Category Archives: Spinning

FO: A tale of 2 skeins

I previously mentioned that I’d gotten the unexpected gift of spinning time when my then-first-grader was assigned to read out loud for a half hour daily. Here is what I was able to spin before school let out for the year.

I had 2 batts from Franquemont Fibers, purchased back in 2007, when Abby had an eBay store. (Mmmm, my stash is ooooold.) She called this colorway “Spring Rain”; it includes superwash wool, Bluefaced Leicester, Merino, kid mohair, tussah and bombyx silk, tussah silk noil, and nylon. (Altogether, it is not machine washable.)

Because I’d purchased 2 batts, I decided to make this into a 2-ply yarn. Singles (American long draw) were spun on my Butterfly electric wheel. I was aiming for a fingering weight yarn.

After the singles were transferred to storage bobbins, I wanted them to chillax for a while and thus started spinning singles for a new yarn. This is a Merino Tencel kettle-dyed blend from Misty Meadows. I’m pretty sure it was a souvenir from the MN State Fair, probably from 2006 or 2007.

With the white shiny streaks in the red, doesn’t it remind you of well-marbled meat?

So that got spun up (from the fold), also on the electric wheel. I was hoping to maximize the yardage and aimed to make a laceweight yarn.

After those singles were transferred to storage bobbins, it was time to go back to ply the blue singles.

Final weight is 97.7 g; final length is 325 yards.

A few close ups:

Plying the red was tricky. For some reason, the wire yarn guides on the wheel pushed back the plying twist on this one, and the final yarn was fairly underplied. I wound it off onto a niddy noddy and placed the skein right back onto a swift so that I could ply the yarn again. Not the greatest picture below, but possibly you can see the difference between the plied and underplied portions.

Final weight is 49.6 g; final length is 234 yards.

Given the meat-like color, I was joking with a friend that I should make it into a lacy scarf – a caul cowl! (Ha! But I think Jessica mostly beat me to that joke by a few years.)

A few close ups:

I’m sad that my big blocks of spinning time are gone, but nothing good lasts forever, right? 😉

The spinning of Pepé Le Pew

Five years ago, I bought a 4-oz bump of 70/30 Shetland wool and tussah silk blend. I spun a tiny bit of it on a spindle and then life, etc, twins born, blah blah, until I pulled it out again a month ago, when I received the unexpected gift of daily spinning time.

My first grader moved into a new reading level at the end of February. Her previous daily reading assignment consisted of us reading a short book together every afternoon, but in this new level, now she reads part of a chapter book aloud to me for 30 minutes daily. I no longer need to hover over each page and correct myriad mistakes, I just listen and question obvious errors. I’ve been learning a lot about magic treehouses, sigh.

On the plus side, one can actually get quite a bit of spinning done in 30 minutes per day. 😉 This is more spinning than I’ve done in a year, probably.

I made medium-weight singles and 3-plied them to make a bouncy worsted weight yarn. It feels good to squeeze.

I didn’t have a project in mind and thus didn’t bother with measuring yardage. I have no project planned because the yarn itself is not great. The Shetland fiber was distressingly full of short, wiry kemp. Had it been a fleece, I would have rejected it. As expected, the kemp is shedding out like mad.

Sadly, the yarn is too coarse for next-to-skin items, which rules out small projects like scarf, mitts, hat, etc. I was idly considering a Zoom Loom, but what would I do with 4 oz of scratchy, hairy, shedding squares? So this skein will go to the stash bucket to marinate, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Long time

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any handspun yarn on this blog, eh?

One ounce of wool roving (breed unknown/unspecified), handdyed by me, 2-ply, spindle spun on a midi Bosworth spindle, plied on an electric spinner. This was my rest-between-sets project while I lifted weights, no joke. What else can you do for 90-180 seconds?

I was aiming for worsted weight but don’t think I quite achieved that, too many years of ultra-fine laceweight for my hands to let go of habit. Looks like beginner’s yarn, doesn’t it? I had to ply this yarn twice, actually, the first try was underplied and looked stringy and miserable.

The fiber was a gift from a work colleague. Her parents had passed away, she was clearing out their home, and when she found a small carton with wool that used to belong to her dad, she gave it to me. I can’t remember what the box said anymore, but I vaguely remember thinking it looked like a laboratory supply. I dyed it and then it sat in my stash for probably 7+ years.

I’d like to make it into something that I can give back to my friend. However, the wool is not great for wearing (scratchy), plus it would felt upon washing, and I have only an ounce. So… any suggestions for a nonwearable, won’t-need-to-wash-it-ever something or other that I could make with 1 oz of DK weight yarn?

FO: Artichaut shawl

When I first saw the Artichaut Shawl in 2009, I gasped. It literally took my breath away for an instant. (“Artichaut” is French for “artichoke.” The lace pattern is an interpretation of the artichoke plant and fruit.) When designer Anne Hanson posted her own photos, highlighting the intricately scalloped edge, I knew I had to have one. Go look at the pictures, go on. I’ll wait. :)

Sorry about the crummy wide shot – I had 15 min (while the fish sticks were baking and the girls were playing outside) to tape the shawl to the wall and snap a few. IRL, the shawl is straight across the top, not pointy.

My shawl is made from a 3-ply handspun fingering-weight blend of camel and tussah silk (50/50). Singles were spun on a Bosworth mini and plied on a David Reed Smith Judi. I have a lot of pleasant memories of sitting in Meredith’s room at night, spindling away on my camel and silk, while Matt read bedtime stories out loud. I remember being hugely pregnant and having to sit with my knees spread to make room for my enormous belly. Meredith was still only 1 at the time and would watch me spin, sometimes reaching out to stroke the soft top as we listened to Matt’s voice.

The yarn, originally creamy off-white, was dyed by the ever-fabulous Kim of The Woolen Rabbit. I’m a big fan of Kim’s work, as you may recall, and I so appreciate that she is willing to work with yarns that aren’t part of her regular stock. You’re awesome, Kim! Thanks so much!!!

I can’t find the colorway on her site right now, but when I e-mailed her back in 2010 with a description of the colors I wanted (“artichoke-like colorway, something that is mostly greenish grey with purple and pink”), she said she could make it up in “Rosemary and Thyme.” And it was exactly what I had been hoping for. I regret that I lack the photography skills to show the true colors of the yarn, but trust me, it is gorgeous.

This shawl is, no question, the most complicated thing I’ve ever knit. Both sides are patterned with knit and purl stitches, k2togs, ssks, p2togs, p2tog through back loops, and single and double yarnovers. (It’s not one of those shawls that have the all-purl even-numbered rows.) That means the symbols on the chart have different meaning, depending on whether you’re on an odd or even row. I found the symbol-switching curiously hard to keep track of – whaddya mean it’s a knit stitch, that dot means purl… oh, right. Multiply that confusion by all the different-slanting decreases and such, and it’s not a project to work on late at night after a long day at work.

Furthermore, the different parts of the chart (border, edge of main, main repeat, center, main repeat, edge of main repeat, border) are not mapped out in a mirror image; instead, you backtrack to the relevant section and then skip forward to the end as needed. Although the nonlinear path allows the chart to fit very conveniently on a single page (whereas a mirror image chart would require 2 pages), it took time for me to adjust to and remember the flow of the different sections.

I had initially attempted this shortly after Jordan and Casey were born but found that I was too feeble-minded from sleep deprivation and general exhaustion to knit without frequent mistakes (I was back at work full-time by then, breastfeeding 2 babies, potty-training a toddler, AND had to keep the house pristine because it was on the market). It wasn’t gonna happen, so I set it aside for a year. This eventually became my lunchtime project – I’d hop on the treadmill and knit whilst walking 2 mph. (Why not, right?) Toward the end, when each row was quite long, I could knit only 4 rows in an hour. Casting off, I used a size US10 needle (6 mm). I first cast off the regular way with the larger needle but found it was still too tight for the eyelets in the scallop to really show. I tinked the entire cast off and tried again using the the surprisingly stretchy bind off. MUCH better.

Blocking was a 2-stage process. First, I washed it, squeezed out the water, threaded it with blocking wires, and pinned it out. It dried overnight. I then removed each pin and pulled the wires back even farther, to maximize the area of the shawl. Each eyelet of each scallop was pinned (I ran out of pins! Had to go buy more… and then ran out again!). After all was repinned, I plugged in my iron and steamed the bejeezus out of it. It dried overnight, and I wove in the final ends and called it finished.

Parting shot – I leave you with a picture of my girl Jordan jumping for joy at the county fair. I pretty much felt like that when the project was done. This shawl was 4 years in the making… and so totally worth it. I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

Corriedale bump

I bought a little mound of blue and yellow roving at MDSW 2006. Golly, what was that, a lifetime ago?


In its native form (plus the rest of my haul from that year – hey, I still have the cap!)

The fiber is primarily indigo-dyed Corriedale with a good percentage of silk dyed with osage orange. The silk gave the singles such a warm, golden shimmer. The spinning was very smooth, no problems that I recall. The singles languished for years, but this spring, I found all the storage bobbins and plied that sucker up. In its final form, it was a round 3-ply, probably heavy worsted or aran weight. I didn’t weigh it after washing all the carding oils out, so I’m not sure how much was there. (Four ounces? Maybe a little more?)

I sent it away as a gift, so I hope someday to see it in a more functional form! :) Here are a few close-ups of the final yarn.

Yarn it

Ever since Jordan and Casey were born, I almost never knit in front of the girls. They need too much of my physical help and direct attention, we’re always playing together (or reading, or eating, or…), plus I don’t want pointy needles and strangulation hazards (and “unravelable” projects) just laying around, willy nilly. Although I sometimes knit or crochet in the car, me knitting is not a part of our current family culture.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Meredith spied a hole in one of her garments and asked me if I was going to “yarn it.” Do what? Say that again? “Mama, will you yarn this for me?”

Well, I’ll be darned. Heh heh.


Now 3 years old!

Here’s a skein of yarn that was 2 years in the making. My e-mail receipt is dated March 2009!

Fiber: Chasing Rainbows; 50/50 silk/merino; colorway African savannah; purchased here (NAYY).

Wheel and spinning style: Drudik wheel, slowest or next-to-slowest speed. Split the top lengthwise into long, thin strips (no wider than a pinky) and translucent. Spun in pure worsted style (draft about 12″ before feeding onto the bobbin). Plied on my Womack Butterfly electric wheel. I set the bobbins up and walked with the singles until I was about 30 feet away from the wheel (it spun all the while), I waited until it had built up a lot of plying twist and then walked slowly back to let it feed back on the bobbin. This is a 1-hand maneuver for aged singles with dormant twist. I used the other hand to do things like brush my teeth!

Finishing: Hanked, tied in a million places with a Figure8+1 tie (that is, looped 3 times around per tie) because it is 50% silk and silk is notorious for mercilessly sticking to itself. (If you’ve ever cried while cutting tangled silk off of a bobbin, you know what I mean!) Handwashed in cool water, spun out, dried flat.

Yarn specs: 3-ply, fingering weight. Length, 387 yards (354 m); weight, 2 oz (57 g).

Random Tuesday

Random thing 1: Someone recently e-mailed me about a very cool variant on the DNA scarf. I think this is highly awesome.


Image by Jamie P

See more pics here (rav link) or here (non-rav link).

Random thing 2: I was browsing through the site of a former infertility blogger (now mommy of 2 boys, 1 about Meredith’s age). She recently moved to Turkey and posted pictures of a carpet shop that she visited with her family. She mentioned the dyes, the knotted pile, and included a picture of a woman spinning.


Image by Wendi K

I was really tickled by this photo. “Hey,” I thought to myself, “a Turkish spindle! In Turkey! How neat is that?!” (Ha ha ha I AM TIRED.) Looks like she’s using it as a support spindle to make worsted-weight singles. Nifty.

Random thing 3: Acting on the advice of Etherknitter and others, I recently sent off a superfine Merino (gracefully aged 7 yrs in my stash, purchased from here) to Morro Fleece Works. I figured it would be at least 6 mo before I saw it again. Wrong! Shari e-mailed and said it would be done this week!

Random thing 4: If you’re a breastfeeding (or otherwise busty) gal who has a hard time finding tailored blouses that close over “the girls” without pulling or gaping, Carissa Rose clothes are designed for you. They have a special sale going on as part of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Click here for details. NAYY, other than a previous customer.


Image by Carissa Rose

Random thing 5: My babies are now in full-time day care. They are doing mostly well, although Casey is (after 1 week) still very reluctant to accept bottles of breastmilk during the day. The day care ladies have tried everything – our latest trick is to have someone drape on a shirt that I’ve worn, in case the scent helps. (Interestingly, the only caregiver who has had any success feeding her also happens to be a nursing mom – coincidence?)


Jordan, Casey

We see the pediatrician in another week for their next wellness appointment, but can anyone please offer me a reassuring story in the meantime?

State Fair

My friend Barb offered to bring in my entries to the MN state fair knitting competition earlier this summer. She was going to the fairgrounds anyway, to drop off her own entries (canning competition). I gratefully handed over a pair of socks, a sweater, and a handspun lace scarf a few weeks before the fair began. And then, after the items were out of my hands, I promptly forgot all about the fair.

One Thursday morning, I got a strange, cryptic e-mail from a handspinning friend, Shelley. The subject line said “State Fair” and the message was simply “Whoooooo hooooo!!!!!” I briefly wondered what the heck she was talking about. But babies were crying or something, and I just closed out the message, figuring I’d get back to it later, whatever it was.

Then Barb e-mailed me Thursday afternoon and asked me how I did at the fair. Huh? Oh! The fair opened that day! And the results of the competitions were posted online that morning! Ohhhh! Hey, did I win something? Is that why Shelley was so excited? (All right, guys – in my defense, I’m a little sleep deprived, OK?)

BTW–Barb kicked some serious butt this year! 😉 She is now a THREE-time winner of the MN State Fair Prestigious Processor of the Pantry Award – read more about her here.

We went to the fair on Saturday. Gorgeous day – 70s, sunny. The girls were NOT happy. We were there for a couple hours, and I think 2 of the 3 were crying at any given moment the whole time. Lots of people stared. Moms of twins stopped me to offer encouragement (that was nice). But we ate lots of food on a stick, Meredith and Matt rode on the carousel (yeah, she clung to Matt, wept, and whispered repeatedly that she was “all done” and “want[ed] to get off”), and we saw my knitting on display! Sorry for the lousy pictures – I had only a cameraphone.

And the results! <drumroll >

Socks, fifth place!

Sweater, third place!

Lace scarf, first place! Check out that blue ribbon! Also – it won a special award from the Northern Lights Handspinners Guild!

International Fleeces

A handspinner and knitter that I have known through online fiber groups for many years has recently opened a new virtual shop, International Fleeces. NAYY, other than she is a friend.

I made a small purchase to help her on her way –

That’s 4 oz of Shetland/silk (70/30) – doesn’t it sort of remind you of Pepé Le Pew?

And I couldn’t resist the True Creations spindle (0.7 oz, a colorful whorl made of chakte kok, a wood I’d never heard of before).

Shipping (with UPS) was prompt, as was e-mail notification of the purchase, and I’m very satisfied with my experience shopping with her. She also threw in a couple freebie fiber samples (camel/silk blend and spiral-dyed Merino), which were nice.

Go forth and treat yourself! And tell Talia that I sent you. 😉

New handspun yarn

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Hey, so I finished something!

It was a couple years in the spinning, but the plying took only a few hours. This is a 3-ply (chain-plied), sport-weight yarn, 100% Polwarth. I don’t know the yardage, but the weight is 4.8 oz.

I was really disappointed in this roving. It was felted into an unusable, clotted mass. Perhaps it didn’t start out that way – it could be a function of the carding oil oxidizing with time. Taking my own advice, I stopped spinning the fiber when the pleasure of spinning gave way to tedium.

If you follow the progression of spinning (easy to do because of the chain plying), as the roving got more and more felted, the singles got progressively ragged and pilly-looking on the bobbin. The last part of the yarn looks like hell, frankly. I am hanging onto the unspun portion and may try v.e.r.y. gently washing it, but I am not optimistic about its rescue. Such a shame, the colors really are wonderful.

Currently, the yarn is resting quietly in the stash bucket in the basement. Any suggestions of a project for a small amount of yarn with very long color sequences?