cotton, Crochet, knitting, Spinning, Weaving

Working with Camelids and Other Fiber Shenanigans

The latest cold snap has got me suddenly working with the camelids . Back when I first started spinning I would search out as many different types of fibers as I could find. In my search I found myself driving to a local farm to purchase my first Huacaya alpaca combed top. It was so lofty and soft. I ended up knitting my first lace shawl out of this precious yarn. My young mind couldn’t appreciate the natural brownish grey color and so the project was dyed (slightly felted) in red Kool-Aid. It has taken years for it to soften up and I wear it all the time. I still have a skein of this yarn un-dyed in my stash awaiting a worthy project.

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My first lace shawl knit from handspun alpaca and dyed with Kool-Aid

The next year I got bold and bought a raw alpaca fleece at a fiber festival. I was determined to turn Babydoll’s first clip into something special. I knit a  huge Faroese shawl out of it. These wing shaped shawls are not the most stylish in my opinion but they sit nicely on the shoulders without any pins or draping.

 

It’s my heat-me-up-til-I-sweat shawl.  The fiber is so soft though that it pills like crazy. It’s really shaggy looking now but, oh well.

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Super, soft alpaca first-clip fiber pills a lot but makes a lofty, warm shawl.

I wear it around the house like a uniform in the winter.

The llama fiber I bought last year from Baker’s Studio in Allegan, MI was recently put to use. I crocheted a poncho with a shawl collar. My intention was to follow the pattern, Night and Day Poncho by Lion Brand,  but then..sigh…things went awry. Even using my largest hook my gauge was off, way off. I had to work 3 times as many rows and add double crochets to make the center meet. It worked up fun and fast though. I added a crochet cord and tassels to jazz it up.

 

Still on my Camelid kick I purchased some Suri alpaca from a sweet little farm (I can’t think of the name at the moment) in Chesterton, IN. I didn’t realize there were two different types of alpaca fiber. I had only previously worked with the fluffy huacaya type. It has a crimp to it and spins a lot like fine wool whereas the suri has a spirally, silky curl.

Suri alpaca is more rare than Huacaya according to the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. Approximately only 2% of alpaca fiber on the market is Suri.

I would soon find out why I haven’t found much of this fiber in my spinning circles. It is tricky to work with. After it was washed I thought I’d just use my mini combs to process it into combed top. Nope! It wasn’t having that. The fibers were super slippery and flying all over the place. I ended up carding it into silky clouds.

 

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Cleaned Suri alpaca

 

 

When I started to spin it into a fine yarn I realized what a pain in the butt that would be. The singles kept trying to slide apart but adding more twist would just kink it up. I was so over it after about an hour and ended up just feeding it into my wheel like a mad women trying to get it over with.  I ended up with a couple of floppy aran weight skeins.

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handspun Suri alpaca yarn

 

At the moment I am revisiting camel down. I actually spun some years ago and loved it. I had 1oz of camel down in my stash from Afghanistan. This particular batch is much courser than the other fiber I’ve worked with. I spin it the same way as with cotton using a supported backwards, long-draw draft.

 

What next? Well, I did pick up some English angora earlier this year at Michigan Fiber Fest. We’ll see what happens.

As for the other fiber shenanigans let’s see here.

I spun of a lot of mostly wool blends into basic 2-ply fingering weight

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Finished a lace-weight, space-dyed chain-plied Polworth/Silk  skein. It took forever to spin. I am looking forward to seeing how this will knit up. Probably super stripy.

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Finally finished the socks I started in August 2017

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Made some new miter square slippers and lined them with fleece.

 

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Finished weaving the cotton warp I put on my floor loom over the summer using handspun, natural colored cotton remnants. I even incorporated the thrums from the last project for a funky shaggy type fabric that I think will make a nice summer top.

 

There is one more special project I was able to finish up on winter break. My handspun challenge project is complete. You’ll just have to wait to see this one at another time.

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cotton, Crochet, Spinning, Weaving

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.

learning-to-spin
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.

spinit-book
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.

 

Crochet, Uncategorized

I Just Kept On..another DragonFly shawl

The crochet enthusiasm hasn’t worn off just yet. I finished my second (first dragonfly) dragonfly shawl about 2 weeks ago. I thought I would actually follow directions and make the pretty border according to the pattern but found that I did not have enough yarn.

Loving this yarn. With only 4 oz I had to improvise for the border
Loving this yarn. With only 4 oz I had to improvise for the border

I improvised with double crochet clusters for the edging on this version.

double crochet chain border used for the dragonfly shawl
Double crochet chain border used for the dragonfly shawl

The handspun soysilk that was used drapes nicely and has a luxurious sheen. I spun the yarn from a 4 oz. roving and even without the border the shawl is a fairly large.

the shawl is pretty large. The color patterns is a surprise when using hand painted rovings
The shawl is pretty large. The color patterns are the surprise you get when using hand painted rovings

Enough dragonflies for now.

Wrapped up in the dragonfly shawl
Wrapped up in the dragonfly shawl
cotton, Crochet, Spinning, Uncategorized

Getting My crochet On

I had an itch to get some crocheting done. It began this summer and I ended up making some hats from one of my favorite books Get Your Crochet on by Afya Ibomu.get your crochet book They work up really quickly and the design possibilities are endless. My hats are a variation of her pattern since I decided to be cheap and substitute elastic for a drawstring.

My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On! The shawl is self-knit from too long ago to remember what the pattern was. I made 2. This version is knit from Noro yarn.
My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On!
The shawl is self-knit from too long ago to remember what the pattern was. I made 2. This version is knit from Noro yarn.
My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On! Holds back the hair lika Pro!
My fuchsia Kinky Reggae hat with bib variation from the book Get Your Crochet On! Holds back the hair lika Pro!
My version of the hat called MC from the Book Get your Crochet On! with drawstring in the back.
My version of the hat called MC from the Book Get your Crochet On! with drawstring in the back.

turqu hat 1

My crochet hat collection
My crochet hat collection

A Gift: Putting My Handspun Cotton to Use

It has been a long time, like 5 years since I’ve done more time consuming needlework such as shawls. Once upon a season I was a knitting fiend and I knit about 30 shawls and scarves over the course of a 2 year span. Many of them were done with yarn I spun myself.

My crochet itch came back this winter and I found myself pouring over my crochet magazines looking for a shawl to crochet. It just dawned on me that I had never actually crocheted a shawl before this latest project. The majority of my projects were afghans and purses during my high school years. 13 years ago!

The material used for this project is extra special. I was on the SpinOff Magazine website about 4 years ago and found myself chatting with a cotton farmer from Texas. He emailed me last summer and offered to send me cotton and seeds from his farm. What a gift!!! I was so excited when 10 pounds of some of the best quality cotton I have ever worked with arrived at my home. Thanks Jack!! You’re my hero!

Gift from an awesome cotton farmer from Texas. 10lbs of premium cotton
Gift from an awesome cotton farmer from Texas. 10lbs of premium cotton

I immediately got to carding it up and spinning. I just spun a little here and there, only finishing a 2-ply lace weight skein this past  December.

Carding the Texas cotton
Carding the Texas cotton
Nice and fluffy, reading to spin after a little carding
Nice and fluffy, ready to spin after a little carding
Finished skein ready to wind into a ball
Finished skein ready to wind into a ball
winding the cotton yarn into a ball
winding the cotton yarn into a ball

I decided to crochet my first shawl, the Dragonfly by Lisa Naskrent. My version has a HDC border instead of the lace border that comes with the pattern. I didn’t have enough yarn for it and I did not want to halt my project while I spun more. Keep going while you have the steam! I like how it turned out. I think I will dye it eventually.

Dragonfly shawl variation of Lis Naskrent pattern (not blocked) natural cotton color
Dragonfly shawl variation of Lis Naskrent pattern (not blocked) natural cotton color
wearing the hand-spun cotton Dragonfly shawl..with pajamas;-)
wearing the hand-spun cotton Dragonfly shawl..with pajamas;-)

I enjoyed working this simple pattern so much that I started in on another one using a hand-dyed seasilk skein I spun years ago.

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My 2nd Dragonfly shawl in progress using a hand-dyed, hands-spun soysilk lace weight.