Documented Failure

I am afraid of failure. Terrified actually. I also abhor the possibility of other people knowing about my failures. But I think it is time to confront this fear and show off my most recent disappointment.

So even! I love this half and it looks eerily similar to the Cascade sport-weight in my stash.

So even! I love this half and it looks eerily similar to the Cascade sport-weight in my stash.

Behold the yellow merino of my nightmares.

So. I began spinning this four ounce bump on my trusty drop spindle. The first half went well, fantastic even. The first two ounces yielded nearly 300 yards of mixed fingering and lace weight yarn. While I spun this first half I noticed that yes merino needs a higher spin and tended to react better when I moved through the process as quickly as possible.

UGH. Look at all of those horrifying nubs.

UGH. Look at all of those horrifying nubs.

Then came the second half of the bump. For some reason I couldn’t keep the spin fast enough, the fiber was constantly breaking, the plying process resulted in tons of little twisted bobbles that I cannot get rid of, and the fiber continued to break as I plied so I ended up with a multitude of tiny overhand knots holding the fragile fibers together. There are a few stretches of unmarred yards of usable yarn but I am so angry at the sight of all of those little knots that this skein may be going directly into the garbage can.

Here are some more up close shots of the disappointment skein.

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Now what to do with 300 yards of nice yellow yarn and 300 yards of garbage yarn?

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Masterpiece

This journey began way back in November 2013, in Dublin, Ireland. I picked up this glowing bit of BFL wool and started daydreaming about what it could be.

While with my family in Wyoming I began spinning the fluff into a simple fingering weight two-ply yarn. Each full wrap of the cop showcased a new hue of purple encouraging me to spin faster.

DSCN0058After a couple of weeks of intensive spinning I ended up with nearly five hundred yards of amazingly soft yarn. I let it adorn my desk area so I could pet it whenever I wanted.

I spent weeks searching for the perfect pattern that would stretch the labored yarn as much as possible. I landed on Henslowe, a popular pattern with a lot of detail. I cast on in March and the shawl kept me company through the homework, work, and interview speckled weeks.

DSCN9919On April 6 this piece was complete. This is my first real spin to finished product project and every second of it was completely satisfying. The final project is luminous with a fuzzy halo of comfort in person. There are a few mistakes in the lace and a few places where the yarn thickness changes drastically but I think those mistakes make it that much more exciting. This shawl feels like a masterpiece.

Details
Yarn: handspun fingering 2 ply 490 yards
Pattern: Henslowe
Measurements: 53″ in wingspan 18″ deep
Mods: added two repeats of the lace pattern

DSCN9916I ended up with about 4 yards left of the yarn and made it into a tiny skein and hung it on my bulletin board as a souvenir of the process.

 

 

 

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Keeping Cozy During the Never Ending Winter

I swear I have some real content a-brewing but for now I’ve got project updates galore. I’ve gotten into the habit of always having a pair of socks on the go for travelling/at work during downtime and I just finished a pair for my sister and promptly cast on another for my brother.

DSCN0084They are both in a dk weight acrylic knit on size 4 needles. Although I have come to see that knitting with acrylic really isn’t the most luxurious of experiences, it is a hard-wearing and cheap material that is great for making things that are likely to be lost by (relatively) small siblings. The purple stripes are for my sister and the blue for my brother.

 

DSCN0092After completing the Beurre shawl I began the infamous French Cancan shawl. I have had this shawl pattern on my radar for at least two years and finally decided to conquer it. I am using a soft grey wool/acrylic blend that I had left over from a Christmas sweater. Though this shawl won’t have quite as much drape as the original it will be incredibly cozy and perfect for wrapping tightly around your shoulders.

IMG_20140301_153952Moving beyond knitting, I finished the first half, about two ounces, of the Lemon merino. I ended up with 294 yards of fingering weight yarn. It is my most even spin to date and highest yardage from two ounces of fiber! I’m going to begin the other half this evening.

I have a question for other spindle spinners out there, have you ever used a Russian support spindle? What was it like? What fiber did you use? What fiber would you recommend? Do you recommend a certain spindle maker? I am really interested in trying a new spindle breed and am captivated by the action of spinning supported. Let me know if you have any tips or tricks!

Speed Knitting and Slow Spinning

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My Beurre

So my last post detailed the beginnings of my Beurre shawl. I started this shawl on February 2 and completed it February 10 and sewed in the couple of ends last night. This shawl is not a small piece of fabric with its final measurements being 68″ long and 17″ wide. It incorporated miles of garter stitch and should have taken me much longer to complete. What’s my secret weapon? Massive amounts of stress and uncontrollable business. It seems that on my busiest days I find the most time to knit because I need that time to take a step back from whatever I’ve got going on and just breathe. So stress+minimal time to spare=a giant shawl in eight days.

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Organic Polwarth

Since my life has been a little more hectic than usual due to class, homework, and preparing for the real world (resumes and applications) I crave simplicity when I need a craft to work on. Spinning fills this need perfectly. The repetitive motion and need for precision allows me to focus my energy and worry into something that I can control one hundred percent. Last week I purchased two new to me types of fiber to spin on as the semester winds up towards midterms. I bought a 4 oz braid of merino wool in the colorway lemon and a 4 oz braid of organic polwarth in its natural color.

 

Lemon Merino

Lemon Merino

I’ve begun working on the merino braid and am taking it slowly and am just enjoying the calm that washes over me as a work and think and sort out my life. I’ve not spun merino before and I am really loving the look of the singles. The staple is a bit shorter than I am used to but its still lovely to work with. I can’t wait to see what the finished yarn looks like when I complete this project but I’m definitely not rushing to finish.

Knitting and Stitching Show Highlights

Over the summer I started researching fiber related fun things to see and do while in Ireland and I found the Knitting and Stitching show. I have literally been looking forward to this crafty festival since July and it did not disappoint.

DSCN0737My day began at six in the morning so I could catch the seven thirty bus from Galway to Dublin and arrive in the city by eleven. After I made it to Dublin I caught a cab to RDS and ended up having a fabulous conversation with the driver. I told him where I was heading and he replied, “Ah, you’re going for the wool then yeah? My mother used to own a wool shop when I was a kid.” I had hit the cab driver jackpot so we spent the fifteen minute drive chatting about knitterly goodness and the amazing things his mother used to make for him and his brother when they were children.

DSCN0733When I arrived to the show I was blown away by the number of vendors and the number of people already packed into the building. I have only been to one other knit festival, the Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago which is wonderful but doesn’t hold a candle to the Knitting and Stitching show in the sheer number or booths.

 

DSCN0743I spent the first hour examining all the galleries and chatting with the artists who made the exhibits possible. One woman had just finished an arts degree in a design school and had spun paper maps into yarn on her drop spindle and then hand wove the yarn into small sculptural pieces and wall hangings. Another woman had a lovely display of pieces made from fabric that she designed herself. Her website is www.subadesigns.com. Seeing all of these amazing textile related art pieces has made me really consider a degree in textiles and design.

 

DSCN0766Once I had finished gawking at all the artwork it was time to shop and by that time the entire building was packed. It took ages to walk anywhere and I was constantly hitting someone with my backpack (sorry to anyone I may have injured along the way). My two favorite booths were Coolree, a hand dyed luxury wool company from Wexford Ireland and Oliver Twists, a hand dyed wool and silk fiber company from the UK. I spent a lot of time petting all of the things in these two booths and would have stayed all day if my wallet would have let me. Unfortunately I didn’t purchase anything from Coolree because it was sadly out of my college student price range but I plan on buying from them in the future. I did buy DSCN0769two 50 gram bundles of BFL fiber from Oliver Twists and a couple of bits of their dyed silk. I’ve never spun any silk before and the silk bits were .18 cents per gram so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it.

I had an amazing time taking everything in at the show and can’t wait for my next opportunity to attend another fiber arts filled festival. For now I’m going to enjoy my new fiber and new batch of crafty inspiration.

Show and Tell

I finished spinning my hand dyed orange, yellow, and red gradient roving and I love it! I decided to use the Navajo ply so unfortunately I didn’t get too much yardage from my two ounces of fiber. I have about 70 yards of worsted weight yarn that I have no idea what to do with. At least it is pretty to look at.  DSCN9878 (2)

I also made some little mittens out of my rainbow hand spun from my last post. These will fit a 5-7 year old child’s hand. I had about 2 yards to spare at the end of this project so it all worked out perfectly. Even though the stripes are in no way matching or even consistent you can still tell that these go together. I don’t know if I have ever loved a pair of mittens the way I love these!DSCN9875 (2)

Yardage and Fluff

The only fiber purchase I have ever made is a 1lb bag of ecru Portuguese wool top. I bought this when I bought my spindle and I have been making my way through it since then. This one pound bag was meant to be experimented with and that is exactly what I have been doing.

Once I figured out the initial spinning technique it was time to get down to business. I spun up about five ounces of incredibly thin singles so I could practice plying techniques. Here is my very first two ply yarn (the fat one) compared to my second two ply yarn (the skinny one).

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It is amazing what a difference a little bit of practice can do. Next I tested out the navajo ply method. I love the way the yarn looks with this ply, it seems more professional/commercial looking without looking mass produced. Of course I could still use some practice with this technique. It is really a challenge to do this with a light spindle. It got easier as the spindle gained more weight from the yarn.

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After working with cream roving for a while I have been craving some color. I split up the rest of my 8 ounces of roving into 1.5 and 2 ounce pieces and used kool-aid to experiment with color. I’m amazed at how bright the colors turned out. I did a rainbow piece, a red orange gradient, a teal-purple, and a darker red with a bit of purple.

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I have been working on spinning the red-orange-yellow gradient and I am loving how it is turning out. The red tones are really vivid and heathered with hints of orange and yellow.

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Of course I couldn’t wait to get spinning with my new colored roving so I didn’t snap any pictures of the rainbow piece until it had made its way into a completely finished yarn. I got about 90 yards of DK weight two ply yarn from 1.5 ounces of roving.

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Spinning with colorful fluff is so exciting because you really don’t know how it is going to look until it is all complete. I am definitely going to have to bulk up my stash soon because I know these colorful pieces won’t be waiting for long to be spun.

Future Spinner on the Loose

I have long admired those who can deftly handle a drop spindle and ably turn a mountain of fluff into usable material. This timeless craft is so hypnotizing to watch with the added bonus of creating something useful. Textiles and fiber crafts are so ingrained in my existence that I could not stay away from spinning anymore. I want to be closer to my materials. I want to be a part of the process. I want to know that I am creating something natural. So I bought a spindle and a pound of fiber. I am ready to begin.

Schacht Hi-Lo Spindle-- Just ordered and on its way to my itching fingers.

Schacht Hi-Lo Spindle– Just ordered and on its way to my itching fingers.

There is something really enticing about being part of a reviving tradition. In a world where everything is outsourced and manufactured to be devoid of originality and charm I find great value in hand crafts and am so glad that I have come from a familial background that supports them.