A brief history of my sock knitting ...
I started out knitting socks on 4 double pointed needles -- the work in a triangle on three, the fourth actively knitting. It was annoyingly tight at the ends of the needles. Someone suggested I try five DPNs, so I did -- much better. But those around me still had to be aware of my porcupine personality, or risk a poke if they got too close.
Then along came this amazing book, Socks Soar on Two Circulars by Cat Bordhi. I absorbed it rapidly and was happily amassing an amazing collection of circulars, two in each size. I did everything on two circulars -- socks, hats, scarves (okay, those were flat knitting, they only took one). All of a sudden, I was much more popular and less prickly.
Then this little pamphlet started appearing on my radar ... The Magic Loop ... I pondered and pondered and pondered. Couldn't make it out, how to do my socks and other circular knitting on just one circular needle. Finally another spinner at a retreat was knitting that way, and as I looked over her shoulders, I thought, "Mickey Mouse Ears!" and from there on out, I was a one circular gal.
Of course, it meant alot of my circs were too short, so they gathered dust on my circular storage solution holder (which is terrific, By The Way!)
But I still ran into a problem, when it came time to turn a traditional flap heel. In particular, when I picked up the gussets, I either had too many stitches on one of the "rows" on my needles, or had to move stitches around to balance things out, which messed up my counting for the gusset decreases. (When I knit, I don't want to have to think too hard. It's supposed to be relaxing.)
This last year, I had upgraded to the KnitPicks circulars with their very flexible cables. So even the 30-plus inch cable has plenty of give for the "magic loop". In fact, there seemed to be extra, I thought as I pondered my latest sock.
So, I tried it.
And I give you, my evolution of the magic loop, the Triple Loop:
That sounds a bit like a figure skating move, doesn't it?
When I reached the gusset pick-up stage, I put the first side on the same "length" as the bottom of the heel. I then "looped" and knit across the top of the foot per normal. Then I put in a second loop and picked up the second gusset side. Once I finished those pick-ups, I added a third loop and started the round again, at the bottom of the heel. Yay! No stretching of uneven numbers of stitches, no moving of stitches, just blissful knitting. Once the gusset was done, the few stitches left on the new, short third leg slipped easily onto the bottom half to return me to the good old magic loop.
Now the sock is done ... time to cast on for number two!
Merry New Year!
posted 31 December 2008 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Though I started back in 2002, I'm still a relatively new weaver -- learning from books, friends, and on-line, picking up tips here and there. I really should say I started in 2008, as that's the year I finally finished that 2002 weaving project. Four houses, several moth-ballings, changing weft (handspun to commercial yarn), the yardage is done! And if you are learning to weave and your friends say, are you sure you want to warp such a fine yarn, listen to them - please! Someday in 2009, I hope to present you with the final sewn charka tote bag.
In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying these new-to-me weaving tips. Things I find useful, and I hope you do too. This week's tip: how to keep track of the woven length.
I started from my visual memory of a friend's loom, with a flexible plastic-coated tape measure tacked to her weaving as she went. However, rather than commit my only non-retractable tape measure to this (some things, I do only have one of!), I remembered I had purchased some terrific ruler ribbon from Jo-Anne's, for my class, The Nalbound Edge.
So, while weaving DH's Christmas scarf (which is lovely, picture forthcoming...), I pinned the ruler ribbon along the left edge as I wove. Problem was, as it wound on the front beam, I noticed the warp on the left getting noticeably tighter than the warp on the right. Sigh. The slight extra thickness of the ribbon was impacting the wind-on tension.
For the next project, I rethought it, and came up with this:
Now, I keep rolling along with the ribbon, but I re-pin it and let it dangle in front, rather than winding it on with the warp. In the picture, you can see "12" is not at the bottom edge -- I put it at the start of the pattern, after the section woven for the hem.
This worked really well for the first tea towel already woven, so I'm going to pin and dangle my measuring ribbon from now on. And with my 40-50% off Jo-Anne's coupons, I hope to get a few more spools of this ribbon (in-store, they come in 4 yard spools -- maybe that online 10-yard spool might be handy to have sometime...hmmmmm that's a whole lotta yardage!) ... a spool per loom would be appropriate, don't you think?
The nice thing about the ribbon is that I can write on it to tailor it to a project (HEM HERE TO HERE) or add numbers to mark the feet or yardage as I like. And it's grandly re-usable, unaffected by my pinning along its length.
For more weaving tips and posts, see my Weaving post list.
The first weaving is an undulating twill, draft from Debbie Chandler's Learning to Weave (in the back of the book), 20/2 organic cotton weft, a variety of handspun cottons and probably about 10/2 kakishibui dyed cotton warp, sett 24 epi, also about 24 ppi. A whole lotta fun (really!), and easy to treadle on a 4H table loom as all the work was in the threading. I'm learning to look at the tie-up a bit more closely for weaving done on a direct-tie up table loom (grin) -- this was beginner's luck!
The new weaving is multishaft huck, a draft from the chapter on designing multishaft huck in Handwoven Laces by Donna Muller. Warp is navy blue cottolin 10/2, weft is 10/2 royal blue cotton and natural cottolin. Sett 20 epi, 17-18 ppi.
posted 30 December 2008 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Core spinning is one of those fun novelty yarns that isn't too difficult to try. For core spinning, you need a core -- cotton crochet yarn is terrific -- and fiber. Batts are wonderful, roving and combed top work too. Variety in the batt content gives a terrific result, as the direction of the fibers really brings out shine.
For my core spinning, I had some red crochet cotton and a lovely red/silver/pink Loop Spontaneous Spinning Batt of wool, bamboo, silk, and flash.
Core spinning is done by holding the core taut, away from the wheel, and allowing the fiber to wrap around it as you put twist in. You need, generally, to be adding twist to the core for the fiber to be caught and hold onto it.
Knowing that to be the case, I wanted to try to get a balanced yarn. So I checked my core crochet cotton closely, and saw it had S (counterclockwise) plying twist in it. I took the ball and ran it through my wheel, putting Z, clockwise, twist on it to take out some of the S twist. I tried to be fairly thorough; the yarn was not completely unplied, but it was definitely loosely plied when I was done. I did this on my spinning wheel at the highest ratio, and was really wishing I'd pulled out my electric wheel, or had one of the kids take a run at it -- kinda tedious. But worth it, in the final result.
I prepared the batt by breaking it into strips, and then breaking those strips into thirds. They were about one inch wide and 6 inches long. I randomly heaped them on the arm of my chair. Before I used each piece, I drafted it out to about 12 inches long, so it was a bit thinner but still fairly solid.
Now, I took my bobbin of underplied crochet cotton, attached it to the leader on my wheel, and held the end of a batt piece perpendicular to it. As I treadled, I let (helped) the batt piece wrap around the crochet cotton, drafting against it a little bit as needed for coverage. I aimed for complete coverage, no cotton showing through.
I drafted against the fiber as my right hand held it on the twisting core and let it wrap.
As I approached the end of one piece of fiber, I would stop with about 3 inches remaining, prepare the next piece, lay the ends over each other, and return to treadling and wrapping.
This is a little bit like coil spinning, in that one fiber wraps the other, but has its own classification since the coils here are unspun fiber.
You do end up adding a fair bit of twist in to get the fiber to wrap on your core reasonably tightly. In the end, I was glad to have taken the twist out of the red crochet cotton, and may even take more out next time I do this, to allow me even more running room for twisting on the wrapping fibers.
My skein size was limited by the length of the red crochet cotton. It turned out to be 144 yards (I guess the 150 yard ball was a little short, it was with my Christmas crochet .... hmmm, I wonder if I have a green batt somewhere...), 4.4 ounces.
There was some leftover fiber, so I spindle-spun that up for a demonstration on how to put a spindle down mid-way through spindling.
The skein is now dubbed "Ballerina". The mini-skein is a spindle-spun 2-ply of the fiber left once I'd run out of core yarn.
And yes, you can corespin Crosspatch Batts ... see what At Yarn's End did with Sugar and Spice, and on a spindle, too! Great tips on that on the Ravelry spindlers forum.
If you enjoyed this post, and would like to know more about core-spinning as well as a fun core-spun knitting project, The Medallion Scarf, I'd love it if you purchased my e-tutorial, Core Spinning and the Medallion Scarf.
For related posts on coil yarns, boucle, and other fun yarns, see the Art Yarn category.
(In case you are wondering ... yes, my blog got hi-jacked too. For a great writeup on what to do if this happens to you, see Leigh's Fiber Journal. I hope only the hi-jackers mind the extra text that's now at the start and end of each post.)
posted 27 December 2008 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/
Friday, December 26, 2008
On a circular sock machine, a pickup tool is very hand for picking up a chain of dropped stitches. Once a stitch fails to knit, because the knitting is under tension, a run happens in the blink of an eye.
In hand knitting, if you leave your knitting mid-row and the unthinkable happens, usually only a few rows come undone, not too bad. The pick-up tool is still useful for latching up the knit stitches in a jiffy, without trying to re-use your knitting needles (or find another pair mid-project while ensconsed in your comfy chair as I am in this video!)
As you can see in the video, I insert the pickup tool through the front of the knit stitch, latch on to the yarn behind it for the next row up, and pull it through the knit stitch to create the next row's knit stitch. I repeat this up the dropped column until I reach the top, and then I place the last stitch on my knitting needle to continue knitting.
The pickup tool is a sock machine needle (shown in the center of the photo below) embedded in a sculpey handle that is cooked and then coated with a satin finish. My kids and I had a great time making this set for the Ring Your Bells club!
posted 26 December 2008 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
There are so many different devices you can put in shuttles -- boat shuttles take bobbins and quills, end-feed shuttles take pirns. And the shuttle size/maker changes the bobbin, quill, or pirn size too.
Now, I'm a new weaver -- in some places I have (had -- thanks Weaver's Marketplace!) too many of some things. But in others, I have too few. Bobbins and quills, for starters.
Being a knitter first, I really want to get as much yarn on my shuttle as I can, so I have minimal ends. That was really the first shock of weaving -- cutting the warp up knowing I'd be throwing away 2-foot lengths across when I took it off the loom, and then relentlessly cutting my skein as I filled up bobbins, again, again, and again! I quickly gravitated to quills, which with their smaller core diameter, let me stuff more yarn onto the shuttle.
But I soon had several weaving projects going, and waste yarns available on a few of the quills too. What's a weaver to do?
In a perfect lightbulb moment, I realized that drinking straws might do the trick.
Yay! now I have an almost-infinite supply of quills. Now, the surface of the straw is slippery, not grabby like the cardboard quills. So, I tucked the end of the yarn into the middle of the straw, and caught it between straw and bobbin winder. It stayed put, and the quills filled up in no time.
The one drawback I found with my straw quills was that they are thin enough that the straw can get a little wedged in one end of the shuttle -- I guess I was tipping it too much that way, as this only happened one time. It was easy enough to put back into the channel where it belonged; I suppose you could wrap a rubber band around the end to thicken it and prevent that from happening.
I save miscellaneous small diameter paper rolls, too, like the one in the shot above; and one of my shuttles came with a brass quill -- Fan-cy! My other odd-ball shuttle is, I am told, a 120 film core. I haven't gone to the local photo place yet to see if they have more; it's got the nice small diameter like the quills, even if it's "only" 3 inches long. And, it clears my low profile shuttles perfectly. There is also a Bosworth charka quill there -- it fits in my Khadi Kanoo and Bosworth boat shuttles.
And pirns? Those are for end feed shuttles. I have a Schacht and a Bluster Bay, both the 13" models. I love the open threading of the Schacht -- being a new weaver, I still unweave a fair bit (especially my stick-to-itself cottolin warp, sigh). It's nice to be able to take the pirn out and wind back onto it easily while I work my way back down to the mistake(s!!) However, it's got just a light oil finish, which makes it have more friction than my more polished Bluster Bay shuttle. The BB flows better over the cottolin warp. It's too bad that the Schacht takes a 6" pirn and the BB takes a 5.5" one ... I haven't tried to put the 5.5" pirns on the Schacht shuttle yet, since I already have the 6" pirns for it. The cardboard pirns fit in nothing so far. Maybe eventually a shuttle they fit will come along.
Here's the cottolin warp, first tea towel done on-the-loom, second one to be started ... tomorrow!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Published knitting patterns usually recommend a specific yarn. However, they contain the clues you need to determine if your handspun might work with the pattern.
The place to start is the needle size the pattern calls for. Take your handspun yarn, fold a length of yarn in half so you have two strands side-by-side, and lay it over your knitting needle gauge tool. The hole that doubled length covers completely without being bigger than, is the size needle you'd use for a solid knit fabric, not too cardboard-tight and not too gauzy.
Here I am sizing some handspun Romney cross 2-ply on my needle gauge. The Romney cross 2-ply was 9 wpi, and fit the 6mm/US10 needle nicely.
And here is the sizing of handspun Cormo 2-ply, 15 wpi. Two strands fit the 3.75mm/US 5 hole nicely.
Match your yarn to the pattern's needle size, and then make any adjustments for your knitting -- tight knitters go up a needle size or two, loose knitters go down a needle size or two. Which is to say, for that Cormo, I'd look for a pattern that uses a US 5/3.75 mm, and then, being a tight knitter, pick up my US 6/4 mm to knit with.
If your handspun has some variety in its diameter along its length, look for two representative strands. If you hit a small length while knitting that is just waaay too skinny or too wide, you can "edit them out" by leaving a length on the wrong side of the knitting, to be cut and woven in afterward.
This primarily works if the knitted item is a solid, not over-dense or over-lacy fabric. Lace knitting typically uses a needle several sizes too large (many sizes "too large", actually, as most lace yarns would use 0-0000 size needles knit into a fabric). And some warm winter woolies are purposely knit on needles "too small" for the yarn for a denser, warmer knit fabric.
The second thing you can check is the thickness of the yarn used in the pattern -- if it has a CYCA number, that can put you on the right ballpark. See my CYCA number-to-WPI mapping post. Or if you can get a wraps per inch of that yarn, you can test the wraps per inch on yours and see if it matches (or comes within a wrap either way).
Take a pencil, mark an inch out on it, and wind your yarn around the pencil, not pulled tight just well-organized and touching the pencil, for the inch, so the strands are next to each other, no pencil showing through ... the number of wraps in that inch is, ... the wraps per inch :-)
Another consideration that we don't always consider, is drape. Your handspun may be denser or fluffier than the commercial yarn (yes, it can go either way -- depends on materials, spinning style, fiber prep, and finishing). So, knit a swatch and see if you like the drape you get, and if it's appropriate for the item.
The skeins featured here were spun by me this summer from a lovely dark brown Romney/Polwarth/Cormo fleece from Shepherd's Extravaganza in Puyallup that I had processed locally by (web-less) Taylored Fibers into lovely soft roving; and a tan-grey Cormo fleece from Ortmann's in Montana (they advertise in Spin-Off), processed into heavenly pin-drafted roving by Morro Fleece Works. The knitting needle gauge (isn't it cute!) is solid brass, made by Goose Pond and available at The Bellwether.
How can I match a commercial yarn?
Whose WPI table is right?
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Recently on Ravelry, there have been some threads on what makes handspun yarn bloom. That is to say, once you have your yarn all spun up and plied, and you skein it up and wash it, it poofs up quite a bit -- the unfinished fingering weight handspun turns into DK or worsted weight once it's finished. Like the yellow & red skeins here.
Unfinished, they were 16 wpi, perfect for socks ... finished, well, gulp, they bloomed their way up to 12 wpi. From sportweight to worsted ... what to do? More on that, at the end.
There are a few factors that can affect the amount of bloom in yarn:
- crimp in the fibers -- the tighter the crimp is, the more little springs there are in your yarn elbowing their way around to poof it out, given the opportunity. A warm soak is an excellent environment for the crimp to activate its abilities.
- spinning style -- woolen spinning allows air into the yarn, so when it's taken off the bobbin and skeined up, there's more room for air to move around in the yarn, a poofier yarn results than the yarn wound on the bobbin. Worsted spinning involves squeezing the daylights out of the fibers as you spin them and keeping them all aligned along the length of the yarn as well -- minimum opportunity for air. You guessed it -- air room gives the crimp room to spring into action (oooh, bad pun!)
- fiber preparation -- carded preparations are more random and allow more air for fiber to bloom, while combed preparations are more parallel and compact. This is also why we spin woolen style with carded fibers and worsted with combed -- the spinning method enhances the features of the fiber preparation. Sure, you can spin combed top woolen, it just won't be as poofy as the same fiber, carded and spun woolen.
- amount of twist -- high twist yarn leaves less room for blooming, lower twist yarns leave more. That said, a balanced plied yarn has the fibers parallel to the length, so they can crimp up if there's room, while a single or an unbalanced plied yarn has excess twist trapping the crimp in the fibers.
- finishing style -- if you do a quick washing soak and rinse, squeeze out the water, and hang the skein to dry with weights, you are giving it minimal opportunity to activate its springiness. Especially drying it with weights -- weavers do this, because the warp needs to be under tension on the loom; but knitters typically don't dry with weights, because springiness is desirable in knitting yarn. If, on the other hand, you put it in the wash bath, let it soak a few minutes, then put your hands in the bath and squish the skein a bit, you are helping it bloom. Do the same in the rinse bath, squish it again -- bloom-age. Once you've taken it out and squeezed out the water, snap it around your wrists a few times or better, whack it a few times on the counter top -- that not only helps even out the plying twist a little, it ... you guessed it ... helps it bloom :-) then, hang it to dry without weights.
For more on this see the Ravelry postings by jamie12 in Spin Tech and a thread started by DDeMarie in spinning knitters
All that said, remember, every fleece even within a breed, can differ -- and in commercial fibers, even with the mix of fleeces they contain, different runs will differ too. Wool, alpaca, cashmere and others -- look at the individual fibers within your preparation to see what crimp it shows.
When I want yarn to bloom, what I look for first is a high-crimp fiber, like Cormo, California Variegated Mutant, or Targhee. Then, I spin woolen, for a balanced 2-ply with about a 25 degree angle of twist (moderate twist), and usually I spin to match the crimp, with a goal of the 2-ply's wraps per inch equalling twice the crimps per inch.
It's worth noting that most commercially prepared top has been ironed or steamed flat. Re-wetting it in a warm bath can help awaken its twist before you spin it, if your goal is maximum bloom. This is why, if you dye commercially prepared top, it often goes crinkly/wavy like a permanent wave -- the dye process adds water and heat to the fiber, awakening its crimp. Once the crimp is awake, technically, it's no longer the prepared fiber you started with -- and effectively, you'll get a slightly different yarn from spinning it.
And what am I doing with my worsted weight sock yarn? Adjusting the pattern of course ... maybe once this pair of warm winter socks is done, I'll spin up another tube (finer!) to knit a pattern to spec.
This is the new pattern from Joan Contraman, Your Way: Self Striping Socks. The spinning instructions for making the stripes were marvelous, and the knitting is fun too ... I want to keep going to see which color shows up next!
How thickly should I spin a given breed of wool? Cormo? Romney?
How can I spin fluffy yarn?
How can I spin fine yarn?
How do I know what sheep breed to look for?
How do you make a good looking 2-ply yarn?
Is my yarn's twist set when I ply it?
Why do you wash the finished skein in warm or hot water?
We're snowed in here with more expected tonight ... many of my internet friends report the same. Keep warm out there! And those of you in warmer climes -- fan a little of that warm air this way, please.
Friday, December 19, 2008
When I was first learning to weave, I got a very good piece of advice -- to lay the weft in a smile (I suppose, really, it's a frown, but as I enjoy weaving, I think of it as a smile). That way, when I beat it into place, there's enough spare weft to not pull in the selvedges.
Lately, I've been teaching my 12yo son to weave, on a Schacht Flip Rigid Heddle loom. He decided on a plaid scarf from solid green and multi-color blues superwash Merino. That has been interesting, because now I need to explain to him how to do things, in my best teacher-not-mother voice, and then notice and advise as the weaving progresses.
(click for bigger)
Of course, I gave him the "smile" advice, and he took it (good kid!) His tight selvedges soon calmed down. We also had to work out how hard to beat for the scarf -- turned out this liked two gentle taps with the reed, rather than one hard one. But then his selvedges started popping out loops like boucle. Not sure what advice to give, I took the shuttle in hand to see if I could come up with some advice.
What I noticed was, before I laid down my "smile", I pulled the weft through just until I saw the far warp thread (the first one I went around coming back across) deflect, and that the deflection disappeared when the smile was in place.
It reminded me of how you push in on the surface of a cake gently to see if it rebounds or stays down, one of the tests for done-ness. So, with that story to cement the lesson, DS was weaving away again, with darn good selvedges if I do say so myself.
He is thrilled with the finished scarf, and plans to gift it to his Montana step-sister ("she's crazy for plaid, Mom!") I couldn't be more pleased :-)
I've been reading tons of material on selvedges, since what I know about selvedges is pretty thin. Lately I've been playing with end-feed bobbins to see if it makes my own weaving a bit easier ... I think it will, as Peg recently pointed out, you don't want to be touching the selvedges, for speedy weaving. What a revelation! If that would speed things up to a speed like the one I saw in this youTube video, I'd be thrilled. Of course, I'm already quite happy to say I weave at least as fast as I knit, if not slightly faster considering my favorite weaving yarns are finer than my favorite knitting yarns.
And I also keep an ear to the ground for articles on spinning to weave. WeaveCast had an interview with Judith MacKenzie McCuin on the topic, and the recent Spin-Off (Winter 2008) had a couple of pieces about it. Which reminds me, I must show DD the woven skirt from weaveZine ... she'll be interested in doing some weaving too, then.
Selvedge tips for a new weaver? let me know if you have some on your own blog, or post them here ... thanks!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Angora fiber, from the angora rabbit, is very fine and fly-away. It can come freshly plucked from the rabbit or shorn. Only English Angora is plucked, French and German angoras are shorn. The German angoras are bred for size and production and are typically white. Lovely natural colors abound in English and French, from soft caramels to blue-greys, as well as white.
I've found angora prepared three ways: raw fluff, combed commercial top, and in blends of commercial top with merino or lambswool.
Angora is very easy to felt, so if you choose to dye it in the fiber, be very careful not to shock the fibers with abrupt temperature changes or agitation.
Angora is a hollow-core fiber; this makes it very warm to wear. For this reason, you may find it useful to blend the angora with a soft wool, or to spin a blend rather than pure angora.
I add myself to the list of people who prefer it in blends. It was very tough for me to spin straight angora. Combed top was a little easier, because it’s a bit compact.
With raw/plucked angora, I tried it: fluffed up (eeek). Combed with mini combs (eek), and carded on my cotton cards into rolags … that seemed to work the best. Also it was the one time I found a double drive wheel did the trick; I’m usually a scotch tension nut, but the soft draw-in of the double drive really helped me get the twist in that the angora needed.
Angora wants a fair amount of twist, so on your wheel use a higher ratio/treadle faster and on your spindle, let more twist in before you stop to wind on.
Angora is very fly-away, even working with commercial top or a blend you may find it all over your clothes and up your nose (apologies for the visual!). Try spinning it on a humid day, or give the angora a very light spritz with a 1% oil/99% water spray, let it sit for at least an hour, then spin it. This is more effective with fluff than with carded/combed top -- so spritz the fluff, let it sit, then card or comb it.
In terms of finishing a skein of angora, it is very easy to slightly full the yarn, so decide if you want to do this or not. Typically angora skeins are whacked on the counter after washing and squeezing out the water, to help the halo "bloom" in the skein. But you needn't do this -- the halo will bloom as you knit or crochet the yarn just fine.
Whenever I'm approaching a new fiber, the first thing I look at is fiber length, the second is how much twist it needs to hang together, third is how much twist it needs to give me a particular 2-ply. Honestly, your spinning technique doesn't matter too much -- worsted, woolen, whatever; from the fold, long draw, blindfolded -- so if you have a method you like, start with that, and make adjustments to see if they make it easier for the fiber in your hands.
What Advice do you Have for Spinning Mohair? (Mohair is the fiber from the Angora Goat.)
Mohair: Curly, Smooth or Loopy?
How do you comb wool or mohair? (or angora, for that matter!)
How do you make a good looking 2-ply yarn?
How can I spin fine yarn?
What can you knit from 100% angora?
Where can I find cotton hand cards?
What sort of spindle would you spin angora on?
To drumcard, to handcard, or to comb?
Have you an angora spinning tip to share? please post it in the comments.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Yep! I do. I borrowed a friend's Aeroknot loom, and then managed to find one of my own. Cute little 8" weaving width, perfect for not eating up precious sitting room real-estate. I've already managed one scarf on it, second one is in the works. And there's some lovely purple silk in my stash that for some reason screams "Tie!" at me.
So, I want to weave a tie. Google didn't turn up much -- nothing useful, unless I want to buy a handwoven tie. It does appear they are all cut on the bias and sewn, no such beast as an unlined tie unless it's knit. (Hey, maybe I should knit a tie ...)
My local "Warped Ones" weaving study group came to the rescue! KA brought me an actual handwoven tie from her Dad's collection, woven on Orkney Island. Gorgeous, woven strip, slightly tailored but mostly "as off the loom", with a sewn on lining but clearly selvedges visible inside on the wider end. Lovely! And then KH brought me a list of handwoven tie articles from her own magazine stash. Yay!
In case you want to weave a tie too, here are the ones I tracked down from her list:
- Great Ties Weaving Contest. HANDWOVEN Nov-Dec 1992 (v.13 #5) pg. 34-35,80-81.
Lots of fun ties, the patterns are for 3 standard shaped, cut on the bias ties and 2 straighter, cut on the grain ties. They look like fun!
- Man's necktie is woven in three-shaft lace Bronson. HANDWOVEN Mar-Apr 1997 (v.18 #2) pg. 49-82.
This interests me because the group is working on laces right now and Bronson is our next lace ... nothing like combining study with desire to make it fun!
And if you like tracking things down yourself, Interweave has the Handwoven indexes available online ... 1979-2004 and 2005-present.
And then there's the question of who gets these ties ... it struck me today that DH didn't even wear a tie to our wedding, so that seems like a non-starter. But, DS is quickly approaching his teens, so I think (I hope!) I can convince him to wear a "mom tie" at least to a band concert if not to a formal dance at some point (grin).
What, on your loom, has made people say, "Why are you making that?"
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
There have been some great articles written about using space-dyed roving -- Spin-Off Summer 2007, The Fractal Stripe; Winter 2008, What to look for in Handpainted Fiber; and others. Patsy Zawitowski touches on the topic in one of her videos, as well.
Several of them want you to split the roving in half and then ply the two halves together.
How can you get an accurate split?
Honestly, a lengthwise split can be quite unnerving -- I've had the fibers go from being well-ordered, reasonably half-looking to one half being the outer shell and the other some weird inner core that really doesn't want to be split from its outer shell. What a mess!
Then I saw a great post on Abby's Yarns about looking at the color changes, and splitting the fiber in half with matching color changes. Waaaay easier. That will even work for fractal plying -- split the fiber in half along its length, then take half of it, and split it length-wise, and take the other half and split it many times. You get a close-enough-to-the-original result that only an archaeologist can tell the difference. And archaeologists are more interested in bones, right.
But wait, you say, I've tried that, and my bobbins end up with way different lengths of fiber on them. What can I do?
Well, you could use a scale, weigh the total fiber, and then weigh part of it while not-weighing part, and see if you can get an even half-ers to split that way.
But what if there's no scale available?
Okay. Here's what I actually do. I take the long piece of roving, lay it all out, and take a look at it. Are there thinner spots? thicker spots? is one end thicker than the other end? These need to be accounted for in the division.
If it has a thin spot, I'll consider breaking that off (especially if it's say, a 4 ounce ball of fiber, and there are only one or three of them) and dividing it separately. If it has a thick spot, I can pre-draft that down to match the rest of it. Honestly, usually, neither of those two things come up.
What does happen, is the ends will be radically different -- one tails off to pencil roving over several feet and the other stays thick to the end. So, I fold up the thinnish end -- doubling it may make it closer to the average thickness, say, and then I split my roving.
Wa la! I'm off and spinning ... half onto one bobbin, half onto the other. Now, besides getting the same amount of fiber mass onto each bobbin, there's another concern -- I also have to get the same yardage. That's not easy! That means I want the same thickness and same amount of twist. Both are important -- more twist in one means it's a denser yarn, which means, it will be shorter than the other at the same thickness. Uh-oh. Not to mention what that does to my plying. So I pay attention to those things, I have an early sample I save for spinning the second bobbin, and I put a whole lot of hope into the effort.
After doing this fairly often, I have found much value in all that practice -- what used to be waaaay off is now reasonably off. They don't match up. If I'm lucky, it's just a few feet difference -- that has happened. But usually, it's a few yards. So, I wind up the remnant of the longer bobbin onto my hand in an Andean plying bracelet, overlay the final end of the longer bobbin on top of the end of the shorter bobbin for a few inches, and keep on plying that final length onto itself until I reach the end of the second bobbin. All used up, all apparently even. Whew!
Now, that's fine if you were doing solids, or randomly plying colors. If the length is all one color, it works fine too. But if it changes color, or you were plying two different colors to each other, you may find instead you want to ply that final bit on itself and keep it separate from the rest. That works too. Break it off of your plying bobbin, wind it into an Andean plying bracelet, grab a spindle or an empty bobbin, and ply away.
But what about 3 plies? I'll do the same eye-balling for dividing my fiber into thirds, with special attention to the ends of the length of roving. And I'll spin each pile onto its own bobbin. Then, the plying starts. Eventually, one bobbin ends, and two bobbins still have yarn on them. This, is what I do:
I take the fuller bobbin and wind it into an Andean plying bracelet there-and-then. This can be a bigger bracelet, or not if you were lucky, so the Andean plying paperback may be called for to protect your middle finger from strangulation. I lay the end of that fullest bobbin over the end of the finished bobbin in my plying, and keep on 3-plying: 2 strands from the Andean Plying Bracelet, one strand from my other remaining bobbin. Yay!
Eventually, one of them will run out: either the Andean Plying Bracelet comes to an end, or the smaller bobbin comes to an end.
If the Andean Plying Bracelet comes to an end, you have some choices:
- Navajo ply the remainder of the smaller bobbin. This adds to your three ply. However, it's not as strong as a true three ply (Amy King clarified this on Ravelry recently -- it's one strand, folded on itself -- if you cut one of the "plies", the yarn can come apart and you're left with two pieces of yarn; with a true 3-ply, if you cut one strand, the other 2 strands are still intact. See?)
- Make an Andean Plying Bracelet with the remaining yarn and spin a 2-ply. If you are spinning a sock yarn, this is actually a good choice -- overply it, rough finish it, and either use it as a carry-along in the heels of your socks to add padding and durability, or set it aside for darning your socks with. It's slightly finer than your 3-ply, but if you overply it and rough-finish it to full it slightly, it will be hard wearing without adding alot of volume. Heck, I might even 2-ply the remaining two bobbins when the first runs out, just to have a good supply of strengthening/darning yarn on hand.
If the small bobbin comes to an end, then about all you can do is made 2-ply with the remains of your Andean Plying Bracelet. But see above -- that's actually a handy idea!
So, no, there is no magic method I've found for reliably dividing yarn into halves or thirds. Just some options on how you can deal with what's left over when the first bobbin ends. What do you do? I'm always up for more tricks for my toolbox!
Hey, did you see? I have a piece published in Knitty's Winter '08 Issue:
Spinning on a Notchless Spindle
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Perhaps, like me, you saw a yarn blocker, were in an acquiring phase, and picked it up. Who knows, you thought, some day I may be weaving and it may be useful.
Well, I'm weaving. And I haven't used it. Though the warping mill has been very useful!
But, it found a use! (You knew that was coming, didn't you?)
See, here I am with three full bobbins. Yeah, I know, I usually wait until I have six full ones, but these were two "complete" projects in a rush to get washed and on the needles... a Totally Tubular kit in Harvest Moon for the new kit pattern Your Way: Self Striping Socks, and a new batt from Crosspatch, Greens & Purples.
I've had it in the back of my head for a while, that the yarn blocker would come in handy if I had to unply and separate yarn. I could wind both skeins off the unplied bobbin onto the yarn blocker simultaneously. Having done that exercise once with two co-ball-winders, this seemed like a good enough idea to keep the yarn blocker around.
Then, on a blog the other day (I read too many, I'm afraid I don't remember which -- maybe you saw it too, and can remind me?) I saw a yarn blocker with 6 skeins wound onto it for blocking. A switch flipped in my head ... Aha! I thought, I can wind those bobbins onto my yarn blocker ... all at the same time!
So, I dragged it out of the basement, dusted it off (who spotted the furniture wipes in the first picture? they worked wonders!) and tied it up:
It wound! Wonderful -- three skeins at once! Ahhhhh.
And that, is how the Belle makes more time for herself (grin).
Next up: Some help for Dave on making three-plies when the bobbins don't come to an even end ...
Friday, December 5, 2008
Let's say you have two full bobbins, and two empty bobbins (because, like me, you have plenty of bobbins...). So, you want to make a nice two-ply, and you figure you can do that onto the two empty bobbins.
How can you get the same plied yardage (or, close to the same) on the bobbins? By stopping when your bobbins of singles are half-full, of course. Okay, I'll give you time ... go and google "when is a cylinder half full".
Lots of tanks of water draining out, aren't there? Sigh.
So I pulled out the math for the volume of a cylinder ... volume = PI (3.14159...) * height * (radius-squared). Eek. Height, we have. Radius, is half the diameter.
Now, let's call volume V, height H, PI 3.14, and radius R ... so that's:
V = 3.14 * H * R^2
When the volume's at half, and height stays the same, what's R at?
V/2 = 3.14 * H * R^2/2
and R^2/2 = (R/SQRT(2))^2
See that? we pushed the 2 into the squaring by taking its squareroot -- SQRT(2) squared is, you got it, 2. This math stuff is so easy, right? (I'm helping DS with 7th grade pre-algebra this year -- boy am I glad I took Calculus in college!)
So, the new R would be 1/SQRT(2) the size of the original R, which works out to 70.71% (and a bit that's mostly inconsequential).
But, as vampy and jammam on Ravelry pointed out, we also need to worry about the center pole of the bobbin. So, 70% isn't quite accurate ... and to make matters even more complex, every brand of bobbin can have a different center pole size (sigh).
So, the math gets even more complex (sorry) ...
We have the volume of the center pole (V1) based on its radius (height is the same):
V1 = 3.14 * H * (R1)^2
And we want to know the radius when the total remaining volume, V - V1, is at half:
(V - V1)/2 = ( (3.14 * H * R^2 ) - (3.14 * H * R1^2) ) /2
Looking to the radii, we can get the magic half-way point with this fun formula:
R-half = SQRT( ((R^2) - (R1)^2) / 2)
Oh joy. No wonder there is no magic number for all bobbins.
Here are the numbers for bobbins I can pass along (page down ... blogger still likes biiig gaps before tables...):
|outer radius (in.)||inner radius (in.)||half radius (in.)||in. from outer edge||% whole||bobbin|
|1.78125||0.353045||1.234547||0.55||69.3%||majacraft plastic (does not account for thicker center at ends)|
|1.78125||0.353045||1.234547||0.55||69.3%||Majacraft WooLee Winder|
|2.204724||0.40625||1.532281||0.67||69.5%||Majacraft new plying|
|1.625||0.875||0.968246||0.66||59.6%||Pocket bobbin - large center core, relatively|
|1.8125||0.3125||1.262438||0.55||69.7%||Van Eaton (larger end outer rad)|
|1.4375||0.375||0.98127||0.46||68.3%||Journey wheel (one whorl end-piece slopes, so half is slightly smaller than it ought to be)|
|1.496063||0.3125||1.034541||0.46||69.2%||Butterfly/Lendrum WooLee Winder|
|1.830709||0.364173||1.268635||0.56||69.3%||Jensen Tina II (larger end outer radius)|
|1.496||0.3937||1.020543||0.48||68.2%||Ashford regular bobbin (larger end outer radius)|
The first two columns are measured on the bobbins, the third is plugged into our formula (in excel), then I thought, maybe some other numbers may be helpful, so I played around. The percentage is the total percent full a 1/2 full bobbin is, including the core. Then I thought, hmmm, how useful is that? What can I see when the bobbin is emptying? The empty part! So, a quick addition of a column to excel, and wa-la, how much empty space is showing when the bobbin is half full, in inches ("in. from outer edge").
As you can see, for almost all the bobbins, there's over 1/2 inch of empty space when it's half full. Only Journey Wheel and Butterfly/Lendrum WooLee Winder have less than 1/2 inch -- that's due to their larger center core relative to the overall bobbin radius.
I sure hope I've done the algebra correctly, the numbers all seem to be in the right ball-park.
This is why we all buy plying or jumbo bobbins rather than calculators :-) so we can ply two full normal sized bobbins into one lovely skein on a single bobbin!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The more likely questions my weaving buddies would ask me is, "Amelia, why would you re-thread your harnesses?!?" At least one of them keeps hers threaded, cuts off in front of the reed, and ties on the new project from there. Well, I'm new at this, and I still explore, make mistakes, and re-think projects half-way through. You see, I got this lovely kit from Joy of Yarn, a Tencel/Tencel and Tencel/Cashmere scarf kit, last year at Madrona. The lovely lady in the booth gave me not one, but all *three* of the drafts available -- Crepe, Dimity, and Advancing Twill.
Back then, I only had a 4-harness loom and these were all 8 harness drafts. Eeek. So I put it away. (Thus, my weaving stash was born -- it still fits in a tote bag! Just ignore that box of Louet Gems Merino in the corner... it was purchased as knitting yarn, really!!) Then, I got a Baby Wolf, 8 harness, and two Mountain Looms - 18" and Aeroknot (8") -- also 8 harnesses. So with the Baby Wolf dressed for tea towels, and the scarves only 8" across, I thought, well, little Aero can handle this.
I thought the kit would be lovely husband & wife scarves for the hubby and me. He, of course, gets the cashmere :-) so I showed him the three patterns and he picked Dimity.
I duly warped, threaded, sleyed and wove, 58 inches of Dimity. Nice pattern to the treadles, but the surface pattern -- not for me. I love twills! No sweat, I thought, I'll just cut this one off and re-thread the heddles.
Uh-oh, I though, once it was cut... how do I keep all the strings organized once I've pulled them out of their existing heddles? Well, they all looked really nicely organized on the back beam, so I took a handy ruler from DD's craft box and my cross-saving pipe cleaners, and stabilized the threads on the back beam by tying the ruler on top of the back beam with the pipe cleaners.
I am happy to report it worked great! They all kept their positions, and I dutifully re-threaded in the advancing twill pattern for scarf number two.
Now, if I can just find my fringe twister, DH will have his scarf in time for Christmas...
Yep, this is the start of my journeys into weaving! There's a new topic in the topic list so you can track just weaving posts, if you want to. I see I'm not the only one ... Master Spinner Dave of Cabin Cove has redirected himself into amazing weavings, see them at The Weaving Studio.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
"My name is Amelia, and I have too many bobbins" ... that could be my opener at the 12-step meeting. You see, I cleaned out my storage hamper the other day. But wait, I need to digress further. I've been trying to figure out, what the right number of bobbins per wheel is.
My latest determination is that 5 is a good number -- usually, even if I'm three-plying, I can get a bobbin empty of finished yarn. That Will Taylor skeiner really helps with that, too -- the niddy-noddy was about to give my shoulder permanent tendonitis. Even looking at a Mach 1 bobbin makes it ache at the thought!
But now I digress too far.
So, I got a Pocket Wheel and asked for five bobbins to go with it (I *totally* forgot that DD's Pocket had 3 bobbins already, so really I could have made do with the default 3 and borrowed from DD, who spins singles and calls them done, one bobbin at a time. Ah well.) So, I special-ordered a 4-bobbin Horizontal Kate from Alexandra to (a) see how the Horizontal stacked up to the Will Taylor Clever Kate for plying and (b) store all the bobbins for my Pocket. Totally a birthday present, so of course I got a nice wood (Alder) rather than a stained one. It's lovely!
Well, having the 4-bobbin Kate with only 3 bobbins on it was irking me, and also led me to thinking, I must be able to put all my Majacraft bobbins on my 6-bobbin Kate, so let's clean out the tool hamper to find the missing bobbin and re-locate all the Majacraft bobbins. The final tally? Pocket Bobbins: 0, Majacraft Bobbins: 11. Eeek.
But let me explain: 2 are plying bobbins, 2 are standard bobbins (1 was on the wheel at the time), and 6 are WooLee Winder bobbins. I guess I was afraid of running out. And I'm not counting the two old-style plying bobbins I listed on the Ravelry Spinner's Marketplace pages. (ETA: I traded them ... for two more plastic Majacraft bobbins, grin!)
Luckily, I had replaced one of the brass bobbin holders on the front of my Majacraft Alpaca Wheel with a longer steel rod so I could fit 3 bobbins on that side, and 2 on the standard brass bobbin holder. That's 5. Eleven minus five is: six! yay! So here you have it:
I know I am in good company, however. Teyani once told me she had nine (or was it eleven?) for her Schacht Matchless. And many others tell me that three is never enough, six is good because you can do all your 3-plying from 3 full bobbins without stopping to empty a bobbin. On a thread in Spinning Knitters, it was suggested that 30 bobbins was a good number to keep on hand (wow!)
And now, I must go back to looking for that missing Pocket Wheel bobbin ...
How many bobbins do you like to have for your wheel, and why?
Which Lazy Kate?
Where is the End on my Bobbin?
What's a SpinOlution?
What do you teach in Plying Around?
Why does my yarn drift apart when I'm plying?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Well! it has been a while since the last Bellwether newsletter. But I've been spending a productive while on classes (did you hear, I'm teaching at Madrona! woot! I've submitted a proposal to SOAR, too, keep your fingers crossed on that one...), restocking popular items, and getting a few new goodies in, besides.
Ready, set, and here you go ...
SOAK ... great product, lovely scents! I love sharing my favorite finds with you, and this is definitely one of them.
The Niddy-Pinny: a one yard skein niddy-noddy, a nostepinne, and an inch gauge -- fully restocked domestic woods and a nice selection of exotics, to pair with your Natalie or perhaps with your ...
Bosworth! Yep, minis, a few midis, and maxis made it in before Christmas. Thanks due to Sheila and Jonathan Bosworth for that special delivery!
Two great new Ewe'Niquely Yours Knitting Patterns...
Mirage is my own work, designed to work with the Paint Pot, Totally Tubular Spinning Kit, or any Crosspatch Creations or Three Bags Full fiber (or even stash fiber and yarn) -- it's a super quick knit in just 175 yards of fingering weight yarn -- that's just 2 ounces! Spin singles and finish the fiber as written in the pattern for a really quick project.
Your Way Self Striping Socks Pattern is just stunning -- it's definitely designed to be spun from a Totally Tubular Spinning Kit, with spinning instructions for the striping method included.
The SpinOlution Lazy Kate is here and in stock! And an unfinished wheel is available at $495 for shipping now -- just $20 or less shipped parcel post in-state, typically under $60 shipped UPS ground cross-country. Or come to the studio and have a lesson with your wheel -- choose your topic or design your own, I love sharing skills and experiences.
And yes, there's more to come ... a couple Dervishes survived the last waiting list along with a set of new Flyers from Forrester. New Totally Tubular Spinning Kits. Wonderful Lazy Kates from Alexandra's Crafts for 6 or 3 bobbins. Some great orifice threaders with inch gauges from Full Circle Woodworks. And, a shipment of Tabachek spindles of absolute grandeur!
Happy spinning to all! May your holiday season be full of wonder and joy.
p.s. Stay updated -- subscribe to the whole blog for regular spinning tips and news, Fiber Mine for links to spinning tips I find on the internet, or Bellefeathers for the Bellefeathers newsletter (for Bellefeathers by email use this link).
Have you walked away from your spindles in frustration? Do you want to expand your repertoire from wheel to spindle so you can bring spinning on your travels? Are you sure there must be some way to make spindling more productive?
Expand your spindle skill-set in this fun class: increase your spindle enjoyment and results. We'll match the right spindle for fiber and yarn, and play with a variety of top whorl tricks, bottom whorl tricks, and handy techniques to get more out of your spindling: true Andean plying, Peruvian wind-on, Kick-spinning, Navajo plying, Bottom whorl speed-plying, and more.
Participants need basic experience Spindling or wheel spinning a continuous thread.
This class is a focus class -- it covers productivity techniques that are touched on in Advanced Drop Spindling in more depth, with some new goodies thrown in for spice!
For a list of all workshops and general information, see What Workshops Do You Teach?
This workshop is being taught at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival in Tacoma, February 2009, and at the NwRSA Conference, June 2009 (also in Tacoma!)