Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lots to Learn

The first handspun sock is all knitted up and it is mighty dense! It was not fun to knit.  The second sock is on the needles and is also working up just about as dense, and just about as annoying to knit.  While the yarn was more lightly plied, it came out thicker and fluffier, but I'm working it on the same size needles so the fabric has about the same density.  Here are the socks, posed with their respective yarns, for comparison:

I wish you all could give the fabric a feel and see the yarns for yourself. Another consideration is how much of the density of the fabric is the result of the knitting and is there any performance differences between a sock that is dense due to spinning, vs one that is dense due to plying?

It's interesting, this learning by internet wisdom thing.  While I have lots of theoretical spinning knowledge, I don't have the practical experience that makes it useful. I've read lots of places to put more twist in the singles and the plying when making sock yarn, but the practical question is how much more? More is relative, a fuzzy logic problem if you will. (heh) So this is a grand opportunity for me to learn through trial and error, experimentation and most likely some small disasters.  Hopefully, not too many.

 Next up on the wheel, surprise, more sock yarn! I decided that I should work up some handspun, handknit socks for Father's day for my dad. There's plenty of time yet, right?  Right? Fiber on the wheel is Cupcake Fiber Company's SW BFL with nylon, the only thing that will do for a gift.

In the category Husbands say the cutest things, Jim was watching me plying and I was talking to him about the lazy kate.
He asked "Why is it called a lazy kate?"
I replied, "I don't know. I guess it's because kate was too lazy to tension the bobbins on her own."
Thoughtful man returned "Well, that's silly. It should be called a clever kate, cause it's a smart idea."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beyond Thrilled

Sometimes you just have to strike while inspiration is hot. This weekend, I spun myself sore but I managed to finish my first skein of sock yarn.  This fluff:

Became about 210 yards of this fingering weight 3-ply yarn:

Which is knitting up into this sock:
I'm so thrilled with this yarn. My patient husband endured many exclamations of happiness and joy.  It was worth sore legs and achy shoulders. I didn't injure myself and today I took it easy and didn't touch my wheel. 

But now have to do it again. Is there such a thing as second sock spinning syndrome? Just as a knitter puts variations into the second sock to mix things up a bit, I'm thinking of spinning the second sock differently. The sock is knitting up super dense, but with a smooth feel. I'm thinking of spinning the second skein of sock yarn with less twist in both the single and the plying. This way I can compare how they wear and learn how much extra twist is really required for durable socks.

Way back, when I first started to seriously knit socks I experimented with heels, toes, toe-up and bind offs, searching for my what I liked, what fit, and what wears well.  Now I feel like I'm on the same journey, only I'm now in search of how to best spin sock yarn.

There's a little voice in the back of my head saying "Gee, that's an awful lot of work for socks." But I'm ignoring it.  The heart knows what it wants and mine is singing for joy over the wonder of this new journey I'm on.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Obssesed Much?

It's a gorgeous Saturday morning at the start of a long weekend.  If I don't sit down and write you a blog post now, chances are it won't happen.

I'm still loving my spinning wheel and in the past week some online fiber purchases made it to my door. I know you want to see them. 

Clockwise from top left: Fleece Artist BFL, Spirit Trail Fiberworks SW BFL, Spirit Trail Fiberworks Targhee, Cupcake Fiber Company SW BFL with nylon and Fat Cat Knits Symphony project bag. There's still two more missing from that lineup and they are a mohair-wool blend from Spinning Moon farm.

My current goal is to spin up some nice sock yarn. Hence the superwash, the nylon and the mohair blend fibers. I finished up my first three-ply, which might make a good sock yarn because it's over-plied:
 Certainly it would make a warm, dense hat which is what I believe it's final incarnation will be.

Anyway, before all this fiber bounty jammed up the front door so that Jim could barely get in the house, I needed something else to spin, so I started in on some Louet Northern Lights. This is the same fiber that I made my mom's chunky yarn from. It spins very easily and I know it's got some bounce.  I divided my fiber into six equalish parts and I'm spinning it fine with lots of twist. This is bobbin two, half done:
I'm excited to ply it to see how the colors come together and what the three ply looks like. 

As for knitting projects, well, there was a pair of socks a while back, worked up in my own hand-dyed yarn:
Love em! It's about time I had some nice long socks.

I also knit my wheel a tool holder:

Isn't it cute?  The yarn is fiber from the Hopeful Shetlands, spindle spun before I got my wheel.  I decided to leave it all fuzzy, fresh from the felting. I think it suits my wheel.

Now the only problem I have is how to reconcile all the spinning I want to do against the desire to knit it up and not increase the stash. Good thing it's a long weekend. I think I'll spend it playing with fiber.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Enjoying my Connections

I've been making connections, enjoying my connections and connecting the concepts.

On Saturday morning my mom and I enjoyed being part of the Forest City Knitters' display at the Canadian Embroiderer's Guild Gathering Threads conference. I met lots of new people and some old friends too. We had a wonderful display of items gathered from the members of our group. Some of the favorites on display were Isa's illusion scarf and felted mittens, and my fiber fish mittens.

Last weekend I had started making a hat from some handspun I been gifted with a year or so ago, from Maia. I was working a simple top-down hat and it was just not doing justice to the yarn. So I went for a pattern I'd seen a few years back, the Bias Ridged Hat, and as I'm downloading the pattern, I made the connection that this was an original pattern, created by my friend and fellow Forest City Knitter, Reina! The two were meant for each other:

Now won't that warm your ears in the grey days of November?

During the knitting, I realized that the yarn was chain plied. My novice spinner's brain started clicking along. It looks really nice!  So I tried some for myself.  It was okay, but I'm sure I can do better. The fiber had been felted during the dying process and it was difficult to draft.

In the mean time, I thought I'd try a regular 3-ply.  I've been plying all day and I've still got another third of the fiber to go. I can hardly wait to see what it looks like washed, but my legs are getting tired. Yep, that's a lot of treadling....

I've enjoyed hearing from you who read this blog. I appreciate your support and input. All my connections are important to me.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Gift for Me and One for Mom

Happy Mother's day!  My family has been good to me with cards, and chocolates and a wonderful breakfast.  Later today we're going to play games and go for a walk. Yesterday I spent a good part of the day enjoying my new wheel, spinning yarn for my mother as a gift for Mother's day.

So about the wheel, I chose to buy a Lendrum from Jane's Sheepish Things in Delaware. The reviews I've read all touted it as a solid, all purpose wheel that grows with the spinner and lasts for years. It's made in Canada, out of sturdy and stable hard maple. It's a portable wheel that folds for storage or travel and its incredibly easy to set up and adjust.

I already feel completely comfortable with this wheel. Friday night was spent learning to adjust it to make a single. Saturday morning I figured out the adjustments for plying. Here's what I learned:
  • A wheel is like a bicycle. When you shift to a smaller ratio the wheel will turn faster for the same speed of treadling, but the treadling will take more effort. Just like pedaling first gear on a bike is so much easier than pedaling tenth gear, but you'll go faster in tenth gear.
  • A looser tension on the brake of the bobbin will cause less take up pull on the yarn. Tighter tension will cause a faster take up. At least on my wheel. I've often wondered what was meant when someone would write "adjust your tension" because they would never say which adjustments would give what result.
  • When plying with the Lendrum, the mother of all needs to be lowered to loosen the tension on the drive band. I had to search the net to figure out why my wheel just stopped when plying. I was told that the mother of all was adjustable so as to account for the height of your chair. In my experience, this is just not so. 
This wheel spins so quietly. The action is very smooth and the double treadles feel like a kitten making biscuits. In no time at all I was turning out even singles, and could even do so without looking. In the above shot you see the slider yarn guide; a very elegant solution to winding the yarn on evenly. Changing bobbins on this wheel is very easy too. I can do it with one hand.  I know, cause I tried.

By the end of the day Saturday, I'd spun up a half-pound of fiber into this bouncy, chunky weight yarn.

I think my mommy will like it.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Break away, and OMG! I did that!

So yeah, Hi! How have ya been?  I had a nice break.  My first in what, five years? The technology is changing and it might be time for me to change with it.  I'm contemplating Twitter, and I'm thinking about dropping blogging. Life is very full and busy right now.  I'm not sure where the pieces fit.  So my plan is to try blogging again, and see if I enjoy it or if it becomes one more chore.  If a chore, then I'm afraid it must go.

There's still plenty of fiber fun going on.  I've finished some hats, socks and the body of a sweater.  I also made this, from my own spindle-spun yarn:
I still can't believe it! I spun that! The fiber was BFL from Viola that I spun and plied on my Forrester spindles. Here's the original fiber:

The pattern is Multnomah, but I added my own twist to it with a crochet picot bind off and a picot shell ruffle around the neck edge. It adds depth to a piece when a design element is layered; in this case, the element of scallops. I was careful not to block out the ruffles and the frilly picots. I especially love the loopy ends the crochet work added.

I've been admiring this ever since it came off my needles (and hook in this instance). I find it hard to believe that I made this yarn after only a few months of spinning.  And I determined I had to get a wheel, because with more practice, how much better can I get!!

So, tonight I bought one, and it is here in my living room. Talk about your impulse purchases.  Speaking of impulses, I have one right now to stop writing and go back to spinning.