The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Look What I Got! September 6, 2011

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 1:17 pm
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What could be in the box?  And why does it have a huge question mark on it?  That seems mysterious.

 

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*gasp!*  It’s a Schacht Sidekick!

 

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It’s so small!  The cat isn’t even scared of it.  Folded up, it’s 21.5 inches tall, 8 inches wide, and 15 inches deep.  And it only weighs 13 pounds!  Which, honestly, is lighter than my laptop and just 3 pounds heavier than that cat.

 

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Unfolded, the wheel is still delightfully small.  The orifice is 25 inches tall once it’s all together, which is a nice comfortable height.  The treadles are great.  It’s noisier than my Matchless; I’m not sure if that’s because of the rubber drive band or what.  I don’t remember the Sidekick that I tried at the Sock Summit being noisy, but it might have been that the ambient noise was too high for me to hear it.  Or I was just too excited to pay attention.

 

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Look at how cute it is!  That drive wheel is so small.  And blue, I love that it’s blue.  So far I’ve spun a little on it- not as much as I’d like because I’ve been pretty busy with a new Knit Picks pattern and some late summer house cleaning.  But so far it’s great!  I’m going to find/make a nice padded case for it.  It comes with a carrying strap, but it’s a little short for my taste- the wheel is basically in your armpit when you put the strap on your shoulder.

 

Hmm, maybe I’ll go spin on it right now!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

Bat, Bat, and Batt February 7, 2011

Filed under: Knitting Projects,spinning — Cailyn @ 4:26 pm
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This is a bat.

 

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This is a bat.

 

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And this is a batt.

 

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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:

 

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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.

 

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The happy recipient!

 

Side Effects Include January 5, 2010

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 12:12 am
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Suffer from depression? Try Spinnyng, the new drug from ancient civilizations. Side effects may include sensitive thumbs, spinner’s limp, fuzzy growths known as "supplies," slubs, and increased risk of cashmere which could lead to serious problems with qiviut.

Ask your doctor for more information about Spinnyng!

 

I’ve been very diligent about taking my Spinnyng every day.  So far, I’ve managed to grow my stash quite a bit, following the plan laid out by my last post.  Let’s see, this pretty braid came from Knit Purl in Portland:

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I ran over to Knit Purl while everyone else was finishing their coffee (conveniently located two blocks from the yarn shop).  I might have gotten a few other things while I was there, including some Malabrigo Worsted in Oceanos and Madelinetosh merino in Fjord.  Oh yes, the fiber is Chameleon Colorworks 100% Blue Faced Leicester in the Taos colorway.

 

I also managed to connive the family into taking me to Weaving Works, under the pretense that it’s an interesting store even if you don’t do fiber crafts.  I’m not sure they bought it.  But I bought a lot of fiber!  I bought 2 oz of dyed merino in a colorway they call “Autumn.”  And they had some dyed merino/bamboo in the most gorgeous blue-grey that I couldn’t resist.  I got some of that (maybe more than “some”), some light blue, and a warm brown in the same fiber which is officially the first fiber that I’ve bought with an actual finished product in mind.  I plan on these fibers becoming a scarf of some sort, although I haven’t really thought about what kind of yarn I want to make yet.  I don’t quite feel confident enough in my spinning abilities to tackle that project yet.

 

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But I am getting in good practice!  Check out this bobbin:

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This is the 2.5 oz of Blue Faced Leicester that I bought in October from Weaving Works.  I dyed it with some food coloring using a hot pour technique.  It’s mostly light green with some spots of white, teal, and brown.  Not my best dye job, but then this isn’t my best spinning either.  This is purely practice spinning, although if I get something useable out of it I’ll be happy.  I just filled up the first bobbin tonight and started a second one.  Spinning is the best part of my day right now.  Very meditative and soothing, no pressure.  I go into my studio, put on an audiobook, and suddenly it’s two hours later.  I’m so addicted to spinning right now that I’ve even started bringing my spindle around town instead of a sock project!

 

But doing worry, loyal knitters, I have a new scarf pattern on the way.  It uses some very yummy Malabrigo Worsted.

 

Loot December 28, 2009

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 12:58 pm
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Yikes, this last week has been busy!  Family in town, Christmas preparation, tons of cooking… I’ve barely picked up my needles!  Let alone sit down to write a blog post.  Happily, the holiday season has gone off with barely a hitch.  Nothing burned in the kitchen (I cooked my first ham and turkey,) no one got brained with a Rock Band controller, and Santa did not trip down the stairs to fill stockings in the middle of the night.

 

We did have to make some last minute stockings, but they turned out pretty well.  My mother-in-law and I picked out a different fleece and button for each person.  We cut out the fleece in a vague stocking shape and then whip-stitched the two halves together.  Then we added a strip of green fleece to the top as trim, also whip-stitched, and sewed on a piece of fleece to hang the stockings.  The buttons hid the sewing of the hanger.  We might have added names (or more likely initials) if we had had more time.  They’re pretty cute, yes?

 

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This was a great Christmas for knitting.  I got a slew of great books

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and the Spin Off calendar and a great Knittyspin shirt

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and two Sheep Incognito prints, High Strung and Dare to be Different

 

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I love Conni Togel’s style.  Her sheep are so cute!  And funny.

 

And, the biggest gift…

 

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MY VERY OWN SCHACHT MATCHLESS.  Read that again.  SCHACHT MATCHLESS.  It treadles like a dream.  And it’s so pretty.  I just have to pet it every time I pass it.  I have to be careful not to drool it.

 

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To go with my spinning wheel, my in-laws gave me some Bijou yak fiber and a beautiful orifice hook (it has a clover on it, maybe it will bring me spinning luck?) and a WPI tool.  These were bought at Village Wools, one of my favorite stores in Albuquerque.

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Have to cut this short, we’re heading down to Pike Place and everyone’s waiting for me.  I’m hoping that if I look really cute in my new spinning shirt and start twitching from fiber withdrawal, they’ll let me swing by Weaving Works on the way.

 

I made yarn! September 22, 2009

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 3:20 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve now spun on a wheel and on a spindle.  While I was very frustrated at the beginning of the spindle class, it eventually made much more sense to me than spinning on a wheel.  There are so many parts to the wheel, so much happening at once, that I couldn’t really conceptualize what was going on.  It was easier on the spindle, once I got past the silently screaming phase anyway.

 

The kit that I bought for my spindle class came with a few ounces of fiber.  I used up most of the roving in class, but had a surprising amount of combed top left.  I like the top better anyway.  So, I spun that up over a week or so, getting better all the time.  Then came time to ply.  I completely forgot about making a plying ball, and put each ball of singles into a mug to keep them from rolling around and started plying.  It was very frustrating and I don’t think I’ll ever forget to make a plying ball again.

 

This is my two-ply, mostly worsted-spun yarn!

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I think it came out pretty well!  There’s hardly enough to do anything with, so I think I’ll tuck it away as my first real finished yarn.

 

After that, I found some of the white top that had been separated from its brethren for no apparent reason.  So I spun that and tried my hand at chain-plying.  That was really hard.  The single I spun was very “energetic” (the polite term for “way too overspun”) and that makes chain-plying much, much harder since the single keeps trying to strangle itself.  It’s kind of like wrestling with cling wrap.  When it worked, I loved the technique.  When it didn’t work, I wanted to burn the whole darn mess, except that it’s wool and wool doesn’t burn well.

 

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Worsted-spun chain-plied skeinlette.

 

For comparison, here’s all three of my yarns together.  Wheel-spun single, spindle-spun two-ply, and spindle-spun chain-ply.

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I do believe my drafting has gotten much better!

 

Spin Spin Spin December 8, 2008

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 10:15 pm
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While I was in Virginia, I mentioned to my mother that I was interested in learning how to spin.  Now, I’ve been putting off learning to spin for a few reasons.  One, I’m afraid I’ll love it.  Two, I’m afraid I won’t.  If I love it, well, I feel like I don’t have enough time as it is to do everything that I want to do.  Add spinning to the long list of crafts I already do and… But I really want to like spinning. Actually making yarn seems so fascinating to me.  I’m worried that I won’t enjoy it, that it’ll be a big hassle or I’ll be just plain bad at it.  So, I haven’t really applied myself towards finding a class and learning to spin.

 

As a nice surprise for me, my mother arranged for me to have a private spinning lesson at an LYS, Nature’s Yarns, Inc.  The shop and the people there were lovely.  When I went for my lesson, their knitting group was meeting, so the place was filled with people knitting, chatting, and even spinning.  I watched in awe as one woman smoothly, hardly even paying attention, churned out yard and yards of something that looked like it was going to be a fabulous yarn.  I was very jealous. 

 

After the requisite explanation of the parts of the wheel, which I only somewhat remember, we got down to business.  My instructor had me learning on a Louet wheel, which I think was the S10 (I think she called it something else. but I can’t quite remember.)  She had prepared three types of wool for me to try, a carded white wool, a rougher wool, and some blue top/roving.  She showed me how to draft the fiber to make it the right thickness before I started to spin.  Experienced spinners can draft as they spin, but there was no way that I was going to be able to do that. 

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The wheel that I was using only had one treadle, which meant that to go clockwise you put your toe down first and to go counter-clockwise you put your heel down first. (I think.)  This quickly became a problem.  I have trouble with clockwise/counter-clockwise on my best days.  Add in fibers, spinning machinery, and having to keep track of what I was doing?  Yeah, I think I unspun the yarn as much as I spun it.  I was supposed to turn the wheel counter-clockwise to spin the yarn.

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I knew that I was going to be bad at spinning the first time I tried it.  I seriously doubt that anyone has ever sat down at a wheel and spun a decent yarn their first time.  So I didn’t feel bad that my yarn was perhaps the ugliest thing this side of the Mississippi.  My instructor told me that I spun very well and maybe better than other beginners, but I bet she says that to all the beginners.  I mean, seriously, what else do you tell someone? 

(This is the first time I’ve tried putting a video on the blog.  Hopefully all will go well.  The audio really isn’t worthwhile, just some background chatter.  At :10 I add more fiber, badly.  At :30, I try to draft the fiber a little better to prevent a slub, but it didn’t really help.)

 

By the end of the lesson, I kind of had something resembling the hang of it.  Ok, I was nowhere near proficient and I think my yarn actually got worse towards the end.  But it was fun.  Learning to spin was kind of like learning to drive a car.  You sort of know where everything is and what everything does.  But you have no idea exactly how press to hit the pedals for a nice smooth ride.  That’s something that comes with practice.  It’s that infamous “feel” that makes things work.  At the end, I certainly didn’t have a “feel” for anything except when the fibers were going to fall apart.  My yarn is by turns horrifically over twisted or terribly under twisted.  It goes from bulky weight to finer than laceweight in the space of an inch.  I had no feel for how often to press down on the treadle (I’m pretty sure that my method of “find a rhythm and don’t ever stop” was dead wrong) and did you know that the bobbin doesn’t really pull the yarn?  You have to decide when the yarn has enough twist and then feed it into the bobbin.  You pinch the fiber in one hand until you get the right twist, then move the pinch up to twist the next section.  But I kept just over-twisting the first section because I would forget to put it on the bobbin.  And I’m pretty sure that I held my pinch too close and I should have sat back a little more.

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I’m not really sure if I enjoyed spinning or not.  It didn’t seize me immediately like knitting and crochet.  But one hour really isn’t enough to get the whole experience since it’s so complicated.  Maybe I’d like spinning more if I had actual yarn at the end of it instead of 4 yards of slubby junk?  In any case, I predict that by the end of next year, I’ll have a spinning wheel and hopefully something that looks like yarn.  The potential for learning there is just too much for me to resist.  Look at that yarn, though. So twisted that it can’t even straighten out.  At least I kind of like the colors.

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