Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nexus 4: Hands and Heads

What a week it was! The Midwest Weavers Conference was way too much fun. And exhausting. And wet (it rained most of the time). And full of weaving and fiber inspiration. There is too much to say about it in one blog entry, but let me start here with a few tales about workshop participants.

The Spin-Knit Nexus workshop yielded a lot of interesting yarns. The workshop participants were enthusiastic and inventive. Beth D. learned how to Andean ply. She wanted to have pictures to remind herself of the technique, so she pulled out her smart phone and snapped away. She then emailed me her pictures. Here’s Beth’s hand:

As a good chunk of Day 2 of the workshop, I had folks spin several 2-ply samples skeins, where one ply was from one hand painted combed top, and the other ply was from another hand painted combed top. Each student had roughly 2 ounces of fiber to spin. We made three smooth yarns and four textured yarns. At the end of the day, I suggested that it might be possible to knit a small hat with all the yarns they’d spun. Just a suggestion…..

The next morning, Sherri M. walked in and pulled out a hat that she’d knitted the previous night out of those 7 yarns (plus a tiny bit of some of the other yarn we’d made in the workshop). Whoa! Here she is wearing the hat:

By the way, Sherri is from Kansas. And she is one of the folks who will be coordinating the next Midwest Weavers Conference, “Prairie Winds”, June 21-23, 2013. It’ll be in Emporia, Kansas. I can hardly wait!

Here's a picture of some yarns that students spun on Day 3 of the Nexus workshop:

One more quick story: Julie A. took both the Beginning Spinning workshop and the Blending Colors at the Wheel workshop. When I first met her at the conference, her name tag was flipped around, showing the back side. On the back side was her ticket for the tour to Chassell, Michigan. All I could read was “Chassell Tour”. I thought, “What a lovely name.” So, for most of the week, I called her Chassell. (Once in awhile I’d call her Julie.) Chassell Tour. Don’t you think it’s a nice name? She said she was going to name her spinning wheel Chassell. I think I’ll name my next dog Chassell.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nexus 3: Right Side Up?

There are many ways to take bits of fiber of many solid colors and blend them into one yarn. Taking such bits is also a nice way to make multiple different yarns that go together. Such approaches are a good part of my upcoming workshop, “Spin-Knit Nexus” at the Midwest Weavers Conference.

I wrote an article about one such approach for Spin-Off a few years ago, “Blending Colors at the Wheel”. You can download the article for free from their Spinning Daily website. Click here.

In the article, I described various ways of pre-drafting and then spinning bits of different rovings or tops to get a variety of blended effects. Here’s a picture of some samples:

I then used this blending technique to create yarns for a sweater that I’ve named “Right Side Up?”. I made three yarns: one all white, one all purple, and one that was a blend of the white and purple. The yarns:

And here’s a picture of my friend Sylvia VM wearing the sweater:

And here’s a picture of the back of the sweater:

The reason the sweater is named “Right Side Up?” is that Sylvia took the sweater, turned it up-side-down, and put it on again. And it worked!!!! Here she is wearing the sweater up-side-down:

I do have plans to write up this pattern, but I need to knit it once more in a different size to make sure it works. A near-future project.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Nexus 2: Pretty in Polwarth

Nexus (neks’ …ôs) n. 1 a connection, tie, or link between individuals of a group, members of a series, etc. 2 the group or series connected.”

~~Webster’s New World College Dictionary

Three days of connection between spinning and knitting. That’s what I’ve got planned for my pre-conference workshop in Hancock.

One of my favorite ways to connect spinning and knitting is to combine two hand-painted tops in multiple ways.

Here’s one example: I bought some yummy hand-painted Polwarth wool top from Briar Rose Fibers
in a sizzling combo of oranges.

And I got some equally yummy hand-painted Polwarth wool top from River’s Edge Fiber Arts
in a succulent combo of fruit colors.

There are so many ways to spin these two fibers. My first decision was to spin the singles from both wools with the same thickness and twist.

Then I created a 2-ply yarn from just the orange fiber.

And a 2-ply yarn from just the fruit fiber.

Now, you may think that these two colorways wouldn’t go together, but I had to see for myself. I created two 2-ply yarns with one ply from the orange fiber and one ply from the fruit fiber. And, instead of plying a balanced yarn, I created a couple of textured yarns.

Here’s a “knot” yarn. I call this type of knot yarn “pill bug yarn” because the knots look like pill bugs

And here’s a “snarl” yarn from the same two plies.

I think these yarns could be combined in a single knitted project to great effect. I was thinking of some kind of cowl/wrap, using the smooth yarns in a cabled pattern and the textured yarns as edge interest. What do you think?

Friday, June 3, 2011


I’m getting ready to teach five days of workshops at the Midwest Weavers Conference, “Northern Wefts”, in Hancock, Michigan.
And my dreams are filling with the preparations. I am especially looking forward to my pre-conference workshop, “The Spin-Knit Nexus”. I see this workshop as central to my spinning and knitting approach: I often explore the point where spinning and knitting come together by spinning a series of yarns that are different but compatible and that can then be knitted into one unified project.

One of my first attempts to create such a nexus project was my “Before and After” jacket. Many years ago, when I was a “young” spinner, I wondered why some spinners preferred to dye the fiber and then spin it, and some spinners preferred to spin the fiber and then dye it.

I decided to try both approaches and put them into one project.

I got myself three or so pounds of Bluefaced Leicester wool combed top. I spun up about half of it into a heavy worsted weight yarn. Now, I’m not a dyer, so I commissioned Nancy Finn of “Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks”
to dye the yarn I had spun plus the rest of the combed top. I wanted her to dye both the yarn and the top in the same colorway. I suggested spice colors (you know….cayenne, cinnamon, clove, cumin). She did a magnificent job. I then went on to spin up the top she’d dyed, and then I designed and knitted a jacket that combined the yarn that was spun-and-then-dyed and the yarn that was dyed-and-then-spun. The jacket now belongs to my friend, Carol S. Here she is wearing the jacket:

For the upcoming workshop, I want to give the students a similar opportunity to play with this combination. I took some more Bluefaced Leicester wool top, and spun up half of it. Then I commissioned my friend, Elizabeth K., to dye both the yarn and the wool in the same colorway. I let her decide on the colors. I picked up the dyed wool and yarn the other day. Here’s what the workshop participants get to play with:

There are several nexus approaches that I cover in this workshop. I will write about more in the days to come.