Category Archives: Spinning

State Fair

Now that I’ve been living in MN for 4+ years, I thought maybe I was ready to enter a few items in the MN State Fair. Competition is stiff – when I marveled one year at all the intricate items in the various categories, I was reminded that winter is long here. Anyway, I buried my reservations about putting lovingly made items into a competition in which they would be scrutinized for technical merit. (Ugh, I hate being judged. Not sure why exactly I entered…)

I submitted these items:

I avoided looking up the results online and thought I’d find out when I went to the fair last Friday.

Gloria P outed me in the comments a few days ago, I managed to snag a single ribbon. My yarn is on the slanted board in the center, running horizontal. Third place. Nice. (Not much competition in handspinning, what can I say.)

As it was, I couldn’t even find the shawl or the socks displayed anywhere in the building. I spent 25 min hunting through the primary knitting case and very briefly cruised the other cases, but alas – they were not to be found.

Rhythm of days

Spring is coming, even to SE Minnesota. Today, I e-mailed the guy who will spray something toxic on my lawn that will prevent thistles from taking over the lawn as they have in years past. We grow exceptionally sharp thistles here, I have been stabbed painfully through leather gloves and through leather sneakers. It would not be good to have the baby crawling on thistles or putting them in her mouth.

Spring is coming and I feel a little stressed about it. I like winter because everyone’s yard looks the same under 3 feet of snow. When it is 30 below out, no one lingers outside, I don’t run into neighbors and make uncomfortable small talk, sessions in which I blurt instead of speak and laugh inappropriately when nothing is funny. But maybe this year, I will not be the weird, childless neighbor who gardens before everyone wakes up and darts back into the house by 7 AM. Maybe.

Spring is coming and my garden and I are going to have another face off. My compost pile choked to death last summer because SOMEONE piled on 3 feet of lawn clippings, and I never turned it, what with recovering from the abdominal gash from which they pulled out a 9.5-lb baby and all that. Despite the massive amount of weeds that I never got around to pulling, the garden produced so much more than I could eat, which was great and then stressful when everything bolted or turned to seed or rotted in place. So we have some work to do there.

Idly spinning a little Polwarth from Rovings.

It wants to spin up very, very fine. It doesn’t draft smoothly at higher grists, possibly because the carding oil is starting to get oxidized, which makes the fiber a little clumpy.

Turkish spindle

A little apology – I’m sorry that I’m not responding to most comments lately. I do read them all and very much appreciate that you take the time to let me know your opinion. I will continue to follow up when I can.

I’ve always preferred top-whorl spindles (my first spindle was a top whorl), so I was surprised to find myself mildly obsessing over the Jenkins Turkish spindles last year. They are beautiful, artisan spindles that are made of various types of wood – but they are low whorl!

I mentioned my obsession to Kerry, spindle collector extraordinaire… (Actually, take a minute and go look at Kerry’s new wheel – made by Betty Roberts – isn’t it gorgeous?!?) Knowing that I use spindles primarily for laceweight yarn, she thought the Jenkins spindle would be too big for me. Ah, but then Mr Jenkins started offering miniature spindles, aptly named Turkish Delight. I was sorely tempted but wistfully held off.

Around the holidays, someone posted a fairly sizable and discounted destash list on Spin-Sales. Among her offerings was a Jenkins Turkish delight spindle made of brilliantly chatoyant beeswing narra wood, total weight 1.2 oz (34 g). My resolve crumbled, and I bought it. Ha. Felt good, too.

The Turkish spindle has a couple of unique features. One, it collapses down to a very small space, which can be handy for transporting. Two, there’s some fancy way to wind the yarn around the arms such that when you’re done spinning, you remove the arms and have a center-pull ball all ready to go. I did a test run by making a 3-ply yarn from 50/50 camel down/silk singles (also spindle spun).

I never got the hang of doing a thigh spin with low-whorl spindles, the yarn between the cop and the tip of the shaft always thwarts my efforts. Instead, I put the shaft between my flat palms and give it a good zing (like a sending a propeller stick toy aloft).

When I first began plying, I rapidly realized that I hadn’t the foggiest idea how to wind the yarn around the spindle arms. D’oh! A quick search led to Amelia, who showed me the way. Under 1, over 2, under 1, over 2…

To get the yarn off, ease out the spindle shaft.

Pull the skinny arm out first. You probably will need to wiggle it a little bit at first.

Ease out the larger arm and admire your handiwork!

That’s 17.6 g of yarn (yardage currently unknown). The ball of yarn seems quite stable.

Moment of silence

Wheelwright Bill Wyatt passed away on Sunday, March 9, 2009. I did not know him personally but have admired his wheels ever since MDSW 2004.

You can see some of his work here. This truly is a sad day for the spinning community, we have lost a great craftsman and artist.

Found time

Find time, make time, steal time – the only things that get done around here are the activities that rank high on the priority list. Wash the baby’s bottles – check. Wash the baby’s clothes – check. Wash the baby – check! Wash the car – ha ha ha, sure I will.

But I took a few minutes here, a few minutes there – no more than 15 contiguous minutes for any session – to wrap up the pygora and silk lace weight yarn (discussed ad nauseum here, here, and here).

These are the guard hairs that were plaguing me throughout this project. They really slowed me down.

To spin, I would spread open the semi-felted roving (it just felted over time – not the fault of the processor at all), pick out every wirey hair I could find (OK, that I think is the fault of the processor), and spin the single while fighting the fiber and picking out even more guard hairs. Plying was more of the same – ply a yard or so, pick out guard hairs, ply another yard. And naturally, I found more guard hairs as I moved the yarn from the bobbin to the skein winder. Blah blah blah blah, guard hairs, blah blah blah.

But it did turn out very nicely. Final details – I bought 4 oz of carded roving and ended up with 3.5 oz of finished yarn, a 12.5% loss. Can we figure some of the lost weight was carding oil and some was guard hair? My measuring wheel tells me it is just shy of 750 yards. That’s a respectable lace weight yarn, in the neighborhood of 3400 ypp.

I was thinking it was sufficient for a triangle shawl of some kind. Speaking of triangle shawls, are you familiar with this resource? It lists a LOT of triangle shawls by yardage. But for now, the pygora yarn is going to go into the stash and wait its turn at the needles.

Last of the pink yarn

Oh, c’mon. You think I’d be talking about yarn if the Baby were here?

I recently finished spinning a second lot of Merino-Tencel yarn for the pink lace stole. To recap – I’d picked a lacy scarf pattern to match the yardage that I originally had, but I ended up reworking the design (wider and longer) to be a much larger stole. I knew I’d have to double the amount of yarn needed, and I ordered more fiber (same colorway, different dye lot). Anyway, that fiber is now yarn.

Three skeins (1 not pictured): 1) 21.6 g, 170.0 y; 2) 20.9 g, 150.3 y; 3) 9.9 g, 66.0 y
Total weight and yardage: 52.4 g (1.85 oz), 386.3 y; equivalent to ~3340 ypp

Now, if you compare that with the previous batch – ~475 yards of 2-ply laceweight (53 g or 1.87 oz), equivalent to ~4,000 ypp – you might note that the yarn is a bit denser the second time around. That was a deliberate choice, actually, although I assure you that the grist of the yarn is quite similar for both.

I spun the 2 lots differently because I was interested to see how the color variations would play out. The first, less-dense batch was spun from the fold. I didn’t draft the top at all, just pulled puffs of it off the full thickness of top and set it to spindling in a woolen manner. The second lot was spun by peeling thin strips from the top and spindling in a worsted manner. With time and wear, I’m guessing that one half will be slightly fuzzier than the other. The spun-from-the-fold yarn has very long lengths of a single color, whereas the spun-from-strips yarn has a more homogeneous appearance because the stripes are shorter.

I think I like the upper half better – no huge swaths of dark grey.

If the rough calculations I did last night are accurate, I have just enough yardage remaining to complete the second border. (I did have to rip out about 30 rows of the body [~2 h of knitting time], oh well, but I’d rather not have to spin a third lot of fiber.) If Baby stays put a little longer, I might have a chance to complete this project in the next week!

Harvest Festival loot

Nope, no baby. Not yet. Still more than a week away from the EDD.

I enjoyed myself at the Shepherd’s Harvest festival last weekend. It has expanded considerably since the previous year – the vendor areas went from 2 barns to part of a third, which I think is great. I saw more indie dyers and a lot of needlefelting supplies, but few people were selling spinning wheels (or spindles, for that matter). Even though I knew about 10 or so people who were going to the festival, I didn’t see anyone I recognized.

The weather was cool and rainy, so I wore my Noro wrap in lieu of a coat. Nothing like wearing a great big handknit to a wool festival! About 5 people stopped me to ask if I’d made it, what kind of yarn it was, etc, and that was great fun. Matt said to me later that while I was busy shopping (and he was following me around totally bored, the poor thing), he noticed people nodding to each other and pointing at my shawl.

“Are you sure they weren’t pointing at my ginormous belly?”
“Nope, usually your back was to them, I’m pretty sure it was the shawl.”

This what I bought:

I bought a mini orifice hook to fit my small-orifice wheels. (I discuss making the spinning wheel orifice smaller here.) I also bought 50 g of hand dyed bombyx silk top from Lone Tree Wools (no Web site). I’m planning to use this in a blend, but it’s so far down the project queue, it’ll probably be next year before I get to it.

The two big bumps of roving are from Handspun by Stefania – madder and osage dyed Corriedale and silk. If you remember, I bought a bit last year. I enjoyed spinning it so much, I decided to get enough for a complete project. This time, I bought just over 1 lb. Of course, the dyelots are a little different, but I think I can overcome that.

I had (in theory, anyway) wanted to finish spinning the fiber I purchased last year before this year’s show. The pygora, as I mentioned previously, is at least in the plying stage. Not so for the Stefania roving. I started spinning this on vacation last year, put it on hold, and only recently pulled it out again. I’ve completed 1 bobbin!

The 2 dyelots are shown in the picture – it’s hard to see, but the new stuff is a little less intense red. (Last year’s lot is almost Chinese-flag red.) But it still is pretty close. I am stripping the roving into thin pieces and spinning long draw. This will eventually be a 3-ply yarn, 1 ply of last year’s fiber, 2 plies of this year’s fiber. That way, I should have at least 24 oz of homogeneous yarn… hopefully enough for a full-size project.

Pygora singles

No news on the baby front. I’ll post if anything happens.

I bet you don’t even remember that I was spinning up a pygora/silk blend. I stopped spinning this after August because I was just sick and exhausted all the time, but the project beckoned again a couple months ago. I finally, FINALLY finished the singles last week!

Everything is on storage bobbins.

This project moves slowly because of the guard hair. The original prep was not dehaired well, and although I picked out as much hair as I could while spinning, I am still finding lots more during the plying stage. It is diminishing my pleasure in the project, but the final yarn still looks fab. Yeah. I’ll probably post about this sometime next year when I finish plying.

Attention Twin Cities knitters and spinners – the local sheep and wool festival is THIS WEEKEND. I am planning to go – probably on Saturday, if the weather cooperates. (Shelley? Kerry? Will I see you there?) Matt might come, too. He doesn’t really enjoy fiber festivals, but he’s afraid I’m going to go into labor amidst the piles of wool. Heh. Wouldn’t that make a helluva story?

Handspun project

OK, so I seemed to have confused many/most of you with the post title about the “world without shrimp.” It’s a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference. Anya mentions it in several episodes (the world without shrimp) when giving examples of alternate universes – eg, a world without Buffy – or in my case, a world without fiber hobbies. That is all.

[As it turned out, last week was mostly a bomb, as far as home improvement was concerned. I got most of the home office fixed up over the weekend, but I was surprised with 2 deadlines at work. I ended up doing nothing but editing all week long, from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM with a 30- to 45-minute break for dinner. So. Oh well. I tried.]

And for the folks who sent reassuring notes about how the baby won’t mind if we don’t have a beautifully painted and decorated nursery – I had a good laugh every time I saw one of those e-mails. People! We have LOW standards around here, c’mon! 😀 A House Beautiful designer I am not. I wiped down the (plain, undecorated) walls with disinfectant (we used to have the litter boxes in this room – this was the lockdown area when our cats were fighting). I put up funny animal print curtains and bought green fitted sheets for the crib, and I’m delighted.

Yesterday, we finally purchased a car seat. We’ve got our breasfeeding class lined up, and I’m going to meet with the local La Leche League leader (also a good knitbud pal) to go over any last-minute preBaby questions. Now we are ready. Baby can come any time now. (EDD – a little over a month.)

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a lace stole. Actually, it’s been in the works since February (I began knitting it on the way to Rome), but somehow, I never mentioned it before. The yarn is Merino/tencel (50/50) – ‘blogged here and here. The project is from the ever-so-lovely Victorian Lace Today, and the pattern is called “Scarf with French Trellis Border,” or something similar to that. I reworked the pattern to make it wider, and I’m using far smaller needles (US2).

I realized shortly into it that I would need more than 2 oz of yarn for a decent size stole. I ordered more fiber from Amy and have been spinning and plying it up.

The fun, it never stops.

Spinner’s Hill yarn – wrap up

Plied, washed, yardage measured, and reskeined:

Weight – 144.4 g and 109.4 g (total, 253.8 g)
Yardage – 470 y and 348 y (total, 818 y)
3-ply yarn, roughly sport weight

For those who asked me to photograph it with a dime for scale –



Total amount of time – approximately 26 hours (UPDATED from 23 hrs – I can’t add!) of work from start to finish. Thank FSM for the day job. 🙂