Saturday, February 23, 2013

100-Mile skirt update III

I've been faithfully knitting along on my 100-mile skirt until yesterday, when between Scott Road and Gateway Skytrain station, I ran out of yarn.

I've done 6 pattern repeats and have just increased in the purl ditches. In my other knitted skirt, I ended up with 14 pattern repeats, and I imagine I want the same length. But that's all the knitting for now. I have to go back to the very beginning and comb some more of that nasty alpaca and do a whole bunch more spinning.  I figure I am slightly less than 2/3rds of the way through. But it does get wider as it gets longer, so I may actually need almost as much as I started with. Wow, that just knocked me back -- that took a long time to make.

Not that I mind the combing or the spinning. It's easy and mostly fun. It's just that I was really enjoying the knitting. I was at the stage of knitting the pattern where I had it memorized -- believe me it's not a difficult pattern, but I have it all in my head. If I take too long a break, I'll loose my rhythm with it. Which is why I am being boringly disciplined with myself and am spending the day combing the alpaca -- here's a close up of it. You can see all the vegetation and nasty bramples just waiting to stab me as I reach in for a lock.

To cheer myself up, I'll move my lovely bouquet (thanks Davy) into my newly tidied studio to keep me company.  Flowers, Bizet's Carmen on Radio 2 and maybe a wee glass of bubbly.

Happy Saturday everyone.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spinning Workshop: Session Four

Last Sunday we had the fourth and final (for now) spinning lesson at my place. We had a lot that we still wanted to get done so I was quite a task master.

First thing we did was a lot of spinning. I wanted to make sure each one not only had the basics of drafting and putting twist into the fibre, but that they were able to troubleshoot any problems at would arise as they spun. Happy to say that all four spinners are making a continuous thread that gets more and more consistent each week. And for the most part, they can figure out how to fix a problem like over or under twisting, and are in much more control of their wheels. In the beginning, we often feel that the wheel is controlling us and it takes some time before your get the upper-hand. Once you do, you are well on your way to being an independent spinner.

They were all interested in fibre preparation techniques, so to make the drum carding session more interesting, I showed them how to make Crazy Batts. Those are the lovely batts you make from a variety of fibres, colours and textures. The resulting yarn from a Crazy Batt looks something like this:

It's fun and funky yarn. Below is a small sampling of the fibres we were working with -- mostly wool in a variety of colours, but there was also some kid mohair thrown in, you can see that in the top right corner.

Added to the mix was all sorts of other things, bits of silk noil, cut up silk hankies, pieces of commercial yarn that has texture. All this gets made into "fibre sandwiches". Each sandwich has a layer of fibre, some yarn bits, another layer of different fibre, more texture bits and finish off with a final layer of fibre.This sandwich gets fed into the drum carder.  Usually 4 or 5 sandwiches do the trick and you have a decent sized crazy batt. Here's what our table looked like when we were in full production.

After making crazy batts for about an hour, I demonstrated how to use the picker.

It's a crazy looking and highly dangerous piece of equipment that you use to tease the fibres to get them ready for drum carding. If you are into a high level of production, it's a good idea to have one. But one way or another, it's a good idea to learn the right way how to use that piece of equipment. You can ruin fibres and ruin your arm if you don't do it right.

Major rule: never, ever put your hands near the teeth.  However tempting it may be to just pull a bit of fibre out of the way. Always use another tool, never your own hand.

So the class and I are taking a break for a few weeks.  Lambing is coming on and other family obligations have us busy for next few Sundays.  But we are going to start up again with more fibre preparation, more spinning techniques and more fibres.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Drop Spindling workshop at Fibreswest

The drop spindling workshop at Fibreswest filled up really fast -- thanks everyone who signed up.

Because it filled so quickly we've decided to offer a second class. If you are interested in learning how to spin on a suspended spindle and haven't yet signed up, contact and put your name on a wait list.

If there is sufficient interest, we'll put on another class. This new class will be held in the afternoon spot.

Progress report on the 100-mile skirt

It's coming along nicely. The yarn is lovely to work with and the pattern is mindless. So far it's just a wide rib stitch with gentle increases every 8cm. Right now it's 10 inches. It barely and yet completely covers my butt. But alas, I am not of the age where I am comfortable wearing or being seen wearing a mini-skirt, so I knit on. I have a bit left of the first ball and then onto the second.

I know I will have to spin up more of this yarn. My thinking is that with so much of the skirt already knit, I will be duly inspired to get right to it.

But it's coming along and I'm excited to be at this stage of the project. Hoping I'll be wearing at Fibreswest this year. Nothing like a deadline to get things in focus.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Spinning workshop: Session three

Today we had our third spinning lesson here in my farmhouse at the end of the road. We went over time as we had so much that we wanted to get done, and no one seemed to mind. First, we did a lot of spinning. I wanted the gals to have two good sized bobbins of singles -- one in white, one coloured -- so they could learn how to ply. The twist was really active in the singles, as they had just been spun, so the plying was a bit of an adventure in patience and persistence. Everyone made a lovely good sized skein. Should have taken photos of them, but was so busy with everyone, I totally forgot about documenting it.

After we did the spinning and plying, we moved over the next room where I had drum carders and a Louet picker set-up. I showed them how to use the Louet picket to tease the fibres apart and then load them onto the drum carder. Everyone made some batts and a had generally good time experimenting with the different pieces of equipment.

Here's the Louet picker. It's the oddest looking piece of equipment  but it does a nice job opening up the locks for the drum carder. I haven't had a lot of satisfaction using the rolling pin type piece, but I just use my Ashford carders instead. I toss some fibre onto the carding cloth area, and then with my hand carder, just card one way, and then the other. When I go the other direction, the fibre all comes off and then it goes over to the drum carder. Magic.

What used to take hours of teasing, can now be done in minutes.  Really.

And here's a photo of the front room, full of spinning wheels, six of them even though there were five of us in total. It's a small space but we make it work.

Thanks Heather, Katie, Diane and Tannis for a terrific day.  You are all turning into great spinners.