Spinning Tuesdays

5 Tips for a Dye Day

Pile of fiber

Two or three times a year, my fiber gang gets together for a dye day.  Here are 5 tips from our group to yours to keep your dye party running smoothly.

1) Plan and work ahead and after.

Know how many people are coming and what’s for lunch. Mix your dyes ahead of time and soak your fiber the night before. Plan on rising and drying your fiber at home. Just dye and play on dye day.

2) Time and space for all.

No one wants to wait on dye day. Have spots for everyone to work their color magic and enough pots, crock dyers, burners, etc to set the fibers.

3) Have some color ideas, but let it flow.

I usually come with three or four colorways to get started, but inevitably the best colors are those that hit me on the spot. Have a notebook handy to keep track of your colorways. Trust me, you won’t remember.

4) Slow down, you’re having fun.

It’s not a race, it’s not your job. If you work at frenetic pace you won’t enjoy yourself. Bring your wheel or your knitting and take breaks. I’ve learned my actual limits are about half of my dyeing aspirations – so I soak only half of the fiber I think I can get done, and bring dry fiber along. Sometimes I add more fiber to the soaking bucket, but usually not.

5) Try something new.

If you usually pour your dyes, try painting. If you usually steam set, try crock pot dyeing. Challenge yourself to break out of your color rut. You’ll be amazed at how much fun you have just playing.

1.75 lbs of fiber dyed in 5 hours. Next time, not so much purple.

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The View from My Wheel – Vacation Spinning

St John's Lake, Michigan

In my quest to become a more conscious spinner, (I won’t say a better spinner, because I spin just fine, thank you) I’m learning to be aware of what’s going on with my hands, feet and wheel for a certain level of consistency when I want it.

I’d like to be one of those spinners who seem to have a Vulcan mind meld with their wheels. “I’m going to spin a worsted 3-ply that will be a dk weight yarn”, they say, and twist, turn, treadle they do, effortlessly.

My latest observation is that my spinning is influenced dramatically by where I am, who I’m with and others things that are going on around me – the View from My Wheel.

The View from My Wheel on the vacation pictured at left is peaceful solitude. I spun only when I was alone, early in the morning, or when the rest were off swimming or tramping through the woods.

I watched an eagle family who’ve nested on the lake and loons swimming with their chick. My hands moved softly and my feet slowed down, I was able to perfect fat lofty yarn on this vacation, and spin lovely woolen singles.

I couldn’t hurry my spinning. The rushing on this vacation made a mess of my yarn. I couldn’t spin worsted or thick-and-thin yarns. My spinning brain only wanted long, gentle motions. Working in a different style was frustrating and unproductive.

When I went with the spinning that matched the View from My Wheel, it was all smooth sailing and lovely yarn, a feeling of working together with my wheel, not against it. My hands and feet remembered better too, after I got home and spun similar yarn.

Along with all of my regular notes associated with spinning particular yarn, I’m now adding View from My Wheel, because, for me, it makes a difference.

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Tour results are in!

A bowl full of yarn

I didn’t hit my lofty goal for the Tour de Fleece but I spun a whole lot of yarn: 34 ounces.  I spun 22 ounces of the dyed-by-my-hand BFL, 4 ounces of fat 2-ply, 4 ounces of Lynne Vogel colored Merino/Bamboo/Silk, and 4 ounces of lofty thick-and-thin. It was enough and I had fun.

I learned that I need a lot of variety in my spinning. There were days at the wheel when I just couldn’t face any more of my blue/purple BFL, that more than lack of time kept me from spinning my dreamed-about 2 pounds of BFL yarn.

I also learned I need a whole lot more practice on my thick-and-thin yarn.

What about you — did you hit your  Tour de Fleece goal? Any tips for thick-and-thin yarn?

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How Do Your Hands Learn?

6 wpi, Merino/Columbia blend, 100% chubby love

In the past year, I have taken three classes, from three different teachers, that in some part taught spinning fat, lofty yarn.

After ten months, I can finally spin fat, lofty yarn; it takes my hands a long time to learn. I have to watch and listen to other spinners, have teachers watch me and I have to practice, a lot.

I practice by slipping my learning yarn into my daily spinning and I practice by having special learning sessions. Spinning new in between regular spinning works the best for me, it feels like playing. The other feels like have-to spinning.

My hands started learning lofty yarns last September and this skein from last week is the best I’ve done yet.

How do your hands learn?

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Tour Update: 16oz and Counting

Liked the fiber, love the yarn.

I’m 4 oz behind where I want to be for the Tour de Fleece. So far I’ve spun 12oz of my BFL singles and I was hoping for a pound by now. I’m going on a short hang out at a cabin vacation later this week, so I think I can catch up.

Softy Singles

I absolutely love the yarn I’m making. The colors and loft are exactly what I was hoping for. I haven’t finished any of it yet. I want to just slightly full it. I’m hoping it will have a wonderful hand at 5 stitches to the inch, because I’d love to make Goodale.

My last 4oz of the Tour so far are a merino/bamboo from Three Waters Farm in the Lynne Vogel colorway Black Hollyhocks.

How are you doing with your Tour goals?

Black Hollyhocks in merino/bamboo

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Really Keeping Track on the Tour

I have grand plans for the Tour de Fleece.
I’m finishing some Lynne Vogel Limited Edition Colorways from Three Waters Farm: merino/bamboo in the Black Hollyhocks colorway.

I did it myself. Pretty dyed BFL.

I’m practicing the the thick, fluffy, and arty skills I learned from Lynne Vogel and Maggie Casey in the past month, at least a bobbin full of each.

The biggie is 2 lbs of long drawn singles, slightly fulled, for a sweater from oatmeal BFL that I dyed myself after writing about it last week [see the finished results at left]. The oatmeal BFL was from The Spinning Loft.

I haven’t watched one minute of the Tour de France, but I’ve been spinning.

Soft blue singles.

As I wound my dyed and dried  BFL into bumps, I decided what order to spin the bumps in and to spin a fluffed up arm’s length of fiber at a time for long runs of color. Are you curious how I’ll keep track of where I am in the world of my BFL? Knots.

I’ve recently started using knots to keep track of where I am in my spinning project.  I frequently pick up the wrong end of my fiber, especially if the colors are close, when I come back to my spinning after a break, or the wrong length of fiber if I have several to work with.

Now, every time I pull a length of fiber from a bump or long length of roving or top to spin, I loosely knot the end of the fiber on the bump end, so I know this is where I get my next length and the end to start spinning.

And to keep my BFL bumps in the order I want, I’ve knitted them 1,2 ,3.

On your mark, get set, spin!

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Spin dreaming

It’s Knitty production week and I really should be working, but my mind keeps drifting off to this:

oatmealy BFL

Nearly 3 pounds of oatmeal BFL that I want to spin for the Tour de Fleece.

I dream about spinning it into a beautiful long-draw single that I would full and knit into a sweater.

I also dream about dyeing this bfl, national blue, bright violet with maybe touches of avocado or maybe grasshopper ( yes, those are pro chem colors). Not with total coverage —  I want some of that oatmeal to show.

What are you dreaming about spinning for the Tour?

I met Sasha this weekend at a Maggie Casey workshop. Sasha has a new spinning podcast, The Spin Doctor, where she reviews spinning fiber, tools, dvds and all manner of spinning yum. Give it a listen and tell her what you think!

Stare into into the BFL vortex - if you dare!

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How Paper Clips Save My Spinning Sanity

I love paper clips!

I am a spinner that likes to take my wheel everywhere with me. I am also a spinner who tends to drop and lose things. There are days that, as I carry my wheel, I feel like I’m a dandelion shedding fluffy fiber and tools everywhere.

The tool that I most seem to lose no matter how I tie it on, keep it in a wee basket or even carry it in my purse is an orifice hook. I lose 1 or 2 a year.

Behold the everyday object that saves my spinning sanity:

Paper clip magic!

I throw a small handful into every bag I carry, and if I’m orifice hook-less I grab a paperclip and unbend, leaving or creating a small hook at one end.

Adjust the hook size to your wheel’s orifice and you’re ready to spin. If you’d like, curl the hookless end into a loop, string it on yarn and hang it on your wheel.

Even if I somehow don’t have a paper clip they are sure easier to find or buy on the fly than an orifice hook. Be sure to buy the coated kind because they won’t snag on silk or other super smooth fibers and they come in the best colors!

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The Tortoise and the Hare

I just returned from a color and art yarn workshop with the great Lynne Vogel.  I’ve become obsessed with coil plied yarns and I was determined to learn to spin a yummy, yummy, soft coil plied yarn. I was also determined to do it all, practice all night and just generally rock my own spinning socks off.

Plus I wanted to unhook and relax, as well as deepen, renew and make new friendships. Baby, I was gonna bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan!

Determined to me means to dig in with gritted teeth like a Jack Russell on a rodent, like the Hare in the fable. This is not the frame of mind to teach your hands and mind to spin new yarns, or to relax.

More dreds than yarn. George Clinton are you out there?

Here is some of my first coiled yarn <–

This is after setting it under tension. Anyone need their pots scrubbed?

I was crushed when it didn’t work out. I’ll admit that I gave up a little and just went along. I slept, I walked in the woods, I listened to stories, made friends and drank beer. I may have laughed a time or two, so hard, that I both cried and drooled.

You know where this is going, right? Sunday, while everyone else is practicing and picking Lynne’s brain before we leave her safety nest, I sat. I changed my whorl. I set my tension. I spun. I spun with purpose, but not gritted determination, like the tortoise. I spun hands to head, not head to hands, because in spinning your hands always know and your head trips them up.

Cushy coils.

I spun soft and beautiful coils –>

When your spinning or learning isn’t going quite right stop to think: are you being the tortoise or the hare?

Tortoise yarn on top, Hare yarn on bottom

Fiber is Spunky Eclectic hand painted Shetland, Three Sheeps colorway.

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Box of Love

box of love contents

I have a fiber shopping problem: my desires frequently exceed my monetary means, especially at fiber events like Maryland, Rhinebeck and SOAR. Adding insult to bank account injury, I often buy the same or very similar fiber/colorway when I’m on a fiber jaunt as I already have in my stash.

Discovering that we all have the same problem, my fiber sisters and I came up with a plan.

We call it Box of Love. When faced with a fiber show we bring along a box or bag of our “right now fiber obsessions”, what we love the most currently in our spinning lives. The Box of Love helps keep shopping within our budgets in several ways:

there is a LOT of love in that box

It reminds us we have a lot of stuff, so there’s no extra shopping due to impending fiber scarcity.

It fulfills the current fiber obsession because our Boxes of Love contain our most loved fibers, so we buy fewer duplicate fibers and colorways.

It lets us feel rich with fiber. At the end of the day at the hotel, when everyone spills out their purchases in a huge fiber wallow, we have our Boxes of Love to add to our modest, within-our-budget purchases, to create our own mountain of fiber love.

I’ve been bringing a Box of Love along on fiber excursions for more than two years. It lets me shop wantonly, but wisely.

love.

A peek into a current Box of Love shows my current fascination with: merino blended with anything shiny, shades of dirt, Briar Rose, Spunky Eclectic, Lynne Vogel and Tanis Fiber Arts spinning fibers.

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