Playing with kettle-dyed locks

My spinning time has been quite varied recently: following the success of the Twilight Humbug roving (Gayle! Humbug roving is roving containing stripes of the natural sheep’s colours, like a mint humbug. You can see some great examples here; the BFL and Shetland are both a lot of fun to play with…), I moved on to kettle-dyed locks.

Kettle-dyeing fleece is very different to hand painting top, or roving, or yarn for that matter.  You are working with a much less processed stage of the wool, so it is much less homogeneous.  Different areas of the fleece have different qualities, including length, fineness, greasiness, crimp… the list goes on!  In addition, the tips of the fleece may take dye differently to the butt ends of the locks, so you can get some very interesting effects:

What you can’t get, so much, is predictability – or repeatability.  For a scientifically creative soul like myself, this is both thrilling and intensely frustrating.

Spinning dyed locks is also very different to working with prepared top or roving.  Of course, you could card or comb the locks, just like anything else, but with such thrillingly multicoloured fibre, why would you want to?

In addition, I’m a fundamentally lazy soul.  I’d much rather spend my time behind the spinning wheel than weilding a pair of hand cards.  So I’ve been flicking, and spinning directly from the lock.  Pictures follow – though not of the wonderful rainbow above: my test locks are Kerry Hill, dyed to a more uniform purple – though you can still see the different colour at the tips and butts:

And here’s my secret weapon – a flick carder from Ashford:

The head of a flick carder is about half the size of a regular hand-card, and the handle is much longer.  Also, they don’t come in pairs!  Flick carders are used singly, to open up the ends of locks in preparation for further processing (which can, of course, mean going straight to spinning).  So, how well does it work, would you say?

Frankly, I’m amazed.  Here’s a lock of the fleece before flicking:

The tip of the lock is resting on my index finger; that bit tends to be dryer, crispier and slightly brittle.  The butt end of the lock, hanging over my index finger, tends to be slightly greasier.

And here’s how flicking opens up the end:

Sproing!  Both ends flicked:

And really, can you imagine a more perfect prep?  Look how open and even it is!  And again: one lock unflicked; one lock flicked:

And then? Fold it over your finger…

…and spin from the fold!

(Or you can spin from the end, for a more worsted style yarn, but this particular fleece is just *begging* for longdraw).

Obsession du jour

Well, du semaine, I suppose.  I’ve been doing a lot of experiments in dyeing fibre recently – which of course means that I need to test the dyed fibre by spinning it.  Sometimes my life is so hard.  😉

This is about 30 g of BFL humbug roving, dyed in ‘twilight’, which is a mixture of dusky blue, purple and blue-green.  The brown in the humbug roving darkens and richens the colours further, but because it’s not a solid blend, there’s quite a lot of contrast mixed in, too.

I started spinning the singles on Tuesday evening, and the regular spin night, and have been taking every moment to spin since – until late Saturday, when I finished the plying.  Now I have about 300 metres of a heavy laceweight/light fingering weight yarn to play with.

I think it’s safe to say it spins up just fiiiine, don’t you?

The Return of the Garden

Anyone looking at the UK weather reports for the last couple of months will know that spring arrived late, and fast.  I’d had my usual burst of seed-sowing enthusiasm earlier in the year (umm, late February?!), but things had damped off rather as the frosts and bitter winds persisted.

About a month ago, I made sure that all the garlic that wasn’t planted in the autumn finally made it into the ground, along with all our seed potatoes.  We have planted a *lot* of potatoes this year, in the hopes that we won’t have to buy many at all.  Additionally, we should be self-sufficient in garlic, as all the seed garlic was from last year’s harvest.  I also managed to get the broad bean seeds in the ground (also seed from last year’s harvest.  Given that the original seed was given to me by my Dad, I’m keen to continue the line), and to thin out the strawberry plants (the baby plants from last years’ runners have gone in a patio-strawberry-tower thingy).

…and last weekend, I finally got to plant out some of my rather overgrown seedlings, and tend to the veg beds.  I have rather a lot of baby chilli plants now (various varieties), and quite a lot of okra.  Also, three cucumber plants, which, bless them, may not survive the transplantation.  The biggest problem with leaving them in the seed trays so long is that, by now, they have a lot of roots to damage.  What follows is a quick photo tour of the things that looked interesting this evening (brought to you by A Failure To Focus.  Just *what* was going on with the camera, I don’t know, but the light is now Gone, so out of focus it will have to be):


The broad beans, tall and sturdy


Lots of strawberries! (Slightly blurry)


The blueberry bushes, in their second
full year, are looking promising too…


…though I think the white currants are
stealing the show! (Exceptionally blurry).


These are cherries…


…whereas these are plums!


Trying to grow hops between two poles
to minimise vertical height required…


The last shot and the blurriest (but I love it!)
FIGS!

All change!

OK, so there should probably be fanfares and tickertape and confetti, but there aren’t, so….

Yarnscape is now my full-time job!

How awesome is that?!

I know.  I can hardly believe it myself yet, but it’s true.  My last working day for the Desk Job was last Thursday, and wrapping up that job whilst gearing up for full-time work has been really, really hectic.

You can expect to start seeing Yarnscape yarns in more shops, both online and bricks-and-mortar, in the near future.  Shops which already have a selection of my goods in stock are:

…and watch this space for more!

I will also be setting up my own online shop here; after that, my Etsy shop will be used for one-off skeins and slight seconds.

You can also expect to see me posting here much more often – I hope!  I know I’m going to be insanely busy setting up a new business – but it can’t be any worse than setting up a new business and trying to work a full-time job, right?

Right?!