything that I know of.

17) What is your preferred shipping method (USPS, UPS, FedEx)?

Any of the above are fine with me. But if you want to send something that requires that I sign for it, I'd prefer UPS or FedEx. It's a lot harder for me to get to the post office.

I'm off to Michigan for the weekend -- hopefully even a little end of summer beach time will happen. May it be a good one for everyone!

Big Spinning Project


Roll music from the beginning of 2001, a Space Odyssey ... i.e. Also Sprach Zarathustra

The Great Tower of Moorit CVM Stands Proudly in the Fading Sun

This, friends, is the sum of all my recent spinning. One full bobbin of moorit CVM -- probably somewhere between 4 and 5 ounces. It feels like a towering accomplishment. This is my first WooLee Winder bobbin that I have filled completely.

And then I go back and look at what's left.

The Great Unchanging Ball of Moorit CVM

Sigh. Even after about 6 ounces (I've gotten a good start on the second bobbin now) it doesn't look much different than it did after I first got it. It keeps staring at me, just daring me to imagine how much yarn I can get from 2 lbs of roving.

Queue theme from Chariots of Fire... I've got a long race ahead of me.

(With apologies to those of you lacking either QuickTime or Windows Media Player)

P.S. Did you see all the cool things in the first issue of Yarnival!? I'm looking forward to really digging through it with my morning latte tomorrow!

Cotton Candy Corriedale


In between bouts of sock knitting, I've been spinning my little heart out. The thing about spinning, is that I can spin for hours, be greatly satisified with the result, feel very peaceful an refreshed, and still not have much of a blog post. Or, maybe I should say, I could show you more progress if the same time had been devoted to a knitting project. But I feel like I have gotten to this place where I really want to make my own yarn. Finishing the Flower Basket Shawl with my own handspun was magickal. It was the point where I realized I could spin enough of something to make a garment, and that I could like that garment just as much as something that I knitted out of commercially prepared yarn.

It was also this point that I determined that just as I am more of a product than a process knitter, I am also more of a product rather than a process spinner. I love the spinning, but boy do I want that yarn. And I want enough yardage so that it opens the door to many project possibilities. Which is part of why I really like buying fiber from Teyani at Crown Mountain Farms. Not only are her hand dyed rovings beautiful colors, well prepared and a pleasure to spin, but they are also in put ups that give you enough to dream big with -- 8 ounces isn't a sweater, but it's plenty for a scarf. And at $14-$15 for that 8 ounces, it's easy to afford enough for a bigger project.

Cotton Candy Singles

After spinning up the first half of the Hang On Sloopy, I started to get this jones for some lace-to-fingering weight stripey yarn that could be used in a shawl or scarf project. I also really wanted to spin up my Cotton Candy Corriedale pencil roving. So I decided that I would divide the 8 ounces in half and spin each half into a single, just letting the color happen as it happened. A very easy thing to do with pencil roving. All I had to do was break off a bit, pre-draft and spin fine. I used the 10:1 ratio on my wheel to create the singles. And, in case you're curious, my singles are about 32 WPI.

When last I showed you a bobbin of this stuff, it looked mostly pink and green. Now you can see that the yellow has come out in full force. The first half of the roving had a good deal more green in it, the second half more yellow. Which was all fine by me, given my desire to have stripes.

This roving also taught me something about dyeing. Teyani never put the green and red portions next to each other in the roving, they were always separated by an area of yellow. Yellow blends nicely with both colors, green and red together create a murky brown. I'll be filing this away into the dyeing notes section of my brain for use in the future.

A Bobbin Full of 2-Ply

The next step was to get it all plied up. That took me almost an entire afternoon and the assistance of a good many podcasts. I finally have a homemade tensioned lazy kate (a shoe box, three straight metal knitting needles and a yard or two of Woolese) that lets me get through the plying process with the WooLee Winder bobbins. It was like plying up Easter egg dyeing colors. I used the 7:1 drive ratio. In retrospect, I probably should have used the 9:1 but I liked the yarn I was getting, so I let it be. The final 2 ply yarn is somewhere between 18-20 WPI. Corriedale always seems to come with a lot of elasticity. Without any stretching, the yarn is more like 14-16 WPI.

A Skein of Cotton Candy

Here's the whole bundle, hanked up after a warm bath and a rest. I let it hang dry with no weighting (other than the weight of the yarn itself) and no twisting resulted, so I think I found the balance point for the yarn. In the end, I ended up with about 770 yards (as measured by wraps around my 2 yard niddy noddy), which is pretty respectable from 8 ounces of starting fiber. And it's stripey as all-get-out. The final impression I get of this yarn is a very yellow and green one -- a similar impression to what I got from the starting roving. I was expecting the areas where the green and pink plyed together to be a bit brownish/greyish, but they report mostly green to my eyes. I'd love to hear any of the impressions you get. This picture was taken on a cloudy day and the colors are very true to life, if a little muted by the neutral lighting.

Colorful Plys Close Up

No picture of yarn would be complete for me without a closeup. Here you can see how the individual colors play together, as well as the texture of the yarn. You can see that I am still working on the process of getting a good and evenly plyed yarn. I feel like I get better and better with every batch I spin up. Spinning really is one of those things for which the "practice makes pefect mantra applies".

The final yarn is soft, probably against the skin soft (this is always hard for me to judge until I actually wear the garment against my skin, but the fact that this yarn is quite smooth improves the odds that my prediction will come true). But it has one problem... at least for me. I love it, but I cannot wear anything that has this much yellow. At least not near my face. So I don't think a scarf project (unless it is not for me) is going to be in the future for this yarn. I'm thinking maybe a pillow, or a spring table runner with a very simple lace pattern that won't get lost in all the stripes. A table runner a la Clapotis also crossed my mind. Any other suggestions? It definitely won't become socks. I would die a thousand little deaths if some of my handspun was accidentally felted in the washing machine.

Color Perception


One thing I love about spinning is learning about color. You might think that what you see is what you get when you consider spinning a roving up into a single. In fact, I find it to be very unpredictable. I am constantly being pleasantly surprised by the change that fiber undergoes when it moves from fuzzy to linear form. And my Cotton Candy Corriedale Pencil Roving from Crown Mountain is no exception.

Cotton Candy Corriedale

Take a good look at this picture. What colors stand out most to you? (I took the picture in natural light and did not adjust the color in any way). What I see is yellow. The yellow just jumps out at me. And then the green pipes up and says hello. The pinks and reds make up the final flourish, but I see them as something of a subtle accent. Which was exactly what I wanted when I bought this roving -- I wanted to get some springy yellows and greens into my life.

Cotton Candy Corriedale Single

When I look at this single, I see something completely different than what I see in the roving. I see pink and green here, with some underlying peachy-pink tones and greens that have some yellowy undertones. It's as if the yellow just blended itself in and has faded into the background. Not at all what I expected from such a dominantly warm color. Also, the single is much less intensely colored than the roving. This transformation is also one that always surprises me, because in my head I feel that if I am condensing the fibers into a single, I should also condense the color. But, clearly, that is not what happens.

Even though the singles are unexpected, they are not unwanted. I really want to turn this pencil roving into a nice light-weight two ply yarn that was suitable for doing a little lace work with.... I thought this yarn might make a nice shawl. But then I got to thinking that all that yellow near my face would be a bad thing. When I look at this single, I think there still might be a chance that I could get away with wearing it.

But you never know. Plying is yet another transformation. And it too almost never turns out like I expect it to when I am working with variagated rovings.

You Can Never Have Too Many Clamps


At least that is what my dad is always telling me. And in order to try to create a more peaceful co-existance between my Lendrum lazy kate and WooLee Winder bobbins, I took a brief detour to the Home Depot over the weekend and with the help of my very clamp knowledgeable Dad, selected a couple of cute little guys that could help me get my kate at an angle that might be more conducive to productive plying.

Clamping Up A Kate

This actually did work pretty well for a little while, but I did have problems with the bobbins moving rightward because I couldn't get it clamped at an angle where the posts were just a little bit vertical. Eventually, I had to switch to moving the Kate onto the floor with the eye that the plys are threaded through being propped on a computer game box so I could get the kate more horizontal. There was definitely still some Kate frustration, but at least there was no ply breakage. So I am still going to have to find a better Kate solution, but this will do in a pinch while I wait for my dad to build me a custom Kate (yes, I know about the Kromski Kate, but I am thinking I might like one that looked more like my wheel. For some reason I feel like I need to be a bit matchy matchy on this issue.

320 Yards (110g) of 2 Ply Sloopy

While I am utterly satisfied with the incredibleness of this color (yes, it really is as deliciously orange as the picture suggests), I really wish I could offer you squeeze-o-vision so that you could know what this skein feels like. I think one of my favorite parts of spinning is anticipating the magical transformation that occurs between a newly plied yarn getting a final soak and drying into the yarn it will really become. This yarn went from being a little bit lifeless to being sproingy and resiliant. Even a little bit elastic. And balanced. I just hung it outside to dry with no weighting so that it could do its thing. But there was no over or under twist.

Sloopy Gets a Close Up

It's not perfect, but it's probably one of the best yarns I've spun to date. I love all the different shades and the happy barber-poling that I can see going on.

Some final vital statistics: I spun 320 yards and the skein weighs in at 3.9 oz, which is about 82 yards/ounce (which is almost exactly the same as STR Light, which comes in at 80 yards/ounce). I'm thinking that that should be enough yarn to make a pair of socks for me if I don't get too fancy. But it's kind of neat knowing that I still have a bunch of fiber left.... if I run out of yarn, I can always spin a bit more for myself!

Two Orange Plys

Two Towering Bobbins of Sloopy

I've discovered soemthing I like very much about spinning sock yarn: 4 ounces is not very much to spin. Two ounces on one bobbin, two ounces on the second bobbin and all of a sudden you're ready to ply. If you're guessing that I have a thing for instantaneous gratification, you'd be correct.

Now that I have spun through half of the Hang On Sloopy Superwash Merino that I purchased from Crown Mountain Farms, I can unequivocally and without reservation or hesitation say that this fiber is truly wonderful to spin. When you combine it with a happy wheel with a WooLee Winder, well, it just gets better. I spun it at a 10:1 ratio and that required that I increase my drafting speed a bit to keep up with the twist, but I found it very easy to develop a good rhythm and I think the whole process helped me to improve my drafting technique. In the past I was pulling fiber out and releasing. On this I would pull the fiber out, but slide my finger down the twist to control the twist and pull out the next bit. As a result, I was always able to maintain a pretty nice drafting triangle -- something that I hadn't really been able to do before. It is true: the more you spin, the better you get.

Shades of Sloopy

A closeup because there can never be enough orange, can there? I can hardly wait to start plying this stuff into its final form. What is it about colors like this that have the power to actually improve my mood when I think about them?

Curious Yarns: Sprung. The Petunias Approve

And speaking of mood altering experiences, I got a very special little pick-me-up from Emma today. This gift packs mood altering color, texture and just general good friendly feelings all in 415 yards: it's a skein of Curious Yarns Sock yarn in the colorway -- or should I say colourway -- "Sprung". Even my petunias are in awe of it's happy yellows and greens. Certainly this skein is worthy of some sock designing, I think! Thank you so much, Emma!

Sampling Sloopy


About a week ago, Gia asked what had happened to my "Hang on Sloopy" superwash merino from Crown Mountain Farms. At the time, I hadn't gotten started on it yet because I wanted to bond with my WooLee Winder a bit more before taking on spinning a fiber I had never spun before. Believe it or not, I've not actually tried a 100% merino spinning fiber yet, and certainly not one that is prepared to superwash. So I wanted to make sure I understood my equipment well before I dove into all that orangey goodness.

When I first posted about Sloopy, I asked the one burning question I had about making sock yarn from this fiber: 2 ply or 3 ply? The answers I got summed up to "3 ply gives you the best and most durable yarn, but a tightly spun and plied 2 ply can do well under the right circumstances". In fact, I even got some email from Teyani, owner of Crown Mountain Farm. She told me that the Sock Hop yarn that she and her team of spinners create is a two ply. This was confirmed by Cheryl who is one of Teyani's spinners, who also reminded me that with a three ply, my color intervals would be closer together and the defined regions of color that would create stripes would be harder to distinguish. So now I was torn. Which way to go? I even went so far as to deconstruct some of my favorite merino yarns for socks: Koigu is a 2 ply, Socks that Rock yarns are 3 plys.

So that left me really with just one thing to do: spin up some samples for myself. With 8 ounces of Sloopy at my disposal, I didn't need to feel nervous about not having enough for a sock project after the test.

Hang On Sloopy in 2 Ply Form

This fiber did take a little time for me to get used to spinning. I found that at the drive ratio that I wanted to spin it at (about 10:1) the take up could be a little strong as the first layer of single was wrapped on the bobbin. After a little practice I got something that I liked and that I could maintain relatively easily. This fiber is absolutely fabulous to spin with. Truly and honestly some of the nicest hand-dyed that I have put my hands on. I spun up enough so that I could 2-ply from a center pull ball and ended up with about 29 yards to play with: plenty for swatching.

Measuring WPI and Looking At Color Variation

My 2 ply turned out to be about 17 WPI -- pretty respectable for a sock yarn. For instance, STR Medium weight is about the same WPI. I like the handle of the yarn and it "feels right" to me. Since I was shooting for reproduceability, I took some notes about this yarn. As an aside, I got to see some real Sock Hop yarn courtesy of Cara, who was visiting Chicago this weekend. My yarn is quite different from the Sock Hop yarn as far as plying goes. I think I ended up with a tighter ply. Both are neat looking yarns. I think that is part of what is great about spinning your own, you can get so many looks from the same starting point.

Hang on Sloopy, 3-Ply

For my three ply, I started out with the same ratio on my wheel (the 10:1) and spun onto 3 separate bobbins. That was when I realized I had a problem -- I had used all of my WooLee Winder bobbins and now had to go back to one of my Lendrum flyers to do the job, so I wouldn't be able to make the 3 ply using the same drive ratio as I had for the 3 ply. Note to self: 4 bobbins is better than three. So I ended up trying out my Lendrum fast flier to try to get a similar ratio. Not such a good idea because I over plied this poor yarn in a big way. I actually had to do some untwisting afterwards, which is why this yarn looks a little bit iffy.

When I measured the WPI on this yarn, I got 16, which isn't too surprising. I usually find that with the same diameter single, my 2 and 3 ply yarns are very similar at the WPI level, it's just the dimensionality that has changed.

2 Ply vs. 3 Ply Sloopy Swatches

But the real proof is in the swatch. So I knit up a test swatch from both yarns. The 2 ply swatch I knit on US size 1 needles, the 3 ply I knit on US size 1.5 needles to give the yarn a little more room to be lofty, while still maintaining a fabric similar to the density I would want for socks. I also put the 2 ply sock through a complete wash and dry cycle (standard washing conditions that my socks experience) to see how it held up to being washed.

The striping issue that Cheryl pointed out is absolutely true. The stripes are much more prominent in the 2 ply swatch than the three ply swatch. I also like the feel of the 2 ply yarn better both before and after washing. I've never been one to like really thick socks unless I am wearing big heavy boots and I don't do that very often. And after washing, while the yarn developed an ever-so-slight halo, it really didn't fuzz or felt at all. Nor did I experience a change in the size or gauge of the sample. I am ever so smitten with both the fiber and the resulting yarn. So I think that I will be going with a two ply yarn for this project.

I'm also pretty sure that I will be ordering more of this fiber... this swatch got a thumbs up from the husband as well (although not in such a bright color) so if I can find a colorway that meets his needs, I think he's going to get a pair of handspun, hand knit socks for Christmas.

One other thing came up in my first Sloopy post. Julie (blogless) mentioned that after washing her yarn, the orange bled and the white areas took up the orange dye. Teyani very quickly emailed me, Julie and her spinners to find out more about this since she was very concerned about the potential problem, even though Julie was not unhappy with the fiber at all (three cheers for Teyani for being so concerned about good customer experience!). Teyani is very careful about making sure her dye exhausts correctly and about rinsing carefully to get rid of free dye. As it turns out, Julie was soaking the yarn in hot water and using vinegar in the finish rinse. If you haven't ever done any dyeing yourself, you need to know two things: 1) sometimes hot water can cause dye to leach (it's good to be reasonably gentle with hand-dyed products when it comes to temperatures) and 2) vinegar sets dye. So if you work with hand-dyed fiber that has white intervals, be gentle on your fiber after you finish it and soak in cooler water and leave out that vinegar finish. I know a lot of sources recommend vinegar to help make sure your colors stay color fast, but you might want to save that advice for commercially prepared solid colored yarns.

So now it's time for me to get back to my wheel and let more of this wonderful fiber slip through my fingers!

Am I Blue

550 Yards of 3-Ply Cormo/Silk/Alpaca

After all was said and done, I ended up with almost 550 yards of three ply yarn from the 6 or so ounces of the Cormo/silk/alpaca singles that I spun. What was particularly satisfying for me after plying this yarn was that when I took it off my niddy noddy, it was almost perfectly balanced. When I hung the skein it hung straight. Once thing that surprised me was that, in spite of all the Cormo in the yarn (80%) it still was drapey and it almost felt like the inelastic silk and alpaca fibers were in control of the yarn, even though I felt like I had gotten a goodly amount of twist into the yarn.

Close Up, Before Soaking

As per usual, I could not resist using the macro mode on my camera to get a closer look at the yarn before and after a good soaking. In the past, when I've given yarn a bath, I often see a change. The sample above is the shot I took before the yarn got its bath.

Close Up, After Soaking

The sample in this photo is the shot I took after the yarn got it's bath. After the bath when I hung this skein straight, I still didn't see any over twist. But the proof is in the drying, eh? Well that twist business did't change after the skein dried -- and I didn't try to bias it by weighting it in any way, I just let it hang down. I'm not sure if it shows up in the photos, but after drying, the elasticity and sproingy quality of the Cormo came back after the bath. The yarn has a bit more three dimesional quality. And, consistant with the rather large amount of noils that were in this fiber I was spinning from, you can see that the yarn has little imperfections that I hope will make it interesting rather than unpolished looking when I knit it up.

Weight-wise, I think this yarn is probably in the sport weight category... perhaps another small shawl with a lace pattern? I think the heathering is gorgeous and, lover of blue that I am, I could very much see this wrapped around my neck -- it's definitely soft enough for that.

Before I get started on my Crown Mountain Farm fiber, I decided that I would test out my WooLee Winder a little more thoroughly. I had a nice, mostly solid blue Cormo/silk/alpaca roving that I purchased from Winterhaven Fiber Farm while at MS&W that seemed like it would be a good starting point since I've spun Cormo/silk blends before and have a good feel for this sort of blend. Since I'm in a three-ply sort of mood these days, I figured I'd work out all three bobbins and then ply it on my Lendrum plying head.

Two Bobbins Worth of Progress and the Remaining Roving

I'm quite taken with how evenly the WooLee Winder bobbins get wound. They are even enough that, if you are lazy like me, and forget to weigh out your fiber into equal amounts, you can actually just measure the radius of the bobbin relative to the single to get a sense for how much more you need to spin.

Subtle Variagation

I bought this roving because I love Cormo and because I was looking for fiber that wouldn't give me stripes after it was spun (let me tell you, when you spin variagated rovings, it's a lot harder to prevent stripes than you might think). The singles have nice subtle color changes which should add depth to the plied yarn without creating any crazy striping. I don't know quite what I see this yarn becoming yet, probably some lacy accessory but having it be a mostly solid yarn gives me lots more options.

Plied Cormo Yarn

Not a stunningly wonderful picture -- I know -- but it does demonstrate how the blues go together. It's also all I had the energy to take a picture of after doing the spinning. The first 3/4 of the plying went fine but the last 1/4 was an exercise in frustration until I gave up my Lendrum lazy kate and resorted to three metal needles spearing a shoebox. When the bobbins were in a vertical orientation, the single seemed to get caught at the "top" once there wasn't much left on the bobbin (I am still not sure I understand why... I don't know if it was the angle I was drawing the single from or something else). This meant that one of the plies would break if I pulled to hard, or I had to stop and manually rotate the bobbin so that it would get past that point, which got to be very unsatisfying. When I switched to my inelegant but functional shoe box, where the bobbins were in a horizontal orientation, everything moved much more smoothly. I've never experienced anything like that with my Lendrum bobbins. I will have to talk to my Dad about helping me to create some kind of box that has a tensioning system so that the bobbins don't roll backwards when the single stops moving.

Other than that, my WooLee Winder performed wonderfully. It made this 6 ounces of fiber just sort of fly by, in spite of the fact that this fiber was a little bit too noil-y for my taste (not as bad as the madder/cochineal Corriedale, but not as smooth as some other fibers I have spun). Now that I've put it through it's paces, I think that I'm ready to give my "Hang On Sloopy" superwash a try.

Corriedale Skeins


First off, I just want to say thank you to everyone who bought my pattern. Y'all know how to make a girl feel both loved and creative. I'm thinking I might have to hold a contest sometime in the future to celebrate the event. But I haven't quite come up with the right idea yet.

At long last, I have finally finished spinning my madder/cochineal dyed Corriedale roving. I do love Corriedale, I love how it can go from lifeless seeming to delightfully sproingy with just a quick bath. I love how it feels when you spin it. i did not, unfortunately, love spinning this stuff. Don't get me wrong, I'm mostly happy with the result, but I would have liked it a lot better if I could have spun a consistant single from it. There were so many un-teasable clumps, little burrs of fiber and bits of VM that eventually I just gave up and decided that if this stuff wanted to be rustic, it was going to be rustic. It kind of took all the joy out of spinning it. By the end, I just wanted to be done with the stuff.

My initial desire was to create a 3 ply yarn. Which I did. But I ended up with 1 empty bobbin and 2 that were about 1/3rd of the way full, so I used those to make a 2 ply. And then I had some single left over on one bobbin. It seemed like a made-to-order blogging opportunity.

The Three Skeins: Papa Skein, Mama Skein and...oh, Wait, Wrong Story

Thanks to my big bad Lendrum plying head and bobbin I have a 440 yard 3 ply skein. It's roughly DK weight (about 14 wpi) but it drifts into sport weight every now and again. 440 yards is definitely enough to do something with. After doing the washing-after-spinning thing I forgave this fiber a little bit for being such a pain to spin. It's great color and has lovely subtle heathery variations that make me think this yarn should do something that involves cables.

I even have a reasonable amount of the 2 ply skein -- about 200 yards of that (which makes it clear that somehow I didn't balance my bobbins very well). The single? Well, not very much left of that, which is okay, because I'm not exactly sure what I would do with more of that any way.

1 Single, 3 Yarns: Top: 3 Ply, Middle: 2 Ply, Bottom: Single

The more I spin 3 ply yarns, the more I like them. They are a bit more work than a two-ply, but I just love how they look. With a yarn like this, you get a lot more sense of depth and subtle heathering. Amazing that you can combine three scrawny looking singles to get a happy fluffy three-ply yarn. By the way, this picture is probably the best representation of the true color of the yarn.

3 Ply Variations

When you look at it this way, it almost looks like professionally spun yarn. I keep picking it up off my desk to squeeze it and admire the gentle blending of the colors. This project has definitely re-inforced one thing for me: I like spinning mostly solid colored fiber. Up to this point, I haven't figured out any real good uses for some of my wild colored hand-painted stuff. What that means is that I'm accumulating more yarn (even if I am not buying much) but not doing anything with it.

But this? This I can imagine knitting into something. I've been wanting to make that Flower Basket Scarf from Interweave Knits that everyone was making a season or so ago. I'll have to do a test swatch, but I think this may knit up pretty close to the recommended gauge. And at 440 yards, I should have just enough -- if the pattern is to be trusted. I need something to get me really insprired to knit something besides socks...

A Wheel With a View


One of the things I like about my house is the little balcony off the master bedroom that overlooks our "backyard" -- I put backyard in quotes because the backyard includes our deck and a rectangle of green and a garage. While the view may not be completely awe inspiring, I do like the fact that it is high enough up that I can come home from work and still enjoy some of the late afternoon sunshine.

A Wheel With a City View

It becomes even better when it's warm enough (but not too warm) for me to take my wheel out with me. Combined with my iPod and a good audio book, it is a wonderful way to watch the day fade out. What's on my bobbins these days? I'm working on spinning up the 8 ounces of cochineal/madder dyed Corriedale that I got from Handspun by Stefania at MS&W. It's nice fiber, but I'm finding quite a bit of VM in it, as well as a lot of short, burr-like fibers that don't make for spinning results as smooth as I'd like them. Because of that, I've decided that I'm going to go for a three-ply yarn rather than a two ply, in hopes that that will even things out a little bit more and leave me with a relatively nice skein or two of yarn to plan a winter project with.

Madder and Cochineal Corriedale Single

A lovely winter color, I think. There's enough subtle variagation to give the final yarn depth, but it shouldn't do the striping business that I manage to get from most of my hand-dyed fiber. I've finished the first bobbin and am about half-way through with the second. I'm hoping that I can finish the second and third bobbin up so that I can give my dad a little plying demonstration when we go to Ann Arbor for Father's Day this weekend.

Grey Day


Today my spinning and the weather outside had a similar theme: they were both on the grey side of things. We really had one of those flat grey days where everything seems just a little bit duller and it's easy to move without really paying attention to things. I almost missed my bus stop coming back from downtown in the afternoon. One of those kinds of days.

My spinning, on the other hand, was a little more interesting. Even if the color theme was still a natural sheepy grey. Sheepy grey is a dynamic color, too me. Grey sheep usually seem to have all these wonderful variagations. And the Coopworth that Liz gifted Julie and I with was no exception.

Grey Coopworth Single

I finsihed the single ply while we were in Michigan, but didn't hank it up on my niddy noddy until I got back to Chicago. Since I was planning to ply it from two ends of the same center pull ball, I decided to give it a bath to set the twist.

Grey Coopworth 2 Ply

I plied the single after breakfast this morning to create 68 yards of simple 2 ply.

This Coopworth was interesting stuff. I had spun some Coopworth before (I know in the post I call it Corriedale, but now having spun both in natural form, I am pretty sure that it's Coopworth and not Corriedale), but it was Coopworth without any character, and I didn't much like spinning it. This stuff, however, was incredibly soft and lofty in the batt, and much nicer to spin, but it developed a less soft quality after I spun it. It also likes to grab onto itself -- you can see from the two ply picture that there's a bit of a halo. I think the adjective I would use to best describe it now would be "wiry". It's definitely has a lot of springiness in it, but it is not against the skin soft. I think it would make excellent outerwear, especially in this gorgeous natural tweedy grey. I could easily see a three ply of this yarn making a beautiful cabled sweater for a guy -- as long as he had a nice thick turtleneck underneath.

Another interesting note about this yarn. When I need to pause in my spinning, I usually wrap the single around the end of the orifice hook. When I did that with this fiber, even for just a few minutes while I prepared another bit of batt to spin from, I found that when I unwound the single, it had incredible memory for having been coiled. It was like the single now had a little coiled spring in it.

Thanks again to Liz for sharing something lovely with Julie and I. With what I have, I can definitely make a couple of swatches for a sheep breed blanket sampler that I am thinking about embarking on.

But it wasn't all grey around my house today.

A Fuschia Peony Lights Up My Garden

My poor under sun-fed peony has finally provided me with some absolutely beautiful blooms. The color is so vivid and intense, it was the perfect pick-me-up this afternoon to take my camera out front and snap a few closeups. Nothing like a beautiful vivid color to chase the grey away!

Long Weekend, No Internet


You know, sometimes it's nice to be isolated from the world. Memorial Day weekend turned out to be one of those weekends that was so perfect I just didn't want it to end. We had three days in a wonderful and quiet corner of the universe at my aunt and uncle's cottage on LongAt Lake in Michigan.

A View from the Boat

Almost the entire weekend involved boat rides on the lake, eating, motorcycle rides, more eating, crafting, reading, journaling and even a little knitting. But one of the best parts of the trip:

Dad and I Put Our Wheels to Good Use

This was Saturday night. After a long hard day of doing almost nothing and rewarding ourselves with some excellent local ice cream, Dad and I settled in with our wheels. He was working on his stash of undyed BFL and I was spinning up some Cochineal and Madder dyed Corriedale from Handspun by Stefania -- at least in this picture. I went on to spin up the Coopworth sample that I got from Liz. I'll talk more about those in the days to come.

It's hard to imagine a better weekend than one that involved spinning with my dad (his singles are really getting quite even, and he likes to spin a bit thicker than I do, which I just love since I can't seem to do thick to save my life) and learning more about sewing machines from my mom (I now think I understand why Romeo and I were having some issues) and getting to fall asleep in the sun on John's shoulder while taking a boat ride on a lovely little lake. I didn't miss being disconnectedat all -- there was just too much relaxing to do!

Spinning Silk


Little by little I've been working on spinning up something new to me: 100% tussah silk. It took me and my hands a little while to figure things out and for me to adjust my wheel correctly: longer draw, and only enough tension to keep it drawing on the bobbin. Today, while spending an afternoon spinning with Julie, I finally had the whole 2 ounces spun up.

A Bobbin Full of Silk

Nice and squishy and soft to the touch is this bobbin full of fiber. The single is a bit variable. It probably all stays in the laceweight range, but goes from thread-like in places to rather thicker. My control on this wasn't really as good as I wanted it to be. I learned that it's very hard to correct mistakes with something that has as long a "staple" length and as little elasticity as silk does. Instead, the most important thing I could do seemed to be making sure that the fiber was well pre-drafted and that any clumps, VM or neppy things were removed from the top before spinning.

Variable Silk Single With a Bit of Halo

I also found, and this became especially pronounced after I moved it from the bobbin to my niddy noddy, that my silk has something of a fuzzy halo. I'm not sure if this resulted from the fact that I hadn't spun it tightly enough or that in the process of drafting I was not keeping the fibers together very well.

528 Yards of Silk Single

2 ounces did give me a significant yield, however: 528 yards of single. The jury is still out on the plying issue. I think I like silk better as a single, and I worry that it would get a little cord-like if I plied it. But it's also very fine, and I'm not sure I can bring myself to knit with it on size 2 needles! I saw a number of very nifty little scarves made out of a silk single at MS&W, and I am thinking that may be this yarn's destiny as well. But the pattern will have to be something that does well with stripes, as this single definitely has long stretches of the same color.



On the surface of it, these little skeins don't look very different from each other.

3 Ply and 2 Ply Moorit CVM Sample Skeins

The skein on the right is a 2-ply from the moorit CVM. The skein on the left is a 3-ply of the same fiber. In general, the singles that I prepared for each test skein were as similar as I could get them because I wanted to see the difference between a two ply and a three ply yarn made from the same singles.

When I put them together side by side like this, they don't look very different. At least I don't think so. So it was time to switch my camera into macro mode and take a much closer look.

3 ply (top) and 2 ply (bottom) Comparison

Comparing them like this, I began to see more of a difference. The 3-ply had a rounder, puffier quality, even though it didn't seem to have a dramatically different diameter.

3 ply (left) and 2 ply (right) Comparison

If you look right down the yarn, what's going on with the twist becomes much more pronounced. I created the singles with Z-twist, so the singles were plied together in the S-twisting direction. Looking at this picture, I was struck, once again, by the fact that it seemed like the 3-ply yarn was rounder and had more depth. This reminded me of a comment Toni Neil made when we were last out at the Fold -- 2 ply yarn is a 2-dimensional yarn, while 3-ply yarn is 3 dimensional. At the time, I didn't really understand that comment completely, but it came home better when I was looking at these pictures. In a two ply yarn, the singles are always side by side. There's always one horizontal plane, no matter where you are in the yarn. But once you get to 3- (or more) ply yarn, the singles are still side by side, but they are arranged such that there are three horizontal planes formed by the three plys at any time.

This might be more clear if I show you some pictures...

2 Plies Twisting in the S direction

Imagine you are looking right down the center line of the yarn you are plying. If you were to draw just one line that went through the center of each circle (which represents one single), you have one plane. No matter how you rotate the plies, there's still just one plane. Though the plane does change it's angle relative to the center of the yarn as the twist is put into it. (My arrows indicate the direction of the twist). Thus the yarn is always two dimensional.

But a three ply yarn gets more complicated...

3 Plies Twisting in the S Direction

Once again, imagine you are looking right down the center line of the yarn you are plying. Now when you go to draw a straight line through the centers of any two adjoining circles (plies), you'll find you need 3 lines. Thus there are three planes no matter where you are in the twist cycle. Three planes takes you into three dimensions. And the yarn develops that quality of having more depth. And this also demonstrates why you don't see much difference in the diameter of the yarn. The 3 ply does have more depth, but because of the way the plies "pack" it doesn't increase the diameter of the yarn as much as you might think it would. (I was tempted to make some more pictures showing the math for this (i.e drawing the smallest possible circle around the two and three ply illustrations and calculating the diameter), but I figured nobody needs to be confronted with too much basic geometery early on Friday morning -- the exercise is left for the reader to try at home if you really don't believe me).

As a final test of the yarn, I determined the wraps per inch (WPI) of each yarn. The 2 ply came out to about 21 WPI, putting it in the category of "fingering" weight yarn. The 3 ply came out to about 15 WPI, putting it in the category of "sport weight yarns", but just on the edge between sport weight and DK. That's still a little finer than I would like it to be. I'd like to have a 3-ply yarn that's solidly in the DK range (12-14 WPI), which means I need to increase the diameter of my singles. I'm going to look through my stash to find a DK-weight three ply yarn so that I can get a feeling for what the single should look like in hopes that my eyes can convince my fingers to make the single a bit bigger. So there is definitely more sampling ahead on my road to the perfect yarn for my moorit CVM.

CVM Sampling


When the weather is dreary and a chillier than it should be, there's no better way to spend the day than spinning with a friend. On Tuesday, I got to test out my new Bag Lady wheel bag and I headed out to visit Julie for an afternoon of spinning and chatting.

In the interest of preventing my very large ball of CVM roving from becoming the largest dust bunny in my house, I decided that I would start doing a little sampling to find a yarn that I thought would be suitable for making the simple and pretty cardigan I have in my mind. I thought I would start by making a two-ply and a three-ply yarn. I wanted to start with the three-ply, but, since I only brought three bobbins out with me, I ended up starting with the two-ply instead.

2 Ply CVM Sample Skein

My African violet is helping me out with the modeling tonight since there's really still no green outside. This little skein is 42 yards of what I would estimate to be somewhere between fingering and DK weight yarn. It surprised me with it's behavior. When I spun it and plied it, it didn't feel as elastic as the chocolate brown CVM I spun. I gave it a long soak and let it hang to dry -- after which it developed that springy character that I really like. I guess that nice warm bath helped the fibers get some of their natural springy happy goodness back. A good reminder that one should always make sure that newly spun yarn should always get a beauty bath.

Warm Oatmeal

It's not a dramatically colored yarn, but I like the soft heathery color of the yarn. It reminds me of oatmeal with a bit of brown sugar laced through it. However, it's a little finer than I want it to be for my cardigan. So trying out a three ply yarn will definitely be in order. I'm kind of excited about that since I've never tried to spin a three ply yarn before.

Since we're talking about yarn, I thought I'd finish up my report on the indigo dyed skeins. The large grey skein that we over-dyed at Toni's is finally washed and dried. Initially, I was just going to show you the big skein on its own, but I thought the nicest way to evaluate the color was to put it together with the other two skeins so that you could see the range of blues.

Overdyed grey, natural wool, and silk and wool

That overdyed grey skein looks suprisingly like the color of one of my most recent denim purchases.

Matching Yarn and Trousers

Hopefully I'll have Pearl pictures tomorrow. I've been hoping for some nice weather so that I can get some nice outdoor shots. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

California Variagated Mutant


What's my new fiber passion?


Which stands for (as you might have guessed from the title of today's post) California Variagated Mutant. CVM sheep are also Romeldales with a mutation that gives them some beautiful color patterning. For a bit more information on this breed, you can check out the American Romeldale/CVM Association. Romeldales and CVM sheep are fine wool sheep (like Merinos), that have relatively short staple length wool. They are also, as I have just learned, relatively small sheep An average CVM fleece weighs 4-6 lbs after skirting.

I want to start this off by saying that Liz is a dreadful (in a good way) enabler and I am going to hold her compeltely responsible for my developing addiction to CVM wool. In order to get a break from fine weight cormo and silk, I decided to spin up a small amount of the batt we prepared from the dark chocolate colored CVM from a sheep named Sydney. What a treat! This wool isn't quite as soft as merino, but it has incredible elasticity and I found it a lot of fun to spin and ply into this 37 yard skein:

37 Yards of 2 Ply CVM

You know, it's kind of fun to spin up small amounts to make a little sample skein. It doesn't take very long and going through the whole process of spinning the singles, plying and setting the twist makes it possible to understand the real character of the yarn I've spun and it feels like finishing a small project. It's a bit like swatching for a sweater when you don't know quite what gauge would give you the best fabric for the project you have in your head. I didn't really spend much time worrying about the final result on this skein -- I tried to let the yarn tell me what it wanted to twist like rather than forcing it into what I wanted it to be.

CVM Up Close and Personal

Here's a close-up perspective on what the fiber wanted to be for me. Ignore those little silver grey fibers. Those are a lesson for me about using a drum carder -- you've got to clean the drums well between fiber varieties or you will get transfer from the first one to the second one. Most of this yarn probably varies between fingering and DK weight.

Perhaps the most remarkable quality of this fiber (after it's rich color and soft hand) is it's incredible elasticity. A small demonstration:

CVM Relaxed: 13.5" Skein
CVM Stretched: 15.5" Skein

I don't know too many yarns in my stash that I could stretch by an additional 15% in length, unless you count things like Cascade Fixation (which is cotton and lycra). This stuff could be a fibery rubber band.

This CVM wool seemed special from the moment that Julie and I started sticking our hands in the sample bags Liz sent us. It didn't take me too long to decide that I needed to know where this kind of fibery goodness came from. She sent me to Myrtle Dow at Black Pines Sheep. Would it surprise you all to know that I have 2 lbs of moorit Romeldale/CVM roving coming my way as I type? (I'm thinking I'm going to challenge myself to design both the yarn and a sweater for myself). Myrtle was very easy to work with from the fiber-buying perspective. She also didn't mind all my questions about the CVM sheep and I felt very good doing business with her. She's going to be at MS&W and I'm definitely going to try to find her and say hello in person... and not just because I think I want a fleece from a certain chocolate colored sheep...

You know, I never had any idea that a spinning wheel would be such a dangerous investment.

Old and New Obsessions


Saturday was a big day. Such a big day, in fact, that there's too much to talk about in one post. Julie and I headed out to Marengo, Illinois to the Fold for a day of dyeing with indigo and general fibery goodness (my car tried to thwart that effort by blowing a tire just after Julie and I met up in Schaumberg, but thanks to a helpful insurance agent, a punctual tow-truck driver and the fact that Julie had a car, too, we were able to get to our ultimate destination and were only an hour or so late). Because I don't have my finished fiber photos ready yet (there's still a bit of soaking and drying that has to occur), instead of starting with the indigo dyeing, I'll start with the goodies that came home with me. Because no trip out to the Fold would be complete without some purchasing of goodies.

My big purchase was this:

Lendrum Wheel Bag from the Bag Lady

After one trip out to Julie's house without my wheel in a protective covering, I decided that a good bag would be a good investment. As it turns out, these bags are good for both protecting the wheel and making the wheel easier to carry around, since the bag has a nice shoulder strap. The Lendrum DT isn't that heavy -- just about 13 lbs (not much heaver than some desktop replacement notebooks on the market right now!), but it is awkwardly shaped for carrying when you have a few other bags to attend to. This bag is made of a sturdy denim material and has a thick vinyl bottom.

Terry commented in my last post that I needed to "flash" any new Socks that Rock that came home with me. So here goes:

From Left to Right: Blue Moon Socks that Rock Medium Weight, in Crazy Lace Agate and Fire on the Mountain, Blue Moon Socks that Rock Light Weight, Beryl and 2 skeins of Blue Moon Sock Candy in Ambrosia

The Crazy Lace Agate and Fire on the Mountain are for me for later when I get back to brightening up my sock collection. When I asked for brighter sock yarn suggestions Liz and Lindsey both mentioned Fire on the Mountain. This yarn is incredibly vibrant and just a rainbow of color. I am in love with the beautiful contrasts of gold, red, blue and grey in the Crazy Lace Agate. The Beryl skein is so that I can finish up John's Dragon Scale socks. And the Sock Candy is so that I can have a pair of Dragon Scale socks of my own someday. They aren't quite orange, but they are as close as I could find in this yarn.

Believe it or not, the STR was not the highlight of the trip. I have fallen in love with a new motor-driven device.

Pat Green Drum Carder

If I remember correctly, the label on this old beauty is "Patrick Green". Drum carders were never something that excited me until Saturday. I enjoy spinning, but I still really hadn't gotten to the point where I thought I would want to prepare my own fiber. A while back, though, Liz kindly sent Julie and I some small samples of some very nice washed fleeces so that we could try out some nice fibers. Julie and I are fiber prepping newbies, and we weren't quite sure how to get our little treasure trove into something that we could spin. So I emailed Toni and asked her if she new of anyone who would prepare roving from small batches of fiber. Toni invited us to bring our fiber when we came to the dyeing class and we could try out her electric drum carder.

Now I understand why people get obsessed about drum carders. It was almost magical to feed that uncarded fiber into the machine and to have fluffy bats come off the big drum. Julie and I were mezmerized by this process! And after working with it for just a short time, it was easy to imagine all the fiber and color blending possibilities it could bring into my life. I think I'm going to have to start being a very good girl now, so that I can ask Santa for one of these lovely machines for Christmas...

Grey Coopworth Batt and Brown CVM Batt

Julie and I split the fiber in half and each of us got a nice fluffy batt of grey Coopworth and brown CVM to take home with us. There are still more samples to try in the box Liz sent us, but these two were the only two we could finish in an hour. Once I get finished spinning the first bobbin of itty bitty Cormo/silk thread that CVM is going on my wheel!

While we were working on carding our wool, we got a very special treat: the Fiddlin' Fool from Two Sock Knitters came in looking for a spinning spinning (Julie and I worked hard to be good enablers, and he now also has a Lendrum DT) and before he left he brought out his fiddle and treated all of us in the store to a lovely lilting tune. Talk about a wonderful ending to a great day!



It's time to turn this:

Blue Green Hand-dyed Cormo and Tussah Silk

Into this:

Cormo and Silk on the Bobbin

This is about the finest I have ever spun anything. The single is so threadlike that I'm having a hard time believing that I am spinning it and it's not breaking apart, as I don't feel I'm putting an insane amount of twist into it. I think the strength comes from the longer and stronger silk fibers in this Cormo/silk blend. It's a bit hard for me to gauge how even my spinning is when it's this fine. I think I'll have a much better idea after it's plied. Even at two-ply, it's going to be a fine weight yarn -- the final product will definitely be a candidate for a lace project.. But getting to plying is going to take a while. Spinning this fine takes a lot more time and attention than any of my previous yarns have -- when I draft, I draw out just a litle bit at a time -- less than an inch -- so my drafting hand is getting a workout. But the result, so far is good, it still feels soft and just a bit squishy to the touch on the bobbin. So it may be fine, but I haven't turned it into cormo and silk twine, which, I think, is a good thing.

Cochineal Corriedale

| 11 Comments | 1 TrackBack

With the beginning of May fast approaching, it occurred to me that it might be good to finish spinning some of the fiber that I had bought the May before. I actually have quite a bit of it still in un-spun form. Since I just finished spinning the un-dyed Corriedale that my mom and dad gave me for my birthday, I thought it would be a good time to finish spinning the cochineal dyed Corriedale that I bought from Handspun by Stefania, which was the first stuff I tried out right after I purchased my first drop spindles. Cochineal is a lovely natural dye that can create deep pinkish-red colors. The roving I picked appealed to me because it was a three color roving: a deep red-pink, an intermediate red-pink and a very pale pink, in vertical stripes (i.e. striped in the same direction the fiber is drafted). I spun some of it on my drop spindle, but after I met with better success spinning my Cormo/silk blend and some Blue Faced Leicester, I put the cochineal-dyed Corriedale away. I liked spinning fiber I didn't have to fight with so much.

After spinning the un-dyed Corriedale, I felt that I must not have given the cochineal dyed Corriedale a fair shake. So I pulled it back out and decided to see how it would spin up on my wheel. I like spinning it much better with the wheel, but It still felt much harsher to my fingers than the undyed Corriedale did. I believe that Claudia commented, when I first broguth this up) that there can be a lot of sheep-to-sheep variation when it comes to the texture and feel of Corriedale. Liz also mentioned that sometimes the chemicals and the handling that are used in the dyeing process can change the "hand" of the fiber. So I was curious what would happen after I finished plying and gave the yarn a little beauty bath in some warm water and Eucalan.

350 Yards of Cochineal Dyed Corriedale

The bath had a positive impact on the yarn. It definitely is a lot springier feeling after it's soak. But it doesn't really come close to the undyed Corriedal for sheer cushiness. It reminds me more of the Blue Faced Leicester that I have spun than it does the natural Corriedale.

Not So Neat Up Close

I didn't really spin this quite as well as I did the natural Corriedale. There's a great deal of variation in the diameter of the yarn. It probably ranges between sock weight and DK, though it averages close to a sport weight, I think. The close up shows that my spinning was a bit uneven. Some of this was because I found it difficult to consistently draft this roving. But I did learn something from spinning this fiber: it's very important to put enough twist into a single. This seems obvious, but it's very possible to put in enough twist so that the single will draw onto the bobbin, but not enough twist so that it will not pull apart when plying or when starting to spin again after joining new fiber. And when spinning fine singles, it's a pretty fine line between a nice soft single and something with the hand of garden twine.

What's next up on my wheel? I'm thinking it's time for something a little softer on my fingers. Maybe that blue/green Cormo/silk that I thought I was going to spin up on my drop spindle? Hmmm.....

4 Ounces of Corriedale Yarn


I've been doing a little happy dance ever since I got my 4 ounces of natural Corriedale spun and plied. I really enjoyed spinning this fiber and there's always something exciting about finishing a project, even when it's a small project. After plying my yarn, I always like to give it a bath to help set the twist and to release any the fiber's been holding onto. I wish I had thought to take a before picture, but to be honest, I didn't think that this yarn really was that dirty. But one dunk into some hot water and Eucalan and it became clear that the fiber wasn't as clean as I thought. The water got rather grey and the wool brightened up noticeably. To help get my yarn along the path to drying, I like to roll it in a cotton towel (it always seems like cotton loves to suck water away from wool). After the first bath, I had some pretty dirty looking marks on the white towel so I dunked it back into a second Eucalan bath and got a second sink full of dirty water. This time, however, it didn't get the towel dirty, so I figured that it had had enough bathing for one day.

4 ounces of spun, plied and washed Corriedale yarn

It's impossible to capture in a photo, but this yarn not only got cleaner, it got sproingier and softer. I love picking it up and squeezing it -- all 570 or so yards of it! (I haven't done a wpi calculation yet, but it looks to be somewhere between sport and DK weight). It's resiliant and I just can't get over how springy and bouncy it is. Of course, I had to make John pet and squeeze the yarn, too. This yarn is almost soft enough to wear against the skin, so much so that John thought it might be made up into a scarf.

I didn't think it was possible for me to be so in love with basic natural colored wool, but I am. So far, this is probably the best thing I have spun. Corriedale sheep get a big gold star in my book.

Corriedale Yarn Up Close

No post of this kind would be complete (at least not on my blog) without a closeup. Just like feeling the yarn, this picture makes me happy. This yarn is clearly handspun, but still has a very nice, even quality to it. More happy dancing on my part.

Now it's just a matter of figuring out what it should become. Should it go with me to my Indigo dyeing class at the Fold? Should it become the foundation for my sheepy sampler blanket and remain in it's natural form? I just don't know. Maybe I'll just keep it on my desk to touch and squeeze whenever I'm not feeling so happy. I've said it a bunch of times, but I do love to spin. And you know, that big ol' plying head for my Lendrum just rocks my world!

Spinning Corriedale

2 ounces of Natural Corriedale Single

I decided to take a short break from dragon scales (read, "I'm probably going to rip out what I have again so I can put in a cuff that doesn't roll, but I need to get some distance from the project before I can get motivated to start again") and work on a small spinning project. Included in my birthday gift from my parents was 4 ounces of undyed Corriedale. I realize now, looking back through my archives, that I have spun Corriedale before -- some cochineal dyed Corriedale that I bought at MS&W and was amongst the first things that I spun on a drop spindle. I loved the colors, but I have to admit that I didn't really love spinning this fiber -- especially not after I started to work with the cormo and silk blend.

So when I started spinning this undyed Corriedale, I just didn't remember that I had ever spun Corriedale at all and I didn't really have any preconceived notions about whether I was going to like it or not. Turns out, I like it a lot. It's definitely got a little bit rougher feel than the merino/cormo blends than I've been spinning, but it has this very nice elasticity to it that I didn't find with the dyed Corriedale and haven't found in the BFL or in the cormo/merino blends. And the single I've spun has a nice springy elasticity to it -- not quite as much as Julie and I saw with the CVM, but enough to make the resulting single interesting. I'm looking forward to spinning up the second 2 ounces so that I can see how it works up when plied and I can start working on squares for my "blanket of many sheep breeds".

I find the difference between the dyed and undyed Corriedale to be very striking. Do the chemicals used in the process of dyeing with the natural cochineal dyes have a negative effect on the wool? Or is there just a lot of variation from sheep to sheep? One thing I've learned from this experience as well as with the CVM experience over the weekend is that it's best not to judge a particular sheep breed based on a dyed fiber. Which makes me even more excited about wandering around MS&W looking for fiber from all kinds of sheep!

P.S. To anyone out there who has a little bit of positive energy to send to a very sick fur person, it would be much appreciated. One of our blond boys, Sydney, is a pretty sick guy. We're hoping that his second trip to the vet tomorrow will bring better news than the one we went to over the weekend....

An Old Wheel Gets a New Twist


My parents came to visit this weekend to help me celebrate my birthday. I asked my dad to bring his toolkit with him so that he could help get Mom's Ashford Traditional (circa 1982) back into better shape. Initially the idea was to remove the hooks that had broken off in the wood, put some new wood plugs in the holes and then replace all the hooks with nice new hooks, making this wheel nicer to work with and giving it something of a new lease on life.

But then I introduced Dad to my Lendrum, and dad was as taken with that pinch clamp that slides up and down one of the arms of the flyer as I was. It didn't take him long to decide that he liked that clamp better than the hooks. So not only did the flyer on the Ashford get some spiffy new wood plugs, it also got some more significant alterations that allowed it to use that pinch clamp to feed the yarn onto the bobbin.

An Ashford Traditional Gets A Canadian Accent

Of course, the process of improving and modifying the flyer led to a lot of discussion about spinning wheels and spinning wheel mechanics. It was a good discussion because the process of explaining what I knew helped me to think about what wheels do, and it led to Dad discovering some things about the Ashford that I hadn't figured out yet (like how to properly use the higher spinning ratio). From the scientist/engineer perspective, a spinning wheel is a lovely machine. It's simple enough so that you can understand all it's parts but still complex enough that you can be excited about understanding more about why something was designed the way it was. Even better, they offer much tinkering potential for a guy with some wood working skills and a few good tools.

I thought I was going to be teaching my mother to use the wheel this trip (we did get a drop spindling lesson in and she took too it like a natural), but as it turned out, someone else got a lesson in the magic of twist.

Dad at the Wheel

Doesn't he look like a pro? Dad figured out the basics pretty quickly and now it's just a matter of getting in some practice. He's already ordered his own pound of Blue Faced Leicester from Copper Moose so that he and my mother can play with the wheel (and I sent him home with a little extra BFL that he can work with in the meantime). It looks like I'll definitely have my wheel in the trunk next time we head off to Ann Arbor! How cool is that? Hopefully I'll be able to spin with both of my crafty parents someday!

I've been searching the web, but I haven't found many good sites that have a really good discussion of how to spin on a wheel. I did find this intro to spinning and twist from Interweave and this site which has some nice short videos of drafting techniques. But it seems like most of the "learn to spin" references on the web are for the drop spindle (which Dad didn't find very appealing). Any other good suggestions for web-based learning to spin on a spinning wheel references?

A Second Version of Fall Leaves


I'm a little late with this post this morning because I want to show off color. I find that whenever I really want to give a good impression of color, I need to take pictures in natural light. I get decent color representation under my Ott light but it just isn't the same as what my camera likes to do under true sunlight. As it turns out, waiting wasn't a bad thing, because it's a blue skies and sun sort of day here in Chicago. And it isn't even all that cold, so it was no problem to step out on my balcony and let my camera get a good look at my latest small spinning project.

Fall Leaves v. 2 in 2 Ply

Unfortunately, I didn't remember to take a picture of this roving before I spun it up, but if you want to see what it looked like, you can click here and scroll down to the last picture. It's the roving on the left where the browns and yellows are emphasized instead of the red. Not surprisingly, this yarn has a very different character from the version with the strong red presence (if you want to see the first version spun up, you can click here). And it does remind me more of the idea I was trying to go for, which was autum leaves after they have fallen from a tree (if you've ever seen the leaves from a non-red maple tree after they've fallen, then you know what I was trying to capture).

A Close Up View of the Fall Leaves Colors Together

I really like the way that the brown in this colorway softened up the other colors without making them just look muddy. In fact, it's almost hard to see the brown areas for me because my eye wants to re-evaluate them as an earthy purple

Now I am finally finished with all the rovings I dyed up with Julie. I'm not sure I really have a favorite, but I am definitely going to be playing with all three color sets (Blue Hawaiian, Sunset and Fall Leaves) some more to find ways to avoid the constant striping action. I originally thought that it would be easy to take a couple of different color ideas and get what I wanted and then move onto another batch. This experience makes me realize that it is not so hard to pick colors that go together well, but it is challenging to get them to result in a yarn or a yarn concept that you really like.

Survey Says!


I had a lot of fun watching the numbers on the spinning wheel poll that I posted last Monday. I should have asked these questions before I bought my wheel, but even afterwards I was interested in knowing what choices other people had made and how many visitors to my blog actually consider spinning amongst their current interests. So, without further ado, here are the results (as of yesterday around noon) of my two polls.

How Many Spinning Wheels Do You Own?

None (I need another fiber-related
hobby like I need a hole in the head!)
None (But I can feel the spinning
bug beginning to bite...)
One 30%98
Two 9%28
Three 2%7
Four 2%5
Five or More (There's no such thing
as too many spinning wheels!)
329 votes total

Initially when I set up this poll I didn't have a "none and I am not interested in owning one" category. But I realized that I actually was interested in the rough distribution between spinners, non-spinners and the curious about spinning. The result surprised me a little bit. 43% of the folks that responded have wheels and another 25% are interested in them or would like to have one some day. Which means that 68% of everyone who responded has an interest in spinning or is spinning.

That's a lot higher than I expected. Granted, this number could be artifically inflated by the fact that more spinners than knitters chose to read that post because of its content, or that more spinners decided to play along with my request for poll information, but it was still an intrigueing number to me. And it seems consistant with some of the numbers Spin Off has been seeing (as reported here in a recent New York Times article, which, unfortunately I can't link to anymore because it's in their archive). I think they have seen a doubling in their subscribership since 2000. Clearly a lot more people are beginning to include spinning in their leisure life.

The other thing that surprised me a little bit was that most people have just one wheel. Given my random blog readings, I was expecting to see most people hover around 2 wheels. Clearly, this means that my sampling of spinning bloggers is biased in favor of those with a few more wheels Either that, or those reading who have more than one wheel are so busy spinning that they don't have time for blogs and polls. It also suggests, although this may be self evident that the investment in a wheel is a significant one (in terms of both money and space in our homes), and that most of us don't end up with more than one -- or that most of us haven't advanced in our spinning hobby to the point where we would feel the need for more than one.

And you folks that have over three, I'm both jealous and intrigued! Did you get them for a specific reason or are they just sort of a lucky accumulation?

Which leads me to the next set of poll results.

What Kind of Spinning Wheels Do You Own?

Ashford 29%60
Golding 1%2
Jensen 4%8
Kromski 6%13
Lendrum 15%31
Lennox/Winsome Timbers 0%0
Louet 10%20
Majacraft 9%18
Schacht 9%18
Antique Wheel 5%10
Other 12%25
205 votes total

Given the spinners I've talked to and the people who have left comments for me here on the blog, these results don't really surprise me all that much.

It's clear that Ashford makes many good entry level wheels (my mother's old Ashford traditional is a perfectly serviceable wheel, even though it's over 20 years old) and the prices of many of their wheels can work for a number of budgets. They also make a fabulously engineered portable wheel (the Ashford Joy is really an impressive little wheel when you realize all the work they had to do to get it into such a compact form) and a beautiful upper end wheel (the Elizabeth). Clearly there's a reason why these folks are the General Motors or Toyota of the spinning wheel world. They have something for almost everyone!

The Lendrum came in a fairly distant second (although since I really don't know the confidence intervals for these polls, it's hard for me to know how distant). Lendrum is clearly a younger company than Ashford (there's a good article about them in the Spin Off, but I can't remember the issue now, if you want to read more about them). I also think that stylistically you either like the wheel or don't. I received a number of comments about how the tilted angle of the wheel made some people uncomfortable or was too easy to knock over. I suspect they also may a be a little bit harder to find and try out. Most people with Lendrum's that I know/talked to, do really like them. And I can second the fact that they are a very smooth wheel. Also, you get a lot of wheel for the money. The other wheels that I tried that spun like this one were 30-80% more expensive than this wheel.

The Louet, Majacraft and Schacht wheels have a roughly equal following, with Kromski wheels not too far behind. I hope to get to try a few more representatives of each of these wheel types in the future to find out more about them. I suspect that, in the long term, I will invest in a "parlor" wheel that won't travel with me. My own experience with these wheel types is that it is a little harder to find dealers who have them to try and (in the case of the Majacraft and the Schacht) they are definitely more expensive than the entry level Lendrum and Ashford wheels). Could this have an impact on the popularity of the wheels? Possibly, although if I really wanted to know this I should have asked another question about what wheels you tried before you bought or how much price had an impact on purchasing decisions.

The last group includes Golding, Jensen, the Antique Wheels and "Other". Why do I put "Other" in the last category even though almost as many people have "other" wheels as have Lendrum wheels? Well, I'm making the assumption that the "other" category does not have an overwhelming concentration of one wheel type (i.e. I just forgot some major brand of wheel). It probably includes Columbine wheels, specialty wheels from master wheel-wrights or wheels that were hand made by someone who doesn't make many, and wheels from other small manufacturers such as as Robin that only show up and fiber shows). Those of you with the Golding wheels, I am jealous and if you live in Chicago and want to share a few minutes on your wheel, I'd love to know! I hope I encounter Jensen wheels somewhere in my journeys and I am looking forward to seeing some of the more special wheel opportunities at Maryland this year (I understand that Robin wheels can only be found at sheep festivals like Maryland and Rhinebeck). Clearly, the less mass-market a wheel becomes, the fewer people will have it, presumably due to both price and availability.

Overall, this poll tells me that as a group, the readers of this blog have very diverse tastes in spinning wheels. I'm betting if we could all get together in some room (with a group this big it might have to be a high school gymnasium!) we'd all have a lot of fun trying out each other's wheels and seeing and feeling the differences and similarities. Clearly, most of us probably don't have access to a retailer who sells many kinds of wheels to try (I feel lucky to be only and hour or so away from the Fold, but Toni is just about the only store I know in the northern Illinois area with such a large collection of wheels), so I am imagining (once again, pure speculation not directly supported by poll results) that a lot of us also make our wheel decisions (especially our first wheel decisions) by what wheels we can try or that have been recommended to us.

Okay. That's it for the bars and % signs for a while. I'll be back to my fibery pursuits tomorrow!

Another Sunset


A million years ago, in August, Julie and I did our last dyeing experiment. We were hoping to do some more dyeing, but it's a bit more challenging to do it on a larger scale without being able to open windows to help deal with vinegar vapors. Between that and both of us being on the busy side, it's been tough to get back to it. However, I realized this afternoon that I haven't even finished spinning up the roving we dyed then.

The whole point of that session was to start to establish some colorways that made us happy. We actually recorded the colors we used, the percentages and the saturation so that we would have some hope of repeating them. Then we were each going to take what we dyed and spin them up to see whether what was lovely in the fleece turned out to be equally lovely or appaling when spun. I tried painting the roving in a couple of different ways. The ones I've spun up to this point (all on my drop spindle!) all had horizontal bars of color. What I discovered with that, given the way that I spun it up, was that the long stretches of color give you stripey yarn. In fact, none of my hand-dyed rovings have yielded anything but stripey yarn. And while I like stripes as well as the next knitter, a girl cannot live by stripes alone. I also wanted something that was a little more sophisticated.

In the course of dyeing, I decided to try an experiment. Instead of horizontal stripes I would try vertical striping. Well, striping probably isn't the right word for it. But I would try to distribute the color more randomly in a vertical rather than horizontal orientation.

BFL with a Vertical Arrangement of Sunset Colors

I used my "sunset" colour pallette, which is composed of a rosy purple red, a rich gold and a lightened purple with a bit of a reddish cast to dye this roving. Today, looking for a little project to play with on my new wheel, I pulled it out, pre-drafted it and spun it up. Then I created a two ply yarn from the singles. It wasn't the most fun thing to spin up (even with the pre-drafting, there were a few areas where the fibers really didn't want to let go of each other), although it did go better when I realized that the staple length in BFL is quite a bit longer than the merino/silk blend I just finished spinning. And it's really hard to complain about spinning up a half an ounce of fiber in an hour or so instead of the two days it would have taken me on the drop spindle. Did I mention that I like the process but am really ultimately about product?

Vertical Sunset Two Ply

I am pleased with the final result, and will definitely be playing with this color set more (I spun up another Sunset roving with horizontal stripes earlier, and you can see the result here). There's plenty of color in this little skein, but it's much more subtle than the previous roving I spun, I suspect because of the predominance of purple red base. Also, I think these colors were much more similar in terms of the depth of their hue, and as a result, nothing stands out quite as sharply, creating a softer effect. I think it will be interesting to try the dyeing again, using each of the three colors as the dominant color with smaller blotches of the other two. I'm thinking that I will get three very different yarns, each with a character I like. I've got to soak and set the twist in this skein and do a little swatching, but I am almost positive that the striping effect is going to be much less prominent in this little skein.

I know I promised a little spinning wheel poll summary today, but that will have to wait until Monday, I think. Believe it or not, there's still a Christmas tree to take down in our house...



I got to play with both of my wheels to finish up the hand-dyed Merino and Tussah from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. I did all the spinning on my Ashford (mostly because I started spinning it on this wheel and I thought it would be good to be consistant) and then did the last two batches of plying on my Lendrum. I absolutely love my plying head and being able to create skeins with a little heft to them.

I Just Love this Big Ol' Plying Head

This head is actually big enough that you have to put a bigger drive band on the wheel to use it. And the orifice is so large that you don't need a threading hook at all. You also get quite a work out treadling to keep that big bobbin spinning! But the end result is very much worth it. I'm a big fan of plying on a wheel in general, though. Compared to when I was doing this on a drop spindle, I feel like it's easier for me to tell when I have just the right amount of twist in the yarn. In fact, almost all these skeins were pretty well balanced after plying (just a little bit of over twist) so I haven't really bothered to dunk any of them in the sink yet. I will eventually, just to make sure that the yarn doesn't want to give up any dye. But for right now I've just put the yarn into hanks..

5.75 Ounces of Spun and Plied Merino and Silk

All 5.75 ounces spun into 663 of two ply yarn. The last skein (the one farthest to the left) is a little bluer than the others, but I expected that given the way I worked with the roving and the way the roving was colored. 663 yards seems like a pretty respectable amount of yarn to me. So now I just need to figure out what to do with it. I'm thinking maybe pillows made with mitred squares? I know it's going to stripe quite a bit. I guess I just won't know until I swatch a little bit of it up.

A Final Closeup

Finally, I wanted to cap this off with another closeup of the last skein. My spinning is beginning to get a bit more consistant, I think. My concerns about consistancy brought out a few interesting comments from people reminding me that handspinning is not completely about making perfect yarn that looks like it was millspun. With this, I completely agree. I'm not really striving for perfection at all. However, I am striving to develop greater control and, to me, being consistant and getting a single of the diameter that I want is part of the control development process.

Right now I am just learning, getting my hands and feet to co-ordinate, understanding what cool things can be done with a wheel. Learning what things work best for me. I'm happy with almost any yarn I get and I am not worrying all that much about what the final yarn turns out to be. But, ultimately, I want to be able to look at some fiber, say "I want a two ply DK weight yarn" and be able to spin that yarn. So my interest in achieving more consistancy is more about me getting to a place where I can create what I envision than about creating perfect yarn. And about understanding about how spinning really works.

Blue Moon Eclipse


So, ready or not, here I come with a little more spinning!

Blue Moon Eclipse Merino/Silk 2 Ply

This is the first hank of the Blue Moon 50% Merino/50% Silk blend dyed in the "Eclipse" colorway. It's about 147 yards (according to my niddy noddy) and 1.25 ounces and it's just as soft as all get out. Not sure how much is on the bobbin yet. Definitely less than is on the skein, so I probably have a total of 250-275 yards and I still probably have over half of the roving left to spin up.

Did I mention how soft this stuff is?

My spinning and plying are still a little bit uneven, as you can see from this closeup:

Close Up of My Uneven Spinning

but I'm definitely improving. I'm finding that, compared to the drop spindle, the wheel gives me more time to think about what I am doing with the fiber. I also find it a little easer to stop and tweak as I go along. Even so, there are some places in my singles where they got a lot thinner than I would have liked or a little bit too thick. But nothing that involves hand eye co-ordination improves without practice. Hopefully as I spin up more of this stuff and other things I'll get better at keeping things more even. What was very cool about this skein was after I pulled it off my niddy noddy, it didn't twist at all... not one bit! So even if the gauge fluctuates, I did a good job at balancing the yarn. I had real concerns about that happening.

You see, this skein also comes with a learning experience.

I had just finished spinnin the second bobbin's worth of singles and decided that I just couldn't wait to see what was going to happen when I plied this stuff up. So with the help of my homemade lazy Kate I got everything all set up and started plying. I'd been spinning all day, so I had a good rhythm going, but something didn't seem quite right. No problem with the plying, but the yarn wasn't poofing up quite as much as I expected it to. Didn't seem that bad, though, so I kept spinning along, not quite able to put my finger on what was bothering me.

And then my wheel threw it's drive band (it does that periodically, just to test me and my newly developing spinning wheel technical service skills) and after I got the band back on and began to start spinning again, it suddenly dawned on me what was wrong. I was spinning the two-ply in the same direction as I had spun the singles. And I had about a third of a bobbin's worth of the stuff. Clearly, sometimes the speed of the wheel can be a double edged sword.

After a little bit of judicious cursing I decided that there was nothing I could do but unwind it all off the bobbln and start over, making sure that my wheel was turning in the right direction. I watched it turn into a bit of a tangled curly mess as I unwound it. And got a pleasant surprise when re-spinning it in the reverse direction (albeit a good deal longer to remove the twist in the wrong direction and add new twist in the right direction) -- it actually worked and gave me the results I wanted. So spinning in the wrong direction is not fatal. Frustrating, but not fatal. At least not with this yarn. Of course, when I plied it in the right direction, I got that nice bit of poofiness that I wanted to see and the colors even looked a little different together (not sure if that is a trick of the light or if the orientation of the fibers really does matter for the perception of color).

I haven't yet measured the WPI on this yarn, but this yarn is probably the first thing I've spun and plied that I could say approaches DK weight. I'm assuming that the merino content helps to give it a lot of loft.

I'm still not sure what to make of the colors. Or what I will make out of this yarn. It's certainly soft enough to be used in a skin-touching garment, but I'm not sure beyond a scarf what kind of garment that would be. And I'm not sure I could handle that much wild color variation. I'm trying to decide if it would make up into a nice pillow cover or two -- something that will still be enjoyed for being soft. Once I get a little more spun up, I'll swatch it and see.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep it on my desk to pet. It's hard not to be happy when you're touching something so soft!

Swatching My First Wheel Spun Yarn


It's a bit "all spinning all the time" around here right now. I'm not sure if it is generally interesting, but I find that I have days that I just want to spin all the time, or days where I want to knit like a fiend and do nothing else. I actually find it hard to have a day where I do both, even when I have a whole day to tackle several projects. And lately, inspired by the thought of a new spinning wheel, I am finding it hard to pull myself away from the spinning.

I did solve the "spinning wheel chair" problem by drafting my trusty desk chair into service. When I lower it to it's lowest level, it works well with my Ashford Traditional and gives me a comfortable angle for both working with the fiber and treadling. Thank you to all of you who suggested I see what my desk chair could do for me! Once I got myself all comfortable and situated, I proceeded to make a small dent in my pound of natural colored fine wool/silk noile.

4 oz of Wheel Spun Wool/Silk

As it turns out, washing this stuff makes quite an impact on it. It's much brighter after a little swim. Although you can't tell it by looking at the roving, there must be some light dust in it. The tags are a little trick that I stole from Leigh after I saw them on her blog. You can buy them at almost any office store and they are pretty handy for labeling yarn. I'm not very good at remembering fiber details when the ball band is gone and since I'm likely to spin many things at once, it seemed like a good idea to make sure that what I did spin up got labelled for future reference.

A Wool/Silk Swatch

I also took the time to swatch up a little of this yarn, to see if swatching would give me some inspiration as to what this yarn is supposed to become. As it turns out, those little tags are also handy for labelling swatches. I used my wraps-per-inch tool to figure out that the yarn is about 16 wpi. That puts it right on the border between fingering and DK. So I decided to try swatching on US size 5 (3.75 mm) needles (mostly because I couldn't find a pair of size 4 needles, which was what I wanted originally). The result is about 5.5 stitches/inch and 8 rows/inch, and a swatch with just a little touch of a rustic quality, which I like. While I like the feel of the fabric, it looks a bit open to me, so I may try another swatch on the 4's, just to see if it I like it better (and to justify the new size 4 Addis that I purchased over the weekend).

So far, the yarn still hasn't told me what it wants to be. But I'm beginning to get a teddy bear vibe from it. Looking through Amazon, I came across two books on Teddy Bears that look interesting to me:

Anyone have any experience with either or both of these books and have an opinion about the quality of the bears and the patterns?

A Wool and Silk Eclipse


Wow! Y'all had a lot to say about your wheels. When I stop and think about it, it's really great that there are so many different kinds of wheels out there to suit all the different kinds of spinnners in the world. It was interesting to hear all the different opinions and to hear more stories about different kinds of wheels. It certainly doesn't make my decision making process any easier knowing that there are so many great choices. But it does make me feel good to know that probably no matter which wheel I chose, I will get something I like -- and a wheel that others are familiar with. And there's nothing better than knowing there's a community of people out there who can share their wheel wisdom with me!

The trip to Marengo, combined with bonding a little more with my Ashford Traditional has gotten me into a very spinning oriented mood. After I finished plying up some more of the natural colored wool/silk blend I got from my mother, I decided that I needed to spend some time spinning some of this:

Blue Moon 50% Merino/50% Tussah Silk, Colorway Eclipse

This was the first time I found the merino/silk blend at the Fold and I just had to leave with some of it. It's soft, and reminds me of the Cormo and Tussah Silk blend that I bough at MS&W last year that was such a dream to spin on my drop spindle. This is something of an unusual color choice for me, but I was drawn into the lovely yellow and spring green in the mix and curious about how that would blend with the blues and greys when all plied up.

Two Bobbins of a Merino and Silk Eclipse

Here's the first two bobbins full. This hank of fiber is only 5.75 ounces, so I don't think it will take me too long to spin up the whole thing. I wish my spinning was a little more even but I think that will likely only come with time and practice. That said, I did learn a few things as I spun these two bobbins up that made my life a little better.

1) For me, it seems like things wind on my bobbins better if I start with the single going through the hook closest to me and work my way towards the hook on the opposite end as I fill up each area. When I start from the hook furthest from me, the single seems to move towards the middle and wind on a bit unevenly. Not that this is a big deal, but it makes it easier for me to judge when the bobbins have about the same amount of single on them when the single winds on more evening.

2) Merino and silk are well paired for spinning. The short fibers of the merino are complemented by the long silk fibers, giving the feeling of having a much longer staple length than if one were spinning merino alone.. When I first started spinning this stuff though, since I was remembering only about the short staple length of the merino, I found that I was fighting myself a bit when I was drafting out the yarn from the main part of the roving. Why? Because my drafting hand and my roving guiding hand were just too close together. I found that the best positioning was actually to have my guiding hand be 3-4 inches back from my drafting hand. In that position, the fiber flow was very natural and easy. So now I know another reason why it is important to understand the staple length of the fiber I am spinning with.

3) I now understand why wheels come with more than one, as I think of it, "gear ratio". The finer the yarn I spin, the more twist I want to put into it to hold it together. That means that I have to either treadle faster or make the bobbin spin faster relative to the main wheel. Unfortunately, my makeshift twine drive band doesn't allow me to switch ratios easily, but at least now I understand the principle. I suppose that is the sort of thing that should be obvious, but there's nothing quite like hands on experience for me to get a grasp on this kind of obvious. And, in a strange way, I'm feeling pleasantly self-satisfied that I did figure this out by myself by actually thinking about what I am doing and about the equipment I am working with.

So what will this yarn look like when I ply it up? Will it be attractive? Will it be ugly? I'll have to solve that mystery tomorrow.

Spinning in Marengo


Saturday was official "spinning wheel testing day" for me. Julie and Bonne Marie and I all headed out to the Fold in Marengo, Illinois. For those of you who have never been to the Fold, this is definitely one of those stores that is worth he hour and a half drive from the city. So much great stuff and friendly people to help you with it. Even if you're a knitter and not a spinner, there's something here for you, since there's a fair amount of nice yarn stocked in this store -- besides the "proto yarn" that you have to spin for yourself. Some of my favorite proto-yarn greets you at the door:

Blue Moon at the Front Door

How could a girl not like a bookcase full of Blue Moon hand-dyed spinning fiber? So many good colors!

But I did't spend too much time with fiber. I was there to try out wheels. I have no issues with the Ashford traditional that I have been working with (in fact, it's been a nice wheel to learn on -- the fact that it has a few "personal issues" means that I've learned a little bit more about how wheels work), but it's not meant to be my wheel forever. Ultimately, it's supposed to go back to Ann Arbor with my mother, its true owner. Thus, I'm out looking for a wheel to call my own.

And let me tell you, there's a lot of wheels to choose from! At the Fold, alone, there are at least 6 different wheel brands to try, and each of those brands has a couple of different wheels. It can be a little bit of wheel sensory overload for a newbie spinner. I would have loved to try them all, but there were a few criteria that I used to determine whether I sat down in front of a wheel.

1) Could I figure out the basics of using the wheel without a lot of assistance? I figure if I can't figure out how to get spinning on it in about a minute or less, I'm just going to end up frustrated in the long run. Probably anything I can't figure out easily would be better left to my spinning future.

2) Was it in my price range? I'm willing to make a reasonable investiment in a good piece of equipment, but since I'm a new spinner, and many things are likely to change as I grow, I want a wheel that isn't going to break the bank but will still give me a good experience.

3) Did I find it aesthetically pleasing? Realistically, any wheel that I own will probably sit out in someplace that I will have to look at it a lot. So it would be nice if it was easy on the eyes as well as a good tool.

4) How portable? Idealy, it would be nice to have a wheel that wasn't too hard to move around the house, was easy to store, and could occasionally make the trek over to Julie's house
Criteria number 1 eliminated two whole wheel manufactureres: Majacraft and Winsome Timbers. I don't want to create the wrong impression here -- I am sure these companies make great wheels and that I was likely missing something obvious about them that would have made them simple to spin with. In the case of the Winsome Timbers wheels, however, they were somewhat complex and out of the price range I was looking in. For the Majacraft, I just couldn't, for the life of me, figure out the bobbin/flier mechanism and how to feed in the fiber. I figure they just don't use the paradigm I'm used to. They make awfully pretty wheels, though.

So what did that leave me with?

Lendrum Double Treadle Wheel

The first wheel I tried out was the Lendrum Double Treadle -- it's not a "true" double treadle, but you still use both feet to treadle. This wheel has a very smooth mechanism and it's very comfortable to spin from (Julie seconded my opinion of spinning on this wheel). It also has the added benefit of being fairly portable (it can be stored almost flat, which means it can live under a bed or futon sofa when not in use. I also like it's simple lines and the clear finish on the maple. I also really like the flier and the mechanism that moves the yarn along the bobbin -- it's basically a pinch clamp that slides along one side of the flier instead of the hooks that are on my Ashford. The reason I like this better? Well, those little hooks can break off in the wood, and then you've got no easy way to put another hook in and you have a part of your bobbin that you can't reach. This pinch clamp thing looks like it would be pretty easy to replace. One last nice feature? The orifice hook has it's own special place attatched to the wheel. You never have to worry about losing or putting it somewhere out of reach since it's stowed in the wheel itself.

Louet S-75 Double Treadle Wheel

The second wheel I tried was the Louet S-75. I'll admit right up front that it is the only Louet that I tried because I really just don't like the way that most of the Louet wheels look. Once again, I'm sure they're perfectly great wheels, but their styling doesn't appeal to me, they're just too spartan And a tool that I'm going to look at a great deal needs to appeal to me visually. The S-75 has a more "traditional" spinning wheel look. It's also a "fake" double treadle like the Lendrum. But I just didn't bond with this wheel. For one thing, I didn't think it was as smooth the Lendrum (to be honest, I don't think it was even as smooth as my single treadle Ashford Traditional) -- I could tell almost every time the drive shaft reached the top of its circle and that disrupted my flow a bit. I also though the treadles were too narrow. It was light weight and easy to move around, though.

Schacht Matchless (the wheel in the center)

The third wheel I tried out was the Schacht Matchless -- a wheel with a true double drive mechanism. I have to start by saying that I do think this wheel is lovely. I really liked the details in the wood. I also loved the big treadles that the rather large bobbin and flier assembly -- you can go a long time with this wheel without having to stop to change bobbins. And I really enjoyed spinning with it, too. It was very smooth and effortless to work with. The only negative for me with this wheel is it's size. It's a pretty good-sized machine and there's no way to fold it up and get it out of sight when you need extra space. And it's not a tiny wheel. It takes up at least as much space as my Ashford Traditional. It certainly won't fit in the trunk of my car easily if I want to take it to visit Julie! But, otherwise, from my perspective, the Matchless was a thoroughly lovely wheel.

Lendrum Saxony in Cherry

The last wheel I tried out is the Lendrum Saxony. I'll be honest, I should have eliminated this wheel based on both the price and lack of portability criteria alone -- I never should have even sat down in front of it.. But this wheel, especially in it's walnut incarnation is really a thing of beauty. I could easily imagine it living in my living room. Both Julie and I were drawn to this wheel. And this wheel isn't just another pretty face, either. I think it was my favorite wheel to spin on of all the wheels I tried. So smooth and effortless -- both in the spinning and in getting the spinning started. That big wheel starts and stops easily and it's equally easy to reverse directions on it. This wheel comes in both left handed and right handed styles. I'm a lefty when I spin, and the way this wheel is set up, you sit in a very natural position and work with the fiber in a very comfortable position as well -- you draft almost perpendicularly to your legs (as opposed to the rest fo the wheels that I tried, where you draft parallel to your legs). This wheel is not very portable due to it's size, but that is about the most negative thing I could say about it. I think it's going to fall into the category of my "dream wheel" for a while. But if I get to the point where it is time to get a second wheel, this one will most definitely be high on my list!

The only wheel brand that I wanted to try that isn't at the Fold is Kromski. I love the look of both the Mazurka and the Minstrel, and given my husband's ethnic backround, I also love the idea of having a Polish spinning wheel. But there's only one place in Illinois that I could probably try one out in. I'm not sure I'm going to get a chance to try one out before my birthday arrives (which is the major catalyst for this wheel shopping expedition).

My first choice after the testing I did at the Fold is the Lendrum. It meets most of my criteria and is a pleasure to spin on. The Matchless is a close second, but it's lack of portability puts it out of the running until I start thinking about a second wheel (which isn't likely to be for a while). Julie tells me I need to try out the Ashford Joy again (my first attempt was before my first spinning lesson and I was having real problems co-ordinating my hands and feet), which is fabulously portable. I must admit, though, that I like the look of the Lendrum a great deal. But I am hoping that I can take a little trip out to Julie's house sometime just to make sure I give the Joy a fair shake.

Of course, I didn't buy a wheel on Saturday. But that didn't mean that I left the shop empty handed...

Stash Additions: Merino & Tussah from Blue Moon in Eclipse, Austerman Step and Trekking XXL, Blue Moon Seduction in Carbon Dioxide and Black Onyx, Blue Moon Sock Candy in Cherries Jubilee

I guess sock yarn is just like eating potato chips for me -- I can't buy just one. The Austerman Step is a yarn I am really curious about, because it has both Lanolin and Jojoba Oil in it -- you can tell when you pick it up. I'm wondering if it lasts beyond the first wash or if it's just a nice treat for your hands. The Trekking XXL is more grey variations for the husband -- for whom there can never be enough grey sock yarn. The Blue Moon Seduction is a Merino Tencel blend that I think is meant mostly for sock yarn, given the 400 yards in the put up. The Black Onyx is clearly for John, and the Carbon Dioxide is for John, but it's probably wishful thinking on my part that he will ever select it. Finally, the Blue Moon Sock Candy is a Cotton/Elite yarn that I think will be perfect for my sister in law who lives in Houston. I love the colorway and the "Elite" must be what gives the yarn the stretch it needs to be an acceptable sock yarn. It's also pretty soft, so I am hopeful that the resulting socks will be liked by the recipient.

And, given my renewed spinning excitement, I just couldn't leave the store without a little something special to spin up -- just under 6 ounces of a Merino/Silk blend in springy colors. This reminds me a lot of the Cormo/Silk blends I bought at last year's MS&W and I'm thinking it's going to be a real pleasure to spin up!

If anyone has anything they want to share about their own wheel buying and owning experience, I'd love to hear it!

Working out My Wheel


Remember that big ball of natural colored wool and silk that I showed off not too long ago? Well, I've been using it to get a little work out on my wheel. After all, how can I go to Marengo this weekend (home of The Fold) to try out new wheels if I can't really spin comfortably? So I decided that my mother's gift was going to be a gift to her friendly old Ashford Traditional as well. And whenever I got a few seconds, I worked on spinning some up.

White Wool Silk Single

This single is definitely a little bit rustic looking. However, I think that that is just the Tao of this yarn, given my current state of spinning experience. In general, I'm spinning something a little less fine than a lace weight single -- I'm not sure what my deal is, but I have a hard time not spinning fine weight singles, no matter what fiber I'm working with. (Clearly this is an area in which I need to improve my technique -- if only so that I can make the yarns I want to make). The bits of silk in the yarn create small areas of resistance and that ends up making the yarn have some thicker and thinner areas. But it doesn't really bother me all that much. It's still a pleasure to spin with.

But once I got one bobbin finished, I realized that to ply the stuff and make a skein, I probably needed to spin up another bobbin. I learned the true power of a wheel when I spun an entire second bobbin's worth of single in a couple of hours this afternoon! But then I realized I had another problem. I don't have a lazy Kate to ply from. So I had a fiber MacGuyver kind of moment and jerry-rigged myself a lazy Kate out of a unsuspecting shoebox and a pair of US size 7 metal knitting needles.

Homemade Lazy Kate

Not surprisingly, plying turns out to be a lot faster on a wheel, too. And I enjoyed watching it happen because unlke when I was spinning the singles, when I was plying, I could really see what was happening with the twist, and that made it a lot easier to get a relatively even amount of twist throughout what I was plying. I loved watching the yarn plump up as I added more twist. The final result?

My First Skein Spun and Plied Entirely on a Wheel

It is really remarkable, after spinning a lot on a drop spindle, to see how much I could spin in a relatively short period of time on my wheel. I'm not really sure how much yarn I have here (it's all I could fit on one bobbin -- and I still had enough single left for about 2/3rds of a second bobbin) but if feels like a real skein-sized amount that one could actually take on a project with. The cool thing? I haven't really even put much of a dent in the whole pound of fiber that I have to play with. Were I to actually keep spinning relatively consistantly, I could actually have enough of the stuff to make something substantial. I knew, of course, that wheels had this potential, but now I've gone from imagining the potential to seeing the actual. And that's a powerful transition, indeed!

Although the yarn is still a little on ther rustic side, I'm actually quite pleased with the result:

Wool Silk Yarn Close Up

This is the yarn before getting a little bath. It clearly has areas where it is thicker and thinner or has a little more or less plying, but when I skeined it up on my niddy noddy before dumping it into the bath, it seemed to hold together well, be quite soft, and to be pretty well balanced. Not bad for my first major effort, I think!

I did learn something else on this outing as well -- I need a better chair for this. I think I was sitting too high in the chair I was using, because my back started to hurt from leaning over a little bit. Maybe I'll have to talk to my wonderful wood-working father about building the perfect spinning chair...



A while back I mentioned not being quite sure how to start with the large and lovely mass of teal fiber that I purchased from Spinner's Hill while at MS&W. I'm not sure if being uncertain how to proceed kept me from just trying some on my wheel, or whether it was because I find myself sorely lacking a lazy kate and wasn't sure how I was going to ply anything or whether my spinning muse had decided to take a holiday Iceland. I just didn't feel drawn to the wheel. Which is a bit sad when I have half a pound of fiber (of a most remarkable blend -- alpaca, silk and wool) in my absolute most favorite color out of which I could make something absolutly lovely for myself while facing predictions of "the coldest winter since 1976".

On Sunday, something grabbed me and I boldly ripped a few narrow pieces off the mass, pre-drafted a bit to make it move easier as I spun and just joined it up to the bobbin on my wheel and got spinning. I didn't spin up too much -- I just wanted to see what it felt like to spin with something prepared differently than the top I'm used to, find out how it would look in a two ply (I'm still not good at spinning thicker singles) and give myself enough to do a little swatching.

A Little Bit of Teal Magick

One thing is clear -- unless I find a way to comb this stuff a bit, the yarn is going to have a little bit of a rustic quality to it. But I don't think that is going to bother me all that much, since I'll probably be lucky to get a sport weight yarn out of this stuff, even as a two ply. Another thing that surprised me completely -- this fiber seems like it is even softer as a yarn than it was as just fiber, which I didn't think was possible. I was just amazed with it's texture as I was winding it onto my niddy noddy. Granted, I didn't get too agressive with the amount of twist I put into it, but it has a pretty decent amount of tensile strength. Finally, I didn't get bored spinning something that is basically a solid color -- and I love the idea of working with some handspun that doesn't spontaneously burst into stripes.

I'll probably ply this with one of my spindles -- this is an amount that I can easily manage with a center pull ball and I think that would be hard to control with the wheel.

Every time I spin a little bit on my wheel, I feel like I learn a little more about what I like and don't like about my wheel. For instance, I really love how my wheel spins -- it is pretty easy for me to control right now while I'm learning. But I'm not so excited about the tensioning for the bobbin (is this the Scotch tensioning? I'm still not so good with the technical spinning terms) -- the Ashford traditional has a little peg around which the fiberglass line is wound. This peg is twisted and untwisted to control the tensioning on the bobbin. But I find that this peg slips a bit (probably because I don't push it in tightly enough) and midway through spinning I have to stop and tighten it to keep the yarn drawing onto the bobbin. I find this a bit frustrating, but I can't tell yet whether this is just because I am a spinning wheel newbie who hasn't completely internalized all the motions yet or because I ultimately won't like this kind of wheel. I guess it will give me something to explore when I start trying to find my next wheel.

If anyone has any opinions about different tensioning systems, I'd love to hear more from folks with more experience than me.

Hmmm... now what?

A Wonderful Teal Blob of Wool, Alpaca and Silk

This wonderful fibery blob is one of my favorite purchases from MS&W -- half a pound of wonderfully hand-dyed fiber from Spinner's Hill. It was love at first touch when I encountered this bag of fluff. In fact, I felt almost drawn to it. It's as if I cound divine the silk content blended with my favorite color.

While it would be possible to work with this on a spindle, methinks it would take quite some time. Now that I have a wheel at my disposal, it seemed like a good time to pull it out and think about what I want it to become. And I realized something that I hadn't thought about before. What do I need to do with this to get it into manageable pieces for spinning? Do I just rip pieces off and start into it? Should I card it or comb it? Is there some magic that needs to be worked with this proto-yarn to prepare it for spinning? I just don't know. Up to this point, I've only spun from the fairly highly prepared stuff.

Anyone out there care to point me in the right direction? I'm sure that if I keep reading Alden Amos, I will get to the answer, but it's a long book, and I'm still working through the section on how humidity affects fiber...

Increasing the Flock


I might not have been at Rhinebeck, but a very kind and enabling friend helped me increase my "flock" of spindles. Julie bought a Golding ring spindle at MS&W, and has said nothing but wonderful things about hers. Even though I am beginning to bond with my wheel, I still get a lot of pleasure out of working with my drop spindles. I like the rhythm of spinning on a drop spindle and they are just a tad more portable than most wheels. For me, there's also something special about having a beautiful took in my hands.

Golding 2-3/4" Butterfly Ring Spindle Getting a Little Help from a Friend

A little gift sheep from Julie is helping out with the display of my new toy. The butterfly in this spindle is handcarved out of cherry and the shaft is walnut. The whorl is 2-3/4" and the whole spindle weighs about 1.3 oz -- which is a wonderful weight range for me because I like to spin fairly fine singles.. According to Carolyn, who volunteered to bring it back to Chicago, and handed it off to me today, it got some test spinning by both Claudia and Leigh -- which I am certain will give it some happy spinning vibes to start out with.

Smitten by A Butterfly

I'm quite taken by this little butterfly. Simple and lovely but not completely perfect -- exactly what a handcarved item should be. The cherry and walnut and brass complement each other well. It's the sort of thing that I keep picking up to touch and inspect. A clear sign that I need to get some wool on this thing and see how this baby spins for myself.

Today is a two-fer in my blog world. I've also updated the book blog with a review of Lucy Neatby's "Cool Socks, Warm Feet, if you're interested in my thoughts about that book

Spinning Lessons


There are a few things that make Chicago better than Maui. One of them is that we are not too far away from a wonderful resource for spinners: Toni Neil's The Fold in Marengo. I first encountered The Fold when I went to the Stephenson County fiber festival with Bonne Marie a long time ago. At the time, I had no real interest in spinning, but Toni carries plenty of wonderful yarn and accessories for the intrepid knitter willing to venture west and north of Chicago. In particular, she stocks Blue Moon products, which I think are some of the lovliest hand dyed colorways out there.

But I digress.

On Saturday, Julie and I packed our wheels in the back of my car and headed up to Marengo to take a spinning lesson from Toni. Just like the last time we were there, we had a wonderful time. Toni is a great person and she makes you feel warm and welcome in her shop. She's always happy to stop and explain something about a particular fiber, and she's more than willing to let you have a little bit of fiber to try out one of the beautiful spindles she stocks. It's pretty easy to get yourself in trouble there.

Goodies from the Fold: (from left to right) Blue Moon Merino/Tencel roving in "Azurite", Blue Moon Alpaca/Blue Face Leicester roving in "Olive Garden", "Sunset" spindle (composed of box elder and walnut) by Steven Kundert, some miscellaneous spinning supplies and the new Knitscape magazine

There was a little bit more, but since it's going off to someone else's home, I'll refrain from posting about it so that it can stay a secret.

That Kundert spindle is not only beautiful, it spins well, too. I wanted another light weight spindle in my collection and this one weighs in at just an ounce, which was exactly what I wanted. Apparently the red coloration in the box elder whorl is due to a bacterial infection in the wood. Paired with the black walnut, it's nothing short of stunning. The shaft is also walnut and the whole spindle feels lovely to the touch. If it wasn't for the real reason we went out to the Fold, I'd already be spinning on it.

Enter Priscilla*.

Beautiful Box Elder Whorl

You may remember a previous entry in which I introduced Priscilla. She's a wheel with some happy good karma, but even though she's somewhere between 25 and 30 years old she's never (to my knowledge) spun actual yarn before. She had no drive band or appropriate fittings for the Scotch tensioning. She was missing a few of the hooks on her flier, and the ones she did have were a little rusty. She squeaked when the wheel turned and she was missing the connection between the treadle and the piece that pushes the wheel. All and all, she was a wheel who needed a little bit of help getting to her maiden voyage. I was actually a little worried that she might have some unsolvable problems. But it took less than 15 minutes for Toni to explain the basics of wheel mechanics and needs and to get her back up and running.

Missing drive band? No problem when you've got a stock of house hold twine.

Missing treadle connection? No problem when that little leather piece was sent ahead of time for me to install.

Squeaky wheel? Nothing a little oil can't fix.

Broken hook and missing spring for the tensioning? More twine and a spare spring and some plastic line to the rescue.

Missing Flier Hooks? Eh? You can spin with out them, the bobbin just won't be as pretty.

The result? Voila Priscilla!

Priscilla the Ashford Traditional Gets a New Lease on Life

You might notice that there looks like there is a little bit of something white on Priscilla's bobbin. That would be a little bit of Blue Faced Leicester single (before we got started, Toni asked us what we were comfortable spinning, and then grabbed an ounce or two of BFL top for each of us -- not a bad way to start) that I actually spun. Can you believe it? I expected that this would be a while in coming, but the wheel and I got along pretty wheel for our first time out.

My First Wheel Spun Yarn

I give Toni a lot of credit for making it happen. She's a very calm relaxed teacher and she creates a wonderful learning environment. No question is dumb and you never feel like you're going to be scolded for "doing it wrong". Her motto all afternoon "if you get yarn, you must be doing it right". While she helped Julie out with some of the basics of her Ashford Joy, I just spent time treadling and getting comfortable with the pace my wheel likes to run at. I must be meant to start out on a single treadle wheel, because I had a lot easier time of treadling than I did when I tried out Julie's Joy. After I treadled for a while, I attached some top and just started to spin. It took me a little while to get the rhythm down between my hands and my foot, but suddenly I was making yarn.

Even I could hardly believe it. It took me a couple of weeks to get to the point where I could make my drop spindle really go. But here I was half an hour after getting set up making something that looked a hundred times better than my first spindle efforts or even my second, third, fourth or fifth spindle efforts did. That was about the coolest thing ever.

So now I'm all set to get some serious spinning under way. I'm going to practice a bit with some of the fiber I have laying around before I start on any of the special stuff I've acquired. And next time I go out to the Fold, you can bet there will be much testing of wheel's that have an itch to travel.

*Apologies to my mom, the wheel's real owner, for giving her a name without consultation. But hey, wheel restoration has it's priviledges. And I think a happy wheel needs a name.

Autumn Leaves Version 2 Plied

Autumn Leaves Version 2, 2 Ply

Dying, spinning and plying are still mystical events for me. The single ply of this yarn felt much more gold to me. The two-ply version feels much more red and deep orange. Goes to show that the sum can be very different from the parts.

On the statistics side of the equation, I got 65 wraps around my niddy, and at 54"/wrap that gets me to almost 98 yards of fall red. I'm sure there's going to be some striping action going on here but I have a feeling that it may turn out to be a bit more subtle than the striping in the Blue Hawaiian colorway. Now I just need to find a pattern to try out. I'll be heading back to my Barbara Walker books to look for things with fire or leaf motifs, I think. I think it might turn out to be a nice project to take to Hawaii with me.

The response people have to crochet always interests me. It seems to be one of those needle arts that inspires rather visceral responses. I, too, have issues with texture under some circumstances. However, I also have several sweater/top items (not handmade) that I love to wear. I like the fact that it is possible to create a more rigid fabric, which is why creating a handbag appeals to me. So we shall see.

Now I'm off to get myself into trouble with computer games again. I just downloaded the demo for Myst V... the last in the Myst series. Last in a very final way since Cyan Worlds, the maker of Myst has shut it's doors and laid off its staff. It always makes me sad in a small little place in my soul when a small company that took good care of it's people and made a big impact on the gaming universe passes out of this world. I can remember back to graduate school when I first saw Myst and got hooked by the simple magic it created. Good-bye for now, Cyan. The adventure gaming world is a poorer place for your departure.

More Falling Leaves

Fall Leaves Relaxing Before Plying

With a little bit of help from Photoshop Elements I have a better color representation of my Falling Leaves colorway. My camera appears to have issues with orange. Apparently it needs to have a long conversation with Claudia's camera to see how orange and red are done.

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Interweave Knits Crochet issue. My personal exposure to crochet has really only been to put decorative or solid edgings on my knitted garments. I have to admit that when I think of crochet, I automatically think of granny-square afghans in bright colored acrylics. But I'm trying to branch out and give crochet a better hearing. This issue has a nice basic introduction to how to read crochet charts, and, at least by my reckoning, quite a few cute projects. I like Norah Gaughn's Hemp Flowers Necklace and the kind of modern, kind of folksy Felted Folk Rug & Chair Pad. I'm intrigued by the shaping and the solid look of the Textured Tweed Clutch (though I am not sure about the bobbly looking things) and I could totally see myself wearing Annie Modesitt's South of the Border Jacket and I think I need to find someone to make the Granddaughter Socks for (you can download this pattern for free even if you didn't buy the magazine, along with several other designs). And how could you not want to crochet a Hyperbolic Plane? (Unfortunately there is no picture of this project on their website. But you can see it and more here).

So, overall, I consider it to have been a good purchase. And now I've got better things to remind me of crochet than '70's granny square afghans!

Autumn Leaves, Version 2

Fall Leaves Version 2 on the Spindle

My camera refuses to let you see the lovely browns that are mixed into this fall-colored concoction, but here's the proof that I finished spinning that second Fall Leaves colorway. It's a fairly rich collection of reds, browns, golds and oranges (the orange comes in more or less as a result of the mixing of different reds and golds) with a touch of burgandy. If you've been through a fall season in the midwest (and probably elsewhere...but I've spent most of my alls in the midwest), you'll know these colors as the ones you see on the maple trees as they invite the winter in. It's still quite warm here in Chicago, but as we were driving back from Ann Arbor, it was clear that many of the trees in our region are fairly convinced that the end of the summer season is nigh. Soon the incredible display of color will begin.

Hopefully tonight I'll get better light for taking pictures and I'll be able to show off a good picture of the single after a little dunk in a warm bath. I used my Niddy Noddy to determine roughly how much yardage I had...

To wit: 130 wraps x 54 inches/wrap = 195 yards Autum Leaves single ply

This is pretty consistant with what I got from the Blue Hawaiian single. So it appears that Julie is very good at measuring out 0.5 ounces of undyed roving and my spinning is relatively consistant.

P.S. to everyone who left me comments about good things to do in Maui.... thank you very much! It's very helpful. We're sooooo looking forward to this trip and I'm really psyched because I think we've found some very nice places to stay. I can't wait to take a car up the road to Hana.

P.P.S to everyone who asked about the computer games....I haven't forgotten about you, I just haven't had time to sit down and answer your email. I will very soon!

Finally, A Finished Knitted Item!


Now I have real proof that I am actually still doing some knitting.

The Blue Hawaiian Chinese Lace Scarf Completed

This scarf, which was knit from a roughly fingering weight two ply yarn made from 0.5 ounces of hand dyed Blue Faced Leicester, is about 29 inches long and about 3-3/4 inches wide. It was knit on US size 6 needles (4.0 mm). The final dimensions (after blocking) surprised me, because I wasn't thinking that I would get anything of useful length out 1/2 an ounce of of this weight yarn. But, in fact, it is enough to drape around my neck and hold in place with a pretty pin. So it may turn out to be a nice neck warmer in the winter.

I didn't really want this yarn to stripe. I've now learned that it is a lot easier to get a striped yarn than an unstriped one given the way I have dyed things so far. I need to do the dying process with much shorter color intervals so that the runs of one solid color are shorter. But I'm happy with the colors and the way they look together. Now I just need to perfect my dying process to get to what I want. I am now beginning to realize that I could probably create one set of four or five colors and just spend a whole afternoon doing variations on one color theme, looking for rovings that created looks that I really liked when spun and knit. This dying experiment is turning into a very interesting adventure for me!

Chinese Lace in Detail

I like the way that this lace behaves almost like a cable. It has a lot more relief and texture than I was expecting it too. The gentle curvature along the edges is a nice touch, too. Because of the striping effect, this yarn and this pattern are not an ideal match. My hope is to come back to this pattern with a yarn with much more subtle color variations. Perhaps Blue Hawaiian version 2!

Almost Nothing

Meager Showings

I have almost no crafty output to show for the weekend. I did make a little progress on both spinning up the Fall Leaves roving and knitting a bit more on the Chinese Lace scarf. But certainly not enough to account for -er- 4 days. Saturday started well enough -- a good shopping trip and my first ever spinning wheel experience with Julie. Julie, brought her Ashford Joy along for me to try out. I learned enough to realize that I need to get my own wheel set up. I can tell it will take me a little while before I can co-ordinate both hands and feet, and it's probably not fair to make any good friend sit through that painful process. I can learn co-ordination, but it's usually not something I like to expose anyone else to!

The rest of the weekend was an exercise in getting side tracked. Amazing how the process of getting organized often leads me to new levels of chaos. Usually this happens because as I clean and sort I come across things that I abandoned by accident. When I find these things again, I immediately want to engage with them. This weekend the sorting process involved a closet full of old and not-so-old computer games. I was able to part with most of this treasure trove (looking for a PC computer game? let me know... if I have the one you're looking for, and it's in the pile that is due to be re-located to somewhere else I'll send it to you for the cost of shipping) but I did come across one that I always meant to play through... Railroad Tycoon III ....

Yes, sadly, this game is almost 2 years old and I am just now getting around to playing it. Lucky for me these simulation type games don't age too badly. Did I tell you I had a thing for trains? Oh yes, I have a thing for trains....

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of cargo to haul between Philadelphia and New York to support the war effort in WWII

P.S. to my Mom -- Happy Birthday!!!

Weekend Projects


So what will my weekend look like from a fibery perspective?

Fall Leaves Version 2

The flash makes the color look a little more extreme in the red zone, but this is still a pretty intense colorway. I'm getting kind of psyched to have all that red fiber moving through my fingers.

Blue Hawaiian Chinese Lace

For my Blue Hawaiian yarn I wanted to find something that made me think of waves and moving water along a shore line. After a search of my Barbara Walker books the Second Treasury yielded up the Chinese Lace pattern. The movement of the yarn overs and decreases creates an undulating edge and there are lovely but subtle undulating motions in the lace as well. I only got through one interval, so it's hard to see the effect yet, but I have high hopes that it will make a nice, if very small scarf. I chose to cast the project onto US size 6 needles, so the stockinette has a little openness to it. It makes me happy to knit with this yarn. Even if I only end up with a longish swatch, I'll be happy.

I know that I keep bringing up the Barbara Walker books, but they really are the set that I go back to over and over when I am trying to come up with ideas for what to do with my yarn. If you only own a couple of knitting pattern books, her first and second volumes are the ones you should have. Simple black and white photos help you focus on the elements of the pattern instead of the color of the yarn. The first two books have all the instructions written out (the second two use charts), which is about the only downside to the books (I do better with symbols than with words when it comes to knittng charts).

Answering Some Questions


Today is a day of rest Chez Keyboard Biologist as I take care of some other things going on in my life. But since I got a couple of questions from yesterday's post, I thought I would try to answer them here for everyone. Bear in mind, I'm not an expert, just an experimental beginner. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes.

Carole and and Ann asked:

Okay, so I don't spin, but I enjoyed seeing the process step-by-step. How long does that all take, start to finish?

Preparing the fiber doesn't take very long. Maybe half an hour for this amount if you really get into therapeutic fiber massage. More takes longer. I'm now coming around to the idea that it's good to prepare the entire batch of fiber that you intend to spin. This way you can make sure that you know it's features well and you can control some of how it turns out by the order in which you choose to spin certain pieces. Sometimes hand-dyed rovings hide little secrets -- regions of intense color that only show up in one part or in one half. Changes in "dye lot" or other things like that. Best to know the whole story up front so that you can blend and control as appropriate.

The spinning part takes longer. It probably takes me 4 or so to spin the single (I am not exactly sure about this, as I don't really pay a lot of attention to the clock. Spinning really takes my mind away from things like clock watching and email inbox monitoring. If I was doing this on a wheel, it would take much less time.

It takes 2-4 hours for me to wind, wash and set the single (including drying time). Plying is much faster. I'd say it probably takes a little over an hour for me to ply my single into a two ply. Then another 2-4 hours for me to wind, wash and set the two-ply.

This means that my total time invested is somewhere in the neigborhood of 8 hours. Bear in mind, all this is for a lace weight single and a fingering weight/sock weight two-ply. Bulkier singles will take less time to spin and ply because there is less yardage. Doing this on a wheel would cut down the spinning time significantly. But I am just doing the spinning for me at this point, so I don't mind putting in the time.

Sue asked:

...have you tried to duplicate a coloway make more of a color of yarn to make something larger like a shawl?

Not yet, but that is certainly in the plan. Right now I'm wishing I'd dyed several ounces of this color way up. But the goal of this part of the dyeing adventure was to take good enough notes to start to create reproduceable colorways, in the event that I came up with a winner. I know which dyes I used and what concentrations and have a reasonable sense for the color intervals (the other reason why I take a lot of pictures). Certainly I'd love to have a shawl or nice accent scarf out of the stuff.

And a number of folks asked what I might do with this stuff. Well, I want to go with a water or wave theme. I've been digging through my Barbara Walker books looking for something evokative of waves. Perhaps a small scarf? I've also been thinking about a small bag or container that could hold herbs or pot pourri. I love lavender and having near my pillow when I go to sleep.



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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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...

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!

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.


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

Look Ma, No Twist!


First off, thank you for all your kind words and compliments yesterday. Like most folks who read this blog, I live in more than one world and my spinning has been doing a lot towards helping me deal with problems that aren't part of my fiber world. To get so much nice feedback about my Rainbow BFL really made my day.

I decided to take the advice of those of you who suggested that it would be okay to leave this yarn as a single. I gave it a nice warm, Eucalin-rich bath to help it relax and get comfortable. It exhausted some more purple dye, but otherwise seemed to like the bath. Then I hung it to dry with a weight at the bottom to keep tension on the skein while it dried.

Rainbow Lace Weight After a Wash and Set

I tried to get some good pictures with the skein hanging, but my new niddy noddy creates bigger skeins and it was hard to get it all in one picture. You'll just have to trust me when I say that this hank doesn't twist in either direction. Another very pleasant result of the bathing process is that it is now very soft. Not sure if that's the Eucalan or just some relaxing on the part of the wool, but it's a very pleasant result!

I weighed the hank and I have somewhere very close to 1 ounce of yarn. When I used my newly acquired wraps-per-inch tool (yes, I know you can use a ruler, but this little tool is ever so handy and keeps things in place while you're wrapping) I came up with something in the neighborhood of 30 wpi, which makes the yarn somewhere between fingering and lace weight. It's pretty close in diameter to Kid Silk Haze, though it has many more irregularities.

All Skeined Up and Waiting for Inspiration

The nice thing about this yarn is that it has relatively long stretches of one solid color that repeat because of the way that I split up and joined the roving. I'd like to make something lacy with it that will show off the stripes. Maybe something with with a little bit of a wave that would create a nice undulating edge. I'm thinking that a simple, not very wide scarf would probably be the ticket -- a nice accent piece to wear with a turtleneck in the winter. So I spent a bit of yesterday evening looking through Barbara Walker's first treasury of knitting patterns in search of the right thing.

(This is definitely one of those books that I keep going back to for inspiration. If you only have one book of knitting charts in your collection, this is the one to pick. The pictures are all in black and white, but everything is photographed well so that you can really get a good sense for the patterns.)

I'm currently leaning towards the good, old standard Feather and Fan stitch pattern (p. 205), a combination of 6 and 8 stitch Razor Shell (i.e. two 8 stitch intervals flanking a 6 stitch rib, p. 206), or the Horseshoe Pattern (p. 209). None of these patterns are too intricate and I think they would all work nicely with the striping. Any other suggestions? I'd like to find something really nice for my first knitting project with my own handspun!

Rainbow Leicester


From this:


To this:


To this:


Close up, you say?


This is the last of the BFL rovings that Julie and I dyed up. Saturated jewel tones were the order of the day for this one. I'm glad I saved it for last, because I think I'll get something lovely out of it. I did all the spinning over the last few days using my new spindle. I think I can say without hesitation that the Charis Yarn spindle was an excellent acquisition. This spindle definitely spins a long time!

I went from the spindle to the niddy so that I could get this yarn into a hank and give it a little bath and air dry to help set the twist before I ply it. But, depending on what it's like after it dries, I may just keep it as a single. I kind of like it just the way it is. Do singles have to be plied? Deb Menz Spinning in Color book suggests not, but I'm worried about bias. How do I know that my singles won't bias when I knit with them? Is just not seeing visible twist in the hank after drying enough? Or are there other magic tests?



A progression of handspun...

All the Spinning That's Happened So Far

These little skeins of yarn show how my spinning skills have progressed since the beginning of May. The first two skeins are from rovings I bought from Handspun by Stefania. The third skein is a tussah/cormo blend, the fourth, fifth and sixth skeins are from my dying projects with Julie and the seventh skein is the Bombyx/cormo blend that I've slowly been working through on one of my Bosworth spindles. I weighed it to find out how much I'd actually spun up and I think I have about 1/2 an ounce. At least that's what my Ikea scale tells me. It seems right given that that I started with a four ounce bag and there's still a whole lot of fiber left to work with.

To get it to this photoshoot, after plying it from a center pull ball (which worked better than the Andean plying bracelet), I soaked it and allowed it to hang dry to set the twist. And it seems pretty balanced. And very soft.

Bombyx Silk and Cormo Wool Blend Close Up

The Bombyx silk lends this yarn a little bit of extra texture. I found it hard to keep the singles even when I came across the silk. It seemed to prefer to become these little slubs. The yarn is a little more rusty than the luminous red that shows up in the picture and should be a nice color for a fall garment.

I've been pretty unmotivated to knit so far this summer, but running my fingers over my own handspun is getting me a little more inspired to get back to it. Based on a wraps per inch measurement (about 16 wpi) this yarn looks like it's sport weight. This seems like an idea weight for something lacy -- I'm hoping that it might be a good candidate for a a flower basket shawl, but I am figuring that I better spin up a little bit more of it before I start on a project with it, just to be sure that I get enough to actually complete the project I start.

More Spindling

Spinning Up Stuff From MS&W: Cormo/Silk and Corriedale

When the going gets stressful, the stressed get spinning. I never thought I would find spinning so relaxing and tension releasing. There is something incredibly centering about watching fiber become yarn. Just letting my fingers do something. I have to keep my eyes on the fiber, but there's no counting, no shaping, no stitches. Just gentle tugging and sliding and the occasional need to wind on the yarn or sent the spindle into motion. Both my eyes and my fingers are satisfied and my brain just has to admire the progress.

I have to say that the BFL and the Cormo/Silk rovings that I have been spinning have got me a little bit spoiled. I really liked spinning that Corriedale when I first got it. Now it seems a bit rough (although I love the cochineal coloring and the shine in the yarn) and my fingers would rather be working over the Cormo/Bombyx silk blend.

A Little Bit Slubby

One thing I've found about this blend is that the silk seems to cluster in areas and you get these little slubby bits going as you spin, places that I just can't draft out the same way as the wool fibers. It creates a very pleasant texture in the yarn. Interestingly, the Cormo/Tussah blend that I bought doesn't behave this way at all. I don't know if that is a difference between the two types of silk or just how they've been blended together, but it's quite noticeable in the final product.

I've made a few more discoveries while spindling along -- spin the spindle as fast as you can feel comfortable doing. It tends to wobble less and it goes longer. It also gives you more twist and for thinner singles, more twist means less chance of breaking. I think that both my spindles are probably a little too heavy for the singles that I am spinning as occasionally I have spindling wipe-outs (where my poor spindle ends up on the floor) that increase in frequency as the spindle accumulates more yarn.

A big thanks to everyone who left suggestions for me about plying. I think now that I am spinning more fiber onto my spindles, it probably makes sense to try plying from a center pull ball. We'll see how this works when I get to a good stopping point with the red Cormo/Bombyx!

Love's Labor Lost


I guess I was due for a bit of a come-uppance with my spindling. I was hoping that I could turn that reasonable bit of roving into a two-ply that I would actually have enough of to knit a little something with. It was quite a bit of yarn, but I thought I would just make another one of those Andean plying bracelets (albeit a big one) and ply up a nice robust skein.

But it was not to be.

One Starting Single, Three Sets of Results

The Niddy noddy contains the small amount of yarn that got plied before I encountered a tangle I just couldn't deal with. Okay, I clipped it and tried again, but came upon another tangle. It seemed like too much to deal with easily, so I thought I would just wind it off onto something else and try plying it in a smaller batch. I got some of it (the single skein to the left). But then I encountered another tangled mess that I couldn't defeat. I just couldn't find a way to deal with it that wouldn't end up in far too many un-pliable fragments.

Tangled Mess

It may not look like much, but I think it's over a third of what I spun!

In the trial and error learning spirit that I talked about yesterday, I am just going to keep it as a remembrance to not get carried away with trying to ply too much yarn from an Andean plying bracelet. I think I just tried to wrap too much too tightly. Especially for a tiny thin yarn that has a tendency to want to twist on itself, tangle or otherwise bond with itself. Much better to start from two separate center pull balls, I think.

The question for me now? How do you experienced spinners get two balls or roughly equal length to ply together. Do you measure out the roving into pieces of equal weight? Do you spin and then measure the length and divide in two? Do you just guess an hope it all works out?

A Spindle Full of Flowers

The Weekend's Labor of Love

Spring Flowers


One thing I am trying to change in my life is my need to have a book before I jump off into something. This statement should not be taken to mean that I don't think books are valuable, or that I don't love books in general. It's more a statement about me and how I do things. I often look to books to get instructions on the "right way to do things" and then I just religiously follow the recipe. There's nothing truly wrong with this approach, but for me, once I establish some protocol in my brain, I stop thinking about what it means or what the instructions represent. I know how to do something, but I don't know why I'm doing what I am doing.

I've been trying to change a little of that way of operating as I learn to sping. Certainly I have bought books and I'm using them as a reference as I go along, but I am also trying to understand spinning as a process that I am learning by doing as opposed to simply following a recipe. I hope in the long run that will mean that I can be more creative about what I am doing because I understand more of the principles of why things work the way they do.

I'm still working on spinning the Blue Faced Leicester rovings that Julie and I dyed up. This weekend I started on one that might actually yield enough yarn to do something of reasonable size with. I'm referring to it as my "Spring Flowers" roving, because the colors in it remind me of the vivid reds, purples and greens of spring crocus, tulips and hyacinths.

Spring Flowers in Blue Faced Leicester

One thing that I've learned on my own is that I just am not very good at spinning from big thick pieces of roving. So I've taken to dividing my rovings into as many smaller, but still manageable to spin from pieces as I can. Then I spend some time pre-drafting them by yanking on the piece of roving, moving from one end of the roving to the other in 3-4" intervals. The result is that the dense roving above turns into the cotton candy below.

Separating and Pre-Drafting

The pre-drafting also softens the colors a bit. They maintain that softer look on the spindle. I tried to divide the roving as evenly as possible so that the color intervals would be fairly regular. It will be interesting to see how they all blend together when I ply the yarn.

In comments to my post about the "Easter Egg" roving, Natasha asked:

is bfl soft? i hate spinning with anything that isn't really soft. i am a wuss.

I'm a wuss too, which is why I put the indigo dyed roving away for a while. I would definitely consider BFL to be soft. Not as soft as merino or cormo, but softer than some of the longer staple wools that I picked up at MS&W. Its definitely a nice wool for a beginning spinner like me because the staple length is long enough to make it easier to control, and it's not too coarse or rough on my fingers, so you can spin for a long time, and it seems to me that the best way to get good at spinning is just to do a lot of it.

Easter In July


Towards the end of our dying adventure a month or so ago, there were some odds and ends of Blue Faced Leicester roving that we just didn't feel could be allowed to remain un-dyed. Julie decided that this was a great opportunity to try out some colors that we normally wouldn't be all that interested in. For both of us, this seemed to mean yellow. She opted to go for more solid warm yellow dying test, while I, perhaps not surprisingly, ended up with a cooler yellow with what I hoped would be complementary colors: green and purple. The result, for me, turned out like this:

Spring Pastels

As an aside, I want to mention that it's still very interesting to me that two people can start with the same exact set of dyes, but come away with fiber with very different color palettes and temperatures. Although yellow doesn't normally float my boat, I really liked this little bit of fiber and decided that I would hold onto it until my spinning actually got good enough so that I could turn the resulting yarn into something knitted. Over the weekend, I decided that I'd reached that point and, since it seems wrong to have an empty spindle laying around, that it was time to see what this collection of colors would do as it moved from roving to yarn.

Spring Pastel Single

The yellow shows up here as the dominant color because of the direction in which I spun from the roving (I've discovered that rovings seem to draft better from one direction... I think that has to do with the structure of the wool shaft and the way the scales align), but there's definitely a good deal of green hiding out in the background as well. The light purple/lavender is much more subtle.

I'm going to let this single "rest" overnight on my spindle before I ply it, but I'm extremely curious about how the colors will look once plied. Will the purple in the mix just cause muddy brown regions or will it give the purple and yellow some interesting pop? The thought has also occurred to me to try to learn how to do that Navajo 3-plying technique, so as to maintain the regions of color in series, but I'm not sure I'm up to that particular hand-eye co-ordination challenge quite yet.

Any experienced spinners have any guesses or suggestions? From the perspective of controlling the fiber diameter, I think this is probably my best effort to date, so I'd like to see that it gets finished off well.

Homely but Soft


One of my favorite places to stop at MS&W is the booth for the American Cormo Association. Cormo sheep are relatively rare (from what I can tell) and are a cross between Corriedales and Merinos. I'm not very familiar with the former breed, but I've come in contact with enough Merino wool to know how soft and wonderful it is. However, I've been told it's very short staple, and that can make for frustrating spinning for a novice like myself. I don't think Cormo is considered to be a long staple yarn, but it's incredibly soft. I just couldn't resist getting three bags of hand-dyed Cormo-Silk blend roving to stash away for when I was ready to try something special.

Of course, the problem with having something wonderful like that is that you really don't want to leave it buried away, at least not if you're me. You want to get it out and revel in it a little bit, even if you know it's not exactly the right time for this particular party. So I started this spindle-ful when I was doing my dying experiment with Julie, continued to work on it in Ann Arbor over Father's Day weekend, and finished it up tonight.

Cormo Silk Blend Single

This picture is a bit deceptive. This last bit I spun without spinning and parking and it's much finer and more sophisticated looking than most of the rest of it. But having had my success with the Blue Faced Leicester, I wanted to see how I would do with the Cormo (I also wanted to get that spindle back so that I could try some more Cormo spinning using the same technique all the way through). After another Andean plying bracelet and some quality time wiht my tulipwood Bosworth, I had this sitting on my itty bitty niddy noddy.

2 Ply on a Niddy Noddy

It doesn't look so bad from a distance, but it's pretty rustic looking stuff.

A Homely But Incredibly Soft Little Skein

Rustic, but very, very soft. It's a bit on the homely side (especially compared to yesterday's yarn) but so nice to the touch it's almost hard to put down. It also taught me something. Creating a two ply from an unevenly spun yarn (from the perspective of the variation in the diameter of the single over time) made it a lot harder for me to balance the stuff and ended up in what I consider to be a relatively loosely plied yarn.

Have a great weekend, everyone! I probably won't be back until after the 4th of July. And I most certainly am likely to be spinning!

I Am Inordinantly Proud


...of this little skein.

One Little Skein of Hand Dyed, Hand Spun Blue Faced Leicester

After the camera test last night, I finished drop spindling the small remaining amount of sunset colored roving that I had. Tonight, accompanyied by a nice glass wine, I used an Andean plying bracelet to help me turn that single into a two ply yarn. On my last plying adventure, before I set the twist, I had a skein that definitly wanted to twist on itself a little bit. Tonight, I tried to focus my attention on making sure that I had a "balanced" yarn -- that is, once plied, the yarn didn't really want to twist around itself. At first, for some reason, balanced always seemed undertwisted to me. But now that I look at the skein, it seems about right. It still needs a bath to set the twist, but that is a project for tomorrow, I think.

This skein feels like my first real, something I would actually knit with, skein of yarn. Not perfect, but definitely an effort I'm proud of (ask my poor husband, he's been subjected to looking at it several times tonight). I now feel like I understand the basics of spinning with a drop spindle.

In the comments to my last post, Nik asked for some recommendations for learning. The best one I can give: go to MS&W with Cladia, Julie, Leigh and the Harlot. I know that's a bit hard to achieve, so I'd also like to recommend the book that Julie recommended on her blog a while ago:

as well as Ameilia Carlson's "Spindling: the Basics" booklet that I got from the Journey Wheel folks while I was at MS&W.

This go at spinning is actually my second. Sometime back, Julie tried to teach me and I just couldn't figure it out (and it wasn't because she was a bad teacher -- more like I wasn't really ready to want to understand the process). Being able to watch a bunch of different people with different styles helped me realize that I don't have to worry about a "right" or a "wrong" way. It also made me appreciate that in order to do it right, I needed to understand what I was doing. I guess that's the scientist in me, but I do a lot better when I'm not just "following instructions".

I also tried to take my time and not have expectations of perfection. I discovered that pre-drafting is a good thing, and that there's nothing wrong with divinding your roving into whatever size chunks you find easiest to work with. I spent a lot of time spinning and parking and letting the twist move gradually as I learned to deal with handling the fiber. I'm still pretty slow, but now that I have some of the basic motionsin place, I'm sure that my speed will pick up with time.

I also followed the advice of every spinner I have met so far and picked fibers that I wanted to touch. The reality is that sheep are not going extinct, and even if I mess up a whole bunch of lovely cormo, it isn't the end of the world. Better to work with fibers that make me happy and accept that along the path to learning I will have some things that I don't want to look at later on.

Finally, pick a spindle that talks to you. A spindle needs to be well balanced, but it also needs to be something that you want in your hands, that you enjoy looking at, that just "feels right". I'm happy that I started with the two lovely Bosworth spindles that I got and I like to think that these are endowed with special good vibes since some spinners I respect a great deal spun a little bit with them before they came home with me to Chicago.

A Little Spinning

A Niddy Noddy Wrapped in Indigo Yarn

I haven't been doing a whole lot of knitting for the past couple of days. Instead, I've been playing around with some more of my Handspun by Stefania roving, this one dyed with indigo. In spite of the recent influx of pink on this blog, blue is really my favorite color.

This roving (I wish I could remember what type of sheep it is from) has a relatively long staple -- 3-5" and makes for a nice learning fiber -- especially after I realized that I should work with it on my heavier drop spindle. Rather than trying to co-ordinate too much as I understand how the spinning process works, I am doing the spin and park method and drafting out the fiber while the spindle is parked. This has helped me understand the drafting process a little bit better, as well as to get a sense of how much twist is a good amount of twist.

Relatively Even

I'm relatively pleased with how even this yarn came out. I feel like I am finally getting the handle on the drafting process, and how to do it in an even manner. What I am not so pleased about is how fuzzy this yarn is. I think this has to do with not catching all the fibers in the twist. Perhaps it's also a property of this fiber and it's just meant to make a slightly fuzzy yarn. In any event, it will soon be time to ply. I'm thinking of trying out plying via an Andean plying bracelet so that I can avoid having to figure out how to spin a second, equal length single to ply with.

Even though I haven't mastered drop-spindling by any stretch of the imagination, I am beginning to understand the addictive quality of spinning. It really is soothing and does help me clear my mind of things I'd prefer would leave my head. I'm beginning to think more and more about that Ashford Traditional that's waiting for a few simple repairs...



Just a little handspun and a beautiful niddy noddy.

My Very First Yarn Ever and A Gorgeous Niddy Noddy

It probably doesn't come as much surprise, given my current pink binge, that that multi-striped pink roving from Handspun by Stefania would be hard for me to put down. This was a roving that Claudia placed in my hands and told me that I really needed to have. How could I argue with that? As it turns out, this corriedale blend is pretty easy fiber for me to draft, and it makes a very pretty yarn. I plied the single I spun more or less by the seat of my pants. It took me a little while to figure out that not enough twist leads to yarn that won't hold together and too much twist while plying leads to something of a knotted mess.

I though this picture was the nicest way to show off the very pretty little niddy noddy that I purchased from Bill Hardy of Turnstyles. Like Leigh, I find myself drawn to niddy noddies. This one is beautful and smooth and and intricate...and I hope perhaps that it will be inspirational to another wood tuner I know. (Would be an awfully nice little project for a guy who just got a great little mini-lathe for his birthday...)

And just because I am inordinantly proud of this little spinning expierment, a closeup of my very first and spun and plied yarn:

Closer Look

I really didn't think I would like this stuff so much. Now I'm wishing I'd gotten more.

P.S. Looking for a good cause to support? My spinning guide, Claudia is planning on embarking on a very big bike ride to help fight Multiple Sclerosis -- a degenerative autoimmune disease that affects the neurological system. The disease, which affects most of it's victims as young adults, is really a terrible thing. Imagine being subject to spontaneous attacks of blindness or a growing lack of co-ordination or just being fatigued all the time. The MS society spends a lot of it's money supporting research to help find a way to cure or fight this debilitating disease -- a long time ago, I was involved with some MS research. So if you've got a little money to spare, go support a great person who's riding for a great cause. Good Luck, Claudia!



In the spirit of Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, the Keyboard Biologist has jumped into spinning with both feet. If you have been following along at Claudia's Blog you got some forewarning of what could be coming. Now, finally, all will be revealed.

First off, it's a little hard to spin anything without any spinning equipment. I think I showed an enormous amount of restraint by not buying a wheel to get started on (okay, maybe not so much restraint, as anyone who has been reading along for a while might remember that my mother's Ashford Traditional is still taking up residence in my house). Instead, it seemed like the best way to get started might be to invest in something a bit more modest, like a handspindle.

Of course, as I would learn later, and as those of you who have them and love them already know, spindles are a little bit like potato chips, it's hard to have just one. Hand spindles come in different weights, sizes and woods; the shaping of the whorls gives them different properties. Knowing which one to select would have been close to impossible without good advice. The first of which was: make sure it spins without wobbiling. The second bit of which was: your first spindle should be relatively heavy and be able to spin relatively slowly.

The thing I learned on my own: spindles, like yarn, will talk to you. They know who they are meant to be for, and they will call out to you and make sure you know that. Even if you don't realy know what you are doing yet, when they are in your hands, you will have this feeling that you and this spindle are meant to be. At least that was the case for the two that left the Journey Wheel booth with me.

Two Beautiful Bosworth Spindles and Some Fiber from Stefania

The spindle on the left has a what I think is a Grenadilla whorl (unfortunately I have misplaced the tag)combined with a rosewood shaft. It's considered a midi, but is pretty close in weight to the tulipwood maxi spindle on the right because of the weight of the wood in the whorl. The midi spindle is probably a tool above what I am ready for, but once I picked it up, I simply couldn't put it down. The tulipwood maxi is likely to be my major working spindle for a while. And it should also be able to do double duty as a plying spindle. Both are extremely gorgeous in person. It is awfully nice to have tools that are both beautiful and functional at the same time.

The two rovings that are below the spindles come from Handspun by Stefania. Both these rovings are colored with natural dyes. The blue Coopworth is dyed with Indigo and the 3 pink striped Corriedale is dyed with cochineal. These rovings were, of course, selected for their beautiful colors, but also so that I could have two relatively good rovings to begin learning on. The Coopworth is longer staple than the Corriedale, but both are long enough to provide a good starting for a beginner. (The colors are a little bit better in the thumbnail chips than in the photo with the spindles. You can click on the thumbnails if you want a better look.)

Is there more? Of course there's more! But if I spend all morning writing about it, I won't get to play with those lovely spindles.

P.S. Thank you to everyone who sent me good wishes on Friday. It's much appreciated. Being a grown up isn't all it's cracked up to be, but every challenging experience is a means to becoming a stronger, wiser person.
P.P.S. The Blog of the Day isn't gone, just temporarily suspended while I work through my MS&W posts.

A Wheel with a Story


On Monday, I mentioned that something special showed up at my house. I know I have mentioned on several occasions that spinning holds no interest for me. Julie tried her best to teach me how to work with a drop spindle, but I didn't turn out to be such a good student. I'm pretty easily frustrated when it comes to things that require hand-eye co-ordination, so I figured that I would just leave spinning to others with more patience. After all, this stuff is supposed to be relaxing.

But then I saw Claudia giving Carolyn spinning lessons with a drop spindle at Maryland Sheep and Wool. And I watched Leigh make the most lovely blue yarn from this indigo dyed batt that she bought. And I remembered that my mother had a slightly neglected spinning wheel sitting at her house.
When she came for her mother's day visit, I asked her if she might not be willing to share her wheel with me.

And so, after a liberal bath in some Murphy's Oil Soap, here's the new visitor in my living room. Those of you who know spinning, will know exactly what kind of wheel it is, but I'm going to save its true identity for a bit.

Happy Shiny Spinning Wheel

Now, my mother has many many crafty hobbies, but I can tell you that from the time this wheel arrived in our house (sometime while I was in Junior High or High School) up until current times, that spinning has never been one of those hobbies. Not, I think, because my mom is averse to spinning. In fact, she loves all things fibery. It just wasn't one of those things she expected to come into her life.

Something else that might be surprising is that I never bothered to ask her how it was she came by a spinning wheel but never got into spinning. I mean, if mom goes out and buys a craft tool, she'll use it. Maybe not forever, but definitely until she decides whether its her thing or not. So I just had to ask, "what's up with the wheel, Mom?"

Apparently, the story goes something like this....

A long time ago, my mother handled a lot of administrative work for a wonderful British professor who worked in her department. I remember both him and his family pretty well. They were lovely people with a sense of humor and a few neat animals.

Well, at one point they took a trip to New Zealand and they asked mom to do a little pet-sitting for them. They jokingly asked my mother what she would like from New Zealand. And she told them that she wanted them to bring her back a sheep. Now, all of us who knit can appreciate how cool it would be to get a sheepy friend from the South Pacific. But apparently there were a few problems with the immigration process and they had to figure something else out for mom. So, in lieu of a sheep, this lovely wheel came to live with us.

In the long run, this was probably a good thing, as I am not sure that our neighbors would have appreciated the whole livestock in our back yard thing. And sheep are just a little bit more work to look after (but probably a lot less work than the two messy children that lived in the house).

As I was growing up, it never occured to me to want to know much about the wheel. But as we were browsing through MS&W I suddenly realized that Mom's lonely wheel had a pretty nice parentage.

Ashford Traditional

So now I have the wheel, but it's days on display have not been completely kind to it. If you look closely at the picture above, you will notice that the treadle and the wheel are not actually connected. That's because of this:

Unhappy Leather Tether

This little leather piece that connects the treadle to the wheel moving board (I'm sure it has a technical term) dried out and broke away. So before I can go any farther than just cleaning mom's wheel, I have to find a replacement piece.

And then I have to find a good book. Anyone want to make any recommendations? If you could have only one book on spinning while you were stranded on a remote desert island in the South Pacific, and you needed to spin coconut husk fiber into clothing, what book would you bring? Or would you just wait until Rhinebeck when you could get Claudia to show you the ropes in by a beautiful lake in New York? Hmmm...


Monthly Archives