The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Laceweight May 30, 2011

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 5:55 pm
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All week I said to myself, “I’ll write a post as soon as I have this yarn finished.  It shouldn’t take much longer.”  Well, it did take longer.




I started spinning the laceweight yarn that I sampled a last month.  I used some merino-bamboo fiber that I bought from Weaving Works forever ago; it doesn’t have a brand name or anything.  It’s a 50-50 blend which is shiny and silky and spins up just as nice as it looks.


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I sampled using just the color above (a color that I started to call in my head “Steel Teal”), but I wanted a little more depth and interest in my final yarn.  I also had some darker, bluer fiber of the same provenance, so I decided to use that as an “accent color” sort of thing.  I don’t have a good picture of it, but keeping with my theme I called this color “Steel Periwinkle.”  Which sounds a bit like a private eye in a bad detective flick.


I didn’t have any way to blend the fibers before spinning.  I couldn’t use my handcards for two reasons.  First, the fibers were too long.  The carding surface on mine is about 3 inches tall, which means I’ll just get a snarled mess if I try to card any fiber longer than that on them.  And second, I was going to spin this worsted, which is a combed preparation, so carding it to spin short draw seemed counter productive.  What I ended up doing was inspired by this free PDF article from Spin-Off.  I split my teal roving (by this I mean I tore off a hunk, then split that lengthwise into four portions) then tore off a similar sized hunk of periwinkle and split that into eight to twelve portions.  That way, the teal was the main color, but I’d get varying amounts of periwinkle in there- just a little for interest.


Of course, I realized after a few hours of spinning that I hadn’t weighed my fiber to see how much I had or divided it in half for even plies.  Being lazy, I decided that I would just spin until the bobbins looked about full the same amount.  By some miracle, this worked!  I ended up with about 3 yards of extra on the second bobbin, not even enough bother with!  I was rather shocked, actually.


I ended up with about 2.3 oz (66g) of two-ply mostly laceweight yarn.  Now, this yarn has enjoyed jerking me around a bit.  When I was spinning the singles, I always felt deep in my heart that the half-bobbin was never going to be enough for a shawl.  But as I was plying, I was sure that I had overshot my needs- it went on forever.  Then when it was washing, I just knew that I didn’t have enough- that it couldn’t be enough for a shawl.  But when I re-skeined it (which again took forever) I thought that I had plenty.  When I weighed it and it came in at a measly 2 ounces and change, I was pretty upset.  Until I looked at a few millspun yarns and realized that they’re often sold in 50g hanks and I had 66g, so I was pretty well off.


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I say “mostly” laceweight because I drifted around the target thickness some, and to be honest the majority of the yarn is just slightly heavier than a true laceweight.  Somewhere between a “light fingering” and “lace” really.  But, then again, I really dislike working with the super-thin true laceweight so maybe it’s for the best for my first try.  All in all, I’m pleased as punch about this yarn.


To prepare myself for spinning really thin yarn, I watched “Spinning for Lace” which I got as a download from the Interweave Knits store.  It was a big help.  Margaret Stove is great.  The main thrust of the video is spinning with superfine merino, but a lot of the information carries over to other fibers.  I particularly like her method of holding the singles during plying.  It’s been the most comfortable for me so far and offers great control.


Now I just have to design a shawl and knit 60-65 inches of it.  Piece of cake.


Some Random Things April 19, 2011

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 11:03 pm
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1) I’m busy working on the sock for Tangled.  It’s encrusted with twisted-stitch cables, so it’s slow going compared to my last sock design, so I was starting to get worried about the deadline.  Then I remembered that I thought about that when I designed the sock- that’s why the sock has a mostly stockinette foot, to balance out the slow cuff and leg.  Less worried now.


2) I ordered an inkle loom from Palmer Looms.  I can’t wait for it to get here.


3) When I need to let my hands rest from knitting, I have been spinning up some fiber for a sample to see what spinning laceweight is like.  Yesterday I made this cute little skein.  It was… really fun.  Hard to describe fun.  But I really enjoyed it and I have a feeling I’d better learn to like lace knitting more or find a friend who does, because lots more laceweight spinning is in my future!


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4) Looking back on that last thing, I can’t help thinking how fun it is to spin big fast yarns with a long draw.  Maybe I don’t need to get into lace knitting too much.


5) Either way, I’ve been designing a shawl on the side.  I’ve always wanted one and I’m not sure why.  Sure, they’re pretty, but would I ever use one?  Probably not.  But the urge has become to strong to resist.  I wasn’t thinking about knitting or spinning lace until I went to the library last week.  I found a giant book about Haapsalu lace shawls and in it’s stitch dictionary, I found the lace pattern that I have always wanted.




6) It’s going to be a rectangular shawl with scalloped edging on the short sides.  Sort of like some of the shawls in Knitting Lace of Estonia.  I think the project will be relegated to the UFO (unfinished objects) bin if I try to pick up stitches all around it and knit a border.  I don’t think knitting a separate one and sewing it on has better odds either.


7) I’ve got to get back to knitting that sock now.


Hot Off the Wheel April 12, 2011

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 11:42 am
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Not much going on here right now.  So here’s the pretty yarn I just spun last weekend.




This is the Hanks in the Hood batt that I tore into rolags in this post here.  It’s 3 oz, 50% merino, 50% bamboo.  I had trouble getting the right colors in the photos; the yarn is really a cool combination of grey-green and teal.




I spun this with a woolen long draw on my wheel, which gave me a nice poofy squishy yarn with great drape.  Very similar to the yarn I made in December, which was the point.  It varies between a DK and sport weight yarn and I think I’ve got about 80 yards of it.  I forgot to keep count of the turns around the niddy-noddy, so the yardage is a very rough estimate.


Did I mention that woolen long draw is fast?  I spun up the singles in just a few hours and plied in half the time.  But I like using worsted yarns better.  I think I’m going to spin up some worsted laceweight on my wheel next.


Madrona Was Fun February 22, 2011

Filed under: Musings,spinning — Cailyn @ 11:23 pm
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As you may have guessed from my little ditty last Thursday, I spent some time at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.  I actually didn’t spend much time there, just most of Thursday.  You would think that I wouldn’t forget about a fiber festival all of one hour from my house, but I did.  I remembered it far too late to sign up for regular classes.  I thought I would just go down for the marketplace again, like I did last year, but then I noticed the mini-class list.  The mini-classes were an hour and half (as opposed to three or six hours) and they spanned all kinds of topics.  Most importantly, I was in time for registration.  I signed up for a mini-class on hand cards on Thursday afternoon. 


I arrived about two hours before my class.  I went straight to the marketplace, as any reasonable person would.  After all, some of those fibers would go fast!  I took a walk around, looking at everything (and I do mean everything!) before doing a second round to actually buy things.  It was a hard decision!


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The fiber that opened the floodgates was this one, a merino/tencel blend.  It was buried under some silk blends, but the colors of this one grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go.  Seriously, it tried to eat my hand.  I love the lighter streaks of tencel in the wool.

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Then I spent a long time looking at silk hankies (also known as mawata to avoid confusion) at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth, along with a 100% silk colorway that was gorgeous.  But ultimately, I decided that I preferred the colors at another booth. Mawata is made by soaking and stretching a silkworm cocoons in layers on a frame so that it looks a little like a handkerchief (hence the confusing name “silk hanky”).  You can spin from them or stretch them out and knit with them unspun or a million other things.  Recently, the Yarn Harlot wrote about knitting mittens out of unspun mawata.  I wasn’t the only one to think that this idea looked fun; silk hankies were the hot item this year!  I got 14 g (about half an ounce) of mawata for $5 at the Wolf Creek Wools booth.  Like most silk, the color is incredibly intense in person.



I also bought some “Panda” merino/bamboo/nylon yarn in a nice spring blue, because well, why not?  I really like the yarns from Wolf Creek Wools.  I made a little shrug out of some merino/tencel of theirs that I bought at the Sock Summit in ‘09.




Then, I was admiring the spindles at the Carolina Homespun booth- they had a great selection.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Cascade Spindle Company spindles; I have four of them now, even if two are technically the same model.  I really want the Little Si spindle, not so much because I want to spin on it (although I bet it spins great) but because Little Si is only a few miles from my house.  I’m always on the lookout for it.  Long story short, Carolina Homespun didn’t have one, but they did have some other wonderful things.  I ended up getting this pretty “wristaff,” which isn’t from Cascade Spindle Co but from a woodturner in Canada.


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After that, I thought I was done shopping.  Except that I had a $5 coupon for any vendor that you got for registering for a class.  With that coupon burning in my pocket, I was torn between some knitting needles, some undyed silk, or some fiber from Hood Canal YarnsLast year, I bought some alpaca/silk fiber from Hood Canal Yarns which I really enjoyed spinning, even if it did take me half a year to do so.  I couldn’t decide which fiber to get there,until I noticed that everything I had bought so far was a very specific blue.  So, of course I bought this lovely blue fiber.  To stick with the theme.




The best part was, this fiber was just about $5 an ounce.  With the coupon, I basically got an ounce free!  3 oz of 75% Blue Faced Leicester and 25% silk.  Yummy.


Oh right, I also had a class!  I finished up shopping just in time to go to my class, be a little early, and chat with some of the other students.  The class I took was on using hand cards to make rolags and punis.  A puni is essentially the same thing as a rolag, but made smaller and denser and almost always with cotton.  Using hand cards looks so simple, but for some reason I just couldn’t get it.  All you do is brush one card across the other a few times, transfer the fiber to the other card, and repeat until you’re ready to roll.  Simple, see?  Why did it take me almost an hour to be able to do this thing that people have been doing for thousands of years?




I really have no answer.  Except that I wasn’t the only one to have trouble, so I guess that makes me feel a little better.  I did eventually get it, which made me really happy because spinning from a true carded rolag is awesome.  And so fast.  I see much more woolen spinning in my future.  I can’t wait to try these rolags with my Russian spindle!  In the picture above is a merino rolag (blue) and a cotton/silk puni.


I love going to these fiber festivals.  I don’t usually go with anyone, unless Lowell tags along, because none of my friends are quite as obsessive as I am about these sorts of things.  But it doesn’t matter.  You can sit chat with anyone there, knowing that they share in your passion for fiber.  I had a woman sit with me while I was practicing my carding and we chatted about her alpacas and I showed her what I could of carding.  It’s wonderful, even for an introvert like me, to just be around all those people who don’t look at you funny when you talk about the sleeve construction of your Central Park Hoodie.


Next year, I’m really going to try to remember about the registration day.


Madrona Song February 17, 2011

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 11:11 am
Tags: ,

Madrona (to the tune of “Peaches” by The Presidents of the USA)


Goin’ to Madrona, gonna spin me a lot of fiber

I’m goin’ to Madrona, gonna spin  me a lot of fiber

I’m goin’ to Madrona, gonna spin  me a lot of fiber

Fiber comes from a drum, it was put there by a thumb

In an indie studio

I had my little way I’d spin fiber every day

Soft wooly rovings in the shade


Turning a Batt into Rolags February 11, 2011

Filed under: spinning,Spinning Tutorial — Cailyn @ 2:25 pm
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Rolags are a woolen spinning preparation.  Because of their structure, the fibers wrap and twist around each other and keep a core of air in the yarn.  This makes the yarn super warm.  It’s also very soft.  Rolags are usually made on hand cards, but if you don’t have hand cards you can tear up a batt into rolags.  You could roll up the batt into one huuuuuge rolag, actually.  A batt is what comes off of a drum carder, but it’s really just a big version of what comes off of a set of hand cards.  As far as I know, you can make rolags any size you want them.




Unfold and unroll your batt onto a smooth surface, like a wood table.  You don’t want to do this on carpet!  The first time I did this, I was sitting on a hardwood floor.  The surface pictured is a laminate table from Ikea.


Notice how the batt has a “grain”?  The fibers aren’t perfectly aligned, but they are generally pointed left to right.  Turn the batt so that the “grain” is pointing towards you.  We’re going to strip the batt.


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Decide how wide you want your strips.  The width of the strip will become the length of the finished rolag.  Last time, I used the width of my closed hand as a guideline (about 5”), but I found those rolags to be a little short especially when had to switch to my wheel instead of the spindle.  This time, I used the width of my spread hand (about 7”).  You can, of course, use an actual ruler or a book or anything for this step.  Once you’ve got a width decided on, gently strip the batt upwards along the “grain.”




You should end up with a strip of fiber in your desired width.


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Turn the strip so the grain is horizontal again.  Place your hand or a straight edge on the strip about a staple-length in.  Make sure that you’ve got all the fibers under your hand or straightedge (you may have to scrunch the strip a little) and press down firmly.




Grasp the end of the strip in your other hand and pull gently.  If the pulling takes a lot of force, try moving your pressing hand forwards or backwards- likely your hand is not at the staple length.  Now, you don’t have to have the rolag be one staple length wide- you can put your hand two staple lengths in (just don’t pull from the end to tear the piece off), or just roll up the whole strip!


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You should end up with something like this.  The ends might be kind of raggity.  Unless it’s really ugly, don’t worry about it.  (I pulled that little bit of green fiber off the last piece there.)


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Start rolling the fibers up in the direction of the grain, from left to right.  This way, when you spin, the fibers will tangle around themselves- in a good way!  (If you roll from top to bottom, you get a semi-worsted preparation where the fibers are mostly aligned- I just learned that!)  Keep rolling until you get to the end of the piece, trying to keep the ends from flaring out too much.  Use a gentle touch.  I like to give my rolags a light roll against my pants when I’m done with them to smooth down any stray fibers.  Be gentle!!  You don’t want to squish out that core of air.


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Sometimes it’s easier to roll the fiber around a knitting needle or dowel with slippery fibers.




That’s it!  You can spin directly from these or attenuate/draft them into roving to spin.  I like to make the batt into rolags, then divide the resulting pile into the number of plies I want (in this case, two).  You could also split the batt ahead of time and keep the rolags separate. 


Rolag power!


Bat, Bat, and Batt February 7, 2011

Filed under: Knitting Projects,spinning — Cailyn @ 4:26 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

This is a bat.



This is a bat.




And this is a batt.




A Hanks in the Hood batt, to be exact.  The beauty above is half merino and half bamboo.  The shiny light blue fibers are the bamboo; the greenish fibers are the merino. 

Batts are made by putting fibers through a drum carder.  The process is similar to hand carding but is less time-consuming because of the large surface area of the drum.  Carders can blend fibers or colors together or allow them to be layered. 


Batts can be intimidating.  When unfolded, a batt is a big (seriously big!) rectangle of combed fibers, completely unlike the wrist-thick snakes of roving or top that are so common.  There are lots of different ways to spin batts- for example, you can pick a corner and start spinning, or strip it into roving and spin it that way. 


Usually I buy strips of top and spin them worsted.  I really value stitch definition in my yarns, so I didn’t think I would ever want to spin woolen which is softer but lacks definition.  But I started to get interested after I bought a Russian spindle.  It’s physically impossible to use a worsted short draw on a supported spindle like that!  (Ask me how I know.)  Having searched all over Russia (story coming later) and finally getting a spindle, I really wanted to use it.  And to do that, I needed a carded fiber, ideally one in the form of rolags.  I would have liked to make my own (I have plenty of “experimenting merino”) but I don’t have any hand cards and those things are expensive!


Wait, what was I talking about?  Oh right, batts.  I took the plunge and bought a batt when I realized that I could make a batt into rolags and spin them with a woolen long draw.  Ironically, I didn’t use the batt on my Russian spindle.  I decided to use the batt to spin and knit Lowell’s grandmother a birthday hat.  (Not a party hat, just a hat given to her on her birthday.)  This sounds like a lovely idea, right?  Especially since I had never used rolags, never spun with a long backwards draw, only had two weeks to spin then ply and then knit the hat, and I was travelling for one of those weeks.


But I did it!  I spun half the batt, which was the same as the one above in every aspect except color, on my Cascade Mt. Baker spindle.  The spindle broke just as I finished the first ply, so I had to spin the second single on my Matchless.  Don’t worry, a little wood glue has fixed the spindle right as rain, plus I got two more spindles for Christmas.  I was shocked- I loved spinning long draw.  I loved the little rolags, even though I had to join a new one every few minutes.  Do you know something- spinning woolen is fast.  I mean, seriously fast.  I ate up rolags like they were chocolate truffles.  I was done spinning and then plying the 4 oz batt in just over a week, even including spindle malfunction and travelling.  I even got the two singles to match up in length with only a five inch difference!  I swear, this was a magic batt!


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The yarn was beautiful.  It was soft and squishy, the drape was lovely, the bamboo made little shiny highlights, it was warm.  I was in love with this yarn and so was everyone else who touched it.  It was so nice that I’m kind of afraid to spin the other batt- what if it doesn’t come out as well?  Now, to be fair, the making of this yarn was not entirely without trouble.  I rolled the batt into rolags with the merino on the outside and the bamboo on the inside.  Often what would happen when I spun them is that the merino would pull off from the outside, leaving me at the end with a core of pure bamboo which was slippery and hard to spin long draw.  It also ruined the look I was going for, which was a mostly blended merino/bamboo yarn.  But, I still love how it turned out and, in retrospect, if I hadn’t been so stressed to finish in time, the bamboo wasn’t so bad.


Next post, I’ll show you how I made the batt into rolags as I prepare that blue batt up there to turn into a hopefully luscious yarn.


Oh, and here’s the finished product:




A simple beanie style hat with a garter brim and a wavy, lacy pattern.


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In the one on the right, you can really see the long runs of bamboo, even though the color is all off.


Grandmother's 80th Birthday 2010-12-03 129

The happy recipient!