March 24, 2010

Shades of Red

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These red braids are one of the first fibers in my now-decently-sized fiber collection - two braids of BFL/Silk in "Vamp" from Pigeonroof Studios. I was certain this deep red-colored fiber would translate to deep red yarn, and it sort of did, via a surprising route.

I decided to spin these 9 ounces into a 3-ply yarn. As an experiment, I referenced a new favorite commercial yarn, Spirit Trail Fiberworks Paivatar. I took a bit of that yarn, unplied it, and taped the paralel singles to an index card. This would be a way to check that my spun singles matched up in diameter.

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There are lot more advanced calculations that can be done for spinning, like twists per inch and plies per inch. Through these calculations one could even hope to produce Paivatar's handspun twin. Maybe some day I will be a master of these calculations. For now, I am not ready for spinning math. I just matched the diameter, made a little 3ply sample with fresh singles along the way, and hoped for an even yarn.

One of my favorite parts of spinning hand-painted fibers is watching the colors change - they line up on the bobbins into neat stripes. What looked like solid red in the braids turned into stripes of maroon, rose, hot pink, and even light blue. hmmm, I suppose I am not getting solid red yarn after all. What would it look like plied?

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Maroon. ish. Isn't it funny how such bright fiber turned into subdued yarn? I wonder if this is usually the case with spinning fiber. After all, there does seem to be a lot of super bright fiber out there. The colors in the plies remind me of Cascade 220 Quatro, where each ply is a different color. And overall it is pretty consistent - that little index card worked!

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Yardage is 500 yards of about DK or worsted weight. The color could be right for a fall scarf. or, maybe a cowl and mitts. I just bought some classic-preppy cordovan loafers and this totally matches. I'll let it marinate in the stash until late summer and see how it looks then..

March 22, 2010

Woodsman gloves

Slowly but surely, I am starting to use my handspun yarns. When I started learning to spin, my main focus was on creating an even, balanced yarn, but I didn't think about knitting them into specific projects, should they have turned out in decent shape. The yarn was enough. One thing at a time.

Now, I find myself thinking about what project each spun yarn should be, and I try to spin the right yarn for the job. at the very least I aim for a specific weight of yarn.

Woodsman Gloves

My first project with handspun yarn is this pair of half-finger gloves for Brian. This Corriedale was the first wool willing to cooperate with my beginning spinning efforts. I spun two ounces on a spindle, it turned out well, and I decided it was suited to rustic half-finger gloves. I bought two more ounces of wool to complete the project, and having obtained my wheel in the interim, set out to spin the rest of the yarn on the wheel.

Would you expect a novice spinner's wheel-spun efforts to match her spindle spinning? ah, no. and it didn't. Though the spinning went much faster, the yarn ended up smaller and tighter than the yarn from the spindle. of course, I found this out after I had a glove and a half complete, with not enough of either the spindle or wheel-spun yarn for a full pair. As a solution, I used a half and half method - ripped both down to the cuffs, and used the finer yarn to re-knit the hands.

Woodsman Gloves

So, in the completed gloves, the ribbed cuffs are spindle-spun yarn, and the hands wheel-spun yarn. It made sense to increase stitches at top of the cuffs and proceed with the smaller-gauge yarn. The hard part was abandoning the one already-completed hand, ends woven in and everything. and if you've ever knit gloves, you know there are a lot of ends.

Now that they are complete, all those ends were worth it. Just in time for the weather to warm up! ah, well they will be ready for next fall..

March 2, 2010

Morning spins (and current knits)

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On these cold winter weekends, its so lovely to spin during the day, warm inside with natural sunlight coming in. During the week, though, spinning doesn't have the same appeal. In my apartment, it seems there is simply not enough light to spin at night. I suppose I could get a better light. but instead, I am trying out a new routine.. wake up a bit early, get completely ready for work, brew some coffee, then spin for awhile. Depending on how early I get up and how fast I get ready, there is anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to spin in the morning light. Extra sunlight time is welcome on these lengthening winter days.

This leaves evenings open for other things, including knits...

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Here's the beginning of a pair of fingerless gloves. The yarn is Spirit Trail Fiberworks Paivatar, and its amazing, with super crisp stitch definition. I'd like to spin a yarn just like it. These are going to be half-finger gloves, with a flapover mitten top.

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Also in progress is the start of a sweater, Kerrera, in Berocco Peruvia. I meant to use this yarn on the Tilted Duster sweater, which I've had in my queue basically ever since the pattern was published in the Fall 2007 Interweave. But, as it turns out, I am not super interested in knitting it anymore. Kerrera, however, seems fresh and new and the yarn should work. So far, just past the bottom border.

March 1, 2010

Story of a 3-ply

I recently finished my first real 3-ply yarn. It is made from 4 ounces of merino combed top, dyed by Into the Whirled. I found the Into the Whirled group on ravelry, just in time to join the January-February spin along. Everyone starts with the same fiber in the same colorway, and spins it up. Its been fun to see the different results that the spinners came up with.

Fiber from InTheWhirled

The fiber comes in one thick strip, dyed in different colors throughout. I decided to try a 3-ply and started by splitting the top into 3 parts lengthwise, creating 3 thinner strips from the original length. Each of the three parts would be spun onto a separate bobbin, then plied together at the end. I didn't necessarily want the colors to match up, so I stripped the fiber further, into 3, 4 or 5 thin strips. Then I predrafted a bit, loosening up the fiber so it moved smoothly, and rolled the fiber into balls, all the while keeping the original 3 parts separate.

The spinning seemed to take forever. I tried to see just how thin I could spin. Even though the fiber wasn't superwash, and I knew I wouldn't use it for socks, I wanted to see how close I could get to a sock-weight yarn.

Into the Whirled Spin Along

Merino is tricky! I've heard that it is not the best for beginners, and would modify that to say *dyed* merino is not the best for beginners. It just seemed to resist drafting. Right after I finished spinning for this fiber, I tried some undyed merino top, and there was a world of difference. The undyed merino moved much more smoothly. It felt like a different fiber. I think this is just a natural part of the dyeing process, and not anything specific to Into the Whirled, because when a fiber soaks up water in the dyeing process, it crimps up, and holds onto its neighbors.

Once the 3 bobbins were spun, I let them rest overnight, then set them up on the lazy kate for plying.

Into the Whirled Merino

At first, the colors matched up and created areas of the same color in the yarn. Then, as the plying went on, the colors became more variegated.

Into the Whirled Merino

Into the Whirled Merino

Amazingly, the finished yarn ended up much thinner than I expected. It really could be sock yarn! 581 yards from 4 ounces.

Into the Whirled Merino

Into the Whirled Merino

This is definitely the yarn I am most proud of so far in my spinning adventures. It felt like an epic amount of spinning. I was just not used to spinning for a couple hours and making (what seemed to be) so little progress. The whole process took two weeks from start to finish. In the end I am really happy with how it turned out. Its probably just a matter of practice to get faster and more comfortable with dyed merino and spinning thin.

For now I'll take a break from 3-ply and go back to a little thicker spinning and some nice 2-ply yarns!

February 12, 2010

anemoi redux

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once upon a winter 2007, or thereabouts, I set out to knit eunny jang's anemoi mittens. some knitter gauge error occurred, and one mitten turned out smaller than the other. I decided a solution might be to felt the larger mitten and shrink it down a bit to match the other one.

as you might suspect, it was an ill-fated plan. the mitten didn't shrink, but the colors bled and now the white areas looked vaguely tea-stained. only on that one mitten. fail. I called it a day tossed them into the box of winter accessories.

cut to the present. my current mittens are out of commission due to a growing hole in the thumb. I grabbed the anemoi's, and they finally see some time outside.

I was pleasantly surprised to find they are super warm. I must be the last one on the boat of fair-isle hand wear fans. for anyone out there who hasn't got the memo: fair isle mittens = the ultimate in winter hand comfort. (also, handspun = awesome)

turns out the difference in sizes doesn't bother me. alas, they were still different colors.

nothing a little dye can't fix.

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hello, navyblack mittens.

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