Wednesday, January 30, 2013

100-mile skirt update

As a result of a great effort, and I kid you not, I now have two decent sized skeins of 2 x 2 cabled yarn.  It is a total of 400 m and 212 g. I know I don't have enough to make the entire skirt, but I have enough to get started, and maybe even get mid-thigh. But it's a darned good start and that's exactly what I need.

As a reminder, this yarn is made up of two strands of 2-ply yarn. In each strand there is a singles of grey alpaca and a singles of blue merino/silk/bamboo.Yes, that's singles with an "s", the single strand of yarn that you spin is called a singles. Don't argue with me, I didn't make up this spinning language.  

When you spin the singles for a cabled yarn, it's a good idea to put a gentle twist into it. The fibres I am/was working with are fine fibres and I was spinning a thin yarn, so I made sure that there was enough twist to just lock the fibres into place, that's a way to ensure a gentle twist.  Then I plied the grey and blue together putting a lot of twist into the ply. A lot of twist into it. So much that I had to take breaks because my treadling leg got tired. Seriously.  And I'm a runner. 

Then I plied those over/super plied yarns together and got a 2 x 2 cabled yarn.  Why all this work you ask?

I am making a skirt that I want to last and look good.  The seat of a skirt gets wear and tear so I wanted a structure that can take wear and tear and bounce back.  A cabled yarn is the answer.  At least that's what I have been lead to believe.

Here are the finished skeins all washed, bashed and ready to be made into balls and knit up. They are soft, surprisingly light and from a distance they look like denim.  There's 400 m of it, so it's enough to really get going on this skirt and then only (hopefully) have a wee bit to spin up to finish.

And then I'll have a 100-mile skirt.

Imagine that.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spinning workshop: Session two

Here are two photos of what my dining room table looked like after our second spinning lesson. In addition to learning and practicing  basic spinning techniques, we also talked about fibre preparations -- drum carding, hand carding and wool combs. The most popular fibre preparation was combing, so we got out the combs and practiced.  This (mostly) always gives a lovely and surprising result as the combs get rid of so much of the debris.

And yes, that is a bowl of homemade cookies off on the left.  Thanks to my neighbour Hilary.

We are going to do more spinning next week and will also finally get around to some plying techniques:  double and chain plying (Navajo). There is such an interest in fibre preparation that I think we'll pull out the drum carders and make some fun batts.

It was a fun day. I can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

At least for now.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Introduction to Spinning with Drop Spindles: workshop

Another announcement about workshops being offered at Fibreswest 2013.  Sign up before March 8th to make sure you can get a spot.

Introduction to Spinning with Drop Spindles, Diana Twiss. Saturday, March 23, 2013, 9am-1pm. $45.00. Class held at Shannon Hall, at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

In this introduction to the spindle as a tool for making yarn, you will learn about the properties of wool as a protein fibre for yarn. You will also learn drafting techniques, and how to spin, ply and set yarn. 

In this 4-hour workshop, you'll be introduced to basic spinning techniques for suspended spinning. These techniques will allow you to further explore making a variety of interesting yarns with these noble tools. This class is for absolute beginning spinners or for those who know how to spin with a wheel, but not with a spindle.

  • Suspended spindle, top or bottom whorl. Spindles available from instructor for $45.00 (Top Whorl Spindle from Houndesign). 
  • Any fibre preparation equipment that you may have, such as hand carders or wool combs. 
  • Empty shoebox – to be used as a Lazy Kate and to hold your materials.
You will be supplied with all the fibre (and more) needed for the workshop – there will be a $10 materials fee to be paid to the instructor.
For information about registering for this workshop and to see a list of other workshops, please visit Fibreswest 2013.

Flax to Linen & everything in between: workshop

Announcing one of the many workshops being offered at Fibreswest 2013. Register before March 8th if you want to attend any of the workshops. Here's a special one that I am featuring:

FlaxWomanFlax to Linen & everything in between
Kim McKenna and Diana Twiss. Friday, March 22nd, 2013, 9am-1pm. $45. Class held at Shannon Hall, at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

Join Kim and Diana and explore the wonders of flax; how to turn flax straw into beautiful soft linen yarns. Most  people with access to a garden can grow their own flax. In this workshop you will learn the practical skills of growing, processing and extracting line and tow linen from flax. You will also help to keep the art of flax spinning alive by making your very own distaff in order to prepare the flax for spinning. Finally, you will get hands-on experience and tips for spinning flax into linen. Participants will leave the workshop with a fully dressed distaff and distaff support structure. Distaffs will be dressed with 20 grams of dew-retted flax.
Supplies: spinning wheel in excellent working order. See free Spinning Wheel Maintenance download at Claddaghfibrearts. Screwdriver with Robertson head. All other materials will be supplied. All levels welcome, absolute beginning spinners may not be able to spin, but will certainly be able to dress a distaff and benefit from the rest of the workshop. Material fee of $30.00 payable to instructors.
For more information about this workshops, how to register and other information related to this fibre festival please visit FibresWest 2013.

I hope to see you there. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

At the Ballet: Sample one

While I did promise that I was only going to spin yarn for my 100-Mile skirt this weekend, the January fibre club fibre kept calling me. I justified it by convincing myself I only needed to spin and ply one small nest so I could do a sample. Sampling is good.

Here it is wound directly from the spindle to a toilet paper roll using my ball winder. I attached both ends to the spindle and plied from this centre-pull ball.

I put a lot of twist into the plying and it shows. This is what it looked like when it came off the niddy-noddy. It's 54 metres of yarn.

A warm water bath relaxed the twist and it settled into the yarn making for a soft , yet highly twisted yarn. The fibre is 50% merino and 50% cultivated silk. Fine fibres like these can take a lot of twist and still remain quite soft. I love the way the subtle variations of pinks come through.  Now I'm looking forward to spinning up the darker nests.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January fibre club: At the Ballet

As a Christmas present to myself, I joined Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club.  I've joined it before and thoroughly enjoyed the surprise and challenge each month.  Last week we got our January fibre. It's called At the Ballet. This is how Felicia Lo describes it:
At the Ballet is blush, cream and pinks, but not the younger girly kind.  It's more wisened and more graceful. 
It's 50% fine merino blended with 50% cultivated silk.  You can see the sheen from the silk in this photo that was taken with the flash on.

The colourway is cream, white and light pinks moving into deeper pink hues. A quicky sample on the drop spindle helped me decide how to spin it.  I wasn't all that interested in barber poling -- that's when one ply is the lighter section and the other ply is the darker one -- see photo below. With long stretches of each extreme, the light and the dark pinks, there would be a good chance that it would happen.

It's a lovely fibre and spins up fine with little effort -- just a heck of a lot of twist. So my colleague and I (who is also a member of the fibre club) decided to separate -- as well as we could, the light and dark sections. What you see below are the nests of light stuff and nests of the darker stuff.  The plan is to spin all the light stuff lace weight and double-ply it. Spin all the darker stuff lace weight and double-ply that.  Then knit a lace shawl with the darker yarn and use the lighter yarn for the edging.

You can see the subtle gradations of white to pinks in the singles on the spindle above. When it is double-plied the yarn will have some depth, but not the dramatic barber poling you can see in the bottom mini-skein in the photo below.

So that's our plan. This won't get in the way of finishing up the 100-mile skirt because this is being spun at work over lunch hour. At least for now.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Introduction to Wheel Spinning -- in Glen Valley

Last Sunday I started teaching an Introduction to Wheel Spinning class right here in my own home. The classes are a four-part series of two-and-a-half to three-hour sessions that cover a variety of topics. These topics will provide participants with a strong foundation of skills for spinning amazing yarn and expanding their knowledge of the craft. I am working with a small group (four) beginning spinners. So there is lots of opportunity for one-on-one engagement.

There is a fee for the lessons. I provide all the materials for the first two sessions and there there may be a small materials fee for the last two as we move into working with other fibres (alpaca, llama, silk, and mohair) and blending them. Here is what the materials kit for session #1 looked like:

Each kit had four empty toilet paper rolls to hold spun singles; commercially spun yarn to practice treadling with; a batt of bouncy grey (Romney) wool; a bag of rovings (BFL, Corriedale, and Dorset); a journal; two plastic bags and class notes. And the shoe box itself seconds as a lazy-kate. We'll poke holes in the side and slide knitting needles in to hold bobbins of singles yarn so we can ply. If you don't know anything about spinning, that sentence probably didn't make any sense at all.  Not to worry.

And here's what my dining table looked like before the class started. I wish I had taken a photo of the room after everyone left. It was a complete shambles and I loved it. At the end of that session, everyone was spinning a continuous thread. We are meeting again on January 27 for session #2. It is wonderful to work with people who are as passionate about making yarn as I am. Makes me feel less crazy when I see how excited they are about wool and all the lovely things you can do with it.