Sunday, April 30, 2006

Flash Your Stash '06

A whole month late, and a whole lot less yarnography. I had taken nice yarnography photos about a month ago. Then they were deleted. So this is what we get.

But heck, I guess that's what happens when your whole world suddenly revolves around moving and packing, and buying a new house and selling your old house.

So, here goes, my feeble attempt at FYS 2006:

I decided that if I had to pack and move my stash, then I'd at least try and get pics of some of it.

OK...the above bags contain all kinds o'yarn.

Far left bag: baby yarns, wool yarns, and hmmm....I think I threw in the Rowan Polar and the Boise yarn too.

Bag in front with the orange yarn: All wool, some 220, Bartlett, and Wool of the Andes mixed in with a little Lamb's Pride for good measure.

The blue is enough Starmore Bainin to make an nice Aran, with a whole bunch of Jo Sharp wool above that. Fair Isle work I'm hoping.

The bag to the right has about 20 balls of different colored superwash bulky wool. An afghan one day.

The big bag of random yarns: baby yarn, multi-colored wools, cottons (you can barely see the mercerized red and green Provence), a bag of enough ribbon yarn for a top, and random bits of yarn for felting.

The novelty and laceweight yarns. The Knitpicks gossamer and shadow. The fuzz. The Mr. Brown. The fringe and the floof. And a bag with one chewed up ball of Trekking XXL that the cats mangled; destined to be socks for Nate when I master the Russian join.

This is what remained in the closet after I packed all the bags you see on the bed above. Basically, one cubby full of chenilles and homespun, two cubbies full of fabric selvedge ends (rugs?), another cubby full of thin chenille (ex-cones), and a half full cubby of wools for felting. The chenille took up a whole black garbage bag, and the fabric selvedges took up another. These cubbies sure hold a lot! The wool went into a kitchen bag.

Far left: You can barely see the cute little skeins of the Blue Sky Alpaca poking out.

Bag of gorgeous purple Starmore Scottish Heather yarn. More Aran for me!

A huge bag of 100% wool, all grey. Overdying or Aran knitting for this.

And, in the bag to the front, Peer Gynt Natr Wool...what I like to use for dyeing.

Ah, the huge bag of Gray-green Scottish Heather = sweater for Nate.

And, the top of the bag of multi-colored superwash wool that I'm planning to knit an afghan with one day.

The stuff I put aside. The bag of the white to finish up the cardi (sleeves and collar left), the Cherry Tree Hill silk top kit, and a random hank of green fluff (to knit as another gift scarf). So, in addition to the fluff for spinning, I have this, the black shawl in progress, and the Starmore swatches to work on in the next month that I have to live without access to my yarn.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Alice Starmore Aran Knitting swatches

In anticipation of working up to knitting one (or more) of the sweaters in Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting, I've started knitting the swatches in the book. She basically lays out a program of Aran knitting in chapter 2 of the book whereby working through the different sections on techniques, charts, and knitting tips you can learn to knit intuitively, and once the patterns are set with a single chart repeat, not need the charts to complete the knitting.

This knitting Aran's intuitively is my next big knitterly goal. So, I'm working with the swatches, and knitting them as intuitively as possible. I know that when I developed a sense of how to read my knitting as I went along, my knitting got both better and faster. So, to do this with complicated patterns, and not need to use a chart is a good goal for me.

Swatch 1: Basic Rope Cables: an even number of stitches crossed on the same number of rows; twisting away from each other.

Swatch 2: Rope Cable Variations: A 2 stitch, a 4 stitch and a 6 stitch cable, twisting towards each other.

Swatch 3: More Rope Cable Variations: Here we have cables crossed at intervals not equal to the stitch width of the cables. And one cable with two different crossing intervals.

So, I've started on Swatch 4, I figure I'll put them up as I complete them. After swatch 4 I venture into new knitting territory, so that should be fun!

Swatches 1-3 were knit with a partial skein of Starmore's Bainin yarn that came to me with the other yarn. The rest of the swatches will have to be in other yarns.
I used size 6US needles as she suggested in the book for the Bainin.

Otherwise, I did finish both the fronts and the back now for the Drop stitch cardi...and started a sleeve. I also started a simple black shawl, that I'm hoping to wear to a wedding in June. And spinning.

The house stuff continues. Still planning on moving in about 2 weeks! So, the knitting/spinning will definitely be slowing down soon, as the packing commences.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

H is for Hair for Handspinning!

The lovely Carolyn of Kids and Knits (blog) sent me some mohair!

First clip kid mohair locks. I love to play with fiber, and never played with mohair from scratch before!

Here lie the locks drying.

They got three baths in the sink with a little dish soap and warm water.

First washing water...see the dirt! This little kid was enjoying his time outside I think!

The mohair is so very soft and fine. The difference between 1st clip kid mohair and some of that old itchy mohair stuff is like the difference between cashmere and hemp!

Up next, I'll be playing with the carding and spinning of it. It's so fine, it really likes to become super charged with static electricity when I brush it out. Any hints to avoid the static? I was thinking of doing something with dryer sheets but haven't figured out what yet.

Thanks Carolyn!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Natural Wool Sampling Part 2.

I finished spinning the wool sample pack over the weekend. Again, an enjoyable experience, and I highly recommend these sample packs to anyone spinning who hasn't had the opportunity to use all of the different wools and compare.

1) Superfine Merino 80's top. What is that 80's thing you ask? Does this wool have a fondness for Soft Cell and The Cure? No, 80's is the spinning count of the fiber. Fiber spinning counts range from 30's for the coarsest to 90's for the finest. You might be familiar with the micron count. Well, this superfine merino has a micron count of 17. Anyways. I love this top. So soft. I could spin it as fine as I wanted. It made a lovely, lofty, yarn that I could wear next to my skin no problem. Smooth drafting, plush, and softer than some cotton clothes I own.

2) Merino 64's top. This is labeled as the standard merino. Also a dream to draft, and soft and lofty. 21 micron count. Definitely buying more of this too.

3) South African Fine Wool Top. I was expecting to like this, since it's categorized in the Fine wools, and likely a merino. But, I found I didn't like drafting this fiber. It felt like it wanted to stick together. Maybe more lanolin in it. The yarn is soft. But, my novice spinning didn't treat it as well as it deserved. Maybe this one is best left to an advance spinner.

4) Targhee 62's top. Oooh, I loved it. Nice and soft, with a micron count of 22, it isn't any coarser than the standard merino. Drafting was simple, the yarn pretty nice and well balanced. I can't wait to try some of this top that's been hand painted by Mountain Colors!

5) Gray Swalesdale Top. Can you say twine? That's what Nate said when I asked him to touch this yarn. Yep, this is the coarsest of the bunch. With a spinning count of 30's and a micron count of over 40! This is a lovely gray color, but so coarse! I think you could make a felted bag, or rope with this, but no garments ever. And, I think I drafted it too thin. I ended up with all kinds of wool hairs all over me after spinning this one. Maybe a thicker draft would have kept them in the yarn.

6) Wensleydale Longwool Top. In the Luster Longwool category, where these sheep grown 12 inches + of wool a year! And they weren't kidding. This is one long stapled wool! I've never drafted fibers this long before and it took a minute to get used to it! But, it does have a lovely sheen, almost a glossy look to the finished yarn. I would like to experiment more with this, and make a hard wearing worsted weight yarn for some serious outerwear type stuff. Fun. Overall, once you figure out that you need to draft the long fibers a little differently, a good wool to spin. (Plus I kept thinking of the Monty Python Cheese Shop Skit while spinning it, and that makes anything more fun).

8) Superwash Merino 63's top. Oooh baby. I've never spun superwash before, and I must say, I'm looking forward to spinning my own sock yarns after these. They draft dreamily. The spin up even and lofty and uber soft. And something about the superwash process must make the wool extra lofty in comparison to the untreated wools. In fact, the two superwash samples I spun might be the nicest yarn I've ever spun.

7) Superwash Colonial wool. See above. The merino is a tad softer, but the colonial I think made an even nicer balanced yarn in my hands. This will be my first sock yarn to spin purchase. 8 0z for $8.80! This would even be great for sweaters, especially at that price!

And, I leave you with a detail of my superwash sample yarns. So you can see the loftiness and evenness that even I made of this wool. It was so encouraging!

mmmmm. wool.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Natural Wool Sampling

Since I started spinning, I had only really spun Merino and Churro. So I decided to order a Natural Wool Sample Pack from Woodland Woolworks to try. The sample pack is $25, and you get 16 1/2 oz. samples of 16 different types of natural wools. In the box below, you can see the unspun roving samples on the top, and the spun roving samples on the bottom.

So far, I've spun up 8 of the 16 wool types. This has been a great experience for me, and I highly recommend this to those of you who haven't had the opportunity to try all these different types of wool. Try them this way, then decide what you'd like to get more of for a large project!

I've tried to spin all of these in the same way to get the best comparison. I've been drafting parallel fibers from the tip of a pre-drafted strip of roving, using a short draw technique, possibly a long draw on some of the wool types. I'm plying the single into a two ply by winding it into a center pull ball and using both ends to ply together.

A few notes about the wools, from left to right in the above picture.

1) Blue Faced Leicester Top. Corriedale Cross is softer, but it felt about the same texture to spin up, with a little more crimp than the Corrie. Easy to draft. I think this yarn wants to be a medium weight single to be happy.

2) Jacob Brown Sheep top. A rougher wool, for outerwear for sure, I don't think I'd make a fitted sweater from this! Very easy to work with, the yarn had a pretty good crimp in it. This yarn definitely liked to be a thicker single. But a gorgeous dark brown color. I bet this would be great to use in some felting projects.

3) White American Wool top. Nice, soft, not as soft as Merino or Finn Sheep, but softer than the Corriedale Cross. This drafted easily, and I got the sense that you could spin a thick or a thin single from it depending on what you'd want it for.

4) Finn Sheep Top. I love this wool. Soft, lustrous, and easy easy easy to draft and play with. I think I could make fine yarn or thick yarn with this stuff. I would love to make some nice socks with this! One of the favorites so far!

And notes about the above wools:

5) Shetland Moorit Top. Love this one too. Good thing I ordered 12 oz. of it! It is the nicest natural brown color (moorit!), drafts amazingly well, and is a pretty soft yarn. Not as soft as the Finn Sheep, but definitely softer than the other colored wools in the pack. I think I could make this stuff thick or thin too, but it also likes to be a happy medium.

6) White Coopworth Top. Now, the catalog has this in the coarse wool category, but I really think that this sample was softer than the BFL sample I got. It drafted into a nice thin single very easily, and I think became one of the most balanced yarns of the bunch! I'd order more of this.

7) Icelandic Top. Gray. This I would have to say, is the coarsest of the batch of 8 that I've spun up yet. It is a blend of both the outer and inner wools of the sheep, as opposed to being the inner wool only, which I imagine is much softer. Wants to be a thicker single than I was wanting it note, spin it thick! And, definitely for outerwear or felting.

8) Corriedale Cross top. I am, very fond of this top. It spun up beautifully and quite effortlessly. I even got Nate to spin some, and at his first attempt with the wheel, he made decent yarn with it (which promptly became a cat toy). Makes me glad I ordered a lb of this! I think that this top would like to be either a thin or a thick single, and it really yeilds to a light drafting hand well.

Overall, this has been a great experience. I highly recommend it to new spinners, or spinners who haven't spun that many different wool types. I think to spin them (well 8 of them at least) back to back was useful, for I could distinguish subtleties in the fibers that I wouldn't have noticed if I spun them all individually.

I think if I had to list them in order of favorite to least, it'd be:
1) Finn Sheep.
2) Corriedale Cross.
3) Coopworth.
4) Shetland Moorit.
5) American Medium Wool.
6) Jacob Brown.
7) Blue Faced Leicester.
8) Icelandic.

Though, I can see that I'd use all of these wools for their own purposes. Though the ones at the top seem more versatile to me, I would use the Jacob or Icelandic for some heavy duty garments or felting quite happily.

I love wool.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Life is Hectic sometimes

I know I haven't posted in a while. Life has been hectic! With the buying and selling of our house and new house, working all week and weekend in the field, and then our home computer decided to crap out on us! But, in my spare time, I have been doing a little spinning.

That is the 'Autumn Splendor' Merino top that I got from Susan's Spinning bunny a while back. 8 oz of top transformed into 8oz of DK weight two-ply yarn. I really like the way that it turned out. The colors, the spinning, it just worked. Yards, em, I know I did 175 wraps on one skein and 275 wraps on another skien...but forgot to measure the back of the chair I wrapped them around to calculate! I should do that.

Spinning the yarn above.

And, a little (and I mean a little) knitting. I think I knit this little scarf, worked a little on a gift scarf, and finished the front left of the cardi, not much for two weeks!

This scarf is knit in a simple lace pattern, I think Spanish Lace from one of the Walker books. I used one skein of the hand-dyed yarn, held together with a strand of mohair for fuzziness. It really is an easter egg scarf. But pretty, and Spring-y. And itchy! I have to wear it with a collared shirt.

My spinning companions. They curl up together on the couch next to me almost every night.

I've started the Aran Knitting swatches from Alice Starmore. I'm planning on knitting all 20 or so cabled swatches in order to develop the intuitive knitting thing she talks about. Being able to knit those Arans without looking at the charts! It's a lofty goal. But I'm swatching.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

G is for Goat

In Winter of 2003 we went to Tunisia. And, in somewhere in our quest to see old Roman sites in a little car we rented, we ended up near Chemtou, hiking around to the old Roman marble quarry and met this shepard. And his goats and sheep. He was carrying this little baby goat.

I loved Tunisia. One of the best trips we've ever taken.

(FYS 2006, I'm working on it. In the craziness of buying and selling house, and all that jazz, life has been crazy. In fact I've hardly had time to knit or spin or anything.)

Yarn Dyeing

Last week, my parents-in-law visited from Michigan. Anna Mae is a crocheter, quilter and knitter, so I thought we could have some fun dyeing yarn together! I had 25 50g balls of Peer Gynt Natural wool, a bunch of kool-aid packets, and Wiltons icing dyes. We dyed a total of 10 balls, which I skeined and tied loosely. The yarn hanging to dry:

Another view of the yarn, farther away, but the colors in this photo are a little more accurate.

In the dyeing process, two done 8 to go!

It was a fun first experiment for both of us, and we enjoyed doing slightly different things with our skeins to see what the end result would be. For future reference, I think I'd use more dye, or overdye, to get darker colors. Or, start with gray wool to get a richer look. These yarns are definitely bright!

Thanks Anna Mae, I had a great time! And thank you too for the signed copy of Lily Chin's book Knitting and Crocheting with Beads! I look forward to trying out some of those projects!

Though I have made a scarf with one of the skeins, very easter-ish. Pics of that later....