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.
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!
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.
Some steady progress this week but nothing much to show for it. I’ve been working away a few rows at a time on my Ogopogo sock (I find cables on socks very fiddly and I really can’t get the hang of cabling without a cable needle). I’ve also finished spinning the second set of singles for the fourth skein in my five skein 3-ply sweater spin (did you manage to follow that?). This will be the largest project I have ever spun for and I ‘think’ I’m keeping things pretty consistent.
Of course I only ‘think’ I’m being consistent because I’ve not actually kept notes. Not properly. Not helpful notes. I found the notes I did write down, for example I wrote down that I was spinning it on my largest ratio, but this is not helpful when I have subsequently bought new whorls with larger ratios. Which was my largest ratio when I started? When did I start? It tells me I’m spinning from the fold. This is good, this is great in fact, but it also tells me I’m spinning it ‘LBD’. What does this mean? I don’t think it means anything except Little Black Dress and I know I’ve not been spinning in one of those. The best I can come up with is it meant long backwards draft, which isn’t even a thing, so I don’t know if I meant long draw or short backwards draft. Anyhow the upshot of all of this (and the fact it’s one of my pieces of homework for my spinning class), is that I have to think about a system for managing my spinning notes and samples.
Essentially this combines all of my yarn hobbies with my inner stationery nerd. Add in a smattering of basic preservation knowledge (because although I reckon I’ve got about forty more years left in me at best, my project notes must survive for a thousand years) and there’s a good chance I’ll never make anything again as I’ll still be perfecting my project note system!
Ring binders seem the obvious choice. They’re flexible, can take extensive notes as well as small sample skeins/fibres, they can combine paper, card, wallets etc. I think I’ll end up going forward with this although I’m not a big fan of binders. I find them too large for sitting on the sofa leafing through my projects with a cup of tea and a piece of cake.
A card index system could work, and I have an old library card catalogue unit for this (it’s currently used for my spindle and pocket notebook storage). Or maybe these and a storage box for them for portability? I have a feeling though that I’d lose lose cards and they’d never end up back where they should be.
I’ve used Happy Planner in the past for my planning, and something based on their disc binder system could work and would function a little like a binder. Or maybe scrapbooking or photo albums with stiffer pages could work where I could punch the paper and tie my sample yarn in, paste in any notes and then cross reference with samples skeins kept in another box?
I’ve still got a lot of thinking to do on this but I’d love to hear about how you store your crafting notes.
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’.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d been looking at the School of SweetGeorgia classes and after poking around with my two week introductory price I thought I’d stay at least long enough to complete the Spinning Study Group.
The main purpose of this nine week class is to think about how to plan your spinning for a project. I admit I’ve been spinning for years and I rarely think about what I’m actually going to do with the yarn I spin – maybe this is why there is an enormous tub of handspun yarn under the bed right now! Spinning is my relaxation. I don’t think too hard about it. I like to watch tv or listen to an audio book and just let the fibre do its thing.
Mostly this is fine. Sometimes this is terrible! I’m a fast treadler. If treadling was an Olympic sport I’d be lapping Chris Hoy. If I don’t pay attention I can end up with very twisty yarn that’s always just a bit tougher than it should be. So spending nine weeks learning to think a bit more about each of the processes, from fibre choice to final product, sounds like it is the kind of thing I should do.
After watching a few videos of other spinners talking about their thought processes in designing yarn for particular projects, the first week’s homework is to assess a commercial yarn in the style we’d like to spin over the next few weeks. I considered bulking up a bit and trying for at least a DK/aran weight but then I decided since fingering weight is what I use the most, mastering that would probably be a better use of my time. So today’s job is to finish off gathering information about the John Arbon Exmoor Sock yarn (wpi, tpi etc) which I’m going to use as my guiding yarn for this spin and I’ve ordered some sock fibre as that’s what I’m aiming for as my final project.
Other than working on the workshop there has been some small progress on the next pair of socks I’m knitting and I’ve finished blocking my Mothed jumper – I will get around to posting pictures next week.
I’ve had a blending board under my bed for over a year now. I bought it early on in the first UK lockdown thinking investing in crafting materials would probably be a very good investment for the months ahead and then I just never got around to using it.
It’s a Golden Fleece Carders blending board which comes with the blending brush and the rolling dowels. I think the TPI is probably 108 as I work mostly with finer fibres although I’m trying to get out of my rut of merino and silk at the moment, There isn’t a stand with this one that I have seen on the back of others so you need to work it flat, but it does have a non-slip backing to the board.
I don’t really know why I’ve left it untouched for so long as getting going was pretty straight forward at least, it really does feel like painting the fibre on. The silk was a bit hard going but I think that was a little bit compacted from the dyeing process. The hard work of putting the colours together was done for me by Katie at Hilltop Cloud and I think I will pick up a few of her colour co-ordinated packs while I get to grips with the process as it’s possible to make great looking rolags even if the technique needs some work.
I really like the paintings of Van Gogh and as I was filling the blending board I was reminded of The Starry Night and how much I love the colour and texture of that painting, so here are my Starry Night rolags.
I followed the recommendation I’d been given to offset the wooden dowel rods to make it easier to slide the fibre off. Despite my best efforts I think I loaded too much fibre on to the board so pulling it off the board was a bit more difficult. My first rolag turned out to be a giant one as I hadn’t quite got the idea that you pull and roll in one movement rather than roll and roll and then try pulling. As a result I ended up with far too much fibre in the first one.
I think the other ones turned out ok though for a first attempt. I have so much respect for the people who make those lovely neat, tight rolags I get in the post! I now need to work out how to not get thick/thin spots. And how to not get holes in my thumbs from the carding cloth!
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.
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:
Wheel: Schacht Matchless
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.
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:
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
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.
I stumbled across the Year of Projects group on Ravelry this week. The group set out their crafting plans and projects for the year and then blog about their progress each week. You can read more about the group here.
As you might have guessed, I like the camaraderie of this, not to mention the hint of accountability. I love planning things. I love planners. I love getting behind systems that this year will absolutely revolutionise my sloth-like tendencies and make me more productive. But I’m trying to get away from that at the moment so I’m not going to be planning anything in minute detail, I just want to spend the year working on things that interest me and sharing them with people who I hope will also find them interesting.
That said, I have some plans, obviously. I want to do some stash reduction (doesn’t everyone?) I have both fibre and yarn to use up and it might be good to get it in to Ravelry, so there’s a project right there.
I have some fleece I need to finish prepping. I’ve not been great with prepping my own fibre, it always seems to be a bit disappointing so this is definitively an area I’d like to explore. I also have some equipment I’ve not used very much like my loom and blending board. It would be good to get to grips with these.
I’d like to finish the sweater spin that I’m doing at the moment for this pattern, although I’m open to other gradient patterns. I ‘think’ I will get enough yardage out of the fibre but I’ll have to wait and see. I also have this double knit scarf on the list. I have done double knitting before but I admit I’ve struggled to get going with this in a lace weight yarn so that will be an ongoing labour of love I think.
Oh and WIPs. I want to take stock of WIPs and decide to finish them or frog them. I’m tired of their silent taunting from the various cupboards I’ve stashed them in. I’m also tired of them falling out of every cupboard I open!
But first up for me is to finish my TdF. I’ve made some decent progress on the gradient spin I’ve been working on. I hope to finish that this week and move on to my next project, probably the sweater spin I mentioned which I am 3/5ths of the way though. Here’s my tour spinning to date.
It’s been a year between the two skeins and I think I’ve spun the second skein a little more semi-worsted than the first so there is some variance. I’m not sure how this will play out in a project. Depending on length I’d planned a cowl or shawl so hopefully it won’t make too much difference.
So it’s Tour de Fleece time of year again. My job means that July and August are my somewhat quieter times of the year and so the Tour generally signifies the start of a slower pace of life and an opportunity to transfer some of the year’s pent up tension into some fibre.
Despite the calm the Tour ushers in, I always make a ridiculous amount of plans and line up way too many projects than I could ever hope to spin in the time available. ‘This year I’ll learn long draw/process a fleece from scratch/finally spin lace weight/complete a jumper’s worth just on a spindle…’, you get the idea. I just seem to try and make things complicated. And no, I don’t ever really get to any of that.
This past year I’ve started taking running a bit more seriously. I’ve come to appreciate the need for goals. I understand why just going out there and doing what feels good (or least bad) won’t help me break any records or go any further. I need structure and I need challenges. More importantly however, I’ve learned that improvement comes with rest days and slower days as much as it does with hill drills and sprints. And I’ve come to enjoy these days instead of thinking I should be doing more/faster/further. I’m thinking there is possibly something to take from this into my spinning.
So this TdF there are no big plans for me. There is no photo of the several kilos of fibre I want to get through; there are no hoops to jump through; there isn’t even a stack of books on my bedside table. What there is this year is the equivalent of that weekend longer run. I’m going to oil up my wheel, pick the next fibre project to hand, and just enjoy my time at the wheel and with the spinning community. I think the running and the fibre craft community are two of the most supportive corners of the Internet so here’s a shout out to you both and thanks for everything.
Oh, and since we’re here, this is my progress to date after Day One.