Year of Projects 2022/23: Week Four

It’s just a quick spinning update from me. I haven’t managed as much spinning in terms of completed skeins this TdF but I have spun most days which has been a nice change and I’m super pleased to have finished up two long term spinning projects.

I finished up the 12 Days of Christmas Hilltop Cloud calendar first which had been on the wheel for six months. I’m happy with how this three ply came out and it looks like I have around 850m of yarn now that it’s washed. I’ll make a project post about this next week. I then spun up 50g of a Fellview Fibres merino/cashmere/silk blend as a lace weight yarn. I love this and want to find a shawl pattern for it when I finish the other 50g.

And finally there was the HTC mystery fibre which is part of a five skein fade pack. I’ve been at this one for at least three years so it’s nice to be finished with it. The final skein is not as consistent as the first four but I’m hoping I’ll get away with it. My plan is to cast on a So Faded (Ravelry link) which I swatched for all those years ago. With hindsight I would now like a cardigan rather than a sweater but since I have spun the fibre to make the sweater gauge I’m going to stick to that. I just need to decide whether to move dark to light or light to dark from the top down.

Finally the garden continues to deliver up some bits and pieces. We’re harvesting peas, potatoes, tomatoes, and courgettes now. I think I’m leaving the carrots and beets to grow a bit bigger. I might have made an error with how large sprouting broccoli can grow, it’s currently taking up a lot of room and crowding out some of my other plants. I’ve made second sowings of root veg and radicchio to try and keep some things going over into autumn and winter. I’m quite pleased with how things have gone this year and I think I’m slowing starting to learn what things work best. It’s great to have finally had some rain this week!

That’s it for me. Hopefully I’ll have something on the needles for next week.

Year of Projects 22/3: Week Three

This week has still been all about the Tour for me. I finished up the first half of my lace weight yarn . It ended up 48g and 380m so I’m on target for an 800m skein at the end of things. I think this will make a heavy weight lace in the end. I’m really pleased with how this has turned out. It’s slow going because I’m focusing on consistency, but that’s ok.

I made a start on the final braid of my sweater spin. I’m not loving this spin to be honest, and it’s entirely my fault. I’ve been working on this for so long that the fibre has compacted and it’s a tough spin. I’m not even 100% sure what the fibre is any more. It’s kind of getting spun any old how now and I’m hoping it will all work out in the end.

To offset that tough spin I made these from some Fellview Fibre rolag tails. Carol at FVF very kindly sent members of her Ravelry group 50g of leftover bits from the beautiful rolags she makes to see what we would make of them during the tour. This colourway is called Mother of Pearl and I was really pleased to get these. I used the blending board to make up some rolags. I’m getting better at these but they’re still a bit uneven.

So that’s it for this week. There have been lots of potatoes from the garden and a few peas and beans. It’s getting warm out there at the moment so I’m hoping it all survives the heatwave we’re having. I do appreciate my very cool house!

Year of Projects 22/23: Week Two

Well it’s been a busy week this week. Sadly not on the crafting front so much. Wednesday was super busy at work due to staff shortages so between that and watching things unfold in Parliament I didn’t get much spinning done that day. Thursday was my partner’s birthday (and still partly glued to what was going on in government) so we went and did brunch and had a mooch around the bookshops and delis. Friday/Saturday I tried to get in the garden where I could as things were starting to get out of control.

So I did manage to spin every day but I’m not as far through as I wanted to be. I’m about a quarter of my way through this merino/cashmere/silk blend. I’m hoping to be consistent enough for a 2-ply lace so I’m making more of an effort to spin a short forward draw. My default spin tends to be short backwards, which is quicker and easier but I now realise a lot less consistent. I’ll stick with 25g to a bobbin because I’m terrified of snapping the fibre and losing the end in the bobbin if I keep going!

The garden has been a bit overlooked due to the wet weather we’ve been having, this sudden change has been a good opportunity to get back out there. I harvested some more shallots and potatoes this week and turned some of these:

Into this:

It looks rock hard but it’s actually perfectly crispy 😂 Potato pizza is one of my greatest discoveries of lockdown.

There’s some good progress in the garden overall. I’m hoping the tomatoes will start to ripen in the next week or two. The courgettes are coming along nicely, and we’re harvesting a good crop of peas once a week. There isn’t any sign of the beans yet, and most of these were eaten earlier on in the year so I’ve only got a few surviving plants. The patty pan squash are looking healthy but not cropping yet and the rhubarb is out of control. I’m hoping to offload some of this on colleagues this week, either as fruit or a cake!

The nice thing about being in the garden is seeing a bit more wildlife including this cinnabar moth who was particularly striking:

I also have a family of slow worms living in my compost bin. I could really do with turning the heap but I really don’t want to disturb them.

That’s this week’s projects. I’m hoping to have finished the lace singles next week and to have worked on some of my other spinning projects. I’d really like to get the final skein in my sweater spin finished before the end of the tour!

Tour de Fleece 2022

It’s that time of year again. I’m sure it rolls around quicker every year, a bit like Christmas. Maybe it’s my age…

Anyway I always look forward to the Tour as it usually comes at the point where my crafting mojo has got up and left so it’s good to get back in the saddle. I’m going to spend some time working on my spinning techniques. I say this every year and never do, but this year I really mean it. I’d like to work on neatening up my joins and thinking a bit more about what I want to be spinning. I like a default brainless spin but these are the spins that always end up in stash because I don’t know what to do with them.

Tour plans

So here are my plans for this year’s Tour. From L-R:

  • two braids from Velvet Sixpence that I picked up at Wonder Wool this year. I don’t really have much of a plan for these yet so I’ll see how things go
  • Some down breed fibres for a breed study
  • A Fellview Fibres merino/cashmere/silk blend I want to try and spin as a lace weight
  • The final braid in a Hilltop Cloud fade sweater spin. It’s been a little while since I spun the last one so I’m hoping I can keep the consistency.

So these are my bigger plans but I have some bits and pieces for playing around with too. For now I still have fibre on the wheel to finish off so I’ll get on with plying that and then see what to work on next.

Happy Tour everyone!

Spinning Silk Workshop

Earlier this week I attended an online workshop run by Katie Weston at Hilltop Cloud on spinning silk fibre. I have very little experience of spinning silk beyond a silk brick preparation I tried a few years ago which ended in complete disaster. I found it impossible to draft and quite ‘messy’ as a prep. After that I stayed well away from pure silk although a do like it in blends.

Back L-R: Eri, Mulberry, Penduncle
Front L-R: Tussah, Sari, Hankie

So this workshop was a great opportunity to try it out again being a little bit older (definitely) and wiser (ish) as a spinner. The workshop looked at tussah, mulberry, penduncle, eri, and sari silks, as well as mulberry silk hankies. We had a good introduction to the silk making process, I had no idea that different silks came from different worms, and Katie was really good at seamlessly manipulating camera views so that we could see her hands during the tutorial sections. We also covered the key differences between types of silk and their properties, with the lack of any crimp at all to mulberry giving it its very lustrous but slippery feel, and the others being a little more textured and easier to handle.

L-R: Tussah, Mulberry, Penduncle, Eri, Hankies, Sari.

These samples were spun from the end of the top with a short backwards draw and a moderate amount of twist. This produced reasonably consistent (for a first attempt!) samples which retained lustre a made for a soft, drapey yarn. Both the hankie and the sari silk made for more textured yarns. I made a singles yarn with the silk hankie although I drafted it out a bit too finely so ended up with a very thin yarn. Despite this it’s reasonably balanced which is a first for me in terms of singles yarns. Silk wants to spin very fine, particularly mulberry, although I found penduncle seemed easier to spin slightly thicker without much effort on my part.

L-R: Tussah, Mulberry, Penduncle, Eri

These were spun longdraw (ish) from the fold, with high twist in both the singles and the ply. The mulberry was very challenging to spin this way and is more of a ‘spin-however-you-can-get-it-on-to-the-bobbin draw’. Mulberry is definitely not my friend yet! Visually I prefer the look of these although the high twist sacrifices some of the softness.

I switched to only spinning tussah blends some time ago having read this was a wild silk where moths were allowed to hatch before the silk was harvested. I now understand that this is not really the case although eri, also known as peace silk, allows for this. However the industry is complicated and, as noted in the workshop, has very long supply chains where it’s not always possible to be accurate about sources. As a vegetarian I’d be much happier being able to buy naturally hatched silk, rather like I only buy angora from small producers I know have excellent welfare standards, but this seems to be a more complicated topic than I realised.

Overall I really enjoyed this workshop and I have plenty of silk left to experiment a little more with different twist levels. I really liked the penduncle and eri, and was surprised to hear that these were both supplied by HTC in their undyed form. The grey/brown of the penduncle is particularly beautiful and I can imagine a very nice shawl or cowl made from this in its undyed state.

Finished Handspun: Core Spun Yarn

I finished this up a few weeks ago now but am only just getting around to posting the details. This is the core spun yarn I made from the Fellview Fibres 2020 12 Days of Christmas calendar.

The fibre is Elegance and is a BFL and silk blend. I feel a little bit guilty for using such a lovely blend in an art yarn but I have a lot of gradient yarns (mostly because I love Fellview Fibres so much) so I wanted to try something different with this one. It has a lace weight cotton core yarn which made a good grippy base for the wrapping, and I plied it with a gold thread. I finished it by washing in alternating hot and cold baths to felt it slightly.

Wheel: Matchless

Ratio: 4:1

Length: 116m

Weight: 129g

I’ve played around with core spinning before but this is my first full yarn. I have no idea what I will do with it yet, I might use it in a weaving project, maybe alongside another batch of the gradient spun as a chain ply. That’s what I did with the other half of the 12 Days of Christmas set and it made a beautiful yarn:

Year of Projects Week Twenty Seven

It’s been a while since I posted anything but the end of last year was just so busy I found it difficult to get much crafting done. I have managed to make some progress over the Christmas period:

The Man-Socks of Doom are slowly getting there. They would have been finished by Christmas but I went wrong on the heel turn and lost heart at the thought of unravelling. This is definitely one to finish for January.

I finished my corespun yarn and I will do an update for this later in the week once I’ve worked out how much I have. I’m not sure whether I like this or not, and I have absolutely no idea what to actually do with it, but I really enjoyed the process of making it.

I’m making my way through my Hilltop Coloud 12 Days of Cristmas spin. I’ve decided to spin this as a traditional 3-ply mixing and matching the fibres in a combo spin. I’m enjoying it so far. This is my progress with the first six days.

I haven’t made any crafting goals for the year ahead beyond trying to make sure I do something every week, however small. I think for now finishing up some of my WIPs will be the main focus and I certainly have plenty of those. I’d like to try and use up some stash, I know there is some beautiful purple Malabrigo there somewhere. I’m hoping Wonderwool will run this year. It’s my local yarn festival and it’s been two years since it was about to run as a physical thing. I’m going to try and keep my yarn purchasing at a minimum with the exception of that.

Non-crafting goals are to get more books read this year, I’m aiming for 75. I do include audio books otherwise I find having to choose between crafting and reading difficult. I’m also hoping it increase my running this year so my January challenge is to run at least one mile a day. The weather here is pretty atrocious at the moment so it’s a hard call as to whether I should have made it a swimming challenge!

That’s it for my quick update. Wishing you a happy 2022 and good luck with your own projects and challenges for the year ahead.

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Twenty

I missed a posting last week because things have been super busy on the work front. I think I’m back on top of things again now (famous last words and all that!)

This week I’ve mostly been spinning because even endless rounds of stockinette stitch socks was too much. Well to be fair, I turned the heel, messed up somehow, ripped it back and haven’t had the heart to pick it up again so spinning it is.

I’ve made a start on an art yarn gradient using fibre from the 2020 Fellview Fibres 12 Days of Christmas Calendar, you can see the original batts here on the Fellview Fibres website. I wanted to do something different to my usual ‘spin it and see what you get’ although I’m a bit sad I’ve lost the lovely lustre of the blend. I’m not quite good enough to spin a balanced singles core spun yarn so I’ve gone with making a plied core spun.

I’m spinning it around a lace weight cotton core and then plying it with some gold thread to keep that Christmassy theme. I still have to finish the yarn so I’m not sure what metreage I’ll have at the end yet but I’m hoping for enough for a knitted cowl or maybe I’ll try a woven project but I think that would need to be mixed with another yarn. I’m also not really sure how to measure the WPI with art yarn so I need to investigate that.

In other projects I’ve given my wheel a bit of a polish as she looked a bit ‘dry’. Maybe the winter heating affects her too, I’m starting to feel like the central heating is sucking all of the moisture from my body too. At this rate I’ll be a desiccated husk by December! I’ll try and remember to give her an oiling too as I don’t think I do this anywhere near enough.

As for the garden is pretty much going to ruin now. I think I’ll just close the curtains and check on it again in March!

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Thirteen

A bit of a late update from me this week as yesterday got away from a me a bit. Progress has been slow on various projects but at least it’s being made. My Ogopogo sock has reached the heel. Remind me never to cast on cable socks again. I know I said it last time but I forgot. I love the pattern but it’s slow progress for me. I think I will cast on a second, easy project to do while I’m watching television. Trying to watch the Vigil finale last night and make progress with a cabled sock was just too much!

As with previous weeks I’ve been making progress with my online spinning workshop with SweetGeorgia Yarns. I’m really enjoying this as it’s been a great opportunity to try out new things. I generally spin fibre as it comes. It would never really occur to me to try to change the preparation of a bought fibre to alter how I spin it, or to change how the colour works when spun, or even (the horror) put different coloured braids together and alter someone’s carefully thought out colour scheme.

Last week we experimented with soaking fibre in warm water and drying it before spinning. The purpose of this is to reinvigorate fibre which may have lost its crimp in processing or storage, and to make it a smoother, loftier spin. I only tried this with some undyed BFL I had (it’s not supposed to work as well with dyed fibre) but it did make quite a difference in terms of the loftiness of the finished fibre.

L-R: not soaked, unfinished; not soaked, finished; soaked, unfinished; soaked, finished

I’m not sure that you can really tell from this photo but the final sample skein was spun from pre-soaked fibre which was then soaked again after spinning to set the twist. The finished result is definitely lighter and fluffier than the non-soaked but similarly finished skein. This might be something I’d do again with older braids I’ve had crushed up in storage boxes under the bed.

I’ve also been experimenting with twist and ply. This is some of the sampling I’ve done so far. Next on the list is to try with some sock yarn techniques, I’m interested in trying out the opposing 3-ply technique where one of your singles is spun in the opposite direction before being plied with the other two.

I think what’s struck me most about the course so far is that there is genuinely a reason why yarn doesn’t want to be a particular project (I mean a reason other than I saw something I liked better a few days after casting on). I’m happy with the idea that certain yarns have drape or loft, but I’m getting a better idea now of why two, three, or four ply yarns suit certain projects better depending on whether it is lace or cables, or why high or low twist yarns might alter a project. Hopefully this will help me with deciding what commercial yarns will work better for a specific project. Or maybe I’ll just by multiple skeins anyway!

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Twelve

Only a quick update from me today as it’s been a quite week in terms of actually producing anything. I’ve finished the fourth skein in my five skeins gradient spin. This is a 3-ply sweater spin using a Hilltop Cloud Fade pack. I still need to skein and soak it.

I’ve also made progress with my homework for my spinning course. I’ve been experimenting with pre-soaking fibre before spinning. I’ve been very surprised at the impact pre-soaking fibre has, and it definitely makes for a smoother draft and loftier yarn. I’ve only tried it with BFL so far, but I have some other fibres to try. I’m also experimenting with some different ways of spinning sock yarns so hopefully there will be some updates on that shortly.

In other news I’m slowly putting the garden to bed for the winter. I plan to grow some more shallots over the winter as these were one of last year’s big successes. I’ve also got the last few courgettes to harvest. I don’t think I will go near tomatoes ever again as they just seem to be a disappointment. I do have my first, very tiny, aubergine coming on, but I’m not sure if it will grow big enough in the last few weeks of warmer weather. The flower beds were a huge disappointment so I’m giving one of those over to potatoes next year.

Hopefully there will be a bit more to report in the coming weeks. We’re heading in to my favourite season so plenty of time for knitting by the fireside as the nights start to draw in.