Crossing The Finish Line

The 2014 Tour de Fleece ended last Saturday. I realize I’m a little late posting my finish line, but what can I say? I’m a world class procrastinator. 🙂

My TdF 2014 was quite the success. I reached all my goals and ended up with a lot of really nice hand-spun yarn and some new, still developing skills.

My TdF 2014 results

The yarn in the foreground is a chain-plied Merino from Greenwood Fiberworks in the color way “Holly Berry.” I wanted to improve both my skill at drafting merino and my skill at chain-plying. Both skills need lots more work, but with each project, I see improvement. The final tally for the Holly Berry Merino yarn is approximately 430 yards/127g of self-striping, sport weight yarn.

Merino chain-plied to make a self-striping yarn

I love the soft, cushy yarn, but I’m still not in love with spinning Merino wool top. It’s a bit of a challenge to draft, especially compared to BFL, Corriedale, Polwarth, and Falkland. I find Merino roving much more enjoyable to spin than Merino top–I love spinning Loop Bullseye Bumps–but I’m not giving up on Merino top. I have more in my stash and will keep working toward more consistent drafting.

The big white skein directly above the Holly Berry is a plying experiment that turned out much better than I had anticipated. Here’s the back story. Remember when I was knitting Hazel Carter’s Spider Queen Shawl? I had bought a kit from Blackberry Ridge that included both the pattern and enough B-R Thistledown yarn to knit the shawl. I swatched with the Thistledown and was very unhappy with the results.

The Thistledown yarn was too thick-and-thin to use for Spider Queen.

 

The yarn is a cobweb weight singles that unfortunately is overly thick and thin. I ended up knitting Spider Queen in J & S cobweb, which is also a bit thick and thin, but not to the same degree as Thistledown. Anyway, I ended up with a lot of Thistledown in my stash that I knew I would never use for knitting a lace shawl.

What to do with all this Thistledown? Sure, I could sell or trade it on Ravelry, but, I wondered, what would happen if I plied the singles together? I had never tried plying mill-spun singles together, and I was curious to learn how they would behave. The singles had a Z-twist, which means they had been spun clockwise, so I plied the singles together with an S-twist, counterclockwise.

Thistledown made into a 2-ply yarn on my Ladybug

Each skein of Thistledown was approximately 700 yards, and I ended up with just a little over 600 yards/4.5 oz of 2-ply fingering weight yarn. I thought I would lose more yardage than that.

Doesn’t the 2-ply look fabulous on the bobbins? So imagine my horror when I first took the yarn off the niddy noddy and saw this!

Curly yarn!

The yarn curled up like crazy, and I was afraid it had been way over-plied. This wouldn’t be the end of the world because I could always run the yarn back through my spinning wheel going clockwise to take some of the twist out, but I decided to finish the yarn before deciding whether it needed some tweaking. The yarn was still pretty curly when I took it out of the soak, but I thwacked it on the bathtub and it relaxed and balanced itself perfectly.

My 2-ply Thistledown decided to behave after a bath and a good thwacking.

I really couldn’t be happier with the results I got. Of course, the real test will come in knitting up a swatch and blocking it to see how the yarn behaves in the wild. 🙂

The two beautiful Ashford bobbins at the top of the first picture are filled with singles spun from a Loop Bullseye Bump in the Sizzle color way. I spun the roving end to end onto two bobbins. After the TdF, I plied the singles together and the finished yarn is on the drying rack as I type. But since the plying wasn’t part of my TdF, no pictures of the finished yarn will appear in this post.

The remaining yarn is all my silk spinning. The beautiful skein of golden yarn is spun from Tussah silk sliver made into a 2-ply yarn. The small skein is a 2-ply made from Bombyx silk hankies, and the larger hank is 2-ply made from Bombyx silk caps. I enjoyed spinning the hankies; the caps, not so much. But both yarns are really nice.

The brown bobbin at the top of the first picture holds the singles I spun from some Bombyx silk sliver.

Sixteen grams of Bombyx silk sliver ready to be spun

The Tussah silk sliver was heavenly to spin, but the Bombyx silk sliver was beyond heavenly.

I haven’t decided what to the with the Bombyx singles yet.

Bombyx silk sliver singles on the bobbin

I am leaning toward plying them with a singles spun from wool of some sort sometime in the future, or maybe with some Thistledown. I still have a lot of it. A. Lot. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the Tour de Fleece as much as I did.

Tour de Fleece Days 4 and 5

Yes, I know. I’m late posting this update. Here’s the thing. Day 4 started out with our Internet being out. Then, shortly after it finally came back on, we lost power, thanks to a very nasty line of thunderstorms that went through and left thousands without electricity. And day 5 was grocery shopping. Need I day more?

Anyway, here’s what I did day 4 and day 5.

The singles I spun on days 1 and 2 were plied into a beautiful silk 2-ply yarn.

The tussah silk singles I spun on days 1 and 2 and plied on day 3 into a beautiful silk 2-ply yarn were wound onto the niddy noddy on day 4.

I spun up the silk hankies into a lovely singles.

I spun up the silk hankies into a lovely singles on day 4.

Silk caps are like silk hankies except they are shaped differently.

Silk caps are like silk hankies except they are shaped differently.

I got about half the silk hankies spun.

I got about half the silk hankies spun on day 5.

The only difference here is that the bobbin is a bit more full of this lovely Greenwood Fiberworks merino.

The only difference here is that the bobbin is a bit more full of this lovely Greenwood Fiberworks merino.

Today is day 6, and I will be finishing the silk caps and spinning more of the merino. I very much enjoyed spinning the silk hankies, but I’m not so fond of the caps because they are much more difficult to separate than the hankies. Live and learn. 🙂

There is a good tutorial on spinning silk hankies here.

Tour de Fleece 2014 Day 3

The third day of the TdF is nearly over. Today I made my first-ever 100% silk 2-ply yarn. I plied the two chunks of tussah silk sliver I spun on days 1 and 2 together to make this beautiful yarn.

Pretty 2-ply silk on the Ladybug

I think next I will try my hand at spinning silk hankies.

I’m also making good progress on my Greenwood Fiberworks merino top that I’m spinning on my Ashford Traveller.

The bobbin is starting to fill up.

I think I’m starting to develop a good rhythm with this fiber, which is improving my consistency. Or maybe not. Regardless, I am enjoying spinning it, and it is going to make a lovely yarn that will knit up into something spectacular. 🙂

Tour de Fleece 2014 Day 2

I should have posted this yesterday, but I didn’t, so sue me. 🙂

Day 2 wasn’t much different from day one. I took this 12-gram piece of dyed tussah silk sliver

I remembered to weigh the dyed sliver before I started spinning it.

and spun it into this singles.

The colors are very subtle.

I plan to ply it with the singles I spun yesterday on Day 3, which is today. 🙂

I also spun more of the Greenwood Fiberworks merino.

The bobbin is getting fuller, but it will hold a lot more.

It’s lovely fiber, but I’m still having difficulty drafting it as evenly as I would like. When I ply it back on itself, though, it looks pretty good. I have a lot of this fiber left to spin, so I will keep plugging away on it. “Plugging away” probably isn’t the correct term to use. I am very much enjoying spinning this fiber, and I’m happy I still have lots left to spin. But I am having a senior moment and just can’t think of the idiom I want. As my dad would have said, Golden years, my ass. More like the rusty tin years. 🙂

 

Spinning

I’m sorry to say I haven’t knitted a stitch on either of my socks since Wednesday, so today’s FOs are all spinning projects.

Shown first is a lovely skein of BFL/Silk yarn that I spun and plied on my Ladybug. I chain-plied the yarn and I hope you can tell that my chain-plying is improving.

Greenwood Fiberworks BFL/Tussah silk in Peacock

Greenwood Fiberworks BFL/Tussah silk in Peacock

I love the colors in this fiber. Of course, they look much better in real life than in the picture. Photography is something at which I totally and absolutely suck.

Next is a sample skein I spun and plied on spindles. The fiber is Falkland from Unwind Yarn Company in the O Negative colorway.

A tiny skein of Falkland

A tiny skein of Falkland

I was able to spin the fiber very, very thin and I ended up with a lovely 2-ply lace weight yarn, which is what I was hoping for. I will spin and ply the rest of the braid in the same manner and I should end up with enough yarn to knit a small shawl. The different shades of red give the finished yarn a depth of color that is just stunning in person. Unfortunately, at photography I suck.

Lastly, I present to you the finished undyed BFL that I spun and plied on the Ladybug.

DSC02377_2

There is one very large hank, which hasn’t been skeined yet because it isn’t completely dry, and a small skein. The large hank is the first bobbin’s worth that I plied and the small skein is what didn’t fit onto the first bobbin. They yarn is probably a DK weight and it is soft beyond belief. I’m getting much better at plying on the wheel.

So, that’s what I have to report on this FO Friday. What have you finished?

In The Works–WIP Wednesday

Today’s WIP Wednesday WIP are all spinning projects. I have been spinning up some of the undyed BFL I bought as practice fiber back in July. I’ve already spun up a good bit of this fiber on various spindles, so now I’m seeing what it’s like on the wheel.

Blue Faced Leicester top from The Woolery spun on my Ladybug

It’s nice fiber to work with, and I love the color variation in the spun wool. That came as a surprise to me when I first started spinning the fiber because the top looks uniformly snow white. But when it is spun up, there are hints of pink, gray, beige, and green.

I also finished spinning the lovely BFL/silk blend top in the Peacock colorway that I bought from Greenwood Fiberworks. I originally intended to do a 2-ply yarn with this fiber, so I divided the top in half and spun each half onto a different bobbin. But once I had the singles spun,

A bobbin full of colorful singles

I knew I just had to keep the gorgeous colors separated, so I’m chain-plying it.

A bobbin full of colorful chain-plied BFL/silk

Don’t look to closely at my chain plying. It still leaves a lot to be desired, but it is definitely improving. I’m much more comfortable now chain-plying on my wheel, and it didn’t hurt that the singles from the first bobbin I plied didn’t break at any point during the plying. I am hopeful that the second bobbin will turn out even better.

Don’t fret. I haven’t forsaken knitting. I do have a knitting WIP, a pair of sock knitted from some of my handspun, but I don’t have any pictures of it yet, so you will have to wait for another day to see them. Think of it this way. You now have something to really look forward to. 😀

Another WIP Wednesday–Part 2

Here’s the spinning portion of our program. I’m starting with the lovely pin-drafted Corriedale beautifully dyed by Sunset Fibers for the November Fiber of the Month selection. I’m still a spinning newbie, so I’m always experimenting. I took this fiber and split it in half length-wise. Then I spun each half onto a separate bobbin, keeping the colors in the same order. I planned to ply the singles together to make a 2-ply and I was hoping that there would be large sections of yarn where the colors would line up. I knew there would be sections where they wouldn’t because I couldn’t be absolutely precise in dividing the yarn, and my spinning isn’t absolutely precise, either, so the length of each color section naturally varies. Sometimes it varies a lot. But I was hoping to get a yarn in which the solid colors transition one to the next through marled sections.

Sunset Fibers November 2012 FOTM in the process of becoming a 2-ply yarn

And that’s exactly what I got.

Plied yarn waiting to be wound onto the niddy noddy

On the finished bobbin, you can see only marled sections, but there are large sections where the colors lined up just right, and also sections where the marling is very subtle because the colors that came together are just lighter and darker shades of the same color. I think I am going to chalk this experiment up as a success.

So what’s next on my wheel? Well, I decided to start spinning up a lovely BFL/Tussah silk blend I bought from Greenwood Fiberworks through Etsy.

Greenwood Fiberworks 85% BFL/15% Tussah Silk in Peacock

This is my first try at spinning fiber with silk content, and it is definitely different from spinning pure BFL. I’ve had to play around a bit with the ratios on my wheel, but I’m starting to get a feel for the fiber. The first bobbin is almost done.

“Peacock” BFL/Silk single

I’m debating whether to make this yarn a 2-ply or chain-ply it. I know that a lot of spinners/knitters don’t like the barber pole effect, but I’m not one of them. But the colors of this yarn are intense jewel tones, and it might be nice to keep them separate. My singles are thicker than usual, so if I chain-ply the yarn, it will be pretty thick, and I really don’t like yarns that are thicker than Aran weight (and Aran weight is pushing it). I’ll probably do a chain-ply sample and see how it turns out. If it isn’t too thick, I will probably chain-ply the fiber. If it’s thicker than I like, I’ll probably 2-ply it. Decisions, decisions! 😀

If you are wondering whether I have thrown over my spindles for my wheel, the answer is a resounding NO! I’ve been working on the 3rd spindle of the Northern Lights Cotton Candy fiber, but I must admit my progress has slowed down a bit lately. It’s not that I don’t love spindling, and it’s not that I don’t love this particular fiber. The problem has been that my back has been a bit unhappy and has forced me to curtail my spindling. I stand and walk while spindling, and standing and walking are just what my back didn’t want. But all is well now, so I’m back on track to finish this project before the month is out.

Cotton Candy on the spindles