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. (picture coming soon). 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.

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.101_1895

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.

Double Weave V-Shawl

I tried something new on my Artcraft table loom. I attended my first weaving guild meeting with the Duneland Weavers in January. Someone brought in some left over wool weaving yarn remnants to share. I grabbed up 2 different shades of turquoise and some black yarn wound on cones. I also got a pre-wound ball of a finer (perhaps 22/2) black wool yarn.

The yarn was a very fine Jaggerspun merino/silk blend. This is perhaps some of the nicest stuff I’ve worked with to date. I saw a video on Youtube showing the process of weaving a V-shaped shawl using double-weave and found this the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

The cloth is woven in 2 layers up until the warp has about one wrap left on the back bend. Each end is then snipped from the back beam one at a time and passed through the sheds as a weft. This creates a cool biased plaid effect.

The weaving went pretty simply. The warp was made using random stripes of the colors I got from the guild meeting. The only consideration I made with patterning was making sure that each stripe had an even number of ends so that both layers of the shawl would match. I pretty much used all of the yarn on the cones and am left with a small amount of the black weft yarn.  The loom was threaded as a straight 1,2,3,4 threading and sleyed at 15epi with 2 ends in each slot to accommodate the double woven fabric.  I added some handspun grey wool yarn to lighten the colorway.

This shawl was pretty simple to weave once the layers were established with a (1); (3);  (1, 2,3); (1,3,4) treadling. As a beginner I still don’t know why this works, but it just does. The selvages on the bottom layer were a little inconsistent (but serviceable) because it was kind of out of sight and out of mind a lot of the time.

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Stick shuttles worked best for the narrow sheds. (I taped the end of one so that I would not mix up my weft layers)

I wove this a few hours at a time in the evenings after work and was finished in about 7 days. I found it easiest to use stick shuttles which were less cumbersome than the boat shuttle and let me weave longer without having to advance the warp so often. I also liked that the stick shuttles could hold a lot more yarn than my boar shuttle bobbins. A little tape at the end of one of my shuttle helped me prevent mixing up the weft when weaving the layers.

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Warp used as weft for double woven V-shawl

I thought it was tough to remember which shed was supposed to be opened for the warp-as-weft weaving section. I had to treadle the pattern backwards and remember what shed I was on after walking to the back of the loom to snip the warp threads. I basically wove this part standing up. It might have been more exhausting having to walk around to the back of a floor loom to snip hundreds of threads, one at a time.

The ends of the v-shawl were finished by hemming them into a V-shape.

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Hemmed ends of v-shaped shawl

The trimmed fabric was used to make a slouchy hat to match.

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woven slouchy hat

All in all I’m pretty happy with the result although I don’t know if I’ll weave another any time soon.

Spinning My Wheels

I have been in a crafty frenzy lately. Every since Winter break I have been pulling out all of my fiber stuff that had been hibernating in the basement for years. I have since put my dining table in a closet (heck, I only host people twice a year) so that I can have a workspace in my well lit dining area. Yes..I am back in make-mode.

My spinning wheels are back in motion.

On the Ashford traveler I have some bamboo fiber which I carded up to spin. This is my first time spinning a significant quantity of it. I have found that it is best to open up the fibers, which are quite compressed in raw form, with a drum carder. This makes it easier to card it into a spinnable cloud with 120 point fine hand carders. I do not make punis with the bamboo like I do my cotton. It tends to be sticky and somewhat hard to draft when compressed. I just recently discovered that the uncarded fiber is being sold rather cheaply as a pillow stuffing at JoAnne Fabrics. If I like the finished product I will certainly be getting more.

The Kromski Symphony has some golden merino top on it. I bought about 16oz of this fiber maybe 3 years ago in hopes of making a sweater with it. Perhaps it will finally make its way into a finished product. We’ll see. First things first, gotta get the yarn spun. It should be about 24wpi when I finish plying it. I am not terribly worried about the final yarn weight. I usually just let the fiber do what it wants.

I finished up 4oz of spot dyed merino top on the Kromski Sonata. It had literally been on the bobbin for years. I ended up with about 450yards of 2ply fingering weight yarn in a surprisingly pastel skein. I’m not sure what I will do with it.

I visited Baker Studios in Allegen, Michigan over winter break. I liked the shop owner so much that I decided to buy some locally produced llama roving. I have avoided purchasing a lot of wool since the major moth attack that nearly wiped out my entire stash of handspun yarns back in 2010. The roving is really soft to spin and has a grayish, magenta, purplish, with a little sparkle vibe going. I have 16oz. So far I have 8oz plied and am working on the rest. It takes me about 3hours to spin 4 ounces of singles. Plying takes me about half the time.

With all the spinning and carrying on I was inspired to get my knitting needles clicking again. I have a set of Knit Picks nickel-plated interchangebles.  The project I chose is the Diminishing Rib Cardigan from Interweave Knits Spring 2009.

I actually had 3 sweater quantities of yarn spun up at the time of the moth attack. The one yarn spun from commercial roving was spared by the moths. I believe commercially produced wool is treated with insecticide.

Anyhow, I had  bought about 16oz of Ashland Bay merino top in the rose colorway and spun it up. It has some blues and purples going through it. I didn’t really like it that much at first but now that I have begun to knit with it I think the different colors blended in give it a painterly effect. One of the skins has some dark pink/red splotches on it from when I washed the skins with other yarns during the moth recovery effort. Oh well. We’ll have to see how it works with my skin tone.

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I Navajo, or chain plied this yarn so it’s a 3ply. This was my first yarn plied in this way and it has lots of thick and thin spots and overspun curly pigtails sticking out here and there.  So far so good on the knitting. Please let this thing fit! It is my first hand knit cardigan.101_1763

Just off the loom: hand-dyed wool, natural colored cotton yardage

So, I am just having all sorts of fun weaving these days. I am really happy with how my handspun, hand dyed/ natural grey wool wrap turned out. It is really soft. I ended up braiding the fringe and adding beads. I left little loose tufts on the fringe. I think it adds character and reminds me of the playful nature of the yarn.

I warped and wove the full 15″ width of my Leclerc Dorothy loom with most of my remaining handspun colored cotton. Oh my goodness!! I love, love, love the feel of the fabric. Believe it our not I have never handled handspun, hand woven cotton fabric before. It has a certain wild yet lush quality to it. I plan to use it for clothing. It was fun just weaving bobbin after bobbin not worrying about the pattern. I just pulled random colors out of my basket and wove till I was finished.

My Dorothy loom only holds 4.5 yards of warp. I was amazed at the shrinkage of the cotton. My finished cloth was 4 yards 5 inches. After washing it was 3 yards 23 inches!

For what it’s worth, I do not own a bobbin winder and my shuttle only came with one plastic bobbin. Not to be deterred, I made some bobbins out of packing paper and wound them using a pencil with masking tape on one end affixed to my spinning wheel. Works like a charm.

 

I also put a warp on my Kromski rigid headle loom. This one is just some clearance navy cotton yarn I felt like using up paired with a tan/gold recycled sari silk that is too close to my skin color to look good on my without a contrasting color. There was only enough cotton warp for about 2 yards of fabric. The pattern is a very simple weft float using a pickup stick.

 

 

 

A Spinners Milestone: Weaving with Handspun Yarn

I have been spinning yarn since 2005. My first experience with the luxury of working with natural fibers was after winning a gift certificate to Evelise’s Yarn Shop at the Berrien County Youth Fair . An Afghan that I had crocheted with acrylic yarn won Reserved Grand Champion.  With the gift certificate I bought my first designer yarn, a black cotton, and a pattern for a beaded crochet handbag. The bag was a success and I was in love.

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My first bag made with fancy commercial cotton yarn. Still sparkling after 16 years.

 

Unfortunately I could not afford to buy more natural yarns. I was over the cheapo acrylic and so I stopped crocheting. At college the following year I gained new hope of acquiring “good” yarn when a professor at my university did a show and tell with spinning equipment. I became fixed on the idea of spinning my own yarn.

Online I ordered a kit that came with a book , Spin It by  Lee Raven and 1oz of roving. The book had instructions on how to make a spindle out of a CD. With a pencil, CD, and the small bit of sliver I became a spinner. Shortly afterwards I learned to knit.

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The book that started it all.

I knitted a lot of lace shawls with my handspun. I love making them but that was all I would do with my yarn.  After a while I had way more yarn than projects I wanted to knit up. I kind of got bored.

For the longest time (12 years!) I was so afraid that my yarn wouldn’t be strong enough to weave with, especially my cotton. It was only safe to crochet with it.

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Crochet shawl made from hanspun cotton dyed with tumeric. The pattern is Moondrop by Lori Carlson published in Interweave crochet Winter 2016

A few years ago I had crocheted a ruffled throw with my natural colored cotton  See it here that I wasn’t all that happy with. I just kept crocheting in a round until I had used up all of the different colors of cotton in my stash. After a while it started to come apart  where I doubled the stitch count. I decided that I had nothing to lose by unraveling the throw to reuse the yarn for weaving.

I warped random colors on my Leclerc Dorothy table loom that I bought in my college days. With a simple plain weave I slowly but surely realized that my worries were unfounded. Without any special treatment I was able to weave an eclectic little scarf. Oh the new possibilities!

This week I met a new milestone. I am now using my handspun to weave!

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Finished handspun, handwoven natural colored cotton scarf. I’m in love!

Not wanting to lose momentum I decided to unravel a shawl I knit from handspun wool. I alternated a painted handspun with a natural gray that proved to be scratchy against my skin. The pattern was just mindless, uninspired blah. I wouldn’t miss it. Finding a darker grey rambouillet yarn in my handspun stash that was nice and soft  I began warping my Dick Blick Art Craft table loom. Sadly the loom sat untouched for 6 years. I found it at a garage sale in Amish country for $125 and thought it was too fine of a machine to pass up.

So far so good. I am looking forward to doing more with my handspun.

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Handspun wool weaving in progress. I am using stick shuttles because they give me more weaving space on a table loom.