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!