Saturday, September 5, 2009

A River Ran Through This

When I visit the local yarn store, which is more often than I should, I've made a conscious effort to avoid buying anything green. I own enough green yarn to last a knitter 2 lifetimes. I think I've succeeded in this effort, but now it seems I'm stuck on red. I really do need to branch out on the color wheel, but not today.

This is Mountain Colors' Ruby River Targhee Top Plied 3 Ways. It sounds like a delicious dish they'd serve on Iron Chef, but it's just yarn with singles spun the same (don't ask me about ratios, I just put the yarn on the leader and let 'er rip), but plied differently.

The yarn at the bottom of the photo is my first attempt at Navajo plying. I love the way that the stripes of color are preserved and I think chain plying is incredibly clever. It may not have a whole lot of uses in everyday knitting because of weakness and breakage potential, but whoever dreamed this technique up was brilliant. The top yarn is fantabulous (even if I must say so myself). I bought the commercial mohair that Mountain Colors makes in the same colorway and plied them together. It's light, bouncy and wears a pretty halo. In a word, yummy. The center yarn was wrapped into an Andean bracelet and plied. Although it turned out well, this is not my favorite way to ply. I like it so little, this was only the second time I've used this method.

I'm pretty excited about the mohair blend. I've got a whopping 240 yards of a fairly bulky yarn. I don't have a dohickey to measure wraps per inch, but I'd say there's enough there for a really toasty hat and maybe some mittens.

I have a lot to show for having spent around 8 hours at my spinning wheel today. I wish every day was Saturday.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Welcome to the Fold

Last night, during the last round of whatever PGA golf match was happening, I heard a loud buzzing sound that was followed by a boom. Since I was busy treadling my wheel, the obvious loss of power was meaningless to me. Many of my endeavors require absolutely no energy besides that which I provide. My son who’d been lying on the sofa watching the match took things more personally. There was a bit of mild cursing, a rush to grab his keys and he took off to find someone who didn’t have to, “live like a pilgrim.” I kept right on spinning. I was on to something new I’d never done, and I was excited with what my wheel and hands were producing.

I’ve never spun from the fold before. I’ve never really needed to do that, but with the merino/tencel blend I was using (from my new stash purchased at the fiber festival), I was having a really hard time drafting this yarn. I made a call to a fellow spinner who reminded me of this technique I’d seen once, but had never done. I was so busy trying not to make twisty cord of my roving that day that I didn’t pay much attention during circle. Inspired, I hung up and logged onto YouTube for a video of the technique. Thirty seconds later, I was making what I think will be some very pretty yarn. I love YouTube and I’m appreciative of the artists who take the time to video and post techniques like this.

At 10 PM, it was pitch black in the neighborhood. A quick discussion with DTE Energy let me know I had about another hour and a half wait time for the transformer to be replaced. It was a bit warm, but I wasn't about to open the windows to let the rather humid air indoors. So I waited and continued to spin in the relative dark with only the light of a little flashlight. You know, this pilgrim stuff isn't half bad.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Double, double toil and trouble...

Every other Friday, I do a little something just for me: I hire someone else to clean my house. This indulgence is necessary, because if I didn't, we'd be surrounded by dust bunnies and dirty dishes. I like that it leaves me free to feel no guilt when I spend the following Saturday immersed in fibery goodness. Today I spent the entire time at the spinning circle playing with a dog. Not just any dog either. This is the fur from my friend Kim's Newfie, Boomer. I'll have to get a picture of him so that you can see what he looked like. Boomer died two years ago and before he did, I convinced Kim to keep his fur from his last grooming for me to spin when I learned. The time has come.

In pictures, Boomer appeared to have a black coat, but in real life, it appears more like dark chocolate. With fur too slippery and short to spin alone, I'm mixing it with a natural dark Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) which has a longer staple length.

Kim wants mostly Boomer in the yarn, so I'm using 25% BFL and 75% Boomer. To try to get precise, I weighed it on the scale so I could get 3 parts dog to 1 part sheep.

I spread apart the staples of the BFL, then spread Boomer on that and topped with some more BFL. It's kind of like making a BLT sammie, minus the mayo, but smells like dog. It's then placed in the drum carder, because if you think I'm carding this by hand, think again.

Since Boomer was sheared instead of combed at his last grooming, there were a lot of short fibers I had to pull out while I was carding. Despite trying to be neat, those short hairs went everywhere.

I made Rolags that are ready to spin and got down to business to test the ratio of wool to dog.

I was going to spin more Creamsicle yarn, but spent the day with the dog instead. After about 4 hours, I couldn't wait to get home to shower. I don't know how enticing I find it to prepare my own wool for spinning-it's a lot of work. You know how your neck gets itchy after a haircut? That's how my whole body felt. There were little short dog hairs everywhere, and I couldn't wait to get home to the shower (that someone else scrubbed) to wash it off.

What did you do for yourself today?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect, Right?

A week ago, I jumped into the spinning world head first by purchasing a wheel. While everyone else seemed besotted by the beauty of the all wood wheels, I was smitten by the Ladybug. It's compact, light weight and fits in the passenger seat of my Accord just fine. I'm envisioning a long weekend off in the mountains of Virginia. I'll take the wheel to keep me company.

With the three day weekend, I spun 8 ounces of Mountain Colors Targhee wool in Indian Corn. I love the colors. Here it is in two ply, bathed and smelling sweetly. It's sitting here while I decide what I want it to be. Perhaps a hat. Maybe two. There are 160 yards and it's bulky.

Fresh out of spinning material, I walked to town yesterday and bought this peach colored yarn. It's 80% merino wool, and 20% silk. The Louet label calls this Golden Hibiscus, but I think it looks like an Orange Creamsicle. Truly, this stuff is a dream to spin.

Today is the first pretty day we've had all week with no torrential rains, or even clouds to mar the sky. I was planning on taking my wheel out on the deck for awhile to spin outdoors. My neighbor has other ideas though. He's outdoors gardening while listening to right wing talk radio. Although I can tolerate my neighbor, I don't know about his Vicodin popping muse. I can't imagine what I'd spin listening to that vitriolic tirade spewing forth from the cheap radio. Maybe someone should buy my neighbor an mp3 player and headphones.

So really, how am I doing? Pinch me! It's thin and consistent.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Little Less Twist

Something happened this week with my spinning.  It seems I'm finally making yarn (or at least that's what I'm calling it) with my spindle and I'm hoping it translates to the wheel this morning. We'll see.  This particular batch is the Crazy Woman Targhee top and teal Corriedale spun separately and then plied together.  

Since some things are beginning to click, I've been trying to visualize myself spinning at the wheel and producing some beautiful, thin and perfectly balanced yarn. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A New Vocabulary

During the course of the last month, I've picked up a few new words. I wish I could say I've taken to spinning like a fish in water, but the truth is, spinning yarn is not the easiest thing I've ever done. My mind can visualize what I want to make, but my feet and hands just can't seem to do the tasks in sync.

I've purchased a couple of books to help me learn as this seems to be the way that works best for me. I can watch others, but until I know the language involved, nothing really seems to click. Knowing the meanings of the words I hear helps me put it all together. And this new language? Well, I'm learning to like it. Just take a look to see what I mean:

Treadle: noun. an Old English word meaning stair or step. The treadle is a lever that operates the machine. This little piece of the spinning wheel is what's giving me headaches and insane looking product. Too fast, too slow, not enough= the kind of yarn I'm making. I should have named this blog Twisted Sister for that's what I'm making: lot's of twisted yarn. My granny had a treadle sewing machine but when she sewed, her movements looked very smooth, and not like my herkie-jerkie movements because my head, hands and feet can't seem to work as one.

Footman: also a noun that generally means a liveried servant who admits visitors and waits on tables, but in this case, the footman connects the treadle to the drive wheel. I think the footman is in part to blame for my twisted yarn. Off with his head!

Maidens: again a noun and not one denoting virgins. These are the upright arms that hold the flyer and bobbin in place. Have I mentioned that since my yarn is so thick and twisted, it takes me no time at all to fill up a bobbin? If I were to buy a spinning wheel, I think I'd need a lot of bobbins right now because instead of being svelte and smooth, my yarn is pretty chunky. Sort of like me.

It's beginning to sound as old fashioned as a fairy tale, isn't it?

And as in any proper fairy tale, there is a Mother. Not a passive, victimized mother, nor an evil stepmother. No indeed. On a spinning wheel, there is the Mother-of-all. This particular part of the wheel includes the base and Maidens that support the flyer (which holds the bobbin).

I can just imagine the person who invented spinning wheels naming the parts as he made them. Did he think this particular part gave birth to the other parts, or did he think it was a mother*** to make? I'm not clear on that, but what I am clear on is that by imagining the spinning wheel as a character in a tale of old, I'm at least learning the names of the parts.

Here is a picture of what I expect I'll look like by the time I finally get this art form:

Photo: Google Images

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Less Twist-More Shout

My second day in spinning class went much better. I made 2 skeins of yarn and then plied them. The big skein in the bowl is the one I made in class today. The little baby skein is the one I made on the hand spindle during the week and then Andean plied in class. Now both of these yarns are from BFL roving.

Lovely and soft, I find it a little difficult to manage, so I bought this Mountain Colors roving (for the color name of course-it's Crazy Woman). I immediately got to work on my spindle this afternoon.

I don't know if it's the wool, or what.....

But I spun half of that roving this afternoon and it went faster than I could have imagined. I think it's relatively consistent too. As predicted, this could be a problem...