Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tree Weaving

This part of Michigan is largely covered by mixed deciduous and conifer woods.  Just the way I like it.

And this time of year is very good for looking at tree trunks and branches.  Most leaves are barely beginning to bud out so you can still see the skeleton of the trees very clearly.

On my morning walks with Toby, I often stroll along First St.  And the trees along this walk got me thinking of weaving.  Let me show you a few.

Warp.  Red pines are native to Michigan.  I don’t know the details of the history of lumber in this State, but I think most of the State was “de-tree’d” in the late 1800s.  The State then planted acres and acres of red pines.  The red pines in this picture look like such State-planted trees.  I do love red pines; they look very confident.  And very vertical.

Weft.  There is this one branch on this one tree that extends horizontally for what seems a mechanically impossible length.  Why doesn’t this branch just break?  I don’t know.

Weaving.  These are not all good pictures, but you get the idea.

I love trees.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Love Those Lock Yarns

For the past while I have been exploring the spinning of yarns that incorporate locks, both mohair and wool locks.  These yarns can be slow to make, but the resulting charm is worth the extra effort.  Here are some of these yarns:

The left most yarn is a two-ply with one of the plies from dyed Teeswater locks, and the other ply from a CVM-tussah silk blend that was dyed with indigo and osage (roving from Handspun by Stefania). 

Next is a two-ply yarn with both plies from undyed Bluefaced Leicester top (Riverwinds Farm)  with bits of kid, yearling, and adult mohair locks “caged” in.  Most of the locks were dyed; the grey locks were a natural color.  I got those lovely locks from Marie Glen who raises fiber animals in Kansas. 

In the middle is a two-ply yarn from wool roving (Puff’s fleece, I think) blended by hand with some faintly dyed kid mohair locks.

Next right is a two-ply yarn from undyed Bluefaced Leicester top.  This time I inserted BFL dyed locks into the plying.

The right most yarn is a tiny experimental skein of two plies of Puff with intermittent insertion of undyed Wesleydale locks.  I tried to maintain the lock structure and have them “hang out”, but they kept getting caught on the bobbin hooks and so the locks are rather flicked or combed out more than I wanted.  Ah, well.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Babes is Beautiful. A Shawl at Last!

A few years ago, I got a lovely light brown MerinoX fleece from my friend, Tina Ulbrick.  Then I washed it, combed it, and carded it.  You can see pictures and read about these steps in a blog entry from February 2011.

I had hoped to finish this shawl last spring.  That did not happen.  I only just started knitting the shawl less than four weeks ago.  And I blocked the shawl yesterday.

I had spun a total of six skeins of yarns:  two thick ( 4.25 oz, 232 yds; average of 55 yards per ounce), two medium (4.00 oz, 332 yds, average 83 yards per ounce), and two thin (2.30 oz, 318 yds, average 138 yards per ounce).

I decided to knit a square shawl from center out.  I cast on 8 sts and ended with 512 sts at bind off.  There are three sections:  1) The center panel is in garter stitch which uses the thick yarn.  2) That square center is surrounded by a border section in “Mrs. Montague’s Pattern” (see B. Walker’s book, A Treasury of Knitting Patterns) on a garter stitch background instead of a stockinette stitch background using the medium yarn.  3) The edge section is knitted from a variation of “Ploughed Acre” (again, see B. Walker’s book)  with the thin yarn.

Here’s a picture of the finished shawl.

Normally, when I design a project I sample and swatch and sample and swatch some more.  For this project, I just started at the cast on and knitted away.  I didn’t decide what to do with the border section until I’d knitted all the thick yarn.  And I didn’t decide what to do with the edge section until I’d knitted all the medium yarn.  To my delight, all things went surprisingly well (except for the binding off, as explained below).

Pleasant Surprise # 1:  Despite the different thicknesses of yarns, I used the same needle size throughout.  I used a US size 9 (5.5mm).  I did swatch the thick yarn to determine the size of needle to use.

Pleasant Surprise # 2:  This strategy of knitting from center out allows you to make any size shawl; the center, border, and edge are only as big as you have yarn to knit.

Unpleasant Surprise:  The bind off did not go as smoothly as the knitting of the shawl.  I wanted to use a K2tog bind off, and I wanted to use a double strand of the thin yarn for the bind off to give the bind-off edge a bit of heft.  For this to work, I needed to leave enough yarn for the bind off.

Here’s what I thought.  It seemed that the bind off edge would use approximately the same amount of yarn as two worked edge rounds.  So, as I was on the last skein of yarn I started weighing the ball of yarn after each two rounds of edge.

I had 1.40 oz of yarn left before round 47 (I started counting rounds at the beginning of the medium-weight-yarn border).
I had 1.25 oz of yarn left before round 49.
1.15 oz before round 51.
1.00 oz before round 53.
0.90 oz before round 55.
0.75 oz before round 57.
0.60 oz before round 59.
0.45 oz before round 61.

Naturally, I thought that I could work rounds 61 and 62 and still have plenty left (0.30 oz) for the bind off.  With a double strand of yarn, I started binding off.  The yarn was disappearing faster than I expected.  When I’d bound off one side of the square (i.e., a quarter of the distance), I measured the remaining yarn and discovered that I only had 0.20 oz left.  That made me nervous.

So, I undid the partially bound off edge, and then undid 2 rounds of the shawl.  One stitch at a time.

After the second time I bound off I had 0.20 oz of thin yarn left over.  That means I used 0.25 oz for the bind off, while it only took 0.15 oz to work 2 rounds!  Maybe I could have made it all the way around the first time I started binding off.  Maybe.

Here’s another picture with some back lighting so you can see the thicker bound off edge.  I know the photo is not crisp and clear, but it does show the edge nicely.

I do like the result; I think using three thicknesses of yarn in one project is a worthy strategy, but this shawl is on the small side.  When I took it off the needles, it measured 32” x 32” relaxed.  I wet-blocked it and pinned it out to 48” x 48”.  When it was dry and I unpinned it, it relaxed to only 40” x 40” square.  I wish I’d spun more yarn.  Next time….

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sheep Protected Kitchen Towel

February seemed to be the month of towel exchanges.  Both the Northland Weaving and Fiber Arts Guild (in Traverse City) and the Lake Charlevoix Area Weavers (in Charlevoix, of course) had kitchen towel exchanges.  Those weavers who participated each wove a series of kitchen towels and then traded them with other weavers.

A few folks from the two guilds participated in both towel exchanges.  I got to see the Northland Guild’s towels at their February meeting.  All were lovely.  And I got to see the towels that Carol S. got in the Charlevoix exchange at a spinning group meeting at her house last week.  Spectacular weaving examples all!

Since I can scarcely weave, I did not participate.  But I managed to luck out and get one sweet, sweet towel anyway.  Marty F. had participated in the Northland exchange, and she wove an extra towel for me as a very thoughtful birthday present.

Thank you, Marty!

The towel has several rows of sheep on it.  They look like they are standing guard.  That pattern was designed by Julie Hurd, one of the members of the Charlevoix group.  I took pictures of it on a sunny day a few weeks ago when the forsythia were at their peak.

I can’t imagine actually using such a lovely towel in the kitchen.  So, I am going to put it on top of my dresser.  Nice decoration!

By the way, the forsythia are still looking good.  Such a lovely yellow for spring.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Duluth, then Shepherd's Harvest

I’ll be hitting the road next month.  First I will be headed to Duluth, MN.  I’ll be visiting my friend, Judy McL.  While there, I’ll be giving a few beginning spinning lessons to a new spinner and friend of Judy.  I look forward to it!  Even more, I look forward to visiting Marie Glaesemann and her sheep.  Every year for the past several years, I have purchased a fleece or two from her very-well-cared-for sheep.  Each fleece has been wonderful.

My favorite, of course, is Lucy (see my blog entry March 30, 2010  and my blog entry January 23, 2011).  I think this is the fifth year in a row that I’ve purchased Lucy’s fleece.  In addition to Lucy’s fleece, I’m also getting Baby’s fleece.  Baby is a Romney/Corriedale X Coopworth/Romney cross.  White wool, with a lovely, even crimp.  And I’ll be picking up some of Marie’s fleeces for local fiber friends.  Those fleeces include:  Choco, Clara, and Puff.  If you’re counting, that’s 5 fleeces I’ll have in my car.

But my trip doesn’t end in Duluth.  From there, I’m driving to Lake Elmo, MN for the Shepherd’s Harvest Sheep & Wool Festival, May 12-13, 2012.  This will be my first time at this festival.  I’ll be teaching two workshops.

On Saturday, I’m teaching “Creating the Yarn You Want”.  Here’s the workshop description:

This workshop is designed for the spinner who wants to gain greater control over the final characteristics of the yarn she or he spins.  We will practice methods for controlling the thickness and twist of yarns.  We will cover practical techniques for creating yarns that are consistent from bobbin to bobbin, and that match already existing yarns, either hand spun or commercial.  We will also touch on techniques for plying a “balanced yarn”.

I’ve been teaching this workshop for many years, and I love it.  Here are a few pictures to represent the workshop:

On Sunday, May 13, I’m teaching “Diversity of Wool”.  Another of my favorite workshops.  Hey, aren’t they all?  Yes.  Here’s its description:

The wool from different breeds of sheep can vary substantially in softness, elasticity, luster, and feltability.  Through hands-on examination of fiber, yarns, and knitted swatches, we will cover these widely varying characteristics of wool.  In addition to sheep breed, other factors will be addressed that influence the characteristics of the final fiber project, such as fiber preparation and spinning techniques.  We will practice spinning wool from sheep breeds that span the spectrum from fine wool to medium wool to long, luster wool.  In addition, we will practice spinning wools that have been prepared in various ways.

Who doesn’t love wool and all its amazing properties?  I have loads of samples for this workshop and participants get to analyze all of them.  And they get to spin a variety of wools.  Some pictures to entice:

There is still space in both of these workshops.  Come!  Join the fun!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

It's a Small World

A few weeks ago I was web wandering and I stopped by the Spinners’ Weavers’ & Knitters’ Housecleaning Pages, a website for posting and buying used fiber equipment.  I got very excited when I saw an ad for a Reeves upright spinning wheel for sale.  Now, I’ve already got one, but my friend, Sylvia VM, has long coveted mine.

So, I emailed Sylvia and told her about the ad.  Then she called me and we chatted about it.  Sylvia wasn’t really in the market for a new wheel – she’d just ordered a lovely Journey Wheel   – but I persuaded her that the price was right and she should at least email the seller to get more information.

Sylvia emailed the seller, who happened to live in Ann Arbor.  Great!  The wheel did not have to leave the state!  Sylvia then called the seller.  Since Sylvia was not really in the market for a new wheel, she chatted at length just to fill the time.  At one point she mentioned her friend (that’s me) who owns the same wheel and said, “Maybe you know her:  Amy Tyler.”  The seller responded, “Amy!  Why, I roomed with Meg in college!”  Meg, by the way, is my sister.  And the seller was Carol D, one of her very good friends.

Needless to say, Sylvia was compelled to buy the wheel just because of the karmic circumstances.  A few days after she took possession, she brought it over so we could compare our wheels.  They are very close to identical.  Her wheel is a bit taller, and the turning on the front maiden is slightly different from mine.  She also has 3 whorls, for a total of 6 drive ratios, while I only have 1 whorl with 2 drive ratios.

Here’s Sylvia’s Small-World Wheel:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Mini Workshops

I am continuing to offer low-fee mini workshops during April at my house in Lake Ann, Michigan.  If you are interested, please contact me:

Thursday, April 5, 1-3pm
The Basics of Core Spinning:  Core spinning typically involves applying a layer of fiber to an already spun yarn.  The core yarn is often completely covered, but it is also fun to allow the core to peek through.  We will cover techniques for making fully- and partially-wrapped core spun yarns, both singles and 2-ply.
$15 fee
Bring your spinning wheel.

Thursday, April 12, 1-3pm
Introduction to Flick Carding:  A flick carder looks rather like a small hand card.  They come in “ones”, not in pairs.  These small, simple tools can be used to prepare a variety of fleeces for spinning a variety of yarns.  We will practice a few different techniques for using this tool, and we will use similar devices for getting the same effect.
$15 fee
Bring your spinning wheel; a flick carder or a dog rake or a pet slicker brush.

Wednesday, April 18, 1-3pm
Spinning for Socks. Preferences and Possibilities:  There is no One Way to spin yarn for socks.  How you spin largely depends on your sock preferences and your knitting preferences.  I will share with you my strategies for spinning successful sock yarns (including what fibers to use or avoid), and we will discuss alternative strategies that will also work and that you may prefer!
$15 fee
Bring your spinning wheel, and a bit of sock yarn that you really like.  Also, if you have any handspun, handknit socks, bring those too!

Thursday, April 26, 1-3pm
Washing Wool Fleeces:  Washing, or “scouring”, wool is the process for getting rid of lanolin, dirt, and so-forth before the wool is spun.  In this session, we will cover the most common basic “rules” for washing raw wool.  We will also cover variations and indiocyncrasies of this process.
$20 fee
Bring 4 ounces of raw wool if you’ve got it; a 5-gallon bucket if you got one.