Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finished Yarns - Jill Draper Makes Stuff Fibers

Over the holidays I spun a ton. It was great to be able to spindle spin while watching my son play with his new toys. He loves that I can pay attention to him and I love to keep my hands busy. I was able to finish up a braid of Jill Draper Makes Stuff fiber that I had purchased from the Yarn Cupboard. This colorway didn't have a name so I'm calling it "Williams' Pick" since he decided on it at the shop as well as which spindle I should spin it on.

Initial 100% merino fiber at 4.55 ounces:

Finished yarn in 3 skeins:

(More details on my stash page)

While these colors aren't necessarily my favorites, I was able to get more practice with spindle spinning and I learned that I really need to figure out Navajo plying on a spindle. Looking at the 3 skeins, the first is by far my favorite because it has the least amount of the barber pole effect. I had originally thought that I only needed to learn how to Navajo ply on my wheel but I'm adding learning this on a spindle to my list as something that would be nice to know. I could always just spin the singles on a spindle and then ply on my wheel but I would rather have my spindles projects be self-sufficient.

Enough about the colors though, the fiber was amazing to spin! I didn't have to split the fiber because it's already a smaller than normal width. I would place it somewhere between a regular roving top size and pencil roving. No pre-drafting or splitting required means that I just divided the fiber into 3 sections, bagged them up and started spinning. Absolutely no VM in the entire braid and super soft fibers. This is definitely one of my favorite fiber bases to spin so far - Jill's color palette is very different from mine so while it limits what I buy from her it also helps expand my normal color choices range.

I would definitely recommend buying this fiber for wheel or spindle spinning. It's very cool that she tries to completely source and produce her fibers within a 100 mile radius of her home. Plus, I met Jill at the last Yarn Cupboard retreat and she's just fabulous. I'm planning to keep an eye on her Etsy shop as well as what's delivered to the Yarn cupboard in the future.

Friday, December 30, 2011

An Update & Some Changes

I put so much thought into planning for that self-imposed spindle club that it's now funny how much of it has changed. I received 3 Golding spindles for Christmas. It was a huge surprise. I thought maybe I might be getting 1 but 3 just blew my mind. Here they are in all their glory (details on weights and sizes are on my Ravelry stash page):

Strickland VIII:

Celtic Spiral:

2" Cherry:

I was completely shocked. I received all 3 on the early afternoon of Christmas Eve so I immediately spent the afternoon spinning up some samples that shipped with them and one I had in the stash.

I spun up 23 yards from .3 ounces of Inglenook Fibers in the Christmas Berry colorway on my Strickland:

Next up was 25 yards from .3 ounces of Inglenook Fibers in Disco Bunny (hate the colorway, loved the fiber):

Last was 83 yards from .5 ounces of Corgi Hill Farms Falkland fibers on my 2" Cherry spindle. I am so impressed with this little guy, I'm calling it Lightning:

So the addition of these spindles got me looking at my stash differently. I decided to separate my fiber stash into 2 bins with one dedicated to wheel projects and the other to spindles. In my wheel bin I have the fibers that are more than 4 ounces and those that I wanted to try out new techniques with like learning how to long draw or Navajo ply. Everything that was left went into the spindle bin. This left me with 14 bundles of fiber at 4 ounces each either in braids or long hanks.

Instead of assigning a spindle or a month to each fiber I'm just going to choose whatever I feel like spinning next out of the bin. I am going to rotate through the new spindles for spinning singles and I'm leaning towards using my Ashford spindle for plying since it has the biggest whorl and longest shaft. The only time I might get picky is when I have a spin night coming up that requires me to spin on a Yarn Cupboard fiber out of courtesy. Also, when the 2" Cherry spindle comes up in rotation I'll need to make sure the fiber would be nice as a lace weight.

That's about it for planning. I have been told I'm over thinking things and it's finally settled in. I love to plan, especially for a New Year, but it's not supposed to be stressful. I've got my fiber sorted and my list of techniques to learn so that should be enough to get me going in the right direction for 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spindle Candy Self Imposed Spinning Club

I finally got my act together and sat down with my fiber stash for 2012 planning. I've matched up fiber to the techniques that I wanted to learn in 2012 (ex. Navajo plying with Wooly Wonka Fibers painted ponies colorway). I saw a thread on Ravelry in the Spindle Candy group about a "Spindle Candy Self Imposed Spinning Club" aka "Fraking Awesome Self Imposed Spinning Club" and it sounded fun.

Since I don't know how to Navajo ply yet on a spindle I focused on solid or semi-solid colored fibers in my stash. Surprisingly I don't have 12 separate 4 ounce braids to choose from based on those qualities so I had to divide up one 8 ounce ball in half and one 1 pound ball into quarters. This is the list that I posted in the group with my intentions (I really wish I knew how to create a collage with my pictures - all of the details are in my handspun stash section in Ravelry):

Jan - Ashland Bay dark blue

Feb - Corgi Hill Farm vamp

Mar - Ashland Bay light blue (have 8 ounces total)

Apr - Spinner’s Hill red (have 1 pound total)

May - Ashland Bay light blue (have 8 ounces total)
(see above)
Jun - Spinner’s Hill red (have 1 pound total)
(see above)
Jul - Wooly Wonka Fibers yellow

Aug - Corgi Hill Farm blue

Sept - Spinner’s Hill red (have 1 pound total)
(see above)
Oct - Wooly Wonka Fibers blue

Nov - Wooly Wonka fibers pinks/reds

Dec - Spinner’s Hill red (have 1 pound total)
(see above)

Can you tell I went alphabetical through my stash in Ravelry and then switch up the colors so there were no repeats? Yeah, I'm predictable. I also have a thing for blue and red fibers apparently. I need to expand my color palate big time. The only month I'm struggling with is July because I haven't set my goals yet for the Tour de Fleece. I'm looking at this one as a place holder until I'm sure of what I'd like to do. I may try to Navajo ply that one since I should have learned how to do that on the wheel by then.

The other half of the challenge is to pair up a different spindle with each of the fibers so that you're spinning on a new one each month. Some people have a ton of spindles to choose from so I can understand why that sounds so appealing. I have 2 spindles with one custom Golding on order (yay!) so I'll have to tweak this a bit so that I'm just alternating through them. I am expecting it to be hard to spin on anything other than the Golding once it arrives.

I have no idea if I can spin 4 ounces of fiber a month on a spindle while I'm also knitting and spinning on my wheel as well. This is a great challenge for me to continue improving and see what's comfortable to do in a set amount of time. I also like the idea of setting aside fiber specifically for certain goals whether it's a specific technique to learn or something to improve upon. This should be fun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


With it getting closer to the end of the year I'm still in the mode of making lists. No pictures today but I should have some hand spun yarn to show soon.

The topic of podcasts came up on Ravelry a little while back and I thought it might be useful to have a review type post on the ones I like.

Cast On - By far, Brenda Dayne has set the bar for sound quality, content, and mood. I started from the very beginning so I never dealt with the wait involved when she took breaks. I would definitely recommend this podcast for any knitter. Be prepared to wade through some woes as Brenda tries to find herself and decide if she can make money from podcasting. It's worth it to keep listening - her essays are wonderful and the music she includes is varied. She's now back to a weekly format and decided to make money from patterns, CDs, books and retreats. It's great to hear her so happy again.

Fiber Beat - This is a fairly newer podcast by Michael Wade. Great sound quality and content here. You can really tell that he puts a ton of time into the production of each episode. At first I was distracted by all the little sound clips during the interviews but now I really like how it breaks up all the talking. Even if you're not into the particular fiber art of the interviewee Michael still makes it interesting. He doesn't talk over the person, no constant agreeing while the person is talking and great thought provoking questions. So far I think he's covered knitting, spinning, crochet, weaving and a few more. Definitely start from the beginning on this one.

KnitaJourney - Susan Dolph has a good voice and I love her slight Midwest accent. I didn't start from the beginning with this one but I may go back and listen to them all if she ever decides to take a hiatus. I started in the middle of her current series on perma-culture and how it relates to our knitting and larger life. There are some parts where she discusses friends and work issues but I don't mind that too much. Her knitting style doesn't match mine but I like the way that she approaches knitting in general as something larger than a hobby.

SpinDoctor - Sasha Torres is an American living in Canada and started this podcast as a forum for reviewing all things related to spinning. As a relatively inexperience spinner I love being exposed to new products and fiber vendors. My favorite part of her podcast is that she is brutally honest. It's refreshing to hear some cons along with the pros in each of her reviews. I started from the beginning with this one too and haven't quite caught up yet. I did see on Ravelry that she's going to include more personal information about her own spinning and I'm open to that as well. She's big into fiber prep (which I am not) and trying out all kinds of fibers. I would love to do a rare wool breeds study someday based on all of the interviews and vendors she's profiled. This is a podcast that I have to listen to at my desk so I can look up things she mentions as we go. So informative.

Sticks & String - I'll admit, I was drawn to this one because David Reidy is a guy who knits and spins and also happens to have an Australian accent. The content that he's able to provide kept me listening. I've started from the beginning with this one and I'm no where near caught up with 105 episodes to go. He interviews people local to him and while it's interesting I'm probably not going to be able to buy from them. I end up listening to this podcast while I work out since each episode is about 35-45 minutes long and the easy listening music he plays helps with passing the time on the treadmill. While I'm not into the same kind of knitting he is I like hearing about how he chooses yarn and patterns from a guys point of view, "sometimes guys just like plain boring patterns in plain colors, just be ready to knit a lot of stockinette stitch to make them happy and they'll wear it."

I have several other podcasts that I used to subscribe to but they all either quit or pod-faded. I tried CogKNITive for a couple episodes and while the content was interesting I couldn't get past the lecture style while driving in a car. There are a ton of people who like this one but it just didn't mesh with me. I may try it again later on in life. Next on my list to try is SpinControl.

Speaking of lists, here's a great Wiki on Ravelry that lists all the podcasts out there that are fiber related and still active. I'm always open to new ones and
I use this all the time to find new ones that I might like.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2012 Planning

This time of year is great for making lists. Laurie from Crazy Aunt Purl and I would be fast friends when it comes to this area. I've been thinking a lot about what I would like to buy, make, and learn next year and this is the best place that I have to document it all.

My yarn stash is starting to burst at the seams for storage reasons. My husband disagrees with me (so cool) but I'm at the tipping point for having too much mentally so I'm not planning to buy any yarn in 2012. I have a total of 14 kits coming my way next year that are already paid in full:

So yeah, no need to buy yarn. Spinning fiber on the other hand is full on. I'm spinning up fibers from the depths of my stash currently and it's freeing up space for more. I like that. Since the inception of Ravelry I prefer to work with fiber that I know all the details on. This whole mystery fiber business just kills me to work with. I'm planning fiber acquisition at the retreat, fiber shows and festivals as well as online. Not sure on joining any fiber clubs just yet.

I am sure on purchasing spindles and a Woolee Winder for my Sonata. Let the countdown begin until our income tax check is received and the buying will begin!

For knitting goals I'd like to finish the cardigan for myself and then I have these projects on my radar:

  • Leaving cardigan - for Mom
  • Bountiful Bohus - for me
  • Shakespeare Lace shawl - not sure which one but I'd like to knit one this year
  • KnitSpot kits - it's fun to knit along with the other members month to month

All are big projects so that could easily be more than a years worth of knitting for me. Especially since I'm spinning more than ever now. There may be a baby made sometime next year since I have friends getting married this Saturday. If that happens, everything will take a back seat to some serious baby knitting.

This is the biggest part of my focus for next year. There is so much that I don't know that I don't know what I don't know when it comes to spinning. I am reading as much as possible but I have a feeling as I learn one technique it's just going to add more to the list . . .

  • Steeking - see Bountiful Bohus cardigan above, this freaks me out
  • Navajo plying - had a quick lesson in my plying class but I really need to practice it on yarn with long color repeats both on my wheel and on my spindle
  • Gradient spinning - many great lessons out there on the Internet
  • Alpaca fiber spinning - I gave up on it before, I think I can do it now
  • Using a drumcarder - I have one but have never used it. Planning to card the fibers from my "how to spin for socks" class that I took at Hemlock this year
  • Woolen spinning - Looking for some loftier yarns
  • Long Draw - I think this is related to woolen spinning but not sure
I think I have all the fibers needed already in my stash for the above techniques except for the alpaca. I plan to remedy that tonight at spin night by purchasing some Salt City Fiber Works alpaca if they have any left.

I am planning to take classes again at Hemlock in the fall mainly around spinning. If I ran the world though, I'd rather go to a monthly spinning workshop at my LYS to learn new techniques. To get that type of teaching I may have to look into joining a spinning guild in my area.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mystery Stash #1 - Update

I finally finished the second and third colors from this mystery stash. They have been hanging up dry for days in my bathroom, life has just been that crazy. After spinning these two I'm seriously considering alpaca as the fiber or an alpaca blend. When drafting it doesn't grab the other fibers like a wool blend but it's not hairy either. I really don't know. Is there any definitive way to tell if fiber is wool or alpaca? I haven't been able to find anything other than pictures. This could very well be a 50/50 blend of wool & alpaca and I'm ok with that.

After finishing up the dark grey I treated myself to some color by picking the dark blue next. It was a bitch to spin. I wish there was a nicer way to put it but it fought me the entire way. I was so glad when I had finished that I didn't have to touch it ever again. It didn't want to draft at all. My best guess is that the dye did something to the fibers (not my fault) or I just started from the wrong end of the roving (my fault). I didn't think of this until I was done spinning but I was kicking myself later for not trying the other end.

I was very close to scraping this whole "spin the old stash" movement but I already had the next two colors bagged up and ready to go that I just stuck with it. I am so glad that I did. Before I referred to this natural fiber as a cream color but really was a light silver color when spinning. After I plied it and hung it up to dry it's a cross now between light silver and light tan, maybe a taupe? I have never been good with colors so let's just say it's beautiful and be happy. It spun like a dream that I didn't want to end. Loved this fiber. It put my faith back into spinning the unknown from the depths of my stash. In fact, we had some friends over this weekend that are not into knitting/spinning/yarn/fiber goodness and they all raved about how this skein was just wonderful. (And I got the "wow, you could totally sell this" comment but I let it slide, they don't need to know that I'm no where good enough to sell hand spun yarn so I just took it as a compliment and smiled)

Stats so far:

Dark Grey: 213 yards of DK weight yarn finished on 12/5/11

Blue: 156 yards of worsted weight yarn finished on 12/12/11

Light Grey: 168 yards of worsted weight yarn finished on 12/12/11

I have just the red bump left from the set of four to spin. If it is the dye that made the blue yarn crappy to spin then the red should be tough too. I will definitely remember to try both ends this time if I have problems.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Old Stash

When I first started spinning about 10 years ago I started with a pound of Romney roving. I randomly bought fiber at local festivals and from online vendors like Paradise Fibers. There was no rhyme or reason to my purchases other than I liked natural colors. For the most part I didn't keep track of what kind of fiber it was or where I purchased it from. Then I had a baby & lost interest in spinning. I call all of this fiber my old stash and it lives happily in a bin in my closet.

Fast forward to about nine months ago when I decided to take a plying class. This re-energized my spinning interest (obviously since most of my posts now are about spinning) and I began to buy lots of new fibers. All were meticulously tracked in Ravelry as I purchased them and all are dyed in great colors. This is my new stash and it lives in it's own separate bin in my closet right next to the old stash bin.

New stash is starting to run out of room so I decided to tackle my old stash. I had been saving some of it until I was a better spinner but how am I ever going to learn if I don't try new types of fibers? Life is too short to wait to spin the nice stuff. I started with Mystery Stash #1 (as it's labeled in Ravelry) and it's the only one with any dyed fibers in it:

It's 4 ounces of each color and I think I purchased it at the Jefferson County Fiber Festival near Watertown, NY (I think it was a 1 or 2 year thing only - best guess is I was there in 2008-ish). I originally thought it was wool but after spinning the first ball of fiber I'm leaning towards some kind of alpaca blend. I'm no expert though. The fibers are long but don't have the hairy quality that I would normally expect to see in alpaca. I know I should do the burn test on these fibers but it's cold outside and I don't feel like stinking up the house with burnt fiber. Even with the burn test I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between wool and alpaca. I'm ok with that. It's not like I'm selling my finished yarn so we can go with a best guess.

I started with the grey and finished it up in two nights. It was super soft and I was trying to go for a worsted weight yarn (it's really hard for me to spin thick yarns now). I ended up with 213 yards of DK weight yarn:

It's beautiful and soft and evenly spun. This is probably the best hank of yarn I've ever done. I just want to squish it and hold it to my neck all day.

I've already got the blue bump spun up and it will be plied tonight. That one didn't spin up as nicely as the grey. Maybe the dye did something to the fibers? It just fought me the whole way. I tried to spin it the same way as the grey but it just didn't want to. This is my inexperience coming through but I'm not going to let it stop me. I'm going to take detailed notes and hopefully learn something from it for next time.

I love how the 4 colors look together so my initial thought is to make color-work mittens out of the final 4 yarns. A couple pairs would be so soft against the skin and warm as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Spindle Spinning Progression

I finished the first braid of fiber this past weekend that I had purchased for my spindle class. I labeled the yarn with my do-it-yourself labels and I took time to note the order in which each skein was spun. I was hoping to see marginal improvement in my spindle spinning. What I got was pretty cool.

The colors photograph horribly but what I most wanted to see is the yarn. Starting from left to right:

1st skein: 71.6 yards of sport weight yarn from 1.2 ounces, finished on 11/25/11 (spun on sprinkler top spindle)

2nd skein: 81.6 yards of sport weight yarn from 1.3 ounces, finished on 11/30/11 (spun on sprinkler top spindle)

3rd skein: 95 yards of DK weight yarn from 1.3 ounces, finished on 12/5/11 (spun on my Ashford spindle)

That third skein is absolutely beautiful. I understand that the 1st skein was learning from scratch and the 2nd skein was making sure I remembered how to do everything. That 3rd skein is just lovely. I switched over to my Ashford spindle which is a bit lighter than the other one just to compare how I like spinning on them. It took some getting used to it but I did well.

After finishing this project I can see how one person can amass a large stash of spindles all depending on what fiber you're going to spin and what you want the resulting yarn to be like. I plan on adding several spindles to my wish list as I start exploring spindle vendor possibilities. I never thought I would love this as much as I do. Spindle spinning has replaced my social/mindless knitting projects completely.

Next up on a spindle is fiber that I let my son pick out - he picked the spindle to spin it on as well!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Yes, I Still Knit

I took about a week off from having anything on my knitting needles. This was a big deal in my household since I rarely even go one day without a knitting project of some kind. I took some time to really think about what I wanted to create. With the help of the Yarn Cupboard's Black Friday sale I purchased enough yarn to make 2 cardigans for myself and one for my Mom.

I ended up casting on Bernhardt first. This is going to be a great cardigan for me and I picked out a gorgeous shade of red in Berroco Comfort yarn.

I think everyone has a color that just speaks to them and this one is mine. That deep, rich, burnt red that is more on the blue hue than the orange. When I pulled it out of my shopping bag my husband said "oh yeah, this is your color". I am nervous about knitting a non-wool cardigan with this being a mix of cotton and acrylic but it's so soft and the chain ply really looks great knitted up.

That's about two nights of knitting and I like the lace edging. It's simple but not too boring. I'd like to have this done in time for the retreat in mid-March so I can get Sandi Wiseheart to critique the shape for me during the sweater workshop that I signed up for. I missed it last time so I was happy to see it on the class list again this year.

I have knit 2 adult sweaters, 1 adult vest and several baby sweaters but nothing for myself. I keep thinking that I should wait until I lose some weight first but life is too short. I want one now. I have no problem going out and buying more yarn to knit more sweaters if by chance I lose a ton of weight and this one won't fit anymore. So many knitters only knit for themselves while I tend to be a gift knitter. I still like knitting for other people but I think it's time to even it out a bit with a few items for me. So if this cardigan should no longer fit me in the future I'm sure I have plenty of knitting friends that will take me up on gifting it to them :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Love for Spindles

During my vacation, I used my spindle project just like I would use a mindless or social knitting project. Anytime I had some free time, even if it was only 15 minutes, I would get out my spindle and work a bit on my spinning. It's so addicting. I completely understand now why they say you can actually spin more on spindles because you spin more often.

My main project was with the sprinkler-homemade spindle that I got from Beth during my spindle class:

I finished two small skeins of yarn on it both at a heavy fingering weight. The first skein I got 71.6 yards from 1.2 ounces and the second I got 81.6 yarns from 1.3 ounces. This was a great learning experience. Since the spindle weighs 1.9 ounces I don't think I'd want to go much more than 1.3 ounces of fiber at one time. It just starts to get too heavy and the yarn slips and breaks more often. Here's of the skeins:

I'm pleasantly surprised at how nice it turned out. I still have a slight problem with how small the yardage is with spindles but it's makes great yarn for smaller projects like cowls or mitts. I used my ball winder to make a center pull ball and then just did a two-ply yarn from the center pull ball.

I had one section of this fiber left weighing 1.3 ounces and my husband suggested that I use my Ashford spindle to get a feel for a lighter weight spindle. This one weighs 1.75 ounces and you can definitely feel the difference when spinning it.

I'm not finished with the fiber yet but I have been spinning a little here and there during the day. I can tell now that the lighter the spindle the finer the yarn. I've been able to get a nice, smooth yarn so far that will probably end up as light fingering weight once it's been plied.

Working with the Ashford spindle has helped me understand what I like and dislike so far. I like the smooth wood whorl but don't like the longer shaft. I have been spending way too much time admiring new spindles online. Just looking at the Golding and Bosworth sites along can waste an hour or two (I'm obsessed with the Golding Celtic themed ones right now and the Bosworth Moosies that have a waiting list). I'm thinking I'd like to round out my spindles with a lighter medium weight and one true light weight spindle. With that full range I should be able to get a good idea on what I like to spin on for each weight yarn.

I joined a few spindle spinning groups on Ravelry and came across The Spanish Peacock spindles. There's no prices on the site because everything is custom ordered. His cut-out spindles are just amazing (there's a tempting snowflake design in a lighter wood). Lots of spindle makers use exotic woods so I've asked my husband to check out some of these sites with me. He's so much more knowledgeable on them that I am. I'm more of a "ooh that's pretty" type of opinion.

I have some fiber lined up next my next couple spindle projects already. I'm thinking about taking each of the 4 ounce braids and breaking it up into 1 ounce packages just for ease of use. Having these spindles has opened the doors for me in terms of where and when I can spin so I expect to have lots more handspun yarn to show in the future.