A Handspun Sock Update: 2.5 Years Later

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

In 2016 I spun yarn to make a pair of socks. I used Louet Northern Lights Roving, which is a neither soft nor scratchy 100% wool, to spin a sock yarn with an opposing 3-ply construction. The one ply that is spun in the same direction as the plying twist is thought to add elasticity and durability because of the extra twist. I wanted to test this idea for myself. Would an opposing 3-ply be more durable than the traditional construction? I knit the yarn into a pair of socks for The Bearded One and they’ve become one of his favorites. They have seen constant wear during the chillier months for the past 2.5 years.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

So how are these two and a half year old socks holding up? Really well. There are no holes or thin spots threatening to become holes. The bind off at the cuff shows no sign of fraying or extra wear and tear. The soles may be more felted in spots, but overall the stitches are still distinct and can be stretched apart.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

The only real difference that I can see is how much the yarn has pilled on the inside. So far, this pilling doesn’t seem to affected the sole’s durability. If anything, the “loose” wool is making the socks more cushioned and insulating. The only other sign of wear is that the surface of the socks that rubs against pants and slippers aren’t as smooth as they used to be.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

As for how the socks are washed, I treat them no differently than any of my other handknit socks. They get a 20+ minute soak in warm water with Eucalan. Then I roll them up in a towel and squish out the excess water before hanging them up to dry.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

2 years ago I was curious if an opposing 3-ply sock yarn would be more durable than a traditional construction. I even shared an update showing how the socks were wearing after a few months. Comparing the then and now photos shows that the socks have held up wonderfully. I expect that it’ll be a few more years before I need to make any significant repairs. This is a major difference from thick house socks that I’ve knit from 100% wool commercial yarns. I’ve got a whole pile of them with holes in the toes, soles, and heels that I’ve been meaning to repair for years. It’s refreshing to see a pair of 100% wool socks that are still going strong after years of dedicated wear.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

If your interested in spinning your own wool sock yarn and ditching the nylon, check out the Tuff Socks Naturally project which aims to knit a sustainable sock without nylon or superwash wool. The #tuffsocksnaturally tag on Instagram has some beautiful and interesting examples.

I still can’t say if an opposing 3-ply yarn is more durable than a traditional 3-ply because I haven’t spun a traditional sock yarn yet. I’m definitely considering giving each construction a try so I can make a pair of handspun socks (or two) for myself.

Finally! Soft Alpaca Handspun

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

After many long months and countless other projects, I started feeling the itch to get back to spinning yarn. I hadn’t sat down at my wheel since the end of Tour de Fleece in 2017! Pretty sure my Sidekick was starting to feel a little lonely, and I can’t have that. My last project was 4 ounces of alpaca that I’d turned into batts on a rented drum carder. I spun the batts during Tour de Fleece and set them aside to let the twist relax a little before plying. I just never got to the plying part so the singles have been looking pretty on my shelves since then.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

Since the singles were the closest thing at hand and the easiest thing to spin (plus I had to clear my bobbins), they went on the wheel first. Not wanting any leftovers, I decided to ply each single with itself which meant winding each into a center pull ball. Happily, not one of the single broke during winding, and I wasn’t particularly gentle with them either. I’m not going to lie here - I was worried that the plies had too much twist because they didn’t pull apart. Weird thought for a spinner to have, I know, but my previous attempts at spinning 100% alpaca didn’t turn out great.  At least this batch of alpaca was still soft at this point.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

My last alpaca handspun turned out wiry and over-twisted which I did not want to repeat. After all, I only had this fiber in my stash for 10 years because I didn’t want to mess it up. So that I’d have to work to add too much plying twist, I went with a slower ratio for me, 5.7:1. Even though the drafting twist had been resting for several months, which could have skewed things a bit, I still aimed to line up the individual fibers and create a balanced yarn. Mostly pulled it off, and the newly plied yarn was soft and not wiry at all. Whew!

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

I didn’t wash this fiber before turning it into batts which I probably should have because I was cleaning up dirt and VM, and washing my hands every step of the way. I did my usual 20 minute soak with Eucalan and the water was so dirty that I couldn’t see the bottom of the sink. There was no missing that dirt ring though. It took 3 soaks for the water to finally run clear. After squeezing out the excess water, I lightly snapped the yarn but skipped thwacking it against the shower wall because it already had enough of a halo.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

The yarn looked pretty limp and sad when I hung it up to dry, but that changed fast. I suppose this is the reason why you spin samples first.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

All 4 skeins bloomed into an airy, plump, and positively luscious yarn. Not one of them was wiry or prickly or over-spun. There’s definitely some thick-and-thin spots but it’s reasonably consistent overall. Plus, getting rid of all that dirt made the yarn even softer which I didn’t think was possible. Washing and setting the twist had some other side effects too. Before washing, 2 of the skeins were a DK weight and 2 of the skeins were about worsted weight. All of them plumped up to a light bulky weight of about 7-8 WPI. Of course, this changed the yardage too. The 313 yds I started with turned into 264 yards, a difference of about 15%. Totally not complaining though.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

So now what? I’ve finally spun soft alpaca yarn which is a first for me and a long time goal. Definitely going to knit it into some sort of cowl or small shawl because there’s plenty of yardage to play with. Maybe something based in garter stitch with a simple lace pattern. Or I could just keep wearing it as is. :D It is really soft after all. I’m also thinking about submitting the best skein of the 4 to the handspun competition at a local fiber festival - that is if I can figure out all the rules and requirements.

3 Tips for Easier Plying from a Center Pull Ball

Use these 3 tips to make plying yarn from a center pull ball easier and tangle free. #tutorial | withwool.com

Knowing how to ply from a center pull ball is a handy trick to know. It’s great for plying those leftover singles on a bobbin or spindle. It’s great for when you don’t want to have any leftover singles/plies at all. You could even ply yarn from 2 separate center pull balls, not just the ends of one ball.

All that said, you have to use the technique carefully because if can affect the original drafting twist of your plies. This post from Jillian Moreno shows why. Still, there might be cases where you want to affect the twist. Maybe your plies have been sitting for months and the original twist isn’t as active. Or you want to add more twist because there wasn’t enough during drafting.

Personally, I haven’t noticed a huge difference in yarns that I’ve plied from a center pull ball vs. yarns that I’ve plied from bobbins. But I’m not spinning lace weight. In fact, some of my favorite yarns that I’ve ever spun have been plied from center pull balls. So here are my favorite tips and tricks for plying from center pull balls that I’ve learned over the years.

Use something as a center support for the ball.

Use these 3 tips to make plying yarn from a center pull ball easier and tangle free. #tutorial | withwool.com

As you work, the ply that formed the center core of the ball is being pulled out and moving onto the bobbin or the spindle. When enough of the center is gone, the ball will collapse on itself which means tangles and knots and aggravation. Putting something into the middle of the ball when it comes off the winder gives the ball a core of support which prevents those frustrating tangles.

Use these 3 tips to make plying yarn from a center pull ball easier and tangle free. #tutorial | withwool.com

And even if the ball does collapse on itself, like mine did in the photo above, the core will keep the ball open enough to work from and help prevent knots. I was able to ply the rest of this yarn instead of calling the whole thing a loss.

The center core doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just make sure that what you use is long enough to stick out from both ends of the ball.

  • Rolled up pieces of paper, like shown in this tutorial, work just fine. They’re also a good option if you’re taking a class or don’t have anything else close at hand.
  • A simple nostepinne is a great option for larger center pull balls and I'm using one in this example. They even come with a handle which makes holding onto them even easier.
  • And don’t forget about chopsticks, long handled spoons, or straight knitting needles. Whatever you’re using as a core doesn’t have to be big around, just smooth so it won’t snag.

Keep your hands farther back from the orifice.

How close you keep you’re hands to the orifice during plying seems to come down to personal preference; however, working farther back makes things a little easier. Keep your front hand about 8 - 12”, or 20 - 30 cm, from the orifice.  The extra space gives you more room to properly tension the plies and sort out tangles before there’s a problem.

Working farther back from the orifice also means that you can add twist at a slower rate since the twist will build up over the distance from the orifice to your hands. Then you’ll have a little more time and wiggle room to correct any issues.

One hand controls the plying twist, the other hand tensions the plies.

A post shared by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

I’m using my left hand, aka the front hand, to control when the twist enters the plies, and my right hand, aka the back hand, is holding the center pull ball on the nostepinne. Use which ever hand you prefer for each task.

The front hand only has 2 jobs: control when twist moves into the plies and to feed the yarn onto the bobbin.

The back hand holds the center pull ball and does all the work of keeping the plies evenly tensioned. You mainly want to hold the core support and just keep a thumb and a finger or two on the ball to hold it in place. The outer strand will be able to move more freely than if you’re holding it without the center core. Using this hold, I can angle and move my hand back and forth to evenly tension the plies. Think of it a dance you’re doing with the yarn.

The ball can sit farther back on the core so that the center ply wraps and feeds out slower. If the ball is closer to the tip, the center ply feeds out faster. One position isn’t better than the other. So experiment to see which spot works better for you and the yarn.

17 Fiber Arts Things That Made 2017 Great

I’ve enjoyed making lists since I was kid and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I wanted to write up a 2017 review, but couldn’t muster up the energy or motivation to write about in paragraph form. So, I’m taking a page from Austin Kleon’s blog and making a list of the knitting and spinning that made 2017 great. Somehow the 2017 list was 17 items long without any extra help from me.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

1. The Bearded One and I going to our first fiber festival, Estes Park Wool Market.

2. Completing 100 Days of Spinning where I spun and worked with handspun yarn for almost all of those 100 days.

3. Putting in the work to design more knitting patterns. Most of them didn’t make it past the layout stage, but they’re so close to being released in 2018.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

4. Releasing the Melded Scarf, a free pattern for a striped reversible scarf, in February.

5. Knitting a Boneyard shawl with my own handspun yarn.

6. Mostly staying on the sheep and being more conscious about my yarn and fiber buying. The stash is still worthy of the name Yarn Fort, but it hasn’t taken over any more space.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

7. Spinning along with Tour de Fleece for the 5th row in year.

8. Pushing my spinning boundaries to try new batts and more textured yarns.

9. Going to Interweave Yarn Fest.

10. Finally playing around with the drum carder and figuring out how to use it.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

11. Digging into my fiber stash and spinning a beautiful gradient from one giant batt. 8 matching skeins!

12. Taking my first ever spinning class about different ways to spin color with Maggie Casey.

13. Going to meetings and being a member of my local fiber guild.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com
All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com
All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

14. The KIS hat and Mosaic Sisters patterns being used to teach classes on color work and mosaic knitting respectively.

15. Getting a whole room to use as my studio where I can work and get to all my art supplies, yarn, books, and notions. Wanted this for years so it’s great, but scary too.

16. Developing a new appreciation for hats knit with fingering weight yarn.

17. Wearing and enjoying my own hand knits. And seeing the Bearded One wearing and enjoying his hand knits too.

A Handspun Boneyard

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

I’ve wanted to knit a Boneyard Shawl for years. Not with the burning desire that makes you drop everything and head to the yarn shop, but when I eventually found the right yarn. Eventually is the key word. I wanted a variegated yarn that’d be fun to knit and fun to wear. I’d know it when I found it. I didn’t find that perfect yarn because I ended up spinning it during the 2017 Tour de Fleece. It’s a thick-and-thin variegated mix of greens, blues, and browns. The skein is one of my favorite yarns that I’ve spun this year, and was thrilled that I had enough yardage to make something big out of it. Well, bigger than a hat anyway.

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

With 260 yards of aran weight to work with, I knew it was finally time to cast on for a Boneyard Shawl. So I did, and it was a fun knit. The shawl was so hard to put down because it was good auto-pilot knitting and I wanted to see what color would come next. The only change I made was to switch out the m1’s for lifted increases.

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

The only trouble came when I was trying to figure out how much shawl I could knit. There were still a few yards left and I didn’t want to waste any of them. So, the Boneyard sat on my desk for months, mocking me, while I worked on other projects. The shawl would probably still be sitting on my desk too if I hadn’t needed a break from all my holiday gift knitting. I’d knit 7 ridges already and decided to start the edge and see how far I got. A few tv shows and an inch of garter stitch later, it was time to bind off. Why did that take me so long to do? Ugh! At least I made the most of the yardage.

It may have taken years to find the right yarn and also a good bit of procrastination, but this Boneyard Shawl is just what I imagined. It's cosy, just the right size to wear under a coat, and special. Also, it feels good to knit with my own handspun in the same year that I made it. Who knew?

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

The Details
Pattern: Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West
Yarn: 253 yds 2-ply aran weight handspun
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm)
Dates: August 20 - December 2, 2017
@Ravelry

Tour de Fleece 2017

12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

And that's a wrap! Another Tour de Fleece is behind us. If you spun along this year, I hope you enjoyed yourself and made handspun you can't wait to use. 

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

While I didn't spin every ounce of fiber I pulled from the stash, I'm still pleased with what I did accomplish. I started spinning just for the fun of it with the rough goal of making a heavier than a sport weight yarn. Definitely succeeded on that count. The first skein of the Tour is a textured bulky yarn and the closest I've come to spinning art yarn in awhile. It's 158 yards of Shetland Wool, Alpaca, and Silk Noil. You can read more about the technicals of how I spun it here

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

The second skein started as 4.2 ounces of hand painted top and turned into 260 yards of aran weight. I split the top in half down the middle. The first ply I spun as is and second I split in half again. It made a nice lazy fractal that I really want to knit. Pretty sure I've got enough yardage to make a small Boneyard Shawl if I knit at a loose gauge. 

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

I spent the last chunk of Tour de Fleece doing some challenge spinning: 4 oz of alpaca batts. Plus, I got to check "Spin a batt I made myself" off my goals for this year. My previous attempts at spinning alpaca turned out wiry and over twisted, and I wanted to do a much better job with this batch. Obviously, I haven't plied it yet but I'm pleased with what's on the bobbins. It's got a reasonably smooth surface and is still soft. Seems like it's got enough twist to hold together during plying too. I'm cautiously optimistic about getting a soft, cushy yarn that'll do justice to the 10 years I've been waiting to spin this precious fiber

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

What I didn't do much of was play around with my drum carder. I got 2 batches of fiber through for one pass each. Then I hit a snag. The locks I'm working with are a bit felted. Teasing them open helped get them onto the main drum, but a good quarter of the fiber stayed trapped in the tines when I peeled the batt off. Got any tips for picking the fiber off the drum? I haven't found a good solution that doesn't involve teasers and a lot of time. 

Drum carder snag aside, this was a good Tour de Fleece. I enjoyed spinning everyday - even on rest days - and spun just for the fun off it. I joined a few teams and had fun sharing and talking to other spinners. I’m pleased with all my new handspun, and even have a few ideas of what to do with it. So I’m calling this Tour a win. 

How did this Tour de Fleece go for you? Did you learn something new or try a new fiber? Spin a lot or a little? Make yarn you can’t wait to use? 

 12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

Tour de Fleece 2017 Challenge

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

I admit that I haven’t really been keeping track of the day to day calendar of Tour de Fleece. When are the rest days? No clue. I’ve just been spinning every day and having fun with it. The only reason I figured out Sunday was a challenge day was because I happened to check the forums that day. By some random happy coincidence I just so happened to have some challenging spinning.

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

If you’re not familiar with Tour de Fleece, or Tour de France, there are 3 challenge days when riders tackle mountains with steep grades above 10%. Spinners get to set their own challenges. I was fairly sure that I was going to tackle some sort of art yarn construction. Instead I pulled 4 oz of alpaca batts out of the stash. I haven’t spun a lot of alpaca, and my last attempt had so much twist that it was a wiry, prickly beast. So I’ve been hesitant to try again. Making the mental hurdles even taller is that fact the Bearded One gave me this fiber when we were dating many, many moons ago. I’d had it for several years and it was scary enough to put the fiber through a rented drum carder in 2013! 

Let’s do a little math. The shearing date on the label says 2007. I turned the alpaca fiber into batts in 2013. Now it’s 2017. I’ve had this fiber stashed away for 10 years! To cut myself a little slack, I was only just getting into spinning in 2007 and didn’t truly learn for several more years. Still, 10 years is way too long for such beautiful fiber to be hiding away in my stash. 

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

The batts are 100% alpaca and one solid color. Since there was no need to preserve color sequences, I split the batt into strips and started spinning. I wanted a smoother fiber and went with an inch worm worsted draft and an 8.0:1 ratio to keep from over twisting the fiber. 

I finished drafting the first batt yesterday, and it was much simpler than I expected. Could be that my spinning has improved in the years since I last attempted spinning alpaca. Could be that my brain made things much harder than they had to be. Sometimes the mental hurdles are the hardest to jump. 

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

This fiber is special and I don’t want to waste a single bit of it. The batts aren’t all the same so I’m going to spin each one separately and ply them back on themselves. Sure, it’s more work, but I could use the practice. And I can’t help but picture how cute 4 little skeins are going to be. 

So much yarn! I had to hand wind the handspun to get it all on the bobbin. Worth it. #TourdeFleece | withwool.com

And in non-challenge spinning, I finished plying the 4.2 ounces of hand painted green top! I know I said the galactic handspun was the most yarn I’d ever packed a bobbin, but this skein beats even that. I hand wound a good chunk of the yarn onto the bobbin, and don’t think I could get another yard on there if I tried. Really curious about how much yardage is packed on there because I’m tempted to turn it all into a Boneyard Shawl.

So much yarn! I had to hand wind the handspun to get it all on the bobbin. Worth it. #TourdeFleece | withwool.com

The End of #100HandspunDays

Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com

Wednesday, July 12th, is the official end of The 100 Day Project. I have spun yarn, swatched with said yarn, and fiddled around with my drum carder to prep fiber to spin into yarn. There was one day at the beginning when I completely forgot to spin something until I was tucked into bed, but the other 98+ days have not lacked yarn or spinning or fiber. 

I started this project with 5 goals that I thought would be easy to do over and over again for 100 days. 

  1. Sit down at the wheel and spin! - This part was pretty easy and what I did for most of the project. 

  2. Fiber prep counts. So taking a few days (or weeks) to learn how to make batts or practice hand carding is encouraged.  - I didn’t do as much of this as I thought I would. My lofty idea that I’d be churning out batt after silky batt didn’t happen. I did pull out some locks and start figuring out my drum carder’s quirks though. 

  3. Work out of the fiber stash and see just how far it’ll go. - I have bought the occasional bump of fiber and gotten samples to spin from classes, but the bulk of my spinning has been from stash. The stash bins do look a little emptier.

  4. On busy draining days, reading about fiber, breed characteristics, and yarn construction is a-ok. What good is having a spinning reference shelf if I never use it? - This didn’t happen outside of my usual blog reading, which I do regret. Maybe my next bookshould be Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno? 

  5. Share the day’s spinning on Instagram and in blog posts. I’m using #100HandspunDays to keep things organized.  - I shared some of this project on IG, but my attempt at this really fell flat. I did share a lot about #100HandspunDays here though.  Thanks for following along!

Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com
Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com

I finished spinning a long purple gradient that had been lingering on the bobbins for far too long.

Then I started a new big project, 500+ yards of fingering weight yarnLearned to love spinning sample mini-skeins too.

Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com
Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com

I somehow tricked myself into thinking #100HandspunDays ended last Sunday. So these last few days seemed like a surprise bonus. When I thought that the project was over, I was surprised at how strongly I didn’t want to stop. I want to keep spinning and to keep learning more about spinning. Besides from getting me a lot of great new yarn, #100Handspun Days has shown me that I’m not ready to give up on my wheel and making yarn. It’s something I still enjoy and want to do. Sure, there will be times where this need will ebb and flow, but it’s not going to dry up over night or over a couple months. 

Once #100HandpunDays is officially over, I’ll be putting my spinning motivation into Tour de Fleece. The past week’s project has been 4.2 ounces of hand painted top. I split the top in half down the middle and spun the first ply. I split the other half in half again to create shorter color segments for the second ply. Almost finished with the second and then it’ll be time to ply. I’m curious to see how the yarn comes together.

Off to the Races - Tour De Fleece 2017

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

Tour de Fleece kicked off on Saturday! What’s Tour de Fleece? It’s a giant, international spin-along that runs along side the Tour de France. This is my 4th year spinning with the Tour, and I wholeheartedly recommend joining up if you’ve been on the fence. It can be a personal challenge or a team affair or both! It’s still early and not too late to start.   

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I’m not setting a ton of complicated goals this year, but keeping things simple. Spin every day. Work from stash. Spin a few batts I’m going to make on my drum carder. Anything else is a sparkly bonus. 

I tossed my fiber stash out of its bins a few days before the Tour kicked off and it looked like a wooly explosion. There was roving on my desk and couch. There were batts on the floor and chilling in the corner. Hand dyed fiber everywhere. By the end of it, I’d picked what I want to spin and better organized the fiber stash. Here’s what I’ll be spinning for the next few weeks. 

  • A giant 8 oz batt. Not sure exactly what I’m going to do with it yet, but it was taking up too much room to keep hanging around.
  • 4 oz of Dudley Spinner hand painted top. I fell of the sheep last week and bought this to spin during the Tour. Totally counts as spinning from the stash since I got it before Tour de Fleece right?
  • A bundle of 100% alpaca batts I made several (maybe 4) years ago on a rented drum carder. Way past time to see how these spin up. 
  • A Fiber Preparedness Kit from Wild Lily Artisan Fibers. It’s got punis, dyed locks, and random bits of dyed roving. Thinking this will be challenge day material. 
  • The Epic Green Spin is also on the list. Still working my way through sampling and swatching, but I hope to start the final yarn during the Tour.
  • 4 oz of top that just looks fun to spin. 
The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I wanted to kick of the Tour with something fun and easy so I started with the 4 oz of carded roving. It’s a blend of shetland wool, alpaca, and silk noil. Just looking at all that silk noil, I knew there was no way it would turn into a smooth, even yarn. So I drafted long-draw and occasionally double drafted the larger chunks.

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I ended up with 2 almost overfilled bobbins that I plied last night. Not even the bulky flyer with a jumbo bobbin was big enough to get all this yarn on by itself. Once no amount of tension would feed yarn onto the bobbin, I had to do it by hand. It went something like this: ply as long a length of yarn as my arm would allow, wrap yarn around my fingers, turn bobbin to slowly feed yarn onto said bobbin, and repeat. Not a quick process, but I got all the yarn plied. No mini-skeins here! And the bobbin is absolutely packed with bulky yarn. Can’t wait to get wound into a skein and see how much yardage I have.  

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I also pulled out the drum carder, and I’m starting simple with this too. The carder is new-to-me and I haven’t used it until a few days ago. Before I get into making complicated multi-fiber art batts, I wanted to see if the carder had any quirks. Last year I bought 4 oz of dyed wool locks to try out the carder, so I started with them. The fiber is slightly felted so it’s more difficult to process than I expected. And taking way longer to process than I expected. I’ve been putting on a little bit at a time since Friday afternoon, and I’m about halfway through the first pass. I’m pleased with what I’m getting off the carder and plan on putting the fiber through at least once more to smooth it out. Maybe by next week, I’ll have a few new batts to spin. 

So that’s how my Tour de Fleece is going. What about your Tour? Keeping your spinning simple or doing something big? 

Intentional Spinning vs. Playful Spinning

You can spin yarn for a specific project and spin just to spin. Doing both gets you great yarn and new ideas. | withwool.com

I’ve really enjoyed spinning and working on the epic green yarn. It’s pushed me to be more consistent with my drafting. It’s made me be more intentional and focused on the details because I can’t spin 500+ yards of fingering yarn otherwise. On the whole, the project is going well. I’ve finished the first round of sample skeins and I’m in the middle of swatching to see how they knit up. Then I’ll spin another round of sample skeins if I need to make changes. Which means at least another round of swatching before starting on the final skein. Glad I’m not on a deadline because this handspun is not a quick project. 

In the downtime between steps for the epic green yarn, I worked on a few smaller spinning projects too. The main goal of my #100HandspunDays project is to spin every day, and quick projects I don’t have to continually measure and refine let me do that. Plus, I get to play and spin to see what happens instead of working towards a specific result. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy playful “spinning for the joy of it” as much as “spinning for a specific project”. Each of those projects scratches a particular spinning itch. Sometimes I want to play and see what happens. Sometimes I want to take notes at every step while I spin a specific yarn for a specific project. These two opposites feed and encourage each other. I’d get bored only doing one or the other. What about you?

You can spin yarn for a specific project and spin just to spin. Doing both gets you great yarn and new ideas. | withwool.com

I’ve spun a few skeins (and a few mini skeins) when the green sampling wasn’t filling up all the bobbins. The first started as a wild batt that I bought in 2016, and didn’t get a good luck at until I opened it up this month. The colors moved from yellow, to orange, and then pink with random bits of sparkle mixed in. Sunset, anyone? I wanted to preserve the colors so I split the batt into strips, pre-drafted the fiber, and spun it in order. After spinning so much time working towards a smooth, fingering yarn, it was hard to let the fiber do its thing. I picked out the veggie matter, but didn’t do anything else. The ply was thick and thin with random clumps. Chain-plying only magnified those qualities. 

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I talked my self out of taming the yarn so many times, and I’m glad I did. The 74 yards of more-or-less bulky yarn are so fun to look at. I’m glad I didn’t take the life out of this yarn. Now I get to figure out what to do with it.

You can spin yarn for a specific project and spin just to spin. Doing both gets you great yarn and new ideas. | withwool.com

One of my other small projects is much closer to what I normally spin. One ply is a wool/silk blend of blues, purples, and grey. I paired it with a solid grey to get more yardage. The colors are subtle, but the silk pops and catches your eye. I had leftovers of the wool/silk and plied it with itself to make a mini skein. I want to use the two yarns together for a project and the combined 160 yards gives me a lot of options. The pair might make a nice hat or fingerless mitts with extra long cuffs. 

You can spin yarn for a specific project and spin just to spin. Doing both gets you great yarn and new ideas. | withwool.com

I’m still swatching the sample skeins for the epic green spin (really like what I’m seeing too). I’ve got time to spin a few more small projects, but I’m going to switch things up a bit to prep for Tour de Fleece. #100HandspunDays officially ends on July 4, and one of my goals was to learn to make batts on my drum carder. I haven’t even touched the thing yet so this week is all about playing and making batts. Then I get to spin them when Tour de Fleece kicks off on July 1. Sounds like a good plan to me. 

Sampling To Spin With Purpose

I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com

A good friend of mine has said for years that she’d like to knit with my handspun. I kept the request in the back of my mind, but didn’t really take it seriously until I was able to consistently spin the kind of yarn she liked to use. That would be fingering weight yarn. We settled on 2 choice skeins of 100% cashmere as equitable bribery, I mean compensation, and I got to work.

I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com

The first step was finding the right fiber. My friend likes to knit complicated lace shawls and wants to make one with this handspun. So right off the batt, I had a clear set of requirements to meet:

  • The yarn should be a 2-ply fingering weight.
  • The final yardage should be between 500 - 600 yards.
  • The colors need to be similar in tone and hue so they won’t distract from the lace. 
  • She likes to work with wool and wool/silk blends.
  • Preferred colors are dark blue or emerald green. 

I’m happy to have these very specific requirements, because they take a lot of the guesswork out of the process. Instead of constraining me, knowing the end goal for the yarn makes it easier to spin. I get a clear vision of what I’m working toward from the beginning which is rather freeing. As much as I enjoy spinning for the fun of it, finding something to do with that “just for fun” yarn can be frustrating. 

I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com

It took me a few months of looking around online, in stores, and at festivals before finding fiber I thought would work. After getting an okay on the color, I ordered 8 oz of Dreaming in Green, a BFL/Silk blend from Three Waters Farm. I’m not going to need all 8 oz for the handspun, more like 5 or 6 oz. Those extra ounces are for sampling. Before I dive straight in to spinning 600 yards of fingering weight handspun, I need to make sure I am. It’d be an expensive failure if I made 400 yards of worsted weight by accident. Sure, the yarn would be pretty, but not what we want. 

I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com

Sampling will help me figure out the right ratios and tension for my wheel. I’ll be able to fine tune my worsted drafting for a wool/silk blend. Equally as important, I can try out different methods of handling color to find what works for lace. Then I can wash and set the twist on the sample skeins to see how that changes the yarn. I’ve spun many a yarn that looks like a sport weight when it comes off the bobbin and blooms to an aran weight after setting the twist. That cannot happen this time.

So I pulled off 2 oz to experiment with. There’s no deadline and I’ve got time to answer any questions that comes to mind. I might even knit a few swatches. Time to get sampling. 

I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com

A Handspun Purple Gradient

8 handspun skeins, 6 ounces of roving, and 1 beautiful color gradient. I spent almost 2 months spinning this yarn, and it was worth the effort. | withwool.com

And done! The extra long purple gradient I’ve been working on since mid March is finally yarn and ready to knit. I tackled the last bit of spinning and plying last week, and got the handspun off the bobbins on Sunday. Then the later skeins got a bath to set the twist before I hung them up to dry. In fact the bigger skeins were still a wee bit damp when I took these photos.

8 handspun skeins, 6 ounces of roving, and 1 beautiful color gradient. I spent almost 2 months spinning this yarn, and it was worth the effort. | withwool.com

This felt like such a big project when I was in the middle of it. I usually spin 4 ounces at a time and keep it as one big skein. Working with 6 ounces and splitting it into 8 mini-skeins definitely changed things up. There was more upfront prep. More bobbins. More plying. More letting the twist rest overnight. More baths to set the twist (otherwise I would have mixed up the gradient order).  All that extra work tricked me into thinking it was a much larger project than it was.  An additional 2 ounces of fiber isn’t all that much, nor is 6 ounces anywhere close to a sweater quantity of handspun. When I look at the skeins all lined up, they still seem like a big project because I know just how much work, time, and brain space when into making them. Because of that, I’m proud of all 8 of these skeins. They’re the same weight and have the same finished texture. I feel like I can move onto bigger and more involved spinning projects now. Might not be all that long before I start spinning yarn for a sweater. Or a giant blanket.

8 handspun skeins, 6 ounces of roving, and 1 beautiful color gradient. I spent almost 2 months spinning this yarn, and it was worth the effort. | withwool.com

I really enjoyed spinning this fiber, and I wish I could remember the vendor I bought it from. All I know is that it’s wool and that it was one of the last things that caught my eye at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016. I wish I’d put all the details up on the Ravelry stash page when the info was fresh in my mind. Maybe I’ll find the receipt, but I doubt it. 

8 handspun skeins, 6 ounces of roving, and 1 beautiful color gradient. I spent almost 2 months spinning this yarn, and it was worth the effort. | withwool.com

Now for the technical details. Since it had been so long since I saw what was in the middle of the roving ball, I laid it all out flat. Wasn’t sure what I wanted to do before, but seeing the complete color gradient made my decision easy. I split the gradient into its 8 major color sections and wound them into nests, making sure to keep the colors moving in the same direction. I wanted to preserve the colors and variation within each section as much as possible so I decided to chain ply. 

I started with the smallest nest of fiber which just so happened to be at one end of the gradient. Then I treated this first skein as a sample to figure out how I wanted to spin the 7 other bigger skeins. You can read more about that process here.

Once I figured out which drafting method worked for the fiber and the finished yarn, the only thing left to do was to get spinning. This fortunately coincided with the start of #the100DayProject where I dedicated myself to making yarn everyday for 100 days. That little bit of daily spinning, even if it was only 10 minutes, really added up. And the 100 Day Project kept me spinning even on busy days when I would have skipped it otherwise. 

A post shared by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

Almost 2 months later, I’ve got about 560 yards of sport weight yarn. I’m sure that number shrunk when I set the twist, but there’s still plenty of yardage to make a cosy shawl. I have an idea in my head for what that will look shawl will like, and I’m almost ready to get that down on paper. I think it’s time to get swatching.  

Bringing Back The Creative Mojo

#The100DayProject got me spinning yarn again, and brought back my creative mojo! | withwool.com

There’s been a lot of making going on around here, and I have #The100DayProject to thank. I was in a bit of a making rut the past few months. Didn’t really want to knit, spin, or draw beyond the simplest doodle. Reading, video games, and staring on my phone claimed my free time. I don’t regret how many books I read or hours spent playing games, but I knew I’d need a push to get making again. #The100DayProject turned out to be just the thing. 

#The100DayProject got me spinning yarn again, and brought back my creative mojo! | withwool.com

I had started spinning the big purple gradient in March in bits and pieces. It certainly wasn’t the every day project that it is now. I’m glad that changed because there’s no way I’d have 4 finished skeins and have started the 5th otherwise. Being halfway through with what feels like a rather large project - at only 6 ounces of fiber total, it’s not - is rather nice. I had a sneaking suspicion that would be the case. 

#The100DayProject got me spinning yarn again, and brought back my creative mojo! | withwool.com

What I didn’t expect was that a routine of daily spinning would bring back my drive to knit on slumbering projects, draw more complicated sketches, and even fiddle around with video editing. At the beginning of March just the thought of that stuff made me tired. Now now. My Sockhead Hat is a few rows taller and my past due gift knitting is almost done. My sketchbook is getting full and I put together a short video of a bobbin filling up with chain-plied yarn. 

I wish I could put my finger on exactly why a daily project recharged my creativity. I’d certainly use the trick to hack my behavior on a regular basis. Maybe it’s seeing daily progress. Maybe it’s because I’m solving puzzles and focusing on the details. Whatever the cause, this high tide of creativity isn’t going to last forever, so I’m going to enjoy it while it’s here. Then I’ll enjoy the low tide too and take a break. When I’m ready to start making again, I’ll pick another daily project and see where it takes me.

A New Eye For Spinning Color

I took a class with Maggie Casey and have new tools on how to manipulate and work colors for handspun yarn. | withwool.com

I’m happy to say that the #100handspunday project is still a daily thing. Aside from 1 day during the first week, I haven’t pushed a day off to do on the next. It’s hard for me to get going again once that little chain of “x’s” breaks for any reason. So I don’t stop, even on the long days. That’swhen I get handspun off the bobbins and measure yardage. Then there are the days when I can spin for an hour and go back for more after stretching my wrists.   

A little bit of flexibility has been key for me keeping this project going. The second part of Maggie Casey’s You Can’t Tell A Braid By It’s Color has also helped me spin every day. First, it’s a spinning class and you actually have to spin yarn. That took care of 2 days right there. Second, I had to spin samples for homework which took up a good chunk of last week. Third, the class pushed me right out my usual spinning comfort zone. 

I took a class with Maggie Casey and have new tools on how to manipulate and work colors for handspun yarn. | withwool.com

We worked with several colors and fiber that I liked and wanted to try, such as the blue silk/wool single, but also colors that wouldn’t be my first choice. The rainbow single is a mix of bright saturatedcolors that I drafted together with more muted tones. I didn’t expect to like the combo (wish I’d taken a before photo of the fiber) and was pleasantly surprised at how the colors melded.

I took a class with Maggie Casey and have new tools on how to manipulate and work colors for handspun yarn. | withwool.com

When I was spinning samples for plying, I paired like colors together. There was a semi-solid dark blue paired with bright blue and purple. Another pair was a solid red single and a striped blue and red single. The blues turned into the really interesting 2-ply on the left. 

The red pair turned into first attempts at different yarn constructions. There was a 4-ply cable, which I’ve only got a yard of, and the chain-ply, above right, spun with 2 plies instead of 1. I could have used an extra hand or two because you’re only looping 1 ply at a time and bringing the other along for the ride. Getting the tension right is trying. 

The skein in the middle is a bright red and purple fractal yarn. I’ve spun plenty of fractal yarns, but chugged along on this one because the colors aren’t my usual pick. Curious to see how it knits up. 

I took a class with Maggie Casey and have new tools on how to manipulate and work colors for handspun yarn. | withwool.com

I had a few samples leftover so I spent yesterday plying them in different ways. Now I need to get them off the bobbins and set the twist. Also plied a few other leftovers that had been hanging around. Looking forward to all the mini-skeins that will come out of this. 

The class got me thinking about color and spinning in a new way. My previous modus operandi would be to to spin yarns to preserve the color with clear distinct stripes, chain-plying, or singles. If I was feeling more adventurous (and the dye pattern of the fiber was clear), I’d aim for a fractal. Or I wouldn’t bother at all and just spin a 2-ply or 3-ply. 

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I’m sure I’ll still do all of those things, but now I’ll sample to see how colors will blend and heather in the drafting. I’ll try to figure out how to pair wildly different colors and braids together to create a specific effect. I’ll give more consideration to how construction and yarn weight affect color. I’m also going to sample more and do it for fun. I really liked those bite-sized chunks of spinning because of how wild the results might be. It’s also given me an appreciation dyed with bright saturated colors because I know they can be tamed and changed. 

If you get the chance and you want to explore spinning color, You Can’t Tell A Braid By It’s Color is a class worth taking. You can read my thoughts about the first part of the class here. It’s changed my outlook on dyed fiber and gave me the tools to manipulate color through every step of spinning. Plus, it’s given me plenty of ideas for what to spin for the rest of my #100HandspunDays. 

#100HandspunDays and Homework

Taking a spinning class about color was a great way to start my #The100DayProject, #100HandspunDays. |    withwool.com

#the100dayproject and my 100 days of handspun started last Tuesday. I already missed a day, but I did make it up when I had both the time and energy to spin yarn. And, in a happy coincidence, the project kicked off the same week that I was going to a spinning class. Maggie Casey was teaching You Can’t Tell A Braid By Its Color, a 2-part class about different ways to spin and manipulate color. 

Part 1 focused on drafting. We got a few different kinds of dyed fiber to work with: top made of longitudinal stripes, semi-solid colors, heavily blended heathers, splotchy dye jobs, and top with long sections of color. I made fine fingering samples and bulky samples. I spun worsted, long-draw, and even over the fold. I spun the fiber as is, pre-drafted, and teased out sideways. I divided fiber into narrow strips to change the ratio of colors. All of this to see how these methods affected the color in the singles. Then I plied the singles back on themselves in either a 2-ply or chain-ply. 

Going into this class, I thought I knew a decent amount about how to spin with color. I’m not a beginner, but there’s clearly still a lot to learn. The thought isn’t disappointing or depressing. It’s exciting because there are still things to try and and techniques to play with. Learning anything is a journey, not a destination. 

Taking a spinning class about color was a great way to start my #The100DayProject, #100HandspunDays. |    withwool.com

2 of my favorite samples came from fiber that’s way outside my usual picks. I sampled with Northern Lights top in the very bright Circus colorway. The top yarn is spun without changing anything about the color at all. But for the bottom yarn, I held two sections of the top together so that drafting created an eye-catching heather. I’d knit with this yarn. 

Taking a spinning class about color was a great way to start my #The100DayProject, #100HandspunDays. |    withwool.com

My other favorite sample came from roving dyed by Hummingbird Moon. It’s splotchy with black, white, purples, bright green, and neon pink. Drafting mellows and heathers the colors so that they work together. The bright green and pinks create interesting pops of color that draw the eye instead of push it away. I’m rather smitten, and happy to have some of this fiber stashed away for later. 

Taking a spinning class about color was a great way to start my #The100DayProject, #100HandspunDays. |    withwool.com

I came home with a lot of samples and a bit of homework too. The next class is all about how plying affects color and I need to bring well-rested singles. Won’t be waiting to the last minute to get this done. I’m actually happy to have this assignment because it gives me a non-negotiable deadline inside my 100 Day Project. No figuring out what to do that day from a dozen possibilities. No convincing myself that I could just do it later.  Plus, the different colors and methods are a nice break from my long-term projects. Time to get back to spinning. 

100 Days of Handspun

I’m tackling #The100DayProject this year and spinning yarn every day! #100HandspunDays |    withwool.com

One of goals for 2017 is to get back to my wheel and spin more yarn. Writing it down is one thing, actually doing it is another. So to keep myself accountable and accomplish this goal, I’m joining #the100DayProject. Simply put, the 100 Day project is a world wide art project where you do one small thing for 100 days. This cute video explains it well

I’m going to keep my rules simple and convenient so I can keep the project going for the long haul. Plus, I want to improve my improve my spinning skills and knowledge.

  1. Sit down at the wheel and spin!
  2. Fiber prep counts. So taking a few days (or weeks) to learn how to make batts or practice hand carding is encouraged.
  3. Work out of the fiber stash and see just how far it’ll go.
  4. On busy draining days, reading about fiber, breed characteristics, and yarn construction is a-ok. What good is having a spinning reference shelf if I never use it?
  5. Share the day’s spinning on Instagram and in blog posts. I’m using #100HandspunDays to keep things organized.  

A post shared by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

Today, April 4th, is Day 1 and first bit of handspun is on the bobbin. I’m continuing with the purple gradient - nothing said I had to start a brand new project after all. I’m on the 3rd of 8 nests and curious to see it all spun up. 

Are you doing #the100DayProject? What’s your one small thing?

Spinning a Gradient Part 2: Sampling

How spinning a sample before starting a big project made me a happy spinner and got me the handspun I wanted. | withwool.com

This post could also be titled “Sampling Is Your Friend And Will Help You Get The Handspun You Want”.  Doesn’t really roll of the tongue though.

After comparing the amount of roving I’ve spun and the amount that’s still waiting on my desk, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m not going to be done spinning the gradient by Thursday. Any new fiber goodies I bring home from Interweave Yarn Fest will just have to wait until this is done. I’m a one project at a time kind of spinner. And this is good practice for the fine spinning I’ll be working on next. 

Since it had been awhile since l last sat down at my wheel, I decided to start with the smallest nest at the end of the gradient to get my sea legs back so to speak. Halfway through that nest I decided it’d be a good sample to figure out how to spin the rest of the 6 ounces. 

How spinning a sample before starting a big project made me a happy spinner and got me the handspun I wanted. | withwool.com

To be completely honest I wasn’t thrilled with what was on the bobbin when I finished. It was finely spun but hairy because I’d fallen into my default long-draw drafting style. When I brushed up on how to spin fine yarn, one tip was that you should be able to see through the fibers you’re actively drafting. I took that one a little too far because there were times I could have counted the individual fibers going into the single. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I could have put in enough twist during drafting, but I don’t have the right tools to put that much twist into so fine a single.

The single rested over night so I could chain-ply it the next day. I had a few reasons for chain-plying. One, I like how it looks after finishing. Two, I wanted to preserve the colors as much as possible. Three, and this reason is purely practical, it would be easier to keep the gradient in order as I worked. 

It’s normally pretty easy for me to find a rhythm making the “chains” and plying, but not when the single keeps breaking. I had to join it together or at least fake it more than 4 times. Got it done though. Let it rest another night before skeining it up. The skein was definitely lace weight and about 49 yards.

How spinning a sample before starting a big project made me a happy spinner and got me the handspun I wanted. | withwool.com
How spinning a sample before starting a big project made me a happy spinner and got me the handspun I wanted. | withwool.com

I set the twist by soaking the skein in cool water with Eucalan, snapping it over my hands, and hanging it up to dry. The transformation was amazing. The yarn plumped up into an airy woolen spin. It definitely wasn’t lace weight anymore and ranged from fingering weight to sport weight. The twist even seems reasonably balanced. Happy ending, right? Kind of. The yarn is beautiful but a complete hassle to spin and not the smooth handspun I want. 

How spinning a sample before starting a big project made me a happy spinner and got me the handspun I wanted. | withwool.com

So I changed two things for the second nest which have had a big impact. One, I’m making an effort to spin with the inch worm forward draft and not fall into long-draw. It’s slow going but the latest single is much smoother and even shiny. Two, I’m spinning this single a little thicker. I can still see through the drafting triangle but I can’t count the individual fibers. Much happier with single #2 and I’m definitely planning to spin the other 6 nests this way. Lucious handspun gradient, here I come. 

How spinning a sample before starting a big project made me a happy spinner and got me the handspun I wanted. | withwool.com

Time To Spin A Gradient

It’s been way too long since I sat down at my wheel, but a lovely, low-key gradient is bringing me back. | withwool.com

Interweave Yarn Fest is at the end of the month and I’m ready. I’ve decided which day to go, bought my ticket, and am making up a shopping list. That list is pretty short so far: an orifice hook for my wheel, roving from Brown Sheep Yarn Company, and fiber for a commissioned spinning project. Of course this list could definitely grow. :)

It’s been way too long since I sat down at my wheel, but a lovely, low-key gradient is bringing me back. | withwool.com

I enjoyed walking around the show last year and made some considerable stash enhancements. Unfortunately I haven’t knit or spun anything that I bought, which I’m aiming to change before going back to Yarn Fest this year. My knitting list is pretty full at the moment, but I’ve got room in my brain to spin. And plenty of empty bobbins to fill. After digging through the stash I was drawn to a ball of roving bigger than my head. 

It’s been way too long since I sat down at my wheel, but a lovely, low-key gradient is bringing me back. | withwool.com

The next step was unrolling the ball and reminding myself what was inside. I kept unrolling and unrolling and rolling until the roving was laid out in 45” x 66” rectangle! What I found was a lovely, muted gradient. Before I unrolled the roving, my plan was to randomly pull sections and make 3 skeins of 2-ply. The gradient made me reconsider. I split the roving into the major color changes and wound them into nests. I’m going to spin each nest and chain-ply them in the order I found them. Don’t know if I’ll finish before I make it to Yarn Fest, but I’m going to try. As for what the yarn will become, well, a semi-circular shawl sounds pretty good right now. 

It’s been way too long since I sat down at my wheel, but a lovely, low-key gradient is bringing me back. | withwool.com

Knitting Handspun Socks Part 2

I’m knitting a sock inside out! | withwool.com

I’m still knitting my first pair of socks from handspun (you can read part 1 of the tale here). It’s also the first time I’ve tried adding a princess sole - the smooth side of stockinette stitch is against the sole of the foot instead of the bumps - to a pair of socks. The socks have been great purse knitting, but the making the first sock was slow going because off all the purling on the sole and gusset increases. 

I’m knitting a sock inside out! | withwool.com

Why is so easy to overlook the simplest solution to a problem and instead go with a more complicated fix? After I turned the heel and knit the heel flap, a light bulb went off in my head. I could knit the second sock inside out! The only purling I’d have to do would be for the top half of the toe and the ribbing. I used the same cast on at the toe and the same increases. Instead of purling the sole, I purled the top half of the toe. I reversed the rib pattern from *k2, p2* to *p2, k2*. I’m glad I went with a simple stitch pattern over the foot otherwise knitting the sock inside out would be a little more complicated. 

I’m knitting a sock inside out! | withwool.com

The little bit of effort I put in upfront has been worth it because the second sock is zooming along. It’s almost time to knit the gusset which will actually be easier to work inside out. The combination of purled increases and marled yarn made it really hard to tell if I’d correctly worked an increase row on the first sock. Or if I was even on an increase row. Happy to have solved that problem this time around.

Okay, now it’s time to double check my gusset math and get back to the gift knitting. 

Swamp Thing Plied

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

I’ve made a lot of handspun over the years and have a bin full of the stuff. There are skeins I’m intensely proud of. There are beautiful skeins that I have no idea what to do with. There are skeins I made because I wanted to spin. There are skeins I learned a lot from. Then there are skeins that I want to keep on my desk and pet when the urge strikes. Swamp Thing turned out to be one of those. 

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

I finished plying this yarn and the leftovers over a week ago, but was lazy about getting it off the bobbins. I was smitten with it then and when I wound the skein, but it wasn’t until I set the twist that Swamp Thing transformed into my dream yarn. If I saw this at a yarn shop, it would be coming home with me - Cold Sheep be damned. The yarn has body and drape. It’s just the right amount of softness, but still seems sturdy. It has a smooth, lustrous surface with just a bit of uneven texture. And it’s deliciously plump with a pleasant wooly smell. Plus, I’m a complete sucker for grays and earthy greens. I know most this description seems contradictory but that’s my dream yarn. 

A video posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

And now I’m rethinking my fiber buying preferences. I usually go for hand dyed fiber with distinct, matching colors. The Swamp Thing roving was different. The fiber was dyed with a few similar shades of color and small pops of contrast colors. The colors were mottled across the width of the roving instead of taking up long sections. The end result is a yarn that looks more like a semi-solid than the 2-ply barber pole that it is. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for roving dyed in a mottled style in the future. 

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

There’s one other good thing about this yarn. The roving was 100% superwash BFL which I’ve never spun before this skein. Spinning it was the aggravation the internet lead me to believe. Now I’m not afraid of the other superwash fibers I’ve got tucked away in the #YarnFort. So long as I stick with a short forward draw that I used with Swamp Thing, I might end up with more dream yarn.  

Stepped outside my comfort zone, and spun my dream yarn. Swamp Thing Plied| withwool.com

Now that the yarn is ready for knitting, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m going to do with all 386 yards of swampy goodness. It’s going to be a hat and mitt set. I haven’t decided on a pattern for either yet. Only that the hat is going to be slouchy and on the simple side. I have to finish my holiday gift knitting first though. At least I can pet the yarn for the next couple of months.