Posts Tagged ‘handspun’


New Month, New Projects

Posted under Life, Sewing and Quilting, Spinning No Comments

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It’s officially the first of the month, though I’ve got to say as I’ve not slept yet it’s feeling a lot like February still. I am taking advantage of the time I need to stay up to make sure the laundry gets done so I’ve got work shirts tomorrow. The Craft Yarn Council just changed up my class offerings in a big way, so I’ll be doing a demonstration tomorrow looking for class signups and working on some of the new samples. Tomorrow looks like it’ll be pom pom rug making day.

I started spinning a wonderful single of natural colored BFL wool which will become a 2-ply light fingering weigh yarn for my mom to knit into a scarf for my grandmother. I’d spun some yarn before, but as a DK weight yarn, I’m afraid it’ll be too thick and warm for her to wear in Southern California. Thanks to my new electric spinner, I’m almost done with the first ply, about 45 grams of wool if I recall correctly. Not too bad for a quick evening spin!



When I needed to get up to change the laundry, the yarn kept coming undone when I wrapped it around my flyer like normal. It’s not the most wonderful way to hold the yarn when you have to get up, but sometimes it works. Then I thought about the package of new clamps I’d just ordered sitting right beside my wheel. Perfect. They’re just easy enough to open without sacrificing clamping power for me to be in love with them. Then as an added bonus? I find out the reinforced nylon handles weigh just enough to keep the very high twist yarn from untwisting under the weight of the clamp on the platform. I clipped the yarn into the clamp and then just set the clamp down. You can’t get an easier and more foolproof way of setting your spinning aside! I’ll definitely be keeping one of these guys in my spinning supply box from now on. I’ll post a full review of the new clamps too once I get to try them on my woodworking, but I figured you guys would love to see my new spinning solution!

Then, since I just tossed my work clothes into the dryer, I figured I’d get some fabric I bought last week into the wash so I can cut it up and get sewing. My physical therapist has a small pillow which we use every week under my shoulder because I can’t lay flat on my back on a hard surface without something under my right shoulder. The pillow in question here is an airline pillow that was stolen ages ago and is starting to really show it’s age in the fragile from the start blue cover. It’s just falling to shreds. So I’m going to make a pair of washable covers for his extra positioning pillow!

Here’s the fabric I picked out for him.



The black with glow-in-the-dark skeleton fabric will be for the body of the pillow. Then, for the border along the open edge, I found this wonderful black and white grid which to me looks a lot like graph paper. I think it’s the perfect combination. We’ve got the anatomical organic shapes from the human body and it’s infinite complexity mixed with the rather stark, mathematical grid of the relatively nonsensical numerical grades and measurements for everything to keep insurance companies happy. Sure, it’s a little deep for a pillowcase, but I’m thrilled with it so far. It can only get better from here. Plus, it looks like I should have enough fabric leftover to make a cover for my equivalent little pillow at home and maybe a couple ice pack covers for me too! Sometimes little treats like a goofy ice pack cover can make all the difference on a high pain day.

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A lucky bit of color

Posted under Free Patterns, Knitting, Spinning, Techniques No Comments

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I’ve become hooked on knitting with my own handspun yarns to such an extent that I can usually control myself in a yarn store, even one with great sales. Now a fiber shop? I’m in trouble. I look at a big bump of top and think, “What do I want to make? A bulky weight hat? How about a lace shawl?” I love the freedom to take a fiber I like and literally make anything with it.

Last summer when my grandmother was visiting, we bought some natural colored BFL top which I spun. I wasn’t nearly so good of a spinner back then and have improved immensely since then, but my 3 ply sport weight yarn is at least usable. I knit up a bit into a cute little toy mouse as one of my Ravellenic Games projects. This little guy earned the Bobsled, Toy Tobogganing, Stash Skeleton, and Single-Skein Speed Skate medals.

As I knit him, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. The heathered yarn is mostly just that, a heathered yarn, but thanks to my pre-drafting and the chain plying technique, there are periodic sections of yarn that are solid white and very few that are solid brown. The handspun yarn turned white at exactly the right spot to make a lighter colored face on my mouse! I couldn’t have planned that if I’d tried!

When it came time for a face, I wanted to maintain the handspun feel of the mouse, so I headed over to my loom and cut off a bit of the remaining black handspun warp from the rainbow bag fabric I wove. Hooray for not yet cleaning up my loom!

To stuff the mouse, I used some lower quality wool I had and mixed in a few pinches of dried organic catnip. It felt so, so strange to be mixing in vegetable matter into my wool when I spend so much time trying to get it out normally! Even though I did load this mouse up on catnip and make his tail short for kitty safety, I just love his lucky face so much. I think I might have to keep him and make grandma’s cat another one from the same yarn. This one is just too cute to end up lost under the refrigerator! Looks like he’s headed to the shadow box of handmade mini critters instead of a lifetime of kitty breath, teeth, and claws.

For those wanting to try out the mouse pattern themselves in whatever yarn you’ve got some scraps of, handspun or not, the pattern is available for download free on Ravelry here. It’s made entirely in one piece and works up rather quickly as a result. The ears were an interesting technique and one I’ve not done before, so go check it out! The ears are actually cast on and then drawstring tied up. This requires you to cut your yarn leaving a very long tail for completing the knit and carefully using that very long tail on a tapestry needle. It sounds complex, but when you get to that point in the pattern it feels shockingly natural. Plus, worst case scenario and you get stuck? A large bobble would work just as well!

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Ravellenic Games are OVER

Posted under Weaving No Comments

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Whew. It’s been an insane couple of weeks for me with the Ravellenic Games in full swing. I challenged myself to get all 34 unique medals this year and I just barely made it! I was so busy spinning, knitting, crocheting, and weaving though that I’m quite a bit behind on posting. This means one thing for my readers: get ready for the deluge of awesome projects.

I’m going to kick off with my absolute favorite project of the games this year, my mini notions bag! You got a bit of a preview in the Rainbow Yarns post earlier. I posted those pictures of the yarn with the new electric spinning wheel right before the insanity started and I was challenged by a friend to get all 34 medals. So what did I do with this yarn? Well, not quite yet!

I didn’t want to use just rainbow yarn for a project because I’m just not very into the bright and crazy colors. My best friend teases me relentlessly about my ever so boring love of earth tones. So I went up to my favorite local fiber and yarn shop, Table Rock Llamas, and picked up some jet black merino wool. I quickly spun this into a 2 ply fingering weight yarn. It spun up fast on the new espinner and when a friend was helping me wind it into a center pull ball, we both marveled at how even it was as it flew through the tensioning fingers at high speed. I don’t think I’ve ever spun so much yardage so evenly, much less so quickly. There was approximately 125 yards from 0.8oz of fiber and I used every last drop.

For my project I opted to use the new black yarn with the rainbow crepe yarn. I set aside the rainbow light fingering yarn from the previous post for hexipuffing of course. How could I not? Here’s that crepe yarn again made from rainbow wool and two plies of polyester machine embroidery thread.

My best friend, K, was visiting the night I did this and so she helped provide extra hands to warp my four harness table loom with the black handspun yarn. We learned a very important lesson that night. Never, ever warp a loom with energetic yarn. You’ll be wrestling with it for hours trying to get the kinks out and tension applied evenly! Still, eventually we succeeded and I began weaving a plain tabby cloth immediately working with a shuttle of the rainbow crepe. I made this particular shuttle from lacewood last year for a specific project, hence the absurd length. But it was the only one I could find and I wanted to weave right that second. If I’d had patience, I’d have soaked and possibly weighted the black warp too! Or, you know, put on something other than jammies for the picture.

Before long I had a beautiful finished fabric but more space to go on the loom before running out of warp. Since it was handspun warp I felt extra horrible about wasting it and spent a while glancing frantically about my room trying to find something I could weave across my black warp to make a useable finished fabric.

I settled on a mini skein of solid black aran weight handspun and a second mini skein of DK weight black and gold thread with sequined yarn, both spun at Distaff Day this past January. I quickly worked them up for a bit in a striped pattern until I lost my patience and just had to cut my rainbow fabric off the loom.

From here it went right into the bathroom sink to be hand felted before being stretched out to dry. Given our difficulties warping the highly energetic black, it was a rather surprisingly flat and even fabric that wasn’t trying to curl up on itself. I had expected it to skew like the bias that forms in knits with energetic yarn worked flat.

I spent a day agonizing over how to cut up my fabric. I finally settled on three rectangles to make three little bags, a black and gold coin purse, a small rainbow notions bag, and a large project or double-pointed needle storage pouch. All three would have cotton liners and zipper closures.

Since I was trying for all the medals and the multiple bags would have all earned just more duplicates of the same medals, I didn’t finish them all. Each woven fabric has been sewn into the outer bag and the lining fabric for each liner cut. I did completely finish the bitty rainbow notions bag though and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.

At about three-and-a-half inches square, it’s just the right size for a tape measure, stitch markers, a package of yarn needles, and a bit of lifeline thread – you know, just the knitting bag basics! It’s my first ever handwoven from my own handspun. I just love running my hands over the lightly felted fabric.

This was also my first ever bag with a zipper and I’m thrilled at how nicely that came out. I didn’t have any directions or idea what I was doing. I just made it up as I went along and it was so successful I’ll definitely line bags that way in the future too!

Keep an eye out for a bunch more posts loaded up with wonderful finished objects from my 2014 rainbow of Ravellenic projects!

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Rainbow Spun Yarns

Posted under Hexipuffs, Knitting, Spinning No Comments

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During Yarn Along the Rockies last September, I picked up a little bag with one ounce of rainbow colored sliver at a shop called, “A Knitted Peace,” in Denver. I loved the name so much I wanted some kind of souvenir and they didn’t have any small balls of yarn for hexipuffs which is usually my go to fiber-y souvenir. I figured I could spin some hippy looking bright yarn with this little bag of wool. Then of course I came home, had a million things to do, and the bag of wool got buried.

I pulled my wool out and decided to have a go at it during the Olympics and as part of the Ravellenic Games as a rainbow project in a show of support for the LGBQT community. Plus, one of my Ravellenics goals is to knit up 10 hexipuffs and I want most to be of my own handspun. Here’s the wool I spun as I was watching the Olympics with my mom. The wheel is my Majacraft Pioneer with some modifications to make it electric.

I split the sliver in half and set one half aside. Then I split the other half into half again vertically so I’d have two roughly identical strips of wool. I spun each one into a single and then plied them together for my light fingering weight hexipuffing yarn. Because I spun both strips of wool in the same order, there is a slight gradient to the yarn in addition to the cane striping. As the weights for each color weren’t identical, the singles changed colors at different points. I had initially tried to tear the strips into piles of color so I could get equal weights, but the color segments were shorter than the staple length.

I absolutely love how this yarn came out and would happily knit socks or a shawl out of something similar. I would NOT buy more of this particular wool though as it was still full of dye and left my fingers blue for a whole day.

With the other half ounce of sliver, I tried to spin a crepe yarn. Unfortuantely, I stink at spinning thicker singles, so my rainbow single is a bit thick and thin. After that, I plied it with black polyester machine embroidery thread mostly just because it was on hand. Then, I plied it once more to another strand of the same embroidery thread. I was way too tired by the time I was doing the second round of plying and it didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped, but I still think the yarn will work well to knit or weave a small coin purse type bag. I may stripe it with a black wool and I’ll definitely end up sewing a liner for the bag from black quilting cotton.

Quite possibly the coolest part of the entire spinning experience has been getting to see the two finished yarns together. The crepe is very bright and loud looking. It’s not my thing, but I can see the appeal. The sock yarn though? The slight muddying of the colors created by plying together contrasting colors has toned down the bright jewel toned rainbow significantly. I generally don’t like rainbow or other bright and wild yarns, but I just love this in it’s slightly subdued color. In the future, I will be much more likely to try to spin my brightly colored handpainted tops in this style so as to tone down the colors and create perfect somewhat muted but still exciting and full of color yarns!

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Handspun BFL to FO

Posted under Knitting, Spinning No Comments

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I ended up only spinning about half, or 2 oz, of the BFL from January ‘s spinning study group. I ultimately decided that the BFL we sourced was just too full of VM for my tastes and it wasn’t worth the effort to try to clean, card, and spin it into a lacy yarn. I’d originally planned on spinning 2 bobbins each with 2 oz and plying them for a lace weight 2 ply yarn. Instead, I chain plied my one bobbin which gave me about 200 yards of a light fingering weight yarn with about 16 WPI.

I hate having my handspun yarn just sit around and collect dust, so I started looking for a suitable project immediately. I settled on some fingerless mitts. They’re absolutely lovely. Here’s some photo highlights! They’re so light and airy it’s crazy!

The most important thing I learned about spinning came while knitting the yarn into mitts rather than while spinning the yarn. I’d started with a washed but still not super clean fleece and carded it by the handful into rolags to spin. In randomly grabbing wads of fleece to card, I’d grabbed some cleaner and some dirtier sections of wool. This caused some subtle color variations in the finished yarn that doesn’t wash out because dirt is so tightly spun into the yarn. It is most noticeable in this photograph. See the horizontal line across the finished mitt juat above where the thumb separates off?

Next time I’ll have to run the wool through the cards twice. Once to clean it up and get it untangled from the locks it came in, and once to jumble up bits from rolag to rolag so that I get a more uniform finished yarn color! Even with the color variation, I am really looking forward to taking these with me to my spinning study group meeting for February! I’m in awe of the idea that only a month ago these beautiful, light and lacy fingerless mitts were just a large handful of filthy wool from a sheep named Poppy. It’s magical.


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Spinning Study Group

Posted under Spinning No Comments

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On the second Thursday of each month, I’m lucky enough to get to join a spinning study group at Table Rock Llamas. The ladies in the group are wonderful and I’ve learned so much just being around them. Almost every month, we have a dedicated thing to work on learning. Two months ago, we had a workshop taught by a study group member on how to spin coil or beehive yarn. Here’s my beehive yarn from November being modeled by my older dog, Sketcher.

In December we just goofed off and held a gift exchange. I ended up with something I had no idea I needed so badly, a yarn bowl! I’ve been using it non-stop since I got it and I’m considering getting one made from the same local artisan for holding two separate balls so I can use it for fair isle work, particularly as I’m planning at least two stranded projects for my county and state fair entries this year. If you haven’t tried a yarn bowl, you need to!

As for this month? We did a study of Blue Faced Leicester wool. Blue Faced Leicester is pronounced “blue faced lester,” and commonly referred to as just BFL. BFL is a fantastic fleece for the handspinner. It’s got a magnificent crimp and shines almost as though it contains silk. BFL is known for it’s luster. BFL is considered a longwool and the narrow locks range from 3-6 inches on average. The wool I’m spinning today has some variance but lends itself toward the long end of the spectrum. While the wool is rather soft and could be worn against the skin, I’ve gotten a bit spoiled with affordable Merino wool top and if I’m going to really splurge like I had to on the BFL, I’d rather just save a bit longer and snap up a bag of cashmere or higher micron count Merino than I usually buy.

The shop owner where we hold our meetings bought two BFL sheep fleeces for us and washed them. Here’s the view into my sack of BFL after today’s spinning. I’ve got a ton left to card and spin. Just look at that shine though! Wow!

Washed BFL

Members of the study group could buy as much as they wanted for $4 an ounce. That’s a lot more than I usually pay for sheep’s wool, but it was a matter of wanting to spin with the rest of the group.  I’ve spun BFL before, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I’m very, very glad I splurged on some of this local wool from a sheep named Poppy! (my donkey’s name is also Poppy) BFL is fairly uncommon in our area so fleeces command a higher price. I ended up buying 4oz. That’s about as little as I ever buy of any spinning fiber because 4oz provides plenty of freedom to decide how to spin the yarn and a multitude of possible projects. I could make a lace shawl, a pair of fingering weight socks, or a worsted hat. The only time I buy less than 4oz is when I buy little bitty 1/3oz bumps of fiber for spinning hexipuffing yarn, but that’s for another post.

Given the high crimp of the BFL in our study group fleece and the burning desire I’ve had to try out the Majacraft lace kit my brother D got me for Christmas this year, I opted to spin my BFL into a lace weight yarn which will then most likely end up knit into a shawl of some sort depending on the finished yardage. Due to the quantity of vegetable matter in the wool even after washing, spinning is a bit slow. I’m carding my wool into woolen rolags and picking as much VM from the wool as I can both while carding and while spinning. With the high crimp and the wool’s luster it is working up to be a fantastic fine thread of a single even if it is slow going due to the relatively dirty wool.


I will later ply this, likely a chained 3 ply, to make a finished lace yarn. I will probably also dye this fiber as I’d like to see first hand how the BFL takes up dye. I’ve heard good things about BFL’s receptivity toward acid dyes and that the wool’s natural luster makes the colors shine from within.


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Tour de Fleece

Posted under Holidays and Celebrations, Life, Maple Wool Farm Products, Spinning, Yarn No Comments

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I’ve been participating in the Tour de Fleece this year and having a blast. This is the first time I’ve ever been really happy with my spinning. I’m making real live usable yarns! Here’s my favorite shot so far. It’s a blend of various colors of wool into a single top. This is the single which I later chain plied (Navajo plied) into a 120 yard single. It’s a light fingering weight when plied like that. My camera is on it’s last legs, so it’s a challenge to get nicely focused close-ups of my handspun yarns.




I’ve spun various wools, flax/linen, and baby llama so far. The baby llama was by far my favorite. It drafted like a dream into a super fine thread that when Navajo (chain) plied made a perfect light fingering weight. Lovely! My big goal is to be able to reliably spin a 2 or 3 ply sock weight yarn. If I can manage that, I’ll reward myself with 8 oz of Knit Picks Stroll top to dye and spin. I’ll need more stuff to spin anyhow. It turns out spinning regularly in the right chair with the right posture is helping with my hip pain. More spinning it is! Talk about the most fun physical therapy exercise ever!

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