Interweave Yarn Fest 2017 Haul

I had a blast at Interweave Yarn Fest 2017, and came home with some great goodies for the stash. |    withwool.com

I made it 72 days without buying yarn or fiber for myself before breaking my Cold Sheep streak at Interweave Yarn Fest. Besides from 2 skeins I bought to knit a baby gift, all of my knitting and spinning has come from the great stash repository that is Yarn Fort.

I had a blast at Interweave Yarn Fest 2017, and came home with some great goodies for the stash. |    withwool.com

So what did I get at Yarn Fest? Just the stuff that absolutely called out to me and that I had a plan for. I’m always enthralled by the colors in the Western Sky Knits booth and couldn’t walk away without at least one skein. Her grays are incredible, and how could I turn down lustrous green on a BFL/silk blend. They’re destined to be shawls or cowls. The skein on the right is Brown Sheep Lana Worsted and I couldn’t resist the colors. My first idea was that it would become a hat or mitts, but now I’m thinking about slippers. Either way, that yarn will turn into something cosy. The mini-skein kit I bought as a gift only now I want to keep it for myself. I’m still waffling about what to do about it. Knitting it up and giving that away counts too, right?

I had a blast at Interweave Yarn Fest 2017, and came home with some great goodies for the stash. |    withwool.com

One of my main fiber buying goals was to find fiber to spin for a friend of mine. I couldn’t find the right colors though. Still found stuff for myself though, so I didn’t go home empty handed. In a big departure from my usual color picks, I bought a lot of black mixed up with bright colors. 8 oz is a Rambouillet/Columbia cross from Brown Sheep. 4 oz is a beautiful carded prep of Shetland, Alpaca, and silk noil, perfectly named Stained Glass, by The Natural Twist. My last pick is 8 oz of BFL and Tussah Silk. It was the first roving that caught my eye when I wandered the booths and I kept coming back to it. I had no plan for it, still don’t, but I’m not going to let it languish.

I had a blast at Interweave Yarn Fest 2017, and came home with some great goodies for the stash. |    withwool.com

I got some not yarn too: two beautiful project bags from Sincere Sheep, a yew wood shawl pin, and buffalo/merino socks.   

All in all, I’m thrilled with what I got. And as someone doing the Cold Sheep thing, I regret nothing about my purchases. Going to Yarn Fest and other local fiber festivals has been part of my Cold Sheep plan from the beginning. I went knowing what I already had and what I wanted which really curbed the urge to buy all the things. Telling myself I didn’t have to spend every cent I brought helped too. The stash got some fresh new additions that I’m excited about and don’t feel overwhelmed by. That’s a win and the ultimate end goal of Cold Sheep for me.    

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

The First Handspun of 2016

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

I made a lot of grand plans and overarching intentions for 2016. All of them were inspiring at first, but every one of them became overwhelming at January marched on. I couldn’t decide where to start, which step to take first, or even what project to work on. I needed to clear my head. Spinning has helped me focus in the past so I thought I’d try it again. The wheel came out of the closet and got a good dusting and a bit of oil. Next, I went rummaging through my fiber stash, and pulled out a blended roving from Spun Right Round

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

I’ve never spun anything quite like those 4 oz, and they turned out to be the perfect project to kickstart the year. Instead of single chunk of dyed fiber, this roving was a combination of orange, teal, and navy merino with shiny, white seacell. The colors weren’t blended into a heather - more like they hung out next to each other. I probably could have separated the colors, but where would the fun have been in that? If anything, the roving was comparable to a batt with big chunks of solid color.

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

I split the fiber in half at the mid-point, and started spinning without an end goal in mind. I just wanted to spin and let the fiber call the shots. The first few yards that went on the bobbin made it pretty clear that would be no plying. I was drafting back and forth like a typewriter which mixed the colors together two and three at a time. White twisted up with orange. Teal pulled in navy and seacell. Plying the single would only muddy the colors and hide the distinct combinations. The single was interesting enough by itself. Plus, those first few yards were thick and thin. The single did get more consistent as I went along but I let the thick and thin happen without fussing over the differences.

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

I wish I could say that I used the process of spinning as some sort of daily meditation. I did no such thing. I throughly enjoyed spinning it for 30 minutes before stepping away from the wheel for weeks. It wasn’t until I read the Singles issue of Ply cover to cover that I felt the urge to get spinning again. The enthusiasm in the magazine is rather infectious after all. I sat down, got drafting, and didn’t stop until every last gram was on the bobbin. Well, not the stray seacell that stuck to my pants and my hands, but you get the idea. 

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com
The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

When I started spinning, I did so with the intention of having no intention. There was no plan, no deadline, no blog post. There was nothing that tied the process of making yarn to anything else. I was able to spin for the joy of spinning and play with fiber. Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it made me happy - like playing with kittens happy. This project was a great antidote to stressing out about everything, good and bad, that 2016 has in store. 

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

Next time you get wrapped up and stressed over future plans, try making something for the fun of it. Ditch the deadlines and the self-imposed rules. Stop imagining all those future projects. Jump in and see what happens. You can be retrospective when you’re done, just like I’m doing with this post. Happy making!  

The First Handspun of 2016 - withwool.com

Spinning Yarn With Sweaty Hands

There’s no way to say this without relying on a host of cliches, so I’m just going to come out and say it. My hands sweat. Sometimes a lot which makes it hard to do things without messing them up. Half the time I’m writing with a napkin under my hand to keep my notebook from turning into a soggy mess. Damp hands make knitting almost impossible without a fan. Spinning yarn, especially drafting singles, isn’t much easier, but I have stumbled upon a helpful trick to keep the working end of roving/top from turning into a mangled clump. 

Instead of holding the roving in my hand, I drape it across my fingers and palm. The tail of the roving is held between the bottom edge of my hand and my thigh. Since the bottom of my fiber supply hand is securing the fiber, those fingers don’t have to do anything. When I do have to use my thumb, it is inches away from the tip. Only the hand I’m using to draft touches the working end of the roving which keeps the fibers aligned in one direction. Holding the fiber this way still gives me plenty of to work with and keeps me from unconsciously putting a death grip on my roving.

Since the fiber supply hand doesn’t move at all, this tip won’t help if drafting backwards or long-draw. So, stick with drafting styles that favor the forward hand. Also don’t forget the fan and a cold drink. 

Spinning Malabrigo Arco Iris

When this skein was freshly dry from its bath, it was my absolute favorite. One Tour de Fleece and a few more skeins of handspun later, it’s still my favorite. The colors are amazing, the yarn is ridiculously soft, and it has great density.

Way back in June, I was ready to spin Arco Iris but had no clear vision of how. So the fiber got to lead the way. Once I unbraided the bump, it was clear that was absolutely no chance of spinning identical singles. The colors were randomly dyed without a single discernible repeat. Spinning a 3-ply was out because it would muddy the colors. Chain-plying was out too because I wanted as much yardage as possible. Instead of going through some fiddly process, I decided to keep things simple since the colors were complicated enough all ready. Split the fiber in half lengthwise and spun the 2 pieces from opposite ends. Then I plied, let the yarn rest on the bobbin, and dunked it in the sink with some Eucalan. The only handling the wet skein got before hanging up to dry was a few pops over my hands. No thwacking against a shower wall or other stress relief.

The soak plumped up the yarn considerably. Before the bath, the yarn averaged 9 WPI, basically a worsted weight. The bath turned into an aran weight with an average of 8 WPI. It’s still a much denser yarn than I usually spin. The past few months have seen me trying to spin thinner and thinner yarns which usually meant double-drafted woolen creations. For whatever reason this bump of fiber wanted to be heavy and smooth. I’m not one to argue with wool so I went with it. Spun it inchworm style and went against every screaming urge I had to draft it finer. Sometimes I let to much twist into the fiber and snapped the single. Sometimes I had a good flow going. Drafting inch-worm is definitely something I still need to practice. The resulting yarn is a bit thick and thin but plying fixed many of its ills.

The yarn was content to sit on the shelf for the past few months but no longer. I might gotten a little distracted from writing the first draft of this post looking at cowl* patterns. After an exhaustive search through Ravelry and Pinterest, Present by Mademoiselle C wins by a landslide. The cowl looks like fun travel knitting and a great showcase for handspun. Not going to wait to get started.  


The Specs

Fiber: Malabrigo Nube - 4 oz Merino

Color: Arco Iris

Yardage: 202 + 29 yds

Dates: June 22- July 2014


 *I’m a little late joining the cowl party.

Prepping Arco Iris

Tour de Fleece is rapidly approaching. I’m still trying to figure out my plan for the 3 week challenge but, in the mean time, I’m going to squeeze in one last skein of handspun. Malabrigo Nube has been at the top of my spinning list since the Bearded One gave me a bump of Arco Iris for our anniversary. It’s hard to resist soft merino and beautiful colors. But how to spin it? Should it be a fat single or 2-ply? Maybe fractal spun or chain-plied? Only way to decide was to unbraid the bump and get a better look. The colors were mottled and fairly random without a discernible repeat. Fractal was definitely out. 

Nube-Arco-Iris-Colors.jpg

Since the dye job was so wild and all over the place, I’m going to keep things simple and spin a 2-ply. I split the roving in half lengthwise with the idea of spinning the singles from opposite directions. Aiming for maximum barber pole action here. Because the colors are so mottled, I’m going to spin a thicker yarn than usual and attempt a worsted or aran weight. If the diameter gets any smaller than worsted, the colors might turn to mud during drafting.

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Now that all the pesky details are decided and the fiber is prepped, it’s time to start spinning. Pretty sure I can finish before Tour de Fleece starts. 

Surprise Stash

Last week, entirely of his own free will, The Bearded One went to a yarn shop to buy me an anniversary gift. That’s love for you. The people working there made sure he knew all about the shop’s return policy. Don’t worry, yarn shop people, he knows what I like and I’m not returning a single thing.

The first thing I unwrapped was a bump of Malabrigo Nube in Arco Iris. It is unbelievably soft and the colors are lovely. Can’t decide if I should spin it up as soon as the current proto-yarn is finished or wait until Tour de Fleece. Should probably figure out what I want the end project to be first. Cowl? Shawl? Hat?

Next up, 2 skeins of Malabrigo Silky Merino. Just like the Nube, it is ridiculously soft and the colors are wonderful. The added silk gives the yarn a beautiful luster. Couldn’t help perusing Ravelry to find the perfect pattern and I didn’t need to search long. The Duotone Cowl is a simple striped cowl that’ll show off the yarn and be great mindless knitting. Really, I’m surprised I haven’t cast on already.

What's up, pencil roving?

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Tour de Fleece may be over for the year and I’ve finished the Tour’s spinning but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving my goals behind. I’m spinning most everyday and I’m working up to spinning in public again. I’m still eager to try new things too. The closest, new thing at hand was the pencil roving I bought during the Tour. Time to satisfy my curiosity.

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Once I got the label off, the roving was packaged just like a skein of yarn unlike other bumps of roving that come braided or chained. There’s no need to put it on a swift before it can be used though.

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Looking closer, the roving is actually 2 smaller strands that were easily pulled apart. I’m not sure if this is how all pencil roving is packaged or something unique to Pagewood Farms but I like it. The strands were obviously dyed together and have the same color variations. Being able to easily split the strand in half makes it easier to spin color matching singles. This hank is a semi-solid blue so being able to spin matching singles doesn’t matter much but it would be a big help with a more variegated hank. Having 2 strands is also less work too since I don’t have to figure out where to split the fiber in half. 

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Separating the two strands seemed like the right thing to do, so I got right to work. Then I wound the strands into cakes for easy access during spinning and for pre-spinning storage.

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I’ve often read that pencil roving is great for beginners since the fibers all run in the same direction and there’s not a lot of excess fiber to worry with. These reasons make pencil roving easy to draft for the beginner and advanced spinner alike. I’ve only spun a bit over an ounce of the stuff so far, but my experience is that both of these things are true. The spinning it is quite easy and I’d recommend it if you’re still trying to teach your hands how to draft. Muscle memory is such a large part of spinning that can easily be overlooked in the beginning for the theory of adding twist to fiber. Making yarn is a physical process that uses your hands but also entire body. You must train yourself well.

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I’m taking advantage of pencil roving’s qualities to spin a heavier yarn. After spinning so much fingering weight, I want to make sure I can still spin a worsted weight or thicker yarn. It was a bit of struggle to get my fingers to relax and not keep such a death grip on the fiber. The beginning of the single is pretty fine but has gotten thicker over the following yards. Only the plied yarn will tell, but it seems like I can still spin a worsted weight yarn. If only my fingers weren’t turning blue in the process.

Stash Enhancement

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When I was perusing Wild Fiber last weekend, I found something new. Something that I’d only seen in photos, written about in blog posts, and occasionally added to my Etsy cart: pencil roving. It’s basically thin roving that’s about the thickness of a pencil. Hence the name. You can either knit it as is or you can spin it. Me, I’m going to spin it.

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For this year’s Tour de Fleece I wanted to practice new techniques which means trying new materials as well as learning new skills. Pencil roving is new to me so it’s a suitable addition to the stash. I might not get to spin until after the tour but I’m still on the path to try new things.

I also found some teal roving while I was at the shop. Not sure about the fiber type it is but it’s soft with a long staple length. It’s nothing I haven’t spun before but, sometimes, you just need some good old fashioned stash enhancement.

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How to Spin Yarn: Prepping Combed Top

I can haz process?

Picking up spinning again was a lot like any other skill I’m trying to learn. First, I find this thing that sounds really cool and I would like to try. Prime examples: knitting, kumihimo, temari, origami, and bookbinding. Second, I hit the internet and research tools, tutorials, and techniques for days, weeks, and even months before I decide to make something a priority. Third, gather supplies. Fourth, actually do something. Anything to just get started. 

If I like that brand new started something, I keep doing it. I figure out how and why it works. I start experimenting. I get comfortable. I develop a process of how to do this awesome something from start to finish. With spinning, the realization that I knew what I was doing and that I had a process hit me all at once. I was absolutely giddy.  

So, I’m sharing my process. I hope that it will help you get started, come up with one of your own or, if you already know how to spin, see your process as something amazing and worth celebrating. 

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Step 1: Stash Diving. Since my first, short-lived attempt at spindle spinning, I’ve been buying fiber. Not much. Just enough to have something to choose from when I came back to the spindle. The stash has served me well in that regard. For this attempt, I picked out 4 oz. of Blue Face Swirl (Naked) from Gale’s Art.

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Step 2: Inspection. This batch of fiber was twisted up like a skein of yarn. So, I opened it up just like a skein of yarn. Then I spread everything out and got a sense of the color distribution and how much 4 oz. of fiber actually looks like.

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Step 3: Division. I didn’t pick out this fiber with any particular project in mind. I just wanted to try my hand at a 2-ply yarn. So, I split the entire length of combed top down the middle. 

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Step 4: Wrangling. There’s a brief pause for a little “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to decide which half to use first. The “not it” bit is crochet chained to keep it whole and safe until I need it. I take one end, make a loop, and tuck in the tail to make a big circle.

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Next, pull a loop through the circle. Pull a new loop loosely through the last loop and continue. Eventually, all the roving is gathered up and easy to handle. At the end, I just pull the roving through the last loop to keep it together. This is the only bit of crochet I know.

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That giant circle I made at the beginning? That’s how I know to work from the opposite end since a crochet chain can only be pulled out from the end and not the beginning. Just pull the tail out and and take apart the chain as you need it.

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Next post, I’ll get back to the other half of the fiber and start spinning.