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!

Finished Object: From Fluff to Stuff

Two weeks after finishing it I’m finally getting around to posting my Mothed FO. I struggled to get gauge with this so I knitted the large hoping for a medium(ish) (why yes, I am terrible with gauge and just hope for the best). Then lockdown happened and I wished I’d knitted the next size up 😂. Still I’m nearly back down to my pre-lockdown weight so hopefully I’ll get some autumn wear out of this. I want it to hang loosely and it fits a little too well at the moment.

The yarn is a Fellview Fibre spin from a few years ago in the colourway Jet Powered, which I think was a merino/silk blend. The yarn was a traditional 3-ply with the rolags as one ply, and then one ply of a camel/silk blend and one of yak/silk.

I was pretty happy with this spin at the time, but finishing up this project a couple of things strike me. The first is that my spinning has really improved over the last few years. I’m still far from perfect, but I spin much more consistently now and my yarns are softer. The second is that Yak is not a fibre for me. I’ve tried it a couple of times and it always seems to come out a little over plied. Still it’s made for a jumper with a nice lightness and drape to it that I think will make good autumn/spring wear.

Despite the two years it sat in a cupboard (a lot less than I thought) this is actually a pretty quick and easy knit and I think I’d use it as a template for another jumper in the future, probably with a slightly thicker yarn or one with less drape and more ‘spring’.

Finished Object: From Fluff to Stuff

I finished a thing and finally got the opportunity to take a couple of photographs between the rain. This is my Fichu Bleu shawl. The pattern is nice and clear with simple blocks of stockinette and broken rib. Despite this I still went wrong and made my sections of stockinette too deep, which is a good lesson in reading the pattern through to the end rather than assuming I know what I’m doing.

It’s made from these beautiful Fellview Fibre gradient batts in merino. I spun these from the fold but the year it took me to spin them meant that my drafting technique was a bit free and easy to be honest. The singles were then chain plied.

In the end I don’t think my mix and match drafting technique mattered too much in the final finished object. It’s got some nice drape to it despite being a bit more substantial for cooler days. I love the colour changes but with hindsight I think they obscure the side panels of broken rib. I had no real idea what this yarn was going to be so this was a pattern picked knowing what yarn I had on hand and how much but I think it’s worked out well.

Now I just need to figure out how to wear a shawl.

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Five

This week I’ve been starting to try and sort through some of my knitting related stash. It’s spread all over the house meaning that when I want a certain size needle/those gold beads/a crochet hook/my favourite stitch markers/ my plying spindle I have to search several locations to try and find what I’m looking for. I’m hoping to start finding a proper home for things over the coming weeks and get some of my stash into Ravelry. I have some long weekends coming up so I’m hoping to use that to start getting to grips with where to store things like beads and notions.

In the course of sorting I came across an old project from (I think) 2018. This is some of my handspun but I have no idea what the pattern was that I was using. I’m also not happy with how this was knitting up, I think it’s a bit too thin. I never like frogging a project but I don’t think this is ever going to see the light of day as a finished item. I’m not sure what this yarn is going to be, maybe a second yarn in a held double project?

Image shows a partially knitted jumper
A sad end to some handspun

In other news I’ve been making some good progress on my shawl for the Ravellenics. I’ve realised that I have gone wrong and my stockinette sections are deeper than they should be but I’m not too bothered about that. I have no idea if this will ever be something I’ll wear, but I really like this gradient.

Shawl in Fellview Fibre gradient Witch Hazel

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Four

It’s been a difficult week with all this heat. Despite the through draft created by having all of my windows and doors replaced this week it couldn’t cool things down enough to think much about knitting.

I did make progress on the Fyne vest. Aaaand then I made a mistake again. And then I had to unravel it again. I have knitted the same fifteen rows more times than I can count now and I’m rapidly falling out of love with it.I’m giving myself one last attempt to get it right and then I’m frogging it for good (or maybe setting it on fire and casting it into the abyss).

I did make some Ravellenics progress however. I cast on Fichu Bleu with the gradient I spun during the TdF. I’m never really sure if I’m a shawl person, some people make them look chic and effortless but I think I look like a badger wrapped in a blanket. Nevertheless I think it’s a nice simple pattern for watching the games and I think it works well with the chain ply.

Image shows shawl in stockinette and broken rib in a green gradient
Fichu Bleu

Year of Projects 2021/2 Week Three

So the Tour de Fleece comes to a close. I managed to complete my Witch Hazel gradient from Fellview Fibres. I really love the colours in this one and although there are some subtle differences in the spinning between the first part which I spun last year and this year’s two skeins, I don’t think it is enough to make much difference.

Gradient Spin

This year I’ve committed myself to keeping better notes on Ravelry about my projects so I’m pleased to say this is already logged and stashed. I can also say that the project worked out to be:

  • Length: 550m
  • Weight: 202g
  • Ply: chain
  • Wheel: Schacht Matchless
  • Ratio: 9:1
  • Twist: S
  • WPI: 15
  • TPI: 4
  • Angle of Twist: 40°
  • Grist: 1321 YPP

I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do with it so I’ll get to spend some time poking around Ravelry looking for ideas.

In other project news this week has seen some garden related productivity. I planted some shallots last autumn and harvested these a couple of weeks ago. Courtesy of my partner they’re now on their way to being our first pickles of the season. We have cider, red wine, and balsamic vinegars here – just waiting for some more red wine to top up the middle one. We’re hoping for a good crop of chillies for pickling later in the year.

Pickled Shallots

Year of Projects 2021/22 Week Two

It’s been slow progress this week with one thing and another. Work was hectic at the start of the week and then we had a couple of days in Hay on Wye. I love mooching bookstores and there are certainly plenty in Hay, the town of books. I was surprised at how utterly exhausted I was but I think it’s probably the most I’ve done in a single day since we went back into lockdown at the end of last year!

Anyway, being busy and away from my wheel means there isn’t a lot of progress to report this week but I have made some progress on my gradient spin. I have one more batt to spin and then some chain plying, I’m hoping to finish up that in the next day or so. My next project is this sweater spin:

Fade pack for a sweater spin

I’m spinning this as a traditional 3 ply. Annoyingly I can’t remember what the base is so I’m hoping I come across the packaging soon. Keeping better records, either using Ravelry or a paper journal, is one of my goals for this year as I hardly ever remember to log them properly.

I’ve also spent some time digging around some of my WIPs:

  • Mothed 3/4 of body done and 3/4 of one sleeve. I think I’m going to have to start the sleeve again as I’m not too sure where I got to with the stitch decreases. This is a handspun project.
  • Le Facteur another handspun project that’s been on the needles for over three years. I will probably frog this.
  • Elizabeth Montagu socks as part of the Bluestockings knit along. I’ve fallen waaaay behind with this KAL
  • Piccolo Mondo Antico socks I see these have been on the go since 2017
  • Fyne Vest I lost heart with this a bit when I kept having to rip it back but I’m determined to finish it!
  • A project on the loom that I haven’t looked at in a couple of years. It’s a straightforward wrap, nothing fancy but I hand dyed the yarn to go with a dress for a friend’s wedding. I had to go out and buy a cardigan instead!

To be fair there aren’t as many as I expected, but I’m not ruling out finding some more stashed in odd places. This week I want to push on with spinning and see what I can get done in the last few days of the TdF.