Thursday, May 29, 2014

Testing out some fibre

Here is some fibre - cria (baby alpaca) to be exact - that has been sitting in a bag in my laundry room for the last two, maybe even three years. That's just crazy. Over the weekend I decided that I had to do something about it - spin it up or give it away.

The Backstory:

I've been on this de-junking spree lately getting rid of old magazines, clothing, household goods. It's been making a difference and the house is looking tidy and much more spacious. I've also been semi-ruthlessly going through my fibre stash getting rid of things that I really don't want, making better storage decisions about things I do want to keep. This cria (six bags like the one seen below) has been in my laundry room for a long while. 

It was time to make a decision about this fibre so I took a bag of it onto the back porch and opened it. The staple are long, about 10 inches. The fibre was also full of VM - vegetable matter. It called for the combs. What's seen below are the two test nests I combed. Each nest took four passes of the combs. The total weight of both nests is 11grams, and the total weight of the waste was 5 grams. That's a lot of work to lose 50%. One strike AGAINST it.

Then I spun up these nests into a 2-ply yarn measuring 20 yds or 18 metres. You see it below. The first picture of the test skein is before it was washed. You can't see any sheen and it looks decidedly creamy.

This next photo is the skein washed up. The wash water looked like chocolate milk after the first wash. And here you see the sheen coming through. It's really lovely stuff. A mark FOR.

 Despite the fact that it really is lovely fibre and spins up to be beautiful yarn, I made a difficult decision. At our annual guild "swap and shop" I gave it all away - for free. I don't have a lot of time, and what time I have I don't want to spend it on the amount of fibre preparation that this requires. I know the fibre folks who walked home with this fibre and it's in good hands.

Now whenever I walk into the laundry room, I just see an empty space on the floor, and not a bag of fibre that gives me stabs of guilt.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Default yarn busting attempt #1 - results

Last weekend I wrote about battling default yarn. This is what happens when you get really good at spinning and go into the "zone". For the most part this kind of yarn is fine, but what happens when this is the only kind of yarn you can make?  I want to have a  wide repertoire of spinning techniques and finished yarn. So last weekend I tackled it.

Below are the finished singles from all the batts that I showed in the last post. They were spun from batts which is different from the preparations I usually work with - and I spun as quickly as I could and didn't overly fret about thin and thick spots.

 I spent most of yesterday plying these from the centre pull balls I had on display above. (The wee one on the far left was some thing that I had on the spindle - it was spun from rolags.)

And here is the yarn, washed, thwacked and drying. It's a total of 317 yards or 294 metres. The picture doesn't really do it justice. The colours look much more solid and consistent than they actually are. Each skein has about four colours of wool in it, including bits of silk and shiny Angelina. 

It's a thicker weight than the yarn I usually produce, but it is still a bit too even for what I was aiming for. 

Back to the drawing board to really try to bust out of default yarn.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Battling default yarn

When you first learn to spin, your yarn is lumpy, bumpy and full of character. If you keep spinning, in a very short while you will be making even yarn, and as many of us have experienced, your yarn will get thin, thin, and thinner. In fact, it will take some effort to spin thicker yarn.

Many of us experienced spinners have noticed that we have a "default" yarn that we spin. That's the yarn that we automatically make when sit at our wheels or pick up our spindles. Default yarn is not a bad thing, but it does mean that you are spinning the same yarn over and over again.

I have managed to bust the default yarn syndrome when spinning at my wheel. But I have recently noticed that my spindle yarn is starting to have that same look about it. This weekend I decided to battle default yarn syndrome when spinning on my spindle.

First thing I did was I got out fibre that I don't normally work with in a preparation that I don't normally use with my spindles. I usually spin up wonderfully prepared rovings from the Sweet Georgia Yarn fibre club. But the yarn I pulled out of my stash was a blend of corriedale, bits of silk and shiny lovely Angelina. I carded these five batts on a drum carder a few weekends ago when I was demonstrating at the Bradner Flower Show.

To get out of the default zone, I decided to spin these up as quickly as possible, not worry about thick and thin bits, and try to spin a bit thicker than I normally do. Here's the blue batt all spun up.

And the yellow batt all done.

And just at the beginning of the purple batt.

I wind these off onto toilet paper rolls so I can have a centre pull ball for plying. Here's what that looks like. The yarn on the centre pull ball is just resting in the spindle on the bottom to hold it in place for the photo shoot. To ply I hold the ball in my left hand with a couple of fingers inside it so I can control the yarn that is coming from the inside and around the outside. I let out a good arm's length of both yarns and then spin it counter clockwise. And then wind that onto the spindle.

This green yarn was made the same weekend as the others, and it was the only one spun up that weekend.

Will post the finished yarns soon. Gotta get back to the purple.

Knit City - Instructors for 2014 announced

Knit City - a modern fibre event - is going big. This year they are going to be at the PNE October 4th and 5th. Last week they announced the line-up of instructors for 2014, and I am thrilled to say that I am one of them.

I am offering two classes: Introduction to spinning with a drop spindle that is suitable for absolute beginners. And another spindling class called Drop Spindling II. This is for people who know how to spin but haven't tried a spindle yet, or know how to spin on a spindle, but want to take their spinning to a new level and learn some"tricks of the trade".

I hope you see you there.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Love Letters completed

In my last blog post "Spinning on the Road" I had a good deal of the February Sweet Georgia Yarns fibre club spun up, ready for plying.

Well last weekend I plied it all, gave it the boiling water treatment to finish the silk, and now have 460 yards of fingering weight yarn in three lovely skeins.

This colour way has clear contrasting colours, in the sense of light sections and dark coloured sections. I didn't know how I wanted to spin it until I came across two azalea bushes- one pink the other purple - in Charleston, South Carolina. They were in full bloom and growing against a grey stone wall. I was smitten with the way the pinks, purples and greys all worked together. At that moment I decided that's the look I wanted for the end project. In my mind, that called for a stripped yarn - one singles of the light and one of the deeper colours.

This isn't an azalea - as I didn't take a photo of those bushes - but it  has a similar effect. It's an ornamental cherry in my neighbour's yard.

At the spinning stage. You can see the different colour ways in action here.

Here I am spinning up the last of the lighter colour way.

And here's the lot of it, plied and skeined. See how skinny these are? Remember this photo and compare it to the finished skeins. You see, fibre gets stretched out a lot during processing, spinning and plying. This yarn needs a good long soak in hot water to help it bloom and plump out again.

And here it is in the hot water bath getting the "treatment."  What's the "treatment" you ask?

Fill a cauldron with water.  Add a bit of soap, I added shampoo, about a tablespoon. I slipped the skeins in and slowly brought it up to a boil. I lifted and moved them a bit to avoid hot spots. The second it started boiling, I lowered the heat enough to keep it on a simmer. I let it simmer for 30 minutes then took it off the heat and let it cool enough so I could handle it. Not the best photo, but it shows what's going on.

After the hot water treatment, I rinsed it, adding a squirt of vinegar to the rinse water. Then I towel dried them and hung them to dry.

And here are the lovelies. All plumped up and ready for some project. The yarn is soft and silky. It would make a wonderful shawl. All of this spinning was done on my drop spindles.