Sunday, October 29, 2006

Spinning Beaded & Tufted Yarn

Is not easy! If someone tells you it is, smile and nod and then think about me. I should say it isn't horribly hard but it's not something you can just breeze through, particularly if you haven't done it before. Of course, I attempted it first and then asked for advice. And I got a lot of lovely advice from the Spindlers list, which I will gleefully follow when I've recovered from my first attempt. In my October 16th post, I blogged about making a tufted yarn (wool/silk with dyed mohair locks trapped in the plying) but couldn't leave well enough alone. The tufted yarn would have been just fine as tufted yarn!

But, I decided to bead it too and well...let's take another photo journey : )

Here are the lovely beads I chose. I strung them on some sewing thread, and I'm not sure but I believe that stringing them all on made it damn near impossible to slide them on the thread while plying. You can see them in a tangled mess there, after I practised on some non-tufted yarn. I put the spool of beaded thread on a kate, but it wasn't wrapped around the spool itself so there was this long heavy length of beaded thread and I couldn't make them slide properly. Eventually, the thread broke on me and they got all tangled up. But I did make a practice skein which ended up like this

Not a good thing. What I was doing was plying in a regular fashion with the thread and the previously plied yarn. I don't recommend least, not plying in a normal fashion where you hold both thread and yarn and the same tension like you do plying singles. What you get is loose thread.

So, I figured that I would string the beads again, this time not as many (and I'm not sure if the number of beads on the spool was the problem or if something else I was doing in holding the beaded thread was it) and I quickly ran the tufted yarn through to ply it tighter, and dug out my workshop info on spinning fancy yarns because I remembered that there's a rule when spinning a very fine thread with other stuff. Ah HA! When using this thread, it was necessary to hold it taut and let the heavier yarn wrap around it, using the beaded thread as a binder of sorts. This is a boucle technique, and normally, you'd go back and ply again with a binder to hold the boucle in place. I was not going to do this. My solution was to sometimes reverse the tension, meaning I would let the thread wrap around the heavier stuff occasionally, and this sort of "locked" the thread in place. It worked too! Here's a crappy one-handed photo of the process of the different tensions when working with a fine binder thread ... it's really the second step in spinning a ratine or boucle but I didn't push the fiber up the thread to make it bumpier.

Onward then! With less beads on the spool of thread, I was able to get the thread to feed, the beads to slide and go on without much trouble. It's a bit of a fumble at first holding some of the beads in your hand and feeding them into the spots you want them. I chose to space them between the tufts and then to put one at each tuft as well. The big drag was, of course, that I ran out of beads on the thread and had to string more then attach it, which I can't believe is the proper way to go about it. But I ended up with this on the bobbin:

Pretty! I had the usual trouble, even using the jumbo Ashford bobbin and flyer, with the locks catching occasionally on the hooks. I don't have a woolie winder but the jumbo flyer hooks aren't too bad and this is some fat yarn with the tufts!

Here's the finished yarn, which I didn't wash and I'll tell you why in a minute! It's kind of hard to see the beads, but they're there and sparkly and pretty. I loved it till I realized that in plying the already tufted plied yarn, I loosened up the plies enough to make the yarn fragile...the tufts weren't locked in as well as they were when it was originally just a tufted yarn. The thread isn't that attractive in it either, although you don't really see much of it. ACK!!

It's gorgeous. It's soft. It's sparkly and funky. It's fragile and impractical. I do not know what the heck to do with it! I'm thinking "art"...wall hanging at this point. I believe that in knitting it tightly, the locks will be more locked in and it'll be Very Very Cool. Someone suggested a scarf, of course, but I'm thinking maybe a collar that you can attach to a jacket. There's only like 66 very bulky yards here. Not enough for matching cuffs. And then, in cuffs, the locks would probably get all matted up eventually from rubbing. It would be a nice roll-up brim on a cute hat as well. I can't felt it to lock in the locks better since its 50/50 wool/silk. Then I have to find a coordinating yarn to use for the main part of the hat. I can make a fancy bag maybe but eh...that's not appealing to me. Wall art seems to be my major thing here but that seems dumb.

What will I do next time? I'll thread beads onto a fine single and ply it with another single, that's what I'll do! Then I'll use a fine binder to lock the beads in place, although a few gals said they didn't really have trouble with beads sliding (and you probably wouldn't if you spun/plied tightly). One gal told me she liked a bit of play in the beads since then you could manipulate them to the front of the knitting much better.

It's balled up into a fancy cake skein, sitting on the back of the couch at the moment. Looking at me. Smirking. Sparkling in the sunlight.

But this little guy here, he doesn't care if I suck at spinning beaded yarn. This is how he looks each day at breakfast & dinner, ready to go, happy to eat, without fail he's always cheerful and optimistic.

This is Frank, my teddy bear type guinea pig, who is now a grand old 5 years old! He's very elderly, and you can tell when you see his hairdo...just not the same as it was a couple years ago. His bright little eyes are a bit dimmer too. But he's just the same funny little thing that's been keeping me company and making me smile and laugh for 5 years now. I know he won't be with me forever, so I'm making sure I enjoy him each and every day. Out of all my critters, he's always been the best...the happiest, the easiest, the funniest. For a gp, he's quite small and really quiet. He acts goofy when you tickle his butt, licks you a lot when you hold him, and tries to bite me when I stick my hands in there to stir up his bedding with a wooden spoon. He never tries to bite when you pick him up, hand him treats, pet him, or do anything else at all in his cage. There's just something about stirring up his bedding that makes him kind of evil. I can live with that : )

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Shetland is my new favorite fiber...

And I need one of those like a hole in the head! But I do love long as it's as soft and yummy as this...

I started spinning some lovely shetland I got on Ebay in four colors for my Tour de Fleece challenge but failed to complete it because I hurt myself spinning...horrible neck pain! I finally got around to finishing it this week and just fell in love with it! I started out trying for lace weight, thought I might get fingering weight and ended up with sport. Ack! It poofed up way more than I expected it time, more twist may be in order. I spun it on my Ashford Traditional. But I love this yarn! I have no clue what to do with the 8 ounces and roughly 525 yards...I want to learn Fair Isle so if anyone has a cool idea for a small Fair Isle project, clue me in! I about busted my butt on ICE...YES ICE...on the deck this morning when I went out to photograph the yarn. Fall leaves abound on the ground around here ;)

I knit these up for DH's sweetest day gift...I'd never attempted a thumb gusset before and it was fun and easy! They look huge on me, but because I used this very cool Custom Fit Mitt pattern and worksheet, they fit his hands very well! I did have to abuse them a tad in the wash because it's handspun alpaca (thanks Mom!) and I know it'll stretch some.

If you read my blogs and know me, you know I'm a mathmatical dunce! So, I had some harry moments with the whole centimeter thing, and my DH helped me out. And I figured out I could turn over my tape measure, too. Ha! But, I *assumed* that when they said to subract one centimeter from the whole centimeter measurement between the thumb and fingers that one UNIT is one UNIT. Inches or centimeters, it's all the same. Right? HELL NO! So, if you're like me and you get to that part, subtract 1/2 inch, not 1 inch! Units are not created equal. Ahem. The rest of it is pretty straight forward. Why on earth I didn't just measure his hands in centimeters in the first place I'll never know.

I'm in the midst of plying up some of the lovely Azurite 50/50 merino and tussah silk I have for sale on my website and it's just lovely! I'm putting the kate way behind me when I'm plying and it does make a major difference in ease of plying and evening it all out. Awesome!


Are one of my major passions. I adore pumpkins and gourds and squashes! DH had to carry this beauty out of the store for me, it's that heavy! I usually go kind of crazy with them as you can see here....

and I don't even have kids! That year (2 years ago), Robert had just left for Iraq and I was really in a crazy frame of mind. I don't have the funds for that many this year, and I may not even have more than the 2 I do at the moment for carving but that's OK. It's not like I have gobs of time either. But I really want a little family of THESE from Martha Stewart's site ....HOW COOL ARE THEY???? I dig those vintage goofy faces! I gotta have them! The black silhouettes on the site are nifty too but I'm not feelin that fancy this year.

These volunteered in the veggie garden this year...I don't know what they are and I think they're some kind of throw back to other gourds I had. They're a great color though! I also saved a few small pumpkins from Bubby for my fall display in the dining room. (If you don't know Bubby, click here!) I toss out all the old gourds and pumpkins into the yard for him each year, and we had a lot of great huge vines all over the yard. But, since he plants them, I guess he feels as if he should eat them. The only ones I saved were those I trained to go over the fence.

So, I have a few small ones to enjoy! I love this sunflower seed grew up in front of the rabbit cages this year and I saved it.

And yes, I love rocks too! This one came from the homestead where my Mom was born in Rogers City, Michigan.

I decided to join the FlyLady's email list this week...I get so down and feel so stressed and horrible when the house is always a wreck. I actually kind of like most housework but when it gets to be overwhelming the way it has since I started the business, I feel awful all the time. Yesterday, I spent all day in our bedroom and master bath and I feel so much better! Robert cooked dinner while I soaked in a bubble bath, which is something I've not done for a long long time and it felt sooooooo nice! I don't know if the email list will help, and I just got the first emails this morning so I'm going to try anyway. I just never know where to start so this has to help! I just can't concentrate or feel good about sitting down and doing my fiber work when I'm surrounded by disaster.

Almost done with the Fibonacci wrap out of marled feels sooooo good in the blend of alpaca yarns I'm using. There's some wool and mohair blended in there too. I'm going to call it Nature's Way when I'm done and use it for the November Scarf of the Month at the shop. I'll have the pattern available for sale soon, so check the website for it!

I'm just into the Orchard Lace on the Sheep Shawl ladies are out knitting me so I hope to get more done way soon! This is such a sweet bunch of gals...I'm really enjoying the KAL!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Fibonacci, Take Me Away!

At least, take some decision making out of my hands :) I know, I'm probably really late getting on this bandwagon, as usual, but I fell in love with a certain shape wrap and got all fired up about some of my handspun yarns in natural marls and off I went! First, I decided to read up a little on this whole number thing, which, if you know me, is not my forte! Math and I do not play well together at all! And it seemed easy enough. But first things first...

Notice the scary cheapo plastic spider ring shawl pin?

I designed this scarf for my shop's October Scarf of the Month kit, not being real serious about it and just wanting to play with something fun and wacky for Halloween. But, I fell hard in love with the bias shape and wanted to do something more practical for the shop and FOR ME!

So, with a yummy alpaca/angora handspun in my sweaty little paws, I set about designing another bias wrap, in which my poor husband tried his best to help me figure out how many stitches to cast on for the proper length. It's totally embarrassing how long it took me to figure it out...I won't go into gorey details except to say that I didn't start the thing for 2 days because that whole concept had me in a tailspin. Sigh...but I finally did decide. Before that, I knew I would use the Fibonacci idea because I had several other small balls of natural marled handspun and not enough of the alpaca/angora to knit a generous wrap that would look gorgeous around my shoulders over a sweater. I hate coats and avoid them when I can.

Here's where I am so far. I cast on in Fib numbers, chose the number of yarns in Fib, and planned the rows in Fib as well, eager to see if using this concept made the piece make more sense. I'm pleased with it so far. However, I do not know if the length is going to make me happy yet but we'll see. IT'S A SHAWL...not brain surgery!! I really like the way the marled yarns look together.

It amazes me that people aren't so much into natural yarns these days...I love color too but there's something so *right* about naturals! I'm going to write the pattern for the shawl for the shop and hopefully inspire others to knit up some naturals and discover the joys of knitting with handspun. Email me if you want to know when the pattern will be out for sale :)

Now, I'm thinking about designing a bag or placemats or something felted in the Fibonacci Spiral...look at me and math go! Wheeeeeeee......

Here's the result of the fiber combing I've been doing. about some work for 160 yards of 23 wpi baby alpaca yarn ~ 2 spindles full! This is the second combing teeny bird's nests I spun up on my featherweight. Not as teeny of a yarn as I dreamed of but getting there! It took like 3 washings with Dawn to get all the dirt out of the spun yarn and I'm not sure if it affected the softness but the dirt definitely made the fiber seem slicker and softer, believe it or not! Too bad dirt and baby alpaca scent aren't desireable. I had even washed the fleece once before starting.

I realize the pic makes it look like it's still dirty, but it's's a creamy white. No more brown water after the washings, so I'm fairly certain that this is the proper clean color. It has a lot of halo and those little halo-ey fibers tangled a bit with all that washing but I just pulled apart the strands and it's fine. Not felted at all...and the halo is quite lovely, really.

I had so much shop knitting to do, I was away from my spinning for way too long! So I spun quite a lot over the weekend. I always forget how much I love my Ashford Traditional until I've been away from it for awhile. I finally got all the Shetland spun from my crash and burn Tour de Fleece project and started plying it this morning. I have a pound spun up, in four different colors and should have a good time trying to find out what to make with the resulting fingering weight yarn. Any hot suggestions anyone? I'm not sure I can face a fingering weight sweater even if I could get a couple more pounds of this particular fiber that I got on Ebay...I should have plenty of yardage for something cool though and what a great time to learn me some Fair Isle but on like size 2 or 3 needles? Yikes!

Let's NOT get serious!

What do you think I'm doing with that interestingly spun hand dyed merino/silk and those hand dyed mohair locks? Hmmm? TUFTED YARN BABY! TUFTED AND BEADED YARN!

I spun up some of the "c" grade merino/silk dyed laps I sell on my website (sold out now but more coming, colorful and fun!). I normally recommend that they be used for felting or that they should be carded or combed before spinning BUT I wanted to play with them so I spun up a slubby yarn with them. Then I decided to add some of the dyed mohair locks I have in stock and tuft it. Kind of time consuming but not too bad. You need more locks than you realize though. My tufts are about 8 inches apart but that's OK.

I opted to use longer locks and wrapped them several times around the singles before plying them in, and I sort of pushed them up together before trapping them in the plying. This was really fun and was done during a small Top Chef marathon, which my husband is strangely fascinated with. I worked in restaurants (not cooking!) for so many years, that I'm not as fascinated as he is by what they go through. I know that profession is hell and while I think chefs are generally slightly insane, I do admire them!

This is it on the bobbin. Can't take it off yet because I'm going to ply it one more time with a beaded thread...wish me luck! If my pic quality seems off lately, it's because we're back to a crappy monitor that's losing brightness...hopefully we'll have a new one soon.

If you're going to attempt this, I recommend using a woolie winder or a jumbo flyer deal...the jumbo I have on my Ashford Traveller worked pretty well, but it would get hung up occasionally. I plied it (hopefully!) tightly so that I can ply it back the other way real quick with the beaded thread. Real quick.......aaaaaaaahahahahaha......


I dyed up some sock yarn to celebrate Halloween! It's pretty dark and scary and I hope I have time to knit a pair for myself. This is a sport weight wool/mohair/nylon blend and while not super super soft, it's not bad and will last you for about a zillion Halloween festivities. I have to get it up on the website today. I also designed a felted treat bag for the shop for a Halloween class that turned out pretty cute.

At first I though I would do intarsia for the pumpkin, which I've never done before so realized too late that to do it in the round is not practical for most of us. Thus, the duplicate stitch pumpkin which took me way too long to figure out since I'd not done duplicate stitch before either. Those are little bell earrings hung at the top for embellishment. Cute, eh? Thanks Mom! She gussied up the bag for me after it was knit and felted.

This pattern is available for purchase so EMAIL ME if you'd like to buy it for $2.50 :)

So...I'm off to write patterns and get some of this stuff up for sale on the website. I had hoped to get in some dyeing today but I think that'll have to wait till tomorrow. I cringe everytime I go into our bedroom so that wins today, unfortunately.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Another English Angora, Being a Fleece Harlot and The Joys of Wool Combs

Wow, been awhile since I posted here! My life has been so busy, it's enough to drive me nuts sometimes. There are days when I feel like I'm getting nowhere nohow noway and others than I feel like I might be getting something accomplished. Today's not a bad day, but my to-do list is still kind of overwhelming. I have succeeded in getting some serious housework done and that always makes me feel better, while at the same time pissing me off because I'm not knitting or spinning!


He's quite adorable, really, but when I first got him at the Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival last weekend he was looking pretty ratty, I must say. BUT WHAT A COLOR! He's a Blue Squirrel, 3 months old and quite a character compared to the more stately Miss Phoebe. He had some matts but they didn't worry me much...they were from being damp in the weather and rubbing against his cage mates. He was also a little thin but healthy. So, I brought him home, where he proceeded to eat continuously and after a couple days, I brought him in and did some serious clipping and grooming. He's just a hoot! Very lively and curious, a hearty eater, very sweet natured and a fab color.

I was somewhat concerned about his coat being difficult but aside from the normal baby softness, I think it'll be fine. He looks much better in just a week and he always makes me smile. Can't wait to spin some of that lovely stuff up but it'll be awhile yet.

Got some awesome stuff at the festival...spent every last DIME I had set aside for it no problem! The last dime went toward ice cream in a waffle cone, of course.

The haul: Some Finn hand dyed by my good friend Suzanne Higgs, some lovely stuff from Ms. Liz Cowdery of Linden Lane Farms ~ merino/tencel and a black/grey/brown Polwarth, Angora, & Alpaca blend (which I'll probably have to email and beg for more!), a gorgeous yellow romney, kid mohair and silk blend called Sunflower and a chocolate swirled Alpaca and Mohair blend called South Island Mocha from White Creek Wool (Sue Baughman and Anne Tullet)...I bought from all my friends there and pretty much didn't have any money left for folks I didn't know. I'll have to branch out a bit more next time (read: BRING MORE CASH!)

I also bought another fleece...a super soft, wonderfully crimpy, long stapled black Lincoln/Corriedale/Coopworth lamb...sigh....the above photo shows the color well but this photo shows the luster and fineness and general crimpy goodness you didn't *need* to see 2 photos of my fleece but admit's lovely, eh? Multiply that lovlieness by 5 pounds baby and we have some serious excitement for fleece worshippers!

I'm such a fleece harlot now. I love them...I love the way they feel with the lanolin, I even love the smell of fleece. I'm hooked, I'm shameless. I have an embarrassment of fleeces now ~ and I just acquired a five pound washed white romney, some light grey romney washed and a dark soft washed romney that has some neps but is amazingly soft so I don't care. I'll comb it. I still have the 4.5 pound dark fleece from the other festival, a washed Jacob fleece, 1.5 pounds of unwashed merino, a little bit of unwashed mohair locks left, a small shetland fleece from the other festival, some Lincoln locks given me by a dear friend and I do believe that's it for the moment. Then there's the 2 fleeces from my pal Nancy Barnett on the way...a shetland and a border leicester lamb in curls... Oh...then there's the 1.5 pound alpaca cria fleece nightmare that I'm working on at the moment.

Here's the story...someone brought in some alpaca fleeces to the shop but while they were amazingly soft and lovely, they were hacked to bits! It was a crime I tell you! Second, third cuts...just butchered. Waaaaah! But, I bought the cria fleece for half of what they were asking thinking I could maybe needle felt with it.

Here it is briefly washed up and after I'd pulled out anything that was even close to 2" or more. The prime stuff that I pulled out I combed and ended up with about 4 oz of some really nice fiber. The fleece was really sooo soft, with some lovely luster. After that...well...let's take a photo journey, shall we?

Using a pair of Louet double Mini Combs, I began combing the washed fleece, which is still dirty but not *as* dirty. These are the loaded combs above. Slow going, lemme tell ya! But the other combs I'd borrowed were too coarse for this fine a fiber soooo...onward with the addictive combing! I have to be careful of when I pull it out to work on because once I start, I can NOT stop! Its bizarre! The photo below shows what it looks like after being transferred between combs a couple times. Clean and lovely!

Then I start pulling it out from the comb, twist a tiny bit and then roll up into a small bird's nest. The first combing of this stuff I'll spin on the wheel. Here's what it looks like ready to go but bear in mind that not all the pieces of roving are that long. Not many of them are, really, and I believe that might be 2 pieces laying there together to fool you into thinking I'm not nearly as crazy as I must seem :)

But do I stop here? NO, I CERTAINLY DO NOT! Being the glutton for punishment that I am, being helplessly frugal and foolish and believing that there is still more spinnable cria fiber to be had for my ten bucks, I decide to comb THIS:

"this" being what's left on the combs after the first combing. See that little lock there looking at us? That's what I'm after! That would be spinnable! So, I do the whole combing thing again, getting even LESS fiber and teeny little bird's nests which I then proceed to spin on my Bosworth Featherweight into laceweight : ) Here you can see the teeny-ness of it all but just perfect, really, for that teeny spindle and teeny yarn.

And finally my friends, the JUNK:

Gee, it doesn't look that bad in the photo...but trust me, it is. I've harrassed it for every single bit of spinnable fiber I can get. I imagine that I could spin this somehow, with all the neps and horribly short fibers but I decide against it. I'll dye it and use it for needle felting :)

How far am I into the fleece you ask? NOT VERY! I've got about half of it combed, first and second combings. I've got a lovely big basket waiting for the wheel but I've spun up all the teeny stuff I had on the featherweight which I'll be plying tonight or tomorrow hopefully to see if it makes as nice a yarn as I think it will when it's washed up. I've filled up the spindle twice now. More incentive for another day or two or three of addictive fiber combing!

Aside from all this, I've been knitting like crazy (finished 2 projects for ME for my SSK! You can read all about it here!), I'm currently blocking the poncho I knit for my friend in exchange for hair maintenance for myself and my hubby, I have several Halloween projects to finish up this week for the shop, I'm working on my Fiber Trends Sheep Shawl and LOVING it (tinking aside!) I posted pics of it on the SSK blog too and you can still get in on it...we've just started. Check the Sheep Shawl KAL link in the sidebar.

But, no spinning lately...waaaaaahhh! I do have some soy silk I'm spinning for my friend Carol on the Mazurka which I hope to finish tomorrow, and the Tour de Fleece Shetland is STILL on my Traditional. UGH...I have to finish it and move on! That's meant to be another lace project.