Friday, August 19, 2011

Tour de Fleece - Basket o' Fun Morph

Day One:

Much of what I spun in its original form. From top left: Rambouillet, Hobbledehoy ArtBatt, braid of silk, handful of kid mohair locks from Kai Mohair, 1 lb. of Gulf Coast Native wool.

Day Six:

TdF11 Basket o' Fun - Day 6

Starting to morph! Gulf Coast Native and Rambouillet have been carded, mohair and ArtBatt have been spun, silk still in original form.

Day Twenty-three:

TdF11 - Day 23 - Last Day

All the finished yarns. Fibers from the Basket o' Fun have been spun, plus a skein of white Targhee, another ArtBatt, a braid of superwash merino from Cloudlover fibers, and the "get it off my bobbin so I can start spinning the good stuff" pink navajo-ply. In the middle is the bobbin of alpaca/feathers that I was working on at the close of the Tour.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tour de Fleece Days 12-21

Oh, hi. What the heck happened here? Did I forget to post about the end of the Tour? How...different. ;)

Let's see.

DAY 12
TdF11 - Day 12

More silk! Neverending silk!

DAY 13
TdF11 - Day 13

The silk ended after all. Whew. 238 yards, 1 oz., laceweight.

DAY 14
TdF11 - Day 14

After days of spinning silk, it was so refreshing to spin a quick bulky two ply from some gorgeous handpainted superwash Merino top from Cloudlover. Colorway is Crusoe.

DAY 15

TdF11 - Day 15

And then I took a break from sitting in my hotter-than-Hades apartment and headed to the Colorado Renaissance Festival with friends. Naturally I dressed up. And spun on my spindle. :) Here I'm spinning some hand-combed Rambouillet top.

DAY 16
TdF - Day 16

Targhee, spun on my finally-fixed Victoria. Notice I got carried away shooting the breeze with the neighbors and forgot to move the yarn-guide on a regular basis. Fail.

DAY 17

TdF11 - Day 17 (rest day)

Technically this was a Rest Day. But I did do a little carding. These loco batts have a little bit of everything from my scrap basket. Too bad my camera does not understand red. "Red? Does not compute. PINK!!!!!!!!!"

DAY 18
TdF11 - Day 18

Towards the end of the Tour, yarns were really coming together. Here's the finished yarn I started on Day 15. I was so happy with it. I think I'll be knitting some sort of little baby sweater for a friend from this lovely. 208 yards.

DAY 19
TdF11 - Day 19

The finished yarn from Day 16! So smooshtastic. Targhee wool, 461 yards, laceweight.

DAY 20
TdF11 - Day 20

This was a fun, quick spin! It's another corespun Hobbledehoy ArtBatt. Only about 60 yards, but uberbulky, with interesting textures.

DAY 21
TdF11 - Day 21

This pic is terrible, so I made sure it was small. It's hand-dyed alpaca with feathers inserted willy-nilly. I'm not sure how I feel about it, so I didn't get all gung-ho and finish it before the end of the Tour.

After Day 21, I kind of pooped out. I spent the next couple of days attending a wedding and then recovering from said wedding, and so my last photo was of the Basket o' Fun. I've decided to let the Basket o' Fun have its own special post. It's pretty cool to see it morph.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tour de Fleece - Days 6 - 11

Uh, whoops! Forgot to post for a few days there!

Day 6
TdF11 - Day 6

Corespun Hobbledehoy ArtBatt. We're talking soft wools, locks, bling, and angora spun around a cotton core. My favorite! About 40 yards, I think.

Day 7
TdF11 - Day 7

Finally started spinning my challenge yarn that counts towards both Team Raw Power! and Team A Spinner's Study. This is a singles yarn from Gulf Coast Native wool, which I processed from raw fleece. For Team Raw Power!, you must process 1 lb. of raw fleece into yarn. For Team A Spinner's Study, I'm doing Challenge #1, which is to spin a wool breed (or any fiber, I s'pose) which is new to me. Gulf Coast Native sheep are native to northwest Florida! They were brought there by Spanish settlers (think St. Augustine) and gradually adapted to their surroundings. The wool is moderately soft...soft enough for the blanket I'm planning (I think), but should hold up better than the ridiculously soft stuff. Nice to spin some yarn with some teeth.

Day 8
TdF11 -  Day 8

Here we have the first plied skein of Gulf Coast Native wool. Whoo hoo! About 180 yards.

Day 9
TdF11 - Day 9

Silk spinning from bombyx silk combed top. Yeah. I'm crazy. This skein is going to be eensy. Maybe I'll weave with it!

Day 10

Day of Rest from the Tour! However, I didn't rest...this was my LYS's spin-in day. So I went to that and spun more silk, which would be a boring photo.

Day 11
TdF11 - Day 11

The silk spinning goes on! But I also finished my second skein of the GCN fleece. Whoopity whoop!

And just for reference, here is a pic of the Basket o' Fun as it looked on Day 7:

TdF11 Basket o' Fun - Day 6

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tour de Fleece - Day 5

FINISHED! With the mohair boucle of crazy! 121 yards.

TdF11 Day 5 - Mohair Boucle Yarn

Gosh, it feels good to say that. Finished. Yay. Not that I didn't enjoy the process, it's just a long one, and I kept screwing up. First, I had to tease apart all the mohair, which took awhile. Then I spun the singles from the cloud, so that tends to mean fighting the fiber a bit. Mistake #1: spinning the singles Z instead of S. Then I plied with a commercial 80/20 angora/silk weaving yarn. Mistake #2: not putting in enough twist in this first S ply. Then I tried to add the binder thread by spinning Z again, effectively cabling the yarn. Unfortunately, without a huge amount of twist in the first round of plying, most of the neat boucle effect began to even out. This wouldn't have been as noticeable if I hadn't spun the singles in the wrong direction, but what can you say. Dang. So I cut off what I'd done so far and sent the first round of plying back through the wheel, adding more twist. Turns out it still wasn't quite enough twist, but by this time I'd had it, and just cabled the whole thing with the tencel binder thread.

Oh, well. Still looks pretty cool. Might use this for weaving.

TdF11 Day 5 - Mohair Boucle Yarn

Mileage check-in: 252 yards spun & plied

Tour de Fleece - Day 4

This is the mohair that never ends!

Being plied with commercial alpaca/silk weaving yarn:

TdF11 Day 4 - Mohair boucle being plied

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tour de Fleece - Day 3

Considering it was eleventy billion degrees inside my apartment on Day 3 of the tour (the high in Boulder was 100 degrees. Not okay.), I trucked my Kiwi outside and started on a mohair boucle yarn.

I began with luscious kid mohair locks from Kai Mohair, teased them apart, and spun "from the cloud."

The bobbin took awhile to fill, and I was moving at a snail's pace. My neighbors and I were gathered at the creek, since staying in our apartments was not advised, and we were a little lethargic.

I didn't get enormously far, but I did start plying the mohair with a pretty alpaca/silk thread. I'll probably finish that ply today before putting in a binder ply to hold it all together. Not sure what possessed me to do such a labor intensive yarn, especially because I'm on the Sprinters TdF team and we're supposed to spin like a mile or something, but I've never done a true mohair boucle before and wanted to give it a shot.

It was kind of too bad that the creek was snow melt and just dipping your feet in there could give you hypothermia (or at least in theory...Josh's feet were bright pink after a few seconds), but it did motivate us to gather the neighbors and head for the hills. Nederland, up in the mountains, was about 20 degrees cooler and had a fantastic fireworks display! Wishing everyone a happy 4th!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tour de Fleece - Day 2!

Today: The merino/silk/sparkle singles yarn...onward! Since I'm not enamored with this yarn, I decided to navajo (chain) ply it, mostly to quickly free up the bobbin for things I like a little more.

Tour de Fleece, Day 2

12 WPI - sport weight
131 yards
semiworsted: drumcarded prep, spun mostly woollen but sometimes worsted because I became laaaaaazy about it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tour de Fleece...and we're off!

Le Tour in pictures! Here we go. Day 1.

I had a merino/silk/sparkle batt that I finished spinning this morning on my Kiwi. I'm not super excited about it, and continue to be befuddled by the pull of pink. I don't even like pink. Or wear it. So why do I spin so much of it? It is a Mystery. Since it's not my favorite, I'm punishing it by making its photo small. Anyway, here is the bobbin, getting ready to be navajo-plyed:

TdF 2011 Day 1

I'll get to plying that puppy tomorrow, but in the meantime, I gathered together some other fibers that I'm definitely going to tackle during the Tour. We've got a lb. of Gulf Coast Native fleece, some Rambouillet I dyed a deep wine (carding this tomorrow), a FABULOUS Hobbledehoy ArtBatt, some lovely mohair by Kai Mohair in Texas (I just can't pass by that "salad bar" of dyed mohair without buying some!) and a gorgeous little braid of mulberry silk. Yum.

Then after breaky, Josh and I left for Micah and Kelly's farm, as Josh's & Micah's dad is in town and the three of them were going to build a gate for the front porch. My interest in gate-building is...uh...maybe 1%, so I was satisfied to sit on the porch with a cute pup and spin some Targhee batts I'd carded pre-Tour.

All was going swimmingly. Until this happened:

Sob! broken conrod joint! A flat on the first day of the Tour! Well, dang it. Tomorrow I guess I'll break out the superglue and/or duct tape and go to town on my poor, crippled Victoria. In the meantime, I still have the Kiwi! And this serves as your public service announcement: always be sure to own at least two spinning wheels.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gearing up...

Boom! Two posts in one day! That's right!

This one is more of an organizational mini-post, though. Tour de Fleece starts tomorrow, and I need to get all my ducks in a row. YEEEEEHAW!

Teams for TdF 2011:

- Sprinters (don't plan on spinning lace, necessarily, but I'll be spinning a LOT)
- Breakaways (whooooo, art yarns!)
- Team Raw Power (starting from 1 lb. of raw fleece)
- Team A Spinner's Study (spin something I've never spun before; in my case, Gulf Coast Native)
- Team Louet (I heart my Victoria)
- Team FAYS (fiber artists and yarn spinners - originally a Facebook group)
- Team Cloudlover (gotta support one of my fave indie dyers!)
- Team Tour de Batt (it's all about the carding)
- informal Team Hobbledehoy

...and...because I must,
- Team Hopelessly Overcommitted. And yes. I am.

Honestly? I'd love to join more teams, like some of the funky weird and/or nerdy ones. But much as I'd really like to be on Team Browncoats or Team Winter is Coming or Team Sparkle Ho, I'm full up. Like for realz. If I manage to keep up with the photography for all of this, it will be a freakin' miracle.

I've got a basket o' fibers ready to should see me through at least a week or two. I hope!


While I get my photos together (finally!) from the Forks trip and gather materials for this year's Tour de Fleece (starts tomorrow...whooohoo!), I thought I'd post a little about prepping & drafting, what I like to call yarngineering. Because everything needs a silly made-up word attached to it. Yes.

A friend of mine who is a newbie-ish spinner asked me how I'd recommend she prep and spin a lovely CVM (California Varigated Mutant) fleece she purchased at Estes Park Wool Market. Loaded question! But definitely worth a thoughtful answer. She was worried she'd do it "wrong" and ruin her fleece. Pshaw! We don't have wrong in spinning...we have it depends. ;)

You can prep any fleece any way you want to, but working with your fleece and listening to what it wants to do can really enhance your final yarn. Here are some options:

Carded fiber, long draw: best with fiber that is under 3 or so inches in length. This is because it's just easier to card and spin if it's short. Gives a soft, woolen yarn, fuzzy and lightweight, with lots of air, so it's super warm. Downside: pills easily.

Carded fiber, short draw: I do this one all the time, usually with one leg flung up on the couch and my eyes on the TV or a book, because I'm lazy. Just do a short draw, but let the twist go between your fingers. Best with fibers shorter than 3" due to the reasons above. Gives a woolen yarn with the above characteristics, but usually with more twist than long draw yarns.

Combed fiber, long or short woolen draw: Generally not recommended unless you're working with hand-combed top. Commercial top is usually too compacted for this method to work easily, so you'll find yourself fighting the fiber. Gives what's called a semi-woolen yarn.

Combed fiber, short worsted draw: good all-around method for commercial combed top. No twist is in the drafting triangle (between your hands/fingers). Also great for long wools, whether commercial prep or emphasizes shine and drape. Gives a worsted yarn that results in defined stitches and durable fabric. Downside: heavy, and not as much warmth as woolen yarn.

Carded fiber, short **worsted** draw: One of my favorite ways to spin. It seems to enhance the good points of both woolen and worsted spinning and somehow minimizes the downsides of each method. Gives what's called a semi-worsted yarn, which is light and fluffy, yet more defined & more durable than a usual woolen yarn. Again, this method is better with shorter wools under 3", due to having to be carded first. Long wools are tough to card.

Other wacky ways to spin:

Over-the-fold: This works well with ridiculously short or down fibers. You basically wrap the lock or tuft of roving over the first finger of your hand and spin off the tip of your finger. This gives a woolen-ish yarn, though each fiber is basically folded in half as you spin, so you generally end up with a bit of a halo in your yarn. If you're trying to play up a halo (like with angora bunny yarn), this is a great method. This method is also nice for slippery fibers (i.e. soysilk) tends to keep the slipperiness in check.

From the lock: Also great for very short or fine fibers (say, a fiber that's too short to comb and too fragile to card, like a superfine 1 1/2 inch-stapled Rambouillet lamb fleece...ask me how I know...). Most superfine fleeces nep up while being carded, and this is one way to avoid neps. Take each lock, give it a twist in the middle to keep it under control, and comb out each end with a flicker brush or dog comb. Then spin straight from either fluffed end. This gives a semi-worsted yarn. Downside: time-consuming.

Carded fiber (usually rolags), double-draft longdraw: This is really hard to master. Or do at all, in my case. It involves ramping up the ratio on your wheel, treadling quickly, drafting back very VERY quickly, then kind of walking your hand back up the yarn to even out the larger lumps to make a low-twist, fluffy yarn. Hard. Hard. Hard. In my opinion, of course.

So! With, say, a lovely CVM fleece such as my friend Danielle's, you might want to start at the end, so to speak. Do you have a project in mind? Do you want a higher or lower twist yarn? Generally speaking, a lower-twist yarn is great for lace knitting and for weaving delicate projects. Low-twist yarn drapes beautifully in lacework and "sits" well in weaving. Higher twist yarns are perfect for socks, rug warp or weft, and for giving a yarn extra strength and durability.

CVM fleeces tend to be on the shorter side, staple-length-wise...this is due to their Merino blood (all fine wool breeds have some merino blood somewhere). So I personally would card this fleece. Hand-combed top is luscious and wonderful to spin, but you would have a ton of waste with a shorter-staple fleece. Mini-combs with multiple rows of tines set close together would be a good choice if you decided to go the combed route. From the lock would be nice, but takes SO. MUCH. TIME. So carded might work out best, unless you have specialized equipment. Use carding cloth (either hand cards or drum carder) that has a higher number of TPI (tines per inch) so that the fine fibers are captured by the cloth and well-carded. Card slowly...CVM can be delicate and needs a light touch. Otherwise you'll be picking neps out of your batt or rolags as you spin.

Okay, so you have carded fleece. Now how to spin?? Just look over the above methods and decide what you want to emphasize in the yarn. Keep in mind that CVM is very crimpy, so the yarn will poof up a little when you're setting the twist and will also have great elasticity.

There are many, many ways to go about yarngineering. This post only touched on a few of the basics. Do you have a favorite way to prep and draft that isn't covered? Feel free to post it in the comments section! :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

An Open Letter to Mononucleosis

Oh, stupid mono. You broadsided me. I had no idea you were coming, then BOOM! there you were. Because of you, I spent 13 days straight in bed, moaning for my mom. And because of your pesky pre-fever fatigue and lingering after-effects, I haven't spun anything at all in over a month. A month! That is cruel, mono.

Coming back from my Forks trip, I was on a spinny high. I was freshly inspired by all the wonderful, interesting, and even mind-blowing experiences, and all I wanted to do after I returned was to put my new knowledge to use, spinning feathers and cotton straight from the boll and long-draw bison. But you wouldn't let me. No. You caused me to fall asleep at 8 p.m. and just curl up on the couch on the weekends, missing get-togethers with my friends. Then you really had your way. A fever that spiked over and over again, horrible chills, fatigue that caused me to have to rest midway between the bedroom and the bathroom, malaise that caused me to miss graduations and barbecues and Josh's Swedish family being in town. That was you.

Stupid mono. I wish I could completely kick you out of town, but I understand that you hide in my body, biding your time until you feel like coming back. Well, I refuse. You are not allowed back. I will drink gallons of Emergen-C and Good Belly and will take mountains of vitamins to prevent you from barging in again. You are not wanted here.


Monday, April 11, 2011


In T-minus 2 days, I'm leaving for a week in Washington State. I've been planning this since last August, and it's finally here...the Tribal Textile Treasures workshop with Judith Mackenzie McCuin. I'm extremely excited. And trying to contain myself, because I have three more days of the day job to wade through to get there.

My friends Connie, Stephanie, and Debi and I are leaving Wednesday evening, around 9:00 pm, I believe. We'll arrive in Seattle in time to crash in a nearby airport hotel, then rise bright and early to rent a car (more likely a minivan to hold the mounds of FIBER!), and drive to Forks, WA for the workshop. Recently we were e-mailed a rough itinerary, and it looks like Thursday will be a meet-and-greet, Friday will be the day we journey up to the Makah tribal museum and Neah Bay (and learn to weave with cedar), Saturday will be a spinathon of feathers, mountain goat, and woolly dog, Sunday will be our day in La Push, learning from the Quileute elders, and Monday we'll finish up around noon. My fiber buds and I decided early on to extend our trip a bit, and we'll be heading back to Seattle to explore the area a little. Tuesday we have plans to go whale-watching, which is pretty darn cool. The return date is Wednesday. It's times like these I really mourn the usual American policy of stingy time off!

You may have noticed that I mentioned a few places that are familiar from the Twilight books (Forks, La Push, etc.). I might be the only person in the world who has not read these books. I tried twice to read the first one forever ago and put it down. I hate to be critical (especially because I know how many people love these books), but I have a problem with the writing. Everyone I know swears up and down that I'm crazy. My little sister Alea (aka, liTTle) threatened me with bodily harm if I didn't read at least the first one, since I'll be in the heart of Twilight country. So I borrowed it from a friend and am plodding through. I'm on page 317, and it still hasn't grabbed me or anything. All that seems to be happening is a lot of mooning over how beautiful Edward is. Stephanie Meyer ignores the most basic rule of writing: show, don't tell. Weave the words to create mood, character, and plot. But don't directly tell the readers how we should be feeling.

I'm a reader and love great books and am not trying to be snobby or anything, but this book just seems...blah. We've got piles of basic subject-then-verb sentence structure, mounds of passive rather than active verbs, and I keep finding myself skimming rather than reading. Can someone please explain what I'm missing?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Sum Up

Believe it or not, I'm still alive!

I tend to get distracted. But here are a few things that are going on in this girl's fibery world...

WASHING: I've been washing up my last fleece of last year, trying to get ready for fleece season of this year. It's nearly upon us! Gotta get ready! :D So on Saturday I filled my low Rubbermaid bin with hot hot water from the water heater, boiling water from the stove, and a healthy glug of blue Dawn and submerged two lbs. of unbelievably gorgeous Cormo wool. Oh, Cormo. You make me swoon. I did three washes and three rinses (a dash of vinegar in the 2nd to last rinse). Cormo, with all its Merino content, can be greasy, and I really wanted it prepped just right. It's now outside on my balcony, drying in the sunshine.

I've tried the washing-in-tulle method, but failed miserably at it...all the locks bunched up at either end, I had nowhere to put the drying tulle sack, and ultimately I found it so enormously time-consuming that I went back to my tried and true method. This mostly involves dunking, soaking, and tossing the locks into another laundry basket to dry. I'll be documenting this highly unscientific method on the blog as more fleeces come to live with me in the coming spring. :)

SPINNING: Indigo Montoya (my Ashford Kiwi) has a slim line of the aforementioned Cormo on his bobbin. I handcombed a sample of already-washed-locks with my Alvin Ramer super mini combs and the resulting top was DELICIOUS. Yum. I'll probably ply this sample back on itself via the Andean plying method. Buttercup (my Louet Victoria) has been out and about lately, traveling to my LYS' Spin-in and to Stephanie's house. I just finished spinning two singles' worth of merino/silk/firestar/angelina on her, and plied them together on Indigo's jumbo flyer. Pics soon to come, if I can get my act together.

CARDING: Broke out the handcards for a special project recently...very controlled color blending for a pair of fingerless mitts for a friend of mine. I think I was successful...the finished yarn and mitts show a long, sloooooooow transition of color. Just lovely.

KNITTING: The mitts! I'm using the Churchmouse Welted Fingerless Gloves pattern as a jumping-off point.

DYEING: Not a whole lot lately, after getting all the preliminary dyeing done for the mitts.

TRAVELING: This is the most exciting thing! In just two weeks, I'll be traveling with a couple of fellow fiber fiends to Forks, WA for the Tribal Textile Treasures workshop with Judith Mackenzie McCuin. Yep, I'm pretty much insanely excited.

WEAVING: Finished a set of modified waffle weave handtowels for my mother-in-law. How about a picture? :) Here you go: