How to Make Bulkier Yarn with Chain-Plying

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

Way back when, at least on the internet time-scale, I wrote a tutorial about how to chain-ply commercial yarn to manipulate color which you can read here. The variegated yarn I used flashed and pooled no matter how I knit with it, and chain-plying it created a beautiful marled yarn. Then I used that yarn for an easy (and free) hat pattern. Now I’m chain-plying another commercial yarn because I wanted to make it bulkier. So consider this part 2.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

I’ve had the Opal Sock Yarn Bunny by Susan B. Anderson pattern in my Ravelry queue for months. It’s so cute, but I have had the hardest time picking out the right yarn. I wanted something durable and hard-wearing because I like to imagine that this would become THE favorite toy; however, I also wanted the colors to be something whimsical and fun. Turns out durable and whimsical is a hard combination to find.  I eventually found a ball of sock yarn hiding in the deep stash. Seriously, I bought this ball of Zitron Trekking XXL 9 years ago on vacation. I almost turned it into a pair of socks, but didn’t want to knit socks on size 0 needles.

I don’t want to knit this totally adorable bunny on size 0 needles either. Plus, I’d like the bunny to be a little bigger than the 6.5” height stated in the pattern. Chain-plying to the rescue. The first and most important step to chain-plying any commercial yarn is to figure out how the yarn is plied. Commercial yarn is generally plied to the left, AKA with S twist, so you’ll need to chain-ply to the right, AKA with Z twist. If you’re plying a single ply yarn, you’ll probably be plying to the left. You can find the full tutorial for how to chain-ply commercial yarn here.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

And a helpful tip: If you’re working on a wheel, and have the option, use a jumbo bobbin. The plied yarn will take up more space than you expect. I plied 459 yards of fingering weight yarn and just barely got it all on to a single regular bobbin.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

I finished the newly-plied yarn just like any other handspun yarn because you still have to set the twist. I skeined it and measured the results before dunking it in a bath. I had about 137 yards of worsted weight yarn. Then I soaked it in cool soapy water for 20 minutes, rolled it in a towel to squeeze out extra water, and snapped it out my arms to even out the twist one last time. Then I let it dry over night.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

The twist really really relaxed and evened out. There are still a few over twisted and kinked spots, but most of the yarn is well behaved and smooth. I measured the skein again to see if setting the twist changed anything. The yarn was still a worsted weight, but I did “lose” 23 yards to the yarn plumping up. So I’m down to 114 yds, and really hoping I have enough yarn because I love it even more now.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

Before you go, here’s a few things to keep in mind before chain plying for bulkier yarn.

  • Even though chain-plying a fingering weight yarn will make a worsted weight yarn, the “new” yarn won’t have the same feel as a commercial or handspun worsted weight skein. Why? It’s much heavier and denser than either.
  • Because of how chain-plying works, expect to reduce your yardage to at most a third of it’s original number. My original 459 yds turned into 114 yds.

  • Sample a small piece of yarn first to see if you like the weight, drape, and density of the chain-plied version. It’d be really frustrating to do all that work and turn out with something you don’t like or wish you could undo. Take it from me, undoing a chain-plied yarn is not quick or easy.

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.

Excited About Knitting Again

After spending so much time spinning yarn, I’m thrilled to be knitting with it again! | withwool.com

I have not touched my spinning wheel since Tour de Fleece. Well, that's not entirely true. I did move it to a different spot where I wouldn't trip over it all the time. After spinning everyday for more than 100 days, it's weird to realize that I haven't spun anything for weeks. Making yarn was such a big part of my routine, and now it's not. I'm sure I'll get back to my wheel soon, but all my creative mojo has gone towards using yarn instead of making it. I have been knitting so much recently. And planning a bunch of future knitting. I even started writing up my Christmas and holiday knit list. And we're only halfway through August!

I’ve finished and blocked both the Regina hat and the Feeling Groovy shawl. More on those later. 

After spending so much time spinning yarn, I’m thrilled to be knitting with it again! | withwool.com

I bought a sweater's worth of Cascade 220 Superwash Effects and the Ease sweater pattern! The package arrived this morning and I am positively smitten with the yarn. Can’t wait to get swatching.

I finished a swatch for a new design, but I haven’t figured out all the details. I'm not sure where to take the pattern next because I have many questions and ideas about what to try next. 

After spending so much time spinning yarn, I’m thrilled to be knitting with it again! | withwool.com

The Bearded One has been patiently waiting for a new pair of socks so I pulled out some yarn to make that happen. This is a long term purse project right here. I tried knitting him a pair of socks with this yarn before, but ripped them out for some reason. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck with the yarn this time around.

On the holiday knit list is a scarf for the Red Scarf Project. Probably going to knit another Melded Scarf and mix up the color scheme a bit. Red and blue, maybe? Or 2 different shades of red?

After spending so much time spinning yarn, I’m thrilled to be knitting with it again! | withwool.com

The most recent project on the needles is a new kitchen towel. Dug into the stash, pulled a couple balls of cotton out, and cast on for the Lizard Ridge Dishcloth. It's been a really fun knit, and now I really want to make the Lizard Ridge blanket

The Tour de Fleece yarn has been calling my name too. Pretty sure I’ll be casting on for a Boneyard Shawl soon, because why not?

I haven’t forgotten about my big spinning projects. There’s the 4 alpaca singles waiting on the bobbins, and writing up my notes so I can move to the next step of the Epic Green Spin. I’m really enjoying and excited about my knitting right now so I’m not rushing back to my wheel just yet. 

What about you? Is there a project you’re really excited about?

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.    

Fell Off The Sheep

I fell off the sheep, but I bought yarn and fiber with a plan. | withwool.com

I fell off the sheep last week after 36 days of not buying yarn or spinning fiber. It’s not my longest streak - that would be 44 days - nor my shortest streak - 3 days - since I started Cold Sheeping in June. Ahem. Yarn Fort is definitely still a looming tower that I can hide behind. But I still bought 8 ounces of spinning fiber on Thursday and 2 balls of yarn on Friday. 

I don’t feel at all guilty that I fell off the sheep and then took 2 days to track the wooly critter down again. Yarn Fort got to be the size it is because I bought pretty yarn without knowing quite what I wanted to do with it. There were vague ideas that a skein of fingering weight yarn would make fun socks or that I would like a sweater out of this yarn. Or there was a really good sale. Or I felt like walking around a new yarn shop. Buying yarn with a particular pattern in mind didn’t happen as often. 

I fell off the sheep, but I bought yarn and fiber with a plan. | withwool.com

These recent purchases were different because I had a plan. Now I actually have to follow through with it in a reasonable time frame. I’m not sure what a reasonable time frame is though. Anyway, I bought 4 ounces of Corriedale locks because I want to practice making batts on my drum carder. I could practically see the green fiber mixed together with a bit of copper-colored Firestar that I’ve got stashed away. The 4 ounces of Hummingbird Moon Fiber came home with me because of its mottled dye job. The top shares a lot of similarities with fiber that turned into a skein of my own personal dream yarn: superwash, mottled dye pattern, and few colors. I’m curious to see if I can turn this fiber into more dream yarn. 

Friday’s purchases, 2 balls of Cascade 220 Superwash, came home with me because the yarn I picked for another project, a WIP hat design, wasn’t working out. I’ve already cast on and knit several inches so I’ll only be stashing the leftovers. 

I fell off the sheep, but I bought yarn and fiber with a plan. | withwool.com

It’s been 3 days and counting since I got back on the sheep. I’m not regretting my purchases nor feeling the urge to buy more yarn. I am glad that I haven’t added a lot of extra, complicated rules to my Cold Sheep. The three I have are enough and give me a little leeway when needed.

  1. Don’t buy yarn just because it’s pretty.
  2. Work from the stash.
  3. If you must by yarn or fiber, buy with a pattern or project in mind.

Going Cold Sheep

After coming to terms with the overwhelming enormity of my yarn stash, I’m going cold sheep. Going Cold Sheep | withwool.com

Let’s play a game called “Find The Knitter”.  

Done? Awesome. That’s my 5’6” self standing behind the majority of my yarn and spinning stash and I can only just see over the top. I’m not standing on my tippy-toes either. Had I piled on those WIP bags and roaming skeins, I’d be well hidden. 

Hello, my name is April and I have a yarn…storage problem. After several years of separation and a recent road trip, the bulk of my yarn stash, my recent yarn and fiber acquisitions, and I have finally been reunited. I knew I had a lot of yarn thanks to my Ravelry catalog, but I’d gotten a bit fuzzy about the exact scale of the stash. The boxes are currently stacked behind me and they make a rather impressive wall. All the clear tubs are full of yarn. The two bags at the very top are stuffed with handspun. The green bins are holding my fiber stash. Plus, there are those 3 bags of poly-fil I’ve picked up over the years. 

I’m glad to have it all but, honestly, it’s a bit overwhelming. Though I do like the idea of being able to build a literal yarn fort. Fort Yarn would be quite cosy too. That said, effective immediately, I’m going cold sheep. The only rule is don’t buy more yarn or fiber. I might give myself a few more rules and an exception or two as time goes on but not yet. 

I’m also trying to let go of the idea that I have to knit or do something with every skein and cone of yarn. It is perfectly okay to give the stash a good toss and donate/sell/give-away the yarn that I’m not in love with anymore. Like some of that stuff that I bought when I first started knitting and don’t want to use anymore. I want a well-curated stash off yarn and fiber that I can’t wait to play with, not something I feel obligated to use. 

Wish me luck and a bit of will power too.   

Interweave Yarn Fest 2016

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

Normally I hear about an interesting yarn/spinning convention/festival, find out it’s a day’s drive away, decide NOPE, and do my best to forget about it. Not this time. I’ve been looking forward to The Interweave Yarn Fest since I realized I’d be able to go without needing to spend a day in the car or book a hotel room. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any classes this year - and a few of them were really tempting - but that didn’t stop me from doing a little stash enhancement. 

I walked into the marketplace with a vague plan. I was looking for yarn and buttons for 2 projects and new types of fiber to spin. There was no shortage of yarn or fiber, but after doing my first walk around it was all fiber that really caught my eye. Then I got caught up in a whirlwind of yarn fumes until I escaped out the front door. I stuck to my shopping list, but looking at all of my fiber purchases now, I’ve realized that I bought something that satisfies every reason why I love to spin. 

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com
I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I love trying my hand at spinning new fibers. I’ve spun lots of wool but only a few ounces each of cashmere and alpaca. So, one of my goals for this year is to expand my fiber repertoire, and now I’ve built the stash to do it. I’ve got yak/silk, llama/silk, and merino/silk. Apparently, I really wanted to spin silk this year and didn’t know it until now. The blue roving is 100% mohair. I even splurged on an ounce of ultra soft paco-vicuna. Looks like I’ve got a pretty full year ahead of me.

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I love spinning color. I was walking by the 100th Sheep booth when I spotted this amazing blue and rust colored roving. There was no way those colors weren’t coming home with me. The 6oz of blended roving looked amazing spun up and I couldn’t resist it either. Note: The ball of roving is a big as my head.

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I love learning new yarn constructions and new techniques. The handy Fiber Preparedness Kit packed full of punis, dyed locks, and roving seemed like a good way to branch out from my usual 2-ply. As for the firestar, there’s a drum carder coming my way and I want to make some sparkly batts. 

The market was also full of handspun and handspun-looking yarns. Inspiration and motivation was everywhere you looked. There was handspun with beads and coils. There was handspun that showcased color. There were absolutely gorgeous crepe constructed yarns that I want need to learn to spin. 

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I love fun spinning and batts are fun spinning. This absolutely giant 8 oz batt (Ysolda’s Mousie for scale) fit the bill perfectly. I can’t wait to start tearing into that thing. 

I had an great time at Interweave Yarn Fest 2016 and my stash is pretty happy too. :) - Interweave Yarn Fest | withwool.com

I only bought 3 skeins of yarn and none of them were for projects on my list. One of them was a secret gift and the other two, well, I’m a sucker for beautiful grey -  Stone Walk by Western Sky Knits - and a good gradient - white to purple by OgleDesign. Enough said. 

Now that the yarn fumes have faded, I’m happy I went. I came home with yarn, fiber, ideas, a ton of inspiration, and even a pair of earrings. Looking forward to going back to Yarn Fest next year. Until then I’m going to keep an eye for other fiber events to go too. What are your favorite festivals?

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.

Nube-Arco-Iris-Nests.jpg

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. 

Batt Showcase

My time with the drum carder is over. It went back at last months and the 4 weeks that I had it were a crash course in carding. I made the first batt because I wanted to see what would happen and it turned out pretty despite my complete lack of knowledge. With one batt under my belt, I decided to do a little research and figure out how to actually use a drum carder. What could you make with one? What could be carded? Maybe more importantly, how do you clean one? I watched videos, read articles, and came across people that knew what they were doing. People that threw in disorganized fiber and had art come out the other side.

Up to this point, from the lone batt I’d spun and most of the listings I’ve seen on Etsy, I had the idea that batts were an everything and the kitchen sink kind of thing.The kind that was 3 types of wool, sparkly bits, silk noil, and some angora for good measure. After my research, I found out differently. Sure, there are kitchen sink batts but batts can also be smooth and uniform. They can focus on color instead of texture. Batts can be bold or subtle. Fibers can be carefully blended or smashed all together. Variation is awesome stuff. 

My batts got better was the weeks went on. They’re all on the subtle side since I just wanted to prep my stash of unprocessed fiber to spin - several ounces of alpaca, locks, angora, and random mystery wool. I wanted to play with color too but ran out of time. Well, I can always rent it again.

The very first batt was 40g of mystery wool from a Gwen Erin grab bag.

Second batt was made from 40 g of Corriedale roving.

This batt is my attempt at duplicating a rolag given to me at a previous guild meeting. Looks similar but I won’t know for sure until I spin it.

These 4 soft and lovely batts were carded from the very first ounces of my fiber stash, 4 oz of light rose grey alpaca. Took me years to prep this fiber and I’m glad I finally did.

The Romney, and reason I rented the carder, turned into 2 batts.

More alpaca from the stash which got a good wash before going on the carder. 

Had a small sample of a BFL and Silk roving that I decided to blend with half its weight in Angora. The batt is wonderfully soft with great luster.

Last batt off the carder was 14g of 100% Angora. Working with straight Angora was more difficult than blending it with wool but not impossible. 

It’s nice to have my kitchen table back but I kind of miss having the drum carder around. I still want to play around with color and blending fibers. Plus, using the carder was just fun and I enjoyed it. Before I had one to my spinning wish list though, I’m going to spin up a few of the batts I made. If I like working with them and the finished yarn, I’ll do some research to pick out the perfect drum carder. Any suggestions on where I should start looking? 

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.

Drum Carding Weekend

This was what my kitchen table looked like pretty much all of Saturday and Sunday. See, this is the last week I’ve got the drum carder and I’m determined to make the most of it.

I spent a good chunk of Saturday feeding 3 oz of light rose grey alpaca through the carder. It was amazing to see the fiber go from crimped locks to a soft and fluffy batt. Don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing that transformation. 

On Sunday, I carded the 2 oz of Romney bought at April’s spinning guild meeting. The very same Romney that prompted my last minute decision to rent the drum carder.  Locks went in and a fluffy cloud came out. If it looks like a cloud, it has to be a cloud right?

In total, I processed 5 oz over the weekend and I’m still not done. There’s more alpaca and angora coming from my distant stash. Until that arrives, I’ve got grand plans for this bump of fiber from Spun Right Round. Going to use it to try something new, The Monet Effect Technique from Grace Shalom Hopkins. Interested to see how carding recombines the pink, blue, and green together.

Spun Right Round in May

Beware! There are spoilers ahead for May 2014 shipment of the Spun Right Round Fiber Club. Scroll on at your own risk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I remembered that it was almost time for the latest club shipment to show up in my mailbox. April’s package, Olivia, was still hanging out on the wheel and I thought there’d be just enough time to finish. Didn’t happen. When the package arrived, there was still yard after yard of single to spin but May’s colors were the perfect kick in the butt to finish. The sooner Olivia is off the wheel, the sooner I can start spinning up Potted.

Potted’s greens, blues, reds, creams, and even browns are right up my color alley. Might even be my new favorite color way from Spun Right Round and I have a lot of favorites. A little note said that the inspiration for this color was “potted plants, foliage, and hanging baskets”. Pretty sure she nailed it since the colors remind me more and more of my Mom’s plant covered porch. The fiber, Falkland, is one of my favorites to spin and I’m already planning what to do with this bump. Shawl? Fingerless Mitts? Mystery pattern?  

Also included in the package were two adorable little BFL punis. I’ve seen punis before but never handled them. This pair is small, just 4 grams, but are surprisingly plump and firm. Can’t wait to spin them up to see what cute little mini skeins they become.

Unfortunately, my 3 months in the Spun Right Round Fiber club are up. I can honestly say that I have throughly enjoyed it and would recommend it. The colors are beautiful even if they are out of my usual green and grey spectrum. The base fibers are lovely and soft. The one bump that I’ve started spinning has been a pleasure to work with. Plus, how awesome is it to get pretty fiber in the mail every month? I’m incredibly tempted to sign up for another month or another 3 months; however, I’m also tempted to sign up to a different fiber club with a completely different color palate. 3 months and 12 oz of fiber is a good sample of a dyer’s wares. I know for certain that Spun Right Round’s fiber is exemplary and I’m sure I’ll buy it again. In the meantime, there are so many other amazing dyers that make amazing art as well. I’d be remiss to not try them out as well. 

Who are your favorite dyers? Or do you dye yarn and fiber yourself? I’d love to know.

Adventures With A Drum Carder

I blame the Romney I bought at last Saturday’s spinning guild meeting. The fiber is lovely, soft, and clean but it still needs to be prepped for spinning. Unfortunately, I have no way to prep said fiber which prompted the last minute decision to rent the guild’s drum carder. It’s definitely large and in charge. So large, in fact, that I brought it home in a rolling duffle bag. Just what exactly I’d gotten myself into? Then guilt set in because there were only 2.5 ounces of Romney compared to the enormity of this hungry machine. The guilt didn’t last long because I started to remember all the alpaca, angora, and random bits of wool that have been sitting un-prepped and un-spun in my stash for years. And what about all that roving? Maybe I could experiment with that too. See ya later, Guilt.

The first thing to hit the drum was some random bits of practice grab bag wool. Before feeding it through the drums, I pulled the chunks apart to thin them down a little. Didn’t worry about color or anything else. The wool went in until the drum was full and there still half a bag left to play with.

The colors blended beautifully though there are still random spots of solid blue after 3 passes through the carder. Looking forward to spinning it up and seeing the finished yarn.

Since this was my first time using a drum carder, or a carder of any kind, I’m amazed at the transformation. Before, there were just squishy clumps of wool I didn’t know what to do with. Now, I’ve got something that I can’t wait to spin. Also, the process was a blast. Get to play with wool and fiber? Check. Get to play with color? Check. Get to make stuff? Double check. Me thinks that I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and I have no idea how deep it goes.

Since making those first 2 batts, I’ve done a little more research on how to properly use a drum carder. How to clean one too. The best info I’ve found is a 3-part series from vampy.co.uk. Part 1 is all about the basics of how a drum carder works and the necessary accoutrements. Part 2 is about carding raw fleece. Part 3 is about how to blend fibers. Now that I’m armed with a little more knowledge, I’m ready to play around, experiment, and make more batts. 

Spun Right Round in April

If you’re a member of the Spun Right Round Fiber Club and haven’t received April’s package yet, there be spoilers ahead. Read on at your own risk.

 

***

 

Just this morning I had the random thought that it was time for the Spun Right Round Club to show up at my door. I checked the my mailbox on a whim and there was a puffy envelope with my name on it. 

I wasted no time ripping open the paper. Inside was a lovely bump of fiber named Olivia. The colors - a mix of purple, pink, white, blue, and yellow - are a bit more subdued than last month’s Color Bot. Not something I would have picked for myself but the mix is swiftly growing on me. I want to spin it into a simple 2-ply just to see how how the dark purple blends with the bright pink and yellow. 

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The fiber itself, Rambouillet, is a special treat since this is the first time it’s ever graced my stash. I keep draping it around my neck because it is marvelously soft. Never mind that it’s 70º both outside and inside my apartment. The more I handle the fiber, the closer this bump is getting to the very top of my spinning list. It’s even beating out that bit of Malabrigo Nube

Almost A Yarn Crawl

I love living in a city large enough to have more than one yarn shop. Last weekend was the 2014 LA Yarn Crawl which included 29 shops. 29! When I first heard about the Crawl, I had grand dreams of touring the city, visiting the shops, and buying all the yarn. Then I saw that I’d have to drive at least 45 minutes, assuming traffic was perfect, to get to most of them. That dream did not live long. 

My yarn hopping hopes weren’t completely dashed though because of the WildFiber pop-up shop. There was skein upon skein of pretty skein but I didn’t have a plan for any of it. So, I walked out with the only skein that called my name, Zen Garden Yarn Serenity 20. To be honest, I don’t have a plan for it either but I’m a sucker for a good green. This one, named Teak, is a ridiculously soft blend of superwash merino, cashmere, and nylon. Might turn into a shawl or a luscious pair of mitts.  I’m sure the yarn will let me know eventually.

Stash Documentation

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In February, I signed up for the Spun Right Round Fiber club as soon as it popped up in the Etsy shop. Doesn’t hurt to obsessively stalk a shop’s RSS feed, right? Please tell me I’m not the only one that does this. Joining the club was a consolation prize, albeit an awesome one, for not being able to make the trip to Stitches West. Eventually, the shipping notification arrived in my inbox and I waited none too patiently for March’s shipment to show up in my mailbox. The fiber is soft and the colors are definitely outside of my usual color spectrum. Riotous neon pink doesn’t often make it into my stash but this bump makes it look fun. Can’t wait to start spinning it up. 

When I went to add the fiber, appropriately named Color Bot, to my Ravelry stash, it looked it was the only fiber I’ve bought in months. Definitely not true. I was also pretty sure that I’ve made more than 21 skeins of handspun. Oh, Ravelry, I have not forsaken you! I’ve just been a little distracted by spinning and writing and websites and knitting and video games and…you get the point. Over the past few days I’ve been adding to, photographing for, and updating the stash catalog. The whole process can be slow going but it’s worth it and I recommend it. A happy, up to date Ravelry stash let’s you see all your fiber at the click of a finger. Makes it easier to decide what to spin next. No need to drag it all unless you want to. Plus, it’s a great reference when you’re trying to decide how to further enhance the stash. 

I almost forgot I had some this stuff. Shame on me. 

Malabrigo Nube - Glitter Colorway. This Merino is ridiculously soft and the colors are everything you’d expect from Malabrigo. 

CosyMakes Falkland - Flight of Fancy

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More CosyMakes Falkland in Honey Bear. Before and After.

Gale’s Art Corriedale Top - Limited Edition Color

6 oz of un-dyed Corriedale Cross. Sometimes you just need a few neutrals to balance out all the color. Thinking about about pairing it with the purples, greens, and blues of the Corriedale from Gale’s Art. Maybe I’ll try spinning my first skein of sock yarn. 

Wander the Web 31

I see a pair of tall, fiery-orange socks in my future. 

I see a pair of tall, fiery-orange socks in my future. 

A collection of fun and interesting links from the week. 

 

A nursing home floor becomes one giant touchscreen

Adaptable Knitted Survival Clothing

Sipho Mabona folds a life-size elephant from a single 50x50” sheet of paper

How to Measure the Yardage and Width of Handspun Yarn

Herb Williams’ Crayon Sculptures. The tree trunk is my favorite. 

The Default Techniques of Knitting by Ysolda Teague

Create Marled Yarn with Chain Plying

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

Ever fallen hard for a skein of variegated yarn? Yarn that’s beautiful in the skein, but, when knit, turns into a pooling and flashing mess. There are several ways to combat pooling yarn. You can stripe with another yarn or knit from alternate ends every 2 rows. You can change the gauge or slip stitches or do all manner of finicky things. What happens when none of that works and you’re ready to stuff into the very back of the closet?

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com
How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

I had about reached that point with a beautiful skein of orange and blue fingering weight yarn. The reason it didn’t end up forgotten in a closet was because my closet isn’t that big. Besides, my yarn stash is a bit too small to intentionally lose yarn. I tried tons of different tricks to get the colors not to pool but nothing really worked. I was about to move along to another project and a solid yarn when I came across Amy Christoffer’s Moxie Pullover. The sweater is knit with two different colors of yarn held together to create a lovely marled fabric. Why not ply that stubborn skein to create a marl? 

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com
How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

After starting a movie, I sat at my wheel and decided to chain-ply the yarn instead making a 2-ply. Didn’t want to risk the color repeats matching up in a 2-ply and creating a thicker yarn with the exact same pooling problems. Less than an hour later, I had a wonderful marled yarn that I wanted to knit with instead of intentionally misplacing. 

Short and Sweet Directions for Chain-Plying Marled Yarn

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

1. Figure out which way the yarn is plied. Commercial yarn is usually plied to the left, S twist, so you’ll need to chain ply to the right, Z twist. If you’re plying a single, spin to the left.

2. Wind the yarn into a center-pull ball.

3. Chain-ply. Use a wheel or a spindle, both work just fine. 

4. Once your finished plying, let the yarn rest for a day so the twist can settle into the yarn.

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

5. Wind the yarn into a skein.  Never mind the crazy tendrils.

6. Soak the skein in a cool water bath with wool wash or gentle soap. Rinse carefully if the yarn isn’t superwash.

7. Hang to dry.

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

Now the yarn is ready to be wound and knit up into marled goodness. FYI, chain plying will reduce the yardage by a third. This fingering yarn’s original 400 yards turned into about 133 yards of aran weight. So, instead of socks or a shawl, there’s enough yardage to knit a slouchy hat or a small cowl or fingerless mitts. Could even squeak out a small pair of slippers.  Bring on the marl!

How To Chain Ply Variegated Yarn To Create Marled Yarn | withwool.com

Smith Rock Revealed

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Last month, I finally visited the local spinning guild. When I stepped out of my car, I had no idea where to go so I just followed the woman carrying a spinning wheel. There was yarn, fiber, spinning wheels, and spindles all over the place. Yep, I was definitely in the right place. The meeting and people were great so I wasted no time joining up. There were even a couple local vendors selling fiber and supplies. Resistance was futile and I bought 4 oz of Targhee dyed by Abstract Fibers. The reds, browns and oranges of Smith Rock are a bit outside my usual color spectrum but were exactly what I wanted.

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 I split the fiber in half lengthwise and started spinning singles for a 2-ply yarn. The Targhee was wonderfully soft and drafting was easy so I was able to focus on the color as it moved through my fingers. The Bearded One noticed it too. Subdued red might not be my first color choice but it’s definitely his. He called dibs on the finished yarn. He denies it but he definitely called dibs. 

In knitting there’s a “rule” that says if don’t like something about your project, you should fix it immediately instead of pretending it’s okay for another thousand stitches. If it’s bothering you, the only difference those thousand stitches are going to make is that you’re going to have go through them first to get something you’re truly happy with. It’s a good rule. Saves time, energy, and hassle. I motion that this rule should apply to spinning and life in general too. It’s better to fix something immediately than to make a mistake worse by pretending it didn’t happen or that it’s just fine as it is. Who seconds?

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The reason I bring this “rule” to your attention is that we can all stand to be reminded of it from time to time. I certainly could have used the reminder when I started plying this yarn. Sometimes the colors matched but, most of the time, it was a wild barber pole. I kept telling myself I liked it and it would come together in the end. Unfortunately, the more I looked at the plied yarn, the more I didn’t like it. The only fix was un-plying the yarn and doing detailed surgery to get the colors to match. Leaving the yarn as is and shoving it into the back of the closet just wasn’t an option. Un-plying, separating the singles, and matching the colors more than doubled the amount of time I spent on this yarn. The whole misadventure involved a spinning wheel, a cardboard box, a spindle, a ball winder, scissors, and felting. A few days later I had a well matched ball of singles ready for their fourth trip through the spinning wheel.

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 All the extra work was worth it. The finished yarn is wonderful, soft, and there’s no need to shove it into a closet. The Bearded One agrees since the colors are great and look good on him. I can’t wait to knit it up as we figure out what to make with 430 yards of worsted weight. 

Spun for Spinzilla

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Spinzilla is in the bag for the year. I started a day late. I spun along to podcasts, tv shows, and video games. On Saturday, I finished my third and last single. The final day, Sunday, I finished plying. Ended with 929 yards worth of singles which I turned into 310 yards of chain plied yarn. Not a bad haul of knit worthy yarn for any week.  

Spinzilla was pretty fun and I enjoyed the competition. I didn’t go all out and spin in every free moment. If I wanted to read or play video games, that’s just what I did. My wrists and ankles are thanking me for it. So what if I didn’t get to spin that happy little bump of color I got from Gwen Erin? I hit my only goal of spinning up the rest of my stashed Perendale wool.

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Thanks to the push from Spinzilla, I’ve reached a turning point in my spinning. Before last week, I had only spun small quantities of fiber at a time, 4 oz max. Spinning more than that on a spindle just seemed like a giant time suck that I’d get bored of halfway through and never finish. Didn’t think I could spin a consistent yarn over numerous skeins either. Well, my spindles sat out last week and I worked exclusively on my Sidekick. I spun three separate but matched skeins of yarn which I’ve never done before. Now I feel like I can spin yarn for blankets and sweaters and large projects without getting quitting halfway through. I’m even looking forward to it!

A week and a half later, I’m glad I signed up to compete at the last minute. It was fun even though I didn’t join a team. Can’t wait to try again and beat my yardage in next year’s Spinzilla.

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