Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Taken in my sister's garden since I don't seem to find the time to photograph mine! I have the identical butterfly bush and similar phlox.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Update on my doings

I've been telling you about the class and I didn't give you any idea of what I have been up to. I have been knitting and spinning but less of both, mainly to take a break from all the intensive spinning I did during class.

First, the knitting: I have been slowly working on the Girl Friday sweater. I am making it in Cascade Venezia in a gorgeous red color. It is for a class I am teaching but I am actually running behind the class at this point. I have to catch up by the next class. The reason it is going slowly is that it hurts my hands to knit it. I have no idea why. Spinning seems to be easier on my hands right now.

Here are the fronts and back, joined at the shoulders.
 Now I am knitting the first sleeve. I am ready to start the sleeve cap so it will be done today, I hope.

 On to spinning: Not too much on the spindle. I spun the batt that I made out of the Lincoln-Corriedale fleece from class. After that I have been plying. I plied the singles from the fleece to make a second skein. Then I took the singles that we did in the colorwork part of the class (which I will cover in a future post) and plied them to create a colored skein.

I am not sure I will make anything from this colored skein as it is a bit too colorful. But who knows? Someday it might be perfect for something. Right now, it is a good record of what I tried in class. I will break that down in the near future.

I am now spinning a roving from Hidden Valley Fibers. I am amazed at how easy it is to spin. It literally spins itself. I am spinning it long draw since that is a new skill that I have. But there is no struggle here. It spins evenly and easily and it shows how excellent fiber prep makes spinning a joy!
 It is called Spring Fling and is a blend of 85% Coopworth and 15% silk.
 There it is, on the bobbin - all the pretty colors showing up!

Back to work so I have more to show you next week!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Long draw lessons

Before I forget, I wanted to write up what I learned about long draw while in Maggie Casey's class. Before I went to the class, I had done a few long draw projects but I was not happy with the results. I was spinning lumpy, bumpy yarn and while it was useful, I didn't feel as if I was getting the lovely, even, lofty and elastic fiber that woollen spinning can make.

Maggie is the queen of long draw so I was very excited to learn at her feet. I wasn't disappointed. We started with carding and making rolags. A freshly made rolag is a joy to spin. In fact, the process of teasing and carding fiber to make rolags is very satisfying in its own right.

I have posted pictures of the fiber and the rolags and the spun fiber in my first post after the class. What I am going to talk about today is what enabled me to spin a nice, consistent single.

So the fiber prep is the first step. A freshly carded rolag is easier to spin evenly than one that has been sitting around a while. I just finished spinning the batt I made in class and it wasn't as much fun as spinning the rolags.

Second is speed. A nice even treadle pace that is not too fast is key. Maggie says that one has to keep the drafting just ahead of the twist. Her analogy was that it was like chasing her dog. You can run after the dog but the dog is going to stay slightly ahead of you. The dog is the drafting and you, the chaser, are the twist. I found that it was easier to hold the single for a few extra treadles before letting it wind on, than treadling fast and trying to draft ahead of the twist.

The third a-ha moment came when I realized that I could hold back the twist. My right index and thumb open to let the twist through and close to hold it back. A regular rhythm to this opening and closing is good but you can hold the twist back a fraction of a second longer if you feel that it is getting too close to your drafting. In my case, my left hand is my fiber hand. So that hand is pulling back while the front hand is in one place controlling the amount of twist that is between the hands.

I was able to also do an unsupported long draw in class and it is a fun thing to do. But there is no need to do this. Your other hand can and should help, if needed.

I also found that it is helpful to pinch off a bit of the rolag and just draft that in one session. If you hold the rolag well back from the end, you get a lot of fiber that drafts out and you end up with more slubs. The amount of fiber that goes into each length of yarn before you let it wind on (usually about 2-3 ft) should be the same if you want an even single. This was also a big revelation.

Lastly, if you do get slubs, it is easy to even them out. Stop treadling. Wind the yarn to the left of the slub around your left hand (holding the fiber) and when your left hand is at the slub, wind the yarn to the right of the slub onto your right hand. Now the slub is all that is between your hands. I untwist the yarn at each end of the slub by unspinning with my right hand until I can thin out the slub. I usually start with the slub closest to the orifice, then I move away from the orifice to the next one. When all the slubs have been worked out, I start treadling again and let the yarn wind on.

There it is. Using all these techniques, I was able to spin quite a bit of yarn using the long draw method. Practice also makes perfect and I wanted to make sure I let the muscle memory build. So I bought an art batt at the Harrisville Designs store and spun it during the evenings. I also used the long draw drafting method when Maggie asked us to spin singles so we could learn plying.
 This is the skein I spun from the art batt. This picture shows a truer color than the one below.
 This one shows the variation in color a little better and you can see the thickness of the plied yarn against the US quarter coin.
 This was the yarn I spun to practice plying. I used three different colored rovings to do this. Maggie wanted us to use 3 different colors so we could see the plying twist clearly as we were plying.
Finally this is the first skein of the Lincoln-Corriedale fleece we worked on. I have enough spun for a second skein but I have to ply that. None of these are finished.

I like spinning long draw. It reduces the stress on my hands because the movements are so different from spinning worsted. I like the variety. You also end up spinning much faster when you spin long draw. However, for me, I get less yardage from spinning long draw. So it has its pluses and minuses. I am now going to spin a few skeins long draw so I can ensure my muscles are well and truly trained in the technique before I go back to worsted spinning.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A visit to a spinning mill

Harrisville Designs manufactures looms and yarn (and probably other things). We had the privilege of visiting their yarn spinning mill when I was in Harrisville a couple of weeks ago. They are the only mill that spins woollen. Most other commercial yarns are spun worsted. They spin their own yarn as well as yarn for a couple of other brands. One of those brands is Jared Flood's Shelter and Loft yarns.

As you enter the mill, you see bins of scoured and dyed virgin wool. You can see a close-up of what the wool looks like above. Below, you can see the bins that contain the raw material for Jared Flood's yarns. This wool is  like ingredients in a recipe. Colors are mixed together to create the heathered effects that we love so much.

The bins below contain Harrisville's own line of ingredients. The base colors are different so the ingredients are kept separate.
 There was some other fiber that was bagged. I took a picture of this green fiber spilling out of one of these bags. It is difficult to see how this will become yarn.
There are also bins of waste fiber. Harrisville tries to recycle as much of the fiber as they can so they are bagged up and used for various purposes. If they can use them, they will. Otherwise, they are sent off to others who will use it for other purposes.
There were also bins of other grades of fiber. Some of this was destined to be rug yarn.
Another bin of coarser fiber.
 When it comes time to make a batch of yarn, the various colors that make it up are put in carts in a specific proportion (think recipe) and wheeled over to this scale to be weighed. The other colors are added based on the recipe, all by weight.
Then we moved on to the picking area where the fiber is hydrated with oil and spread apart. On the day we were there, they were spinning primary colors for some of their kids' products.
  The fiber gets picked and moved to the other side where it is sprayed with oil to keep it moving in the machinery.
A very telling sign that could be at home anywhere.
 Moving on to carding, the fiber is carded in a series of rollers. Some rollers pick up the fiber and others strip it off other rollers.
 Fine adjustments determine how much fiber gets moved onto the rollers.
 Here is a view of the rollers at work.
 Cages protect us from the machinery. This is the second set of carding rollers.

Carding goes on for a long time in terms of space in the mill. Just as we spinners card fiber multiple times, there are multiple sets of rollers that card the fibers in the mill.
 The carded fiber comes down in fragile sheets after the rollers.
Eventually, it is divided into strips of roving that are wrapped around spools.

  Next we moved on to spinning. Green roving was being spun. The next two pictures are of the same spinning machine. It was just too high to take in one photo. The spool of roving is in the top of the first picture.
 The yarn gets spun and then wrapped around cones.
 Here is Nick holding a cone of spun yarn. These are singles. Nick was our guide at the mill.
 Cones are then plied together to create the final yarn.
 The plying machines are in the background along with bins of yarn in the process of being processed.
 After plying, the hand-knitting yarn is made into hanks. This is a pretty cool machine that makes hanks of a specific length.
 Weaving yarns are coned. This is the coning machine.

 The skeins are washed to set the twist and then hung here to dry. Fans keep the air moving to dry them quickly.
Another really cool machine was the one that twisted the hanks into the skeins we know and love. A really proficient operator makes it look easy.

 Lastly the boxes of yarn go up a conveyor belt to storage in the attic if they aren't being shipped out right away.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of the mill. I was fascinated by the fact that the same steps we take as hand-spinners are being carried out by these machines. Fiber is teased or picked, carded, spun, plied and then washed to set the twist. The scale is just different.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I won a prize!

I was part of Team Trindle in this Year's Tour de Fleece. And the lovely folks at Momi awarded me one of the prizes, a supported Trindle. It arrived today and it is so cool!

It is my favorite color combination - red and black. And it spins and spins. Now I have to learn to spin on a supported spindle.