Approaching smurf fluff with cool logic.

The big box of light smurf fluff didn’t sell at the Spinners’ Market and in a way I’m glad because working with it really made me want to spin it myself. Which I started the other day.

I started spinning it. The fleece was washed, dyed and put through the wool picker twice. This has made it a wonderful soft cloud.

It spun really well but the single is quite bumby. Here’s the single with a little bit plied back on itself to give an impression of the resulting yarn:

I like it that way, it gives characteristics. I’ve spun and knitted yarns like this before and they’ve resulted in garments I use a lot. February Sweater and Sidewind Cardigan for example. February Sweater you know:

However, since this breed of sheep has a fleece that doesn’t really felt, the garments pill and several times a year I have to snip off the pills so it won’t look so ratty to non-knitters:

I was merely spinning away the mint smurf, enjoying the accents in both texture and colours when I realized I would be making another ratty garment.

I’d rather not. I contemplated spinning with lots more twist to trap the individual fibres but that won’t fly because twist accumulates in the thin parts of a single and this one is thick and thin. There would be hardly more twist in the bulky parts where most pilling starts.

Another option is to ply it with a tight spun single. But again, that wouldn’t trap the fibers in the thick parts of the single.

So I decided to stop spinning and put the fiber through the wool carder first. Spinning from a carded batt would give the option to make a single of more equal thickness and I could give it a lot of twist (trapping fibers) and plying with lots of twist too (round yarn, trapping fibers). I like round yarns.

After carding 3 or 4 batts and dreaming of the garment I’m going to knit with this my mind was all in icy frost palaces and gletsjer caves and sparkling moon stone fairy lands.

   

pics by Garret Voight and Bethany Carlson

I’ve once been inside a gletsjer cave. It’s magic I still carry inside of me. I need some gletsjer sparkle in this yarn!

So I rummaged through the spin stash and dug up some silk. Textured silk. This silk is a favourite of mine. It started life as a duvet in a bed shop in China. Chinese sleep under a cloud of silk! A friend was on holiday there and bought one and shared it with spinner friends back home. I was lucky enough to get a hand full.

This silk has long and short fibers. This is important. Most things in spinning revolve around how long the fibers are.

Earlier this year, I carded some into a batt I made for a friend and myself and I’ve spun a bouclé yarn from it last Summer, at Tour de Fleece. The skein hangs on my wall, it’s such a pleasure, with its white textured details. (It’s going to be the round top of a sweater, sometime in the future)

This bouclé has two thin strings wrapped around it, hopefully catching all the fibers that want to pill. But the fabric at the top of a sweater doesn’t pill that much anyway. It’s more on the sides and the arms and strangely enough: on my stomach. I must lean against a lot of counter tops or table tops to make my stomach knits pill…

Anyway, I’m carding Chinese bedding it with the wool now and it will be a lovely hand knit, very fitting for a February Ice Princess!

Carding goes like this: a thin layer of wool. When you feed the carder you must be able to see the bottom of the wooden feeder through the wool, it should be that thin. Otherwise you’ll have to work hard to get the wool through the machine and you’ll be damaging the teeth and the mechanism.

On the baselayer you can add silk. I feed the silk on the top. I often use the top of the carder. In this case feeding it through the bottom/feeder would be contra productive as the small carder roll would take away most silk nubbs and the long silk fibers would wrap around the small carder roll and not get onto the big roll.

Add a layer of wool, using the bottom feeder (the wool still needs to be carded). Sandwich silk and wool like this.

The first batt I carded and on the right a batt with silk:

(I’ll be adding silk somehow during the spinning of the batts that don’t have silk at the moment. Haven’t figured out how yet but I will.)

UPDATE
ooh yes. Nice single from the silked batts:

no Weirdness this Wednesday

all wool is behaving today.

I’ve been keeping an eye out all day to tell you something fun happening around the house but nothing was out of order. Fleece, roving, WIPs, new project, felted rugs, new handspun socks in feet, two wheels, one wool picker, a knitter friend with warm apples, wool loving cat. Everything and everyone around me looks all right. Nothing weird to report.

Strange.

Suspicious…

better brace myself.

There’s bound to be some Terrible Fibre Flounce tomorrow!!

Finished: handspun socks

I had a problem with the handspun socks that I was knitting toe-up. One would turn out much longer than the other, with it’s colours running up much higher:

After some thinking and distracting myself with spinning and the Cocoberry cowl I came to the conclusion that socks like these would not please me. So I decided to start the second sock anew, from the top down and from the inside of the ball of yarn:

It was a good decision, the knitting went like crazy.

Albeit a bit cannibalistic once I started to frog the one sock to knit the new one with:

Now they’re finished and I’m wearing them and I’m loving it.

The top down sock has a bit of a harsh colour transition where I’ve picked up the stitches of the gusset and knitted round again. Making sure colours take longer to melt from one into another would solve this problem. But I like them. These are 100% wool socks. By blending breeds they are soft and sturdy.

When wool talks sense I listen.

It’s a Saturday in October. It’s an unexpected 20+ degrees. There’s only one thing to do:


Laundry and spinning under the beech. There’s a robin keeping me company, he sings all around me :)

I’m spinning green dyed Dutch sheep. It’s not Texelaar and it’s not Heideschaap. It’s fibres are medium long to short and quite curly and I used the wool picker and the drum carder on them.

I’m doing Long Draw on my vintage Louet:

Reduced the pull of Irish tension by lacing the leader a couple of times through the hooks. Now I can get a lot of twist without hardly any pull.

It’s not strictly Long Draw as I’m not spinning from rolags but from a batt. The fibres are places in random directions though and the way I spin it is surely Long Draw. It feels like chewing gum, so that’s the right way.

I spun a practise skein earlier, just to find out if it would work, spinning Long Draw on this Louet. It does:

35 m of 2ply, good for needles 4 to 7 mm.

The practise skein hangs on my wheel, for reference during spinning. Sometimes you need to keep reminding yourself of the weight you want in your singles and in your ply.

The fun red socks are knitted by Bloem. The pattern is Aardbeientompoes by Janneke Maat (free pattern, in Dutch only but with clear charts)

I often buy socks from Bloem. She knits socks the way I like it: quite dense fabric with a heel flap. She supports a good cause with her sold projects. And she enjoys to knit matching socks. I don’t. But I do like wearing them.

PS.

I gave the handspun mitts to Francis, out organic farmer, today and she was delighted :)

Fluff Brained Testknitting

I’m test knitting a pattern while I have brain fog. It’s a tad frustrating when you lose the ability to count or to read or to understand what your eyes are seeing. But the beautiful pattern, the sympathetic designer and the wonderful handspun I’m using are making up for all that.

The pattern is Cocoberry by Meilindis:

The revised and test knit pattern will be available in the beginning of November. 

Here’s my project in progress:

I’m using a baby camel top handspun mix in the colour Helleborus. It was dyed by Mandacrafts from the UK.

I bought it at my very first Landelijke Spindag (National Spinners’ Weekend) way back when (2010)

Back then I didn’t know how to spin long draw. Which is extremely suited to the short and slippery fibers of the camel top. (I think baby camel fluff might be denatured to have it take up the dye better? Just like they do with yak. It’s basically how they make wool super wash. It’s a chemical treatment and it leaves the fibers slick and slippery.)

It was 2010 and lots of people had fallen for the beautiful fibers dyed by Mandacrafts. We had a blast at the Dutch Spinners Group where we all tried to spin this luxury fiber in the way we’re used to spin long, steady fibers: worsted. It was  educational and sometime educational, with the fiber flying everywhere and people getting really frustrated (or was that just me?). (link to dutch thread)

Spinning short fibers into a smooth yarn requires a special technique called “inch worming”. Basically you are spinning with not even one inch between your hands, just to get the fibers to twist together before they break apart from each other and become fluff again.

I vowed to never spin inch worming again, it was so frustrating.

In 2011 I bought a new wheel, one that could do long draw. Unfortunately I myself could not do long draw at that moment.

NB: “top” means that the fibers are all aligned while true long draw requires the fibers to be all over the place.

Nonetheless I did something right:

I managed to get a thread:

and even a yarn:

So soft! Such gorgeous colours! But I didn’t know what to do with it.

2012 came around and I bought another bag of that Baby Camel Top. Also in Helleborus. It’s so soft you just have to have it, even if you can’t spin it. I planned to spin it and have more meterage so I could make a cardigan perhaps. But I didn’t spin it in 2012.

2013 came and went and I didn’t touch any camel.

2014 came and that camel fluff is still waiting in the box called “Gorgeous Fiber I want to Spin Right Now!”

Well, I’m not waiting any longer. I’m putting that first skein of Helleborus into my Cocoberry cowl and will worry about that other bag some other time. Cocoberry in Baby Camel is a delight!

It’s so soft! There are so many colours there, the picture can’t capture them. The pattern is extremely suited for handspun yarns.

I confessed that I am brain fogged. It is the aftermath of the National Spinners’ Weekend 2 weeks ago. Having such a thrilling weekend and eating such weird things (kroketten for lunch!) messes up my digestion and my hormones and my sleep and my brain chemistry. It is what it is. I have to sit it out and rest. Eat chicken soup a lot. Knit simple things. Rest up. (OK, OK, doing Spinzilla and eating cookies was not very smart. But hey, it was fun!)

Anyway, I’m still brain fogged and I have to redo almost every row of Cocoberry Cowl. But I don’t mind. Great pattern! Great yarn!

Hopefully the designer Meilindis doesn’t mind either, I’m really bothering her and asking all kinds of dumb questions. But I figure there’s an upside to having a brain fogged knitter as a tester: all the dumb questions get asked right now, by one person, giving her a chance to foolproof the pattern before she releases it to the public.

Now I’m off to frog my last row. Turns out M1R doesn’t mean “Cable to the Right”.

a Sock and Spinzilla Saturday Night

This is the sock I’m knitting from that Summer Dutch Wool Diva sock roving that I spun really thin on my Louet:

Pattern: Water Cycle Socks by Tami Sheiffer
On needles 2.75 mm, working with 52 stitches in the round before gusset increases. It’s toe up.

this is the pattern picture:

It is inspired by the cycle of rain and water in nature.

It’s Saturday night, I’m spinning Spinzilla and I’m about to start with the last batts and they are the last colour of the lot. Orange!

The spun skeins are on the table. A very nice palet. Very October.

Spinzilla: visiting the Louët factory

The visit to the Louët factory was great!
We were welcomed by Loes, our Spinzilla team captain and employee of Louët and also daughter to Jan Louët.

She had not spun much before and Jan taught her on the spot (on an Louet S17):

He did well and so did she. Within a few minutes she spun consistently:

What a talent!
She gave us tea and we had my cookies. It’s a 1-2-3 recipe with Golden Syrup and creamed coconut. Yum!

Jan showed us the new design: very exciting!

I find it amazing how the look of Louet wheels remains true to their essence and history but the technical innovations are poured into them, with precision.
All people there are technical, including Loes, and it was nice to talk engineering specifics.

Then we got a tour of the factory. So impressive!
Right at the big doors are the stacks of raw wood. Just trees in slabs.
Then you walk through the building, counter clock wise, and there are machines everywhere and lots of little parts and half wheels and half looms and men working the machines and you end up at the front, where the showroom is. And there’s the stock: wheels and looms and kitchen parts. All neatly packed in the iconic sturdy Louët carton boxes.

I had brought that old S70 I bought at the thrift store the other day and without a word they took it and repaired it and made it all functioning and shiny.

Then we took our wheels up the stairs, to what will become a nice light flooded Show & Do area. All the current wheels are there and also all the weaving looms. We sat spinning amongst all the current models:

Behind me, from left to right, you see the S80 Olivia, the S90 Julia, the S95 Victoria, the oddly shaped S90 and another S95 Victoria in oak.They’re all Scotch tension wheels and the flyer clicks into the back with a magnet, making changing a bobbin much faster then with my vintage S70.

Yeah, my vintage S70… it’s old, it’s my darling.
And its wheel has a distinctive wobble…

.. you can’t be at the factory, with Jan Louët sitting next to you, and have a wobble in your wheel. Before you know it:

Jan takes out the axel and is now somewhere on the factory floor straightening it out.

He left his wheel behind: one of the prototypes from back when he was designing a small foldable wheel: the S95 Victoria.
This is one of only 12 in existence.

Louët is setting up some sort of collection of their previous wheels and other products. I saw a pristine Hatbox, never used!
I bought one of the last wooden bobbins for the S70 they have.

After a few hours spinning we said goodbye and I took my wheels home. The old battered one spins wonderful now. I dream of sanding it down and painting it. Making it a fun wheel.

Today I’m back in the cabin, plying some yellow-brown singles. The cat missed me and insists on laying on my lap, bobbing up and down.

Spinzilla: results halfway

Up until now I’ve spun 1100 m of 2 ply aran weight. 1200 yards. There’s an additional bonus for plying so I think I have 1800 Spinzilla points now.

The set up on Monday morning:

Tea, a view and a box full of batts from the fleece I dyed and picked and carded. I chose the main colour to start with.

First batt on the bobbin:

(I dyed that sock yarn myself, it makes me smile)

After few batts on the bobbin and reinforcements were needed. I made apple pie! Best eaten with a spoon:

I spun until I went to bed that day:

During the spinning hours I listen to audiobooks. On Monday it was the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, read by John Cleese. I enjoyed it very much, the literature combined with Cleese’s acid intonations. Well done.

Tuesday morning I was ready to start plying and found a little hick up:

But I got the plying done.
On Tuesday I listened to The White Queen, a book by Philippa Gregory. About the war of the roses. I’d seen the tv-film last year so I had fine imagery in my mind, to go with the words.

That day I got half of the main brown-orange plying done and the yellow:

On Wednesday I plied the second half of the orange (plying feels like such a chore!) and a more subdued brown and two bobbins of dark brown singles.

And of course I dabbled in cookies!

They need a bit more tweeking. Who knew that if your cookie crumbles too much you should add more sugar or fat? Not water!

I found a delightful site explaining baking to me in a way that fits me: understand the principles, start playing.
Crafty Baking.com: How Baking Works

I now fill my bobbins half way and start plying immediately. To spread the chore-like feeling of plying. It evaporates because you quickly get results and the yarn the Louet wheel gives is nice. You can really add the precise amount of twist you want.

I listened to the rest of the White Queen and late in the afternoon I started on Hitch Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Read by Stephen Fry.

This morning I’m going to ply the dark singles and make cookies. I leave for Louët in an hour and a half…