Spinster

skeins

The Jacob Humbug spinning project was finished in April. I’ve got about 125g of a 2ply yarn, of somewhat variable thickness. The singles rested for quite a while before plying, so it was quite tricky to figure out how much to ply. The tricks I learned last year at Wingham Wool work rather rely on the singles being still quite full of energy. Anyway, I went ahead and tried to overply it. One skein is completely balanced and one is very slightly… underplied.

I’ve found some useful nails outside the kitchen, under the overhanging roof, for hanging skeins to dry.  I have no idea what the nails are actually meant for, but they do the trick. They are sheltered enough that, even if it rains, the skeins still dry.

The two skeins are awaiting inspiration for their final destiny. They might be a little too tough to be worn next to the skin. Possibly a cushion cover or tea-cosy?

Next, in the spinning odyssey, I had a birthday and my generous friends and relations added a little more to my spinning wheel fund. I had a look at my bank account and discovered that I had enough to put in an order with Gill at Sanday Spinners. Here’s what happened next (mouse-over for captions):

I began to spin, using some bright red BFL that I bought from Grace and Jacob while they still had a bricks and mortar shop in York.

I managed to spin a variety of thicknesses, just by changing the tension and speed.

samples

I’m not yet at the point of being able to keep spinning the same thickness for more than a few yards, but getting better each time I try.

I spun up a little onto two bobbins, plied it, washed it and set it to dry. Then I knitted it!

knittedp

The two bobbins I had spun weren’t evenly loaded, so I had some left over on one of them, but only a few yards. I thought I might as well have a shot at Navajo plying, having seen a few videos of people doing it. Now that’s fun (I didn’t have much control over it)!

navajo

The next spinning project is to keep doing  a few more samples, aiming for consistency over several yards.

If you remember, I have elected to have spinning as my personal project for a leadership course I’m doing with work this year. The next residential is in a few weeks time so I ought to have made some  more progress to show them.

Spinning around

The spinning has made progress today. I now have two full bobbins of singles of the Jacob humbug fleece, so they are ready to ply. However, I only have three bobbins so, before I could ply, I needed to clear the third bobbin. On the third bobbin I was halfway through spinning a selection of rolags using long-draw so today I finished the spinning. It was some time since I last tried long-draw and there was a bit of a learning curve to get back into it. Anyway, I ended up with this:

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Remember how I only have three bobbins and two of them are full of Jacob? At the spinning course last year I learned Andean plying, where you wind the singles round your hand and fingers, then ply from both ends. Easier with a ball-winder.

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Then I plied.

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I nodded and nidded, then washed the skein. It’s not balanced, so will need another run through the wheel to add some more twist. Still, all good practice.
There is another WIP on the needles: a millamia baby blanket for a baby that is due really quite soon now. I’ve not seen my friend since she became pregnant, so the imminence has rather passed me by. Still, what baby needs a wool blanket in high summer? It will be done by autumn.
This week I’ve been rereading one of the Yarn Harlot’s books, following this post which made me both laugh and shed a tear. (I made DH read it too, but he only laughed: I don’t think he gets as emotional about knitting as I do). In fact it has been a week for thinking of excellence in writing, with the news of Terry Pratchett’s death. Pterry and the Yarn Harlot are two of the writers that I read in awe at their facility with language. Stephen Fry is up there too in the list of my favourite writers.

Day off with the kids

Ah, half term. A day off with no school run, but two small people to entertain all day.
T took control of the tablet this morning and did some major work on his mixel collection, creating some really rather creative Lego bits and pieces. J has discovered scissors, so we spent some time clearing up many scraps of paper from around the living room.
I was determined to do a bit of spinning, but the kiddies weren’t really very supportive.
We went out for a walk, fully kitted out in waterproofs. J spectacularly face-planted twice, getting covered in mud and scratching her brand new glasses.
This evening, after a plateful of courgette fritters, I managed a decent amount of spinning, nearly filling the first bobbin of some Jacob tops.

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This is the first step in my spinning project: to have two full bobbins to ply, then knit something out of it to see what it is like.
In knitting news, I’m nearly at the top of the first Fish Lips Kiss Heel sock. Oh, and a large box of Millamia yarn arrived today, ready for a secret project.

In which my spinning makes a great leap forward

The journey so far:

  • I begin reading about spinning on other knitting blogs. It sounds fun, but I wonder whether it is worth the effort
  • A friend starts spinning and is very enthusiastic about it
  • I begin to imagine how it would feel to be able to say “I made the yarn”. I think this feeling might be a good one
  • January 2013: I ask a friend of my Mum’s for a lesson in drop-spindling and come away with a wheel on long-term loan
  • I make yarn… kind of. It’s lumpy and horrible and really hard to make the fibre do what I want
  • The wheel sits in my office, providing a great talking point, but mostly gathering dust
  • I book on a two day spinning course with Ruth at Wingham Wool Works in August

There was a bit of a drama involved with getting to the spinning course. The dates on the website differed from the dates on the invoice, so all five of the people on the course got the wrong day. Some of us turned up a day early, others changed plans to come on the day the invoice said.

What do you want to learn about spinning?

Interesting question. I’m fairly sure I could learn to sit and spin without thinking too much about it, but that’s not really what intrigues me about the whole business. Spinning seems to me to be a craft, where learning the technical aspects will pay dividends.

I’d like to learn how to design a yarn

So that is what I learned over the next two days. After five minutes of Ruth looking at what I was doing, she suggested changes to the way I was holding my hands and drafting. I changed to drafting forwards and, after being shown how to untwist the yarn while drafting, within minutes I was producing a fine, even thread. Amazing! That would have been enough to make it worthwhile, but there was more.

We learned about the gears on the wheel and how to use them accurately, we looked at calculating the number of twists per inch when spinning and how that equates to the number of twists per inch in plying, we discovered the desirability of producing yarn that has a slight Z-twist once plied, not to mention looking at Andean plying, making rolags, long draw spinning and so on.

I came away with a head full of knowledge (and a little bit of fibre to play with – well, it would have been rude not to). Since then, I’ve struggled to find regular time to spin but I can still see the improvement in my technique. Now I’m saving up to buy my own spinning wheel.

Here’s the results of the course:

First, a selection of samples, all spun on the same wheel with the same fibre, just changing the wheel settings.

moresamples

Now a skein of well-balanced yarn that looks as if it might actually be useful for knitting.

spinningsamples

I’ve also got another skein of yarn that needs a bit of re-plying in order to be right.

Knitting to plan

A progress report of my attempt to be more focussed.

Here is the plan, with updates:

  1. Finish the cabled orange socks – deadline 1st September. Still on the first sock
  2. Frog the fair-isle hat
    Done. Yarn is reskeined and ready for a bath
  3. Knit socks for sock sniper
  4. Make gradual progress on the cotton blanket and the mitred square scarf, while at the same time…
  5. Knit on the swirl. I’ve realised this makes good tv knitting, so I’ve been knitting this instead of the socks. I’m on welt 5 of 64.
  6. Mid-September (maybe) start the Catkin KAL. Probably later than mid-September, since neither Beth nor I have the yarn yet.
  7. Make knee-length socks

I had a go at plying some of my spindle-spun handspun the other day. It looks like real yarn (and I even added it to my ravelry stash).

Yarn

Let’s be honest, this is heirloom yarn and will never be knitted. I’ve been watching my spinning dvd, which has lots of good tricks about plying well and managing a wheel, but doesn’t start early enough in the process for me to feel much more confident about using the wheel. Still, I’m learning more.

Here’s my current travelling project.

Trillian
Trillian by Strickmitt

Just enough pattern to keep me interested, but simple enough to memorise the pattern.

I rather like the york stone paving slabs in the garden as background to knitting photos. What do you think?

Sitting in the sunshine

Our new house gets so much light. Having lived in a gloomy modern reinterpretation of a cottage for nearly four years (although in all other respects it was an excellent place to live), I am really rather enjoying sitting by the French windows and feeling the sun move gradually across the sky.

While waiting for the baby (who is pretty much a toddler now) to settle herself down to sleep, I have been updating my Ravelry stash with various bits and pieces I have picked up over the last few weeks. I had some assistance with this endeavour:

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That collection of yarn is for my amigurumi project (including the elephant I made last week). Can you guess what it is going to be?

I mentioned a while back that I had picked up a spindle. Here’s the evidence:

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I’ve got a little ball of singles from my first session at spindle-spinning and I think I’ve got about the same on the spindle now. Time to figure out plying perhaps.

I also finally plucked up the courage to try spinning on the wheel that I have borrowed. Great fun, but I can see that there is a huge amount of stuff to learn.

I’ve got about half an hour before the little one is due to wake up so I had better go and do some knitting. I’ve got into a groove with the pink socks and they are coming on very nicely. Probably won’t be finished in March, since I’m heading into one of the most hectic working weeks of the year, but I have great hopes for my week off after Easter.