Fiber

I am beyond excited about finishing my first garment made 100% with my own handspun yarn! In case you haven't been following along with the spin I began in January of merino and silk combed top that I bought from Woolgatherings, follow this link (Choosing Your Spin Style) to see how I decided to spin it. I learned so much from this project. I learned a lot about the twist and the importance of keeping records and samples of both the singles and the plied yarn if you want to duplicate it. When deciding on a garment for this yarn, I made sure to stick to what I like to wear. In the past, I would pick items that I liked that other people look good in. This time I stuck to looking for something that I would actually wear. Something that if I saw it in the store, I would say, "Yes! I want that!" I found a top on Ravelry called the Mantra designed by Martha Wissing. It was perfect! I knit it in the round until I reached the armhole shaping. It was an easy pattern to follow. I would rank it as an intermediate pattern. I only had a little trouble figuring out what I was supposed to do when I got to the neck and shoulder shaping. I wasn't reading it the way she saw it in her head. I had a discussion with my daughter and it became crystal clear. I do not falt Martha with this. It is hard to write something to make it clear to everyone. Besides, it keeps us fiber artists communicating and I think that is a good thing. 






 



Happy Sunday! I have finished my first bulk spinning project! I have never allowed myself to buy more than an ounce or two of fiber for fear that I wouldn't be able to duplicate it on subsequent skeins. I thought I would show you one of the things I learned and how I fixed it. Below is a picture of two hank s of yarn. The hank on the left I thought to be over-spun because when I removed it from the Knitty Knotty it was very curly. It turns out that it was underplied. I had not removed enough of the twist during plying. I am self-taught I wasn't sure how to tell so I watched more videos and read some more articles. After looking at it for a while I decided it needed more plying twist. 

 









The photo above on the right shows what the yarn was doing once I put it back on my wheel spinning it off the Knitty Knotty. As you can see when I dropped down a length of yarn between myself and the wheel it twisted up on itself going to the right. This means there was too much Z twist left in it from the single. 











In the photo above the ply is slightly overspun in the S twist which I used for plying and is spun by turning the wheel counterclockwise. You can see the yarn is twisting back on itself going to the left.











The yarn above is balanced and hangs loosely in a U shape.
Under-plied yarn below on the left.  Balanced yarn on the right.





From one pound of yarn, I was able to spin five skeins of yarn with a total yardage of 1,250 yds. Because I thought I was too good to make a mistake I did not use my notebook that had the swatch sample for me to check the size of my single while I was spinning. This resulted in a skein that was 390 yds and ended up being a fingering weight yarn. It is lovely but it will not give the same result as the other four skeins. I am not upset about it. Three hundred ninety yards is plenty to make something else and I had a great lesson to boot.  Overall I couldn't be happier with this spin and I am excited to begin my next project of a pound and a half of merino and silk in blues also from Woolgatherings. Stay tuned!

 



Happy Sunday! I have finished my first bulk spinning project! I have never allowed myself to buy more than an ounce or two of fiber for fear that I wouldn't be able to duplicate it on subsequent skeins. I thought I would show you one of the things I learned and how I fixed it. Below is a picture of two hank s of yarn. The hank on the left I thought to be over-spun because when I removed it from the Knitty Knotty it was very curly. It turns out that it was underplyed. I had not removed enough of the twist during plying. I am self-taught I wasn't sure how to tell so I watched more videos and read some more articles. After looking at it for a while I decided it needed more plying twist. 

 
Hank on left is under-plyed the hank on the right is a balanced yarn. The fiber is from Woolgatherings.com
75% Merino and 25% silk




 
The photo above on the right shows what the yarn was doing once I put it back on my wheel spinning it off the Knitty Knotty. As you can see when I dropped down a length of yarn between myself and the wheel it twisted up on itself going to the right. This means there was too much Z twist left in it from the single. 


In the photo above the ply is slightly overspun in the S twist which I used for plying and is spun by turning the wheel counterclockwise. You can see the yarn is twisting back on itself going to the left.


The yarn above is balanced and hangs loosely in a U shape.


Under-plyed yarn above on the left.  Balanced yarn on the right.


From one pound of yarn, I was able to spin five skeins of yarn with a total yardage of 1,250 yds. Because I thought I was too good to make a mistake I did not use my notebook that had the swatch sample for me to check the size of my single while I was spinning. This resulted in a skein that was 390 yds and ended up being a fingering weight yarn. It is lovely but it will not give the same result as the other four skeins. I am not upset about it. Three hundred ninety yards is plenty to make something else and I had a great lesson to boot.  Overall I couldn't be happier with this spin and I am excited to begin my next project of a pound and a half of merino and silk in blues also from Woolgatherings. Stay tuned!

 



This lovely one-pound ball of fiber is from Woolgatherings  . I am so excited to start! Before I dive in, I want to spin a couple of samples to see which spinning technique will show off the beautiful colors the best. Some of you knitters and crocheters out there will probably roll your eyes and think that is as bad as making a swatch to test the gauge. I know you want to just start. I assure you it is equally as important as finding your gauge! I actually find it fun. I love having little skeins of yarn. They are so cute! Here are the steps I took to begin this yarn.

I began by pulling off a staple length of fiber, which in the case is about seven to eight inches long. This fiber is 75% merino and 25% silk. The silk is what contributes to the long length of this staple. The first style of spinning I used with this combed top is called spinning from the fold. I split it into two sections and then open it out a little more before wrapping the fiber over my index finger; this allows me to spin from the fold. The photo to the left shows a staple length of fiber I pulled apart from the ball of combed top. The photos below show steps 1-4 starting in the top left picture. 


  1. Open out the combed top and separate staple length into two sections.
  2. Lay half of the top over the index finger making sure to hold the ends down with your middle finger and thumb.
  3.  Pull up a very small amount of fiber nearest the tip of your finger. Use this to attach to your leader.
  4. Begin drafting and spinning on to your bobbin. I used a short forward draw method.









The second method I tried was simply drafting from the ends of the top as shown below.



Once I completed my singles I plied them in the same method using a Navajo or Chain ply method for a three ply yarn. Using this method allowed me to keep the colors together from the single that I spun from the fold. The following photos show the two skeins I ended up with. I then knitted them both up to show how they would look in a garment. I kept the yarn that was spun from the fold on the left in all of the pictures.






I chose to spin the rest of the top from the fold. I really like how it kept the brightness of the colors visible. Happy spinning! Feel free to message me with any questions. 




It has taken me some time to return to this article. I decided to sell my home in the country and move into town. When I see pictures like this one, I am struck with bittersweet memories. I have now lived in my new home for a year and a half, which is enough time for me to begin making new good memories. I feel the time is right to finish this article. When I started spinning, I owned nothing except for an upright parlor wheel (pictured on the left). My then-husband gave it to me for Christmas. It came with a broken flyer. He bought it that way, knowing we had a friend who could build me a new flyer. I had no way of knowing what supplies I would need for this new hobby. I just dove in and started spinning.  It took me two weeks just to learn how to get the fiber to draw onto the bobbin. I almost threw it out of the window a couple of times! Once I got the hang of it, I knew I found a new love! I now own three spinning wheels and several drop spindles. I finally understand the obsession men have with hit and miss engines. You can never have too many! They all are so lovely and make such unique swooshing sounds. 


If I could tell you anything that would make your life easier and make spinning more enjoyable it is that proper fiber preparation is key. I bought two sets of hand carders because they were inexpensive. (TheSpinnery) They were relatively easy to learn to use and I quickly learned how to make rolags for spinning.  They work great and I use them for blending different fibers and for prepping shorter fibers. I do not like using them for longer staple length fibers. 

I then bought a cat brush for flicking the ends of some long wool I purchased. I learned a lot from spinning the long wool by only flicking the ends but I didn't love prepping the fiber for spinning. For that matter, I didn't love spinning it with that preparation either. 

My most recent purchase is a comb and hackle set from Shepherd's Custom Woodworking LLC on Etsy in December of 2019 and I am in love! Prepping the fiber is just as meditative and relaxing to me as spinning it. Preparing the wool by combing gave me such a consistent roving that for the first time I was able to consistently spin three bobbins full of fiber. I am so happy with the outcome of the three skeins of yarn I made. They were very balanced and uniform. I am confident I can duplicate them. I plan on making enough to make an afghan. It has taken me six years to feel this confident. I am sure if I had invested in the proper tools earlier I would have been able to accomplish this sooner. 

The books in the photo are two that I go back to again and again. Start Spinning Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn by Maggie Casey and the Fleece and Fiber SourceBook by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius.

My next favorite purchase in December of 2019 was my Babe's Fiber Garden Double Treadle Production Wheel.



My new Babe wheel makes me so happy! It is a breeze to run and a fraction of the price of a wooden wheel. I am still dreaming of the day I will be able to own a beautiful handmade wooden wheel, but until that time, this one made out of PVC works perfectly for me. I plan on painting the wood parts to dress it up a bit. When I get that done, I will post a picture.

The picture on the left is a traditional Saxony Wheel sometimes referred to as a Cinderella wheel famously used in the story of Cinderella. Saxony wheels were brought from Europe in the 16th century. The wheel on the top right is a parlor wheel or an upright wheel. They were designed to take up less space in a room. Both of my wooden wheels were handmade by an individual. I do not know who made them as they have no mark. The Babe's Double Treadle Production wheel is on the bottom right. This wheel is made out of PVC pipe, composite wheelchair wheels, and high-quality plywood. My favorite wheel right now is the parlor wheel. Mainly because it is the wheel I learned to spin on and it just feels right. I also like that the bobbins are bigger than on the Saxony which allows me to get more fiber in a skein. The Babe is on its way to becoming my favorite! I love the size of the bobbins and how easy it is to start and stop using only my feet.

This next set of tools is a menagerie of useful items that I find helpful.  The picture on the top left is a few of my spindles. My favorite is a Turkish spindle, then a tahkli spindle with a glass bowl that I use to spin cotton. I am not very good but this spindle made it so I could finally spin cotton without breaking it! The others in the jar are ones that I made. The next box directly to the right is a picture of my comb and hackle set that I bought off Etsy. Shepherdswoodworking I absolutely love it! Proper fiber preparation makes a world of difference in the ease and consistency of my work. In the photo, there is also a diz and threader that I also purchased on Etsy from ThomasWoodandWool The picture on the bottom right is of a yarn swift that was gifted to me by my kids from KnitPicks.com The ball winder next to it was also a gift but is an invaluable tool. I often use it to double-ply yarn because I can pull from the center and the outside at the same time. Plying this way ensures that I will end with equal amount of yarn. The box on the right in the middle is Knitty Knotty and was made for me by a man whom I love dearly and is like a dad to me. It is beautiful and useful. With it, I can measure the yardage of my
yarn using it to wind off of either one of my wheels or a spindle. The distance between the horizontal bars is 18". The last photo is of a multi-purpose tool. It is a diz, spinning control card, and twist angle purchased from thefibersprite on Etsy. I am sure you have noticed a trend in my choice of places to find craft supplies. I hope I have been helpful in giving you some of the basic supplies you will need to start your adventure in spinning!




This was my first experience with an art bat. I purchased this one from yarnwench on Etsy. It is made of merino wool top, Firestar, Angelina, tussah silk top, silk noil, bamboo, silk threads, and Wensleydale locks. It was a little hard for me at first to let go and be okay with it not being perfect. Once I did that, I had fun spinning it, and I was able to get a quite chunky yarn from a wheel that was not meant for spinning bulky yarn. I have taught myself how to spin over the past six years, so I am in no way an expert. I really love it, and I hope to show others that you don't have to have expensive equipment with all the bells and whistles in order to create quality yarn. 


This fiber was purchased from sdspin on Etsy. This fiber had a particular purpose from the beginning. I bought it to spin for my oldest daughter's birthday. It was lovely to spin, and I was thrilled with the end result. I was able to keep it fairly consistent. There were no nodes or bumps to pull out. Fiber content 90% high-grade synthetic and 10 % soft bamboo. It was spun on my Turkish spindle. I plied it using the Navajo plying technique.



This Targhee, Bamboo, and Silk fiber were purchased from Cedar Grove Ranch on Etsy. I fell in love with the colors of this fiber the moment I saw it. The picture did not disappoint! They were just as beautiful in person. It was a joy to spin. I spun this on my Turkish spindle and Navajo plied it on the spindle as well. This was a Christmas present for daughter number one. She is an amazing knitter and loves the yarn I spin!
This fleece was not skirted before purchase.
On the first really nice day of spring, I was very excited to wash my fleece that I had purchased the year before and skirt and pick another fleece that I had bought over the winter from a local farmer. A warm sunny day beckoned me to wash the whole fleece since I would have ample space for letting it dry. I washed small bits of it over the winter letting it air dry on a screen in the basement with a fan blowing on it but drying in the sun was much more appealing.

A bag of cedar shavings works well to deter bugs. 
I decided it was time to wash the fleece that I bought from Julie Mathis at Heritage Hill Farm in Tremont, IL where she raises Leicester Longwool Sheep. I first met Julie at the Bishop Hill Fiber Guild Annual Spin-In, which just so happens to be happening again on October 17, 2017.http://www.bishophillfiberguild.org/annual-spin-in.html I was enamored with the fleece samples she had but I was terrified to buy one, especially an unwashed one. I worried that I would spend $85 and then have a five-pound wad of felt when I was finished. Julie was so nice and patient and explained everything to me. She even invited me out to her farm to see her sheep and help me with my spinning! Needless to say, I went home with my first unwashed fleece. It wasn't as bad as I thought and I actually enjoyed the process. This is what I plan to share with you.


Things to Gather


  • 2 containers for holding wash and rinse water. The size depends on how much you would like to wash at one time. I use an old cooler and a rubber maid container
  • You will need something to lift the hot fleece out of the soapy water. I use an old vegetable saute pan for the grill. I never used it for vegetables so might as well
  • I use Dawn® dish soap for washing
  • figure 2
    I use nylon window screens I picked up at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for a quarter each to lay the fleece on to dry
figure 1




I begin washing by filling stockpots with very hot water. Tap water is fine as long as your hot water tank is set to a fairly high temp. Mine is set to 120 degrees. I do not have little ones to worry about anymore. When washing the whole fleece I break it into about three batches. This ensures that the soapy water can soak into every area of the fleece and lift the dirt out. I fill the cooler about halfway with very hot water and Dawn® dish soap. Place the fleece gently into the hot water pressing down until the entire fleece is covered with soapy water. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. While the Leicester Longwool was soaking (fig. 1) I took the time to pick through the wool from the Oxford market fleece that I purchased for five dollars from a local farmer. I wanted to see what the fleece was like and how well it spun up. I have read that it is a good utility yarn for socks and mittens.I find that to be true. It is not as soft as the longwool but it is springy thus giving it a little stretch which is desirable in socks. For more information on different fleeces and their characteristics check out the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius on my reading list. In fig. 2 I have moved the fleece into the second tub of soapy water where it will sit for another fifteen minutes. You can see how much dirt is left after one soaking in the cooler on the left of fig. 2. I usually wash the fleece two to three times depending on how dirty it is. I rinse twice. Rinsing is done in the same manner as washing. Lift the fleece gently out of the hot water and place into a half-filled tub of the same temperature water. It is necessary to keep the temperature the same in order to prevent felting. The same is true for making sure to keep agitation to a minimum. I use a frying pan with holes in it made for grilling vegetables to lift my fiber out of the water since I never used it for its intended purpose.
 Once the water is pretty clear when you move the fiber it is time to rinse. drying the fiber is as easy as laying it out on an old window screen (non-metal) and placing it in the sun for several hours. If it rains or gets too windy you can bring it inside and have a fan blow on it. I was so excited the first time I washed a fleece. I was sure I felted it because it was so wet and stuck together. However, the next morning when I woke up it was white and fluffy as a cloud. I dried that one in the house. Once it is dried you can keep it in a cardboard box, paper bag, or a Rubbermaid® tub. I like to keep cedar shavings or a block of cedar in with it to deter bugs. I have never had any problem with moths yet, but I would rather be safe than sorry.
Leicester Longwool

Oxford

I hope you gained some useful knowledge. This is a sample of the Leicester Longwool spun up. I will post a spin blog hopefully with a short video soon.











These cute little guys I whipped up for a friend who was having a baby. I am not a crocheter so that means they are easy to make. I found an old pamphlet (Crochet Bean Bag Pals & Pillow Bag #842511-By Sue Penrod-The Needlecraft Shop Pamphlet-2000) that I fell in love with! I thought a baby would love squeezing these little guys and throwing them around. I did not use the Poly-Pellets suggested in the pattern, I only used poly fill. I also embroidered on the faces with needlepoint floss instead of using hard plastic noses and eyes which I thought would be safer.  The bunny, I used some velour yarn I had around the house. He is so soft! The beaver started off as Benny Bear from page 3 of the pamphlet but after I made him and showed him to my boss at work she commented that he looked like a beaver and since my oldest daughters mascot at Blackburn College is a beaver he became Barney the beaver! I love him as a beaver. (I used Knit Picks Brava Worsted yarn color Brindle) I just embroidered on teeth and created a tail. He is very squeezable too!

                                        


This is a blanket I made for my oldest daughter when she went to college. I wanted her to be able to cover up and feel hugged by me at the same time. The pattern was from Prouse, Leanne. Knitting at Home: 60 Classics from Ella Rae Designs. New York: Sixth & Spring, 2010. Print. The pattern was the Cable & Garter Stitch Throw on page 52. I used Wool of the Andes Superwash Amethyst Heather from www.knitpicks.com. I loved knitting it and found it easy to remember the pattern without the instructions by keeping two stitch counters on it for the two different cable patterns and stitch markers separating them so I didn't have to count. It was my favorite travel project. I am very happy with the warmth and softness of the yarn. Everyone loves the color! 

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