Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Dog Sitting Fiber Retreat. What?!

Next week I start dog sitting for some friends of mine.  I’ll be staying at their house for nearly two weeks.  I’ll take my dog, Toby.  Toby and Mari (their dog) have known each other for a number of years.  They get along just fine!

Here’s a picture of Mari.  She’s very handsome!

I have a grand plan to use my time at their house as a personal fiber retreat.  I will spin, weave, and knit up a storm.  And get some writing done too!  Oh yeah, I’ll walk the dogs a couple times a day…

My spinning plans:
I have a bunch of roving from Hidden Valley Farm and Woolen Mill  that I bought last summer for a “Spin-Knit Nexus” project (see blog entry June 3, 2011)  .  I’ve got 1 pound of a colorway called “Just Before Dawn” that is 80% Coopworth wool and 20% silk, and 1 pound of a second colorway called “Peacock” that is 75% Coopworth wool and 25% mohair.  I will make a set of 2-ply yarns from these two colors then knit them together into one project … a vest, I’m thinkin’.  One yarn will be 2 plies of Just Before Dawn, a second yarn will be two plies of Peacock, a third yarn will be a marl of one ply each of the two colors.  A fourth yarn will be an intermittently wrapped yarn from the two colors.  You can see an example of this yarn on my blog, September 5, 2011.

My weaving plans:
I’m taking my rigid heddle loom with me, and a big bag filled with several colors of bamboo yarn that my friend Carol S. dyed for me.  I want to weave a series of bamboo scarves.  Or I may just use the fabric I create in a sewing project….!

My knitting plans:
I’ve begun knitting a second version of my “Brick Road Afghan”.  This one is for Chris Roosien of Briar Rose Fibers.  Of course I’m knitting it from some of her lovely yarn, “Abundance”.  I’m nearly a quarter of the way through.  I expect to finish it during my retreat.  You can see a picture of the afghan in my blog entry on November 13, 2011 .

I want to start a scarf for my friend Molly L. from a skein of quiviuk.  Mmmmm.  I had originally selected a pattern from Nancy Bush’s book, Knitted Lace of Estonia, but I’ve changed my mind.  Last summer I bought a charming scarf pattern, “Fernfrost” designed by Ann Hanson ( ) .  I will make a skinny version of this scarf; there’s only 28.5g of the yarn. 

I’d also like to get back to a sock pattern that I started designing last year.  The sock is comprised of several slip stitch patterns.  I’m thinking I’ll call this pattern “Cityscape”.  I got the yarn in Neenah, Wisconsin in April 2010.  I started the first sock in September 2011…’s been stalled at the heel since then.  Get it done, whydoncha!

My writing plans:
I’ve got to get started on an article about an afghan I just finished.  It’s knitted (with a bit of crochet) out of hand spun Shetland wool in natural colors.  It’s meant to be representative of the Petoskey stone (the state stone of Michigan).   I posted a picture of some of the early medallions in a blog entry on April 21, 2011.  

My work is cut out for me.  I hope I make the most of this “retreat”!  Any words of encouragement would be most appreciated…..

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Locks in Spinning and Plying

I’ve been teaching some mini-workshops at my house this winter.  These are 1-2 hour sessions where I focus on one or maybe two main topics.  I also use these sessions to work out new ideas for workshops…..the folks who take these workshops are, after a fashion, my guinea pigs!

One of the experimental topics for me is “Spinning With Locks”.  A few weeks ago we covered Part 1:  spinning textured yarns by combining locks and roving together in various ways.  Here is one such yarn that is made from kid mohair locks spun together with a wool roving (from “Puff”, a sheep that is a Border Leicester X Corriedale X Romney….I think).  I call this yarn “Daguerreotype”:

And some more.  The one on the left is Lincoln Locks combined with Costwold carded roving.  The one on the right-top is Wensleydale locks with Wensleydale combed top.  The one on the bottom-right (my favorite!) is Teeswater locks with Corriedale-silk carded roving.

Tomorrow we cover Part 2:  incorporating locks while plying 2 smooth singles together.  I’ve been working on two such strategies.  Here’s a picture of one of the yarns.  I call it “confetti”.  It consists of singles spun from undyed Bluefaced Leicester combed top with dyed locks of Bluefaced Leicester plyed into the yarn intermittently.  I got both the combed top and the dyed locks last summer at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival from Riverwinds Farm, now my go-to source for BFL.  (It’s also my go-to source for Cormo!)

I am enjoying playing with locks.  Some delightful surprises have arisen!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

2012 Crop of Boot Socks

Winter is the time to wear boot socks. And winter is the time to knit them. I wrote about boot socks last winter. I’m thinkin’ that I’ll make writing about boot socks an annual tradition!

Here are some from this season’s crop:

I use Briggs & Little “Heritage” yarn (used to be Reynolds “Candide’). It’s just perfect for this project: sturdy, strong, just slightly heavier than standard worsted weight.

Last night I finished teaching a 3-session class on knitting basic boot socks at Interquilten.

There were five women in the class – a few who had just finished my beginning knitting class – and they all managed to finish one wearable sock! I do hope they send me pictures of their finished pairs!

I have a couple of other classes coming up at Interquilten, so if you’re in the neighborhood, join us! You can contact the owner, Tawni, by phone (231-276-9100) or by email (

Here’s the class line-up:

Mom & Me: Learn to Knit: This is a class for mother & child (or children) to learn the very basics of knitting. In the process of knitting a scarf, we will cover the knit stitch, the purl stitch, how to cast on, how to bind off, and how to weave in ends. A simple scarf pattern will be provided. Wednesdays, February 22 and 29, 4:00-5:30pm.

Knit Fingerless Mitts: This class is for individuals who know the very basics of knitting (the knit stitch, the purl stitch, cast on, bind off). In this class, we will knit a fingerless mitt. In the process, we will cover: how to measure and get the correct stitch gauge, how to use double-pointed needles for knitting in the round, how to create a simple cable pattern, and how to create both left- and right-leaning increases. The instructor will provide detailed pattern instructions. Wednesdays, March 7 and 14, 6:00-8:00pm.

Making Yarn with a Drop Spindle: Twisting fiber into yarn is arguably the oldest of all technologies. For most of human history, all yarns were spun using a very simple tool: the drop spindle. In this 2-session class, we will use drop spindles to create yarn from wool fiber. We will spin “singles” and we will make a 2-ply yarn. Participants will take home a CD drop spindle, a handout about drop spindling, and a small amount of wool to spin. Wednesdays, March 21 and 28, 6:00-7:30pm.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

More on Linen

Today I finished the weaving of a set of linen scrub cloths. It’s a really cool project created by Syne Mitchell, “Spa Wash Cloth on a Rigid-Heddle Loom” . I used my Ashford Knitter’s Loom. Syne has provided very good instructions and a short video to show a looping (pile) technique.

I’d first tried this project with some Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn. The wash cloths came out ok, but I’d run short of yarn, so they were on the small side. Also, I did not take into account the shrinkage in the warp direction, so they were not square.

This time, I’ve used a Euroflax linen yarn (sport weight) for the warp in a dusty purple color, and a cotton/linen slubbed yarn for the weft in a raspberry red color. This yarn is old, left over from a knitting project I completed 20 years ago. It’s a Crystal Palace yarn, “linen rustique”.

Here’s a picture of the weaving on the loom a few days ago.

You see that the pile does not go all the way out to the selvedge. There’s about an inch of plain weave on either side of the loopy section. I mention this because it had a significant effect on the warp tension as the weaving progressed….the pile was keeping the tension in the middle of the work tight, but the edges were loose. Early on this was not a problem, but as the fabric built up on the front roller, I ended up using bits of cardboard to shim the outside warp threads on the back roller. This didn’t happen with the cotton yarns I’d used before. But linen is essentially non-elastic. This may seem like a disadvantage, but I’m getting used to it.

I’m beginning to become friends with linen. I’m hoping for a long relationship.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Curious Case of the Hand Spinner

I get emails from the Yahoo Spin-List Group . Yesterday, a very interesting email was posted by Joan Henderson. She lives in Mississippi. A member of her local guild came into posession of a device that appears to be some sort of spinner with a flyer and bobbin, but instead of a drive wheel, it has handles for rotating the flyer by hand cranking.

What’s weird, however, is that it’s quite unclear how the yarn is supposed to be wound onto the bobbin. Here is what Joan initially posted:

“A fellow guild member has a piece of equipment that we are trying to use. It appears to be a hand spinner, similar to a kick spindle, but is equipped with a flyer and bobbin. I spin on both spindles and wheels and am pretty mechanical but this has me puzzled. I have pictures of the equipment on my flicker account,
Could any of you please look at the pictures and see if you can help? I can put it together but cannot find a way to wind on the yarn to the bobbin. The bobbin has yarn on it, not sure if the bobbin is original to the piece. It will spin great, but I can't find/fathom a way to make the bobbin stationary or reversed to wind the yarn. All pieces move together at the same time/rate, either direction. I am looking for ideas. Not sure when it was built, but the nameplate on it says it was built by Dempsey Perkins and I know he lives/lived in Louisiana."

Do look at her photos (click on her flicker link above). I am stumped. The responses that Joan got from the Spin-List all suggest that there must be some way of braking or retarding the bobbin to get some yarn take up.

Here is some more info that Joan sent me today, “I think the hole in the bobbin is significant but not sure how. The bobbin rotates freely when spun but goes with the flyer when the hand wheel is turned. There does not appear to be a place to use a brake band or any kind of restriction to the bobbin. I thought maybe something that would drop over the bolt head and go into the hole but the bolt head also turns. A spring attached to the hole and then ? might work but would have a limited distance for wind on. The yarn can be hand wound onto the bobbin but it is slow since you only have half the flyer to move it. I will continue to bounce ideas with you if you have others. I tried a piece of leather between the bobbin and bolt head and also a spring between the front of the bobbin and the flyer but since everything turns that didn't brake anything enough for wind on either.”

Do you have any ideas as to how this tool is meant to be used for spinning yarn? Let me know.