Thursday, 31 July 2014

A Tale of Two Handspun Yarns

or, how two braids of the same fibre can end up looking different (on purpose, I hasten to add).

After the disappointment of the last two skeins of yarn I spun, I'm feeling rather pleased with myself today.

Ages and ages ago (probably three or four years ago), I bought two braids of BFL fibre that my friend Lucy had dyed.

Rather summery, don't you think?

My first thought was to spin them as one big 200g skein of yarn.  Then I had another think and came up with a different plan.

The first braid, I spun fractcally.  That sounds rather technical and complicated, doesn't it; but it isn't.  Basically, you split the braid in half lengthways and then spin one half down the whole length of the half-braid so you get very long lengths of individual colours (or, as I did, pull of chunks of each colour and spin them - you get the same effect, but can re-distribute where each colour goes if you want).  Once you've spun all of that half of the braid onto a bobbin, you start another bobbin with the second half.  With the second half, you split the braid lengthways again, but this time, into 4, 6, 8, however many you want strips and spin each thinner strip so you get much shorter lengths of colour than on the first bobbin.  Once you've spun the second half of the braid, you ply the two bobbins of singles together and get a barber-pole striping yarn (although in places the yarn will be one colour where two colours meet).  It's a pleasing effect.  I got approx 400m of yarn from 100g of fibre, which I'm very pleased about:

Enough for a pair of socks or a decent-sized shawl/scarf

With the second braid, I divided it into two (lengthways again), but then I pulled off chunks of the fibre and put them through my drum carder to make into batts.  The first half I just put through the drum carder one time to mix up the colours a bit, but the second half of the braid I (well, we really as DD2 helped me) put through three times in total to really mix the colours so they were blended well.  Here are the two batts I ended up with (I'd already started spinning one, which is why it looks smaller than the other one):

3-times blended on left, 1-time blended on right

The two bobbins of yarn I finished up with looked like this:

Actually, that photo doesn't really show a great deal of difference in the singles on the bobbins, but there was, I promise!  Yesterday, I plyed the singles together and this morning, I wound the 2-ply yarn onto my niddy noddy (with a bit of "shush, I'm counting" when either child tried to speak to me!), tied it up so it wouldn't tangle, then soaked it, squished excess water out and hung it up on my washing line to dry (we're having glorious weather here at the moment).  This afternoon, it was dry and I brought it in to photograph it:

Approx 325 of sport-weight yarn

It's rather shrimpy or lobstery in colour and I'm very pleased with it.  I think this yarn is going to become a Norby hat (for me).

Here are the two skeins, photographed side by side:

Hmm - someone's dripped something on the hall carpet!

So, two braids the same, but two subtly different yarns.

Pleased with myself?  Yes, yes, I am :D

I've now got an empty spinning wheel and I'm trying to resist the temptation to start spinning something new until I've finished at least one of the knitting WIPs.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

F is for Failure

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on myself, but this next skein of handspun yarn is not at all what I was hoping for.

First off, although the bag of Wensleydale Longwool fibre said it was scoured, it was still a bit greasy with lanolin, which made it a bit slippery to spin.  Still, I persevered (I'd never spun this sheep breed before).  Each lock was between six and eight inches long, I'd estimate, so I used my flick carder to open each one up and then, one I'd got a small shoe-box full of them, I spun them.  Once I'd spun a bobbin full of the locks, I decided I'd had enough of flicking and then spinning, so wound the spun single into a ball and then plyed it using a strand from the inside of the ball with the one from the outside to make a 2-ply yarn.

Then I washed it and hung it up to dry.  Because during the washing process more of the lanolin was washed out, once it was dry, the yarn felt a bit floppy and loose and I didn't like it.  So, I wound it into another ball again and put it through my wheel again to add a bit more twist.  Then, I wound it into a skein, tied it up and then washed it again before hanging it up on the line to dry.

This time, the yarn was over-twisted, but I decided to call it a day and admit defeat.

This yarn (which is a cross between yarn and twine) definitely falls into the category of "learning curve".

I think you can see from the photo where the excessive amount of twist has made the yarn king and squiggle.

I've now bought a 100g 'bump' of ready-prepared Wensleydale, so hopefully my next effort at spinning this sheep breed will result in something a bit better as Wensleydale yarn is supposed to be soft and lustrous.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

E is for Effort

I seem to have been doing more spinning than knitting in recent weeks.

Not that the results have been pleasing.

In a package of fibre that I bought from World of Wool was this bump:

Picture taken from the World of Wool website
It doesn't look too bad like that does it.  Truth be told, when I took it out of the postal package, I did think that the colours weren't really 'me' and I decided that I must have put it in my online shopping basket and not taken it out.  Anyway, I decided that this would be my next spinning project as I've enjoyed spinning WoW's merino/silk blend rovings before.  I started merrily spinning away and then got a bit concerned as the white silky bits felt a bit rough and I had bits sticking out from the singles I was spinning.  I admit that rude words were said in exasperation and at one point I nearly pulled the whole lot off the bobbin with the intention of binning it.  I even got to the point where I thought I should send an e.mail to World of Wool to express my disappointment because all the fibre I've bought from them to date has been of excellent quality.

I did go back onto the website and had a look and then it clicked with me.  The white isn't actually silk.  It's bleached flax.  Oops.  That's why I'd put it in my shopping basket -- I've never spun flax before.  I continued spinning, pulling out and discarding the particularly rough bits of flax that I found too difficult to spin.

Once I'd finished spinning the fibre onto one bobbin, I navajo/chain plyed it into this skein of 3-ply yarn:

The blue's got a bit lost amongst the black, grey and white, but I suppose if I'm being kind to myself it's come out quite nicely heathered.  It's just not very soft (although I've read that flax/linen should soften with further washing - although with my luck, I'll probably felt the merino at the same time).

I have no idea what this is going to be.  I don't think I've got enough for a pair of socks, unless they're short ones.  Maybe some gloves or a hat?  Possibly a scarf (although it might be a bit scratchy).

Oh well, you live and learn, don't you.  I've learned that I don't like spinning flax!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

WIPS and a New Toy

I've got another pair of socks on the go.  More plain, vanilla socks as the yarn's variegated and a pattern would get lost.  I'm rather pleased with them so far:

The yarn was dyed by my friend Lucy and she called is Love Hearts.  These are simple toe-up socks to my own 'pattern' with a rounded toe and longer-than-usual gusset, just like the last couple of pairs of socks I made recently.

Another new WIP is a scarf.  The pattern's a Kate Davies one - A Hap for Harriet.  The pattern's very well written (which is usual for Kate's designs) and after a couple of pattern repeats, I didn't need to look at the instructions any more, which is all good.

It's going to take some time to knit this as it's a laceweight yarn (Posh Yarn Audrey - a cashmere/silk blend; very soft and rather lovely) on 3mm needles.  The yarn's a recent acquisition from a localish lady who is moving to a smaller house and was de-stashing some of her yarn.  I bought three other yarns from her as well - all laceweight.  Laceweight yarn's something I've always found a bit tricky to deal with, but with this pattern being so easy to follow, I think this is going to be a success.

Now to my New Toy.  It's the peg loom I said last week that I'd ordered.  It arrived this morning while I taking Jess for her morning walk, but my next-door-neighbour kindly signed for it and then knocked on my door to deliver it to me.  I'm really pleased with the loom - the ash is a lovely wood:

The 9mm pegs that came with it are wooden, but the 6mm ones are plastic, which should make them more durable (I've read on the internet about thinner wooden ones breaking easily).  I'm hoping that DD2 will enjoy using it with me - our first plan is to make a new rug for her bedroom from some of the acrylic DK yarn I've got.

I'm off to do some more spinning now.  Yesterday I finished half the braid of BFL I'm currently using so I'm now starting on the second half before I ply them together into what I hope will be some pretty yarn (it's pink, peach and yellow; very summery).  I did think about joining one of the Tour de Fleece teams on Ravelry, but decided I probably wouldn't be able to follow the rules on when to spin, so decided to give it a miss and just go at my own pace.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Must Do Better

Time has slipped away from me (again) recently and I can't believe that in just over two weeks' time, we'll have reached the end of another school year for the girls.

So, what's been happening recently?

Well, DD1 had excellent results in almost all of her subjects in her annual school exams.  She's got a couple of areas where there's room for improvement (mostly in the the way she tackles exam questions where there's writing involved).  It's not that she's bad, but working on that could make the difference in what grade she gets when she sits her GCSEs in a couple of years.  She also had a very good end-of-year report from school, except for in Healthy Living where the teacher stated that she was particularly impressed with the brownies DD1 had made...... except DD1 has never made brownies!!

DD2 has also had a very good end-of-year report, which is encouraging.  She also went on 'camp' with school last week, which went well.  She spent the first two nights sleeping in a tent (one of the staff sleeps in each tent) and the second two nights in a cabin as she settle down to sleep much better.  She also enjoyed the activities, although she's a bit tired as it was a very active week and has taken a few days to get back into her usual routine at home.

With DD2 away, we sent DD1 to stay with my in-laws so she could get to school easily (she enjoys staying with them and they love having her to stay) so hubby took the week off work and he and I (and, of course, Jess) went and stayed in a static caravan at a camp site about 15 miles away in St Osyth (a couple of miles along the coast from Clacton).  We didn't want to go too far afield in case there were problems with DD2 and this way we were within an hour's drive of where the school camp was being held.  We spent a very pleasant four nights and days not doing much at all and we even went to the pub for a couple of beers on two afternoon (shock !! - it's over a year since we last went to a pub, never mind in the afternoon).

Crafting-wise, I seem to have been doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that over the last couple of months, but don't seem to have finished much; just these socks:

The yarn's Drops Fabel.  Wool Warehouse had a sale of Drops yarn recently, so I stocked up a bit on sock yarn.  I think I bought 12 balls of Fabel and 4 balls of Drops Delight (both come in 50g balls so 2 balls of each colour were required).

I have cast on a new pair of socks and a new scarf/shawl, which I'll photograph soon and talk about.  I managed to knit for a couple of hours each day last week while we were away, while watching football and tennis.

I've also finished spinning a couple of skeins of yarn, which I'll photograph once they've finished drying.

The weather's lovely and sunny here, so hubby found the hole for the whirlygig washing line (our tumble dryer's starting making a whining noise, so I think it's on its way out).

My arm is getting better, but I think I'll have a scar.  It was quite red for a couple of weeks, but it's starting to fade a bit now.  I still can't believe how silly I was.

I've had a bit of a splurge this morning (not sure how if I'm going to downplay it or just be brazen when it comes to telling hubby).  I've bought a peg loom.  I was showing DD2 videos of weaving on a peg loom this morning before she went to school and she seemed quite interested, so after I'd walked Jess this morning, I researched some and found somewhere in Yorkshire that makes them, left a message and then received a phone call from them.  The next thing I knew, I'd ordered a 600mm wide peg loom with both 9mm and 6mm pegs, made from Ash wood.  Bye-bye £45 (including P&P).

I've now got to go to the local supermarket to buy a few bits and bobs (including some more pegs - since using the washing line instead of the tumble dryer I've discovered I don't have enough pegs for a full wash-load).  I also need to buy a large-ish plant pot as DD2 brought home a packet of carrot seeds from school yesterday and I've promised her we'll plant them this afternoon when she gets home!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Sock it to me!

Hello there.  Long time, no see.  My bad.  Life has been a bit up and down over the last couple of months with a fair bit going on.  Easter holidays, a short half-term for the girls at school (only five weeks, I think) and then the half-term break last week and although I kept thinking that I should get round to making a blog post, it just never happened.

I also lost my knitting enthusiasm a little bit and just never seemed to get on with what I've been making.  My black sweater has taken a bit of a back seat and my stripy scarf is something that only seems to get worked on every now and then, so there's little progress to show.

Recently though, I put in a pile of my socks to hand-wash (as I usually do) and thought to myself that several of the older pairs were looking a bit tired.  They've lost their elasticity a bit and the colours have faded somewhat.  It was time to replenish the sock hoard, I decided.

Last time I blogged I showed off a skein of blue yarn (a BFL/nylon mix).  I cast on with my 2.25mm needles and whizzed up the first foot, towards the heel.  Did the same number of rows I usually do before starting the gusset.  Did the same number of rounds for the gusset as I usually do.  Looked at the sock.  Thought that it was looking a bit longer than usual, but blithely carried on and did the heel turn.  Looked at the sock again.  This time, decided to put the sock on my foot.  Not only was it too long, it was also a bit baggy on my foot.  I humphed and hmmed and thought how I could rectify the sock which was obviously going to be too big for my feet.  I thought about ripping back to a few rows before the start of the gusset, but that would only solve the problem of the length.  Thought about ripping back a bit further so the stitches would have to stretch lengthwise, thus pulling in the width.  Decided I was kidding myself, took a deep breath, pulled out the needles and before I could think any more, ripped the whole sock back and cast on again, this time with fewer stitches.  Once I'd re-started, these were a fairly quick knit.

Not the most exciting socks, but they do feel nice on.  The yarn was a looser twist than most sock yarns, more like two strands of yarn twisted together rather than the smoother, round yarns that are more commonly available and I think it was the yarn construction affecting my usual tension/gauge that caused the first attempt to come out too big.

After the blue socks, I was in the mood for something bright.  Delving into the stash, I pulled out the Knitting Goddess Same Difference yarn called Summer Sun that I'd bought a while back.  This, I knew, would make for some bright socks.  The yarn's sold as two 50g skeins that aren't identical.  The colours are mirrored, so one colour is dominant in one skein and another colour is dominant in another.  To quote from the Knitting Goddess website:
Same Difference yarns are supplied as 2 x 50 gram skeins , one the mirror image of the other - so they are perfect for subtle colour work projects and socks which look like they know each other rather than match perfectly.
 These were a quick knit and were completed in ten days, so I've now got two new pairs of socks to wear.

Very bright and zingy.

Oh, I forgot - there was a further glitch with the blue socks.  As the pink/yellow ones were knitting up so quickly (I did a lot of knitting on them while I watched a couple of films on TV two evenings last week), I decided that I'd wait until they were finished and sew in the ends on both pairs of socks.  I got my darning needle out last Saturday morning and sewed in the ends of the pink/yellow ones and then went and got the blue ones.  Except, in a 'helpful' mood, DD2 had got there before me and had snipped off the ends of the blue socks, close to the knitting (she admitted it!).  So, I undid the cast off edge, tinked back the last row of ribbing and then cast off again.  Not the end of the world, but mildly annoying.  My fault really - I should have known better.

The Summer Sun socks were knitted to my usual stitch count and number of rows and they're a good fit, so I'm very pleased with them.  I took a photo of the way I currently do my gussets.  I have a high instep, so find that doing the gusset over 30 rows instead of 20 (increase every third row rather than every other row) give me a better fit and the foot stitches don't have to stretch so much.

It makes a nice V on the sole, which then curves around the top for the heel.  I'm definitely a confirmed toe-upper when it comes to socks.  Cuff-down's not for me, I'm afraid!

I'm having a bit of a restful day today.  I did one of those stupid Mum/Housewife things last week and managed to burn the top of my arm just above the knobbly wrist bone on a baking tray last Thursday.  With DD2 at home and getting under my feet, I didn't run the burn under cold water for long enough, so it blistered.  I tried to keep the blister intact, but then bumped it at work on Sunday, so it burst and, to cut a long story short, yesterday morning, it had gone a bit red, was weeping a little bit and my arm was slightly swollen and was starting to ache, so I managed to get an appointment with the practice nurse at my GP's surgery where she had a look and then put on an iodine patch, a protective gauze patch and a bit white square plaster over the whole area.  She also gave me extra dressings so hubby can replace the one she put on, but I've got to keep it dry (hurrah for cling-film so I can shower) and take care of it so it can start to heal.  Not that easy as it's my left arm and I'm left-handed.  I'm going to try and do some spinning in a little while as I've got some Wensleydale fibre I've been spinning that I want to get finished (because, to be honest, it's getting a bit boring).

I shall catch up with you all soon :)

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Long time no blog

The last month seems to have flown past.

The weather's been (generally) nice and it really feels as though Spring is here.  Not that Winter was horrible - no snow and not that many nights when there was a frost, to be honest.  The weather at the end of last week was hazy and smoggy with winds bringing sand and dust from the Saharan region.  This was last Friday morning when I took DD1 to the train station:

The wind blew away the Saharan smogginess overnight on Friday and by Saturday morning the sky was bright and Spring-like:

Saturday lunchtime when I took Jess for a walk before I got ready for work, there was more signs of Spring when I spotted these rabbits.  I'd hung back, keeping Jess on a short lead so the rabbits weren't spooked and was able to get this photo:

Aren't they cute?  I think the bigger one on the left might have been Mum!

A crafting round-up:

There's been no spinning going on, so no point in taking a photo of my non-progress.  I'm not sure why I haven't done any spinning; I think it was a case of not finding to time.

Knitting-wise, things have been plodding along.

Puffin sweater:  very slow progress.  I've done a few inches, that's all, and I'm nowhere near the end of the decreases for the waist shaping:

Stripey scarf:  not much progress.  I've been picking this up and doing a few rounds at knitting group, so it's growing very slowly (not that I need a scarf in this weather):

I did buy some more yarn from Colinette for it last week:

I have to admit that when I opened up the package (it's another Jitterbug Creative Pack) I was a little disappointed as the colours are quite muted, but I think they'll make a change from the brighter colours I've been using, especially if I alternate them.

Socks:  I've finished the Rico Superba Tweed ones I was annoyed with following the knot I found in the yarn:

I cast these off this morning.  

I'm still knitting my plain hand-spun socks, but those are an 'upstairs' project and I add a few rounds every now and then while I'm waiting for the bath to fill up or if DD2 is awake during the night and I need something to do until she settles down to sleep again.

Next up will be another pair of socks as I found a hole in one pair the other day (my nice purple/green Fyberspates ones - I might try and darn them) and some of my other pairs are definitely past their best.  The next pair will be another pair of plain socks, using some blue yarn that my friend Lucy dyed and which I bought at least two years ago.  DD2 helped me wind the yarn from the skein into a yarn-cake yesterday, an activity that she seems to like (we wound the new Jitterbug small skeins for the scarf at the same time).

So, that's a round-up of my crafting endeavours for the last month.  I did start something else, but I think I'll talk about that next time.