Category Archives: Spinning

Lovely locks

It’s that time of year again, the Rare Breeds show at the Weald and Downland Museum is coming round again.  I think it must be six years since my first entry, which was made using a spindle created from a CD and a chopstick!


I have one project well underway, but I’m hoping to get a skein of polwarth ready to enter as well.  I bought a small amount of locks a few months back, have washed them and started flick carding them.  They were not really dirty to start with, but a gentle soak and rinse made the locks look like something out of a washing powder advert!

In attempt to keep my hands from complaining too much about overuse, I am swapping between carding and spinning.  Spinning this fleece is a pleasure, I must remember to take my time plying as that is where I tend to get impatient and it all goes horribly wrong…

 

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Bracelet plying

Waste not, want not, as they say…

I’ve been spinning some lovely, but rather slippery, fibre recently.  It took me a little while to get to grips with it, so I’d used quite a few handfuls of it before reaching a point where I could spin it consistently. I figured that my early attempts wouldn’t make great finished yarn, so, once I was happy with what I was producing, I tied a slip knot in the singles to mark the end of the experimenting, split the remaining fibre, spun it and plied it.

This, of course, meant I had quite a lot of singles left on the first bobbin.  I knew I would need to try a few needle sizes to get the right gauge for this project, so I thought that I might as well ply what was left and use it for swatching.

I have used bracelet plying in the past, but it has usually ended up with me being on the brink of going to A&E to be cut out of the mess that was wound round my hand, having cut off circulation to my finger!

This time I opted for the high-tech, finger-preserving, “DPN poked in a book” method:

  • Pop the DPN between the pages of the book so it sticks out of the long edge
  • With the front of book facing you and leaving a long tail:
    • Take the single up from the spine of the book (on the right of the DPN), behind the DPN, down to the spine of the book (on the left of the DPN)
    • Take the single under the spine to the back of the book, up to the top (on the left of the DPN), wrap it in front of the DPN, bring it down (to the right of the DPN) until you are back where you started.

Eventually I ended up with this:

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Using a book has its advantages (apart from keeping your fingers intact) – you can put this down at any point and come back to it later.  No more odd looks from the postie as you struggle to open the door…

When I’d wound on all the singles, I set the wheel up, put the start and end of the singles together and tied them to the leader.  I then gently slid the DPN up and out of the book:

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I then poked the DPN between the singles and the front cover to hold the space that my hand would go through.

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I edged the bracelet off the book:

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Then pushed my hand through the loop:

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I fiddled about with the two singles until they fed onto the bobbin without catching themselves up in the rest of the bracelet:

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And I was away!

I wish that I could show you a huge skein of neatly plied yarn to encourage you to try this for yourself.  It was all going so well… I did manage to get a fair amount of extra yarn this way, but I also let my attention wander somewhat and ended up with this:

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Maybe a smaller/tighter bracelet would have helped?  Or maybe concentrating more…!

Violent Violet’s socks

Sometimes (OK, quite often) I run before I can walk. I have a good idea, which is overtaken by a better idea, then I tweak it a bit more and see further possibilities. It all gets too complicated, too ambitious and nothing actually comes of it! After a spell of ill health last summer (if you have a kidney stone, make it a small one, having a 3cm one removed is not a great deal of fun…) I thought I had found a fun project, spinning and knitting socks as a gift for someone.

It started so well, we agreed on the pattern and the colour and I set to work. These socks were going to brighten anyone’s day. The fibre became affectionately known as violent violet:

IMG_1179 Worried in case I ran short of yarn, I spun 200g of fibre into a 3 ply – making something for someone else made me feel I needed to do things “properly”, none of that chain plying, what if they felt the bumps??? So far so good.

The knitting started and then life just kept getting in the way. Then the guilt set in, they sat staring at me every time I sat down, still with just the toes completed. Another spell of ill health and more guilt because I was at home all the time and still the wretched things weren’t getting any further along.

Eventually progress was made, and after I gave myself a stiff talking-to I managed to turn the heel at Christmas. I kept thinking ‘if I just did one pattern repeat a day they’d be done by the end of the month’… I kept torturing myself with thoughts that after all the effort they wouldn’t fit – we have the same size feet, but mine are unusually narrow so every time I tried them on they flopped about and it all looked wrong!

Finally, finally they are winging their way to their new home. I hope they are worth the wait!

IMG_1885 The pattern is Coming Together Socks and Violet is not really violent at all, in fact she is generally known as Violet Merino from World of Wool.

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…).

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?

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.

 

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!

How many plies does a girl need?

It’s almost a year since I started spinning on a wheel.  I’ve been stocking up on bobbins and whorls as the membership discount that I purchased when I bought the wheel runs out pretty soon.  I’ve now got 5 standard bobbins and 4 high speed ones, which should be enough to keep me going for a long while.  At around £30 per bobbin that’s a lot of money on bobbins – one of the (few) downsides of a Ladybug wheel.

I decided to put the bobbins to good use and try a 4-ply yarn.  I had 100g of grey cheviot which I had already made a start on – I was impatiently trying out double drive and waiting for the high speed bobbins, so started on a standard bobbin, then put it to one side when the exciting new shiny high speed bobbins came along.  Fickle, me???

So, there was about 35g on the existing bobbin so I split the remaining fibre into roughly even sections and spun three more bobbins worth. So far, so good!  I went and fiddled with the inbuilt lazy kate, adjusting everything so all the bobbins sat nicely and the tension bands went where they should.  I think I overdid it as it was hanging onto the yarn a bit too much whilst plying, so I’ll have to go and tweak it again.

Plying four singles at once was interesting…  I tend to ply using a whorl which is a couple of sizes larger than the one I used for spinning the single, but even this resulted in a somewhat overplied finished yarn.  I think it was a combination of trying to keep four singles under control, them all fighting the lazy kate and me treadling like a demon.  Although it wasn’t perfect it did make a lovely round yarn.  Of course I ended up with three bobbins with varying amounts of singles on them, so made some more 2 ply to use it all up.  I have a picture in my mind of a hat I’ve seen somewhere with a seed stitch brim, then plain stocking stitch and a knitted flower on it.  Despite looking in many place I can’t find it online, so maybe someone wore it in a TV programme.  If the yarn isn’t too wire-like it may turn into something like that.

I want to try this again though – I have a vision of a lovely fat squooshy yarn which I could make into a great big wrappy round scarf.

Hanging on to summer

The weather is definitely changing.  I am managing to stick with my running but getting up and going running at 6.00 am is getting harder as the mornings get darker and the temperature keeps dropping!

In an attempt to stop the sunshine becoming a distant memory, I spun up the Summer Flowers fibre that I dyed earlier in the year.  I’ve been using double drive on my Ladybug again and I’m enjoying experimenting with spinning this was and am gradually achieving thinner and thinner yarn.  This yarn is just starting to become a pair of socks.

  

A really big wheel…

Another day out at the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton today.  It’s the Ruby Anniversary of the Museum this year, which is worrying as I am older than the museum…  Last night I went to the bonfire party and today there were more special events. 

There seemed to be relatively few people at parts of the weekend I attended, possibly as the Musuem made everyone buy tickets, even members who had already paid for year-round entry – the cost to attend the full weekend would have been more then we paid to become members for a year!  It’s understandable, but also a shame as there were plenty of new things to see and do, including the Red Devils parachuting in this afternoon.

This lovely spinner let me attempt using this wheel.  I’ve never done long draw before, and this enables you to have a really long distance between the fibre and the spindle!  She turned the wheel so I could concentrate on the fibre – it was OK to begin with and I kept backing away from the spindle-tip, and further away, and further away – I was almost in the next county, then the fibre broke.  I had another go trying to spin the wheel myself and nearly took the top of my finger off, and produced a snarly bit of yarn which she kindly plied for me to keep as a souvenir.

I wore my finished Liesl today (which I think gave the game away that I might be a spinner and got me the offer to try out the wheel)!  I found some buttons at www.eternalmaker.com that I thought were just the job:

I think I did quite well to come out of the The Eternal Maker with just these three buttons – it’s too tempting in there sometimes, not good for my purse!

Liesl – finished at last!

You know how some projects, through no fault of their own, just don’t want to come together?  This was one of them.  I spun some yarn months ago, started knitting and it was the most hideous creation I have ever seen!  The yarn was a multicoloured pink mix which combined with the feather and fan pattern was just way, way too busy.  For a while it stayed on my Ravelry pages headed ‘Barbie and My Little Pony in the blender’…

This version is much calmer.  I managed to use up almost all the yarn I had spun (about 400g of arun/bulky weight) – literally just a couple of yards spare.  I knit the yoke and a fair bit of the body then started wondering when to stop.  I went back and knitted the arms, then kept going on the body until the yarn ran out.

I’d like to knit another one of these – maybe a calm mix of colours, and a slightly lighter-weight yarn (this version is certainly warm and weighty)!

Holiday Knitting and Spinning…

It has been a little quiet on the blog as I haven’t been around for a week or so, having been sunning myself on holiday.  Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I have been self-catering, getting soaked and doing routemarches round places of interest to 9 year olds for  a week.  One day I will get to do as little as possible in the sunshine with someone else doing the cooking…

However, I did take the essentials with me – some fibre and my spindle, my copy of YarnMaker magazine, my Leyburn socks and a Liesl cardigan (if I could have got my wheel in the car I would have done)!

   

Back to reality now, well a mountain of washing and ironing, but I do have another week off work.  Amongst the many things I’d like to do this week is get one of my patterns written up and available via my blog, so watch this space!

YarnMaker

A new UK spinning magazine will appear next week – YarnMaker.  I’m looking forward to getting my copy.  The YarnMaker website now has a ‘pay by PayPal’ button, making it easy for you to get a copy too…  www.yarnmaker.co.uk

A Haldane has come to stay

My jammy daughter has been given a Haldane wheel by a member of our spinning group! 

 

It has taken several hours of jiggling, adjusting and oiling but it is now working much more smoothly than it was.  It is much harder to treadle than my Ladybug, but is growing on me.  I look forward to finding out more about this wheel.

I also managed to get half an alpaca fleece for a huge £2.50 so I don’t feel left out in the goodies stakes!

The Tour de Fleece is at an end…

I had quite a productive time.  I didn’t complete the projects that I had planned, I’m too easily led astray, especially with shiney new fibre and spindles.  I’m pleased with what I achieved though, especially the coils!

 

Rare Breeds Show 2010

I had a lovely day yesterday.  The sun shone, I enhanced my stash a bit and bought two spindles from IST Crafts. 

  

I started spinning using a spindle, an Ashford one that is about the size and weight of a small country by comparison to these!  I made a few spindles myself out of wooden wheel, CDs and bits of dowel and they all worked well enough, but weren’t that well balanced.  When I first got my Ladybug wheel I put the spindles to one side, but these are so pretty and spin forever.  I’ve had a quick go with both of them – I bought some oatmeal BFL/silk blend which I tried out on the drop spindle after a rather nice picnic, then tried a silk hankie on the turkish spindle (after a few hours on one layer I had to admit defeat and go to bed, leaving it for another day).

I did manage a rosette yesterday – my Shetland Fern scarf as awarded sixth place which I am delighted about!  The fancy yarn class was great, and it was a skein of coiled yarn that picked up a first place so I will have to keep in training for next year!

It felt so good!

This was an odd project – it sort of came from nowhere and all worked out right.  I’m sure something suitably disastrous will happen soon to rebalance this in a karma sort of way…  Meanwhile I’m really happy with my new bag!

      

It’s lined with pink corderoy fabric and even has a magnetic fastener to keep the top shut.  I’ve managed to fit my purse, camera, diary and a little bag of fibre inside it (just in case I need to try out any spindles today, you understand) and am off to test it out.

Rare Breeds – Handspun Entries 2010

I’m lucky enough to live near the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum which has a Rare Breeds Show every July.  I’d been regularly, but last year it took on a whole new slant as I had been spinning (spindling?) for … at least six weeks!  I didn’t let that put me off, I entered two items in the novice classes and came away with two rosettes.  I guess I better point out that there aren’t too many novices out there, so the competition was not exactly fierce.  I got prize money too – I think a first and third place earned me about £4.50 (so I made a profit – it was £1.5o for each entry)!

I’ve upped my game this year and am entering three classes – Shawl/Stole/Scarf, Natural Skein and Hat/Gloves/Other.  I’ve just put the tags on and am ready to roll in the morning.

I agonised over how to attach the tags.  Is it bad form to use a safety pin?  Would it be showing off to use more handspun yarn – or should it be co-ordinated with the item?  I hope I can’t hear them sniggering as I leave the display tent…

I’m hoping I will manage to buy some lovely spinny things too.  I have my eye on a spindle from IST crafts and there were quite a few other fibre stalls last year so I’m sure that won’t be all that I come away with.

I bought some buttons today and am about to start frantically sewing them onto my newly felted bag (then adding a lining and some sort of closing device).   I couldn’t find any flower shaped buttons, I had a picture in my head but maybe I saw them at the Lewes Guild show in October, not in the shop I went to?   I want to take the finished bag on its first outing tomorrow to a suitably fitting event, so hopefully I can post a picture of the finished project tomorrow morning before I go.

Supercoils

I was struggling at making coiled yarn and by happy coincidence Vampy posted a great guide on the UK Spinners’ group: http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/uk-spinners/1220078/1-25#13.

The highlighter pen is not just a random object… To make successful coils you have a core yarn which is suitably strong (I used embroidery thread) and the other single wraps around it. If you do a normal 2-ply, both singles wrap around each other, but here the core yarn doesn’t want to get tangled up with the other single at all.

I tied both the thread and the single to the leader and then let the pen dangle down so as the thread twisted during coil spinning all the twistyness just went down the thread and made the pen spin and just sort of oozed away. When I had used up the thread that was available I just unwound a bit more and locked it under the pen clip to keep it all from unwinding too much.

It took ages to spin the two together and after an entire evening’s work I had a grand total of… about 12 yards – wooohooo!

Fear of felting…

So, the fibre I dyed has been spun and plyed and is rapidly turning into a bag.  The handle seems to be taking forever – I wanted it to be strong so it is a tube of seed stitch, but I can’t decide when to stop knitting.  I’m going to felt the bag so the handle will get shorter, but I bet it will stretch with use…

I knitted a Booga Bag a couple of years ago and remember that it got much shorter but not a lot narrower so I’ve tried to take this into account when making this bag.  Hopefully I will finish the handle today and get it in the washing machine – I hate that bit, what if it eats all my hard work and turns it into something the size of a thimble?  Then I’m on a button buying mission tomorrow so I can get it finished and use it on Sunday!

Candy Floss

 

Another Tour de Fleece project – pink merino, BFL and sugarplum angelina carded together and spun as singles.  I did several hot/cold/hot/cold soaks to set the twist and felt the yarn slightly so it would all hang together, which it seems to have done, even if it is still a bit curly wurly!

I have a plan…

I don’t often have a plan, things tend to just sort of happen!  Here’s the plan – I want to make a bag, a green grassy sort of coloured bag.  It’ll have a shoulder strap and I’m going to felt it.  Then I’m going to find some lovely buttons in the shapes of flowers and sew them on.

So I needed some yarn.  Which meant I needed fibre.  So I had to dye some:

 

200g of falkland fibre, in various shades of grassy green.  Just got to spin it now…

Tour de Fleece – Black Welsh Mountain Fibre

Here’s my first finished spinning for the Tour de Fleece:

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It’s 100g of Black Welsh Mountain fibre that I bought from World of Wool.  I wanted to try out this fibre as I’d been promised a fleece, but apparently the poor old sheep are still wearing it (and must be sweating away given the weather at the moment).  It was my first go at using my Ladybug in Double Drive and it worked out OK, althought I found the takeup a bit light for my taste.  Thanks to the Schacht Spinners group on Ravelry for helping me to get all my string and whorls the right way round – I will try and write up what went where soon.

How much yarn can you get on a bobbin?

Lots!  Lots and lots and lots and lots…

This is the purple shetland fibre that I dyed in my second attempt at dyeing, plied with the various blue/purple/teal/green/angelina fibres that I carded together.   This measured up to be around 700 yards of somewhere between lace and fingeringweight yarn.  The purple has dulled down the brighter colours somewhat.

I had ideas of making a lightweight cardigan, knitting a thin yarn on big needles and weighing the cuffs and edges down by adding beads.  I’m not so sure now, this might become a wide stole, maybe based on a feather and fan stitch.  I tried a swatch, just to see how it knit up.

Thick and thin

Not so long ago I ordered this fibre.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but thought I’d have an arty moment and try out spinning thick and thin yarn. 

The fibre just flew onto the bobbin!  I used my new slow speed bobbin and the thick bits turned out lovely and squishy if a little bit overly plumptious and the thin bits were, well, to be honest, rather too thin and twisty.  I wasn’t sure how to set the yarn so just gave it a soak in hot water and swirled it around a bit hoping it might felt a bit.  Picperfic (who sells somes very pretty fibre on http://www.etsy.com/shop/picperfic) suggested alternating between very hot and very cold water, so I will give that a go next time.

This is how the yarn ended up and how it looked when knitted.  I started a hat, but it was a disaster because it was sunny, I was outside and not paying attention at all, so it got frogged!