Tour de Fleece 2014

It’s that time of the year, Tour de Fleece! While most people recognize it as Tour de France, a race in which bicyclers must make ride through various stages and countries in July, spinners spend that time setting challenges for themselves and spin as much yarn as they can! It’s not quite the same workout, but it definitely does require some physical effort ;). Since I finally learnt to spin in February, I am happy to be able to participate in TdF this year. I don’t have any crazy challenges, only to spin as much as I want and take constant breaks. I have a tendency to spin for long periods of time and only realize how badly cramped my hands are once I start to move. Knowing myself, I probably won’t finish all of these before TdF ends but it’s good to aim high!

Tour de Fleece 2014 Plans

  1. First time dealing with punis that aren’t my faux version, this one ounce bundle is from Turquoise Owl Fibers in the TDF2014 colourway with a blend of merino, BFL, and tussah silk.
  2. I’m planning on spinning these punis on my Harry Potter Tibetan spindle from Woodland Woodworking. I’ll probably ply this after TdF is over.
  3. A batt from FatCatKnits will be spun on two turkish spindles, Jenkins Aegean and a Capar Medium (isn’t that zebrawood just gorgeous?).
  4. Two if By Hand merino and nylon blend in Cherry Fresh to be spun on the wheel along with the other fibre below.
  5. Three Waters Farm merino, super wash merino, tussah silk blend in Blue Sunset and BFL in Burnt Orange.
  6. SpunRightRound merino in her June club colourway.

Back to Dishcloth Basics

I dabbled in knitting off and on for over 5 years (because I tend to obsess easily over hobbies for a short amount of time before venturing into something else), yet I have not once knit a dishcloth. Now that’s changed. I had no desire to work on my two projects that were currently on the needles, a lace shawl which required too much concentration for this sleep-deprived child and vanilla socks dedicated for bus knitting, so I decided to cast on a washcloth instead. I guess one could call it a dishcloth too, but I am not going to sit around to discuss what we should call a knitted quadrilateral piece (I had to Google what you call a shape with 4 sides).

Picture of Knitted Dishcloth

The yarn is Bernat Handicrafter Cotton, and I am surprised that I even remember that because this is some pretty ancient stash yarn for me. I bought this yarn along with a dark solid blue colour skein in order to make a blanket for my nephew years ago. It ended up being more like a place mat size (because you should never start a blanket if you are impatient) and I had a good amount of cotton yarn leftover. So what do you do with cotton yarn? DISHCLOTHS! The pattern is Nai-Nai’s Favorite and I ended up going down two needle sizes (to a US 5/3.75 mm) to get a dense enough type of fabric. I am already halfway done after starting it on the same day. Having only knit mostly shawls or socks this year with fingering weight yarn or lighter, I had forgotten how fast worsted weight yarn and small projects knit up! Now I need to queue up more washcloth patterns.

Dishcloths are now my latest addiction…

Falling for Rambouillet

I am part of SpunRightRound‘s monthly club, which means I get a 4 ounce braid every month and for the month of April the fibre was Rambouillet. I had never spun with this base before but using my Google-fu skills I found out that it is considered a joy to spin and is quite soft. So how do I enjoy the most out of a braid of fibre? Spinning it on spindles! I decided to try my first traditional 3 ply and so I eyeballed and tore the top into 3 sections before braiding two of the sections (to be spun later) and splitting the other section into sixteenths. SpunRightRound in Olivia colourway, and split lengthwise into sixteenths When I first started spinning the resources I read were adamantly against splitting top into narrower sections (IMO I think many of these resources also confused splitting top with pre-drafting which are not the same thing). But that’s the beauty of there being no “spinning police” to knock on your door and take away your spindles or spinning wheels if you decide to forego this advice. I like splitting the top lengthwise because I don’t have to worry about constantly working across the top when it comes to drafting. I want easy spinning when it comes to my spindles! These thin strips mean there are more colour repeats versus spinning straight from the top, but for this project I am not too concerned about preserving the colours. Spinning Rambouillet is one of the easiest fibres to work with. I have yet to work with merino but so far this is the softest fibre I have spun with. And it drafts like a dream! I plan on eventually stocking my fibre stash with more of this base :D Subterranean Woodworks Turkish SpindleAt the moment I just finished my first section on the Bosworth Mini and am planning to spin the second section on my Subterranean Woodworks Turkish spindle. This spindle is special to me because it was the first spindle I ordered (though it ended up taking quite long to arrive and so I ordered another spindle to learn on :P). The wood combination of holly and purpleheart was something I had seen in his sold section and he allowed me to custom request one in a medium size. It hasn’t had a lot of love recently so this is the perfect way to get reacquainted with it.

Catching Up

Pictures of Recent Projects

It’s Friday the 13th! Too bad I am spending the day working on an essay instead of catching up on Halloween movies to acknowledge the day. With schoolwork slowly burying me under (why did I decide to take summer classes again?), I decided it would be fun to do a post of all the things I have been working on in the past two weeks. Cause I am all about procrastination.

  1. It’s a sock! I love neon colours, and was surprised to find Schachenmayr Regia Fluormania Color available at my LYS so it was meant to be. I started knitting these socks for myself but kept frogging it so I decided to cast on for my 5 year old cousin since the last socks I knit her were way too small. Just a basic vanilla sock with a Fish Lips Kiss Heel. I should actually have her try it on to see if it fits…
  2. This Whipporwill shawl took forever to finish. And forever meaning more than a month! Okay so it wasn’t that long, but I didn’t like that it wasn’t as mindless as vanilla socks. I have a thing for mindless knitting. I like it. I don’t like counting stitches. This requires you to count stitches. The pattern itself is well written and I loved how huge the shawl turned out even though I didn’t have enough yarn in the end. I used a skein of handspun yarn (the second one I ever spun) for the border. Main body is Marigoldjen Yarn BFL fingering weight in the Tsunami colourway. I gifted this to my mom for her birthday, and she loved it especially since she loves the colour green.
  3. Close up of the border. Knitting with my own handspun for the first time made me realize how far my spinning has improved in a few months. This yarn ranged from heavy worsted to light fingering! I ran out of this before finishing the border so I skipped a few rows and ended up using the main shawl body’s yarn for part of the bind off.
  4. I am doing a KAL with Hope from CowCockeyGirl and we decided on Vernal Equinox Shawl Surprise pattern and swapped yarn. I received a Touch Yarns Mohair Merino 2 ply in a subtle red-purple variegated colourway (and tons of other goodies like tea and earrings cause she is awesome like that) and it took a while to wind it into a ball. I like winding my yarn in a ball form versus a center pull ball (Note: I don’t own a ball winder or a swift) because I don’t have to worry about the inside of the ball collapsing. Because that happens to me, a lot. I know I just mentioned I don’t like counting rows, but I actually don’t mind this lace project because it is designated as an at home knitting project. I am just not looking forward to ripping back rows if I mess up (and I like to live on the edge by choosing not to do lifelines ;)…).
  5. My next spinning project is on my Bosworth mini spindle with a Chestnut Oak whorl (the wood is from a cabin that was built in the 18th century). I am spinning Rambouillet for the first time, and the fiber colourway is SpunRightRound‘s Olivia, which was April’s fiber of the month I believe. If you noticed on my Instagram account, I am having a lot of fun taking pictures of this with my mom’s garden. Her love of gardening is like my love of yarn and fibre, we don’t understand the other’s love for their hobby but respect it :P.
  6. Remember that batt I was talking about? Well I got tired of spinning it on a Turkish spindle so I am spinning the rest on my wheel instead. And then will try chainplying it on the wheel which I have never done before. Should be fun. Right?

And that’s a quick ramble of what I have been up to.  Isn’t it crazy to see how fast WIPs can pile up?

Now back to my essay. 

Plying with a Birthday Twist

Plying for me goes through stages. The first is the anxiety of getting the right settings on the wheel to get that right amount of twist. Second is moving into the rhythm of plying with the twisting singles and the barberpoling of opposite colours. The final stage is realizing the singles just never seem to end and the love of plying is long gone, replaced instead with boredom. I had the luxury of experiencing all of this yesterday.

Birthday colourway from SpunRightRound

The fibre was from SpunRightRound, in the Birthday colourway on the Falkland base. I fell in love with both the name and the colours, so I decided to spin it through all of April as way of celebrating my birthday month. I split the top into coloured sections and then divided each section into two halves so I could get a 2 ply yarn that preserved some of the colours but also allowed for a bit of barberpoling between the transitions.

Mini Turkish Spindle from Synder Spindles

This project took over a month to spin on my mini turkish spindles (used both a Jenkins Kuchulu and a SynderSpindles Mini Turkish), and afterwards I was so sick of this project that I let it sit wound around two little tennis balls (the kind used for small dogs) for weeks. Finally, I decided to spend this past Friday going through a marathon of Grimm while plying the singles.

Water bottle with wrapped singles

I am not great at plying, but I definitely had a stroll down memory lane with this yarn. For instance, the singles I plied ranged from fingering weight and underspun to lace weight and over energized. I felt the bumps of the horrible joins, and removed the knots I had created in order to keep the singles all on one ball. I took out sections that were creating too much barberpoling since I really wanted to preserve some solid colours in the yarn, and these were wrapped around a water bottle since it was the closest cylindrical object to me at the time. I may eventually use these leftover singles to practice chain-plying on.

Plied Bobbin

And now here is the bobbin in all its plied glory. It needs to be skeined, washed, and then checked to see if there is enough twist, but for now I’ll let it take a good rest.

Lessons Learned from a Batt

Image of Aegean Turkish Spindle Always open up a batt before deciding to spin it

Now I know this seems like a stupid thing to not do, but at the time when I received this batt from FatCatKnits I assumed what was on the outside was also on the inside. As a Doctor Who fan I should have known better than to judge something from solely the outside. And so when I started to spin the batt I found out that the inner layers had a lovely plum colour (which I love) and bits of fibre bobs (in this case it is silk noils). So I got an art-styled batt. This means spinning it will definitely be a challenge. And so I still decided to spin it my Aegean Turkish spindle because I am stubborn determined.

This was my thought process while spinning:

  • Initially: It’s spinning thin, so I will do a 2 ply
  • 5 minutes later: Ok I don’t feel like doing a 2 ply with this, let’s do some plying on the fly so I don’t have to worry about plying these singles after spinning
  • 10 minutes later: This stuff sheds! But the fibres are so pretty and sparkly! But it sheds!
  • Much later: WHY FIBRE MUST YOU KEEP BREAKING ON ME?

So now I have learned that plying on the fly means it will take longer to get through your fibre. Which makes sense because you are doing two stages at the same time, and you have to stop in between to switch from drafting to chain plying. And so what sucks is when the fibre breaks. When you are working with a drop spindle, the weight of the spun singles adds to the weight of the spindle as you continue spinning. This means the more you spin, the harder it will get to spin thin singles (all that extra weight will be pulling on the single you are spinning versus just the spindle’s weight alone). Plyed singles are even heavier (for me that is). I am finding that the singles often break once I begin chain-plying which means I have to unravel the plied yarn (backwards from the break in the single), find the previous loop (since the current loop is now broken), and then keep that loop on one of the arms of the Turkish spindle while I try to join the broken single to the fibre supply. Basically, this yarn isn’t going to win any awards for consistency, which is okay because it is an art batt! Before spinning with this batt I was convinced that I would never like arty styled yarns, the ones that are purposely inconsistent or contain noils, but now I can see the fun in spinning it. I don’t worry at all about getting the right yarn weight because with all the different fibres it’s pretty hard (for me) to do that. My imperfect joins don’t matter because I can just state that it is part of the design! So now I am starting to enjoy the process of spinning this batt (except when the single decides to break). So here is what I have learned from this entire story:

  • Prepping to spin a batt: I ripped a section from the opened batt and started predrafting it until I got a very long type of roving, which I then wrapped into a bird nest. Some people are skilled enough to rip a section, roll it like a rolag and spin from that, but I am not one of those people.
  • Shedding fibre: Keep a lint roller nearby. And keeping the fibre in a separate bag did not help because it made it harder to pull out and spin. According to some spinners on Ravelry they wear either an apron or a piece of cloth over their lap to limit the shedding. If you get too lazy to lint roll yourself after doing it more than 50 times, just wear clothes that don’t show the fibre easily such as colourful pyjama pants.
  • Breaking singles: Try adding more twist to the singles because I noticed as I was chain plying I was losing quite of bit of the twist. Also, it may be time to empty the spindle if it is too heavy.
  • Running out of space to wrap the plied yarn: Thanks to Ravelry (what would I do without this site?) I learned that you can wrap the singles the opposite way to get a cop building up on the bottom. Usually if you wrap over 2 arms and under 1 (like this), you get the cop building up on top of the spindle, but if you wrap it under 2 arms and over 1 you can fit more spun fibre below the arms! I usually wind a layer on top (so when I fill the space between the arms) and then I switch to winding a layer on the bottom.
  • Spinning clumps of slippery fibre (no idea what it is): This will not join easily if you break it. Don’t keep trying to join it, just rip off the small section and join with more grabby fibres.

My fear is having the spindle’s shaft snap from falling on the ground when the singles break, which is why I have only been spindling at home. I figured it is less likely for the spindle to break on a wooden floor versus the concrete jungle that is the outside world. This also adds to the list of reasons why this spinning project is taking so long. Which is fine because this batt continues to teach me new things whether I want to learn or not :P.

The Fauxlag Experiment

As mentioned in my last post I started to make fauxlags in order to learn how to spin long draw more easily. And so I decided to take notes on the different types of fauxlags I made and which was easier for me to spin with. I hesitate to call this a tutorial because I am probably not making fauxlags correctly but when it comes to spinning as long as you enjoy doing it, who cares what is right or not? And sorry for the terrible lighting conditions, I took these photos during my study break at school and the cubicles there are have horrible flickering fluorescent lights.  Fauxlag Tutorial

 

For these fauxlags I used US 13 needles (9 mm for us metric folks :D) and some merino/nylon commercial top. The silver knitting needle (in the back) is a US 6 (4.25 mm) needle.

Predraft the fibre width-wise, the left is how the fibre looked before and the right is how it looks after I spread it out a bit. I don’t think I had to spread it out as wide as I did but I was bored and having too much fun. This makes it easier to draft your fauxlag versus not spreading out the fibres. Overall the method is just to place a needle on the fibre, roll it once or a few times and then break the attached from the roll.

fauxlag2

For the second fauxlag I wanted to see what it would be like if I used a smaller needle. Also as you can tell from the picture I pulled out the fibre (from the commercial top) and placed it in a row on the table, making sure that the fibres slightly overlapped each other. Instead of using both US 13 needles I used one US 13 and US 6 needle to roll up the fibre.

fauxlag3

Fauxlag #3 is similar to #2 in that I pulled out fibre and laid it in a thin layer on the table. However instead of just laying the fibre horizontally, I also added a layer of fibre overlapping on top so see if this made a difference.

fauxlag4

Finally fauxlag #4. This method is the same as #3, but you can see a better image of how I laid the fibre both horizontally and vertically in picture 1. The only difference is that I only used the one US 6 needle to roll up the fibre. This was not easy to roll up and took a few tries to get it on the needle! To make it easier I would try using two smaller needle to help secure the fibre before rolling.

verdict

So after finishing up 4 different styles of fauxlags I decided to spin each of them on my supported spindle. I am using a hybrid version of supported long draw and park & draft so obviously what works for me may be the opposite for others.

Fauxlag #1 drafted easily and was easy to spin with. The only problem I had was that it collapsed and started falling apart from its rolled form once I was halfway through it.

Fauxlag #2 was even easier to draft than #1 (I suspect it is due to having a thinner layer of fibre) and was super quick to finish. This process of pulling out the fibre and rolling takes much longer though, and so I would have to dedicate more time into preparing this type of fauxlag.

Fauxlag #3 wasn’t as easy to draft as the previous two, but it wasn’t terrible either. I was surprised it wasn’t more difficult to spin with seeing that there was another layer of fibre in it versus fauxlag #2.

Fauxlag #4 was the one I really wanted to love because it looked so much like punis! Unlike the other three it felt much more substantial. However, I didn’t like spinning with it! I felt that it didn’t draft out easily and the drafting zone was pulled solely from the inner core of the fauxlag causing it to collapse halfway through.

In the end I would probably try to make more fauxlags similar to #1 or #2 because of the ease of drafting. I will still probably work on different ways of making fauxlags until I end up buying some handcards to play around with!

 

Another weekend, another skill to learn…

Pictures of Tibetan Spindle

Here is a self reminder to myself. Nika, just because you know how to use a top whorl spindle, and a Turkish spindle, this does NOT mean you are capable of support spindling with ease. Seeing how this was my last weekend before summer classes started I was convinced I could learn how to use a support spindle (more specifically a gorgeous Enid Ashcroft Tibetan spindle I scored in a destash). If you have ever seen videos of people support spindling (and if you haven’t here are some links, because you need to stare at the amazing skills of these people!), then usually they tend to do long draw. So I decided to make some fauxlags to make it easier to long draw. So let’s recap all the new skills I wanted to tackle this weekend:

  1. Learn how to use a support spindle
  2. Learn how to long draw (more specifically supported long draw)
  3. Learn to make fauxlags

Because really, why try to focus on improving one skill when you can overload yourself and do three at once? Surprisingly my spinning isn’t as bad as the first singles I ever spun on a spindle, but it definitely isn’t consistent. Thanks to the Fleegle Spins Supported ebook which comes with videos, I got to see a more close-up view of how to spin using supported long draw (because long draw itself looks scary…and I don’t think I could try it without letting a few curse words come out) and I am taking my time playing around with the right technique for me.

Fauxlags are basically a short piece of combed top that you roll around (with a dowel) into a log and spin from one end. I don’t own a dowel, and I didn’t feel like explaining to my parents why fibre is stuck on their rolling pins…so currently I am experimenting using random cylindrical objects to form the perfect log shape. Right now my hairspray can, shampoo bottle, and US size 13 knitting needles are out of the running for the best fauxlag maker.

Fibre I am using is from The Fiber Imp and is called Sea Glass (75% Merino / 25% Nylon).

Fibre Weekend Plans

Technically the weekend isn’t over till the clock strikes midnight tonight but I still managed to devote a good chunk of it to spinning so far. Getting a new wheel meant spending some time getting to know it and after a few bobbins of weirdly spun yarn, I decided to break out a new fibre (with some colour instead of the natural BFL I was spinning) for my wheel’s official proper spin. This is one of two braids I ordered from The Fiber Imp, and I am impressed with how well it is spinning up. She packages her fibre in vacuum sealed bags which allows for cheaper shipping rates (even within Canada which is great to see since usually Canadian shipping is heartbreaking!), and I found the fibre was still great to spin with once I opened the sealed bag. This braid is named Koi Pond and is 75% BFL and 25% Silk. This is my first time dealing with a BFL/silk combination, but other than a few clumps of silk that didn’t want to spin properly, overall it is drafting out quite nicely. I do need to work on my short forward draw on the wheel since I find my thumb gets sore much quicker since it is not used to drafting all the time. I split the braid into fourths and am planning on making a 2 ply.

Picture of Koi Pond fibre braid

I haven’t forgotten some spindle spinning! The great thing about a new month means there are a bunch of challenges starting in the groups I joined on Ravelry. So for the month of May I joined a challenge that asked you to spindle spin fibre based on a “Once Upon a…” type of theme. I decided to spin a gorgeous batt I got as part of my personal monthly subscription from FatCatKnits and my inspiration was the movie Anastasia.

Anastasia Inspired Batt and Jenkins Turkish Spindle

The song Once Upon a December (YouTube) may be going on repeat on the computer as I write this! This is my first time dealing with a batt and the plan is to strip it into thin vertical pieces and predraft the heck out of it before spinning. It is not a smooth batt so I will be interested to see all the bits and bobs that will show up as I spin. And the spindle of choice? A lovely Jenkins Aegean Turkish spindle made from Bird’s Eye Maple.

New Beginnings!

Merlin Tree Roadbug Spinning Wheel

Say hello to my first spinning wheel. The wheel is made by David of Merlin Tree and I had him paint the wheel a beautiful orange (to match the walls of my bedroom!). I bit the bullet and decided to get one as a birthday present (and luckily the wheel arrived on the last day of my birthday month!). So why the Roadbug? My room is small, and I wanted to get a wheel that wouldn’t overcrowd the meager space I have available. Plus, I am a sucker for compact!

Now when it comes to waiting for packages I am impatient. I want a low-cost option that lets me get what I paid for the next day. Sadly, the post system has not created such a feature. However, I was impressed by how quick the shipping was for this!  He shipped it on the 22nd of April from Vermont, and I got it here in Toronto, Canada by the 30th! That is fast for shipping between the border. I had to pick up the package at the post office and drive home with it in foggy, misty April weather. I unpacked the beauty, and started playing around.

Now I have been spindle spinning for a few months, but spinning on a wheel is like learning a new skill all over again! I spent over an hour plying some scrap sock yarn on the wheel and learning what Scotch tension does (still have no idea other than a lot of tension pulls the spun single in faster on to the bobbin), and playing around with why the flyer kept unscrewing itself (user error: I was really bad at checking it was tightly screwed in), and learning to work with the heel-to-toe motion that makes it different to treadle using this spinning wheel versus other wheels.

Right now I am spinning some mixed BFL and it is definitely a good thing that I am not attached to this fibre! My bobbin is filled with overspun thin spots, and underspun huge slubs. Also, I managed to go from a thick single to a lace weight, all in one bobbin. Despite all of this, I am having fun trying to find the right combination of tension, treadling, and drafting. I decided to go back to the basics and split some BFL into thinner sections and will try spinning with that.