Sunday, January 29, 2012

Experiments with cabled yarns

A while ago I started spinning up some samples to make a cabled yarn for another Claudia Evilla skirt. I wasn't happy with the first sample, seen on the left. The battleship grey is just too dreary for me, so I abandoned any idea of using the grey alpaca exclusively. I did like the feel of the yarn so decided to continue experimenting with cabled yarns. 
Cabled yarn, as a re-plied yarn, has unlimited possibilities.  For these samples I spun a two-ply yarn (singles with a Z -clockwise twist and plied with an S-counter clockwise twist). Then you take the two-ply yarn and ply that again using a Z twist.  In these samples there are 4-singles.  Because of that, there are wonderful opportunities to add colour and other fibres.  Which is exactly what I did.

If you haven't yet played around with cabled yarns, I encourage you to do so.  A four ply cabled yarn has more strength than a regular four ply -- which is pretty strong.  Taking the first plied yarn and plying it again adds another level of strength.  And if you are using a coloured single along the way, it has a way to tucking the coloured single into the yarn, giving a dotted effect as opposed to a barber pole striping effect that you get when you ply two yarns of different colours.

The first skein on the left is the very first, all grey alpaca sample.  The middle skein has a double grey alpaca ply, plied with a grey and blue fibre from Sweet Georgia Yarns called Placid Waters.  It is 50% merino wool, 25% bamboo and 25% tussah silk. Nice combination for the grey alpaca and to create a fabric that has a good drape.  So altogether that one used 3 grey singles and one blue one.  The skein on the right uses two double ply grey and blue for a total of two grey singles and two blue singles. 

You can see the effect of adding one more blue single each time.  The battleship grey falls into the background and the luster of the bamboo and silk start to take over.    It's starting to look a bit like denim -- and for a skirt, that may not be a bad thing.

Now I have to knit up a sample or two -- it's such a dreary, rainy day I just may get around to that.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Don't waste the waste

I love combing fibre as a way to prepare it for spinning.  Several of my blog posts can attest to that.  However, the one thing that really bothers me about combing is the waste.  Last weekend I prepared some fibre for an upcoming workshop I am teaching.  I made a series of lovely combed nests.  After 70 grams worth of combed fibres, I weighed the waste that was left on the combs.  31.5 grams!!!  So -- of an approximate total of 100 grams of fibre, I can get 70 grams of finished ready-to-spin stuff and approximately 30 grams of stuff I have to find something to do with.

This is not good.

I usually stuff the waste into the bottom of a sock I find in the laundry.  It goes through a wash and dry cycle and out pops a lovely felted ball.  These balls make great kitchen hockey balls, kitty play-thing balls, and base balls on which to wind spun singles.  However, there are only so many one needs in one's life.

I knew that some people card this stuff up and use it in their spinning.  It just seemed so uninspiring -- all those short bits, random second cuts, fibres of multiple lengths.  But what's the harm in an experiment?

I took the bags of waste I had collected from the combing -- one series was dyed Dorset (green/blue) the other bag was undyed, beautiful white Montadale.  I put them through my drum carder three times, blending the colours and creating two decent sized batts.

I've been brushing up on my spinning techniques in preparation for some workshops I've proposed for Fibreswest. This batt of fibre was an excellent candidate for the woolen spinning technique. Woolen spinning -- is where you allow the twist to enter into the fibres and while it is doing that, you slowly and intentionally pull away.  When you have as much twist as you want -- and for a lofty yarn you just want the fibres locked -- then you let the whole piece run onto the bobbin.  And then you start again letting the twist enter the fibre source and pulling back.

For those of us who are more familiar with the worsted technique, where you never allow the twist to enter the fibre source -- you feed the fibre to the twist -- the woolen technique takes some getting used to.  It also takes some getting used to because it doesn't look all that great on the bobbin. There are bumps and funny bits that you are tempted to remove.  But don't.  That's all part of the package.  Apart from the spinning technique, the real magic with woolen spun yarn happens when you wash it.

Here's a photo essay of my yarn, from bobbin to finished skein.

You can almost hear the yarn moan as it expands, relaxes, and blooms.  I let it soak for few minutes in very warm soapy water and beat it up a bit while it was in the water.  I squeezed it and roughed it up.  And then I did something that I have read about, but never had the nerve to do with yarn.  Right after this warm soapy bath, I squeezed the water out and then filled the sink with ice cold water and threw it in.  While in there I continued the beating.  The point of this is to try to slightly felt the yarn.  Not so much that it loses it's elasticity, but enough that it will hold together and those shorter bits won't quickly find their way out of your stitches.  ie. pill.

So here is the lovely skein -- my experiment with wool-stuff that would either be a felted ball or just thrown into the garbage.  It is 46g and 82m.  I couldn't believe how light it was, especially after it dried.  

I can't knit anything up with it yet because I want to use this skein as a sample -- if my class runs.

I'll just have to make another one.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Love affair continues. . .

I continue to be smitten with the Feather and Fan lace pattern.  It's quick and easy.  In fact, I made this cowl in a little more than a day. During my morning bus ride, I cast on -- was able to knit through most of the day long meeting -- and was finishing up the picot edging this morning. 

I washed and blocked it.  It's 50% silk so half-way through the drying process, I popped it into the dryer with a few towels to soften it up.  I am so pleased with the result and am having a lot of fun with the skirt portion.  For this version, I did five increase rounds.  I had a lot of this yarn and wanted to see what a longer skirt would look like.  Would have gone a bit further execpt that would have made even more stitches for the never-ending picot bind-off.

Now off to spin.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cowl #2 -- purple ramboulette -- in progress

My love affair with the Feather and Fan lace pattern continues.  I liked the result of the last cowl I made so much, I had to make another one.  This time, I wanted one that fit a bit closer around the neck.  So I used slightly smaller needles (4mm), thinner yarn (DK) and fewer stitches.

I knit a tube using the Feather and Fan lace pattern for a total of 8 inches (20cm) then did a garter stitch border and cast off.  I tested it out by wearing it on our weekly early morning grocery trip.  While I love it, especially the colour and the softness of the yarn -- handspun locally sourced Ramboulette, I didn't like the fact it was a tube.  I needed a bit of something to cover my upper chest, but a bit of a bib, like I made on the other one. 

Thanksfully I have plenty of yarn left over.  So while I join the family to watch the various hockey games on today, I will undo the garter edge and knit a bit of flared edge. 

Here's the pattern to make your own cowl:

Yarn: 70 g of DK weight yarn, must be very soft as it will be snug against your neck.
Needles:  4mm circular -- 16" or 40cm

Feather and Fan Pattern -- another variation on the theme -- this one uses a multiple of 11 stitches.
Row 1:  Knit
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: *K2tog, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, yo, k2tog, k2tog*
Row 4: Purl

Repeat these 4 rows to make Feather and Fan lace pattern when knitting in the round.

Instructions to make the Purple Cowl:

Cast on 77 stitches leave an 8" tail -- see below. 

I hate the stress of trying not to twist the stitches when joining in the round, almost as much as I dislike doing garter stitch on circular needles.  So this trick deals with both issues:  Instead of joining in the round, knit back and forth on circular needles doing garter stitch for 4 rows.  After 4 rows, join in the round.  You will find it nearly impossible to twist the stitches at this stage -- the extra tail is used to stitch up the 1/2 inch gap .

Begin Feather and Fan Lace pattern as shown above.  Knit in pattern for 8 inches, or preferred length.  If you just want a tube, after row 2 of the pattern, begin 4 rows of garter stitch.  If you hate knitting in garter stitch on circulars, use same technique as above.  Bind off loosely.

If you want a bit of a bib, or something to cover a bit more of your upper chest, try the following.  It's the same pattern as the one used in the Placid Waters cowl

Instructions for bottom flared edge:

Round 1: *Knit 7, increase by M1L* (make one left) for a total of 11 increases.  (88 stitches)
Round 2: Knit
Round 3: *Knit 8, increase by M1L* (make one left) for a total of 11 increases.  (99 stitches)
Round 4: Knit
Round 5: *Knit 9, increase by M1L* (make one left) for a total of 11 increases.  (110 stitches)
Round 6: Knit
Round 7: *Knit 10, increase by M1L* (make one left) for a total of 11 increases.  (121 stitches)
Round 8: Knit to the last stich and then icrease one by M1L (122 stitches total)
Round 9: *K2tog, yo*
Round 10: Purl
Round 11: Knit
Round 12: Purl
Round 13:  Bind off -- if you have the patience and enough yarn, do a picot bind off

Weave in ends, block and wear with pride.

Will post my revised version later on today.