Thursday, December 12, 2013

One of these skeins is not like the others...

Remember the Sesame Street Song?  "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong…"

Well, I did some woolen spinning for the first time during Spinzilla.  Then I tried to go back to my short forward draft to spin the third skein for my Color Affection shawl.  Can you see the results in the pictures?

The two on the ends were spun before Spinzilla.  The one in the middle was done during Spinzilla.  

My skeins go like this:

     Skein 1; 100 g, 258 yd
     Skein 2: 80 g, 215 yd 
     Skein 3: 90 g, 168 yd

Normalized per 50 g, that:

     Skein 1: 129 yd
     Skein 2: 134 yd
     Skein 3: 93 yd

Besides the yardage being so different, the feel of the yarn is quite different: fluffy, airy….woolen spun!

My goal was to match KnitPicks Palette, as I mentioned in this post.  Trouble is, I didn't notice until just now that I'm DOUBLE what I thought!

Here I was saying, Pallete has 213 yd/ 50 g, so I'm doing well  at 258.  But that's for 100 g!  What's my problem?  I was planning to simply spin another skein 3, but now I might just have to start all over.  Hrumph.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spinzilla Day 7 and Aftermath

Remember that saying "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray"?  Well, it sure is true for me.

We left on Sunday morning for our camping trip after postponing for various reasons, including rain.  Because we changed plans, I thought I'd get to bring my spinning wheel, but as we started to pack the car, I could see it wasn't going to happen.  With a canoe on top, we couldn't bring the car top carrier, and the car was FULL.  In the end, I threw in my spindle and some brown mill ends.

It poured on us during the drive to James River State Park, but it was only drizzling when we got there.    The river was beautiful, and I had visions of getting my husband to take a picture of me spinning on the banks of the river.  It didn't happen like that.  First we broke out the ponchos.  Then I made lunch under the hatch back of the car while my husband scouted tent sites. Then we ate, and it finally quit raining.  We used the break to get camp set up.  When we were all done, it was settling into dusk.  I was about to get out my spindle, when my husband said, "I'm going to try out the canoe before it gets dark.  Want to come?"  Was I going to say no to an offer like that?  When we got back, it was time for dinner.  While I was cooking, my son made a fire.  With some lighter-fluid help, he finally got the damp wood burning.  After dinner, we all settle around the fire and I pulled out my spindle...and it started to rain.  We all jumped up to clean up everything before it got too wet. We got the little kids into the tent, then did the dishes in the rain before following them. I couldn't let the last day of Spinzilla end without the tiniest bit of spinning, so I ended up trying to spin while sitting on the floor of my tent holding the spindle above my head.  I got a couple of yards of bad singles before my kids asked if I'd please turn the flashlight off.  Ah, well.  At least I got something to add to my total.

The rest of the camping trip was great!  Monday was a beautiful dry day.  We canoed, explored, and enjoyed the weather.  We came home Tuesday, and I was starting to worry about getting my singles plyed so that I could count up my totals.  I thought I still had enough time.  Well, nothing ever goes as planned, and I ran out of time.  I managed to ply the white wool, but had to use a balance to estimate the red.  I wound the purple off and measured, then wound it back on, and my little bit of brown was easy to measure with a tape measure.  

My total was 2243 yards spun.  This is so much more than I've ever spun in a short time before, I have to be happy.  I spun more than I had pre-drafted, so that means I had to have done more than I thought I might.  I also learned to spin from the fold and to love the fluffiness of woolen spun yarn.  I'd call that a success.  The only trouble?  I learned a bit too much how to spin woolen, and my white wool, third of three skeins, seems to be a lot more woolen-ish and fluffy than worstedish and smooth.  am I going o have to spin a whole 'nother skein to match the first two?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Spinzilla Day 6

When I signed up to participate in Spinzilla, I knew it would be hard to find time to spin for a contest.  But I also relished the challenge.  Today was one of those days when spinning didn't get it's turn.

I got up this morning and immediately started sewing halloween costumes for a party at our church tonight.  I don't know why I still, after fifteen years of having children, think that I have until October 31st to finish costumes.  I ALWAYS have to finish them early for some event or another.  This one was particularly early though, and since we'd planned to be gone on a camping trip, I hadn't planned to go.

With the spirit of last minute panic egging me on, we finished costumes just in time to be 15 minutes late.  We had a great time, and I think the kids looked great!

Little Bo Peep, The Black Knight, Tasselhof Burrfoot (from the Dragonlance Books), and Merida (from Brave)
After the party, we went grocery shopping for the camping trip, made meals to freeze, cleaned up a bit, and then I finally sat down to spin for a couple of minutes before bed.  We had to change our camping plans because our first choice plan was full, so we're going to strap on the canoe and go to the James River.  That means car camping, not backpacking, so I'm back to hoping my wheel will fit in the car for the last day of Spinzilla tomorrow.

Here's my little bit of spinning:  Its merino/silk purchase at the Shenandoah fiber festival.  The picture is bad because it's midnight, and I have no good light.  I dyed the roving last week, and have been surprised and pleased by the variation in color.  I expected the silk and merino to take the dye differently, but there's much more variation that I can't explain.

[#spinzilla, #teamspinoff]

Friday, October 11, 2013

Spinzilla Day 5

The fifth day of Spinzilla already!  I've spun almost as much as I have in my whole spinning "career" up until now.  This morning I plied up the "Granite" merino from Unique Ewe.  I LOVE this yarn!  It is squishy, soft, light, and makes you want to squeeze it all day.  My favorite part of spinning is plying. I love how fast it is, and I love seeing the product of the labor.

I also barely managed to get 80 g of wool/silk spun up to finish up my Color Affection shawl.  I had to quit spinning because we're going to a halloween party tomorrow, and I had to pull out the sewing machine to work on costumes.  Here's hoping I finish the sewing in time!

[#teamspinoff, #spinzilla]

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Spinzilla Day 4... already?!

As they always do, the days are flying by.  I thought the week of Spinzilla would last so long!  I've been feeling frustrated all day, because I barely got to touch my wheel.  The truth is, the past red days when I did get to use it were the unusual ones.

It's a good thing I did spin a bit this evening, or I might have torn someone's head off.  My husband keeps telling me that C-SPAN radio and driving in traffic don't mix, but I'm too dumb to listen to his wise counsel!  Traffic is bad enough without listening to politicians all day.  If I hear one more person say, "The American People want..." I think I'll scream.  If all the American people wanted the same thing, this wouldn't be complicated.  Hmpf.  Spinning...calm...yes....

So today I finished the bobbin full of merino (4 oz) in Colorway "Granite".  I had kind of a problem, because I'd decided to spin the two colorways separately, then ply them with each other as a marled yarn.  But when I spun up the denim, it was as one of my Spin Off teammates suggested; you don't know which the characteristics of the singles you'll love will be until you see them.  I loved the Denim as it was, so I had to figure out how to split the bobbin in two to ply it.  I transferred what looked like half to another bobbin (same type, so I assumed their weight was the same), then kept weighing until they were the same.  Now I have to do the same again with the Granite so that I can free up the bobbins for the rest of my white wool for the Color Affection Shawl.

If I'm really fast with the white wool I'm spinning up for a color affection shawl, I'm hoping to get to this merino/silk I dyed last week:

I hope I have more to show for tomorrow, because we just decided to go camping this weekend, and that's going to cramp my spinning style.  It's looking like a short backpacking hike, so I guess I'll have to revert to a spindle!

[#spinzilla, #teamspinoff]

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Spinzilla Day 3, and I'm beat.

Well, I'm so tired tonight I was feeling discouraged about my spinning, but I'm really actually quite happy with it!  I finished all the red Wool of the Andes, plied the "Denim" merino, which is my favorite part, and got about half of the "Granite" merino spun.

I'm getting better at spinning from the fold, but switching back and forth with short forward draw has my hands all confused!  I finally started folding all the locks in advance so that I can pick them up and join them faster.  I love this colorway.

The pictures are all lousy because it's night, but I really love the soft squishiness of the merino now that it's plied.  Can't wait to see it in the skein!

I have one great story for the night.  The family knelt down tonight to say a family prayed.  My hubby asked my older son to say the prayer, but apparently he didn't hear.  We everyone bowed their heads waiting for a prayed and finally my youngest son said, "Hello?"  Somehow it sounded just like he'd picked up a phone to his Heavenly Father and was trying to start a conversation.  I laughed til tears came.  What a cute kid!

[#spinzilla, #teamspinoff]

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spinzilla Day 2

I wonder how many posts in the blogosphere are titled that?  I think I'll do a search tomorrow.

Spinzilla Day 2 had been really fun, but I truly do have sore hands and treadle leg.  Wow!  Still, with soreness and all, and thinking that I've done a lot of spinning, some people on my Spin Off team have spun four times as much fiber as me!  Holy smokes people!  You're amazing!  Check 'em out on Ravelry.

I've managed between babysitting and my own four kids to fit in finishing my denim blue merino and starting the last bobbin full of red Wool of the Andes.

The merino is from Unique Ewe of Knit Unique, in Logan, Utah.  It is 4 oz, spun from the fold, my first time ever.  Spinning from the fold is great; I should have tried it before.  I've learned most of what I do spinning from The little book "Start Spinning" by Maggie Casey.  It's truly a great book.  I'm hoping the finished yarn will turn out lofty and soft.  This is the closest to woolen spinning I've ever done.  By the end I could long draw off the fold with no stress.  I felt like I was spinning pretty bulky, but it's around 17 wpi.

The red I'm back to working on is more of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Roving in Hot Rod Heather.  It's a really pretty red, with shades of black for depth.  I got 400 g for Christmas, and I'm spinning it up to make a three ply yarn.

I decided to put each ply on storage bobbins that I bought especially for Spinzilla, but that turns out to be more time consuming than I thought.  The first time I broke the yarn once, and the bobbin holder snapped.  Luckily, the four bobbins came with four holders that fit into a drill.  Today when I wound the second one on, I used my husbands nicer clutched drill, set a slower speed and minimum torque strength.  I don't think it really helped, because I broke another holder.  Bummer.  Each bobbin took me 20 minutes to wind with all the complication.  I think it would take about 10 minutes at a medium speed if all went smoothly.

Now I've parked my wheel for the night, and I'm hoping to get some sleep.  May everyone have wooly dreams tonight!

[#teamspinoff, #spinzilla]

Monday, October 7, 2013

Spinzilla Day 1!

Today was the first glorious day of Spinzilla, the week that is my excuse to spin everywhere and everywhen I can.

I've been trying to post progress photos on Ravelry and Pinterest, but all technology seems to be failing me today.  Here's hoping that the trusty blog will work!

I'm starting Spinzilla off with some Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Roving in Hot Rod Red.  I spun up one ply of three planned ones a few months ago.

I pre-drafted it on Saturday, and I LOVE how gorgeous the fiber gets as you draft.  Look:



When I went to bed last night, I realized it was after midnight, so I made a token start:

and tonight, I've finished my next bobbin of 133 g, spun to about 21 wpi.

I'm supposed to use hashtags, but don't really have a clue about them, so here you go: #spinzilla, #teamspinoff.  Go team Spin Off!!  Those ladies are putting out some beautiful stuff!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival

This weekend I got to go to my first ever sheep and wool festival!  And I can't believe I live close enough to Shenandoah the the festival is named after it.  I've been planning to go since shortly after moving.  I ran into a woman in the Apple Store when we both pulled out our knitting (isn't that where everyone goes to knit?), and of course we talked, and she let me know about the festival.

A couple of weeks ago, a new friend told me she is starting a business selling yarn display shelves, and asked if I could help out at her booth.  It was really interesting to be able to see a fair from behind the table instead of in front.  I got a fantastic parade of hand knits passing by all day.  Beautiful!  And as I've heard many others say, knitters are just so nice!!

We got quite a bit of attention from several husbands who happened to be woodworkers too.  They checked out the beautiful woods and dovetailing of Diamond Yarn Cubes.

I loved seeing the animals too.  Angora goats or angora bunnies, take your pick!  The bunnies were the cutest balls of fluff I've ever seen!

With Spinzilla coming up, I couldn't help but buy spinning fiber instead of yarn.  I got my first batch of Bluefaced Leicester.  BFL for those in the know.  It took me a while to figure out what BFL meant, but I knew I loved the softness of the stuff!  I also bought some Silk/Merino, and some silk cocoons to try out.  And some stitch markers that look just like some the Yarn Harlot mentioned as favorites once.  All this was from a lovely little shop call Lizard Toes, right across the way booth-wise from where I was helping.

I also couldn't go to a festival that had actual sheep and not buy some raw fleece.  I kind of fell in love with some Cormo and brought it home.  Look at the crimp and the sheen.  It was from Lavender Hills Farm, in Maryland.  I couldn't remember anything about how to select a fleece, so I just grabbed a chunk, and I'll find out later how well I did.  Now for washing and dying!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


I signed up last last week to participate in Spinzilla.  I'm unreasonably excited about this event!  The TNNA sponsored event is ostensibly to raise awareness of spinning.  I think it's really an excuse for all of us spinners to spend an irresponsible amount of time knitting and tell our families that it's for a good cause!  The goal is for a team of up to 25 to spin as much fiber (measured by length of singles) in a week as they can.

I signed up with Team Spin-Off, and can't wait to get started!  I've already discovered storage bobbins (why didn't I know about these before?!) and ordered some from Bobbins Up.   I have always wanted to buy more bobbins so I could make multiple ply yarns, but the cost is so prohibitive!  Now I can spin all the singles with the same bobbin, put them on storage bobbins, then ply them back off onto the original bobbin.

Because I payed with PayPal, I accidentally got them sent to Utah.  Surprisingly, the Post Office forwarded the package to me here in Virginia!  Thanks Post Office!  Even with the detour, the package came amazingly quickly.

Now, I'm planning to get all my random fiber in order to be ready for the second week of October.

And last but not least, the latest edition of Knitty has a pattern for Nymphalidea.  I am totally in love.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finished Goods

I finished up William's yellow purse just in time.  I decided to put some arabic script in the patterning, but it turned out to be difficult to get the chart to fit on such a small piece.

After much time spend drawing on graph paper, I finally have a finished product.  Unfortunately, I don't know what it says in arabic!  Hope it's something good!

I also finished a batch of hats and gunnister purses just in time to send them off to William for his Pirate Fair as well.  It was a surreal event, according to William!  Fun, but not really a historic reenactor's type of event. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dyeing to get back to my projects

Boy has it been a crazy half year.  I knew it had been a long time since I last posted here, but had no idea it had been since Christmas.  I've been spending that time in absolute crisis busyness.  Since then, my whole life has changed.  Our family moved from here:

To here:

While packing, painting, and repairing before the move, I actually got so busy I couldn't knit for 2 months.  This made me crazy. I'm so glad to be have my therapy back.  My current project is to finish up some knits for my friend William to take to his next pirate festival.  He is the reenactor who has helped me find the great people who want to buy my historic knits.  My Etsy shop has also been very neglected during this move, so as soon as I finish knitting for William, I'm going to get my shop more like I want it.

Anyway, William asked for another Gunnister Purse.  This is the first one I made for him:

I made several others, but they sold so quickly I forgot to get pictures.  William wants a purse in yellow this time.  I didn't have the right yellow on hand, so I decided to use a turmeric dye bath.  Turmeric does a great job dying (or staining) wool with no mordent.  Perhaps more importantly, it fits William's pirate character, William Brand of the Mercury Crew, who spent some time in Jerusalem.  I believe the spice would have been sufficiently common there to use for its color.

I did a little research before beginning. The simplest tutorial on turmeric dying is from Lyon Brand Yarns.  Some other people suggest using vinegar in the dye bath, as you would with acid dyes, and I wondered if I should try.  The owner of Sweetfern Studio luckily did the experimenting for me.  She tried turmeric alone, with acid, and with a base.  You should check out the results, which are very interesting!  It was clear from her experiment that I didn't want to use anything but the turmeric for my desired yellow on wool yarn.

I didn't measure my water or the turmeric.  I put about a couple of teaspoons of turmeric in a pot of water (maybe a quart and a half) and set it boiling.

Next, I walked away and forgot about it until the entire pot of water had boiled off, and I started smelling the truly lovely smell of toasting turmeric.  I'd skip this step if I were you!

Then I scrubbed out the pot, was grateful turmeric isn't too expensive, and got another pot boiling.  This time I let it boil for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.  Near the end of the boiling, I started skimming the foam off the top of the pot, in hopes of keeping the yarn cleaner.  I think this was worth it!

Next, I put my mini-skein of yarn (only 10 grams) in the pot for 30 minutes, turning the heat down to a simmer.  I gently turned and stirred the yarn several times.

I should have soaked the skein first, but I was very distracted that day and forgot.  No worries, though, because the yarn came out a beautifully even marigold yellow:

Now the question was, to go darker or not?  With William's input, I decided to give the yarn another bath.  This time, I soaked the yarn first, then let it simmer for 20 minutes.  After rinsing and drying, it was obvious that the yarn hadn't dyed evenly.  I think this was because I forgot to turn the yarn.  See how great I am at this?

You can barely tell in the picture, but the unevenness was obvious in person.  The yellow also got more muted and mustardy with the second bath, but not darker.  

After a bit more debate, I decided to dye a bit more to even out the color.  Note that every time I do this,  I have to reheat the dye bath to boiling, adding a bit more water so that it doesn't boil off!  This time, I soaked the yarn again, and put it back in the bath for 10 minutes, turning it often.  I was starting to get worried about felting it from so much handling, but I was gentle and it turned out well.

The finished skein is waiting to be knit up as soon as I'm finished with the gunnister purse currently on the needles!

 The kids started school again yesterday.  My mother's heart ached to see them go, but I will hopefully have my hands more free to catch up a little...and unpack a few more boxes!