Getting to Know You

Morning Sunrise

I’m in my new apartment and it is delightful. I’ve been spending the past two weeks getting sorted and organized in the new place.

I’m right across the road from Bass Rock, a park in Bracebridge right on the Muskoka River.

Bass Rock

Apparently the swimming is really good, but I haven’t been in yet.

Muskoka River

Also, the high water from our spring flooding is still evident in the really high flow of the river.

Not only have I been getting familiar with my new apartment (pics to come once the couch arrives) and neighborhood, I’ve also been getting comfortable with my new spinning wheel.

Claudia, my Ladybug, has been an absolute dream to spin on.  It’s like there was no learning curve to get the yarn I wanted from it, and in fact I have spun up two yarns in the past week.

Left: 2ply semi-woolen Aran weight - Shetland - dyeing by Northbound Knitting, color Pablo Honey. Right: 2 ply semi-worsted sport weight - blended batt of merino, BFL, bamboo, and angelina - dyeing by Bohoknitterchic.

Left: 2ply semi-woolen Aran weight – Shetland – dyeing by Northbound Knitting, color Pablo Honey. Right: 2 ply semi-worsted sport weight – blended batt of merino, BFL, bamboo, and angelina – dyeing by Bohoknitterchic.

The yarns turned out just the way I wanted them too and I’m really excited to actually make them into something. Because they have such similar undertone colors, and totally opposite textures, that they would make for a really interesting woven scarf. I’m not sure who wants to be the warp and who wants to be the weft, but they go together nicely.

My Ashford wheel has found her way to her new home.  One of the women in the Trillium Guild was looking for a more modern wheel to spin on because her heritage wheel is a little fragile.

So I’m getting settled in to my new spot and I’m enjoying the sound of spring peepers and my little deck from which I can see glimpses of the river and I can spend the evening reading or knitting and enjoying the wonder that is summer in Ontario.

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Ready, Set, Spin

So today marks the start of the Tour de Fleece, and annual spinning challenge that concedes with the Tour de France.  I participated last year and found that keeping up with teams took more time than the actual spinning, and with my new job (and stupid commute) I want to save as much time for knitting, spinning and weaving as possible, so I’m not participating in the Rav group, but I do have some goals for the three weeks of the Tour.


Goal:

  • To be able to spin the yarn that I set out to spin (rather than ending up with the yarn that the wheel wants to make)

It seems like the best way to meet this goal is to spin a whole bunch of fluff that I have no plans for.  Part of my issue is that I feel like everything I spin has to be useable, that if not then the fluff is wasted, and I don’t want to waste my fluff so I sometimes don’t spin what I have for fear of ruining it.  So I have pulled out a few different batts, braids and fleece that are already in handy sample size (so no worries about not being able to knit with it) or I’m not totally in love with but still really like to get into and not be fearful while spinning and take some chances.

So I guess there is a second goal of the TdF, spend enough time spinning to meet my first goal.  To that end I aim to spin at least 10 minutes a day, with a minimum of 30 minutes of spinning on days I don’t go to work.  This should give me the time to actually do some spinning, before the Ravellenic Games (formerly the Ravelympics) and knitting take over for the end of July and into August.

So with the perfect weather I may be taking my spinning wheel outside for the rest of the weekend and seeing how far I can get before Tuesday (thanks to Canada Day tomorrow I have a four day weekend.

What do Rainbow Brite, 70s Appliances, an Easter Basket and the North Pole have in common?

A range of fibers and textures, Corriedale, Masham, Merino/Tencel, and Merino plyed Peruvian Highland Wool.

They are all handspun yarns.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I have a backlog of projects that need to get up on the blog, but I wanted to show off some of the yarns I have finished off recently.

The weekend before I started my new job I pretty well had the house to myself and a bunch of fluff that had been burning a hole in the bucket so I decided it was time to actually spin and ply my darling braids.

Spinning and watching the X-Files is a totally normal weekend activity, right?

The neat thing about spinning is that you can start with similar preps and even similar fibers you can come away with totally different yarns based on what your hands do: woolen or worsted, lace or bulky.  By starting with combed top (rather than batts) I was working on the worsted side of spinning and two yarns (Rainbow and 70s were done more semi-worsted with some loft, and the Easter and Christmas yarns were done in a true worsted style, lots of drape).

Singles all stacked up

Once you have the singles, then a whole other set of decisions, single, 2-ply, 3-ply or chain ply, loose ply or tight ply.  In this case I worked mostly with tight 2-plys because I don’t spin thin enough to make a 3-ply that comes any thinner than an Aran weight, and prefer knitting with fingering, sport and worsted, and tight because I just like the way they look and work better.

All, plied and ready for a bath.

So at the end of the weekend I had four yarns with distinct personalities (and having watched some of the most awesome S3 episodes of the X-Files).

WIP Wednesday: April 18th

I had a fairly busy weekend so not much fiber art-ing happened, and there have been no changes to the stole or spinning in the past week.  Both the socks are coming along although they need to speed up considerably for either pair to be finished by the end of the month. I have 8 of 12 repeats done on the cowl and so that should be finished up in a night or two of focused work.

I am nearly done with the cloth I have on the loom right now.  I am finally getting my selvages looking good and balanced between sloppy and too drawn-in.  I totally messed up the warp tension on this, however I am pressing on and learning the proper techniques (note to self, don’t finger comb the warp before it is tied onto the fabric beam and get a better warp separator).

At the very top are some rolags I made this morning with the hand cards I picked up many moons ago.  I downloaded a whole bunch of Interweave videos this past week, one of which is the How I Card video that highlights 4 different handcarding techniques.  While watching the video I finally got the nerve to break out the handcards and some Cormo fleece I got from bohoknitterchic and start carding.  I am really loving the rolags and I will probably be swapping out my bobbins so that I can start spinning them.

I have heard rumors it is going to be a nasty weekend so I may get some good hands-on fiber time and finish up a few projects (and maybe start a few others, my tatting showed up on Monday).

FO: Mountain, Sea and Rainbow

 

My wheel hasn’t been seeing much attention recently.  Over the past few months I have finished a few different yarns.

Sea - Merino/Silk (50/50), n-ply worsted spun, 50gm, 60ish yds, worsted-ish weight

I have been trying different techniques, and I think I am starting to get a handle on chain-plying (also known as Navajo or N-plying).  I used this technique on the silk/merino blend I picked up a year ago from The Purple Sock in Coldwater.  It was a 50 gm combed top from Fleece Artist.  The color was amazing, but like with the purple top I got from them at the same time I found that the way it was packaged meant a whole bunch on both end were really felted before I even began.  Also, being dyed up in 50gm units, make it tough to actually get enough yardage to make anything.

Rainbows - Polwarth, 2 ply (fractal) semi-worsted, 4oz, 160yds, worsted-ish weight,

By contrast the combed top I got from Gale’s Art, an indie dyer from Georgia, (I love her stuff and have stashed quite a bit of it in the past year), came nicely packaged, easy to draft and a dream to spin. This one was a Polwarth, dyed up in a colorway called Spring Fever.  Gale keeps it around with her luscious BFLs (have some of those) and her Alpaca/Silks (which I don’t).  I found it was easy to spin a semi-woolen yarn, something I have not had much success with yet.  This one I tried a fractal plying technique.

I couldn’t find a good explanation of fractal plying, so I pieced the notion together from references on Ravelry and a variety of blogs.  Basically, when you have a combed top you make sure each bobbin has color changes at different rates.  This is accomplished by making thinner strips, which makes the color switches happen faster.  There are mathematical ways to do this, however I just split the roving until half was significantly thinner.

Mountains - Merino/Tencel, 2-ply (fractal) worsted spun, 4oz, 120yds, worsted-ish weight

I fractal plyed both the Corrie and the Merino/Tencel top I got from bohoknitterchic, and I found the color distribution worked better on the Corrie, however, it ended up giving a nice effect on the Merino/Tencel.

After having such a stickey, lofty fiber like the Corridale, I found the Merino/Tencel not as much fun to spin.  I spun it worsted to highlight the shine of the tencel in the top.  After trying different breeds I find myself drawn more towards the more rustic longer wools for spinning rather than soft, fluffy merino.  I like knitting with Merino, but I enjoy having a connection to the more rustic, sheepy heritage of spinning and yarn.

If you want to know more about sheep breeds and what that means for spinning and knitting check out The Knitter’s Book of Wool, it is a great resource that I have raved about before.  However, if like me you want to know more, check out the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. This resource is amazing and has more information about fleece bearing animals around the world that can be imagined.

After the craziness of the last few weeks I am hoping that Christmas (no Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada *pout*) will afford me some time to sit down at my wheel and get my hands on some fiber, because they are itching for it.

FO: TdF Stragglers

Four New Yarns

So, at the beginning of the Tour de Fleece I set out the batts and tops I wanted to spin, and after the three weeks of the tour I had finished two yarns.  Not deterred by missing the deadline so badly, I have continued to spin my TdF fluff queue and I am finally finished, almost a month after the last day of the tour.

Falling Leaves

50/50 Tussah Silk and SeaCell, 14wpi, worsted spun, 2-ply, 60yds, 50g.

The Fiber

The Yarn

Two Art Yarns

The Fiber, Already Dizzed

1. Corespun, 30 yds

The Corespun Yarn

2. Threadplyed Yarn, 100 yds

The Threadplyed Yarn

Fall Colors

100% BFL, chain plyed, aran weight, 100yds, 100gm

The Fiber

The Yarn

So I am finally “caught up” on my spinning. I find having a spinning queue is helpful, but I think I need to knit down some handspun before I can spin anymore.

TdF: Finish Line

So, I crossed the finish line of the Tour, with three yarns, one short and fluffy, one firm and silky, and a spindle spun yarn.

My Three TdF Yarns

As a reminder, here were my goals:

  • To spin every day, for a minimum of 10 minutes
  • To spin one yarn with a pattern in mind, which means being intentional about my spinning technique, yarn weight and trying to aim for specific lengths.
  • To spin some silk successfully
  • To spin at least one yarn:
    -Long Draw
    -From the Fold
    -Chain Plyed
  •  To spin with intention, and make sure that no matter what I enjoy the activity
So I succeeded at a few things, I enjoyed all my spinning during the Tour, and I spun some silk on a spindle. I also spun most days, and I have learned how calming I find spinning and how helpful it can be at dealing with stress.

My Golding Spindle and a Tussah Silk Sample

I have been much more successful in the week following the tour than I was during the whole tour. I spun some  semi-woolen/long-draw singles, which I haven’t chain-plyed yet, also I  have silk singles spun on my wheel, soon to be plyed.

Three Bobbins Full: Two Silk and one BFL

I have even started my first art yarn, a corespun using crochet cotton and my Golding Ring Spindle to manage the core (something that was keeping me away from corespun yarns).

My First Intentional Art Yarn: well at least one that I didn't dread making.

I look forward to next year’s Tour, but I have a hard time putting aside my knitting and crochet projects to spin, so I think I need to clear my calendar so I have a clear run at my spinning.

TdF: Week 2

So I am totally failing at the Tour de Fleece.  Never mind all those lofty goals I set, I am finding it challenging to spin every day, I didn’t spin at all on Monday or Tuesday. Never mind that I fell into bed at 9pm both nights, but I could not even bring myself to look at my wheel.

The reason I was so exhausted was that I helped out at the Angry Seagull 24-hour adventure race that happened in my town.  I was responsible for CheckPoint 7, which means I got a text at 2:30am on Sunday to get out to a spot about 5km south of town and sit there till noon waiting on teams.

 

My 2oz Golding Spindle with a Tussah Silk Sample from Gale's Art

I did get some spinning done, imagine the strange looks you get when you are sitting in the back of your car, looking like you woke up at 2:30 and have a spindle going.

I managed to spin and ply a small sample of tussah silk that I got from Gale at Gale’s Art back in the fall.

The three finished bobbins of Bohoknitterchic Merino/Silk that I have been working on for a week now.

Since Wednesday I have perked up on my spinning, first because a box of goodies I ordered from Gale’s Art back during the Postal Strike finally arrived and yesterday the Sliding Hook Flyer and Lazy Kate I ordered arrived.  I bribed myself that I can’t start anything with the new flyer until I finish up the singles of the Bohoknitterchic Merino/Silk that I have been working on for a week now.  So Thursday night I managed to get halfway through the second (of three) bobbins of singles.  I will use the new flyer to ply because the bobbins are so wonderfully large.

Between my 8 new large bobbins and the 4 old smaller bobbins, I now have the ability to get into lots of trouble.

The TdF is really poorly timed for me, as someone who works in recreational trail management, I spend most days in the summer either outside doing trail maintenance or figuring out what sort of work needs to be done next.  Also, it is currently the nicest and busiest time of the year in Parry Sound, with all sorts of activities from classical music festivals to dragon boat races.

However, I move on to week three of the Tour and it is time to see whether I will crash and burn any worse than the riders this year.