Me Too: Joining the 2017 Tour De Fleece Spin-a-long

I had only heard of this event a few months ago perhaps in someone’s podcast. I have a vague idea of what the event inspiration Tour De France is. The thought of setting some personal spinning goals and spending most of July treadling my wheels intrigued me.

I decided to participate in two Ravelry forums: Sweets Off the Wheel and Sew Perfect Purls which was a lot of fun. I found it really inspiring looking at all of the fibers and finished skeins people were posting. It was also nice to chat with all people who are just as enthusiastic about fiberarts as me. I made some nice connections sharing and learning with the others in the group.

My goals were to spin 2 sweater quantities of wool (found malabrigo fiber for $12 per 4oz braid on fabulousyarn.com and lost my mind) and 4oz of flax strick. I pretty much did that and also experimented with dyeing raw cotton with fiber reactive dyes.

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The plan was to put all of my wheels to use.

Jensen TinaII- spin a strick of flax
Kromski Symphony- spin 12oz of Malabrigo Nube in a fingering/sport chain-plied yarn
Kromski Sonata-combo spin 2 4oz neon braids (1 merino, 1 ramboullet) with a high twist
Ashford Traveler w/ lace flyer- dye some cotton punis (never dyed before) and spin them up.

ready to skein TDF2017

I ended up spinning 4 oz white Targhee, 8 oz Fierce fibers 1ply bruised fairy in ramboulett and 1ply bright rainbow merino, 12 oz Malabrigo Nube merino in Arco Iris, mixed skeins of pink/purple cotton/bamboo, 4oz flax strick)

The cotton dyeing was quite the experiment. I learned why it’s essential to scour the cotton with soda ash on high heat. The natural oil cause the cotton to float on the water like marshmallow. The water did not penetrate the mass of fiber until the oil was boiled away.

The dyeing part was pretty simple. I mixed up some magenta, raspberry, purple in squeeze bottles and got the job done. I even dyed my handspun cotton shawl I crocheted last year.

After that I was worried that I had ruined my punis along with the bamboo fiber I through in. The punis shriveled into little dreadlocks.  It became so compacted and matted. With the help of some wooden sticks and a pillow I was able to fluff them up enough to spin.

I ran the bamboo through the carder to fluff it up then hand carded it into a cloud. The cotton and bamboo singles were plied together for a slubby but still had a nice drape and sheen.

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I stopped measuring yardage a few years ago after discovering I usually spin a fingering weight yarn by default and 4 oz of wool just about always ends up being about 450yards after washing. The Targhee may end up shrinking more because of the crimp.
Today I counted my flax thinking surely it would be different because well it’s different than wool. Nope. The 4oz skein ended up being 450.7 yards. The last time I measured cotton it had like 9% shrinkage after washing.
With all that said I spun
6-4oz wool skeins =2,700 yards
1- 4oz flax skein=450 yards
The cotton and cotton/bamboo skeins(completely different weight/yardage ration)- 2oz gives about 500 yards unwashed. I’m just gonna say 700yardsthinking_face
Total approximate yardage=3,850yards

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handspun cotton and bamboo skeins

 

TDF 2017 skeins

2017 Tour De Fleece Results

TDF2017 skeins in a basket

basket of skeins awaiting their final soak

Breaking in and Breaking out: My New Loom and West Coast Adventure.

With school out I have had more time to craft and boy have I been busy. Firstly, my Emelie cardigan is finished. This was my first time knitting a garment with size 3 needles. It was pretty time consuming but made a fine fabric. The yarn I used  came in 739 yards skeins. The entire body of the cardigan and half of the sleeves (I divided the remaining yarn equally between the two) were knitted with one skein.

A small amount (maybe 200 yards) of the 2nd skein was used to finish the sleeves, button, and neck band. The 2nd skein was slightly more yellow than the first but the color variation did not cause too much of an issue I think, since it is distributed evenly in the sleeves.

I never really figured out how to work the lace pattern correctly. The chart has you do a SSK using a yarnover stitch on the purl side which was fiddly to me. My lace does not look like the sample picture. Oh well, I did it consistently wrong so I guess that makes it a design modification. I lucked out and found clearance button at JoAnns.  They are normally so stinking expensive. This cardigan ended up with 12 frosty green shank buttons.

I acquired a Leclerc Artistat 36″ floor loom back in February but have not warped it up until now. I was just as happy admiring it in my dining room. I had warped a floor before however this was the widest warp I’ve done at 30 inches to-date. The warp is only 4.5 yards long which is the max I can do with my warping board. It is finally being broken in.

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Everything went fairly smooth with the warping although it was quite tedious. I accidently skipped threading 4 reed slots but the heddles were done correctly so I won’t bother to re-sley the reed. I plan to use this first un-mercerized 8/2 cotton warp to play around with my handspun colored- cotton odds and ends and some flax singles I wove a few years ago.

Being summer break and all I decided to take a little getaway. In an internet search I found that the Black Sheep Gathering was happening in Eugene, Oregon. This was the perfect excuse for me to explore the pacific coast. It was so beautiful! I was in love from the plane’s decent into the state. It is so majestic. Those mountains, gah!

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sky view of the plane decent to Oregon

The Black Sheep Gathering was a real treat. I loved the vendors. They were so engaging and talented. This festival did not have many if any commercial vendors which is great. I was shocked to discover there is no sales tax in Oregon. Whattha! so yes, I bought stuff even though I had no room in my carry-on bag for more stuff. I figured I’d get rid of some clothes if I needed to.

I met my spindle craftsman idol Ken Ledbetter  of KCL woods who produces modular spindles. He had beautiful modular Turkish spindles with glass insets. I had to have one. It was cool to be able to choose my own shaft. He uses all kinds of exotic woods. In addition to the spindle I bought a modular spinning bowl. It has a bowl that can be screwed onto a shaft for chair spinning and a mound for table and floor spinning. Brilliant! I love it so much.

I also of course bought some fiber. I found silk roving and bright colored braids that I “needed”.

Another cool textile find was a pleated skirt made in by artisans in Laos Vietnam . It has extremely intricate ikat patterning in indigo woven on a handspun cotton singles warp. The skirt also has cross stitched motifs done in brightly dyed cotton singles. It is a real masterpiece and a humbling reminder of how far I have to go in acquiring this level of skill and expertise.

I honestly have mixed feelings about these sort of purchases. On one hand I know the artisan may have needed the proceeds from the sale. It seems, however that when these items get sold for profit a decline begins. A craft that was once an expression of one’s pride in culture, skill, and love becomes a mere means to an end, a meal ticket. It brings me to the question of whether we are progressing or regressing. Perhaps these artisans will one day be like myself, struggling to regain lost knowledge of our textile traditions sold out for cheapo mass produced clothing.

Fortunately everything kind of smooshed into my suitcase with a little wrestling. I did not need to check my luggage. phew.

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my carry-on jammed with fiber goodness

It was a very refreshing trip. I drove about 250 miles along the pacific coast on the scenic Highway 121. It was so cool to weave through the Redwood forests and see all the rock formations in the Pacific ocean.

There was also a little mountain driving on this trip. I drove up to Enumclaw, Washington. At one point my GPS said I was 4,500ft about sea level! It was an intense drive but the view was well worth the stress. I took a gondola ride up Crystal Mountain and saw Mt. Rainier. It was spectacular beyond words.

In 4 days, I had seen a lot but there is so much more I would like to explore one day. The trip was a nice blend of excitement and relaxation. I even struck up a new spindle project (an old 3-4 oz mystery braid I had in my stash) and the infamous crochet Virus shawl that everyone has made on Ravelry. I am using a gradient Zauberball lace yarn that I bought a few years ago.

My Stash: Am I Busting or Building?

I have been spinning a lot of yarn lately. A lot. Now a sane crafter would be telling herself “Good job, see you may buy a lot of craft supplies  but at least you’re producing”, “Look at all of that yarn you’ve spun, one day soon your  fiber and yarn stash will be reasonable. Nope not me. I just go out and buy more. A lot of what I am spinning lately has been new acquisitions. Only about 3oz (the cotton/bamboo blend, and 1.5oz green merino/silk) was old stash. Womp, womp.

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Newly spun yarn (2- 4oz skeins of Ashland Bay dyed merino top in Baltic and Bermuda colorways, 1.5 oz of merino/silk green top, hand-dyed cotton punis, and brown cotton mixed skein.

I am having a lot of fun though. The latest finished project was 4.6oz  art rolags from Spindipity in the Monet colorway. They are so interesting to spin with all of the color and texture changes. There are 2 more art batts in my stash that I plan to spin up very soon.

I spun 4 ozs of Ashland Bay merino top on my KCL modular drop spindles.  This a bit of a milestone. I have gotten quite efficient.

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fabric strip wrist distaff in use

It was a fairly quick spin especially once I started using a strip of knit fabric as wrist distaff. Having the interchangeable spindle shafts is also nice. I just fill two shafts up and wind a plying ball.

The plant fibers are finally seeing some action now. I whipped out my last bit of recycled blue jean fiber. The tiny sampling was striped with white cotton. In order to make more yardage, I plied it with singles spun from my last bits of carded bamboo. (I did not feel like carding up more).

While I was at it I made a cleanup-skein with bits of left over plant fibers on my bobbins.

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brown, white, and recycled blue jean cotton handspun

My other plant fiber spin was the art rolags that I bought from Buchanan Fibers.

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Dyed cotton/milkweed rolags

They were a blend of dyed cotton, milkweed, and nylon. The singles spun up fine but the headache came when it came time to ply. I forget an important lesson I had learned a while back. NEVER create a plying ball from a center pull ball with cotton singles. The high twist combined with fine singles WILL tangle and make you cry or even worse cause you to lose yardage. This method works well for wool only (maybe not fine mohair singles).

The most efficient way to divide yarn for plying is to weigh out equal amounts of fiber before spinning. Anyhow I did get it to work out but it was unnecessarily stressful and time consuming. The end result was a pretty nice yarn however. We’ll see how it washes up.

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Handspun cotton/milkweed/nylon skein

Alas, I have busted a lot of stash this month however there is more where that came from. I did a little inventory, organization a few days ago. I have 10- 5gallon bins of wool fiber and yarn, a bookcase of plant fibers and yarn, and a bookcase of weaving yarn.

No excuses folk, I know there are no excuses. I’m in pretty deep and loving it.

Spinning and Knitting, plus Scrappy Socks

A few months ago I unearthed a few old UFOs (unfinished objects) that I had stuck into ziplock baggies and forgotten about. They were basically project failures that I didn’t have the heart to unravel at the time. Among them are a couple of wannabe lace shawls, socks, convertible mittens, and alpaca gloves.

The socks were made from a skein of merino/nylon self striping  sock yarn in a ugly colorway.  I’ve quickly found that buying sock yarn for knitting socks is way too expensive for me. Most 100g skeins are in the $20 range which to me is ridiculous for socks. I’d rather turn the fancy yarn into an accessory.

The pattern that the partial sock was knit in was nice. After doing some searching around I figured out that it was a pattern from the Vogue Knitting Ultimate Sock Book called garter stitch heel sock. After adding 4 extra stitches I was able to knit a sock that fit.

I used the rest of the skein with a leftover ball of yellow sock yarn and made another sock using a simple slip stitch pattern and a spiral toe decrease.

The scrappy sock mojo kept going with some yarn I salvaged from a scarf found in the giveaway bin at school. I paired it with some scratchy gray wool that was frogged from the shawl project I wove earlier this year.

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I now have 3 new pairs of hand knit socks. Most of my fancy yarn scraps will probably be used in this way going forward. Using the fabulous stuff for cuffs and knitting the foot portion in tougher, undyed wool.

The spinning wheels have been humming quite a bit lately. The sparkly art rolags were spun up on my supported spindle A Handspun Spring. The resulting yarn was dark and muddy in my opinion. In order to lighten it up I plied it with the white bamboo singles that I had spun on my Ashford Traveler over the winter. The resulting yarn was surprisingly soft and draped despite the large amounts of sparkle Angelina fiber. It was like spinning a Brillo Pad in some sections. After using up all of my bamboo singles the rest of the yarn was chain-plied

The sparkle yarn was knit into a crescent shawl (my first) called As You Wish by Booknits  on Ravelry. I used the chain plied yarn for garter stitch ridges to add some punch to the now muted art-yarn.

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I am still hooked on the sparkle art batt craze. I spun up a 4oz batt called frosty rum drink in a lace weight and plied it on itself. It yielded about 550yards.

Apparently that’s not enough to settle my art batt obsession. I found an Etsy shop called Gargoylelover that sells artbatts in larger quantities (most are in small batts and the seller only has one for sale). I bought 12ozs of a colorway called Starry Night. It was so interesting to spin I finished it in 3 days. I have plans to knit a hoodie with it.

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At the moment I have another sparkle project on the knitting needles. I bought some handpainted sparkle yarn from and Indiana Indie dyers called GoodforEweyarns. It is light fingering lace weight. The plan is to knit my first cardigan on size 3 needles. So far so good. The pattern is called Emelie by Elon Berglund.

A Handspun Spring

I’ve been spinning a lot of mostly wool and manufactured fibers these days. Despite the season change I’m still in the mood to spin. I also made garments from the woven cotton fabrics I wove a few months ago. Finished objects include a shirt from the colored cotton fabric and a skirt from the sari silk w/ dishcloth cotton yarn.101_1842

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Hand woven sari silk and cotton skirt (Very dense fabric!)

101_1841The cotton shirt is my favorite. I was so terrified that the woven fabric would fall apart as soon as I cut it. I basted muslin to the hand woven cloth then cut and sewed them together as one piece as a precaution.

The resulting garments are thicker that they have to be but I feel more confident that they will hold up. Perhaps I will get more brave as I gain more experience. Both projects used all of the fabric. I literally only have a 12 inch square left of each fabric and very little waste.

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The Jacob fleece crochet cardigan that I was making from previously moth attacked handspun is finished. I haven’t worn it yet because the weather has been too warm. It still needs a closure in order to keep it from flopping all over the place. I like the outcome for the most part although the neckline sits low.  It’s more like wearing an accent piece to an outfit rather than a cover-up. I have to consider what shirt I’m wearing under it because it will show making the garment less versatile in my wardrobe.

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Handspun Jacob fleece cardigan (Pattern: Carefree cardigan from Crochet Closet)

 

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I ended up chain-plying the golden merino singles I spun. The result was a nice round, high twist yarn that I think would work up nicely into cables. I was a little worried that I had overspun. When I wound it in a skein it was a scary, curly mess. After soaking it hangs perfectly relaxed. phew.101_1848

 

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golden chain-plied merino yarn after soaking

I also spun up a dump bag of naturally dyed wool (mostly mohair) that I bought from a Hill Creek Fibers booth for $8 a few years ago. I basically sorted out the colors. The fiber had to be hand carded first because a lot of it was nearly irreversibly matted. I ran the pre-carded rolags through my drum carder then spun the yarn into a chain-plied worsted yarn. I have not idea what it will be used for. It was a nice ego boost to make a usable yarn out of the stuff.

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Skein spun from Hill Creek fibers mill ends grab bag

 

 

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I went to two fiber festivals this month. The Fiber Event at Greencastle, IN and The Ann Arbor Fiber fest. I bought quite a bit of stuff. Which is okay I guess since well, we have to support our local fiber shed and I haven’t gone in a few years. I won’t share it all here but I did find some materials that I haven’t worked with before. It’s always great to try something new. Here are a few of my finds:

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Fiber Fest Haul: A few art batts, Targhe wool, dyed merino combed top, hand combed angora, sky blue silk, 50/50 tussah silk / wool fiber, and fish leather

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An adorable hand forged sheep head orifice hook

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A sample of various fish leathers. Apparently it is one of the strongest leather available on the market. Whodathunkit! It has a luxurious drape and is quite affordable. Where has this been all my life?

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Salmon leather Earrings

At the moment I am spinning an art batt from Knit Spin Farm on my Kromski Symphony. It literally has everything in it. I think I will ply it onto itself.

I have two spindle projects going. It’s nice because with all this sunshine I want to be outside. The portability of the spindle trumps my folding spinning wheel. I can take my spindle for a walk. My beloved Kromski Sonata can’t do that.

On my drop spindle I am spinning a green bamboo/merino blend. It came as a silver/green braid combo. After spinning the two colors together I realize I do not like them together. For now I’m just spinning the green. My cop got a little sloppy and the spindle was heavy and less efficient after winding on about 2ozs. Thankfully the spindle I’m using has interchangeable shafts so I haven’t had to stop to wind my singles off. Production is pretty good.

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Drop Spindle with interchangeable shaft eliminates the need to wind-off singles right away

I am finally putting my wooden supported spindle to work. It has been spinning lace weight likea dream. It would be nice to be able to pack a full 2ozs onto it without winding off. The fiber I am spinning is one of those new “everything but the kitchen sink” mini rolags prepared on a blinding board. It is so pretty. I have no idea what this yarn will look like when it is finished. There are literally whole chunks of Angelina and icicle that I’m afraid might make it scratchy like a Brillo pad. I may ply it with some bamboo fiber I have.

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art rolags by Hello Purl in loud mouth colorway

 

I thought for sure I would be sewing and weaving right now but hey, I’m just following my bliss at the moment.

Finished Objects: Wheels spinning, Needles Clicking

I finished up spinning the 16ounces of llama fiber I began working on last month. Love It! It’s a little late in the season to start a project with it so I have decided to store it for later.

I really want to start working on plant fibers now for spring. We’ll see. I still have about 8oz of the golden merino left to spin lace-weight on my Kromski Symphony. Hopefully I can finish it soon. It has been on the wheel forever, like literally years.

I washed up the skeins that were recycled from some ugly knitted projects I made years ago and never wore. The skeins were hung to dry on a drying rack placed in my bathtub. They are now packed away awaiting a second chance at becoming something nice to wear.

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Hand Spun yarn skeins and sweater drying on a rack in the bathtub

I finished my Diminishing Rib Cardigan from Interweave Knits Spring 2009 cover and I like it. I kind of haphazardly spun and chain-plied that roving maybe 8 years ago and packed it away thinking I didn’t like it only to fall in love after it was knit up. I believe it is Ashland Bay merino top in the rose colorway. Sometimes it’s hard to perceive how a yarn will look once it is knitted, crocheted, or woven.

The pattern did not call for a closure however I chose to crochet two pairs of ties on it. I also stabilized the neckline with  2 rows of chains stitches. I am not sure if I did the tubular cast-on correctly but it made the neckline more stretchy than I wanted. This is my first handspun garment. I’m pretty happy with the result.

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Diminishing Rib Cardigan made from handspun merino yarn

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I had not finished spinning my llama roving yet but I wanted to make another winter item. I had  2 skeins of  bulky Noro Kochoran yarn in the color #65 that I bought at a local yarn shop liquidation sale. The yarn was hard on my hands. It was difficult to slide on my needles (Knit Picks nickel plated circulars in size 8). Kochoran has angora bunny in it. It shed a lot as I worked with it however I think that has resolved itself now that it’s knit up. I should have went up to a size 9 as recommended on the yarn label. ouch.  I alternated it with some chain-plied handspun natural white cormo yarn.

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What began as the Welted Cowl published in Vogue knitting  winter 2010 morphed into a pretty nifty poncho as I changed up the amount of ribbed purled bands, completely disregarded gauge, and used up every last bit of the yarn I had. It is super, don’t need a coat, warm.

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Welted Poncho

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Welted Poncho paired with a hanspun angora fichu

Ghosts of Spinner’s Past: Revisiting Handspun Wool after Moth Attack

Long ago…about 7 years ago I discovered that moths had attacked  my beautiful handspun yarn that I had left out for display. Literally pounds of my handspun yarn skeins were in shreds. After obsessively looking for a resolution I found that most people  store cedar chips or lavender with their stash and hope for the best. Both preventative measures had failed me. In my experience I found that this works if the majority of your stash is commercially processed  fiber and yarn. The moths did not touch any of my commercial fiber. The natural stuff that I bought from small farms at various fiber festivals was what they wanted… Why? I asked. I found the answer in one of my industrial textile manufacturing textbooks. Apparently commercial yarns are treated with insecticide. After a little research I found that Permethrin is what they are using. This synthetic material is widely used and can be purchased in large concentrated quantities from farm suppliers. There is a similar product used as the active ingredient in pet shampoos that is an abstract from chrysanthemums. Bugs apparently cannot digest the stuff.

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Insecticide, Permethrin (concentrate 10%) solution used to treat wool for moths

With this newly found information I now had a way to prevent future attacks however I had not figured out how to handle the active infestation. After doing a little more digging I found that I had 3 choices to kill the moths and their eggs. I could use stinky moth balls, freeze, or steam the yarn and fiber. I chose to seal the fiber in 5 gallon buckets with moth balls. I steamed the shredded up yarn skeins in a huge pot in my oven killing anything that could possibly survive then sealed it in 5 gallon buckets. This is where my wool stash sat for about 7 years untouched.

On a whim I searched up how to join yarn ends without knots. I found a braiding technique where you unravel one yarn end and connect it to another end by creating a 3-strand braid. This method created a strong barely conspicuous join. This prompted me to pull out my shredded up wool yarn and test the method out. IT WORKS! To my joy, I realized (after the emotions had settled over the years) the skeins were mostly intact with exceptions to about 6 or 7 strands. The damage just looked far worse that it was. I am so glad I kept them.

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braided yarn join is barely conspicuous

In my excitement I began a project using a black and white hanspun Jacob fleece. The skeins were slightly underspun, but oh- well they are perfect for a crochet project. I had 3 skeins that were 2-ply worsted weight. It has a sort of cloudy, marled look to it. There is 1 skein that was 3-ply chained ( Navajo plied). It is more of fingering weight and has more color definition as the chain plying keeps the colors fairly separate.

 

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Sweater in progress. The chain plied skein is to the left. The 2-ply yarn is already wound for crocheting. I used a  hanspun orange alpaca yarn for accent

 

I will be using up all of this yarn in a crochet cardigan using the pattern book The Crochet Closet by Lisa Gentry. I am making the Carefree Cardigan.

So far so good although I have had to do some frogging. The directions lack key details for the cluster stitch pattern and spacing for yoke increases. It is otherwise pretty simple to make.

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My new favorite crochet gizmo. Boye ergonomic crochet hook cozy. It has a rubbery texture that it warm and grippy in my hand. The shape is perfect. Love it!

 

I may not have enough yarn to finish long sleeves but I’m not really worried. I am happy to be able to use the yarn that I had long since left for dead in plastic buckets.