Spinning Tuesdays

Spinning a tale with Rachael

The love started yesterday…if you’re wondering what’s going on today, take a peek!

The lucky winner of yesterday’s “Name the book you’d write”, chosen by Rachael herself, is “Needle Me Knot, Little old ladies using unique methods to kill.” She loved both the title and the premise.  Although it was DIFFICULT to pick, sez she. Winner is Sherry from Idaho. Congrats, Sherry — you’ll be receiving a copy of Rachael’s brand-new book, HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME!

And now, onto day 2 of the week of Looooooove!

Rachael and the cat of her heart, Digit*

Knitty: Your first novel was full of sheep and fiber and spinning!…but nothing in book two. Will it return?

Rachael: The spinning comes back in the third book, WISHES AND STITCHES (out in October). In fact, we see Eliza spinning, and the fiber she spins becomes integral to the plot (and hides a secret). And hey, I just learned to weave on my darling little Schacht Cricket loom! So there’s nothing saying that weaving won’t play a role somewhere, someday soon…..

K: Do you spin? What wheel(s) do you have?

R: I am passionate about spinning, although I’m only intermediate at it. The more classes I take, the more I realize that I’m a production spinner more than anything else. While the action is soothing, I really love having the finished product (I’m similar in knitting this way, too). I’m fast, and I use the long-draw method. I have two wheels, both Ashfords (my mother was from the town they’re from, Ashburton, New Zealand): a Joy and a Traditional. I’d love a Majacraft someday—I think they’re lovely.

K: What are you spinning right now?

R: Ooooh, I’m spinning a GORGEOUS yellow-brown merino/silk batt from Lisa Souza. I’m addicted to her batts. Now there’s something I can spin without worrying about what I’m going to make from it—I just love spinning her stuff. Such colors! Such softness! (However, now that I think of it, I believe I’m going to spin it up and use it as the weft in a scarf with a dark brown warp. Oh, YUM.)

*One of the most amazing things I’ve ever read was the day that Rachael’s cat Digit, lost for months and thought dead, came home. You must read it.

Today, we’ve got a copy of Rachael’s new book for another lucky KnittyBlog reader!

This time, to win, leave a comment to this post by Tuesday, March 8th, at midnight, eastern time. In your comment, tell us what you’d name the heroine of the novel you’ve always wanted to write. Rachael will pick her favorite and that lucky person will win a copy of HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME. Good luck, y’all, and stay tuned…we’ve got prizes every day this week with a special big surprise on Friday, and lots more Rachael!

How would you combine these colors?

Jillian sez: There will be more spinning fun next week. I’ll be continuing my investigations into marling. I want to explore how to use natural colors to make a variegated colorway go further and how to blend two colorways to create depth of color. Anything you’d like to see?

Spinning Tuesday: Knitting Marls & Our Mitten Winner

The winner of the Shelburne Mittens kit is comment number 1125, Lisa S!

Thank you to the lovely folks at Rowan Yarn and Westminster Fibers for donating this prize.


Now for some spinning. As requested, the marled yarns knit into swatches.

First the blue and white:

3 weights of marling -yarn

3 weights of marling - knit


Like the yarn, the fatter the original yarn the marl in the knitted fabric is more pronounced.

In the finest sample it looks like flecks.


How about the blue and green yarn:

3 weights of blue/green marl

3 weights blue/green marl - knit


I wish I had spun larger samples of these, but I do like how the colors blend even more when the yarn is knit. There is striping and pooling, but it’s interesting to me.

Thank you for asking me to knit my samples, I like the marl more as knit fabric than just yarn. Time for more experiments!

Spinning Tuesday: What I’ve noticed about marling

Barber pole, peppermint stick, marl are all used to describe a type of yarn that has two high-contrast singles plied together. It’s a type of yarn I really don’t care for.

Though I have recently made marled yarns with less contrast that I’ve really liked. I’ve also noticed the weight of the yarn makes a difference in the marling.

So I’ve been experimenting, want to see?

Lovely blue and white Romney

I started with high contrast blue and white Romney, spun and plied to three different weights: bulky, worsted and DK/fingering.

3 weights of marling

Here’s what I see, as the yarn gets thinner and the twists per inch number gets higher, the colors blend more, which I like, even at a high color contrast.

Merino dyed last summer

I tried the same experiment with some fiber I dyed last summer, that was blue, green, yellow and white – much less contrast. I spun and plied it on itself, deliberately getting it to marl.

3 weights of blue/green marl

Still stripey, but even more visually pleasant to me even at the bulky weight, because of how the colors work together.

Both colorways all weights

Here are both color/weight experiments side by side.

Now I am thinking about how to use marling to blend colors, to get certain colors to pop, and to make a deep and rich colored yarn, and about what color combination or characteristics work best at each weight.

I kind of knew this would send me into a thinking and experimenting spiral. I love that about spinning.

Tiny weeny spindle

my Lilac-wood Turkish Delight

I have a weakness for spindles. Only one spinning wheel, but the spindle count is above 15. Not sure how much above 15.

I love that they’re portable, and I love the sculptural quality of the spindles I choose. My latest love was spotted across a crowded Silk Retreat room — it’s a Jenkins Turkish Delight.

I’ve been a staunch top-whorl girl since I learned to spindle. But this thing was so freaking cute, I couldn’t resist. Especially with yarn on it. You wind the yarn on over two arms, under one, and that gives a nice, plump square-shaped cop. At right, you see my little Turkish Delight, with the beginnings of a cop. It’s very lightweight, and so I’ll be spinning a laceweight that I’ll ply later. I’m in no hurry. I just like to play with it.

I thought it’d be hard to spin on, but it’s not. It spins long and fast, like a crazy rabbit on crack [this is a good thing], and is so very, very pretty.

Ed Jenkins makes every spindle by hand, and in this case, he made this one for me out of Lilac wood. Lilacs remind me of my Grandma, and I couldn’t choose anything else. I love that there’s a little vein of natural purple running through one of the crossbars, too.

Here’s a video with instructions on how to wind onto this spindle, via the lovely Mrs Jenkins, Wanda.

The tiny Turkish Delight too big for you? Go peek at Ed’s newest invention, the Kuchulu. Not sure how long I’ll be able to resist this one. Should I even try?

Spinning Tuesday: Annis is Finished!

Don’t faint, but I’ve finished something else.

My handspun Annis:

Annis in the snow

I started spinning for this January 1 and have the shawl blocked and finished February 1. I still can’t believe that I worked on a project from start to finish, until it was done. No sidetracks (well, not many), no timeouts.

Handspun from Southern Cross Fibre

I spun yarn that was almost DK, so the shawl is larger than the original, but that’s what I wanted.

The spectacular thing about spinning your own yarn is that you can make exactly what you want, by blending color and fibers, and by the way you spin your yarn.

Annis swooping

I wanted my version of Annis to be a littler larger, so I made my yarn a little fatter. I wanted my Annis to be lighter rather than drapier, so I did two things: I spun my yarn woolen, letting in as much air as fiber to make a lofty yarn and I piled it to be just balanced, if not a little under plied, to cut down on the density of the finished yarn.

Now I love nupps

I am absolutely transfixed by the magic of spinning yarns, by how many different yarns I could make just altering spin and ply, and by how it makes my knitting come alive.

Spinning: Annis and Nupp Knitting

I’m not quite done knitting Annis, but it’s still gorgeous, even unblocked:

Nupp rhymes with stoop not shtupp.

I almost didn’t choose Annis to knit because it has nupps. I have issues with nupps; I love how they look and hate to knit them and this patterns has 7-stitch nupps.

So I went trolling the wonderful world of the web and found an amazing technique by Myra Wood. She calls it Easy Peasy Nupp, In fact,it’s so easy it saved this pattern for me, and tranformed my thinking about knitting nupps. No lie!

Brilliant isn’t it? I like it because it’s easy, but also because you can choose the size of nupp you want. I’m a girl who likes a big nupp, so I used a bigger hook than my knitting needle. It worked beautifully.

Next week I’ll show you finished and blocked Annis in all her handspun glory.

Meanwhile try out that nupp technique already!

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.

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.

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!

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?