A Felted Single

Even though I’ve now been spinning for seven years, I have avoided spinning the simplest of yarns – the plain single. I have spun singles – coreless-corespun and thread wrapped yarns are both singles.  But I’ve left the plain bulky single alone.  Until this week.

One of the recent braids I dyed was very slightly felted (just slightly) and as a result I didn’t want to spin it too fine.  (It was the first one I dyed in the slow cooker, while I was still getting the timings right, and may have been handled more than usual.) I wanted to spin it chunky so that I could use it as a weft for a cushion.  And felted to give it the extra strength needed for such an item.

After spinning the resulting skein was incredibly twisty:

I gave it a bath in very hot soapy water, moving it around lots. I shocked it by plunging it into very cold water (and then repeated between the hot and cold a few times). I also tried thwacking the skein onto the draining board – but found that was an excellent way to make the kitchen look like it was raining inside and get me covered in water. I finished by rinsing the soap out in changes of hot and cold water.

After this treatment the skein was completely different:




Not a twist in sight.

One Day, Two Sleeps

This is what my study looks like at the moment:


On Monday I’m moving to our new house.  I’m very excited – but right now I’m also very, very tired (so I’m sitting down and writing a short blog post, before I pack the computer away).

During half-term week the children were away with their dad.  While they were gone (and as moving seemed a long time away!) I managed to go out every evening, catch up with friends and have a lovely week (albeit without children).  Spinning with friends, spiritual circles, and dinner and a film with a friend were all on the itinerary for the week.  At the end of it on my one free evening I caught a lovely sunset over fields near my house:


During my day and evening of spinning I plied two skeins of yarn.  The singles were spun some time ago, and this finished the colour project from 2015 TdF (I will put a link in here, but tonight I shall just refer to it without the link *yawns*):



I’m going to be offline for a while.  My new house doesn’t have a phone line, and it looks like it’ll be the end of November before one gets installed.  And, each time I’ve been in the house, my mobile has no signal! So, I shall be out of touch and in another decade (the 90’s?) for a few weeks.

Right, I’m off to start packing the bedroom…  I’m hoping I can do most of it sitting down on the bed!  Actually, I think I’m hoping I can do it in my sleep!  I shall see you in December from my new house!  Good night!

From fluff to yarn

This yarn started in April as a desire to use some stunning blue Teeswater locks. Lots of playing around with different colours eventually resulted in a pile of wool, bamboo, trilobal-nylon and some seacell…


To the blending board:



Spinning the first single:


Plied and drying on the line, on what feels like the first dry day in weeks:



This yarn reminds me of piercing blue seas, with crashing waves, golden sands, seaweed and white horses; and so I’m calling it Seascape.  Ideally I’d like to knit this into something to wear by the time Open Studios starts (in less than two weeks), however I have a second call on my time.  The “personal news” I mentioned in my last post – I’ve put my house up for sale!  Eeep!

Round and round…

On Friday I found myself designing and printing a short leaflet to advertise the up-coming Open Studios event I’m taking part in, ready to distribute at the village plant sale on Saturday.


It’s just 6 weeks and 2 days away!  Earlier this week I made a list of all the things that need doing.  I’m going to be very busy!

On Saturday I borrowed my daughter’s hoola-hoop for a little weaving.  I knew I had to finished the weaving before my daughter missed her hoop.  So, I got straight to work, warping up the hoop with cotton yarn, and weaving in ever- increasing circles.





I succeeded in my goal, and my daughter hasn’t noticed a thing.  (She hasn’t even noticed that the hoop is somewhat cleaner than it was before the weekend!)

I then progressed another project, blending (a variety of wools, seacell, trilobal nylon and bamboo) and spinning with Teeswater locks:





I think I can squeeze a few more locks onto there before I start spinning the plying thread!


This morning I woke before my alarm went off, looking at the clock and reading that it was seven I realised the inevitable and decided I needed to get up. I tried to turn the alarm clock off and was a little surprised to find I’d not set it last night.

My thoughts then ran as follows: “What needs doing? Get the children to school… pack lunch boxes… have I washed them from Friday yet? No I haven’t. How have I managed to get through a weekend and not wash them? Gosh that weekend was short! What did we do Sunday? Sunday? I don’t remember Sunday. I think today’s Sunday…”

At this point I checked my phone, and it agreed, blurrily, that it was Sunday.

I think my morning confusion may have been the lingering result of over-tiredness following a trip to Ikea and subsequent furniture building.

For a very long time my 4-shaft loom has been stored away because there hasn’t been anywhere suitable to use it. Eventually I realised that there was a space in the lounge behind the sofa, but I then couldn’t find a table the right size. I looked at the treadle kit and stand for it. But not only do I not want to use the treadles (it would still be a table loom, as there is only a one-to-one correspondence between the treadles and the shafts) but it is also incredibly expensive. I couldn’t find a table that was the right size either. The loom is around 74cm deep and nearly a metre wide, and getting a table to accommodate it, that wasn’t too big, was proving tricky. I had been considering making a table top and getting trestle legs from Ikea to make a table, but the space between the legs would be inadequate, and so my loom continued to sit, unused.

Then as I planned a trip to Ikea (the aim of which was to buy something to store my son’s lego, now organised into colours) I spotted a new table. 74cm deep and 125cm wide. A little wider than ideal1, and I’ll admit a little more than I’d really wanted to pay, but it had been a long time, and a table loom isn’t a cheap tool to have sitting unused. So on Friday evening a table was bought in Ikea (along with the inevitable random purchases that get you looking at the end bill in amazement) and I drove home, much, much, later than I had envisaged, with a full weekend of other commitments ahead of me.

So it was on Wednesday when I finally got around to building the table. Then I got the loom on it, thought for a few moments and decided it was time for new challenges and whipped off the old weaving (rescuing a section of completed overshot) before dusting it down and starting to plan a new project. By the evening I’d found the free pattern drafting software I’d used before (it’s called Weave Design and is available from here) dived into my stash and found some promising 4 ply yarn, done some sums on the back of an old letter, retrieved the home made warping board from its hiding place, and wound a warp of 13′ 8” tied it up in all the right places (and a few extra ones just in case) and chained it up ready for the next stage.

Thursday, was spent winding on the warp (including finding suitable paper, and then some more card when that ran out) and threading the heddles (I really believe there must be a quicker way to do this bit, it does seem to take a long time, even with under a hundred ends). Before I went to bed I tied string around the shaft pedals to stop the children playing with them (it turns out this wasn’t enough, as the children just lifted the shafts manually, without the pedals, but fortunately didn’t dislodge any of the knots holding the threads in place).

Friday I sleyed the reed (so quick compared to the heddles) and tied the warp onto the front beam, using the same method I recently used on my rigid heddle loom, wove a header, wove a little more to test the threading and then got underway…


I’ve not had much time over the last couple of days to make more progress, but I’m really enjoying having my loom back in operation. I’d barely got into spinning before I bought the table loom, so my spinning has progressed a very long way (including into fancy textured art yarns) and I now need to work out how my yarns and my loom are going to play together.

1 – It turns out the table isn’t too wide.  There are 6 inches on each side of the loom.  Just the right amount of space to bolt an anglepoise lamp on one side, clamp my swift on the other (for somewhere to store it when not in use) and to keep useful tools (like scissors and tape measure) to hand.

90 Knots!

Over the last few days I’ve rescued a warp I made a mess of during winding onto the back beam (I was rushing and the paper wasn’t wide enough). The warp has lain abandoned for at least six months, with the heddle correctly threaded, but the threads not tied onto the front beam.   I unwound it and re-wound it with fresh paper between the layers. This sounds easy but proved hard, as there is a high proportion of mohair yarn in the warp and these stuck together with glee, happily hugging the wool yarns in their embrace too. So both patience and determination was needed to unwind and re-wind the warp.   I’m not sure how successful the rescue will be, as the threads were all different lengths then finally wound on. I’m expecting some puckering when the cloth is finished.

Once rewound I used a technique for tying to the front beam I’d seen in a video from Ashford. It involves tying small groups of warp threads together with knots then using cotton thread to lash the ends onto the apron. I found this to be really straightforward and I felt it was quicker to get the tension equal across the warp. I don’t mind the usual method, but do find I spend a lot of time going back and forth, tightening knots to get all the warp at the same tension. I shall be using the lashing method again.

Then I started weaving the header. Or should I say, I tried to, but didn’t get far! I’d lift the heddle up, and all the threads moved up. I moved the heddle down, and all the threads moved down. NO SHED! Perhaps I should have sized the threads before putting on the warp (I have no idea how to do that, or what to use, something to explore for another day)!

Before abandoning the warp and cutting it off the loom I thought I’d try using a pick-up stick to help separate the shed (I think I read about doing this on Ravelry). So I threaded a spare shuttle into the warp behind the heddle, and tried with that. This was better, but it only helped for one pick out of two. I didn’t fancy hand separating the warp for the alternate picks, so decided to try using string heddles to lift the threads that should be staying up. Fortunately I had some dowel that I cut to length, then I counted my warp threads and decided I needed 89 heddles, to be certain I made 90. I wrapped the string around a conveniently sized book and cut it to make the 90 short lengths, I then tied all these over a few sessions. I told my children I needed to tie 90 knots. “90 knots!” they both chorused in unison.


Once these were created I threaded them under the threads that are in the slots of the heddle (the threads that shouldn’t move) and looped the heddle onto the dowelling rod.


Once I’d done the whole length and had tried it a few times, checking I’d not missed any threads or selected incorrect ones, I took a length of yarn and tied it at one end of the dowel, and then tied it at the other end of the dowel.



This is to hold the heddles onto the dowel, and to prevent the dowel from slipping out from the heddles. It looks like a handle, but I’m not using it as one.



I wove a few more picks of the header and this morning have chosen a thread to use as the warp (I did have a thread planned, but as usual have changed my mind). The secondary heddle system is working. The pickup-stick is pushing down the free moving threads (it’s threaded over the threads in the slots) and the string heddles lift up the free-moving threads (so the strings loop under the threads in the slots). I’m still getting threads sticking together and I’m having to move my hand between the layers of the shed to open it up a bit more, but this is quick and easy compared to trying to weave without the secondary heddles.


Progress on Two Tours

While I was sorting out my stuff for the exhibition last month I realised I’d made progress on projects but not updated them here.  So last week I took some pictures while the sun was shining.

Since then I’ve spun some more, and even done some plying.

So today I took more pictures (the sun was shining again).

First up, the colour experiment from the Tour de France.  I’ve finished and plied three skeins with the different coloured singles, and I’ve spun (but not plied) the fourth skein (with matching singles).


Secondly, the Tour of British Fleece rainbow is getting close to completion.  All the singles are finally spun and I’m half way through the plying.

Prepared locks, ready to be tail-spun.


Here’s the basket with lots of full bobbins.


Unbelievably, in my imagination, I had this full project fitting onto the single large bobbin of my Pipy Poly wheel.  In reality I just managed to squeeze from violet up to the green tail-spun locks onto the bobbin last night.  I think that the remaining singles will just fit onto one bobbin, making a rainbow split into two skeins (which I’m happy about).

Here’s the first full bobbin on my skein winder.  Half a rainbow!


I’m looking forward to getting this finished.  I think I may spin a small amount of a soft fibre (probably BFL) in a pale blue, and use this above and below the rainbow when knitting it up.  I’m still thinking a capelet would be the best use for this.

And once this is finished?  My fingers are itching to do some art yarn…


I’m having a great time taking part in the Tour of British Fleece that is happening at the same time as the Tour of Britain. Prior to the tour I gathered my supplies and thought about what I wanted to spin for, how much I needed for that project, and whether I wanted to dye the wool or keep it natural. I decided on a little colour:

Dyed Fibre

After 7 days of spinning (I missed yesterday, but caught up with a long spinning session today) I have 3 full or partially full bobbins. Here you can see the middle of the rainbow:


Tomorrow I’ll spin the Romney to complete the first set of singles for this project. Over the next few weeks I’ll spin at a more gentle pace and complete the second set of singles before plying and being able to reveal the results!


I’ve been diving through my stash in preparation for the Tour of British Fleece which starts on Sunday. I’ve think I’ve got all my fibre together (with the exception of some Teeswater locks that I’d like to use but are currently in the bottom box of a five deep stack of 64 litre boxes – with other craft supplies topping off the stack). I’m considering my spinning plan and contemplating dyeing the fibre prior to spinning it. I’m also wondering what I shall make from this yarn (at the moment a caplet is my top thought).

The picture shows the supplies I’ve gathered so far, some from my stash and some I’ve purchased specifically. I won’t be using all this (I have multiple bags for Suffolk, Jacob and BFL ) I just need to decide which I’m using and how much of each. There is also a bag of dyed Leicester Longwool locks, but I’m not going to use them (please pretend they are the missing Teeswater in a different colour).


My running order at the moment is:

Stage Date Fibre
1 Sunday 6th Black Welsh
2 Monday 7th Blue Faced Leicester
3 Tuesday 8th Cheviot
4 Wednesday 9th Jacob
5 Thursday 10th Teeswater with BFL
6 Friday 11th Whitefaced Woodland
7 Saturday 12th Suffolk
8 Sunday 13th Romney

I won’t be able to spin all the fibre for a caplet in one week – but I have a plan (sort of)!

The importance of grip and slip

When I was first learning to spin I couldn’t understand where grooves and whorls on the wheel needed to be smooth and where they needed to have a good grip. I assumed (wrongly) that all places where there were drive bands and brake bands should be unpolished. Worse, when I was cleaning my wheels I didn’t take enough care about keeping polish from these places.

During the TdF I was using one of my Ashford traditional wheels with the sliding hook flyer. This was the second wheel I bought, and the flyer was the first wheel upgrade I purchased (at the height of my ignorance on whorls and grooves).

When plying the two skeins during the tour I struggled a little with the wheel during the last few yards, but not enough to worry about it. However, when I plied the most recent skein the wheel was almost impossible to use. I couldn’t get a good balance between twist (from the drive band) and pull-on (from the brake band). I changed the drive band about 4 times (trying different materials: cotton string, cotton weaving yarn and pony band lacing) and I also changed the brake band. I applied copious amounts of spinning oil. However, the wheel was still extremely difficult to use and was making the most appalling screeching noise – it sounded like a drill. In the end I carried on regardless (extremely glad there was no-one in the house except me that night to hear the noise).

Sadly the fight with the wheel shows in the resulting skein – which is unevenly and generally under plied (with some sections being particularly poor). I will have to run the yarn back through the wheel to correct this.

A couple of days ago I started correcting the problems with the wheel. The wheel uses scotch tension so the brake band runs over a groove in the bobbin. It’s fairly common to use a nylon line (like fishing line), though I’m not fond of this, and having got used to using a mercerised cotton thread (like thin crochet thread) I prefer this. Because this is the brake band the first thought is that the groove should have a good grip. In fact the groove should be fairly polished and run smoothly under the brake band. Any roughness may cause the band to catch and the bobbin to run jerkily, or make it difficult to apply a little more pressure to slow the bobbin down, without it gripping completely and stopping it in its tracks. So I’ve carefully sanded (with a fine sandpaper) the grooves at the end of the troublesome bobbin, and applied a wax polish (ideally I should use an oil finish, and may do so in the future) repeating until they were smooth. I shall do the same with the other bobbins in due course.

The groove in the drive wheel was feeling very smooth so I’ve gone around this with a coarse sandpaper to increase the grip. I’ve done the same with the whorls on the flyer. The smallest gives a ratio of close to 20:1 which means there is very little surface area available so a good grip is essential. I’ve seen rosin (as used on bows of violins and other string instruments) suggested to improve the grip of drive bands on wheels, so I shall investigate this if I have any further problems.

I’m happy that I’ve fixed the problem, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating (a picture of the skein will follow when I’ve properly tested the wheel and corrected the plying problems).

Should you be reading this as someone who is learning to spin and trying to get their wheel functioning properly – here’s the short version (for a scotch tension wheel): The groove(s) on the bobbin should be smooth (sanded and polished). The groove in the drive wheel and the grooves for the whorls on the flyer should be grippy (no polish).