Archives for category: Spinning

Welcome back to the second half of our anatomy lesson. Today all the fun stuff happens – we’ll be turning fiber into yarn through a few simple steps. To answer a couple of questions from last time, I spin with a Kromski Minstrel, (you’ll see it in today’s pictures) and yes, I love my wheel. It’s an upright double treadle that is compact enough to fit into small apartments without being cumbersome and is an aesthetically pleasing piece aside from its upstanding functionality. Both big priorities in my book.

Now, lets do some spinning, shall we?

Spinning I (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Spinning is essentially putting twist into loose fibers to hold them together into a strong, continuous string or thread. Twist is, in fact, the very essence of spinning and mastering control over the amount of twist you choose to use will dramatically change your resulting yarn. Hard, durable yarns have lots of twist and are favored by weavers and rug makers for their ability to take hard knocks and stay intact. For handknitters, lighter, lofty yarns are often preferable and are less tightly spun. Of course this is an over-simplification, but you get the idea.

Spinning 2 (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
 

I’ll be spinning a 2-ply yarn today, and the first step in the process is to spin singles (single plies of fiber). These spun fibers will then be plied together for the finished product. An important rule when plying: the direction of your twist in the singles must always be reversed when plying – thus equalizing the tension put on the fibers and forming a balanced yarn.

I like to think of twist as dormant energy – if you put too much into your singles and don’t compensate for it while plying, one throws the other off balance.

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Above we have two bobbins of singles in more or less equal amounts. Before spinning I made sure to divide the fiber evenly into two parts in hopes of maximizing the yardage of the finished, plied yarn. You can see clearly on the bobbins how cleanly separated the color fields have spun out. If we were to knit this yarn up as-is, we would see clean, dramatic color stripes in our finished fabric. Plying them together, however, will essentially have the effect of mixing paint – the colors will come together somewhat randomly to diffuse or enhance one another, depending on their individual combinations. This is to me one of the best things about spinning plied yarns from hand-dyed fibers.

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Before plying, I like to load my bobbins on a tensioned Lazy Kate, for ease and consistency of flow while plying. A Kate isn’t absolutely necessary for plying yarns but I find it makes the job a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.

Plying is enjoyable and seems almost too easy in comparison to spinning singles – in a way the plies actually want to come together and relax as the tension of their twist is balanced. The amount of twist added while plying should more or less correspond to that in your singles, as I mentioned before, to achieve a no-fuss yarn.

Plying (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

With one hand pinching the yarn, I use another to separate and guide the plies as they flow off of the Kate. Plying can be rather hypnotic, not only as you watch colors combine and flow but also from the constant whirring of the wheel and mindless peddling of your feet. Very relaxing. Just don’t do it while your cooking something on the stove. Seriously.

Before you know it, you’ll have a nice, full bobbin of 2-ply yarn waiting patiently to come off the bobbin.

Celebration (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Now the spinning is done, but don’t forget that “finishing” your yarn is an equally important (and enjoyable) part of the process that I shant forget to mention. Using a niddy-noddy, the back of a chair, or any other surface you can think to string yarn around, gently skein your yarn off of the bobbin in preparation for its inaugural bath.

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Washing handspun yarn is essential because it sets the twist, allowing the fiber to relax and adapt to its new configuration. Washing is also wonderful because, much like blocking your knitting, it will often erase or at least de-emphasizes mistakes, snags or tension issues. When taking it out of the bath, it’s also a good idea to give it a few good *whacks* against the tub to even things out. Especially for beginners, skeins straight off the wheel may be far from balanced, but giving the yarn a bath will work wonders as a self-esteem booster. I’ve had particularly ugly yarns come out of the sink looking well-behaved and beautiful. Another of wool’s many wonders.

Wash your yarn like you wash your sweaters – gentle soap, luke warm water, no agitation – squeeze out excess water and hang up to air dry. Weighting the bottom of the skein as it dries also works great for helping to balance your yarn.

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When everything is dry, you can go nuts. Petting, smelling and general merry-making are all now acceptable activities for which to engage with your yarn. Whether or not knitting happens, no worry, handspun is beautiful as a stand-alone, boasting enough aesthetic prowess to hold it’s own just about anywhere in the house.

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And that, my friends, about sums up this fast and loose version of handspinning a 2-ply yarn. This is just one of the many ways you can use a spinning wheel to make yarn, though. The possibilities are truly endless and if you really love having your hands on fiber, you probably won’t ever tire of spinning.

I intend on covering a third portion of this series talking briefly about knitting with handspun and planning projects, but probably not immediately. My knitting time has been fruitful and inspiring lately (I have much to show you), and I don’t have anything immediately in mind for my most recent batch of handspun. When I do, though, we’ll talk more about knitting with handspun yarn.

I do hope everyone is enjoying the sun, it’s been gorgeous around here – my spinning wheel loves all the open windows. Happy spinning!
 

I recently heard someone say that spinning is a natural progression for any knitter. While I can’t speak for everyone, I can say that when I think about how much I’ve learned about yarn since becoming a spinner, this statement definitely holds true for me. When you begin constructing and knitting with your own yarns, you’re bound to reach a new understanding of what this fiber thing is all about, and that’s a good day for everyone.

I received a lot of e-mail responses to my last post regarding the process of converting fiber to yarn. Lots of you want pictures! Do I detect many knitters on the brink of making a crossover? (Just remember, spindles are a cheap way to test the waters)(without causing marital problems) The art of spinning is something I am unqualified to present to you on any formal level, but I thought I’d do what I could and give you a visual journey through my own spinning process. This topic will span 2 to 3 posts, not only because I am wary of overwhelming non-spinners with too much foreign information, but because currently my personal spinning time is a rarity, and this current spinning project is literally in progress. I think it works best this way for all of us. Now, shall we begin?

Wool comes to handspinners in many different forms. In our case we’ll be looking at hand-dyed roving, which seems to me one of the more popular ways urban spinners (with no space for cleaning or carding fleeces) like to roll.

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A roving is a continuous strip of combed or carded fibers to which a slight twist has been added (to keep everything everything together for dying, shipping, etc). Basically, a long, doughy strip of compressed wool. Rovings often come in braids after they’ve been dyed, like the one shown above. This particular beauty comes to us from the good folks at Interlacements in Colorado.

Unfurl the braid to see the roving in its entirety. The photo below shows the roving unbraided and reveals the dying scheme – spacial color fields of oranges, blues, and greens. Purdy, ain’t it?

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Roving is too dense to spin as-is and must be drafted first. Some spinners draft as they spin, others, like me, prefer pre-drafting. Drafting is essentially drawing the fibers out gently from one another to allow air into the spaces between individual fibers. When wool is drafted well it flows easily and consistently while spinning, which is desirable if you like your yarn nice and even. Notice below the difference in the fiber between my fingers and those that have yet to be drawn out. Wispy!

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In the wrong mindset, drafting can be an annoying precursor to the good stuff, although I tend to enjoy it – preparing the fiber and getting to know the tactile qualities of your specific batch of wool adds a special layer to the process. Kind of like giving your fiber a massage.

Depending on what color-effects you’re after, you may choose to tear the roving into strips and draft them individually. By doing this you essentially reduce the length of color repeats in your yarn – a quality you can manipulate in order to conjure up self-striping color patterns or other color tricks in your final yarn. With a well-dyed roving, you have a whole lot of possibilities – no two yarns will ever be exactly the same.

Below is a strip of roving (this time around, I split mine into 4) balled up on the window before being drafted.

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Drafting magically makes your fiber amount seem to multiply exponentially – what used to slink easily into the bottom of your basket as a tidy little roving now gently floats up over the edges – a sumptuous cloud of colorful wool bursting with potential, just waiting for a romp with your wheel. A rather delicate thing of beauty in itself (Note: not pet friendly, nor wind friendly for that matter).

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A nice big basket of pre-drafted fiber is a great thing to have around (see above if you own pets) – beautiful on its own, but always ready for a quick spin. And with this full basket, we conclude this evening’s portion of our tour – fiber prep.

Up next we get down-n-dirty making yarn, followed by some form of knitting-with-handspun, although I’m not promising any projects… if I did, I may never get around to that third post! Stay tuned for more spinning fun!

The vacation euphoria is wearing thin and things are getting back to normal – the AM routine has resumed in it’s habitual glory and I’m back to my most exciting decision of the morning being which scarf I’ll wear as I leave the house . My life is so exciting.

This morning I realized that one of the most popular scarves in my arsenal has yet to get any blog play, and she’s been going strong out there in the streets of New York for a couple months already. Allow me to introduce you.

Espresso Scarf (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
 

Pattern: Generic Garter Stitch Scarf
Materials: My Handspun (see below for details)
Needles: US6/4.0mm bamboo
Dimensions: 6″ width, 71″ length

Started: November 2007
Finished: January 2008

 

Espresso Scarf (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

One of the greatest things about handspun, aside from the fact that it’s so incredibly rewarding to work with, is that the yarn carries everything. There’s really no need for fancy stitchwork or impressive knitting acrobatics. In fact, I would venture to say that handspun is at its most impressive while standing alone in garter. This may be one of the reasons I have multiple of these scarves started – the same pattern can have multiple personalities with various handspun yarns. And they’re really fun to knit (something so beautiful shouldn’t be so easy. It’s dangerous).

Espresso 2-Ply (first 3 oz) (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I knit this scarf with two skeins of dk-weight 2-ply merino, just over 6 oz of wool. The fiber is Hello Yarn (I don’t have a problem.. really I don’t) and entitled “Espresso”. The pre-spun fiber looked like this.

[Sidenote: I’ve received a lot of comments/e-mails from people who love seeing handspun yarn alongside their pre-spun fiber predecessors for comparisons sake. Would you all be interested in a very informal post about the anatomy of a handspun, with pictures from start to finish?]

And while I had my camera at the ready, I thought I’d take some pictures of an oldie that I knit back in 2005. Up for it’s 2 year review – the So-Called Scarf:

So-Called (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

This was knit with Manos Del Uruguay. Pattern is here. A quick review – this scarf doesn’t get much wear unfortunately, despite the fact that I like to look at it. I knit this in the days before Malabrigo, and now that I have scarves in both Manos and Malabrigo, the scratchier of the two (Manos) definitely gets neglected. They both pill, so that’s not really an issue either. And Malabrigo is butter… so what am I to do?

So-Called (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I realize scarf weather is slowly disappearing – spring is coming and everyone is excited, so I’m getting as much wool-wearing in as possible. I love spring as much as the next guy, but the thing is, I think I love winter waaaay more than the next guy, so I’m always slightly sad to see it disappear. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy all this extra sunlight…

Don’t ask me when, but at some point this winter I found some time to do a whole bunch of spinning. This was a while ago, but nonetheless, I’ve amassed quite a little army of handspun and it’s so beautiful and well-behaved, sitting quietly on the shelf, knowing it will probably have to wait much too long to see the needles. So far they’ve all been happy to sit for portraits – and there lies our compromise.

Low Country Shetland (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The photo above is probably my favorite skein – it’s shetland wool dyed at HelloYarn in Boston, MA. I had never spun shetland and loved it way more than I anticipated. I was expecting scratchy and sticky, but it spun wonderfully and fluffed up to my ideal specifications. Note to self – spin more shetland. (Here’s a picture of how the fiber looked pre-spinning).

Charmer (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Corriedale 2-ply in “Charmer” – another of Adrian’s. I’ve been sampling small batches of various wools, which also means having fun with small batches of crazy colors.

Bulky Corriedale (Skein #2) (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

I got a huge bag of white corriedale wool with my wheel and started spinning bulky singles (very instant-gratification) with hopes that I’ll have enough for another wooly blanket for next winter. Hey, it’s good to have (unrealistic) goals.

Mushroom Swatch (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)
Forest Handspun (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

Both of these beauties came from Pigeonroof Studios in California. Wonderfully subtle and tweedy yarns – I’m quite partial as you might expect. The yellow/green batch is fine shetland, spun from this (and already occupying half of a BSJ). The brown/pink batch is South African Fine wool, spun from this. That Krista is quite a dyer.

And if you haven’t gotten enough juicy spinning pictures, pop on over to my 2008 Spinning Gallery to get your fix.

There’s been a great amount of knitting and some new projects are brewing. I’ve slowly been wooing my knitting mojo back into my corner (he abandoned me for a bit there) and great things are happening. More to come very soon.

I guess it’s never too late to share Christmas knitting, is it? As I promised before (this long silence), I’d show a few quick little knits that were distributed under the tree this year and now live far far away. Today’s hats both reside in Portland, Oregon where wool’s water-resistant qualities are highly appreciated.

Jo's Hat (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The first is an adaptation of the Thorpe pattern [PDF]. I really liked this pattern (it’s knit from the top down, and you know I love that) but knew that handspun was in order so I decided to merge the two. The yarn I had on hand was DK weight so I just tweaked the numbers a bit to work – very easy to do when knitting hats from the top down. It turned out lightweight, fluffy and rather nice for a milder climate. Stripey too.

Jo's Hat (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The yarn is a 2-ply merino that I spun last fall with this particular recipient in mind. The fiber was handdyed in sunny California at Pigeonroof Studios and turned out to be a lovely little skein. I actually have enough of it leftover to knit another hat, so you may see this one pop up again in the future. Here’s the unknit yarn hanging in the window.

Lazy Daisy Drying


Hat number two was a little stashbusting creation. I had about half a skein of both Silk Garden and Cascade 220, both in neutral shades, both begging to be married. So I put them together and got this.

Ryan's Hat

The hat is just about as basic as can be, aside from maybe the crown. I really love how raglan-style decreases create a square-top on hats. I got to thinking of the stripes as circles and thought it might be interesting to throw some squares into the mix. I started thinking of this hat as squares-within-circles and really liked how it turned out.

Ryan's Hat (by b r o o k l y n t w e e d)

The photos were taken on Puget Sound at Dash Point in Washington State. While we were walking the beach we saw a whole herd (school?) pod of Orcas (thanks everyone!) jumping off the coast – something I’ve never seen in all my life. And I grew up there. It was pretty great – and you can’t beat that Puget Sound light!

Ryan's Hat

Knitting has been regretfully slow around here lately, but a few projects can pull you through almost any stress-ridden period (thank heaven for Baby Surprise Jackets!)… and when did February sneak up on us?

Okay, here’s one more picture of canoodling handknits
for the road.

Ryan and Jo

Until next time – happy knitting!

Well I’ve been somewhat of a knitting schizophrenic lately, working on all sorts of little projects intermittently between my larger chunks of movie knitting, which have been religiously devoted to The Pi Shawl. It’s good though because now I’ll have at least a few small things to dole out from underneath my gigantic icelandic lace blanket come Christmas.

Ginormous

Concerning the Pi Shawl, there’s not a whole lot to say other than that I’m still enamoured and that it has already reached gigantic proportions – certainly much too large for photographs (there’s a lot of fabric not shown in the photo above). The most amazing news is that I’m only halfway through the yarn. Although the project couldn’t be more perfect for my lifestyle right now, it isn’t a superstar for blog material. Good thing for you I have a few other instant-gratification-types to share.

Compelled to Knit

Above we have the beginnings of an aviator hat with this handspun merino; Below a garter stitch scarf in one of my favorite handspuns yet. I swatched about 80 different stitch patterns in search for something perfect for this scarf and ended up *surprise surprise* with garter stitch. Such is my curse. I should just resign myself to the power of garter already and be done with this incessant wandering.

Espresso Knitting

And finally, Koolhaas III has made its way onto my needles. I’ve seen so many of you knitting the pattern in Malabrigo and I just had to try it myself. It’s a thick squishy poof of cables and I’m loving it.

The Third

I’m not usually one for knitting a pattern twice (and especially not thrice) but the request for this came with such sincere sweetness that I couldn’t resist. I’m also happy for opportunities to nip away at the cavernous yarn storage under the bed. Take it where you can get it.

I’m rather excited that it’s December in spite of the fact that the last month seems a blur. Good thing we have knitting to remind ourselves that good things do happen each month. I hope you are all doing well. Next time: knitted Christmas ornaments and more handspun creations. Stay warm!

When the temperature finally dropped, the spinning bug came back with a vengeance. I’ve only had time here and there to spin a little in the evenings, but after a month or so, I’ve accrued a few beautiful additions to my stash. Maybe you could use a little visual fiber pick-me-up this morning? I know I could.

Cool Hand 2-Ply
“Cool Hand”; 2-Ply Falkland wool from FatCatKnits; 4 oz. spun from this
 

Lazy Daisy 2-Ply
“Lazy Daisy”; 2-Ply Superwash Merino from Pigeonroof Studios; 4 oz. spun from this
 

Espresso Batch 2
“Espresso”; 2-Ply Superwash Merino from HelloYarn; 10 oz. spun from this

The palette turns out to be rather fitting for this time of year, eh? I’m scheming a handspun scarf with the “Espresso” batch, since I have about 10 oz. The others will probably be gift hats, although I haven’t made any decisions on holiday gifts this year. I’ll probably employ my regular policy: knit as usual until December 20th. Assess finished objects and assign gifts if they are available. No guilt allowed. (This has proven much more effective than trying to stick to an unreasonable regimen of deadlines – effectively ruining the joy of knitting during the best time of year)

Fall Spinning

Enjoy the rest of your week. I’ve got some heathered merino on the wheel to keep me busy if I can find a free minute aside from schoolwork and knitting time. Keep your sweaters on!

A quick little bit of handspun knitting to stave off that wonderful chill in the air.

Cap Karma 1
 

Pattern: Cap Karma by Smariek (Yahoo Group)
Materials: My Handspun, worsted superwash merino 2-ply
Amount: 4 ounces/100 grams
Fiber Source: Miss Babs
Needles: US8/5.0mm

 

Cap Karma 2

Modifications: The original pattern calls for a standard spiral-decrease crown. I really loved the allover cable pattern and didn’t like how the spiral decreasing broke that up. I wrote an alternate decreasing scheme that kept the cabling intact. If you’re interested in doing the same, I’ve listed the specifics below.

Cap Karma 3
 

Crown Shaping (substitute this for the crown shaping listed in the pattern)

Row 1: k all sts
Row 2: k all sts
Row 3: *ssk, k6* around
Row 4: *[sl next st to CN and hold in back, k next two sts, k st from CN], k4* around
Row 5: k all sts
Row 6: *k5, k2tog* around
Row 7: k all sts
Row 8: *k3, [sl next 2 sts to CN and hold in front, k next st, k 2 sts from CN]* around
Row 9: *k1, k2tog, k3* around
Row 10: k all sts
Row 11: k all sts
Row 12: *[sl next st to CN and hold in back, k next st, k st from CN], k3* around
Row 13: *k2, ssk, k1* around
Row 14: k all sts
Row 15: *k2tog, k2* around
Row 16: *k1, [sl next st to CN and hold in frton, k next st, k st from CN]* around
Row 17: *k1, k2tog* around
Row 18: k all sts
Row 19: *k2tog* around

Break yarn and draw through remaining sts. Weave in all ends.

 

Cap Karma 6

Knitting with handspun is a major treat, I’ve had such a great time doing it – I’m sure there will be a lot of handspun hats cropping up in the next few months. Next to the BSJ, they’re the perfect match for all those odd 4oz skeins that have been piling up.

Cap Karma 5

Another one for the pile – onto the next!

Isn’t it a bit sad how dependent we are on the internet? I never really notice it until the precious life-blood of blogging is ripped away from me. I won’t have any regular access to internet in the new BT headquarters until *next* Saturday, which I’m trying to pretend isn’t seriously effecting my daily life.

I’ve been doing my best to keep up with everything, but I’ll warn you now if you send e-mails or comments my way, there may be delays (even longer than usual!). I didn’t want to go, however, with yet another week of silence here induced by the absence of any connection to the outside world – so I’m taking another quick opportunity to update you on what’s goin‘ down.

That week-long cold snap at the end of August was such a treat. And such a tease. It was all I needed to get my Fall gears turning. Of course September so far has been relentlessly hot and humid and I’m feeling a bit of remorse for letting myself indulge in that early Autumnal preview. Either way, I started the first of hopefully several Fall Sweaters and I’m not ashamed of that.

Happy Happy WoolMachine

It’s a seamless cardigan in one of my favorite tweeds (the same I used for this – it’s definitely good enough for multiple sweater projects) that I’m designing as I go. It’s a beautiful yarn, isn’t it?

Skein #3

I’ve also been collecting sufficient stock for the spinning machine to keep a-whirrin‘ through the season. The most recent acquisition looks a bit like frosting to me, but maybe that’s the sleep deprivation talking.

Looks Like Frosting

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it earlier, but I am officially a full-time student again. I started a 2 year MFA program this past week. To say I’m overwhelmed is a bit of an understatement, but it’s all very good. And I’m keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed that I’ll be able to keep knitting as much as my sanity requires. Which is a lot.

The BSJ is done and just needs buttons. More to come on that in the near future.

Knit on!

 

Hey everybody! I’m just peeking my head around from a huge pile of boxes for a quick update. We’ve spent the last week moving from one Brooklyn walk-up to another, in the late August heat. Oy, what a week. I’m happy to report, though, that everything (including every last bit of wool) has made the journey safely – now there’s just the matter of unpacking, which is actually the fun part.

Knitting has been almost non-existent for obvious reasons, but I did grab a skein of my handspun to cast on for a small project to keep around for sanity’s sake.

Burning Bush Cake

This is 4 oz of pure merino from Amy over at Spunky Eclecticthat I spun up to be a worsted weight 2-ply. I prepared the fibers so that it would be self-striping. I love how the colors go together.

I'm so weak

I’ve really had BSJ on the brain and when the finished yarn came off the wheel I knew these two were destined for each other. I’m hoping I can squeeze one full baby surprise out of this skein. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m enjoying every stitch. Limited couch space and all.

These Things Knit Themselves

In other BT-related news, a knit-a-long has been started up for the Hemlock Ring Blanket. I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed at the response to this project, I’m glad to see so many wool flowers blooming all over the world already. If you’d like to join the KAL, visit the start page here and sign up. If you’ve been thinking about starting one of your own, I’m sure this will give you just inspiration (temptation) you need.

Sorry to drop by for such a short time – I hope to be back to regularly scheduled programming very soon. Enjoy the long weekend!