It's the end of March and I'm happy to report I got at least one of my posted February challenges done -- and it was done early! Though, alas, the blog posting was not ... unless this entry on the UFO Knit Club counts!
Wow! looking back at my March goals, two got done: new yarn (now awaiting its turn with the rest of the stash...)
That's sock yarn ... there are several posts on its spinning with helpful info on spinning your own sock yarns on this very blog (grin!!) as well as the story of this fiber's journey into yarn here.)
And the little beaded bracelet:
That's Perdita, the Bluebells variation, from Knitty.com if you want to knit one too!)
Whew. I've kicked some yarn out of my stash to knit a backless, sleeveless sweater ... not sure if the totebag whose yarn was finished in January will be up for knitting in April, or the re-spinning of the sweater yarn (haha that has you curious, doesn't it!) Well, onward with the wheel, spindles, and needles! Here's to longer days -- more daylight to knit and spin by!
Saturday, March 31, 2007
It's the end of March and I'm happy to report I got at least one of my posted February challenges done -- and it was done early! Though, alas, the blog posting was not ... unless this entry on the UFO Knit Club counts!
Friday, March 30, 2007
Some fleeces have particularly muddy tips. There are some extra things you can try if a regular wash just isn't working.
1) pre-soak the fleece, as long as overnight or as short as an hour. I just put it in a big bin with tap-temperature water, since it's going to cool off in that amount of time anyway. I've heard adding salt can help, but I usually don't add anything.
2a) add some denatured alcohol in the wash with the wool scour (this helps loosen lanolin, if the mud is sticking due to that). You'll find d.a. in the paint section of your hardware store; or
2b) wash with Fiber Master, it's good at more persistent dirt
3) after washing and drying the fleece, run it through the picker and wash it again (or just the muddy parts)
Other things I've done:
* skirt the fleece more to take out the worst of the muddy tips
* once the washed fleece is dry, flick the tips open of just the muddy ones and decide if they need to be washed again or not (sometimes lanolin and more muck hides under the mud, sometimes not)
* while the fleece is in the hot wash bath, put on some really thick rubber gloves and massage the muddy tips open. If you gently rub them while keeping them entirely submerged, they should open up and release their mud. Margaret Stove discusses this technique in her book (out of print now) Handspinning, Dyeing and Working With Merino and Superfine Wools.
I've yet to find a good silver bullet, other than skirting away the problematic muddy-tipped parts of the fleece. But that only works if you don't mind ending up with less fiber. I'm more likely to pick or flick open the offending parts and re-wash them.
See here for the rest of how to wash raw fleece.
(based on a post by me on spintoknitsocks, this day)
Thursday, March 29, 2007
When I was a kid in elementary school, we'd play boys-chase-the-girls and girls-chase-the-boys versions of tag, changing version each day. So I understand how the tagging thing works. But memes are fun, tagged or not, and it's fun to "spin" a meme to your own topic. So, here goes:
Five Spinnerly Things You Probably Don't Know About Me ...
- I learned to spin because I bought a house that "came with" two llamas. Actually, they wanted $800 for the llamas -- and I thought, "Llamas? what do I do with them? I'm not paying." And they threw them in to make the deal. I llove my llamas now -- Garland and Mahogany have no fear that I would give them away!
- I learned to spin at the "tender" age of 35. I had long said I wanted to retire at 35 -- in a way, I did, because that's when I started doing what I love, The Bellwether! Sure, I work harder and for less moola than before I "retired". But it's way more fun, and now I'm 40-years-young! (Do the math -- yes, I've been spinning for "only" 5 years. That's another shhhh thing you probably don't know about me!)
- I only have about, maybe, 5 hours a week I can actually devote to doing handcrafts -- spinning, knitting, producing those wonderful, rare "finished objects". And most of that gets put into knitting shop demo-models, though some get to double as winter woollies and Barbie gifts (love those miniatures!)
- We all have a past; mine is, I was a software engineer, then manager, then executive, then architect. I was on the SQL standards committee, and wrote large portions of the software in what is now Apache DB, an Open Source Java Database -- back when it was a startup called Cloudscape. I still have a copy of SQL92 and a collection of the CDs from our software releases -- I'm not ready to let the past go just yet.
- I bought an antique sock machine because I wanted to spend more time spinning than knitting. Ha-ha-ha -- now I have a sock yarn collection that rivals all my other yarns. Though the fiber stash is still larger than both combined!
(picked up on from Wise Hilda -- a fun knitting blog)
I'd love to hear five spinnerly things about you that I probably don't know -- please post a comment, link back, or email me! Consider yourself tagged...
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Spindle Physics, or, why some spindles are fast, some spin forever, and most are somewhere in between...
I often talk to people about "spindle physics" in my booth, because their favorite question is, "which spindle spins the best?" And of course, the answer is, "that depends..."
There are physical attributes of spindles that assist in spinning certain types of fiber and certain types of yarn.
Spindle weight in drop spindles assists in spinning to a particular range of yarn thickness (wraps per inch, in technical terms). For finer singles, look for lighter spindles -- typically 1/2 ounce or less (15 grams) for laceweight and finer singles; about 1 ounce (28 grams) for fingering; and up to 2 ounces for worsted weight yarns and thicker. But note -- as you fill the spindle, you change how much it weighs! Fine spinning tends to get interrupted once the spindle has about 1/3 of its original weight again in fiber on it. Chunkier spinning is usually aided by the additional weight, so it can take more. I've seen spindles with upwards of 4-6 ounces of fiber on them! Sheesh! (Yes, that's alot -- me, I'm lucky to get 1 ounce on, as with my wrists, that's all I can take in extra weight.
But notice I said drop spindles -- top whorls and bottom whorls. Support spindles are mostly driven by the other attribute of spindle physics, the impact of the mass distribution on the rotational behavior of the spindle.
No, Dorothy, I don't have a degree in physics. Nor do I want one. I took that class twice in college, and have no desire to repeat it. I've no idea if it's centrifugal or centripital force, just that if I flick the spindle, it will keep going for a while.
What do I mean by mass distribution, or the shape of the spindle? (1) Weight out at the rim of the whorl == longer spin. (2) Weight in at the shaft == faster spin. Yes, you can have both of these. A wider diameter whorl with rim weighting should spin longer than a smaller diameter whorl with the same whorl shape. And a whorl that is tight in to the shaft like the Natalie will be a fast spinner, not a long spinner. Good for silk, which needs alot of twist.
Case studies on spindle shape:
The Forrester Granny Spindle (aka drilled spindles) have actual holes drilled in them half way between the shaft and the outer edge of the whorl, around the whorl. So, they've actually removed mass right where it doesn't help. This maximizes the impact of the weight that exists -- the outer rim of the whorl, and the shaft itself.
Bosworth Spindles have a very deep channel cut in a ring between the shaft and the outer edge of the whorl. They've left wood near the shaft too. This design has been the most successful one I've run across to combine the physics of both fast and long into a single spindle. Some people find it too successful -- they say it spins too quickly for them. But you can counteract that by putting a little less oomph in your twirl.
Bosworths are interesting too in that they come in 4 different profiles -- Featherweight is not as deep of a whorl as the Mini, though they have the same diameter; Midi is a mid-sized spindle, and the Maxi or Large is their largest diameter whorl. This lets you compare length of spin by weight -- you could find a dense wood midi and a light wood large at close to the same weights; you would expect the large to spin longer than the midi -- and it probably would. I sense a future experiment coming on!
Tabachek spindles use a "flywheel" shape -- carved out mid-whorl, bead of whorl-wood at the rim and another bead near the shaft. Generally not as high a whorl shape as the Bosworth, these also have a nice combination of fast and long spin to them. I find them a very successful spindle also, in that Mr. Tabachek will occasionally use an exotic wood on the shaft -- Purpleheart shafts give you even more shaft weight, for a nice, zippy spindle!
Tabacheks also provide a variety of sizes; the mini Tabacheks in exotic woods can have enough heft to them to be very fast spindles -- terrific for high twist, fine spinning. And his latest spindle, the plying spindle, has the double advantage of a super-wide whorl for long spinning and a super-wide whorl for holding a really big cop of yarn!
Kundert spindles have a very nice umbrella shaping, again like the Tabacheks with a bead of whorl-wood at the rim. The shape is such that you must turn the spindle over to see the carved out underside -- from the top, it looks like a smooth umbrella surface. Kunderts often feel like they are getting a "lift" from this shaping. They have a single whorl dimension, about 3 inches, one of the most often recommended sizes for beginning spindlers. This is a really nice whorl size for long spins, and, as with the Tabachek Plying spindles, for holding a large cop of yarn.
The Natalie spindle is very different from all of the above spindles. However, it has predecessors -- the Victorian Silk Spindles written up in Bette Hochberg's book Handspindles, and Hatchtown Farm's Lady Ann spindle. There are And it also has "cousins" -- spindles that apply the same physics with their own shaping, such as the Will Taylor Victorian spindle, the Grafton Fiber FiberShip, and the Doug Peake Wendy. But enough comparisons!
The Natalie is all about keeping mass near the shaft for a fast spin. Also it uses dense woods such as Ebony and Purpleheart, to ensure the spindle has enough mass to keep spinning. The lighter a Natalie is, the shorter its spin time. At a bit over an ounce to 1.4 ounces, it spins reasonably long -- sitting, I can often "spin it to the ground", though standing it usually finishes spinning before I reach the floor. Natalies spin very fast, though, while they are spinning. This helps for spinning fine singles, as it gets twist into the yarn very quickly to ensure it will hold together. The finer your singles, the more twist they need to be held together. The weight of the Natalie, however, means it is best suited to long-staple fibers such as silk, or to any fibers that have plenty of silk blended in. I've spun lovely cashmere/silk blends on Natalies with great enjoyment, down to "frog hair" dimensions; but they are not cotton spindles, as the short staple length combined with the weight of the Natalie will cause a fair amount of droping for all but the most persistent spindlers.
In almost all the Ahka spindles I have seen, they maximize mass close to the shaft. Since this is a support spindle, this will ensure a fast spin for the duration of its spin. As the description on Ahka spindling teaches, generally the Ahka technique doesn't lead to a long spin, so the fast-spin design of the spindle maximizes its spin-formance.
Generalizing Navajo Spindles, these seem to typically have a flat whorl shape, not maximizing rim or shaft weight. To be honest, I haven't studied or considered alternate Navajo spindle whorl configurations -- if you have, let me know your findings! I'd love to play more in this area too.
Russian Spindles are support spindles that maximize shaft weight -- they are all shaft, with a bulbous middle. These are used for spinning fine yarns from typically short fibers, as support spindles. Their support nature means they won't be pulling on the fibers as a drop spindle would; this allows very short fibers to be spun more easily. Their shaft-weight means they put twist into your fiber quickly, helping the short, fine fibers hang together as you spins them into yarn.
I've left out a ton of spindle makers, bottom whorl spindles entirely (but see below for a snippet on them), and a few spindle types -- but you're on information overload already, right? so I'll generously leave the possibilities for readers to comment.
Spindle shape, weight, and mass distribution are all part of the picture. But wait, there's more! Another controlling factor on spindle speed is how much speed you (the spinner) can impart to the spindle to set it spinning.
Here's the secret: snap the spindle at the skinniest point on the shaft, as far from the whorl/fattest point of the spindle as possible.
Why the skinniest point? Because you get more momentum from snapping at the skinniest appropriate space. I'm not going to overload you (or me!) with the physics, but the same force applied to a smaller diameter sets the spindle going at a faster pace. Or, if you want to keep things sedate at the start, snap at the widest point on the inch or so near the end of the shaft.
Why the farthest from the whorl? To give a more balanced spin. If you flick the spindle near the whorl, it is likely to wobble or at best gyroscope as it twirls. Imparting the spin further from it leads to a smoother spin.
With top whorl spindles primarily, but also bottom whorl spindles, you can roll the spindle on your thigh with the flat of your hand to get it going at speeds far higher than a finger-flick can impart. Yes, if you barber-pole the yarn up the shaft of a bottom whorl, this also works with them! huzzah!
Also, the next time you are plying, try this method: roll the spindle between your two palms and then set it free -- it will almost fly out of your hand, taking the yarn to be plied and twisting like mad. Be ready to draft more plying yarn out! This will go quickly, and it will be time to wind-on before you know it. Abby F. has a great YouTube video of this:
Finally, your spindle needs to be balanced. There's a great tutorial on checking and fixing spindle hooks at Hatchtown Farms. Basically, you need the yarn coming up from the spindle to be in a direct line through the center of the spindle when the spindle hangs from it. Adjusting the hook to make it so ensures a wobble-less spin. Bottom whorl spindles often have indentations below the tip; these hold the half-hitch to keep the yarn on the spindle, and reduce the wobble.
A little wobble does slow the spindle a bit, so carefully winding on to build an even cop as you spin also helps. The shape doesn't matter too much, a pyramid building up from the whorl or a football shape both tend to be stable on the shaft of the spindle. And on a Turkish spindle, you wind around the arms themselves, building a sphere of yarn.
I've touched on spindle physics briefly in this blog entry on spinning silk on spindles and you can see other spindle discussions in my Spindles Category.
And many thanks to Sarah for commenting on a previous post about spindles and sparking this post. This is something I've talked to alot of people about -- at spinning retreats, spin-ins, wool shows, and in many on-line forums; so it's great to sit down and think it all through for the blog.
<shameless plug>Yes, I sell all of the spindles pictured here, at The Bellwether and I'm also the author of Spindling: The Basics, the source of a lot more spindle information! Print out this blog entry and stuff it inside your copy as soon as it arrives (Grin!)</plug>
Do you have a favorite spindle? Why is it your favorite? Comment, email, or link-back a favorite spindle posting on your blog.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The Patrick Green Triple Picker has a lacquer-like finish, the PG Barewood Picker is just that (bare, unfinished wood). Also, the Triple has three times as many teeth (thus, the name!) as the Barewood. These are fairly large, table-top person-powered devices for opening up fiber. They have a fixed "bed" of nails and a swing-arm with just as many nails. The arm is swung back and forth above the bed by a person while they are feeding fiber (washed fleece, primarily) in. The fiber comes out the other end fluffed up.
You can blend in the picker, mix up handfuls of the fibers you are blending. It will mix them up a bit more during the picking. I've picked primarily wools and llama with my picker, some with a little bit of silk, angora, or silk noil blended in as well.
If you make/use a cardboard box to "just" fit over the picker (great when it's not in use), it doubles as a great fluff-catcher on the floor off the edge of the table -- slightly wider than the picker and plenty long enough to catch the swing's off-fluffing fiber.
I break the fiber into fist-size clumps to feed into the picker, and use that time to de-VM the fiber a bit too. Picking won't get rid of all the VM, just some of it. I put it in the picker's "in-feed" tray a clump at a time. The out-swing of the picker arm picks the fiber up off the top of the tray (keep your fingers clear!) and pulls it onto the bed of nails to be picked open.
If the picker jams up on a too-big lump of wool, I rock the arm a little back and forth, that is usually enough to work it through and get it swinging again.
It's best to set the upper teeth so they _don't_ mesh with the lower teeth. I run mine close-but-not-touching, and they do a good job of opening fiber up. They are adjustable by moving the nuts at the top of the axle.
I'd guess I put through about a pound of fiber before I check the teeth for VM/dust buildup to brush out. I'll also take the time to empty wool off the upper and lower teeth then. Then, I do another pound, and repeat.
Once I've done a fleece, I'll vacuum under it and around it.
Be _very_ careful reaching into the teeth to grab fiber or VM -- they are _very_ _VERY_ sharp. They will pierce flesh. I tend to use a cheap-o paintbrush (like the ones in kids' watercolor sets) and a larger house painter's brush to get stuff out, occasionally spring-loaded pliers too. Seldom, fingers. I think it came with a 3-tine gardener's cultivator type tool, too -- though mine's been repurposed, it could also be a handy fiber grabber/picker cleaner that keeps your hands out of the teeth.
If you have kids/kids might be around it, get a padlock and keep it locked when not in use. Did I mention the teeth are sharp?
You can spin picked fleece, or card it. To spin picked fleece, grab an open handful, shake it a little to re-fluff it open if it's been smooshed down, draft out a point, and spin from that point, continuing to draft the handful from there. Join a new pouf of picked fiber on as that one ends. Picked fleece usually spins into a lightly textured yarn, smoother if you work at the drafting more and more highly textured if the picking left sections clumped.
(based on a post by me on knittyspins, 27mar07)
The Name the Newsletter contest is wrapping up, these are the final days! I'll be at the Whidbey Island Spin-In March 31-April 1, so the winner will be announced in the newsletter that I'll post on-or-around April 4th.
The Camp Burton Spin-In was a blast! (spindles to the left, fiber to the right) We had about 60+ people staying and on Saturday there must have been closer to 80 people in the room.
It does mean I haven't gotten many new things on the website, so here's a reminder of useful things we already have ...
Wool Scour -- it's the time of year when you get raw fleece, from your own sheep, a local flock, or your favorite wool festival (Shepherd's Extravaganza in Puyallup, anyone? It's coming up!). I have several different wool scours in stock, though it's almost gone ...
Fiber Master -- great for tough messes, I save this for "rescueing" fleeces as it is the most expensive per ounce.
Ultimate Fleece Cleaner -- great for medium wools without needed tons of hot water. You'll still need hot water with fine, high-lanolin fleeces
Eccoscour WA-305 -- this is the scour used at many small mills around the country. Does really well, as long as you keep the water hot (over 165 F -- so be careful!)
The other great new arrival are the
Yarn Control Cards made by VIP Fibers. These are great for knitters or spinners. Knitters can use them to help in making yarn substitutions in patterns. See Knit From Your Stash for guidelines and a collection of folks knitting from their stash in 2007.
Spinners use the control card to guide their spinning, you can determine your singles thickness and then keep them consistent as you go along. I find that usually my 2-ply is 1.5 * the thickness of my singles, and my three-ply is 2 times the thickness of my singles. But that isn't always true -- I recently made a cable, which uses 4 strands, and the cabled yarn was the same thickness as the underlying, balanced 2-ply (before over-twisting it for the cable). So, remember, sampling is good!
I'll be away at the Whidbey Island Spin-In this weekend, so email, website updates, and order confirmations/inquiries may not be possible until I return.
Thanks for reading -- feel free to post comments here, linkback with comments on your blog, or email me -- ask (at) the bellwether (dot) com.
Monday, March 26, 2007
I know, I know, wait is hardly the right term.
When I get a new spindle, it's either at a show or through mail order. The ones at shows are put to use immediately, with some fluff from the vendor during purchase and then something in my current-spinning bag right away.
For a mail order spindle, I wait about as long as it takes to get the box off the porch :-) if it doesn't have some fiber tucked into the spindle, then a stash-piece is put to good use for its right-out-of-the-box first spin around the block (um, house).
Usually I'm dreaming of projects when I order the spindle, so by the time it arrives, the fiber's already in a tote bag and waiting only for it to complete its test run (as described above...)
So, how long do you wait to spin a new spindle? Comment here or linkback in your blog.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Batts are done on a drum carder. The carder "brushes" the fiber with its carding cloth. Carding cloth has teeth that are all running in the same direction. Most carders (table models) have two drums, a licker-in and a big drum that basically holds the fiber as the licker-in "treats" it. The photo shows three rolled-up batts (Kaleidoscope, a color from Crosspatch Creations).
The Patrick Green Supercarder has three drums; and cottage carders (bigger power models) can have _alot_ more .. my Patrick Green Rover has 7 drums, and real floor-loving machines like the Patrick Green Exotica (shown in the picture) have alot more than that, even.
Given that the drums are brushing the fiber the same direction, if you are feeding in fiber all going the same direction (parallel to the brushing action) then you are very likely to get a nicely aligned batt off of the carder. But there is no 100% guarantee of this.
I find when I'm running picked fleece through the carder, I get a more jumbled result than if I'm re-carding laps (short bits of processed roving). And a second pass through of the carded, picked fleece adds more organization to it. So, batts can appear to be 'top', but they aren't combed, just brushed into a semi-organized state that can be spun almost worsted (ah, but that's another thread!)
Oh .. and roving? My rover takes the fiber off and feeds it through rollers, basically attenuating the batt down into roving. "True" roving has twist added to it as well, so "really" what I'm getting is sliver to be exact. But it's not combed top, which is a different process. I can also "pull" roving off a table-top carder by dizzing it from the outer 1/4 inch of the batt and rotating the drum around again and again, dizzing around the batt and moving over bit-by-bit on each complete revolution. The photo shows a three-color roving/sliver, "A Breed Apart" another blend from Crosspatch Creations.
I have a post on pulling roving off a drum carder already, see here.
Mini rovings, called "rolags" are made with handcards. There's a great youtube video of that.
You can also hand-comb top with hand-combs. Let's talk about that one next time, though.
Feedback is always welcome -- did this spark a question or an opinion? Let me know! Thanks!
(based on a posting to knittyspins, 3/20/07)
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I've been blogging on the steps of fleece preparation, so for pre-washing information (aka skirting the fleece), see here:
Now, on to washing ...
The easiest way is to send it to a fiber processor, and get back nicely prepared roving ready to spin. I've used Ohio Valley and Zeilinger's, both did a nice job.
Some people like to spin in the grease. This should only be done with clean fleeces that have been coated, otherwise the dirt and VM gets trapped in the yarn and cannot be washed out.
There are several ways to wash fleeces, to retain lanolin or not. One way said to be effective at removing dirt but retaining lanolin is to put the fleece in a bucket or tub of lukewarm water with alot of salt and let it sit overnight. I haven't tried this myself.
Here's what I do:
- Break the fleece into sweater bag sized pieces, and place them in laundry sweater bags. I only do 4 bags at a time, and they aren't stuffed full -- probably less than 2 pounds of raw wool.
- Fill up my top-loading washing machine (won't work with front loaders) with the hottest water and some Simply Green(R), Orvus, or your favorite wool scour; the dirtier the fleece, the more soap I use. Once it is full, I turn it off so it will not agitate. (Note: for really horrible fleeces I'll pre-soak without wool scour for an hour in lukewarm water.)
- Place the bags into the machine. Let them sit 30 minutes.
- Remove the bags and drain the machine.
- Repeat. If the water isn't draining clean, repeat as many times as needed so that it does.
- Then I do two rinses: first time, fill with the hottest water again, no soap. Put the bags in, let them sit 30 minutes. Remove the bags and drain the machine. If the water doesn't run clean (usually won't, the first time), repeat. If it doesn't run clean the second time, you didn't wash the fleece enough, and need to start over from the top.
- Once the fleece is clean and the machine is empty, I put the bags in the machine and set it on the spin cycle. Be very careful that your machine doesn't spray cold water in during the spin; some wash cycles will do that. This removes almost all the water from the clean fleece, letting it dry much more quickly.
Once the fleece is dry, you can use a flicker to open up the locks and spin them, or card the wool with hand carders or a drumcarder into roving or rolags. Combs can be used to make top, the preparation used for 'worsted', or compressed, smooth yarn.
Friday, March 23, 2007
If you've been handed a bag full of raw fleece from a shorn sheep, first you want to skirt the fleece.
If you're lucky, the fleece is still sheep-shaped (but seemingly much larger than the sheep it came from) and you can unroll it back into that shape. I say lucky, because skirting is alot like removing the outermost "skirt" of fiber from the fleece -- the outer 6 inches or so, usually. So if it can be unrolled, you can easily find the bits that need removing. Otherwise, lay it out piece by piece and examine them as you go...
What you are looking to remove (and throw out -- it makes a nice mulch, the birds like it, or simply fragrantize your trash can with it ...) is the extra dirty parts of the fleece -- the stuff near the tail of the sheep may have "tags" hanging from it. Don't ask what they are, just put them in the skirtings pile. There may be sections of fleece along the outer edges, and occasionally in the center back (so technically you'd be donutting the fleece?) that are so heavily embedded with hay, grain or weeds that you don't want to save them at all.
So, take all the skirtings, throw them out, and keep the best parts of the fleece to wash, card, and spin.
I have to admit I kept way more of the fleece in the first 10 fleeces I skirted than I keep now that I've skirted over 100 of them. You learn the time/fiber tradeoff from experience, choosing when it's worth keeping fleece or not. I toss anything that has: tips so muddy I can't easily open them in their dirty state (they won't wash clean the first time -- I'd have to clean, then pick, then re-wash the fleece to get them open) and also sections that have alot of visible hay/seed/weed/grass bits stuck in them, that would lead to bits in the finished carded wool.
Also, while you are skirting, you should get a good look at both sides of the fleece, since you should flip it to check it from both sides. Check for "second cuts" -- 1/2 inch or shorter lengths of cut fleece caused by the second pass of the shearer (thus the name second cuts) getting 1/2 inch or so closer to the skin -- these should also be removed, as they card into neps (little bumps) in the carded wool.
Also while skirting, you can test the locks in random places for soundness -- take a lock, hold it at both ends, snap it sharply together and apart to try to break it. If it breaks -- the fleece is weak, and may not stand up to carding, depending on how delicate you are in the process. If you card a fleece with breaks in it, your final product is likely to have neps or noils in it (lumps and bumps of fiber, not smoothly carded wool). The break may be local, in which case you can skirt it away, or the whole fleece may be weak; so test around an area that breaks, and test random locations in the fleece.
Whew. I can go on and on and on about skirting fleeces ...
There's a cool fleece diagram and more information on skirting fleeces here.
(posted by me on knittyspins, 23Mar07)
It must be that time of year again ... since a similar topic just came up too:
How do you get hay and twigs out of raw fleece?. I'll dig up my fleece washing notes for a posting tomorrow, so stay tuned for the next chapter on "raw fleece 101".
I start removing hay and twigs (and grass and weeds and seeds and grain -- anything not-wool) on the raw wool; fresh fleeces get put on a skirting table (a large chicken-wire-covered frame resting on sawhorses) and shaken, so the looser hay and grass bits fall to the ground. All this foreign matter is generally called "vegetable matter" or VM by the sheep-literati.
Once I have it washed and dried, I'll pick out a handful at a time to open up and shake. The opening of the fibers helps the bits fall out. Seed heads and burrs are stickier though, I go after them one-by-one, picking them out. Usually in the evening with a sheet on the floor in front of me and a good movie in the player.
I keep on removing hay and weeds through out the carding process -- flicking the locks open or picking them with a picker, and more still fall out under the carder during carding.
I even keep picking out bits during spinning. Some of those little pesky things I'm sure still lurk in the yarn, but they are there to stay!
Commercial processors use chemicals to dissolve or crushing to grind the plant matter to bits, if they have explicit processes in place to remove them. Zeilinger's uses a crusher, and in my experience, having sent them very-VMy fleece, they did a great job!
posted by me on spindlers, 22mar07
Thursday, March 22, 2007
I've done a fair amount of dyeing of self-patterning yarns, either a faux-fair isle or just 3-color bands, and have considered doing more (like a 6-color-band-rainbow). Since I mostly knit socks on sock machines, it's a "fixed" process -- because the information I use is how much yarn it takes to knit one round on a cylinder, which turns out to be about 30 inches.
The picture at the top shows: commercially-dyed self-striping sock yarn; hand-dyed in a skein, 6" lengths of color banded across; and dyed-as-described-here yarn, though I used 2 solid colors rather than dots on the smaller burgundy band. These were all knit on my circular sock machine. There's a fair isle-style sock shown below, keep reading!
So, if you're knitting with sock yarns on something between 60 and 72 stitches, the 30 inch measure may be about right for you, too.
I have a "wrapping board" that I had made by a friend's husband, but could see using a warping board with several pegs on it for this, too, as long as you could adjust them to be either 15" apart (like my wrapping board) or 30" apart.
With the pegs 15" apart, one wrap around a pair of pegs 15" apart equals one trip around the sock.
So, I have 3 rows of pegs, each row with 2 pegs 15" apart. Each row is about 2" below the row above it. (Note: these are purchasable too, I found one online here.)
Here's what I did for fair isle:
* Wrap the top pair 8 times.
Then come around the outside and wrap the middle pair twice.
Then come around the outside and wrap the bottom pair 8 times.
Then come back up (the same side as before) to the middle pair and wrap them twice again.
Then come up to the top pair and repeat from the * until you are out of yarn.
Before removing the yarn from the pegs, tie a bunch of figure 8 ties, loosely so the dye can penetrate, around each of the three "skein"s.
Then tie _really tight_ wrapping several (many, in my case!) times around the little bars that "join" the skeins, where you were coming around the outside.
Now, remove the skeins from the pegs, keeping each skein from getting tangled in its neighbor. Dye the top one a solid color, leave the smallest middle one undyed, and put dots of color on the bottom one.
(I use standard hand-painting techniques and microwave dyeing.)
When you are done dyeing, keep the three skeins separate and ball up the yarn slowly, as it will want to get all jumbled and tangled. This is where movable warping pegs are _wonderful_ -- if you scoot them closer together, you can usually re-hang the skeins and just wind off the pegs into a coherent ball with almost no trouble at all.
Knit your sock and wa-la: fair isle emerges.
The picture shows yarn wound as described and dyed blue on one section and yellow/green dots on the other (middle, small sections left undyed). Knit on the sock machine, leg is 2/1 ribbed and foot is stockinette.
I believe the dyehappy Yahoo group had a tutorial on this a while ago as well.
There are at least two other methods for dyeing self-patterning yarns: wind a really long skein (like, yards and yards the length of your two furthest-apart doors) and dye several feet a color at a time. I believe the book Yarns to Dye For covers this method. Then there's the method of knitting a "blank" on a knitting machine, dyeing that, and then knitting your sock from it. Spin-Off had an article on dyeing knitted blanks in the Winter 2006 issue I believe, if not Fall 2006.
And if you want random striping, here's a method that lets you pick the colors per band.
(based on a post by me to spindlers, 21Mar2007)
The guidelines for entering handspun skeins in competitions depends on the competition -- it may have rules of its own or a history of the types of entries that win. Best thing is to follow the guidelines to the letter, look into the past history of the competition, and then add-on a note or sample if you have more to say or show about what you did.
This first photo is from last year's fair, spindle-spun singles, worsted weight -- got bonus points for spinning evenly given the multi-content of the fiber and also for the planned project -- a nalbound hat!
At the local county fair, we have several classes we can enter into,the handspun yarn categories include:
The judge at our county fair will take any reasonable skein -- she prefers them to be over 2 ounces, but if it's very, very fine spinning even a 1 ounce skein works for her. The general rule of thumb I use is at least 50 yards and usually I'll do: 1 ounce laceweight, 2 oz. fingering, 4 oz. or more bulky.
This next photo is spindle-spun singles, Shetland, lock spun to preserve color, planned project knitting, several years back. Again, mentioning spindles and that I was spinning the locks to preserve the color helped in the final grade.
Last year I got extra points for entering 3/4 of a pound of a bulky 2-ply, as it "showed off" the consistency of the spinning and gave her a large skein to review. Yes, it was tied together to make the skein so big, in 2 places I think, it was 3 bobbins' worth.
It's not "against" the rules to go through a bigger skein and pick out the best contiguous 50 yards to enter, in fact our usual judge expects that to some extent -- she wants to see your best work, not your average.
You're only expected to have dyed the fiber yourself (at any stage in the processing -- pre carding, post carding, post spinning) if you put it in the hand-dyed category.
Skeins are expected to be well-prepared, which means: evenly wound into an appropriately sized skein (so, a 1 yard skein if it's a small one, a bigger 1.5-2 yard skein if it's alot of yarn). Tied with 4 "figure-8" ties around the edge (I know, the drawing only shows three...). She wants the figure-8 ties to be findable but not obtrusive -- I usually look for a commercial yarn in my stash that matches the fiber, or if I have to, cut lengths from the skein for self-ties (ouch that hurts, though in fact she prefers self-ties). The skein should be clean, hang well (balanced/twist set -- unless you can explain why it's not in the notes), and rolled into a tidy skein. The first thing she does is undo the skein back into its loops, then lays it out on the table and opens it up to see the individual yarns.
Besides skein prep, in our fair you submit a slip stating the fiber content, intended use, and any notes on spinning you want -- so I'll always note that my spindle skeins were spindle-spun. It helps alot to put in a small knit, woven or crochet sample (aka gauge swatch for my knitting, that's usually what I put in) to show the intended use or even the knitting pattern you're thinking to use it in. Another help is to include a sample of what you started with -- a lock of the washed fleece, a length of the purchased roving. Not expected, but it helps make the entry stand out.
The photo is a collection of skeins from 2002, note the small knit/felt sample with the pink skein, to show its intended use, a knitted, felted hat. The sample helped the judge see that felting with the plied silk in the wool would actually work. Note the majorly contrasting ties on the skeins -- I had points off for that :-( and I learned my lesson! So be sure to read the judge's feedback and use it to improve your future entries.
On the slip you can also state things like why you want the skein to be unbalanced (if it is), what makes it a novelty yarn (if that's your category), notes on the dyeing for hand-dyed, and note if you started from raw fleece, commercially prepared fiber, that sort of thing. Basically, the more work you did, the more highly she thinks of it and the higher it will score.
Other things you can list (but be sure to be accurate, because the judge may check!): wraps per inch, twists per inch, actual yardage and weight of the skein, staple length (ok she may not check that one!)
Hmmm, maybe next year I should include the spindle with the skein ... now there's a thought :-)
Drawing ©2007 The Bellwether. Used with Permission. From Spindling: The Basics.
(based on a post to spindlitis by me, 21Mar07)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Mohair doesn't have the barbs on its surface like wool fibers do; to spin it, you need to add quite a bit of twist to get it to hang together well. For this reason, it's usually spun fairly fine (so the extra twist doesn't lead to corkscrewing, but can be used by the fibers in the yarn).
Generally speaking, mohair is too "harsh" to wear against the skin. Generalizations aside, though, there are two considerations that might allow it:
(1) Kid Mohair can be quite fine
(2) some people can put a coarser wool against their skin
(3) the "irritation" can have its uses -- it is warming the skin. I think on that with my mohair scarf and the irritation becomes a blessing, on cold days
(ok, three ideas!)
It's the underlying harshness of the fiber that drives whether it can be worn next to the skin or not; granted, you can spin even merino into steel wool, but it won't irritate the skin. (I just did that, by cabling merino -- it's still lovely and next-to-the-skinnable, just not fluffy-soft any longer. Sigh. Luckily the next test worked -- 4 ply! yay. Still bouncy and soft.)
The "usual way" to get soft yarn is to spin it open and fluffy; I have some notes on that on this post along with a photo of lockspun yarn :-)
For a soft yarn, you want minimal twist to be "yarn". Also, plying helps the singles relax a bit, as twist comes out of the singles to make up the plying twist. A 2-ply takes more twist out of the singles than a similar-looking 3-ply (i.e., of the same twists-per-inch...).
Mohair will tend to "halo" once it is knitted up; my first handspun was Romney and Mohair plied together, and the winter hat looks quite "wow!" on the really dry winter days. That's it in the photo at the top, still in daily winter use.
If you have raw mohair/angora goat fiber, I'd wash it first, then try both carding and combing to see which I liked better.
Carding will give you a pouffier yarn for spinning, and with a smooth fiber like mohair, combing will give you a very smooth yarn.
Carding from just washed, flicked/opened locks is more likely to be uneven--though with an eagle eye, steady hands, and patience you can spin smooth yarns directly from the lock.
My favorite type of spinning with washed, un-processed mohair is "lock spinning" where I spin and purposely leave out the tips so they fly out of the yarn (the first half of the mohair lock is tightly spun into the yarn!) giving me great "curly" yarn.
Mohair's also terrific for boucle; the "quick-step" boucle spinning is:
- spin fine mohair singles (Z)
- spin some other fine single (mohair, wool, whatever -- or just have some commercial thread if you like) (Z, if you are spinning)
- ply the mohair onto the other single, stopping to push up the mohair to make big, sloppy loops of mohair on the other single (S)
- now re-ply this 2-ply Z (same direction as the mohair single) with a fine, commercial thread. The idea during this ply is to repeatedly "cut" the big mohair loops into little boucle-looking loops (this is boucle, after all!)
I did this in a class once, and was amazed when it actually worked - wow! So now I have 10 yards of boucle, LOL.
(from postings by me on spinning_on_the_edge, mar 2007)
Monday, March 19, 2007
The "general rule of thumb" for handspun sock blends is to build a mix of fibers for softness and strength -- merino/finewools for "soft", mohair, medium wools, nylon, tencel, etc. for "strength". I personally tend to rely on a fairly high twist to give strength, and look for ease of care (superwash) or luxuriousness (silk in the blend). But then, the socks are typically for me, and I'm happy to darn them.
My favorite pair of socks to date are a handknit pair from "Little Toes", a 100% superwash merino wool yarn. That said, I've repaired them 8 times now (did I say I _love_ these socks) and finally resorted to using sock yarn (aka a wool/nylon blend sock yarn, Regia I think) rather than more Little Toes, in the hopes of not putting my heel through the sock a third time.
I've been sock-yarn spinning lately, and have examined alot of twist angles of commercial sock yarns -- they seem to use a 30 degree twist angle, pretty "high twist" as my hand spinning goes; the Little Toes was the lowest twist of the bunch, in the mid 20's-ish. (This was the plying twist angle that I measured, FYI.)
So my own sock spinning, 3-plies, comes to about 30 degrees too. I've two pairs to knit now, one from a CVM/Viscose/Silk blend by Crosspatch Creations called "Quinilla in Blue Jeans", and another from superwash Merino in a Crown Mountain Farms colorway called "Hang on Sloopy". _and_ I picked up some superwash Colonial this last weekend at Camp Burton to try out for socks too, as well as some Romney/Silk/superwash Merino from Franquemont Fibers (I think that's what's in it...)
Gee, guess I better get back to my spindles (big grin) and continue the sock-yarn spinning!
(posted by me this day on spindlers)
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Curlicues in your handspinning may occur in a variety of ways.
If it's a corkscrewing of the singles, then the likely culprit is too much twist. On a wheel, try backing off on pedaling - slow down pedaling but draft at the same rate. On a spindle, put less twist in for a given length of yarn -- twirl the spindle more slowly.
If it's little corkscrews of one single hanging off the side of the other single in the plying, that's a matter of tensioning the singles as you ply. If your lazy kate doesn't have a tensioner, feed the yarn through your fingers and be ready to stop the moment you feel one of these curled-up bits hit your fingers.
When I'm spinning fine, I get at least one curly-cue like this in the finished yarn (darn it!) -- so I snip it at its point, un-ply that section of yarn (twist a 4" length to unply it) then let it ply/twist back up, incorporating the two ends of the now-snipped curly-cue.
(posted by me on spindlers, 3/10/07)
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Knitting a moebius shawl or scarf is a fun way to create wearable math. And a great way to keep the kids busy in the waiting room of the doctor or dentist, trying to decide which is the inside and which is the outside!
Patterns for these abound in books and on-line. As a rule of thumb, I use a Size 15US, 35" circular needle, and cast on about 80 stitches (which works out to 160 once you've done the pick-up for the moebius -- see instructional links below). Be sure to use a loose cast on and a loose cast-off! Size of yarn doesn't matter -- a thick yarn gives a cushy moebius, a thin yarn gives a lacy moebius. Pull out your crazy yarn and add some pizzazz!
There are several ways to knit a moebius, from dirt simple to "in the moebius". Planet Shoup has a great set of instructions of each of these ways:
They include three different variants on how to make a moebius -- the "make a flat piece and twist it when joining" variant (the easiest); the "make a mini-moebius flat and then join, pickup and knit a true moebius" variant (a good "transition" moebius to actually knitting a moebius); and the "make a real moebius by picking up the cast-on edge" variant -- where you actually knit moebiusly! Very fascinating.
The last one is my favorite, I find it really fun to knit moebiusly, and prefer that cast-on to the Bordhi method, which involves wrapping two layers of needles.
The Cat Bordhi method, a 4th variant, was recently featured on DIY.
And if you want a crochet one, there's this:
(based on a post by me on spindlers, 3/7/07)
Finally! found the DIY link for Cat Bordhi's, here: http://www.diynetwork.com/diy/na_other/article/0,2025,DIY_14142_4894528,00.html
What's your favorite thing to knit with a moebius base? besides the shawl/scarf/neck cowl, there are fun ways to use a moebius in a hat band, or as the handle of a felted basket. I've done shawls, hat bands, and baskets, and have a deeper felted tote bag planned next. But what shall I knit after that with the moebius? I'm open to suggestions!
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Myler posted some lovely stained-glass spindles for sale on a variety of Yahoo spinning groups recently. Mine came! They are fa-boo! (Sorry, DD 7yo is cracking me up with all her lingo, I'm trying to incorporate it.)
The spindles (yes, I got two -- the sheep and the dragonfly) came with their own matching fuzz. Since the green was dyed fleece, I grabbed spindle, green fuzz, and hand cards and ...
You guessed it, hand carded my way through the line at the post office. LOL. It wasn't too bad -- I rested one card on my leg, bent over a little to brush the fiber off with the other card, and switched cards once the fiber transferred to the top card. I did one card-full in the "stork" position, leg raised, knee out front. DD was with me, and she kept up a running commentary of questions --
DD: why do you need to do that, mom? Mom: to make the fibers spin more evenly.
DD: what would happen if you didn't do that? Mom: well, I could spin it, but I'd have lumpy yarn. And I'd rather spin it smoothly.
DD: Did they always have handcards? Mom: (thinks: how does she come up with these questions?) No.
DD: What did they do before? Mom: spun from the lock, very carefully, to get as smooth a yarn as possible. They had alot of practice at it, since they didn't have hand cards to use.
(At this point DD wandered off to look at the cute post office teddy bear display. She'd had enough learning for the moment.)
Now, I've spun there before and mostly get odd looks, no questions. Hand carding got the odd looks too, but the postal lady was quite entranced and said, "now that's enough to get me interested in trying spinning". hahahaha funny bone hit there, that hand carding makes her want to try spinning! Well, I spun some for her too -- she likes the spindle too! And I do, too -- it has pride of place in the hallway spindle stand now.
(What y'all don't have spindle stands strategically placed throughout your house? They look great in a bookcase, on a side table, and tall ones on the floor! Feng Shui for Spinners!)
(based on a post by me 3/8/07 on spindlitis)
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The various discussions of twists per inch and twist angle in forums led one overwhelmed reader to ask, "do you really measure twists per inch?"
I must say that for the most part, I just have a "ballpark" idea of what I want -- low twist singles, low-twist plied (which has more twist than low-twist singles...), firm 2-ply, or really tight 3-ply (sock yarn spinning -- been doing alot of that lately!)
I find the ply-back test (discussed in this post) helps me determine if I'm getting the yarn I want.
All that said, lately I've been on a twist-angle hunt, because of all the sock yarn spinning I've been doing. Measuring my own has been a bit after-the-fact, but it told me that my eyeball/ballpark attempt is pretty good. I think there's a fair amount of leeway in yarns in general, hitting an exact mark is mostly something for perfectonists (sic)
(based on a post by me to spindlers, 3/5/07)
If you're on a twist-angle hunt, too, then I can recommend these resources:
Mabel Ross's book The Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners (I know, I talk about this book alot -- it must be my favorite! yup!)
Eileen Hallman's video Spinning Cotton on the Charkha comes with a great glue-on-a-CD twist angle guide (please don't glue it on the DVD!)
Holly Shaltz's on-line tutorial Twist Angles
If you have another twist-angle resource, please post a comment to let me know or email me -- thanks!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I really enjoy the blog-ology that's out there, memes included! And over at UFOKnitClub one of my cohorts asked me how I got started, which is related to this "meme" - What are the daily habits that help me be successful?
In no particular order, then:
- identify the things that hinder my success and work to remove them. Procrastination is a big one, tied in with distraction. I work on focus every day to avoid those two!
- sell what I love. That helps because then I love to talk about it, blog about it, email about it, write about it -- all of these help to make people more aware of it and buy it! And, I get to enjoy it while it's in the shop (big, happy grin!)
- learn. I'm always looking to learn more. YouTube is great -- Abby has a wonderful collection of spindling videos, Rexenne has some great combing videos, and then there's my favorite handcarding video, too! All of these are listed in the YouTube Handspinning group -- because I joined and put (some of) them there. The flip side is also doing -- I try the things I learn. I may not get beyond the nalbound baby sock (actually, I will, but as an example...) but I will have at least tried nalbinding!
- download and print new orders, updating the website too. I pack orders about 3 times a week, so that's not quite a daily habit. But every day I'll get new orders and update the website, since most of what I sell is one of a kind. Very seldom do two people end up overlapping on a purchase that way (whew!)
- talk to real people: not only do I email and chat in the on-line forums, but I also do at least 4 shows a year, spin in my local guilds, and keep up with my "in real life" spinning buddies. This keeps it real!
- talk about keeping it real: the 2 llamas and 3 sheep in my back yard have a natural life span going out to at least 2017 ... so for at least 10 more years, I have llama poop, hay, grain, medicines, shearing, and fleece scouring in my future.
So, what do you do to be successful? Here's the challenge as I found it:
Compose a new blog post listing the top 5 to 10 things that you do almost every day that help you to be successful. They can be anything at all, but they have to be things that you do at least 4 or 5 times every week. Anything less than that may be a hobby that helps you out, but we are after the real day in and day out habits that help you to be successful.
Go for it! Comment here, or post it in your blog - and tell them, I sent you! (http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/)
Monday, March 12, 2007
The Schacht manual has good info on where to oil.
My tendency is to oil the flyer rod each time I change a bobbin. Keeps the wheel quiet. Also if the wheel has been sitting for a while, I'll oil around the footman (vertical bar attached to the footpedals), it tends to get squeaky first.
Those are the only two places a Schacht wheel is supposed to be oiled, according to their manual.
(posted by me on spinning_camp, 3/5/2007)
((that's a really old picture of me, when I first got my Schacht...))
On playing -- make that plying -- with thread :: this is a great way to ensure you keep the length and width of your singles in your plied yarn! Thread doesn't add substantially to the finished yarn diameter.
You can get some neat techniques with thread. You'll get a bouncy, faux-boucle effect if you hold the thread in one hand, tight, and the yarn in the other hand, not quite as tight. The thread will "cut" into the yarn a little bit and the yarn will tend to "bobble" as it is plied with the thread.
Even more fun is a coil yarn -- hold the thread taut, straight out from the bobbin; hold the yarn at 90 degrees (a right angle) to the thread and let the yarn completely wrap around the thread, forming coils. For this, you want your singles to be fairly high twist, so they hang together well with this amount of "plying" twist.
Knots is another coil variant, where you actually put coils on top of each other for about 1", back and forth, to make a big lump. (These aren't actually knots, just big layered lumps of coil.)
It's fun, too, to combine these two techniques so you alternate between bobbly and coily. Both will cut into the length of the single, since you aren't holding the single straight out against the thread, but are encouraging it to scrunch up a little in the bobbles, and alot in the coils.
If you just want a straight ply (also useful), but aren't sure of the amount of twist you need, take a 4" length your single that has had the twist set in it, a 4" length of the thread, knot them together at one end, and put them in a sink of warm water. "Milk" the yarn/thread strands so that as the yarn gyrates, it wraps around the thread. The warm water "activates" the twist in the yarn, and you need it to twist with the thread to show you how much plying twist this yarn wants to have a balanced ply with the thread. Save this sample and compare with it as you spin for a balanced ply (if/when you want such a thing).
Plying with metallic threads is very fun looking and really spices up a single. Even fine metallic threads add glitter and glam to the yarn.
Dana asked me what sort of metallic thread I ply with.
I have to admit, I'm often not too picky about my threads. I found some neat/cost efficient metallic thread in Joanne's next to some very short length bobbins of metallic thread -- the "big" bobbin was cheaper per bobbin than the "small" bobbin, so be sure to check out yardage on the bobbin. Most of the metallics seem to be polyester, though if you head over to the thread display you may find rayon and nylon in metallics as well.
I'd tend to pick out a round thread over a flat one, just for reducing irritation caused by flat metallic threads/tapes.
For fancy, a sewing machine specialty shop may have silk threads -- I'm not sure if Joanne's has that level of thread or not.
(based on posts by me to Spinning_on_the_edge, 3/2007)
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Aha! tutu yarn. LOL. Actually, plying 2 two-plies together is a recognized technique, called "cabled" yarn. You ply the two 2-plies in the reverse direction than the 2-plies have, so you'd go clockwise again for standard yarn (see the post Why Z and S for why this is clockwise...)
That said, if your 2-plies were balanced plies and you are re-plying to make something new, you'd want to add some twist to the plied yarns first, so they have enough twist to be balanced in the cabled yarn.
And that said, something to consider is the amount of twist in the original singles -- if you are adding more twist to the plies, that may be over-untwisting the underlying singles. Usually for a cabled yarn, the singles are given a little bit of extra twist so they end up straight in the resulting cabled yarn. So, sample a little and see how it looks.
I've done this myself -- with some cotton -- the 2-ply was too thin and underspun in spots, so I added alot of twist to it and then cabled it. There wasn't any way to add more twist to the singles, and it worked out just great -- yay! so perhaps they really don't need more -- does anyone have a rule-of-thumb for the singles of cabled yarns? more twist than for singles in a 2-ply, less, or the same?
Given I'd already set the twist in the 2-ply, after I added the extra twist, I used the warm-bath method on a folded-back 6 inch sample to see how much twist the cabled yarn would need -- put a 6" folded back sample in a warm sink and it will twist up on itself to show you the balanced ply-twist needed; this works great for old singles too. I used that sample as my eyeball-test as I cable-plied the rest of the yarn. And, it looks great as a cabled yarn!
My other cabled yarn was a Romney; this was used as the cuff in a felted clog ... Note that cabled yarns tend to be fairly high-twist, and so don't felt as much as a 2 ply of the same thickness -- the edge of my clogs didn't felt as much, but it all worked out okay -- it turned into a sort of ruffle. Where are they now? My Dad took them home with him last time he visited ... sometimes it's not so great that we have the same shoe size!
(based on a post by me on spindlers, 3/2/2007)
Thanks to spinayarn99 for asking "in which direction do you spin and then ply?" on my post How can I fix the twist in my 2-ply?.
Most typical spinning is to spin the singles "Z", or clockwise spin on your wheel or spindle and to ply your singles together "S", or counterclockwise spin on your wheel or spindle.
The first cool fact about the letters Z and S is that the bar in the middle of the letter showing you which way your yarn's twist angle is: for yarn spun "Z", the yarn's twist angle is to the "/" direction, like the middle part of the Z; for yarn spun "S", the yarn's twist angle is to the "\" direction, like the middle part of the S.
drawing © The Bellwether, used with permission. From Spindling: The Basics.
Now, that's enough to understand why we call these Z twist and S twist, but there's a second cool fact too -- trace the letter Z in the air. As you start the upper bar, you are moving "->" to the right, or in a clockwise direction, starting at noon and moving to 1 o'clock. Now, Trace the letter S in the air. You guessed it! as you start the upper bar, you are moving "<-" to the left, or in a counter clockwise direction! How sweet is that!
Now, this is just "typical" yarn.
If you cable, typically you do: singles Z, ply S, ply-of-plies (the cable step) Z.
If you spin your singles S -- which you might do if you are just spinning singles, since S twist tends to keep its shape or get a little extra twist in knitting (which is better than losing twist and having your needle split the yarn...) -- this S twisted single is called "widdershins".
I've also seen two singles spun Z and the ply done Z too -- but this is highly active yarn! ... See my blog entries on SinglesYarn in our Categories for ideas on singles with active twist.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Sideways spinning is the first step in Akha spindle spinning. You can also use this technique with regular top whorl spindles. It's a great alternative to give your hand a break, or if your fibers are very slippery and you are putting too much "drop" in your drop spindling...
An Akha spindle is a "support" spindle in that you hold the spindle horizontally, twirl it with your right hand, and pull the fibers away from the hook with your left hand (this is called long draw/point of twist drafting).
I've done this with Akhas, but not with top whorls. Well, okay, I did it with a top whorl once -- I was in the "stand on one leg and spindle spin" contest at NwRSA last year and amidst my hopping, the only way I could keep spindling was to "Akha-spin" on my top whorl spindle. It worked -- I kept going to the end!
With Akhas, once you have enough twist in for the fibers to hang together, you change over to vertical spinning -- give the spindle a spin, let it add the final twist into the yarn, then stop and wind on.
Connie Delaney has written a pamphlet of Akha Spindle Instructions and the technique is also described in Priscilla Gibson-Robert's Spinning In the Old Way.
(expansion of a post by me to spindlers, this day)
Wow! that week sure went by fast ... and shows are coming up. So, while I'm busy knitting booth samples for Crosspatch colors (the lovely beaded bracelet on DD is Plum Loco using Perdita's Bluebell there have been a few new arrivals.
The big one is book re-stocking! yay! Mabel's Ross's The Essentials of Yarn Design, Ruth MacGregor's Learn To Spin Silk on a Spindle, and a few more really great books are available again. (Yes, Nalbinding Made Easy ran out this week -- new ones are on their way!)
I expect to get Susan Pufpaff's great felting and knitted roving patterns up this weekend -- so stay tuned to the New Items page.
If you'd like to subscribe to updates to that page rather than this newsletter, there's a great page-monitoring e-mail service available -- click here to monitor our new arrivals page. I hope to have the plug-in available on the page soon, but until then you can sign up directly with that link.
Here's a shout-out to Tan in Utah, whose posting of her latest Bellwether purchase earns her a 10% discount for the next 6 months! (how you can get this discount too)
And the 'name the newsletter' contest continues. To recap entries so far: The Bell Tells, Sheep Tales Weekly, The Bellringer, Wether Report (think what great theme music this would have!), For Whom the Bell Toils (for you-m, of course!). Post your entry as a comment on the blog (anywhere!) or email to ask funnysymbol thebellwether little dot com.
Two more booth samples -- a great knitted whale in Rocky Mountain Lupin and two peas in a pod in Victoria Into The Woods (flat penny for scale).
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
That sounds fun -- knitting right off the spindle :-)
Usually I'll wash and set the twist in my yarn before knitting, but there's no rule that says you have to. Singles usually have at least a little extra twist. If they are low-twist singles, just-barely-yarn, then they will knit a straight rectangle, just one bar of the knit stitch will be straight up-and-down rather than the usual knit "V".
If you knit garter stitch (knit each row when knitting flat, knit 1 row, purl 1 row when knitting in the round) or seed stitch (k1p1 across row 1, even # stitches, k1p1 across row 2 on wrong side so K's are above P's and vice-versa) then the stitches will "even out" any bias in a high twist yarn and again, keep the work square and flat.
That said, active singles can give you some fun effects -- swirly socks, for example -- how cool would that be! with a garter stitch heel and a star-bind-off toe -- ooo the possibilities. And Spin-Off Spring 2006 had an article with cool zig-zag scarves knit from active singles.
Hats knit in the round may "swirl" a bit, but again - design feature!
FYI, If your singles, once washed, only twist around once in the skein when dried without weights, they are unlikely to bias when knit.
They're also great for crochet, nalbinding, pretty much whatever you want to do with them. I love felting my low-twist singles, either as yarn or in the finished item (clogs, tote bags, ...)
(posted by me on spindlers this day)
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
If the ply is simply inconsistent throughout, there are some other things you can do to help make it more consistent. If there are spots that are low on twist, you can run your yarn through on a wheel or spindle again fairly quickly, not adding twist on the good parts but putting twist in on the low-twist spots. And, when you wash the skein, once you've squeezed all the water out, do two things to help distribute twist:
1) put the skein around both wrists like someone was going to wind it off your wrists, but then snap your arms apart a few times to stretch the skein a bit. This doesn't actually _stretch_ the skein, but it helps the twist travel around a little bit
2) whack the squeezed-out skein on a counter top a few times, from both ends. This does also lightly felt the skein, but is another way to help get the twist to travel around the skein and even itself out.
If the skein is under-plied, the overall skein will twist "S". You can run it through on a wheel fairly quickly counter-clockwise, adding more plying twist. If the skein is over-plied, the overall skein will twist "Z". You can run it through on a wheel fairly quickly clockwise, removing some plying twist.
Why are these called "S" and "Z"? Look what happens when you put an S or a Z over them -- the middle bar of the letter goes at the same angle as the twist ...
Drawings © The Bellwether, taken from Spindling: The Basics -- used with permission.
(based on a post by me to spindlers, 3/2/2007)
First, I put it in my spin-x to get as much water out as possible. A washing machine's spin cycle (top-load only) without water will do pretty well, too. I mainly have the spin-x because I do alot of fleeces -- there are over 20 in my basement right now (oh boy, I hope my husband doesn't read this blog!)
Then, I spread the fleece out as much as I can on a sweater drying rack (or three) and turn the heat up a little bit in a separate room. A small fan to help circulate the air helps too. The idea is to
get as much air circulating around the fleece as possible to help it dry out.
If you're in a very humid environment, a dehumidifier might help, too.
(based on a post by me on spindlers, 3/5/2007)
Monday, March 5, 2007
My local "crazy spinners" group did "knot" yarn as described in Pluckyfluff. I love the pun there -- were we spinning yarn, or "knot"? hehehe.
But once I stopped cracking myself up, here are the observations on this type of novelty yarn. This one's pretty easy to spin, yay! not back-breaking finger-twitching complex, as long as you can tie an overhand knot with one hand. Phew. I was spinning way too fine though, my knots disappeared. The lady spinning a 14 WPI single had better knots than me.
So although we decided one session of knot yarn was enough, I plan to have a second go spinning thicker to see if my knots will be more visible.
How do you spin knot yarn, you ask? Take your roving, a short length (we were breaking our roving into about 4-6 inch lengths, depending on the thickness of the roving), spin it, and as you reach the end of that piece of roving, tie a knot (yes, a knot) in the just-made yarn. This means dragging the roving through the knot as you go, so a big loop, please, then tighten it up. Then join another length of roving on and repeat. In the end, I think a knot every foot would not be overkill (ooo she said "not" ...) This is nice as a lofty single that won't need plying, so you needn't overtwist it. I'm not sure (oops ... there's that not again!) if a 2-ply would work, or would lose the knottiness (naughtiness? ah the pun-abilities abound).
I was spinning probably a 20 WPI single -- waaay too fine. I tried to spin thicker (really I did!) but this was Shetland top and it just wasn't cooperating. So batch number two will be done without any drafting at all, or I'll find a medium wool to do this with.
(expansion of a post by me this day on SpinningOnTheEdge)
On purlwise's blog, she asks: I have a painted roving; if I make it into 2-ply sock yarn will the colors look ok?
Or, if splitting the length doesn't float your boat, you could find the repeat in the dye on the roving and split it there, instead.Alternatively, consider Navajo plying to preserve the color changes.
I'll try to dig my pair of fingerless gloves out of my sample-bucket for a photo shoot; one is a 2-ply done as described here, and one is a Navajo ply. All you have to do to confirm the adage that a 3-ply is rounder yarn and a 2-ply is flatter yarn, is put these on. The Navajo (3) ply is squisher/firmer, the 2-ply is flatter against the hand. And actually, in gloves, flatter against the hand is a good thing between the fingers!
Sunday, March 4, 2007
I've been doing a fair amount of sock spinning learning lately, applying what I see in other yarns and what I think should work. Now I'm getting into twist angles, so I know I'm in the deep end, LOL. Most of the commercial sock yarns seem to have about a 30 degree twist angle, pretty steep/tight really. I took samples of all the sock yarns in my stash -- Opal, Regia, Lorna's Laces, KPPM, Sockotta, Fortissima, Tofutsies, and a few lesser knowns too. There's a great writeup on sock yarns here.
And I've blogged about this myself here and in the post it links to within it.
If you'd like all the information you need on twist angles, I recommend Mabel Ross's book "Essentials of Yarn Design" and also this writeup by HJS Studio -- she's into twist angles!
The yarn in the photo is superwash merino pencil roving spun and Navajo plied to about 18 WPI. The twist angle is still to-be-measured, but I think it's close to 30 degrees -- woot!
Friday, March 2, 2007
Once you have washed your fleece to remove the lanolin and dirt, you can prepare if for carding and then card it.
To prepare the fleece for carding, break it up into small handfuls -- grab a clump and tug it apart into handfulls. This is a great way to find and remove any larger pieces of VM (vegetable matter -- hay, seed pods, weeds), and if you shake it over the floor, more dusty-sized pieces are likely to fall out (ask me how I know this, lol the floor needed sweeping anyway).
If you have hand cards, you can then load up your handcards and card. (N.B. dog slickers from the $1 store are an inexpensive way to find out you'd be better off saving up pennies for a drum carder...)
There's a great mpeg of hand carding here.
As well as a great historical YouTube video:
If the video doesn't show up, search on youtube.com for "Mrs Helen Maddrell".
posted 2 March 2007 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/ (links updated 23Mar09)
There are two things that can cause bumps in handspun:
variability in drafting, the fiber being spun, and twist getting into the drafting triangle.
OK, so there are three things that can cause bumps in handspun. And I am sure there are more, too.
If the amount of fiber in your drafting triangle varies from draft to draft, the diameter of your resulting yarn will also vary. The "drafting triangle" is the little triangle of fiber that arises from your pulling fibers out of the roving. As you pull (attenuate) fibers out of the big, thick roving (even pencil roving gets a little triangle), a triangle is formed from the roving to the drafted-ready-to-spin-yarn.
All spinners do this -- it's not a spinning trick or technique, it just happens as you draft. Make sure the amount of fiber in your drafting triangle stays consistent, and your yarn will be more consistent.
Which brings me to the third point (yes, I skipped #2). If you let any twist at all reach that drafting triangle, it will be harder to draft fiber out of the roving and out of the triangle, and likely your yarn will be inconsistent. Make it easy on yourself -- keep all the twist out of the drafting triangle. Never let it get back there -- pinch it off with one of your hands. If one hand needs to be busy, move the other one up to pinch the twist before the drafting triangle.
Returning to that pesky point number 2 -- if your fiber has texture in it, from silk noil, nubs of other fibers blended into the wool, yarn scraps -- then your resulting yarn will be bumpy. Rejoice! such fiber is supposed to spin into a textured yarn. If you want a smooth yarn, you could work really hard with a fiber like this and get smooth yarn (see the lovely skein there? it's smooth singles from such a fiber -- I've mastered the blend! yay!). But for the most part, such blends were made to be spun into textured yarns.
Now, some texture is unintentional -- VM (vegetable matter, hay, grass and the like) can create bumps. For the unintended lumps, you need to learn to pick them out as you spin. Wool comes from sheep. Sheep live outdoors. Even with scouring, dyeing, blending, and carding some small pieces may yet live in the roving. Keep an eye out for VM, and pick it out as you go. Commercial (Louet, Ashland Bay and the like) combed top is not likely to have VM in it; but small farm roving, processed by the smaller-run mills, will have the occasional piece.
One last tip ... you may also try running your fingers over the length as the final twist is going into it -- this helps smooth it out and twist in some of the loose ends that may be hanging out. It also compresses the yarn, so if you are aiming for a light, airy yarn -- don't do this, as you'll be squeezing out the airiness at the same time.
(based on a post by me to spindlers, 12/12/2001)