Cycling and Spinning

This year’s Tour de France finished last Sunday – as did the Tour de Fleece.  However, I finished on Monday at the back of the peloton having missed a day’s spinning in the final week.

By the end of the tour I’d finished two 100g skeins and spun a further 75g of singles.  Most of the spinning was done on my oldest Ashford Traditional (which at some point I appear to have named Twiggy – as she is a 1960’s model) with the lace flyer.

basket

So far my colour experiment hasn’t produced a range of browns, instead my skeins are blues and pinks, greens and purples.  I’m looking forward to seeing the result of plying the last pair of colours together.

skeins

I’ve still got 300g of fibre to spin for this project, and when the spinning is completed I hope to use all six skeins to Tunisian crochet a shawl.

I’d like to get the spinning finished over the summer, because at the start of September it’s the Tour of Britain and in another moment of madness I’ve agreed to spin during each day of that race too (it’s 8 stages from 6th to 13th September)!

In between the spinning I’ve managed a couple of walks, one to admire a setting sun and another to enjoy the sunshine after a few cool grey days.

sunset

water

Yarn on the Tour de Fleece

So far I’ve spun everyday of the tour, with the exception of Friday (when at 11pm I realised I was completely exhausted and went to bed). To make up for this, I spun the following Monday, instead of taking the official rest day. On Saturday I had a lovely long spin as I took my Traddy out for the day (it’s rare that it has a day out and I do think it enjoys the change of scene!)

I’ve spun up half of each of the first two braids of fibre and plied them together. And the resulting skein looks lovely.

singles
The first singles ready to be plied
drying
The first finished skein drying in the sun today.

However, having completed the first skein, I’m not sure I really want another 300g of the same colours.  So in a moment of madness I’ve added in some green/blue tops in colourway Calypso on Polworth fibre (also part of the three month fibre club I joined last year).  I’m now going to have a mix and match spinning project.

All three colours
All three colours

I’ve got two braids in each of three colourways.  One braid in each colourway is being split into two, spun then plied with each of the other two colourways. This will result in three 100g skeins of barber pole yarn.

The remaining 3 braids will be spun and plied with themselves, either using a fractal spinning technique, or, at the other extreme, spinning and plying to maintain the colour changes in the braids (I have yet to decide – but whatever I do will be done to all three colours).

The result will be six skeins of 2 ply yarn, each skein completely unique, but related to most of the other skeins. However, this is 600g of spinning, so I don’t expect to finish during the TdF.

More singles
I shall be plying these together shortly. Is it madness? Will I end up with shades of brown?

I’m not sure what project I will use these yarns for. I’m sure I’ll think of something!

One, Two, Three, Four!

Harriette has been complaining that she’s not been doing any modelling work. In fact it’s so long since she last modelled anything that she’s forgotten when she last did some. She’s currently stood in my study with some hand-dyed skeins of yarn draped around her and she says that I should either do something with them or put them away as she’s not a hat stand (technically she’s a clothes stand – shush, best not tell her).

Sadly I didn’t think to cater to Harriette’s aspirations when taking pictures of my first object. I think I was too busy making patterns with it! It’s a scarf and I finished it in the run up to Christmas.

scarf-folds

scarf-side

scarf-roll

scarf-ends

The yarn is handspun blue faced Leicester and bamboo that I carded into batts to make a gradient coreless core-spun yarn.

Over the Christmas/New Year period I finished plying some polworth yarn. I threaded both plies with beads and used the intermittent coils technique I learnt on Sarah Anderson’s course. My coils improved as I went along (my hands got better at controlling and moving the twist and coordinating with my feet!) but when I do another intermittent coiled yarn I’ll put more twist into the singles. I haven’t yet decided on a destination for this, or what technique I’ll use for it.

coils

During the summer I spun up some alpaca and bfl. In October I started spinning up some merino and seacell and last week I finally finished the spinning and started plying them together. Even at the last moment I wasn’t sure that plying them together was the thing to do, but as the colours have gone onto the bobbin I’ve been pleased with the result. I’m surprised that two very strongly coloured singles are making a paler more subtle plied yarn. I’m interested to see what the finished skeins will be like.

basket

abms-plying

Finally, I’m still working on the knitted shawl it’s been quite a few places with me, including a beach at the end of October while the children dug big holes in the sand.

sandyshawl

While at the beach I took the opportunity of going for an early morning walk and taking some photos. Here’s sun, sea and sand just after dawn:

sun and sea

sandysun

Harriette is really keen that I finish the shawl soon, so we can go outside for a bit and get some nice photos that include her. She’s hoping to see some daffodils.

It’s been a while!

runs a finger through the dust on the blog heading

Sorry about that!

fetches a feather duster and twirls it in the corners… sneezes!

Since we last spoke there’s been the Tour de France (and the much more interesting Tour de Fleece), I’ve attended two spinning workshops and been spinning, knitting, weaving, attempting to prevent the garden turning into a very wild place, running a code club and generally trying to keep up with two young children…

watches as some fluff bunnies bounce, like tumbleweed, across the bottom of the blog

I hope to catch up on some of that in future blog posts, in the meantime I’d like to show you what I’m currently working on.

shawl

It’s my first lace shawl, and I’m knitting it with my own handspun yarn.  Now, I have to admit that I couldn’t remember what fibre this was, but looking back at my blog, it appears to be some Blue Faced Leicester I dyed and spun on my Ashford wheel.  I’d been knitting for a few days when I realised that I’d Navaho plied it (I was wondering why the colours had remained separate)!

The pattern is True Romance Shawl by Juju Vail which was in Mollie Makes a few months ago.

shawl-edge

I’ve really enjoyed knitting it so far.  I got a huge buzz of satisfaction from fixing a mistake, two rows after I made it, without needing to tink back.  I’d skipped a yarn-over then added one at random a few stitches later.  I’d also made the yarn-over on the wrong side of my marker for the centre stitch (which added to the confusion and may have contributed to the mistake in the first place).  Anyway, with the aid of a crochet hook I created a new yarn-over and dropped the extra one, and after a couple of rows the mistake was invisible!  The lace is lovely and simple to work, but defies the placing of markers to make counting easier.

lace-close

jumps as a HUGE spider runs across the blog

Wow, that really was a big spider!  Did you see it?  I should probably go and get a glass and some cardboard and pop it outside, but I think I’ll leave it as a guard spider to scare the hackers who are constantly trying to discover my password.  Good luck to them I say! Most of the time I can’t remember it myself!

Anyway, Harriette my assistant is delighted I’m writing this blog post and is encouraging me to finish the shawl quickly so she can model it before it gets too cold and wet for a photoshoot in the garden!

So, TTFN until next time (and I promise I’ll try and come back much sooner).

Having a Play

The sun has been shining, nearly all week! It’s warm and the garden is growing away! I recently bought some pots for the patio, planted up with lovely spring flowers:

Viola

Today I spent a whole £1 on my new fibre tool.  A door stop (actually there were two in the pack).

I’ve been seeing rolags everywhere, and I’ve decided it’s about time I had a play!  I don’t have a blending board, but in theory I should be able to do something similar on my drum carder. So I’m going to get my coloured wool out, some sparkle, find some wooden knitting needles and have a little play with my drum carder to see what I can do.

What do I need the door stops for?  Theoretically they are pushed down the side of the main drum to hold it still while I’m making the rolags, but if they don’t work then I’ve got a couple of useful door stops!

Goldilocks and the Three WIPs

A long time ago I spun two different dyed tops of Shetland and plied them together.  But then I didn’t really like it enough to knit with.  At the last Creating Space I took it out and discussed the options: knit it, weave it, over-dye it (I really didn’t like the colour) or spin something else to weave with it.  I decided on the last option and grabbed some blended bamboo and merino tops to see if I could spin this using the coreless core spinning technique:

coreless

However, once home I decided I quite liked the variation of colour in the Shetland yarn and didn’t want to lose that by weaving with something else, but I still didn’t fancy knitting it.

yarn

So I worked out how much yarn I had and calculated that this was enough for a woven shawl.  I warped the loom with the larger skein and I’m weaving with the shorter skein.

warped

I have a third small skein, which is the result of plying one of the leftover singles with itself.  This is proving to be ideal to add a small amount of detail to the weaving in the form of Danish medallions (these look fiendishly complicated but turn out to be delightfully easy and I can see lots of ways to use them in my weaving…)

shuttles

danish

dms

The third WIP is a Bouclé yarn.  I’m using BFL for the core and binder with Mohair to form the loops, all dyed with the same colours.  I’ve spun the core and I’m working on the mohair single.  So far I’m not enjoying spinning the mohair, so I’m having to do this in small doses.

boucle

So where’s Goldilocks?  Well, sometime ago I mentioned that I was running out of space on my blog, but that a larger package was too expensive.  When my account came up for renewal I emailed the company at about 9:30 one evening and asked them if there was anything they could suggest.  About fifteen minutes later I got a reply with an alternative package.  When I accepted this offer they sent me an invoice describing it as the “Goldilocks Special” account.  A few minutes later I received another invoice with a more sensible name – but I much prefer the original!

Learning a New Skill on Christmas Day

On Christmas day (nearly 3 weeks ago!) I was very lucky to be able to spend the early morning and the end of the day with my children, but have a few clear hours to myself in the middle of the day.

Last year we had the same arrangement, so I had a cycle ride and watched Doctor Who.  This year I decided to learn a new skill.  Buoyed up with Christmas Cheer and on a sugar high from the Turkish Delight I decided to learn to warp up and weave on my new Inkle Loom.

I got the loom on the table and took off the side.  I emptied out my “weaving” yarn stash and chose a couple of yarns.  Then, with my book open at the right page, I started warping up.

Part way through my first attempt I realised that the yarn was supposed to go through the heddles, so I undid the warp and started again.  At the end of the second attempt I was happy and put the side back on.

warp-wrong

However, I quickly realised there was no way I could select both sets of threads independently.  I’d managed to put the heddles onto the wrong warp threads.  So I carefully unwound the warp and warped up a third time.

By now I’d got a reasonably rhythm going.  On the second warping attempt I’d added drawing pins by the first peg to hold warp threads when switching colours. I’d also discovered that the tension bar would move, so I needed to keep an eye on it while warping and move it back if necessary.  Finally, I’d realised that putting the heddles over my left wrist, ready for use, made the process much quicker.

wrist

This time I got it right:

correct

I wove a small header with waste yarn (this is normal practice with a table loom, but I don’t know if it is with an inkle loom).  Then I switched to using the same yarn as for the warp.  I don’t have a belt shuttle (which incorporates a bevelled edge for beating the weft), so I used a small stick shuttle to carry the weft and a metal ruler with a bevelled edge for the beater.

I haven’t had any time since Christmas to continue with the weaving, but I’m hoping to make this into a belt (I don’t like leather belts and struggle to find alternatives, so this is a perfect first inkle project).

progress

It was lovely getting to know the loom.  By each peg I discovered a pencilled label, giving the order the warp should go on.

start

Learning a new skill was a great way to spend some of Christmas day!

Nearly Forgotten!

The finished Dorset Horn yarn didn’t get included in yesterday’s stock taking! It’s made a lovely squishy 3-ply yarn, that’s slightly heavier than Double Knitting weight and is very lofty.

I spun it on my Haldane Lewis which has two spinning bobbins and one plying bobbin.  So, to enable enough bobbin space I re-wound the singles onto other bobbins (the third bobbin was rewound for consistency).

singles

This is a trick that you can do with double drive wheels.  A full bobbin is put on a lazy kate, with an empty one on the wheel.  Both parts of the driveband are transferred to the bobbin grove, and an arm of the flyer is tied to the mother-of-all to stop the flyer moving.  The single comes onto the bobbin on the wheel from the side (not through the wheel orifice).  The wheel is treadled as normal, and the single is guided by hand onto the bobbin, so that it fills up evenly.  It’s surprisingly quick* to re-wind the bobbins and helps to make plying easier as the bobbins unwind evenly.

fractal

fractal-close

I had initially intended a hat with this yarn, but I really want to show off the colour changes, so I may have something else in mind.

* Usually it’s quick.  However, for my final single the end fell off the bobbin I was winding onto,  so I had to reverse the process, re-glue the bobbin, then start again!

Taking Stock

January is a good time to take stock.  In my case it’s my handspun yarn.  I seem to be developing a bit of a stash.  Small lengths, longer lengths, different fibres, thicknesses and techniques.

Hand Spun

So, my January crafting resolution is to use my handspun!  I need to catalogue my yarns (work out their thicknesses and lengths) and then find suitable projects for them.

I don’t think I’m going to manage to stop spinning, but I’ll aim to use more handspun than I’m actually creating!

At the end of the year I’ll review my progress (and hopefully have a few finished objects to show!)

Mission Impossible

At this time of year the sun has barely risen before it is setting again, making project photography very difficult.  Today I have resorted to desk lights and daylight bulbs to take some pictures.  At other times I have boldly sneaked a finished skein of yarn into the local botanic gardens and taken pictures “on location” in the greenhouses.

However, the short days and low sun provide other opportunities.  It’s possible to see many more sunrises and sunsets than usual, and sometimes the light can be very warm and golden, making for lovely views.  In the last couple of weeks there have been some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, stretching across the whole sky. I was also very lucky to catch a parhelion, also known as a sundog (though according to atmosphere optics they are quite common).

sunset

parhelion

swans

So, other than watching the sky and feeding swans, what else have I been up to?  I’ve briefly had the sewing machine out and made something small to include in a Secret Santa swap (and as it’s secret that’s all I’ll say for the moment).  I had a dye session on Friday and a day out spinning at Creating Space yesterday.

I dyed kid mohair and BFL in the same colours, with the intention of making a bouclé yarn.

mohair

bfl

I also dyed Southdown (in blues and greens, though I’m not enamoured with the result) and Finnish (in pinks and reds).  The Finnish is lovely, very similar feel to the BFL, but a little less silky.  The Southdown is bouncy like the Dorset Horn.

southdown

finnish

Yesterday I spun my daughter’s wildcarded batts into a thick single.  I then carded three colours of Corriedale together and spun these into a thick single for plying.  Last night I decided I’d add to the experiment and threaded beads onto the thin single.

carded

wildsingle

beads

I’ve started to do a spiral ply with these, and can now appreciate the advice to use a commercial thread when adding beads.  Once added onto the single, the beads grip fairly well and are very heavy.  I only need a moderately weak spot in my single and I’ll have a scattering of beads all over the floor!