Year of Projects: Week Forty Three

It’s been a while since I last updated my blog. Work has been crazy so stopping for the Easter weekend was very welcome. I tacked on a couple of extra days holiday onto the long weekend and my partner and I had a few days in Hay on Wye. For those who don’t know it, Hay is a book town so we basically spent three days trawling antiquarian book shops looking for interesting finds. I still managed to indulge my other hobbies of yarn and stationery however and picked up this lovely hand dyed yarn from a local dyer, The Bobbin Sisters who dye book-themed colourways, and a new fountain pen and inks.

This week also saw the return of Wonderwool. This is my local(ish) yarn festival which, due to Covid, hasn’t run since 2019. It was lovely to see so many people enjoying the day, as well as returning and new suppliers. It makes such a difference to meet the people behind the products; and the animals in several cases! I’m so pleased to see that the event survived the pandemic when it could so easily have been lost and I hope the others return just as strong. Other than the John Arbon I realised later that all of my purchases were from new to me producers which is really nice. I love the ease of online shopping, but it’s not always easy to discover new producers and I often end up going to the same few.

So on to purchases. I picked up this lovely fibre from Velvet Sixpence. Despite the fact that I reverted to my default merino/silk blend I like the fact that this dyer does use a lot of other bases that aren’t so common so I look forward to trawling her Etsy shop when she’s back.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was hoping to start making my way through 52 Weeks of Socks so I mostly went with an eye on sock yarns for making a start on that. First up is some John Arbon yarn.

Followed by Woollen Wytch and Ducky Darlings. The Ducky yarns are probably going to make their way into a shawl/scarf.

And finally for yarns some Mothy Squid (blue and green) which will definitely be socks, and Moonlight yarns which will probably be something shawly. I’m thinking of maybe tackling brioche for the first time but I’m not sure if that would suit something variegated or whether I’d be better with something more solid.

And finally, although I said the one think I definitely didn’t need/want was more raw fleece to sit in the cupboard making me feel guilty for being so lazy, I ignored myself and picked up this mohair sample pack. I love the idea of seeing how the fleece changes and it comes with this lovely information booklet. So when we get the next good weekend I’ll try and make a start on washing the samples.

In news of what I’ve actually done, as opposed to bought, I have finally finished my Boxy so I need to get that blocked and posted. I say finished, I’m waiting to see if blocking helps some of the shoulder stitches sit a little better but if not I might need to rip one shoulder back and redo it. Why oh why when I spot a problem as I’m going along do I not fix it then and instead of deciding ‘it will be ok’. It is never ok, it always annoys me later on and means I don’t enjoy or wear the final thing until it’s fixed – which can take years!

I have quite a lot going on in the garden too, so I’ll post an update on that later in the week. I hope everyone else is being more productive with their projects!

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.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Thirty Three

I finally finished my first bobbin of singles from my 12 Days of Christmas spin. At this rate I should have a finished yarn by the summer! I’ve also been making progress on my Boxy but there still isn’t much of interest to see there either.

Fibres from Adelaide Walker

In spinning news I reactivated my School of SweetGeorgia account this week as I’ve got more time at the moment to dip into some of the workshops. I’ve been wanting to get started on a breed study as I have box of breed specific fibres in my fibre stash so I took a look at the Spinning Sheep Breeds workshop with Rachel Smith. The workshop covers four breed types: fine/medium wool, long wool, Down and Down-like breeds, and primitive breeds. There’s an overview of each breed, followed by tips on preparation methods and three or four examples of spinning fibres from each category. I’ve made a start on Down breeds because I have very little experience of these. I’ll be using a mix of commercially prepped fibre and some fleece samples I have. I also booked on to an online silk spinning workshop being run by Katie Weston of Hilltop Cloud so I’m looking forward to that at the end of this month.

Sadly this weekend the weather has been awful so there has been no activity in the garden. I have, however, made a start on chitting my potatoes. I have somehow managed to end up with all second earlies so if I’m not careful I will end up with huge glut of potatoes at the same time. I’m going to try and stagger the planting a bit if I can to try and get around this, and I might try leaving some in the ground a little longer and experiment with using them more like a maincrop. The varieties I’m using this year are Charlotte, Jazzy, and Ratte. My new raised bed arrived this week so I’m hoping the weather will clear up enough later in the week for me to get that in place but it doesn’t look great for the rest of the week so maybe it will have to be a crafting week.

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 2021/22 Week Twenty Nine

Its been a weekend of decorating this week so I’ve been trying to fit in bits of knitting and spinning where I can. I’m also trying to read a lot more this year which cuts into crafting time; it hard having hobbies that conflict with each other.

Anyway the man socks are coming to an end and I should wrap these up this evening. Despite having several ‘one sock projects’ on the go I am naturally casting around for my next cast on. I’m looking for ideas for some beautiful Malabrigo Mechita in Eggplant. I originally bought this for knitting Ink but I’ve struggled to get started with the cabled collar. I think rather than a cardigan I might go with an oversized sweater or tunic, something simple for slouching around in on weekends.

In spinning news I’m still making my way down my 12 Days. This is the next set of colours for days 7-12.

I’ve split the fibre so that the first set of singles is days 2–7, the second days 7-12, and the third a combination of both. The 100g of fibre from day one is split between the three. Even at a three ply I think I will probably hit a fingering weight. I’m not sure if a combo spin was the right approach but it’s an enjoyable spin and it’s going to be a surprise when it’s plied!

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.

Year of Projects 2021/22: Week Eleven

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.