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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On Spindles

I’ve written a lot about spinning since I picked up the hobby early last summer because it is something that has burrowed itself deep in my mind and will not let go for a lot of reasons. Spinning yarn is something that most see as an archaic activity made useless by all of the technology that is in use everyday. Though in a practical sense that may be true, the act of spinning is not useless. Spinning is a centering activity. It both produces a useful product and creates a healthy mindset in the spinner.

Tibetan Puyok Support Spindle from Malcom Fielding on Etsy

Tibetan Puyok Support Spindle from Malcom Fielding on Etsy

Spinning can be done using a spindle or a wheel and what I am most curious about and often think about, are the differences between the two tools. After spending nearly a year working from a spindle I find myself wishing for a wheel some days and cursing the idea of them the next. Spindles are so personal, so delicate, and so variable that there is an infinite amount of information and techniques related to them. Spindle spinning is also one of the oldest handcrafts in existence. The connection to the past and the wealth of human history experienced when spindle spinning is comforting to me as a modern spinner.

 

 

Russian Orenburg Support Spindle from Russian Lily Designs on Etsy

Russian Orenburg Support Spindle from Russian Lily Designs on Etsy

The spindle is a tool that has been a staple in cultures for centuries and I love knowing that I am doing my part to keep it somewhat alive and present in the current culture. Spindle spinning offers you the opportunity to experience different cultures and styles of creation through a simple adjustment of the tool type. You can spin as a Tibetan craftswoman when you use a Tibetan support spindle or a Russian spinner with the Orenburg supported spindle. These tools are similar but immensely different when their origins are explored.

Cassandra Spinning Wheel from JMSwheels on Etsy

Cassandra Spinning Wheel from JMSwheels on Etsy

Wheel spinning is also doused in history but of a different kind than the spindle. The wheel signifies to me a step closer to industrialization. This form of industrialization specifically is obviously more personal than the massive factories that came soon afterwards but you cannot deny that the personal spinning wheel helped pave the way to a mass-produced society. The spinning wheel took many forms before it reached the treadle version that is most common today but no matter what its form it still signifies a shift in culture and the attitudes towards creating items for use. The wheel no matter what its form called for a dedicated amount of time to the craft because it was not and is not as mobile as a spindle. I believe this immobility solidified craftswomens’ roles in their societies too much. The wheel needs a dedicated spinner to sit and spin where the spindle allowed for the spinner to travel with the spindles and partake in other activities or chores while still being able to create materials necessary for living.

Heavenly Handspinning "Fidelis" from Heavenly Handspinning on Etsy

Heavenly Handspinning “Fidelis” from Heavenly Handspinning on Etsy

Quality wheels from traditional manufacturers are now so expensive that it is a challenge for modern crafters to experience them regularly. The increase in independent wheel producers and designers draws me and many others, based on the multitudes of sales these people have, closer and closer to the world of wheel spinning. I’m interested in assisting this designers who are making an effort to design a usable, visually interesting, and affordable tool like the Etsy sellers (some have also branched out to distributing their wheels to vendors like the WooleryBlue Bonnet Spinning, JMS Wheels, and Heavenly Handspinning. I appreciate the work that these people have put into making wheel spinning more accessible for a wider audience.

 

 

Bumble Bee Wheel from Blue Bonnet Spinning on Etsy

Bumble Bee Wheel from Blue Bonnet Spinning on Ets

 

Though the wheel presents a powerful argument as to why I should whip out my wallet and cough up a few hundred dollars for a quality tool, I want to cling to the spindle and all of its variations because there is so much that I don’t know about them yet. Someday when I wish to produce more material in a shorter amount of time and wish to commit myself to the immobility of the wheel craft a wheel will find its way into my house. For now I will keep spindling and acquiring the histories of different cultures through their individual methods of textile creation.

 

I want to know what others think about the spindle versus wheel debate. What do you use? What brand or style of wheel or spindle? Are you a practical use spinner or an art yarn spinner? Why do you spin at all?

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.

Adventures in Handspun

DSCN0058I just recently finished spinning the purple/blue fiber I acquired at the Knitting and Stitching show in Ireland and it is so soft and rich that I’ve been keeping it near my desk so I can occasionally pet it when the mood strikes. I ended up with one 50 gram bundle being 210 yards of fingering weight yarn and the other 50 gram bundle being 235 yards of fingering weight. The smaller bundle turned out much more blue than the larger one but they still coordinate really well and should make a lovely garment.

I’ve decided to make a shawl but I can’t decide which shawl pattern to choose. I feel like this is a really momentous decision because I have not made a usable garment from my own hand spun yarn before. I have made a small pair of rainbow hand spun mittens (child size) but they adorn my yarn board as decoration rather than a functional item. I’ve picked out a few patterns I might use and will spend the week deliberating. Let me know which one is your favorite because I need all the help I can get with this decision!

IMG_1366Henslowe by Beth Kling

I adore this delicate shawl and apparently so do 1562 other knitters. With so many projects it is easy to tell that this pattern is one worth making. The crescent shape of the shawl is really sweet and really compliments the soft lace edging.

 

 

 

 

The Birthday ShawlThe Birthday Shawl by Kate Twirl

I really dig that the lace edging is knitted onto the main triangle piece of the shawl because I am a newbie to lace work so the thought of ripping back, in case of a likely accident, a few stitches as opposed to hundreds is really appealing. It is also a really traditionally shaped and designed piece so it would be a nice addition to my collection of knitted items.

 

IMG_1610Momijigari by Beth Kling

The size of this shawl is great because it can be worn draped over the shoulders or as a scarf with minimal awkwardness. Shawls can be hard to pull off in an everyday setting because of their shape but this shawl would not be a challenge to wear at all. The lace pattern is also really intriguing.

New Year, New Tools

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and are looking forward to getting into the swing of a bright and shiny new year.

Since I grew out of the dolly and makeup phase of my childhood, my new years have always been brought in while enjoying new tools. My mom is my number one arts and crafts enabler and made our Christmases about giving the proper tools to further interests and skill levels in the fields I was obsessed with at the time.  The past ten or twelve years have brought me some magnificent tools to further my crafty endeavors and this year/Christmas is no different. Last year I learned how to spin and have been coveting some basic tools to make the whole process of spinning much easier, including a second spindle, an adjustable niddy-noddy, and a skein winder.

New spindle with its current BFL project

New spindle with its current BFL project

Deconstructed adjustable niddy noddy in 1,1.5, and 2 yard lengths

Deconstructed adjustable niddy noddy in 1,1.5, and 2 yard lengths

Adjustable skein winder

Adjustable skein winder

These tools came from an Etsy seller called theknitstore. Their items are amazingly priced and cover all your basic spinning and weaving tool needs.

I’ve already been able to make good use of my new tools and was able to spin up one of two bundles of a purple toned BFL bundle and ply some purple-blue silk.

Purple toned BFL- 210 yards of fingering to Sport weight yarn

Purple toned BFL- 210 yards of fingering to Sport weight yarn

Blue-purple silk - 85 yards-Sport weight

Blue-purple silk – 85 yards-Sport weight

I also snagged a few really great books for Christmas and can’t wait to do some proper reviews for them here. They are: Knit to Flatter by Amy Herzog, The Complete Guide to Spinning Yarn: Techniques, Projects, and Recipes by Brenda Gibson and Eling Chang, and Sticky Readers: How To Attract a Loyal Blog Audience By Writing More Better by Margaret Andrews.

I want to say thank you to all my readers for following along this last year and that I hope to keep you entertained throughout 2014. I wish you all a fruitful and creative new year!

Silky Smooth

DSCN9888 (2)I mentioned in my last post that I purchased some pieces of pure silk to spin at the Knitting and Stitching show. I have spun up the silk caps and spinning silk is by far the weirdest facet of fiber arts that I have experienced. From peeling apart the silk layers to drafting the sticky fibers, silk has got to be the most fascinating fiber at a spinner’s disposal. I love how organic and natural it feels while I spin and the glistening yarn it produces is really satisfying to see as a product of the effort put into it. I did a lot of pre-drafting with the cap layers so the thickness of the single is somewhat uniform but there are quite a few places where the silk wanted to spin thicker or thinner and I just let it happen. I’m not really aiming for any specific type of yarn with this fiber I’m just enjoying the experience and letting the silk tell me what kind of yarn it wants to be. I’m going to start on the silk brick in the same colorway soon and I’m really excited to see how this type of preparation effects my spinning.

DSCN9847 (2)On the knitting front, I started and completed some more Christmas knitting. It is a simple raglan pullover for my little sister. She is incredibly thin and tall so hopefully this women’s small won’t look too ridiculous on her! (sorry about the photo, I’ve yet to block this piece) I used the pattern Brick by Clare Lee as a base and added a few mods.

 

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I’ve also begun another sweater for my mom. Hopefully this one will be more suited to her tastes. I’m using Shapely Boyfriend by Stephanie Japel as a base and modifying the length of the body, length of the sleeves, and adding a shawl collar. I’m about a third through the body if you can’t tell in this mess of a photo.

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.

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.