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. 

Working Small and Fast with Handspun Samples

Working small and fast will tell you a lot about how to spin a specific yarn or for a big project. Like how to handle color, spin consistently, what to measure, and what not to do. | withwool.com

Time for an update on the epic green handspun project. When last we saw our fiber I shared why I bought this particular roving and my plans for sampling and spinning it. You can read more about that here. Our dashing roving has gone through quite a few transformations since then!

Okay, I’m ditching the transatlantic narrator accent, and getting back to business. I’ve learned a few things from spinning samples for this batch of handspun. The end goal is still the same: 500 - 600 yards of 2-ply fingering weight yarn that’ll look good as a lace shawl. I’m glad I started small and tested different techniques. Working fast and small let me refine the methods I’m going to use when I spin the real yarn.

Working small and fast will tell you a lot about how to spin a specific yarn. Like how to handle color, spin consistently, what to measure, and what not to do. | withwool.com

I had 3 questions I wanted to answer with the samples. How should I handle the color to prevent barber poles? How much fiber am I going to need to spin 500+ yards? How do I set up my wheel to consistently spin a fingering yarn? 

To keep the variables to a minimum, I used 5g of fiber for each sample with a more-or-less equal mix of light and dark green. I used the same ratio, 15.5 : 1 on the Schacht fast whorl, to draft and ply each sample. I set the twist and finished each skein with a 15 minute soak in cool water with Eucalan, and hung them to dry. 

Sample #1

Working small and fast will tell you a lot about how to spin a specific yarn. Like how to handle color, spin consistently, what to measure, and what not to do. | withwool.com

This first sample was my control and I did exactly what I don’t want to, spin a barber pole yarn. One ply was dark green and one ply was light green. It’s pretty and I like the variation of the light green ply, but it would only obscure a lace pattern. 

Sample #2

Working small and fast will tell you a lot about how to spin a specific yarn. Like how to handle color, spin consistently, what to measure, and what not to do. | withwool.com

Sample 2 is where I started changing things up. I split the roving down the middle to make smaller sections of color and pre-drafted the fibers. Then I held two strands of the roving together with the light and dark greens together. The photo below shows what this looks like. 

Working small and fast will tell you a lot about how to spin a specific yarn. Like how to handle color, spin consistently, what to measure, and what not to do. | withwool.com

I admit to being a little lazy on this sample because I spun just the one ply, wound it into a center-pull ball, and plied it with itself. So I’m not sure how much of the color variation is due to the dual drafting and how much is due to plying from a center pull ball. It also has way more twist than the other 2 samples because I had to fiddle with the ball to keep the plies evenly tensioned. All these factors considered, I think the color handling moved in the right direction.

Sample #3

Working small and fast will tell you a lot about how to spin a specific yarn. Like how to handle color, spin consistently, what to measure, and what not to do. | withwool.com

I wasn’t lazy this time and spun 2 separate plies. I split the roving in half and in half again to create even smaller portions of color. I gave dual drafting another try, making sure to pair light greens with dark greens as much as possible. The resulting yarn is much more even in tone and color. There are pops of light and dark, but the yarn reads as a semi-solid instead of a variegated. That’s a big difference from the original un-manipulated fiber. It’s also exactly the effect I was going for. 

Working small and fast will tell you a lot about how to spin a specific yarn. Like how to handle color, spin consistently, what to measure, and what not to do. | withwool.com

So I’ve got the color thing figured out. What about yardage and wheel set-up? My math tells me that I have more than enough fiber to spin the required 500 - 600 yards. As for wheel set-up, I’ve got the right ratios and tension to spin a fingering weight yarn so long as I’m careful. If I get lazy, it’ll turn into a sport weight like so many of my other attempts at spinning fingering weight yarn. That tells me I need to get better at measuring my plies during drafting. Jillian Moreno wrote some handy guides on the subject, A Spinner’s Compass: Measuring and Documenting Your Yarn and Keeping Track While Spinning and Lazy, that I’ll be using as guides. I’m specifically looking to measure ply diameter as well as twist and plying angle. So I’ve ordered a spinner’s control card and I’m making up an angle gauge to measure twist. 

There’s still one more step before I move on, swatching my samples. Seeing the yarn in the skein is one thing, and knitting with it is another. I’ll show you the results in the next progress report. 

Estes Park Wool Market

I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and had a great time with yarn, sheep, and border collies. | withwool.com

Early this year I started putting together a list of 100 things I wanted to do. There are small things like riding my bike around town and big things like taking a trip to Yellowstone. I am no where close to even having 100 things I want to do written down, let alone completed, but a big chunk of that list is fiber arts related. No surprise, right? Well, I wrote “Go to a fiber festival” and I was finally able to do just that on Saturday at the Estes Park Wool Market.

I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and had a great time with yarn, sheep, and border collies. | withwool.com
I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and had a great time with yarn, sheep, and border collies. | withwool.com

There were sheep, goats, llama, and alpacas. Some of them really hammed it up for the camera.  

I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and had a great time with yarn, sheep, and border collies. | withwool.com

I tempted the Bearded One to come with me with the promise of herding dogs. We were able to see amazing Border Collies at work, and then we got to pet them! They were such a sweet bunch too. This handsome guy’s name is Bruiser.

I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and had a great time with yarn, sheep, and border collies. | withwool.com
I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and had a great time with yarn, sheep, and border collies. | withwool.com

There were so many venders with beautiful yarn and fiber, and I couldn’t resist enhancing the stash. I fell hard for 200 yards of bulky 100% alpaca spun together with metallic thread. So soft and cuddly. Then I broke from my usual color scheme and bought a wild variegated skein of pinks mixed with dark, muted colors by Traci Bunkers. And I got an awesome wool/bison felt hat from The Buffalo Wool Co. It kept the sun out of my face for the rest of the day. Looks good too. 

I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and had a great time with yarn, sheep, and border collies. | withwool.com

The last thing I bought was an orifice hook for my wheel. I’ve only been trying to find one that would comfortably fit my hand for literally years. I found this one at Clemes & Clemes. It’s made of hand turned maple with a long hook and a spot to attach a charm or lanyard. Tried it out when I got home and it’s perfect. 

Wool Market was a great first fiber festival and I’m looking forward to going again next year. Hopefully, I’ll remember to sign up for a class or two before the deadline. I’m also thinking about submitting a skein or two to the handspun competition.     

Saturday also happened to be World Wide Knit In Public Day. I made sure to get my knit on during a side trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. 

I went to the Estes Park Wool Market and had a great time with yarn, sheep, and border collies. | withwool.com

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. 

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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.  

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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?

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.    

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

Handspun Experiments: Opposing 3-ply Sock Yarn

Is handspun 3-ply opposing sock yarn more durable than a traditional 3-ply construction? | withwool.com

The end goal for this yarn was always going to be a pair of socks. So I followed the internet’s advice which recommended spinning a high-twist opposing 3-ply construction. What makes this construction special is that one ply is spun in the opposite direction which is supposed to add elasticity and increased durability. I started with 8 oz of Louet Northern Lights Top, color Blue Spruce, which is space-dyed and a blend of similar wool types. It’s not as soft as Merino, but seemed much more durable. 

A post shared by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

I split the top lengthwise into 3 more or less equal sections for each of the 2 skeins. I spun each ply with a fairly firm twist to stand up to the extra wear and tear of socks. 2 of the plies had Z-twist, and 1 had S-twist. Plying a balanced yarn was a trial since the S-twist skein took in even more twist and would kink up when given half a chance. Next time, I’ll experiment with putting less twist on the opposing ply and make up for it during plying. You can read more about how I spun the yarn here.

Is handspun 3-ply opposing sock yarn more durable than a traditional 3-ply construction? | withwool.com
Is handspun 3-ply opposing sock yarn more durable than a traditional 3-ply construction? | withwool.com

I didn’t photograph the pair (find all the knitty details here) when I finished them, and the socks got about a month of regular daily wear before camera time. While spinning the yarn, I was worried about holes. Now I’m pretty sure the socks will felt before a hole even thinks about opening up. The stitches on the bottom of the sole have already started felting together and loosing some of their stretch. The stitches on the side and top are still distinct and flexible though. Any eventual repairs I have to make will probably be more difficult because of the felting, but at least I’ll notice the holes before they get too big. 

Is handspun 3-ply opposing sock yarn more durable than a traditional 3-ply construction? | withwool.com

The jury is still out on whether or not the opposing ply yarn construction is more durable than a traditional 3-ply. I will keep you updated though as things develop. And when I spin a traditional 3-ply as sock yarn.

There’s one other skein of opposing 3-ply sock yarn stashed away for me. This skein is my first attempt at an opposing ply sock yarn. It’s a true fingering weight spun from Falkland top. Once I’m ready to whip up another pair of vanilla socks, I’ll give this yarn a try. I can’t be the only one without handspun socks in this house after all.

FO: My First Handspun Socks

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

When I was first learning spin, one of my far way goals was to spin durable yarn for socks. It took me a few years to reach the point with my skills and confidence to try and actually succeed. Then it took me another year (or was it two?) to spin more sock yarn and finally use it for socks. This pair was for the Bearded One, which is why I finally took the plunge and cast on. When I knit to keep my own toes warm, other sock yarns and fun patterns somehow keep distracting me.

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

The yarn was always going to be the star of the show. When I sat down to design the pattern, I knew that the striping and mottled colors would only obscure a more detailed stitch. So I went with my standard vanilla sock with 2x2 rib which would also make for a well-fitting sock. I also added a princess sole, where the stockinette side of the fabric is against the foot, to smooth out any bumps that might have come with using a sometimes thick-and-thin yarn. The downside to the princess sole was that it slowed me down since I had to purl a big chunk of every row. That changed when I knit the second sock inside out, and worked the reverse of pretty much every stitch. Take my word for it, it’s much easier working lifted increases on the knit side of a fabric. 

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

I had a few worries when I cast on for this pair. One, would the half pound of yarn I spun be enough? It’s not like a I could go to the store and buy more. Two, would knitting smooth out the unevenly plied and unruly sections of yarn? Now I know the answers to both those questions are an obvious yes, but figuring that out definitely kept me on my toes. I have a few yards leftover for darning. Plus, I can’t point out the sections where the yarn was more snarled than smooth. 

The best part is that all that work - picking a yarn construction, spinning the yarn, setting the twist, designing the pattern, and then knitting two huge socks - has been rewarded. This pair is the Bearded One’s new favorite out of the many pairs of socks I’ve made for him. Knowing that does a spinner/knitter’s heart good, and makes sure the hand knit socks keep coming. 

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

Pattern: My own basic vanilla sock with 2x2 ribbing and a princess sole

Yarn: Tour de Fleece 2016 Sock Yarn 

Needles: 2.75 circulars

Dates: September 22 - December 11, 2016

@Ravelry 

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. 

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.

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.  

Knitting A Handspun Sock

I’m knitting my first pair of handspun socks. It was a nervous cast on, but the first sock is going really well even though I ripped out the gusset. Knitting A Handspun Sock | withwool.com

On one of the rare occasions when The Bearded One went into a yarn shop with me, he found a half pound of spinning fiber that he liked. Second to me, he has the greatest appreciation for my fiber goodness, so I was all to happy to promise him something made from handspun. We eventually decided on a pair of socks. Tour de Fleece came along this year and I got spinning. 8 oz of Louet Northern Lights turned into 2 matching skeins of opposing 3-ply sock yarn

The yarn didn’t turn out like I’d planned. Instead of solid stripes, the yarn marled. Instead of fingering weight, I got sport weight. Instead of a smooth 3-ply, the opposing ply made a kinked up and uneven yarn. Plus, I didn’t get anything close to the yardage I was expecting. Ugh. 

I’m knitting my first pair of handspun socks. It was a nervous cast on, but the first sock is going really well even though I ripped out the gusset. Knitting A Handspun Sock | withwool.com

I wasn’t sure what would happen when I cast on. To be completely honest, I didn’t think the yarn would work as a pair of socks. Happy to say I was wrong though. I only ripped out once and that was because I messed up the gusset increases. The marl is beautiful with subtle stripes. Knitting with sport weight means even a US 14 sized sock works up fast. There’s enough yardage too - my fingers are crossed though just to make sure. Of everything that that could have gone wrong, I was worried the most about the yarn making a bumpy, uncomfortable sole. That would have a deal breaker for sure. So I’m working a princess sole, and it seems smooth and comfy. Definitely worth all that purling. 

I’m knitting my first pair of handspun socks. It was a nervous cast on, but the first sock is going really well even though I ripped out the gusset. Knitting A Handspun Sock | withwool.com

After being nervous that my handspun sock yarn wouldn’t make a good pair of socks, I’m relieved thateverything is working out better than I planned. Here’s hoping the second sock and the second skein do as well together. 

Spinning Swamp Thing

Back to spinning Swamp Thing. | withwool.com

My back of the envelope plan for this superwash BFL, very appropriately named Swamp Thing, was to spin both the plies, put them together, and then set the twist by last weekend. If I hadn’t gotten a cold, that’s precisely what would have happened. I’d have new handspun to show you too. Instead I’m still spinning the second ply. The good news is that I’m mostly over my cold and back at the wheel. 

The second ply has been a little harder to spin than the first. Even though the fiber was listed as superwash, the roving seems felted in spots. I’ve had to work a little slower to get the surface and thickness to match the first ply. Double drafting has been a very good friend of mine the last couple of days. Next up is plying, and I can’t wait to see how this yarn comes together.  

Back to spinning Swamp Thing. | withwool.com

Spinning for the Joy of Spinning

Spinning something new for the joy of it, and not worrying about yardage. | withwool.com

Registration for Spinzilla was last month, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to participate this year. I’ve participated every year since Spinzilla began in 2013. Two days before registration closed, I finally decided that I might as well keep the streak going. But I didn’t actually remember to sign up until the afternoon of the last day, and missed the deadline. Frustrating? Yes, but I’m spinning anyway. Not for Spinzilla though.

Spinning something new for the joy of it, and not worrying about yardage. | withwool.com

I didn’t spend any time at my wheel during September. I had packed it up to go to a spin-in at a local yarn shop only for my allergies to knock me out of commission. Then other projects and deadlines kept coming up, and my wheel never made it back out of the bag. I’d also packed 4 oz of superwash BFL, an Akerworks flat pack bobbin, and notions. It turned out to be a nice kit when I was ready to spin again. 

Spinning something new for the joy of it, and not worrying about yardage. | withwool.com

After the wheel was set up and oiled, it was time to finish prepping the fiber. I’m aiming for a heavy fingering weight yarn which is hard for me to achieve when I working from the full bulk of the roving. I split the roving lengthwise into 16 more or less equal sections. 8 for each ply. Then there was nothing left to do but start spinning. 

Spinning something new for the joy of it, and not worrying about yardage. | withwool.com

The roving was dyed in mottled pattern without a color repeat, so I joined the sections at random. Working from the smaller pieces really helped keep clearer colors. There’s black, brown, dark green, light green, blue, and acid yellow which would be so easy muddy. The colorway is called Swamp Thing after all.  Plus, not having to work type-writer style across the top of a big chunk of roving helped me draft a fine and consistent yarn. 

Spinning something new for the joy of it, and not worrying about yardage. | withwool.com

I’ve been trying to be more adventurous with my spinning this year, and work with new fibers. This is the first time that I’ve spun with superwash fiber of any kind. I went in expecting the fibers to be slippery and hard to work with. While the fibers definitely weren’t as grabby as regular wool, they weren’t any harder to spin than a well carded merino. I’m glad I finally tried spinning a superwash yarn since it no where as difficult as I’d built it up to be in my head. 

Spinning something new for the joy of it, and not worrying about yardage. | withwool.com

Not being able to register for Spinzilla was a bummer at first, but I’m not aggravated about it anymore.  Just the thought of Spinzilla was a good kick in the pants to sit down at my wheel again. I’m working at my own pace without worrying about trying to beat my numbers from 2015. Plus, it’s nice just to spin for the joy of it.