‘Ello precioussss

…it’sss my birrrthdayy…

No, really, it is.  And what am I doing, you might ask?

Well, basically, nothing.

Textiles in Focus has been and gone; it was, of course, awesome.  And, equally of course, I had no time (and insufficient presence of mind) to take photographs during the event.  All I’ve got for you is a setup-time shot of the stall (which looks suspiciously similar to last year’s layout):

And a few photos of the yarn I prepped for my drop spindling class:

Yarn?  For a class on spindling??  Well, yes.  You see, it’s only a two-hour class, and it was aimed at complete beginners.  It’s very difficult to teach much spindling in two hours-  so I thought I’d level out the learning curve a bit.  Rather than handing out a stick and some fluff and attempting to teach everything all in one go, I went for a stick attached to yarn.  That meant we could play with plying, unplying and cabling for a while, before moving on to fibre.  It worked remarkably well.  By the time we got around to the slippery, tricksy fibre, everyone was comfortable with at least the concepts of holding, starting and stopping a spindle, dealing with unbalanced yarns, and winding onto storage bobbins.  (The practice, of course, takes a little longer).  I think that, with an hour extra (or even a half hour), everyone would have managed to produce a two-ply yarn that they had spun themselves from fibre.

And I think that just about everyone enjoyed themselves.  At any rate, I’m reasonably sure that no-one was unduly traumatised.  And one lady asked if I was available to teach a full day’s course for her guild.  Well, sure I am!  I’m honoured to be asked.  (Also, I was headhunted for several more shows as a yarn dyer/vendor, which is doubly, triply awesome.)

Anyway, back to the birthday thing.  Textiles in Focus ran until Sunday – the 27th.  Every bit of my spare energy before the show went into preparing the teaching materials and the stock for sale.  With only one clear day between TIF and my birthday, I have essentially *nothing* planned – not even a day off work!

But, you know?  I’m OK with that.  I’m perfectly happy to have done TIF for the second year in a row, and I’m more than pleased with the commitment I gave to it.  I’m still quite tired, so I’m happy not to be ‘wasting’ a birthday day off in recuperation.  Instead, I’ll have a quiet evening with J and the hounds, some nice food, a sofa and some knitting.  In a week or two’s time, I shall declare it Belated Birthday, take a day off and go enjoy myself.

95) A minor diversion/obsession

I currently can’t stop playing with this spindle and the Abby batt that is in progress upon it:

It’s the Summer 2010 Abby/Bosworth combo special.  The batt is 50% merino, 25% tussah silk and 25% baby camel down (and 110% marvellous).  The colourway is ‘mauve it on over’.  The spindle is a Bosworth mini in sumac, on a 9″ walnut shaft (perfect for thigh rolling), and since they were supplied together, I’ve always meant to spin them together.  Since I acquired them, in a little personal splurge moment during the summer, things haven’t really progressed between a little test spin, and an occasional fondling.

On Saturday, though, I fell for a skein of a friend’s hand-dyed, organic merino laceweight:

(Isn’t it lovely?!  She is planning to start selling on Etsy – I’ll let you know when she’s all set up.)

Anyway, are you seeing my problem yet?  That handpainted yarn is looking a lot like warp.  And the handspun is looking a lot like weft.  The colours are close enough to complement, different enough to contrast.  In my mind’s eye I’m seeing stripes of 1/2 and 2/1 twill, which, with handspun singles weft, might just give me some collapse.  The quantities *should* be about perfect for a scarf.

It’ll take me no time at all to finish spinning up the singles and get it woven off, right?!

81) And so to plying

The Titania batts:

Yesterday, I realised that I'd managed to fill my lovely Bosworth with Titania-singles to the point where it isn't really behaving itself any more.  (Of course, like a good blogger, I forgot to photograph it).  My original plan had been to spin all the singles, sliding the cops off onto storage devices, then to wind plying balls like I did for the last of the tussah silk and ply.  But this project has sort of migrated itself to work, where we have no spindle-kates, no handy pieces of cop-storage material, nothing.  And I wanted to spin.

So I wound a plying bracelet, reasoning, in the finest traditions of self-justification, that the whole point of this exercise is to find out how the batts work when spinning lace.  Therefore, I should get this lot plied as soon as possible, so I can knit a wee sample, yes?

And I realised that its a very long time since I spun much wool on a drop-spindle.

For the last few years, it's all been silk – except when it's been cotton.  Silk and cotton are both really, really twist-hungry, so I've learned to use a thigh roll to start the spindle.  Rolling the spindle shaft down your thigh gives a much faster spin than flicking it with your fingers.  This is definitely an advantage when trying to fill up silk or cotton singles with twist, but the downside is that wool doesn't need anything like as much twist.  Too much, and it's going to get wiry and scratchy on you – and, ultimately, break.

I can now get a spindle spinning faster than my fingers can draft wool to keep up, and as a result, I've had a *heck* of a time trying not to overspin this wool.

(Close up of the singles – see the sparkly bits??)

You can see how active the twist is, even after sitting on the spindle for a week or so, in these photos.  Every time the tension comes off the singles, they try to kink up and loop back on themselves.  Those bits in the second photo where loose singles have plied back on themselves are really quite tightly twisted, which indicates how much energy is squirreling around in there.

Looks like I'm headed for quite a high-twist laceweight here, then.

77) One bobbin full, and a sparkly spindle started

I'm done with my first bobbin of the current wheel project!  (DK-3 ply from drumcarded batts, for Sandi Wisehart's knit-to-fit cardigan KAL).  I think this is the most perfectly filled bobbin I've ever produced; three batts fit to perfection.  And there are no nasty surprises inside, either; the filling is smooth and even throughout:


I'm still experimenting with the iPhone, but I think I like the actual camera better.  That first shot wasa taken without flash.  This next, otherwise-identical one, with:


Amazing how the flash saddens the blue but intensifies the yellow, isn't it?  Also, I think this is the only camera I've ever used where the flash actually results in a picture that is darker overall.

Since it's currently all about the batts here, I've also started spinning some of my own merino/angelina blend, in Titania, on the spindle:


I'm aiming for a heavyish laceweight.  I really, really want to see how the angelina works up in a fine yarn.  Will there be too much sparkle?  Not enough?  Will the ends of the angelina stick out?  Will it make the yarn scratchy?  We shall see!

72) That was the week(end), that was…

Recently, time does not seem to be flowing smoothly.  One afternoon seems to hang around forever, stretching out into infinity – then four days seem to be go past in a single lump.  This makes for sporadic blogging.

Nevertheless, the last week has been rather productive, all things considered.  I have:

  • started seaming coppertop (ravelry link) – my two-week sweater, haha;
  • finished plying the spindled silks;
  • finished plying the Sweetgeorgia BFL/silk, featured mostly in this post;
  • started spindle spinning some of my own batts ('Titania' – mixed purples with holographic angelina – here);
  • made copious notes about what has and what hasn't worked in the garden this year.  However, these are all currently on the back of an envelope, so I can't share them with you yet;
  • reached the crunch point on the Peacock shawl. I will be omitting one full repeat from the middle section.

Several of these items deserve blog posts of their own, but I am rather fond of the plied BFL/silk photos I took on Sunday, so I'm sharing those now:

That is a UK 5 pence piece tucked behind the yarn; that's slightly smaller than a US nickel (18mm as compared to 21mm, according to Wikipedia).  That's some pretty fine spinning!  In fact, this is the first time I've managed to get over 1000 metres of yarn from 100g of fibre, so it's a genuine milestone.  I'm not interested in spinning ultra-fine thread, but I am keen to spin true laceweight knitting yarns, and also yarns that could be woven into garment-weight cloth.


The glamour shot.  This yarn is one ply of silk and one ply of blue faced leicester (a lovely, soft, fine wool).  The flash on these shots really shows off the sparkle of the silk against the more matt texture of the wool – click for bigger to see it properly!

And don't you love that little wooden bowl?  It's maple burr, turned by a local craftsman, and I'm hoping it'll work well as a bowl for using with a support spindle.  It's taller and narrower than the ones I've seen in use, but I love it anyway.

I bought it on Saturday, at the Willingham Feast Market, where I and several others from Rampton Spinners were demonstrating spinning.  Geodyne originally organised the event but unfortunately couldn't make it on the day.  I'm pretty sure a wonderful time was had by all four of us who did make it, even though I dropped my phone down the loo (oops! – time for an iPhone, perhaps?)

DSC05287 This is the demo area as it looked just before the marked opened – we had wool, flax and silk on display, including a progression of flax from dried plant to spun fibre, and a lot of interest was shown by the public.

DSC05288 The left hand side of the display, showing Jo's range of spun and dyed fibres, plus tools and fabrics, (and books!!  I never thought to bring books..) along with my new toy (wool picker) and a bag of clean but unteased wool, and my Rampton bag from last year.  The wool picker deserves another post of its own, but was quite the hit with young boys; it relies heavily on long, black nails for its function, and looks like a mediaeval torture device on the inside.

Inadvertent amusement – and education – was provided by the nice man who came round offering us tea and coffee before the event opened.  I told him I'd brought my own, but thanked him for the offer.  Jo only drinks hot chocolate, so he talked her into that – then, when she finally agreed, informed her that that would be one pound, please.  Both of us were …slightly gobsmacked.  Bear in mind that we were 'working' at this event for free, and a free cup of tea or the like is a nice (and relatively common) way to say thanks.  It was a funny experience rather than an unpleasant one – but it's a lesson in customer service/expectation management, too.  I don't think that either of us would have minded paying if the price had been clear from the beginning – especially as the proceeds go to charity.  But both of us – even me, and I wasn't the one getting a drink! – felt slightly .. what?  Affronted?  Cheated?  Tricked, I think is the best word.  And the sad part is that I'm sure he didn't mean to make us feel like that.

The really notable part, the one that anyone who deals with customers of any kind should note, is that this is the experience, out of all those I had that morning, that I've chosen to write about here.  They say it takes five positive experiences to outweigh a negative.  I suspect that is a conservative estimate.

71) Travels through time: a 15-minute musing

Several months ago, there was the Tour de Fleece1.  Since the major goal of this is to spin, even a little, every day, I started giving myself 15 minutes spinning time first thing in the morning.  Oddly, I started getting to work earlier as a result – but that's a musing for another day.

Usually I spin on my wheel in this time, but this morning I grabbed the spindle I'm using to ply the tussah weft for my spindled silk scarf project.  I was working on this last night at spinning group, and was so close to the end of the plying ball, I thought I'd try and get finished.

I don't usually use a plying ball (which is where you wind your singles, together, into a multi-stranded ball, so that all you have to do is go back through the ball and add twist when actually plying).  By default, I've been using plying bracelets, which are a kind of magic, and haven't caused my any significant problems.

But then, it's always worth trying new techniques, and this one comes recommended by Abby herself.  So, each time I finished a spindle full of singles, I wound it off into a neat, tight ball (bo-ringgg! I hate winding!).  Then I picked the two balls that were closest to the same size, and laboriously wound them, together, into a double-stranded, extra large ball. (Booorrrr-ingggg!!!).  At this point, I'm not loving the plying balls.

I didn't love it when I started plying from them, either.  I didn't know what to do with this squirrely, bouncy little ball of tightly wound silk.  Eventually, I figured out that I can hold it loosely in my fibre-control hand (my left, for me), and just let it unwind in a cage of fingers.  After that, this proved to be a really fast way to ply.  Really fast.  I don't know if it's faster than the bracelet overall, what with all that winding and re-winding, but the spindle sure fills up fast when you get going.  And it is much easier to pick up and put down your work using a ball rather than a bracelet.  You can take the bracelet off, but you need to have something else to put it on when you're not wearing it, and you do have to be a bit careful with it to avoid tangling and subsequent swearing.

But what does this have to do with journeying through time?  Well, this was the spinning project that I took up to visit my folks a couple of weeks ago.  And all that winding has some strong memories associated with it.  As the plying ball unwound, I felt as if I was travelling back to the moments when I was winding the ball.  I was transported to conversations with my parents; to the giant box of chocolates on the coffee table; to stopping at a motorway cafe and boggling the other patrons by pulling out a spindle whilst I waited for my coffee to cool; to the smell and feel of the air that weekend (mostly damp.  But it smelled of the sea).

Those memories were a definite bonus.  Oh, and I finished the plying ball:

(the little balls are the mismatched ends from my four balls of singles.  I'll make a mini-plying-ball with those, and bracelet ply anything left over.)

I think I *will* be using plying balls in the future, but I will see if I can find a storage mechanism for my singles which does not involve winding everything twice.  It should be possible to slide my finished cops of singles onto short needles, or something.

1 Note for non-spinners/people who don't hang out on Ravelry:  The Tour de Fleece happens at the same time as the Tour de France.  It's an opportunity excuse to spin every day, to challenge yourself, to try new things.  Frankly, it's fun.

57) Catching up: spinning

So – what have I been up to?

I washed the blue silk:



Note the yellow gloves.  These were donned *after* I noticed that the blue that was coming out of the silk was not coming out of my fingers.  I guess since the dye rubbed off onto my hands whilst I was spinning, I shouldn't have been surprised at this, but it made me a bit grumpy at the time.  Anyway, it dried beautifully, and wound into nice little yarn cakes, too:


The Tour de Fleece ran for the duration of the Tour de France, the idea being that you spin every day that the cyclists ride.  I started out strong with spindle spinning as I walked the Race for Life:



49 metres of silk singles, spun whilst walking 5 kilometres.  Cool, huh?

I decided that I wasn't going to find a good use for 100g of Corriedale in this pretty handpainted colourway:


So I carded it to make a more blended batt:


Which I spun and plied in under a week (personal best!) to make a rather pleasing 4ply-ish weight.  This is going into the 'stranded colourwork' basket to await other yarn-partners:


…and then I started on the last of my Sweet Georgia club fibres from last year.  This was 67g of BFL and 33g of tussah silk, dyed in the same colourway (not quite as eye-popping as it appears here):


I started with the BFL, which wanted to be spun fine (you can still see hints of the dratted blue dye round my fingernails in this shot):


The BFL was addictive spinning, and I finished it before the end of the Tour:


The silk was a different matter.  Given that there was half as much silk, by weight, I figured that the silk had to be spun even finer so that I'll have roughly the same yardage of each when I come to ply them together.  The finer a yarn, the more twist it needs.  And silk likes a lot of twist.


After about 15 minutes of trying to spin this stuff ultra-fine on my standard bobbin and flyer, I realised that I was going to get frustrated.  I was sitting and treadling like mad, waiting for the singles to fill up with twist.  It was time to put on my big girl panties and break out the lace flyer that I've been hoarding for the last 18 months:


Much better.  Though I can tell you that even with a fast flyer, 33g of silk at this weight is still a lot of spinning time.  Last night I got a good couple of hours spinning with the local Tuesday group, and I reckon another couple of hours should see me finish the singles.  Then: Plying!  Fun!!

27) Purple patch

Yesterday was an awesome postal day.  I received my awesome new spindle (a Natalie silk spindle in purpleheart wood), and not one, but two wonderful batts from Franquemont Fibers – also in shades of purple.  Oddly, these were both ordered, from the US, exactly a month apart.  Customs have been holding my little spindle hostage!


Notice anything odd about the photo above?  One spindle, two batts, and… a plughole?!  Yes.  J's Dad is currently staying with us, and the boys are, together, refitting our whole bathroom; floor to ceiling, suite to walls.  This has at least something to do with the sheer overwhelm I've been feeling recently, as well as the lack of fiber-y activity, because my studio is out-of-bounds and the living room is full of boxes and tools.  Using the new sink as a photographical background was just a whimsy, really, but in terms of colour and lighting, it's one of the best I've ever taken.  A bit of vignetting from the curve of the bowl, and an errant highlight over to the left, but otherwise… move over, lightboxes!

Anyway, you can't leave a new spindle unchristened, and indeed, Natalie came with a little pouf of rayon/tussah fibre, according to the note slipped into the box.  I can tell that Natalie and I are going to be friends, because this was the result:


Around two metres of two-ply, around fingering weight.  We played together well right from the start; she spins fast, though not particularly long, and I might have to learn to draft faster to keep up, but I can see how she will be perfect for spinning long-staple fibre into high-twist yarns, just as advertised.


This was my first time spinning anything with rayon in it, and it definitely changed the character of the tussah (which I have spun with quite a bit).  It felt crunchy and squeaky, rather than soft and fluid, and I suspect that it needs slightly less twist than pure silk if you want to keep any softness and drape in the finished yarn.  I definitely prefer pure silk, but this was a lot of fun.  Yum!

22) My first cotton!

…meanwhile, I've been bunking off at my desk and spinning cotton.  I'm lucky, my employers *expect* quirky, and as long as the work gets done, and is high quality, no-one minds.


This is about 12.5 m of 2-ply cotton, the first I've ever spun.  It seems to be rather over-plied, as you can see by the twistiness of the tiny wee skein, but then, most of the singles have been sitting on the spindle since well before Christmas.  Singles (at least, wool ones) tend to 'set' a bit if they're left too long, which can make getting a balanced ply a bit of a guessing game if you don't have a sample card (which I don't, for this).  I dunno if cotton does this, but I suspect it does, so we'll see what happens after finishing, eh?

The spindle (which I adore) and the cotton itself were gifted to me by the talented and generous SarahW.  I have more cotton, of different types, to play with, too, so watch this space for more.


I'm pleased with the fineness and the relative evenness of the yarn, given that it's my first time with this fibre.  Only trouble is, this is supposed to fill in those irritating bits of desk-time when I'm waiting for my computer to finish Some Complex Task, and now, all I want to do is spin more cotton…

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