I am not the cook in my household. It feels like there are so many steps between the raw ingredient and the finished dish, so many places to make a mistake and not be able to make what you want. That’s also how I felt about spinning when I first started. From fiber prep to color handling to drafting style I had to make so many choices. I did not understand the ways I was limiting my outcomes each step of the way, only that I was doing so. The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson is like a cookbook for handspinning, complete with reference (recipe) cards to refer to while you go.
The first chapter covers spinning basics like woolen vs worsted, z- vs s-twist, etc. The second describes spinning singles and different ways to ply then. Once these principles are spelled out, the book gets to the fun part – a menu of different yarns and how to create them.
Each yarn has a name, description, and pictures of each component of the recipe – each single through each plying step. There are also photos of the finished yarn. Often there are multiple examples and swatches. The yarns are split into types, each described in a chapter that also covers the general characteristics of the yarns.
One of my favorite sidebars in the book is a running inquiry into different kinds of sock yarns. The author spun sock yarns of many different kinds and tested them head to head in matching hand knit socks. She even alternated which feet she wore them to make sure she was testing the yarns and not the peculiarities of her feet.
Most of the yarns are unsuitable for the kinds of items I like to knit, so this book is staying on my shelf as eye candy. Nearly all of the samples are done in white, making it easy to compare the yarn types without being distracted by color. If I ever get into art weaving this book will be the first place I go to plan my yarns!
I have been sewing and spinning and knitting for years, but this was my first year blogging everything I made. Along the way it has been about having the record, and sharing my thoughts through the process of making a wardrobe at home. Today looking back at what I created this year I am realizing that I accomplished more than I give myself credit for.
I have 13 knitting FOs this year (2 of them not yet blogged here, you’ll see them in the new year). They’re split among:
Without a doubt, my Advent Garland is the star of this year’s creations. The colors, the designs, everything about it makes my heart sing. I hope it will be part of my family’s traditions for the rest of our lives.
Looking at the mountain of work I completed this year, I see how much time I have been able to carve out for making this year. I make room for knitting and sewing more naturally, other crafts only happen with concerted planning or as part of social crafting. Most of my projects are for myself, with my daughter as the next most common recipient. I work mostly with pink, green, and blue.
That wraps up my look back at my making in 2016. Are you pleased with what you made this year? What was your very favorite project?
My Tour de Fleece yarn is finished! I shared my plans with you at the beginning of the month, and am happy to report that I met my goal – I spun every day (okay, full disclosure: I took 1 day of rest, but the Tour de France riders take 2 so I think I’m good), and I completed my sweater spin. The yarn didn’t turn out quite like the DK to worsted weight that I was imagining, but I am still pleased with it. After my recent reread of The Intentional Spinner I decided to ply with much less twist than I normally use and I really like the results. This yarn is giant and fluffy and will make a soft, warm sweater.
Based on the wisdom of JMM I also decided on a much more aggressive finishing process than usual. I agitated the skeins in hot water and then immediately plunged them into cold before beating them on my porch a bit. They fulled so nicely that the strands stick together.
One practice I love for plying giant spins is pairing up the bobbins so #1 is plied to the last, #2 to the second to last, etc on the way in. It’s a great way to even out inconsistencies in the single. I was very pleased to find the the yarn made from bobbins 3+4 and from bobbins 2+5 was identical in weight and yardage. It feels great that I can create large quantities of uniform yarn, as someone who likes to knit large projects. This yarn is queued up to become a Paloma by Thea Colman – I love seed stitch for this kind of subtle variegation and I think it would be perfect and cozy.
How did your Tour de Fleece go? Did you meet your goals? Spin any yarn you’re particularly excited about?
So I know I said I would be reading Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet this month, but then I realized that since all my other July posts were spinning-related I should read a spinning related book, too. So CSKTFYF will be my book for August. This month instead I will be discussing the classic intro to spinning – The Intentional Spinner by Judith MacKenzie McCuin.
The first part of the book covers many different types of spinning fiber. The detail on where the fiber can be found and how it goes from its natural state to a spinnable fiber is incredible. The section on the science of fibers has a beautiful table of characteristics of different fiber types. It also includes some tests to help identify mystery fibers. Over and over throughout these chapters I wondered why so many great fibers are so rare. Ramie sounds great, but in the 7 years since this book was published it hasn’t taken off in much commercial yarn. 50/50 silk/cotton sounds like the ideal blend, but I’ve never tried it! It was fun to see the sidebar on the burgeoning organic cotton movement – much more vibrant today! I particularly loved this quote about protein fibers:
The next part of the book is the mechanics of different spinning and plying techniques. It starts at fiber prep and ends with washing the yarn and leaves out no detail in between. It is so much information that it can feel nearly overwhelming – it made me feel badly that my process is so much less thoughtful. I liked that after all of that detail she made it clear that the perfect yarn is the one that makes the cloth you want.
It was a great refresher to read back through all of this information. It also reinforced that I enjoy my distinctly unintentional spinning practice. I love buying prepared fiber and turning it into whatever yarn I feel like making that day. I will bring some tips from the book to my spinning, for sure, but I am also happy to leave the most advanced spinning to others.
Chain plying, also known as navajo plying, is the process of plying a single strand onto itself. You make loops with the single which all ply together and end up making a yarn that looks and behaves likes a 3ply. It takes a lot of coordination to get right – your hands are moving back and forth while making new loops and controlling the twist. Whenever I feel like I could use a refresher on my technique I refer to this video from Sarah Anderson and Interweave.
So why would you bother with chain plying when there are plenty of easier ways to ply? Because it’s a way to make a plied yarn from a single strand, allowing you to conserve the color runs in the fiber. This colorway has long beautiful runs of distinct colors and I knew I wanted to preserve them as they were dyed, rather than mixing them up. So, chain plying it was!
I feel like this is begging to be a kids knit. Maybe matching mittens and a hat? Or leg warmers? For now it is joining my stash, waiting for inspiration of the perfect pattern to strike!
I mentioned back in April that I was undertaking a color blending study for my spinning group. In honor of Tour de Fleece I wanted to share my results with you all.
I started with a set of 4 colors – 1 ounce of each. I split each color into 7 pieces to make a total of 15 possible combinations pictured above. Above is a progress picture from part way through my carding process. I chain plied for ease of project management – just 1 bobbin of each color to deal with! I am in love with the results.
Here are the skeins with 1 color. My baseline.
These are the skeins with 2 colors. They’re very distinct, and it’s easy to pick out the component colors.
Here are the sets with 3 colors. The individual skeins are more similar when you look at them from afar. Up close, however, they have a lot of depth and it takes close study to pick out the component colors.
This is the final skein with all 4 colors. It’s my favorite, the one I would pick off a shelf at my LYS to take home with me. The appearance is complex and heathered.
I am so glad that I went through this process. Blending fiber is different than blending paint – the individual fibers remain yellow and green and silver. As you add more colors the results get more and more nuanced. I am eager to play with this more, ultimately making a color wheel from the primary colors.
Last year I started attending a spinning group at my LYS and I am so grateful to be a part of it because it makes me make time to spin. I love spinning, but at home the lure of a finished garment brings me to my knitting needles or my sewing machine far more than my spinning wheel. I tend to be a private sewist and knitter – aside from occasional wine and craft nights with friends, I rarely do them outside my home. But social spinning draws me back over and over to multiple groups throughout the years.
This yarn is everything that I love about handpsun. BFL is a joy to feel run through your hands and has such a lovely sheen. The barberpole-ing places so many different colors next to each other over the course of the skein making it a feast for the eyes. This yarn will make a project that is hard to put down because you want to see what happens when you knit the next bit and the next.
The Tour de Fleece is an annual challenge where handspinners spin along with the Tour de France. I am currently on a three year streak of committing to the Tour de Fleece and then getting sidelined from finishing. The 2016 TdF begins tomorrow, and I have cleared my crafty schedule to make it happen this year. With the community of my spinning group to keep me on track, I look forward to spinning down my stash and piling up some new handspun.
Are you doing Tour de Fleece this year? Do you have crafts that you prefer to practice privately or publicly?