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Spinning: The Woolen and the Worsted

This past Saturday my spinning group took a field trip to The Spinning Loft.

One of our group of our group is in the market for a new wheel, so we piled 6 spinning women into an SUV big enough to hold 4 Schacht Matchlesses in the way back. We may have sung the Partridge Family theme.

Surprisingly, our wheel shopper isn't buying a Matchless.

While our wheel shopping spin sister tried wheels the rest of us shopped and spun.

I feel deeply in love with this Yarn Hollow roving, 50% Cormo/50% Alpaca.

You cannot deny my love.

My question to the room was – how would you spin it, woolen or worsted?

The room answered, annoyingly, with another question, “What will you make with it?”. I have no idea. I’ve just hit first base with this fiber, I’m not ready to commit.

So I sampled. Yes, you heard me right, I did what the books and teachers all recommend, sampled. They are very wee samples, but samples all the same.

Boy are they different:

Woolen on the left; worsted on the right.

The samples were spun from a short length of fiber that I split vertically, so I was working with the same colors on both. They are both soft, but the woolen spun on the left is lofty and puffy, and softer than the worsted spun. It brings out the best qualities of the Cormo. The worsted spun is smoother, shiny and has a heavier, drapey hand. The colors are darker. It looks and feels more like the alpaca part of the fiber equation.

I like them both, and of course, the wee samples raised more questions, among them: What type of stitches would I use, both lace and texture would look crispy and shiny-fabulous in the worsted. But the woolen would give them a soft almost blurry look.

I decided to spin the fiber woolen. I like the soft look right now and I can spin woolen much faster than worsted. I also decided that I will sample more often.

Our wheel shopping spin sister decided on Majacraft Suzie.

*Spread the joy!*

Spinning: A Winner Plus a Little Something That Makes Me Smile

Our winner of a $30 Gift Certificate to any store at The Fiber Cooperative is comment number 29 – Betsy M.

Hooray! Happy spinning Betsy!

Some days all I need is just a little something to make me smile. I love color and I try to infuse as much as I can into every nook and cranny of my day.

Take spinning leaders, for example.

What else will you do with your leftovers?

I use leftover sock yarn as my spinning leaders. It works wonderfully and it’s all kinds of colorful. The bobbins above are strung with Koigu, aren’t they fun? Just what I need on a gray winter day.

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Knitting Mondays: What’s on our needles

A few of you blog readers have shown curiosity about what the Knitty staff is knitting, so we’re adding a feature to our Knitting Mondays called What’s on our needles. Literally what we’re knitting, or have finished knitting, dream about knitting or are struggling with knitting.

First up is Jillian, with a cautionary tale about gauge.

Thanks to a friend who is about to have her first granddaughter, I got to knit Joelle Hoverson’s Baby Bonnet from her newish book More Last Minute Knitted Gifts. It’s an adorable vintage-y knit , and a quick  3.5 stitches to the inch. I chose super soft Saphira, a superwash merino yarn from Southwest Trading Company. I swatched, got gauge, and knit the hat in just a few hours.

About halfway through I started to get that nagging feeling that I love to ignore. Something wasn’t right, the hat seemed really big for a newborn baby.

It was true. I had relaxed while knitting and my gauge loosened to 3 stitches to the inch. The hat was big. Before I show you just how big. I will say I knit another bonnet, with the right gauge, with needles two sizes smaller, in under two hours.

Let this photo be a warning, my knitting friends and neighbors, always check your gauge.

I call this photo Bad Baby:

No bad babies were forced to smoke cigars for this photo.

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Starting the year off with yarn & a giveaway!

Remember I was going to spin some Southern Cross Fibre BFL and Merino?

Well I did:

BFL left - it's a little hairy, and Merino right

Then I did some plying:

This marl I like!

I couldn’t wait to see what these two would look like as a piled yarn. I spun and plied most of this over 3 days – I actually woke up with sore calves in the morning! I love these colors together, and yes, they even marl in some places. I’m not usually a fan of marled yarn.

It’s about 500 yards, 15 wpi. I spun the singles woolen and piled it to balance, because I wanted a softer yarn to be knit into something where abrasion/piling won’t be an issue and that needs drape, this shawl – Annis.

I really enjoyed the thinking about the structure of handspun yarn and how it presents itself in knitting. More please.

How about a contest to kick off our spinning year?!

A $30 Gift Certificate to any store at The Fiber Cooperative!

Here’s how to win: leave a comment to this post by Wednesday, January 5, at midnight eastern time, and you could win! We’ll choose a winner at random, make them answer a  skill-testing question, and post the results next week.

Good luck and happy spinning!

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Dreaming about 2011

Lustrous locks

I am a list maker. I love making lists. This time of the year I carry a little notebook and dream of all of things I might do in the next 365 days or so.

Occasionally, I look back at the last year and take stock of what I learned.

In my spinning life in 2010 the biggies for me were:

  • Learning to spin fat yarn
  • Learning to spin art yarn
  • And it really, finally, hit home for me about how important and varied sheep breeds are, and how lucky we are to have so many to spin with.

For 2011 my big three (so far) are:

  • Knitting with handspun. I find handspun yarn so different than millspun yarn — it has a liveliness and feistiness that I adore. How do you knit it to its best advantage? What about the stitches used? What about the different breeds?
  • Travel for spinning. Gotta go this year and I want it to be a big one. Maybe SOAR, or Rhinebeck or Taos.
  • Color. I want color to click in my brain this year, and my brain likes to fight this one. Good thing The Spinning Loft is bringing Deb Menz to town.

What are on your lists? What did you accomplish in 2010? What are you dreaming about for 2011?

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How Do You Choose?

Southern Cross Fibre Club December 2010 Superwash BFL

When you find yourself with an empty wheel how do you choose what to spin next?

I was recently faced with this dilemma, and instead of just grabbing something I went through the choosing more methodically.

I didn’t have any have to spinning, my work and gift spinning are all done.

I didn’t want to do any should do spinning, practicing techniques or sampling breeds.

I have no projects that I specifically want to spin for.

Leaving me wide open to choose. I roamed my stash; friends offered suggestions that I loved: your oldest stashed fiber, a color or fiber you hate or love, a forbidden too special to spin fiber, a fiber with a great memory or story associated with it, something you dyed yourself. You can see why I love my spinning friends.

Then the mail came.

I was lucky enough to get a spot in the Southern Cross Fibre Club this year, and my first shipment came. Superwash BFL in the color Mercury Rising, you can see it above. I felt like the knitting fates (and my mail carrier – I had to sign for it, making it extra special) handed me my answer.

Then my brain started tick, ticking. I have some other Southern Cross fiber that was in the forbidden, too special to spin category because David’s beautiful fiber is so popular, it’s hard to get. But now, since I’ll be getting fiber every month the too special grip has loosened.

Here’s what I decided. A fine-ish 2-ply, for me, that’s probably DK. One ply Superwash BFL in the color Mercury Rising (my first club fiber) and one ply Superwash Merino in the color Katoomba (from my stash).

The mingling of Southern Cross Fibre beauty

How do you choose what to spin next?

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A New Spinning Magazine, a Spinning Winner and Presents for Myself

Have you seen the new spinning magazine out of England?

YarnMaker Issue 1

It’s called YarnMaker and is a wonderful spinning resource.

I just received the first two issues and haven’t spent much time with them, but what I like so far is: lots of sheep and fleece talk, a two part round up of British spindle makers, natural dyeing, spinning and sheep people out and about, art yarns, history and quick projects.

Mostly, it’s lovely to have a different spinning point of view than our North American one. I’m ready to subscribe.

Our Spinning Winner

The winner of our Miss Babs giveaway is Terri C.

Congratulations and happy spinning!

Remember Miss Babs’ special runs for the month of December. Buy 5 tops and get one free with the code SPINDEC (not to be combined with any other offer, sale, or coupon).

Presents for Me

In the midst of gift making and giving season. I always like to get a little something for myself. Look what arrived on my doorstep this week:

Boatload of Boogie

Amy at Spunky Eclectic had a sale and I fell down the rabbit hole. A little Targhee, a little Shetland (colorway: Morning Breath), Merino blended with cashmere and yak. I am ecstatic and will be happily spinning this gorgeousness very soon.

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How About A Spinning Giveaway?

Mixed BFL and tussah, what would you make?

Miss Babs Hand Dyed Yarns and Fibers has donated 8 ounces of  80% mixed BFL/20% tussah blend top in her Bog colorway for a giveaway.

If you’d like a chance to win this yummy goodness, leave a comment before Wednesday December 8, 2010 at 11:59 pm EST.

If your comment is chosen by our random number generator, you’ll be asked to answer a skill testing question before being declared the winner.

If you don’t win our giveaway, don’t fret. Miss Babs is offering a fiber special that runs through December 31, 2010.

Buy 5 tops and get one free with the code SPINDEC (not to be combined with any other offer, sale, or coupon). Perfect if you’re planning a handspun sweater for next year.

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Batt Love

When I went to Fiber Expo I was deeply smitten with these batts.

Puffy, puffy batts

They are Whimsy batts from Frankie Loves Fiber, wonderful blends of merino, corriedale, shetland, silk and sparkle. I couldn’t choose between them. To me, colorwise, they belong together, so I brought home all three. I know, twist my arm.

Weeks later when it came time to spin them, I felt even more strongly that the three should be one mixed colorway. It had become an idea I couldn’t shake, a bee in my spinning bonnet. So I went with it.

Here’s what I did to combine them.

Open, the batts had even more colors:

Pink, red, purple and shades of dirt

I divided each of the batts lengthwise into 4 strips, then set aside 2 strips of each batt to be spun in longer color runs.

Batts stripped

The remaining strips I divided in half widthwise into a pile of 12 teeny batts.

shredded batts

Both the strips and shreds I spun in a random color order. I placed the strips in one grocery bag and the shreds another and grabbed without looking.

Strips bobbin on the left, shreds bobbin on the right

I spun the strips onto one bobbin, attenuating each strip lengthwise and spinning from the end. I controlled this yarn a little more, thick and thin, but drafting out  some of the bigger bits. I spun woolen, long draw, at a wpi between 14-16.

I spun the shreds by fluffing them more than attenuating them, but still spinning from the end. I controlled this yarn less, lumps, bumps and chunks of goodness all in the yarn. I spun woolen, long draw, at a wpi between 10-12.

I plied the two bobbins and the result is the colorway that stuck itself in my head when I first fell for these batts.

Blended batts FTW

The wpi is 4-6, the yarn is soft and sparkly, the colors randomly spread throughout. Now what should I make?

Soft and smooshy

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The View from My Wheel: Deb Robson’s Wool Breed Study Class

Spinning zen

This past weekend I took a two day wool breed study class with Deb Robson, at The Spinning Loft.

We covered a variety of breeds within the categories of primitive wools, down type wools , long wools and fine wools. Covering a category included history, lock, crimp, luster characteristics,  prep methods, and spinning at least 4 breeds within each category.

Not being a breed junky, for me, it was the type of class that introduced me to a whole world of things that I don’t know. My first instinct was to panic (usually, my first instinct), it all seemed huge and overwhelming and there were combs, which I’ve never managed to get to work for me.

Knowing that I couldn’t just run screaming, because there are no take backs in spinning. I sat and listened. Deb is wonderful teacher. She has a calm melodious voice and a depth of knowledge that makes the history of sheep breeds seem like an enchanted fairy tale. I soaked it up like a sponge. I spun and learned.

It was hours of fascinating learning. And in that casual- sneaky way that only the best teachers have, Deb got me on combs. I finally understood and used combs, and even came home with a pair.

Like in the best types of classes there was learning from each other too. I came home having learned combing and better ways to hand card and taught Andean plying. It reminds me of the square dancing move, the allemande where you pass around your circle hand over hand.

It’s classes exactly like this one that keep me excited, keep me signing up for things I’m not sure about, and keep me spinning every day.

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