Sunday, March 30, 2014

Finally finishing my shawl

I must confess I have had this shawl on my Triloom for some time... Now I am in the home from of finishing. I am trying to decide on a yarn for the border.

I saw my Triloom teacher today. She does incredible stuff with a Triloom...I would love to be as talented as she is.



Malabrigo Mess

I bought some beautiful Malabrigo roving. The color is incredible... The roving is not. It is terrible to draft. Normally I can easily spit my merino braids horizontally... Not this stuff. Eventually I did it but I had to predraft. It is like the fibers want to stick together....I have had to predraft most of this stuff and even then not the most fun to spin. I have another braid of this brand in a different color in my stash... I will report back it it is as horrible. I will not be buying this again. Here is a picture... Lovely but not fun!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

A closer look at my hand spun

I would love to have a microscope to examine fiber at a much closer level. For now camera magnification will have to do the trick. In the photo below are three hand spun fibers. The orange is a 2 ply BFL and silk blend. The purple is a 3 ply merino. The yellow is a 2 ply polwarth.



I find it interesting that the two ply polwarth and the 3 ply merino look so similar. I wonder if it is related to the bouncy springy characteristics of polwarth. Another important thig to remember is that polwarth were developed by combining 1/4 Lincoln and 3/4 Merino.. So the similarity to merino makes a lot of sense.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Expensive Spinning Tools

I am going to take this moment to rant on the expense of spinning tools. Of the major spinning wheel companies there are few if any that have wheels priced below 500$. Most spinning wheels price out at near 1000$ and many are even more. This is has turned this into a craft for the wealthy. I am happy there are companies like Blue Bonnet Spinning wheels of Texas that do have wheels below 500$. I am also happy that many weaving guilds will rent spinning wheels at really low prices...

Drop spindles are another area where prices get crazy....70-80$ And more for a wooden drop spindle. I am sure they are pretty but do they really spin better than a 20$ Schacht spindle.

Of course drum carders cost another 500$... At least. I was lucky enough to find a rescue..but not everyone has that luxury.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another Good Craftsy Class

I am currently watching another good Craftsy class. It is called sweetheart shawls. The teacher is Kristin Omdahl. She is wonderful. She has a great attitude and is very encouraging. In this class Kristin goes through every step. If you are a beginner knitter you could definitely take this class. The shawl patterns are lovely too. Kristin is a fantastic designer and she encourages you to modify her designs to make them your own. I love that with some of the techniques you learn you could take one of your already knitted shawls and add to it. The pattern titled Tiered Jasmine Shawl.. The technique where you add the tiers is modular method and Kristin even suggests trying it with shawls you already have... Very cool. I highly recommend this class.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hand spun compare 2 and 3 ply

I have a much better photo of my spinning of the merino braid of color peppers


It makes me even happier to be learning to spin three ply yarn. I notice it helps even things out more.

I converted my photos to black and white so I could better judge the difference the the three ply make. I did this so I would not be biased by the color. I still think the yarn on the bottom looks more even but it's not as noticeable in black and white.





Friday, March 21, 2014

The 3-ply Why

I have been watching Judith MacKenzie's video on plying. She really encourages using at least a three ply yarn for knitting. And possibly even adding more plies. Truth be told I have never made any substantial amount of three ply yarn. I have practiced chain plying.. But only in small amounts. I have 8 ounces of beautiful merino that that ian have spun onto three bobbins. I decided that I was going to do it. I am finally going to make a real three ply following Judith's instructions. At first it was tough going... My yarn broke twice... This never happens when I make my two plies. I stopped and added twist to one of the singles... But I am not sure this was the actual problem... I was following Judith's Instructions exactly... And normally I hold my singles with my right hand and ply-draft with my left. When I switched back to the way I normally do it... Nothing more broke.

Tip: I had a lot of tangling at first so I put my bobbins as far apart as I could...I even put one on a separate lazy Kate. This helped me a lot.

My wheel does not hold a lot of fiber so here is about half way.. It's not perfect but I must admit it looks a lot better than my 2 ply yarn. I just gives a much more professional look. I totally can't wait to knit with this. Once I feel comfortable with 3 plies maybe I will move up to 4 or 5 plies.



Yummy delicious fiber

I would not say that I am a good spinner. I can make yarn that I love and yarn that I can knit with. I feel like I have improved a lot in the last year but I still have a lot to learn. Why do I keep doing it ? Yummy fiber! There is a lot of wonderful fiber out there and it is wonderful to touch and look at. Some of it is so soft and some of it so colorful. Malbrigo sells some beautiful merino braids the colors are awesome and the prices are reasonable too! Of course there is nothing like a beautifully made batt to play with!



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beginner knitting

Do you remember your first knitting ? I remember mine. I kept the swatches and put them together to make a throw. It probably seems odd but I love this throw. When I look at it I remember how I struggled with those first stitches. The pink was my very first. I could not count rows... I could not tell the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch. The awakening I had when I read a book that explained those differences... How it made knitting so much easier to be able to read my knitting. I remember that then the only place I knew of to buy yarn was Hobby Lobby. I remember thinking yarn was so expensive...little did I know.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spindle with a bobbin..more

The spindle with a bobbin that I tried works best with a spindle with a straight rod spindle. I am not sure if there is a way to get one to work with a curved or tapered rod spindle. I don't have a spindle like that, all of mine are simple.

The o ring snugs the bobbin in place. If you don't have an o ring you could try a rubber band.. It is a bit more work since you have to double..triple..etc the rubber band. Here are some close ups.. The first is the o ring the second is the rubber band... Notice they are both under the bobbin somewhat. That is how they snug it up

Rubber band


Monday, March 17, 2014

More Make Your Own Modular Spindle

The spindle in the previous post is a simple Schacht spindle. It has a notch on the whorl. It is relatively lightweight but it has a long shaft. I spun with it last night with the bobbin on and it worked beautifully. The bobbin is a simple 4 inch Leclerc weaving bobbin, I am only using it for spinning. It costs 1.04 from the Woolery. I have not tried using the 6 inch bobbins. Some of my spindles have shafts with a circumference larger than that of the inside of the weaving bobbin. I am trying to come up with a solution for those. There are o rings that will fit them so all I need is a bobbin.

Here is the spindle and bobbin with about an ounce of fiber, it still spins well!



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Make your own Modular drop spindles ?

Recently I have been researching the idea of a drop spindle that could hold a mini plastic weaving bobbin. These weaving bobbins weigh almost nothing, cost very little and you could just put a new one on when your spindle was full. I am not sure if the bobbin would disrupt the spinning of the spindle. I found some similar ideas out there. One is the idea of a modular spindle by KCL woods. You simply remove the shafts. Actually not a bad solution but still kind of expensive
Another is by a person in the UK. The web site is . The modular spindles there actually use a bobbin. Yeah! Unfortunately they are also expensive.

I like the bobbin idea because I could use my current lazy Kate to ply with.... As a type of test I might try getting a piece of rubber tubbing to use to hold a plastic bobbin in place on one of my current drop spindles to see if it will still work as a spindle with the bobbin on.
Here is my first try. This is using latex tubing It spins ok. I like it better on a spindle with a notch in the end

Here is another try using o rings. These are the very small ones. I find I like it best with two prints one on the top and one on the bottom. Then I use the one on the top and kind of push the bobbin over it. This will help to make it so the bobbin does not rotate.

Not wedged

The o rings are easier to get on and off the spindle when compared to the latex tubing

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cleansing your spinning palate

I have been working on spinning some really beautiful pinkish purple merino. It is very soft. To take a break from it I tried spinning a batt. The batt felt so rough and tough that I felt terrible spinning it. That was last night... This morning I spun more of the batt and it was a completely different experience. It felt much softer. The batt hadn't changed but my perception had changed. It reminded me of how when you switch from eating something sweet to something salty... It tastes saltier than if I had just eaten it alone. Sort of like aftertaste. I guess the lesson to be learned is if you're unhappy with a fiber try it again on a day when it is the first fiber you will have a clean spinning palate at that point and it might feel completely different.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The humble drop spindle

I learned to spin with a drop spindle and it is still one of my favorite tools. My biggest complaint is that I can't fit enough fiber on my drop spindle.. I can fit far more on a spinning wheel bobbin. I still spin with a spindle because sometimes it is so much more convenient than a wheel... And I want to keep the skill that I have developed and continue to grow it.

My first drop spindle was big and heavy and I spun relatively thick yarn.. At that time I could not imagine spinning with a small lightweight spindle...Now I find that there are some fibers that I absolutely cannot spin on the big spindles.. But my smaller spindles can spin everything and even cotton.

Which do you think was one of my first spindles:

If you guessed this one you are correct.

At that time I did not like top whorl spindles.(this is where the round part is at the top.). It was so much easier for me to use a bottom whorl. I think this was because a lot of the time I would spin it supported on the table and when you are starting a bottom whorl is so much easier for that. Also the park and draft method. When I started I would draft out then spin. Stop spinning and draft out some more.. Then spin again. This is also called park and draft. I think park and draft is much easier with a drop spindle than a wheel. You can do it with a wheel though.

Here is a nice spindle..light weight but long to fit a decent amount of yarn.


The one I am currently spinning with, it is almost getting too full.

Others that I love


This one is light enough to spin cotton on.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spinning cashmere and yak

I carded my cashmere fiber into a rolag and tried spinning this. It was much easier than spinning it alone. Spinning it alone is possible but a lot trickier. I also liked that I was able to get a slightly thicker singles. Spinning it alone I almost spun thread... Too thin for my needs. Here is a picture.. It is three ply and it was probably the weight of sock yarn.

I did the same for the yak down. It was also easier. The results were similar

Here is a picture of this result.

My spinning instructor before I learned anything made me learn to make rolags. Lots of rolags.. It was kind of like the musical equivalent of learning scales. I didn't appreciate it then but I do now. For these expensive luxury fibers.. I think it is worth the time investment to make rolags.

Spinning both of these reminded me of spinning cotton... Although very different than cotton the fiber shortness made me think that perhaps learning to spin cotton might be a less expensive way to practice for spinning these luxury fibers.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why is cotton so hard to spin ?

I think cotton is hard to spin both because of the short fiber length and the structure of the fiber. I found this picture(microscopic photo) and while I cannot vouch for its accuracy to would explain some of this. The far left of the photo shows the wrinkled like appearance of wool. It makes sense that it would grab onto other fibers more easily. Notice all of the first four fibers have these same wrinkles. The last four strands do not. These are considered harder to spin. What helps silk out is its long staple length. I have not tried to spin linen yet. This photo over simplifies things a lot... I would imagine a lot of variety in the different wool breeds and also in the different types of cotton. I would love to have this type of microscope to study these things

Recently I watched another spinner spin some Corriedale that was some of the softest I had felt. I would love to look at this fiber under a microscope and compare it to the Corriedale I regularly spin and see the differences. I would also love to do this with the two cottons I have been working with. I think the science of fiber is fascinating.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Cotton drafting and spinning

Cotton will draft freely with almost no twist. Cotton has a staple length between 5/8 and 1 1/2 inches. The appropriate size yarns will be fine yarns. The fat and skinny yarn limits. On the coarse end of cotton it does not go bulky... When you do this you lose your strength. It is hard to get enough twist on the fiber to fiber ratio.

One of the tools used to spin cotton is a charka. It is a drive wheel that spins a spindle. Similar to a drop spindle you need to wind the yarn on yourself.

Cotton joins. Scary to me. To do a join lay the yarn on top of the fiber on top and let it go and give a little bit of pull.

I tried spinning some cotton that I had found in my stash... What a disaster. Then I got some cotton cards and made a rolag. What a difference... So much easier. Still not easy.

I find that if I separate the drafting and then add the additional twist, as Stephanie suggested it works better. Remember to pinch off the top of the yarn when you are adding the twist. I found I did better with one of my small spindles as opposed to my tahkli . Of course I had to do joins..and they were not as bad as I expected. I think it will be a while before I feel ok to do this on a wheel. The nice thing about using a spindle is that you can take it as slow as you need to.

If you seem to be having a really rough go of it. It might have something to do with your cotton. I have two types and one is easier to spin than the other. The one is smoother and flatter than the other. The fluffy more disheveled cotton is easier to spin and make into a rolag.


Here are some pictures.. These are of my easier to spin cotton.


Rolags are at the top


My cotton cards


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cashmere and Yak

Yippee, I found a little cashmere and yak. The staple lengths are sooo short. I had to spin the spindle really fast to get a sample spin.(still way easier than cotton). I found the yak slightly easier to do a sample than the cashmere. I think if I prepared either in rolag form they would be better. When find some hand cards I will give that a try.

Here is the cashmere:

Spindle sample


Here is the yak


Spindle sample:


Knitting and spinning updated



I have a bunch of ruffle yarn that I ordered before Christmas. Some of it I made into scarves but not most. I tried to knit another scarf yesterday and I realized why... I hate knitting with this stuff... I am always untwisting it or looking for another hole. It might be faster but when you dislike doing it, the whole process slows down.



I have been searching for the Unspun cotton I know I had sitting around and I still have not found it. But I did find a couple of ounces of a yak and silk blend. It is sooooo soft and a lovely grey color. I don't think it was really fact I think it was less than 5$ an ounce and maybe less than 4$ an ounce. One time it is cheaper to spin the yarn than buy it. I have found yak blend yarns costing well over 30$ a skein and they do not have as much softness as this.

I have been spinning some lovely merino. I am going to make my first three ply. I know it needs more twist in the singles than a two ply. Once I have three bobbins I will do a sample and I figure I can always add more twist by running the singles through my wheel again.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spinning cotton

Today I am studying cotton spinning and processing. I really like the video by Stephanie Gaustad, Spinning Cotton. She starts with the topic of processing cotton for spinning.

As she says wool and cotton are nowhere near alike. Cotton is so adhesive to itself that it almost drafts itself. The drafting and the adding twist are very separate tasks. They need to be broken down into two separate stages. Cotton is easily compressed so do not hold it tightly. Cotton wants to be spun thinly.

Cotton is a seed fiber. It is the fiber that covers the seed. There are two basic types of cotton seed, hairy and slick. Stephanie covers removing the seeds in her video. Roller gin - slick seeded cotton. Eli Whitney's cotton gin for hairy seeded cotton. Hairy seeded cotton was probably what you read about in your US history.

Willowing cotton is one way to process after de-seeding. You take two sticks and, use them to hold the cotton and shake it over a screen to remove the lint from the cotton.

Stephanie cards her cotton on cotton hand cards and rolls them into rolags or punis. Then these are spun long draw.

I also have another DVD on spinning cotton... When I watch it I will compare the techniques and update his blog page.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Video knitting classes

I love to watch knitting tv shows. Unfortunately there are not a lot of knitting shows on TV here. I try to get my crafting videos from an online forum called craftsy. I love craftsy. I have taken several of there courses and they were all great. My favorites were the drop spindle one and the Entrelac courses. The drop spindle class was one of the reasons I got into spinning...and I have tons of posts about that. The Entrelac course is awesome... Gwen Bortner is terrific she does help Entrelac become your mindless knitting.

Craftsy also has a lot of free classes, currently I have been listening to class on micro torching is very cool and it makes me want to start jewelry making.

I also love to watch craft DVDs. Most of mine are from Interweave. I do love the privately published ones. Jacey Boggs has one titled Sit and Spin, even non spinners will enjoy this DVD. It is fabulous. I like that the artist gets a little more of the money from the sale of private ones. I try to support my favorite little ways..buying a knitting pattern or kit from them...books, DVDs. These folks are not getting rich in fiber arts. I hear you are lucky if you get a dollar a book from book sales...who knew. When I first started knitting.. I thought the writers of the books could retire off the sales..I have learned that this is not the case.

This is the cowl I knitted in the craftsy class..... It was so much fun. Maybe it is time for another.


Rescuing a drum carder

I must admit I was a little hesitant about rescuing this drum carder. When I tried to rescue a rigid heddle loom last year from craigslist it was a complete bust. The price on this was low enough that even if I had to replace the carding cloth(which is very expensive) the carder still would have been a lot cheaper than buying a new one. ( estimating the cost of carding cloth replacement at 200$) brand new carder cost at least 500$ and many are a lot more.

Here is what I did:

I took it apart and cleaned it up. Took the chain off and cleaned it with a cloth. When I put it back together I added some oil. I used a vacuum cleaner on the drums. I would really love to put them in some soapy water but I am worried it will ruin them. I did spray them with bug spray...when I first got it I was worried about critters. When putting it back together I researched how far apart the swift(big drum) and licker(little drum) should be...the responses I got were it depends on the fiber, generally the width will fall between a width equal to a sheet of paper or equal to a credit credit card.

Enough of that... Here is the cleaned up drum carder:

I love it! . The carding cloth is in good enough shape for my needs... Some tines are bent but it seems to work ok for blending.

Here is what it looked like when I bought it. It was sitting outside and very dirty.