The Best Laid Plans

Spinning is an adventure. When I started spinning this fiber,

Mixed BFL from Woolgatherings

Mixed BFL from Woolgatherings

I had a picture in my mind of a 4-ply sport-weight yarn with long color repeats. I divided up the yarn so that the colors would be in the same order for each bobbin of singles, I made a reference card for the singles,

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A piece of singles taped to a small string tag for reference

and I actually used the reference card frequently to check the size of the singles I was spinning. A reference card isn’t worth the effort to make it if you don’t use it. 🙂

I was hoping to get a yarn where there would be long stretches where the color would be the same on all four plies. I knew that there would be stretches where the colors would not match up, but I was hopeful that there would be long sections of solid color.

The plying got off to a great start. All of the bobbins began with red, so I started off with yarn that matched my hopes and dreams for this fiber. But it didn’t take long before I realized that I wasn’t going to get long stretches of one color. For some reason, throughout most of the plying, I had three strands of one color and one strand of another, or two strands of one color and two strands of another. It was only at the beginning and the end that I had four strands of the same color. ::sigh::

Okay, the yarn didn’t turn out the way I had planned. But it still turned out great.

A bobbin full of 4-ply handspun BFL

A bobbin full of 4-ply handspun BFL

The mixed BFL makes for a heathery yarn with deep, rich colors, and because I was careful to check my singles against the reference card regularly during the spinning, my singles were consistent and thus my 4-ply yarn is quite uniform throughout the skein.

When the first bobbin ran out during the plying, there was very little yarn left on the other three bobbins.

The bobbin on the left is the one that ran out first.

The bobbin on the left is the one that ran out first.

Pretty amazing, eh?

Although the yarn didn’t turn out quite as I had planned, I love the yarn I got. The mixing of the colors gives the yarn a lovely tweedy look that should knit up into something spectacular. And now that this project is off the wheel, I’m all set to start the Tour de Fleece. I may have a Lendrum DT Complete coming to me today on a FedEx truck. 🙂

My new wheel will be here soon.

My new wheel will be here soon.

The Ladybug wanted a sibling, and what the Ladybug wants, the Ladybug gets.

My First Tour De Fleece

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The Tour de Fleece starts Saturday. The Tour de Fleece is a spin-along that coincides with the Tour de France. It is now hosted on Ravelry.

This will be my very first Tour. I started spinning last July while the Tour de Fleece was in full form, but I chose not to participate because the Tour was already underway and I was so new to spinning that I didn’t want the pressure of setting any goals whatsoever. But now that I have a full year of spinning, both on drop spindles and on a wheel, under my belt, I’m ready for the challenge that is the Tour de Fleece. So I joined three different teams, cleaned my wheel, ordered some more bobbins and pulleys for my Ladybug, ordered a new spinning wheel (more on that when the wheel arrives), got out the spindle I plan to use for one of my challenges, and got my fiber in order. I’m as ready as ready can be.

But before the Tour begins on Saturday, I need to finish my current spinning project. I am spinning this lovely mixed BFL braid that I bought from Woolgatherings.

Mixed BFL from Woolgatherings

Mixed BFL from Woolgatherings

I wanted to make a 4-ply with this, and I also wanted to try to keep the colors separate in some sections of the yarn, while letting them mix in others. So the first thing I did was divide the top in half across the width. Then I took the first half and divided it into fourths lengthwise. I rolled each length up and put each one in a bag I had labeled 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4 A. Then I repeated with the second half of the braid, labeling the bags 1 B, 2 B, 3 B, and 4 B. This helped me to keep the colors in the correct order. I spun 1A and 1B onto the first bobbin, 2A and 2B, onto the second bobbin, etc.

Mixed BFL on the wheel

Mixed BFL on the wheel

The spinning is done and the bobbins are resting in preparation for being plied.

The plying should be finished tomorrow, freeing up four bobbins for the start of the Tour de Fleece. I can hardly wait!

More Spinning

So, after finishing my best yarn ever, I spun up a braid of luscious BFL/Silk/Sparkle from Woolgatherings in mostly hot pink to make a sock yarn. Because I wanted to use this yarn for socks, I planned a 3-ply, so I divided the braid into three by pulling it apart in approximate thirds. I used my food scale to get the weights of the three sections the same. Since the braid was tonal, I didn’t have to plan for color placement.

I spun each third on a bobbin, then plied the three singles together to make a fingering-weight 3-ply sock yarn.

The singles are being plied.

The singles are being plied.

The bobbin on the lower left holds leftover singles from my best yarn ever.

Since the yarn contains some Nylon content in the form of Sparkle, it should make a nice, strong, long-wearing sock.

The final tally: 120g/440 yds

Now that I have established that I can spin consistent fine singles that I can ply to become lovely 2-ply lace-weight yarn and 3-ply fingering-weight yarn, I thought I would try my hand at spinning a singles that isn’t quite so thin. I started with this braid from Woolgatherings.

I call this colorway "Sunset" because it reminds me of a colorful sunset.

I call this colorway “Sunset” because it reminds me of a colorful sunset.

I love the color combination–yellow, orange, and pink. I had originally planned to use this fiber to make sock yarn because it is 30% Nylon (Sparkle), but I changed my mind. The colors were telling me they didn’t want to hide in shoes. They wanted to be out where the whole world could see them. So I decided to make a 2-ply. But since I have a lot of lace-weight 2-ply handspun in my stash, I thought I’d try my hand at making a thicker 2-ply, something in the DK to worsted-weight range.

I changed the settings on my Ladybug. I moved the drive band to the larger setting on the “fast” pulley for the spinning and increased the brake tension for a faster bobbin pull-on. When plying, I used the smaller setting on the “medium” pulley and adjusted the Scotch tension until it just felt right.

The plied yarn is on it's way from the bobbin to the niddy noddy.

The plied yarn is on its way from the bobbin to the niddy noddy.

I did pretty well with the singles. Although they weren’t as consistent as I would have liked, the inconsistencies evened out in the plying for the most part.

There are a few places in the skein where thicker is plied with thicker, and thinner with thinner, 

A thicker strand and a thinner strand side by side

A thicker strand and a thinner strand side by side

but the over-all effect is pretty good, in my unbiased opinion. 🙂

A bunch of strands for comparison

A bunch of strands for comparison

The resulting yarn is a sparkly worsted-weight 2-ply that will grow up to be either a hat or a cowl. It hasn’t decided yet.

The final tally: 120g/268 yds

Softer Than Soft

I wish the Internet had the capability of allowing you, dear reader, to touch my Cormo handspun because a picture just cannot tell you how soft it is. Neither can words. You have to touch it to know this kind of softness.

I divided 4 ounces of natural Cormo fiber that I bought from Woolgatherings into 1-ounce bumps and spun each bump onto a separate bobbin on my Ladybug. This fiber, which is a Corriedale-Merino cross, loves to be spun very fine. After I had spun up all the fiber, I then plied it on the Ladybug to create a lovely 4-ply. The result is approximately 380 yards of sumptuously soft sportweight yarn that just screams to be next to my skin.

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I have not yet selected a pattern for this yarn, so if you have any suggestions, I love to hear them.

Be sure to visit Tami’s website to see other FOs on this lovely Friday.

WIP Wednesday

I’ve been doing a lot of sock knitting lately, but I haven’t been neglecting my spinning. This lovely Falkland top from Woolgatherings

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is now these lovely singles that are awaiting plying.

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And this beautiful Corriedale top from Sunset Fibers

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has started its journey to becoming yarn.

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Visit Tami’s WIP Wednesday to see what other fiber and needle artists are up to.

Does This Count For FO Friday?

I never know whether it’s kosher to count a first sock of a pair as a finished object, but since this is my blog, I get to make the rules. 😉

Here’s the back story. A while back, I bought this gorgeous BFL/Sparkle hand-dyed combed top from Woolgatherings on Etsy.

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A braid of BFL/Sparkle in gorgeous colors

Because of the Nylon content (Sparkle is Nylon fiber), I thought this fiber was a good candidate for sock yarn; I spun the wool onto three spindles, my two Golding Micro Ringspindles and my Schacht 1.1-ounce Hi-Lo spindle, with the intention of plying them together into a 3-ply fingering-weight yarn. The fiber spun up beautifully, and the Sparkle really does sparkle when the light hits it.

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BFL/Sparkle being spun on a Golding Micro Ringspindle

I wound the singles off the spindles to make a 3-strand plying ball, and I plied the yarn using my Schacht 2.2-ounce Hi-Lo spindle. I’m still pretty new to spinning and plying, and I sorta, kinda, like totally overplied the yarn. But still, it looked gorgeous in the skein,

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BFL/Sparkle 3-ply skeins

and a tightly-twisted yarn should make for very hard-wearing socks, right?

So I wound the yarn into cakes and cast on sock #1. I decided toe-up was the better option because I wasn’t certain of the yardage. It took me several tries to get the first sock started. I had chosen 2.25 mm needles because the yarn is a little thinner than most of the sock yarn I work with, and normally if I’m using 2.25 mm needles, I knit 80 stitches at 9.5 stitches per inch. So I started with 80 stitches, but after knitting the toe and a few inches of the foot, I realized that the sock was just a little too big. Since I was using garter rib, which is a 4-stitch repeat that consists of alternating one round of 2 x 2 rib with one round of plain knit, I started over and increased up to 76 stitches, a multiple of four.

I knitted the foot using garter rib on the instep and plain stocking stitch on the foot, worked a short-row heel over 60% of the stitches, knitted the leg in garter rib, made a 20-round 2 x 2 rib cuff, and cast off with the sewn cast-off. I tried the sock on and the fit is still a little on the loose side, although not so loose as to be saggy and uncomfortable.

I probably would have gotten a better fit had I gone with my usual 72-stitches. But I’m not going to rip out and reknit the entire sock because the fit is definitely good enough as is, and it might improve after the sock is washed, although I doubt the yarn will bloom much considering that my plying is as tight as Scrooge McDuck.

Sadly, although the top itself was gorgeous, and the singles were beautiful, and the colors blended nicely when plied, making for a lovely skein, the yarn didn’t knit up as prettily as I was expecting.

Sparkly Garter Rib Sock

Sparkly Garter Rib Sock

The sock looks better than almost any sock knit up in almost any colorway of Lorna’s Laces, the expensive yarn that both looks and wears like crap, but it isn’t exactly what one would call gorgeous. This, of course, is not the fault of the hand-dyed top but rather the problem lies with the spinner and plier who didn’t have a clue what the hell she was doing. But this is how a body learns. And sock #2 is OTN.

I will wear these socks when finished, and I will wear them with pride because not only did I knit the socks, I made the yarn. 🙂

WIP Wednesday

Yes. WIP Wednesday is here again, and I have a lot to share with you.

As you know from reading my previous blog entry, I finally started a knitting project using some of my handspun yarn. The lovely 2-ply fingering weight yarn I spun from a 5-oz braid of BFL in the Cool Madras color way from Corgi Hill Farm is on its way to becoming a Clapotis scarf. It is knitting up very nicely, but it is quite misshapen and the sides want to curl up.

Cool Madras Clapotis Scarf in progress

As is, it looks pretty yucky. I wanted to see what the scarf would look like after blocking. Why do all that knitting only to end up with something that resembles yarn vomit? After all, the reason I didn’t jump on the Clapotis bandwagon back when every other knitter did is that the Clapotis pictured with the pattern in Knitty looks like hell. It’s just about the ugliest piece of knitting I’ve ever seen. It rivals the socks I knitted from Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Rainbow colorway, although I don’t think there is anything uglier than Lorna’s Laces Rainbow colorway knitted up into socks.

Ugly socks from Lorna’s Laces Rainbow, perhaps the ugliest sock colorway in existence.

Just in case you think it’s a fluke and only my socks in the Rainbow colorway are super ugly, take a look at this picture of socks knitted in this colorway for Arlo Guthrie. Or this picture (and these are the best looking Rainbow socks I can find). The yarn is gorgeous in the skein, but like so many Lorna’s Laces colorways, it knits up ugly.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the topic at hand, Clapotis. I really didn’t understand why any knitter would be all hot to trot to knit a Clapotis since the one pictured in the pattern is fugly beyond words. But thanks to the magic that is Ravelry, I was able to view Clapotis after Clapotis knitted in lovely yarns and properly dressed. It’s really a very lovely pattern, and once you get started, it’s pretty mindless knitting without being totally boring.

I wanted to be absolutely certain that my Clapotis scarf would look good when it’s finished, so I did the only thing I could possibly do to put an end to my doubts. I  put the live stitches on a holder, gave the scarf a good soaking, then pinned it out to dry.

Clapotis wet-blocked

The scarf looked really good pinned out. So far so good, but  will the scarf curl up once I remove the pins?

Clapotis unpinned after blocking

NO! It stayed flat. Yay!

Next step: What will happen if I pick it up?

Just look at how nicely it drapes.

Well, it has a lovely shape and beautiful drape, and the yarn is deliciously soft.

I love the effect of the diagonal stripes of the dropped stitches going in the opposite direction of the diagonal stripes of the colors.

I cannot help but get tickled pink when I am knitting along on this scarf and realize that I made the yarn myself. Knitting with your own handspun yarn is a kick! 🙂

I could stop right here. A Clapotis scarf in gorgeous handspun BFL is hard to top. But I have another project OTN to share, and it’s very striking, too. It is just a plain vanilla sock toe that is destined to become my very first knee sock, but just look at the color!

Plain vanilla toe-up knee sock in progress

The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll fingering weight in Blue Yonder Tonal. I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautiful blue yarn. It’s perfect for a plain vanilla sock because the color speaks for itself. And plain vanilla is perfect for this project because I can work the calf increases without having to figure out how to work the stitch pattern into the increases. When trying something new in knitting, it is usually better to start out simple, at least for me it is.

Both of these projects are intended for the boy’s sock-worthy GF. The knee socks are actually a special request from her, and there is little that knitters love more than knitting something for someone who specifically asks for it and really appreciates the time and effort that goes into creating a custom, hand-knit garment.

So far we have a scarf in progress and a knee sock in progress. How could our day get any better? Well, let’s add a spinning WIP. I’ve been working away on one of the braids of BFL/Sparkle that I bought from Woolgatherings.

Can you see the sparkle in this yarn?

I’m spinning this top very thin and plan to try my hand at making a 3-ply fingering weight yarn. I might end up chain-plying it instead. The way I’m spinning the fiber creates very long color repeats, so chain-plying would definitely give me a self-striping yarn. But even if I ply three singles together, the colors should stay separate for the most part because I simply divided the braid into thirds lengthwise, so the colors should match up pretty well with only small sections of barber pole. I’m thinking that a true 3-ply would be better for sock yarn than chain ply, but I’m such a newbie when it comes to spinning and knitting with handspun that I really don’t know whether it makes any difference.

So there you have it–three WIP. Three? Only three? Must. Cast. On. 🙂

My New BFF

I’m in love. Total, absolute love. Yep! I’m in love with Falkland wool. Of all the different wool fibers I’ve spun so far, Falkland is hands down my favorite. It’s soft, sproingy, and easy to draft. It takes dyes beautifully. From what I’ve read, Falkland isn’t a separate breed of sheep, but rather Falkland wool is the wool that comes from the sheep that are raised on the Falkland Islands, primarily Merinos (of which there are many variants around the world that produce wool with different characteristics), but other breeds as well. The wool produced is of a very high quality and the sheep are neither dipped nor mulesed. (Don’t ask; you don’t want to know. It’s really gross.)

Granted, I’ve only spun one braid of Falkand to date, and it isn’t quite finished yet. But still, I love Falkland to distraction.

I’ve added a new braid of Falkland to my growing stash of spinning fiber. I bought it from Woolgatherings on Etsy.

The colors are gorgeous, ranging from light to dark turquoise-ish blue to light to dark purplish gray and they remind me of a plaid skirt I had back in high school that I loved more than life itself.

Of course, I couldn’t stop at just one braid of fiber. Woolgatherings had a large offering of gorgeous braids and I couldn’t resist giving BFL/Sparkle a try. And I couldn’t decide between this colorway

and this color way.

So I did what any self-respecting knitter/spinner would do. I bought them both. Since these braids contain some Nylon (Sparkle is Nylon), I think they will make great sock yarn. And, yes, the Sparkle does sparkle. 🙂