Category Archives: Fibre

Rare Breeds Show 2011

My entries for the Rare and Traditional Breeds show at the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton, which takes place tomorrow, are finally all ready to roll.  Most have been ready for a while, they just needed labelling up and skeining nicely.  I was shocked to find how much energy just doing something that simple took, it looks like a very slow journey back to being the old me 😦

Here are some photos of three of the skeins of yarn – the entry form says ‘neatly wound’ but I couldn’t quite figure out how that would apply to tailspun locks!

Rare Breeds Show 2011 - Skeins close up

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Tour de Fleece 2011

Well, it has been a little quiet on the blog of late, due to a spell of ill-health. However, I’m on the mend (ish) now and have been busily spinning away this week for the Tour de Fleece.

I bought a bulky flyer for my Ladybug recently.  I’ll write up a post all about the flyer as  it cost an eye-watering amount of money and I could find very little about it before I handed over the money.  The first week of the TdF has been spent getting to grips with my new toy and experimenting with art yarn.

Tour de Fleece - Week 1

Annis

This project made me very happy!

The fibre was my favourite colour, I bought it on a rare day out at Unravel, it was pleasant to spin, satisfying to knit and taught me how to add beads.  It’s a free pattern, so if you want an Annis of your very own pop over here to Knitty!  Don’t be put off by the joy of casting on 360-odd stitches to start with, just add in lots of stitch markers and, honestly, after the first few rows of lace it just whizzes along.

What’s up, blossom?

I hope the weather has been kind to you – I have been enjoying the spring sunshine, and happily crafting away.  Shiela, of www.handspinner.co.uk, is running a competition which coincided nicely with my plans – to enter you have to create something inspired by her photo of blossom.

I spun a two-ply yarn, one strand was tencel, the other a repeating colourway of various tufts of pre-dyed merino and some white shetland fibre.  In a rare moment of ‘finish-a-project-itis’ I picked up my needles and put together a top-down hat.  There wasn’t a lot of yarn, so it’s baby-sized, but that meant that the stripes worked out pretty well (and the only head it would fit was that of a toy rabbit…):

Shiela’s competition is still open, so why not join the fun and games?  Click here to find out more!

Getting started with crochet – using a magic ring

Another photo tutorial for you… I like writing step-by-step guides!

I’m about to add a free crochet pattern which uses the magic ring technique, so I hope this tutorial will help if you haven’t tried it before.  Using a magic ring can be a bit fiddly, but it helps to avoid that irritating hole that appears in the middle of your work when crocheting in the round. 

Here’s how it works:

1  Create a ring with your yarn, making sure that the end that leads to your ball of yarn is on top of the yarn that leads to the cut end

2  Use the hook to reach through the ring and pick up the yarn

3  Pull the yarn back into the centre of the ring

4  Pull the yarn through, up and away from the centre of the ring

5  Yarn over hook…

6  …and pull through the stitch on the hook

7  You can now work your first stitch (eg, double crochet) into the ring – if you are using ‘tall’ stitches such as trebles you might want to create a chain of a few stitches first

8  Continue working stitches…    

9  …until you have the number you need for the first round

 10  Pull the cut end of the yarn (gently!) – the ring should close in and pull the stitches into a neat circle

 11 Add a slip stitch to close the round of stitches

Fractal Spinning

Having seen some beautiful yarns, such as this Glowing Ginger by Bowerbird Knits, I decided to try fractal spinning for myself.  I used Corriedale fibre from My Heart Exposed in a colourway named Clarese, a beautiful mix of greens, rust browns and peach tones. 

I split the fibre into two strips, lengthwise.  One length was left as it was, the other split lengthwise into two again, giving a shorter fatter piece of fibre and two thinner strips.  The idea behind fractal spinning is that the singles will have colour repeats at different rates which will give an interesting effect when plied.

The fibre started out looking like this:

and when plied became yarn like this:

I am pleased with the end result, but possibly the colours (lovely as they are) were a little too similar in tone for the fractal patterning to show as distinctly as it could have done.  I’m looking forward to making something from this to see how the colours appear when knitted – I’m imagining that it should have lots of subtle changes.

Knitting with beads

This could also be titled ‘I’m afraid of those nupps’!  I’ve started knitting Annis, a crescent-shaped shawlette, using yarn spun from this fibre thatI purchased at Unravel:

Annis starts at the bottom, so you cast on 360+ stitches which is a bit of a challenge.  I added lots of stitch markers to ensure I don’t get lost!  I’ve not tried nupps before, but I did have some beads around that were just the right colour (and hopefully, if my maths is right, I will have just enough – I don’t want to think about getting most of the way along the last row of beading and finding that I’ve not got enough).  After a bit of research I found various descriptions on how to add beads when knitting.  Here’s how I have been doing it, in case it helps someone somewhere:

1  The next stitch needs to have a bead on it:

2  The beads are on a thread (I have about 150 beads on there and tied a VERY firm knot around the one on the end so they don’t all explode all over the floor) with a sewing needle that fits through the hole in the beads easily.

3  Thread the sewing needle through the stitch:

4   Remove the stitch from the knitting needle:

5  Then pass the sewing needle back through the bead:

6  Move the bead so it is on the sewing thread:

7  Move it further down so it is on the yarn:

8  Remove the thread from the yarn loop:

9  Put the stitch back on the left-hand needle:

10  Knit the stitch as normal:

11  Repeat as required…

I did read about people using dental floss instead of a needle and thread, but I didn’t have any to hand (sorry Mr Dentist, I may not always tell the truth about my flossing habits…).

Unravel

I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to driving – I have a list of bad experiences/excuses, including a car fire, which was followed within weeks by the courtesy car that turned out to have no spare tyre when I had a puncture whilst on a main road in the middle of Devon, a few hundred miles from home.  So, I had to have strong words with myself before setting off on the 40 mile journey into the unknown… well to The Maltings at Farnham, home of the yarny extravaganza that is Unravel.

My courage was rewarded by a great start to the day – standing in the queue and one of the stallholders came out and randomly gave me a free ticket!  Thank you very much to the folks at the Textile Garden who sell a very lovely range of buttons, ribbons and more.

The yarn/knitting theme was obvious from the start:

 

The theme continued within – even the ladies’ loo wasn’t forgotten:

There were many things to look at, from the weird to the wonderful:

And inevitably, I bought some goodies:

The main highlight for me was on the Threshing Barn’s stand – there was a Ladybug and a Matchless available to try so I had a go on a Matchless (nice, but not that much nicer than my Ladybug, which is great as I couldn’t afford one anyway)!  I also got to do some random enabling, just standing near the wheels singing their praises to anyone who’d listen.  Ladybugs will take over the world…

Swirly

Having bodged my purple/aqua batts into yarn I didn’t want to set it aside (as happens with so many of my skeins…) I was keen to see how the colour graduation worked when made up into something.

There wasn’t a great length of yarn and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it… Lorrie’s swirly artwork came to mind again, so a spiralled piece of crochet came into being:

I’ve had another spiralling rainbow crochet design in my mind since last autumn, but I need to dye some fibre and I need the weather to improve first.  I also need to think about the amounts of fibre to be dyed – this batt had pretty equal amounts of each colour, but as the spirals increase in size so the colour ends up in thinner and thinner sections.  Just need more hours in the day!

Batts and attempts at long-draw

I have been at the drum carder again…  Last week I read this blog post by Vampy which describes how to create batts with colour shading (basically layer the colours, split the layered batt into strips, fluff the fibre strips out sideways and feed them through again).  The photos showed lots of sparkle being added – how could I resist 🙂 ?

This was my attempt number one:

It worked, but I think the fibres were a bit too close in colour to show the colour changes clearly.   I used three different colours, pale blue, teal and green but it looks more like two colours.  I tore the finished batt into about 5 strips and spun them in order, then navajo plied them so the yarn would fade from dark to light:

Now, it’s not perfect, but could you just note that most of the yarn is pretty smooth and even.  I’m currently knitting it into some iPod cases using 1.5 mm needles and it’s looking fine.  I’d like to mention that now, because some of the later pictures are not so pretty…

I tried another batt, with a wider colour variation:

This colour combination seemed to come to me from nowhere.  Whilst congratulating myself on my amazing creativity, I realised it wasn’t my creation at all!  I had been looking at artwork online by Lorrie Whittington, a local artist, who has used this pallette of blues and purples in some of her work and it had obviously imprinted itself on my mind!   Do go and take a look at her work, it is swirly and whirly and beautiful!

This time, I split the batt into a dozen or so strips to try and get a more gradual change in colours:

Again, I spun singles.  Then, half way through the bobbin something in my head said ‘try long-draw’…  I’ve been meaning to, having watched Ruth at the spinning group whizz through yarn effortlessly.  The sensible thing would have been to try it out on some fibre that was hanging around waiting to be spun, something ordinary or in a colour I didn’t like particularly – goodness knows that there’s plenty around!  But no, something took over and I started playing around half way through using the batt I had so carefully laboured over. 

I could not quite bring myself to remove my left hand from pinching the yarn and stopping the twist, but my right hand was happily moving backwards with the fibre stretching out in a trail as my hand went back.  I even managed to get rid of my vice-like grip on the fibre, remembering what I had been told at the Weald and Downland when I tried the Great Wheel – ‘imagine it is a butterfly in your hand, you don’t want to crush it’.  So, my attempt was probably nothing like long-draw at all.  I’d call it coward’s long-draw at best!

This was the result – a small skein of yarn which starts off purple and even and smooth and then deteriorates into lumpy bumpyness as it turns blue.  It didn’t help that I plied it whilst my daughter was watching Mary Poppins – there’s something about Dick van Dyke doing a Cockney accent that reduces me to tears of laughter…

I’m pleased I had a go, but it served as a reminder as to how much there still is to learn about fibre and spinning.

From Fibre to FO (a rare event)!

A couple of months ago I purchased some ‘hotchpotch’ packs of fibre from Helen at My Heart Exposed Yarns (www.folksy.com/shops/myheartexposed).  I used one pack to experiment with corespinning and over Christmas I put the other pack of blue shades to good use.

Another rare event happened before Christmas – I won a prize in a raffle!  It was bath goodies and came wrapped in some lovely paper:

I used the paper as inspiration for creating the yarn.  The ‘hotchpotch’ was mainly shades of blue with a bit of plum thrown in – I added some blue merino and some brown mystery fibre that I received in a waste selection from www.worldofwool.co.uk.

Once carded together they looked like this:

and I even remembered to write down the ingredients:

 

It started to go slightly downhill from here…  The fibre was great to spin, I navajo plied it and got an aran weight yarn.  The mix of colours began to get a bit muddy looking for my tastes:

 Again, I remembered to note down some of the vital facts…

I adapted the stitch pattern from the Spiral Mitts I knitted before Christmas and made a squishy cosy cowl:

I’m still not 100% sure about the way this turned out, but hey, I actually finished something!

Singles

A couple of posts ago I wrote up how I drumcarded a mix of fibre samples from the Fibreholics into a heathery batt in shades of pink.  When we left this saga, the yarn was on the bobbin…

I decided to leave the yarn as singles, so wound them off onto the niddy noddy.  Things looked quite in control at this point:

Then it came off – wheeee!

It went into very hot water, then cold, then very hot again, then cold with a bit of swishing about each time to try and felt it enough that it would hold together.  By this time it was then really, really curly:

I hung it up to dry with a coat hanger hooked in the bottom of it, just to try and encourage it to de-kink a bit.  By the time it was in a skein it looked better behaved:

It came out a bit thinner than I had aimed for, so another skein that goes in the big ‘I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with this’ pile.  The skinniness of this yarn is averaged out by the 200g of Light Grey Suffolk that I spun aiming for an aran-ish weight to make some nice thick boot socks with – it started well, but I got distracted and spun a couple of bobbins of really fine singles before going back to it.  The second and third bobbin ended up on the thicker side so I have some 3 ply bulky-ish yarn instead. 

I have been working on a record keeping system, I just need to remember to fill it in at the vital points so I can remember how I got the yarn the first time!

21st Century Spinning

I dragged myself into the 21st century in January and bought myself an iPod touch.  Of course, step 1 was to knit it a lovely cosy to keep it safe:

I have somehow managed to lose this. (I never lose anything.  Ever…)  If you have any idea which safe place I’ve put it in, do let me know.

They say ‘there’s an app for that’ – oh yes, there certainly is!  There are quite a few for knitters – I’m working my way through some of the free stitch counter apps and working out what I like and don’t.  So far, Knit Counter Lite is working out well for me.

There are not so many spinning apps but I’m using the iSpinToolkit (not a freebie, £2.99).  It can tell me all sorts of technical things that I didn’t know I needed to know, like:

The angle of my yarn’s twist:

Its wpi:

and even the twists per inch:

I’ve been spinning for just over a year, so maybe I’m ready to move on from the ‘look I made yarn’ stage to learning more about this technical looking stuff?

Drum Carding

Now that I’ve made a start on sorting my fibre/knitting stuff, my Minty drum carder has its own table and I have been doing much more carding.  Having my carder ready to go has meant that I’m doing bits and pieces here and there, rather than making it a major operation to get it out and find space for it.

Looking at the stats for my blog, I can tell that lots of people visit looking for info on drum carders, so here’s a write up with lots of pictures to show some of what you can get up to…

Last February I bought a fibre pack from the Fibreholics (http://www.thefibreholics.co.uk/) – basically you get several 20g samples from a number of different fibre dyers/suppliers.  The theme at the time was Valentine’s Day so there was plenty of pink in the mix – I bought a 200g pack so had ten different samples to play with.  I had started making (but somehow still not quite finished…) a bag, but still had around 60g of various fibres left.  I added in some white shetland and a few other bits and pieces to make it go a bit further, ending up with around 100g:

I split the 100g into two fairly evenly coloured lots and fed it onto the carder.  Given that the fibres were already split into small sections, I just randomly selected them and fed them in, trying to spread the colours equally over the drum and add the white in every so often.

In the end the drum and resulting batt were fairly stripey:

I rolled the batt lengthways into a long sausage and then drafted it once into an even longer sausage.  Just for good measure, I then drafted it one more time until I had a long continuous length of fibre – the stripes were still pretty visible:

I did start spinning this, aiming for a soft DK/Aran-ish weight single.  I didn’t like the result!  Too stripey for my taste, and I felt that it would knit up into blobby variagated patches which is not what I was aiming for.

So, back to the carder… I ran it through again (much easier a second time) and got a more heathery sort of blend:

I removed the batt and tore it lengthwise into half a dozen strips, then drafted each one a bit, just to remove any stray clumps/bumps.  This looked much more promising:

The batts turned into these singles:

 

Which hopefully will become a hat.

I’m done with Santa…

I’ve just finished using all the fibrey goodies that I received in the UK Spinners’ Secret Santa on Ravelry.  First the pictures:

Three ply Falkland Fibre – Summer Cobbler colourway

Silk Hankies/Falkland 2 ply

The Falkland fibre spun beautifully evenly and very thinly, which I was really pleased with – I want to spin and knit something in a laceweight yarn but haven’t achieved the consistency in spinning to do so yet, so this was a big step forward.  I ended up with uneven amounts on the bobbins, so got 330 yds of 18 wpi three ply and two bobbins with a fair bit still to use! 

I plied one bobbin with the silk and navajo plied the other.  I got better at using the hankies as Iwent along but it was still rather lumpy and bumpy in places.  The resulting yarn is very light and floaty.  I don’t really like barber-pole yarn, but would try plying silk and something in the future with a closer colour match, maybe 2 plies of fibre and 1 of silk.

Thank you again Secret Santa, whoever you were – I got a lot out of your gift!

Teddy Bear Noses? Third shelf on your left!

I’ve been having a sort out.  It’s amazing the stuff that accumulates – sometimes I think it multiplies when I’m not looking.  I bought some plastic storage containers and started sorting out the small stuff:

Buttons and Ribbons

Cotton Reels

Short knitting needles

Long knitting needles

I wasn’t kidding you about the teddy bear noses – well, they are mixed in with teddy bear eyes, joints and squeakers:

Some of these goodies belonged to my gran.  I did manage to part with some of her cards with thread to darn my stockings with, I’ve not got much call for that these days!  I did find this though – it’s tiny but still intricately marked:

It is a bit rusty and looks like a crochet hook, but it is so tiny! 

Any idea what it’s for?  Crocheting with thread maybe?

Christmas swapping

I have braved the world of Ravelry swaps for the first time this Christmas – a girl’s got to do something to ensure she has a present to open on Christmas Day after all! 

My British Banter buddy excelled herself in the glitter category:

and my present was great too:

My UK Spinners Secret Santa really came up trumps:

Turns out that it was a good idea to organise my own pressies – so far today I have a jotter pad and two packets of salt and pepper pistachios!  My MIL is on her way and will probably give me money (=knitpro DPNs I think) and my Dad is stuck in the snow but has sent a hamper.  I just hope the goodies I sent out were equally well received!

And then there were three…

The third pair of mittens are complete:

These were a scaled down version of this pattern:  http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/nalu-mitts.  Now I need to find something else to create, the Christmas projects are at an end!

Knitting with glitter

Yay!  Second pair of mittens is now finished – just one more to do and Christmas knitting is sorted:

Mittens galore

Knitting gifts for Christmas always seems such a good idea – but why does it always end up taking more time than you have?  The snow and ice has returned and it meant a day of going nowhere and an excuse to do nothing but knit.

I’m doing three pairs of mittens and have finally finished one pair, the other needs another three rows per hand and I have finished one of the other pair (which was the pair I started first…).

This pair are for my mother-in-law, a lover of animals.  The yarn is spun from a batt made of merino, alpaca and angora so represents a good selection from the animal kingdom.  I’m not sure I carded it very well, the angora went into little clumps, but it made an interesting tweedy effect so I’m going to claim it’s a design feature.

Corespinning

I am amazed that there are so many things you can do with fibre.  I seem to have so many things on the go, so many unfinished projects and somehow no self-control when it comes to trying things out on the spur of the moment!

I have wanted to try corespinning for a while, having tried spinning coils earlier in the year.  I sat down last night to ply some singles to make gloves for a Christmas present, but somehow I accidentally ended up corespinning…

I bought some fibre from Helen and Angelica at http://www.folksy.com/shops/myheartexposed a week or two ago.  They specialise in using natural dyes and come up with an amazing range of colours.  Helen and I seem to share a love of autumnal colours, so this mixed lot of fibres particularly appealed to me.  I put the fibre through the drum carder and threw in some gold nylon to add to the autumnal feel, ending up with a mix of burgundy/pink/rust/copper colours.

I then spun some white shetland singles, adding lots of twist.  Next time I’d use something closer in the colour to the fibre I was using to wrap my single – in some places in my yarn the core peeks though, but you live and learn.  The end result is rather twisty – not as curly as some singles I have produced, but maybe another time I can get it to balance a bit better.  I love the end result and hope to use the rest of Helen’s fibre in this way (when I have finished the Christmas projects…).  It’s currently drying on top of the woodburner, but I am impatient to try knitting a swatch, just to see how it behaves.

 

Snow!

Many other parts of the UK have been experiencing snow over the last few days and unusually it has now made it down to the south coast.  It has been snowing slowly but steadily here since yesterday and now there are several inches, the roads are quiet, schools are shut and most people are not attempting to get to work.

I’m not entirely sure that the dog was looking forward to going out this morning though…

Advent Calendar

I have to admit that Christmas is approaching – despite my lack of present-buying, card-writing etc to date.  The advent calendar has come down from the loft and, as happens every year, we are going to have to buy more chocolate coins to put in the pockets.  Every year we buy a bag of coins here and a pack of chocolate Santas there but still there are never enough for 24 pockets x 3 people.

Warm and toasty

My first project using a batt I created is now finished:

I made three batts of various orange/rust/gold/brown shades of merino blended with some copper coloured trilobal nylon.  Each batt has a slightly different style – one was layered, one was randomly blended and the other graduated from dark to light across the batt.  Each batt became a single and resulted in a worsted-ish three ply yarn. 

The colours lent themselves well to the Candle Flame cowl (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/candle-flame-cowl) – I managed to complete two and a half repeats of the pattern and squish in a couple of purl rows and end up with a yard or two of yarn left over – result!

Cranford Mitts

They are complete…

The thumb construction is deviously clever – instead of increasing to make the extra stitches you just stop decreasing within the pattern.  These are a gift for someone, but I think I’ll make another pair for me!

p/hopping with Cranfords

If the title makes no sense, read on…  ‘p/hopping’ was new to me, but is a simple enough idea – you give money (p is for pennies) for the hours of pleasure that you get from something knitting-related.  p/hop acts as an official knitting fundraiser for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)/ Doctors Without Borders.  You can donate just because it’s a good cause, or you can donate as much as you want to in return for using one of the many patterns available on the p/hop website:  www.p-hop.co.uk.

During November, a knit-a-long is taking place using the Cranford Mitts pattern.  I was planning to use some of the tealicious yarn I spun from one of the many batts I’d created, but I want some purple contrast yarn for the cuffs and I haven’t quite got round to that yet.  Instead, I decided to use some lovely sparkly yarn in shades of pink that I made back in the summer using fibre from http://www.etsy.com/shop/FeltStudioUK – it was one of the nicest bits of fibre I’ve ever had the pleasure of spinning.  So far, so good:

 

Elegantly Wasted…

The quest to put more and more fibre through my carder is continuing.  I began to worry that I might not have enough fibre to keep me going.   (I ignored the boxes of stashed away stuff.  Variety is what I was after…)  In need of an instant fix I ordered a 500g mixed waste bag from World of Wool http://www.worldofwool.co.uk/products/36/special_offers.htm

A very well stuffed bag arrived a couple of days later – it must have had the air well and truly squished out of it as once I undid the knot at the top it pretty much tripled in size.  Here’s what I got:

Mostly merino (I think!) – there’s over 100g of the green merino in the bottom right of the photo, but also some humbug looking something (shetland or BFL) shown on the bottom left.  Should keep me carding for a while?

Batty…

Maybe I am too keen on my drum carder, I seem to have fluffy fibre batts everywhere..

I have yarn. What next?

Having carded and spun the batts I’ve made I’m ending up with smallish skeins of yarn which are pretty but need to have some sort of purpose.  Perhaps if I put a bit more thought into what I was making right from the start it would work better…

The pink sparkly batt is now half an adult sized hat, one that won’t work because there just isn’t enough yarn to finish it.  It needs frogging and reworking in a smaller size but I just haven’t got the heart to do it at the moment.  So I’m starting another hat with some of the other yarn. 

The new hat’s yarn was a mix of some dyed fleece in all sorts of autumn shades which I bought at the East Sussex Guild Textile show last year – I think I paid something like £2 for a carrier bag full.  I blended it with some plum and dark green silk and threw in some mid-brown merino.  I made two batts, one with more of the  dark fleece the other with the lighter, brighter shades in it.  Then I spun one bobbin that was 2/3 dark then 1/3 light and the other 1/3 dark and 2/3 light,  my theory being that it should the finished two-ply would have a gradual colour change.

The thing I am really impressed about is how I can wind a centre-pull ball – this one is very neat!!

I just need to find the right hat design now for 100 yards of bulky-ish yarn…

My New Drum Carder

I’ve been saving  for a few months now, waiting to get a drum carder.  The time finally came and a decision had to be made…  I compared several carders in my price range, including the Ashford carders, particularly the Wild Carder which appealed to me because it was a compact design.  However, I eventually plumped for a Minty carder, 72 ppsi with extra-deep sides and a packer brush (http://mintyspinningsupplies.com/page3.htm).  A couple of factors swung it for the Minty – the deep sides mean you can put the carder on the floor or a table and there is room to turn the handle without it crashing into the surface and crushing your fingers, and it’s good to support a local craft supplier instead of the big guys for a change.

It arrived by courier a couple of days after ordering, well-wrapped and the only construction needed was adding the handle.  Since then, nothing has been safe from the carder – the dog is looking nervous again, after having escaped from the purple dye earlier in the year!  I seem to have an addiction to angelina sparkle and have added it to two of the three batts I have made so far.

 

I’ve thrown merino, shetland, angelina, washed/dyed fleece and silk into the mix so far and it’s going fine.  Putting the fibre through twice helps and I’ve learned the hard way to be patient and only add a little at a time.  I’ve also discovered that there is a fine line between having a range of interesting colours and everything turning sludgey…