Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tour de Fleece 2017 progress

It is amazing what you can get done when you are not at work all day!

I have been spinning every day and as a result have made a lot of progress on a number of fronts. The warp and the weft for the collapse weave project are all spun. I even have a PVC niddy noddy ready to finish the yarn to be ready for weaving (more on that below). I finished this so fast that I added another project to my TdF list this year.

 These are the two halves of the weft. I divided the braid in two so I would get shorter color runs which would ensure that I was able to fit the entire gradient into the project. I can always add more colors from the other half as needed.

 This is the Z spun warp. I am hoping to use just this for the warp but I have a backup plan in case I need more yardage.

I have some S spun singles from the sampling back in March. I spun some more in the S direction so that I can alternate S and Z spun singles if I need more yardage.

Next up on these is to set the twist temporarily so that I am able to weave without getting pigtails from the twist. I had a problem with this when I wove the samples. I thought that letting the singles rest would make the twist dormant enough. But it didn't. So now I am going to wind the singles onto a PVC niddy noddy and wet and dry them under tension. Additionally, I will add a sizing to the warp so it will have a bit more strength and will move through the heddle more easily. I am planning to use a xanthan gum solution for sizing. This will wash out when the woven item is wet-finished.

There is the PVC niddy noddy. I need this because my wood one will absorb the water and could get damaged by the damp. I also took this opportunity to make a 2 yd niddy noddy. My wood one makes 30-32" skeins, not quite 2 yds.

I also am carding and spinning the locks i dyed. I initially thought I'd keep the colors separate but I prefer to let them get blended or stay separate rather randomly so I am doing it as they come to hand.
I pick, I card, and I spin. Then I repeat. This keeps my hands from getting too sore from one activity.

A couple of piles of rolags.

And here's the yarn.
That is one full bobbin on the left and the second bobbin I started on the right. I am spinning this on the Tina II and loving the process of treadling. I think I am going to keep a carding project going on the Tina II while I spin top on the Hansen.

Since these are going so fast, I decided to add in a third project. I have these two braids which are both the same red but one is cool and one is warm. Here they are.
 The two braids where you can see the difference. To make sure that they don't clash, I am drafting them together so that the final yarn will have bits of each read blended together.

 This is how I hold the two braids. I divided each braid into 4 width-wise and am holding the entire width of each braid in my hand and drafting.

Here is one quarter of the project done. This is 2 oz. 1 oz from each braid.

Lastly, I finished the color gamp Shetland scarf. I wanted to get it done so the loom will be free for the collapse weave project in August.

I got tired of changing the weft every 1.5" so after doing 1 set of each color, I started doing 4.5" (3x1.5) stripes in the middle. Two sets of those and then a repeat of the 1.5" stripes on the other end. I am in love with the way the Shetland looks and feels in this scarf. I have more of the Harris tweed Shetland yarn and I am going to weave more scarves with it.

I also splurged and bought a lovely new supported spindle. I haven't used it yet but I think that after the Tour de Fleece is done, I am going to spend some time spindling.
It is from Glasspins, by Mingo and Asho. They had a sale on. The glass focal is a red and gold swirl but I love the body. It is bird's eye maple. My favorite wood.

Next time I hope to show you the finished warp and weft for the collapse weave and even maybe a plied yarn from the locks. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Tour de Fleece 2017

The Tour de France started yesterday and in parallel, our Tour de Fleece started at the same time. This is the first year I am going to be home for the whole tour and since I recently retired, I am hoping to get a lot of spinning in the next 4 weeks.

I had a plan for the major project I wanted to do but I didn't work out the details till sometime between Friday and Saturday. I like to learn during the TdF by doing something new to me and over the years I've learned a lot of techniques this way - long draw, ply-on-the-fly, extremely fine spinning, etc. This year's project was to spin for a collapse weave scarf or shawl. Remember all the samples I made? They were to figure out what I wanted to do.

I have a secondary project that I want to do - spin from the lock with fiber I have processed myself.  This is in case I get bored or finish the collapse weave spinning too quickly. Since I am spinning singles for collapse weave, it goes fast. No plying!

Therefore the first factor in selecting fiber is the objective of the project. The second factor is what equipment I will use. When I travel, I am limited to spindles. Since I am home this year, I can use my e-spinner and my wheel. I am going to do the collapse weave yarn on the e-spinner and the spinning from the locks on the wheel.

The third factor is what teams I can be on. I try to double up on teams for the same projects :-) This year they are Team Footloose (e-spinner), Teams Fiber Optic and Gorgeous Gradients, and Team DIY and Dye.

 This is the gray Corriedale I bought in New Zealand. I used it for the collapse weave samples and spun a S-twist singles. This time I am going to spin it Z-twist so that I have the option of alternating S and Z twist in the warp. I may not do it or I may. But if I have singles with twist in both directions, I have options. I also have a lot of this so I don't mind giving some of it up to loom waste. :-) This will be the warp for my shawl/scarf.

 I had spun a bit of this before yesterday, but very little. Rather than starting a new project, I thought I'd continue with it and spin singles for the weft. I had split it into two and that is why I was torn about using it. But I decided that it was for the better. If I spin it completely end to end, I am tied to the length of the transitions as they appear. By stripping it vertically, I reduce the length of the color repeats. This means that I will get all the colors in a scarf or, if I end up doing a shawl, I can remove the last color from the second half and weave it in reverse to make a mirror-image shawl. So I'd start with gray (say) and weave to the magenta, Take off the magenta from the other singles and weave back to gray. Or just weave to the blue, remove the magenta from both singles and part of the blue from the second one and weave back to gray. I think it will give me more options. Since I've never done this before, options are good.

 These are the locks I dyed last year at a class in Rhinebeck. I had previously washed the locks so I started the processing with the fleece itself.  I am not sure how I am going to handle the colors. I may just let them come as they may or I might try making a self striping yarn.

 This is the first day's spin. The top is what I had done previously. As you can see, it is very little. I wasn't able to spin yesterday till after dinner but I got a bit more than an hour of spinning in.

 I also went to the yarn store and got photos of myself in the zippered hoodie.

I have made progress on the Grapevine pullover. I am halfway down the first sleeve. I decided to put a band of the lace at around the elbow. I picked a spot where I had the right number of sts for the repeat of the lace and put in an insertion. I will also do the same at the cuff.

No progress on the weaving. I was busy trying to get all the yard-work done before the heat set in in earnest. And I made it. Now I just have to keep the weeds down by doing a patrol every few days and it doesn't take much time to pull out the ones that have sprouted in the mean time. I think my sage is dying though. It is wilted even though I been watering regularly when it hasn't rained. The rest look good.

I am going to try and collect some flowers for dyeing in the winter.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Turtle-like progress and flowers

I have been rather busy with yard work. We had a cool and rainy spring with some warm spells. This sent all the weeds into overdrive so I had weeds everywhere in my flower beds and under trees and shrubs. We have been battling weeds since they grew uncontrolled during our China stay. They all set seed and developed strong runner root systems and therefore we generate a large crop every spring. The key to getting things back into control is a ruthless weeding every spring - to pull up every little weed sprout. Then it is possible to keep the new growth under control over the summer and fall, resulting in fewer runners and seeds for the next spring. It is getting better but things are still a bit weedy in the spring.

I go around the entire house and remove all the weeds while patrolling already cleared beds for new entrants. It is pretty exhausting in the spring but makes the rest of the year better. It also leaves very little time and energy for fiber crafts.

I haven't taken photos of the flowers I planted this year yet so you are going to see the spring flowers that are already done and gone.
 I missed most of the lilacs due to really bad allergies. When the trees are flowering, I have to stay indoors because my allergies get really, really bad despite all the medications. But I caught the tail end of the lilacs. I have also got 3 Josee re-blooming lilacs growing in pots on the deck. We've had really bad luck with the ends of our lilac hedge. The first and the last 3 plants keep dying. I am trying to see if letting them grow a bit bigger on the deck before planting helps.

 Rhododendrons. I have 3 colors and this is one of my favorites.
 This is the least favorite of the 3 although I still love it. I love all 3 so it is merely ordering the top of the heap. It is peculiar, though, because I usually love purple.
This is my other favorite. I love the white flowers.

 Spider worts. These are a source of my weeds. They spread their seeds far and wide and I am still finding plants that entrenched themselves in odd places when we were China.

 One of my two azaleas. The others are pink.

 A pink weigela. I also have a darker rose/reddish color.

 I love this combination of colors. The blue of the fescue with the pink creeping thyme and the red of the Japanese maple.

 Tree peonies. My disappointment with these comes from their very short flowering period. But the flowers never disappoint.

 A gratuitous sunset. I've been taking fewer sunset photos this year.

 Blue irises with the last of the azalea in the back.

 Pink herbaceous peonies. I have a white also that wasn't photographed this year.
 The red herbaceous peony flowers with a light flare from the sun. Why is it guaranteed that there will be a heavy rain when the peonies flower? The rain makes them bend over till they are on the ground no matter how much I stake them.

 Siberian Irises.

We put up a bird feeder this year. I got a squirrel proof one and very carefully positioned it more than 18" away from branches as recommended. One morning we found a squirrel had happily swung a branch close enough to the feeder to grab it - Tarzan style. It was then happily holding on the feeder with one hand and eating with the other. The feeder will close if the squirrel's weight is on the feeder but this way the branch was holding the weight of the squirrel. Smart squirrel!

We then pruned all those branches so there is a dome now under the tree, as you can see. Our next non-bird visitor was a chipmunk. A chipmunk is light enough that its weight doesn't close the feeder. It just climbed down the wire hanger and was siting and eating. Birds didn't come when the chipmunk was there. My husband took an old metal sheet and bent it and made the baffle you see in the photo. It is unstable and slippery and is far enough from the feeder that the chipmunk hasn't climbed down over it. I've seen the little guy on the tree and down on the ground foraging for dropped seeds. But I haven't see it on the feeder so I think we've baffled it. Let's see.

The birds keep me busy filling the feeder every few days. They love it.

I started weaving the color gamp scarf in squares, which is the traditional thing to do. But I got tired of changing colors that frequently. So after doing one set of squares, I switched to rectangles. Each rectangle is 3x the height of the square. After two sets of rectangles, I will end with a set of squares so the ends match.
 Here is a rectangle and a half.
 I found it easier to knit in between other things. I finished the body of my Grapevine and have started on a sleeve. I've modified it to add the lace at the bottom and will add lace cuffs. I am debating throwing in a band of lace further up on the sleeve too.

I also, unusually for me outside of Rhinebeck, bought some fiber. Juliespins had a sale and I bought 2 braids from her. This one is called Fig Tree.

 This one is Fushimi Shrine. I tried to buy some colors that were not my usual saturated choices.
Inglenook fibers dyed a couple of colorways for the Tour de Fleece and I bought a batt from them. You can see the inspiration photo on the bag. I probably won't spin it in this year's Tour de Fleece but maybe next year. My plans for this year are pretty well set.

The CSA farm season has started. We had a few weeks of great strawberries. We picked more than my husband could eat and I can't ear fresh strawberries due to an allergy. So I make these strawberry crisp bars which we love. I am on the third and last batch this week. I think it is now too hot for strawberries. I eat raspberries and blueberries fresh so I don't bother making these with those fruits.

Next blog post will be about my Tour de Fleece plans. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


I haven't done much with fiber in the past week as I have been attacking the weeds outside. The rain and cool spring with bursts of heat have put them into overdrive. They are everywhere and there are more sprouting as we speak!

I took advantage of the rain yesterday to warp the loom. Here is the color order I settled on and I like the way it looks.
 Next up, time to start weaving when I have time.

I also cast on for Grapevine in the Laurel colorway of Calmer. The photo above is not the right color. It is a lovely spring green. I am up to the armhole. As always, I needed to extend the armhole depth. I don't know why a lot of sweaters seem to have a very shallow armscye. I need a lot more depth to be comfortable.

Next up, I have to divide the body from the sleeves.

I also started spinning a Fiber Optic gradient - Autumnal Dawn. I stripped it vertically and will make a simple 2 ply. I hope to be done by the end of the month so that I can start the TdF with a clean slate. But if I don't, I'll just put it aside and continue after the TdF projects are done.

I also ran the blanket through the washing machine again to full it a bit more. I didn't want the individual strands to be separate because the yarn is pretty loosely spun and I didn't want it to develop holes. After that, I cut the knots off the fringe as the fringe braids had also fulled. The fringe is now 3" and I am happy with the way it looks. 

The cool weather has given me the opportunity to snuggle under it a few times. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Waffling about color order

I finished the blanket and it has turned out very well. I am quite happy with it in all respects except for the fact that I have a decent amount of the bulky Lopi-like yarn left! I may be able to make a shawl or even a small rug with the remnants. Oh well. At least there is less.

That is how much is left. I need to weigh each color so I know approximately how much yardage there is. There is one full skein of the magenta.

The blanket panels are joined by linking the loops on the sides. One loop from one panel is pulled through the corresponding loop on the other panel. Then you alternate that up the sides of the panels. The last loop is secured by pulling part of the fringe through it. When the fringe is knotted, the loop is secure. It is an easy way to join. In the photo above I had just finished joining the three panels. It goes fast.

 This is a closeup of the join before finishing.
 After washing, the join flattens out. I fulled the blanket because it was a loosely spun yarn. As you all know, Lopi-like yarns full very easily. One trip through the handwash cycle on the washing machine and it is a nice fabric. This is one side of the join.

 This is the other.

The fringe took forever. I thought I could twist it with my fringe twister but with 90 ends on each panel, I had to pick either 2 or 3 ends in each fringe section. 5 is the other factor of 90 and I thought 5 was too big a number for twisting or braiding as this is bulky yarn. I decided on 3 and thought I could make a nice 3 ply twisted fringe. But it wasn't working. I have no idea why. Instead of wasting time trying to figure out the problem, I decided to just braid the fringe. Since it was knotted in 3's, that was easy. Except that a couple of the ends had frayed and come apart. I had to secure those by adding a neighboring end to strengthen it. So some sections are 4 ends.  So much for my exact mathematics!

It took 30 mins per panel end to braid and knot the bottom of the fringe. I didn't time the removal of the waste yarn and the knotting of the fringe at the top but that was a lot less per section.

I also used a technique I learned from one of the videos I have. Instead of knotting 3 (or however many) adjacent ends together, which leaves a portion of the weft exposed, one exchanges ends between groups so that they cross after the weft and that prevents those little gaps between fringe groups. To do this with an example:
First group: Ends 1, 2, 4 (3 and 4 change groups)
Second group: Ends 3, 5, 7 (6 and 7 change groups)
Third group: Ends 6, 8, 10 (9 and 10 change groups)
Fourth group: Ends 10, 11, 13 (12 and 13 change groups)
This is the finished blanket on a queen sized bed. It looks much nicer after finishing. I am going to cut the knots off the fringe as the braids are fulled and shouldn't come apart. I am just wondering if I should send it through the wash one more time. I can still separate the warp and the weft if I push with my finger. One of the finishing videos I watched says that woolen spun yarn should be fulled till the warp and the weft become a single cohesive fabric. I haven't decided whether to wash it one more time or not.

I started Grapevine. As usual, I have to increase the depth to the armhole. I don't know why but every pattern i've followed has about a 7" depth to the armhole. I feel that is too tight and I feel constrained in moving my arms. I guess I just have wide shoulders and a bigger upper arm.
I have about 18 more rounds to the sleeve/body separation.

Now on to the waffling.

The rigid heddle weaving group in Ravelry has a monthly theme for weave-alongs. It is good because it gives you ideas and allows you to explore new things. The rag rug resulted from April's Weave with Fabric theme.  June's theme is Weave a Color Gamp.  A color gamp is a way to explore how colors interact with each other. You warp with a set of colors and then weave with the same colors in the same order. But the weft pattern can be different - different widths of color, interspersed with other colors, etc.

Since I am weaving to use up my stash in useful ways, I picked a selection of Shetland jumperweight yarns that weren't earmarked for a fair-isle project. I am having real difficulty deciding the order of the colors.
 I also decided to look at the values. Sequence C has them in a gradual color shifting order where I am picking up the tweed colors in the next yarn. Sequence D has them more in an alternating value order with the higher value yarns more evenly spread across the warp.
I am still in 2 minds about which one to warp. I only have 1 ball each of the gold and the green so I was happy to see that there is enough in one ball of each color to do a scarf. I have 1 extra ball of the blue and the rest are the duller colors in the sequence except for the burgundy. I have a lot of that.

I think I will do a color in weave pattern sampler with the remaining yarn exploring how patterns look when you alternate light and dark colors. Here is one example.

But first I have to decide on the order for the gamp.