Trying new things

Over the past weeks as I've been preparing for Yarndale at the end of the month, I've been playing around with some new dye techniques, and finding some fantastic ways to put colour on fibre!

Back on the podcast a little while ago, Allison suggested that I should try speckled fibre. As someone who has been slow to get on the speckled yarn bandwagon, I was a little bit dubious as to how that would look on fibre and then again as handspun yarn, but I've been trying it out and I am really pleased with the results!

Sand Creatures on Merino d'Arles

Sand Creatures on Merino d'Arles

Sand Creatures as a 2-ply

Sand Creatures as a 2-ply

What's even more interesting is that the speckles on the fibre in Sand Creatures ended up blending in the handspun yarn in ways I didn't expect.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how these colourways look spun up in different ways as other spinners put their own touches on them.

 

While the process I've developed for speckled fibres is more time-consuming than my standard dye process, it does allow me to layer on colours in ways that end up very unexpected sometimes!

Anakinra, the August Lab Goddess Fibre Club colourway

Anakinra, the August Lab Goddess Fibre Club colourway

I'm working on a few more different variations in the run up to Yarndale (including [left] Sunshower on BFL and [right] Gorse on Superfine Falkland), so if you're intrigued, please come by and have a squish in person! I'll be on Stall 163, and I hope to see you there!

Lab Goddess Fibre Club July 2016

This month's Lab Goddess Fibre Club offering is a more semi-solid colourway than usual. Meet Far End of the Spectrum:

This colourway, dyed on British Suffolk wool, was inspired by Anna Jane Harrison, an organic chemist who focused her work on the structure of organic chemicals and their interactions with ultraviolet (UV) light, the waves lengths of light that are beyond the detectable range for human eyes. A professor of chemistry at Mount Holyoke College for many years, she was elected the first woman president of the American Chemical Society in 1978.

In addition to her research, Dr. Harrison was renowned as an educator; as a professor at an all women's small liberal arts college, she was a role model and inspiration for following generations of female scientists.

The colourway, though a variety of a semi-solid, actually took multiple dye baths to create. I wanted to capture the violet part of UV light but also include the fact that UV light is largely invisible or hidden from normal human sight. Purples and blues were first applied to the fibre and set, before adding black to the dyebath to hide the brilliance of the initial colours.

The Suffolk base is a serious wool: crunchy and sturdy, perfect for hardwearing items. Fairly rough in top form, the fibre softens with spinning to create a strong, durable yarn that I'm planning to use for some textured socks.

Come over to the Porpoise Fur Ravelry group to see how this fibre spins up, and share your own spinning photos!

Holiday time!

The last few days have been an absolute whirlwind. There's been the end of school:

Dev's first day and last days of primary school.

Dev's first day and last days of primary school.

There's been dyeing and packing of this month's Spinning Box contribution,

Under the Big Top on Suffolk

Under the Big Top on Suffolk

And this month's Lab Goddess Fibre Club.

IMG_6085.JPG

And there's been finishing up a whopping load of Tour de Fleece spinning.

Now we're off to the States for some good holiday with family. I hope everyone is having a lovely summer, and see you soon!

2016 Tour de Fleece colourways: The Giant

There are a number of iconic mountains that have featured heavily in the Tour de France since it's inception. This year's Stage 12 finishes on the top of one of these quintissential peaks: Mont Ventoux.

Mount Ventoux by Jean-Marc Rosier from www.rosier.pro

Mount Ventoux by Jean-Marc Rosier from www.rosier.pro

Although geologically part of the Alps, Mont Ventoux stands quite isolated, rising out of the plains of Provence to a summit of 1,912 meters (6,273 feet) and dominating the local landscape. The top of the mountain is bare of trees and vegetation, inspiring comparisons to the surface of the Moon. This isolation makes it an interesting ecological niche, and there are some species that are unique to this peak.

From the historical side of the race, Mont Ventoux is considered one of the most grueling climbs on the Tour, and it has been included 15 times since 1951. Coming this year at the end of 185 km on Stage 12 and averaging between 6.6 and 10.1% for 11 km, this climb is sure to play a role in determining the final victor of the race. The mountain's challenges came into stark relief in 1967, when British cyclist Tom Simpson died within a half a mile of the summit from heat exhaustion brought on by dehydration, amphetamines and alcohol. Since then, there have been many great battles fought up the slopes of the Giant of Provence, but none have had such a tragic outcome.

The Giant on Merino d'Arles

The Giant on Merino d'Arles

For this colourway, I wanted to use a gradient to mimic the landscape that the riders pass through on their way from the lavender fields up to the mountain summit. A bright violet gives way to greens before passing into the bare rock hues of the summit. I'm hoping to spin some of this up to work a beautiful half-circle shawl, if I can get some good laceweight.

Don't forget, all these exclusive, limited edition Tour de Fleece colourways will be available in the shop update going live tomorrow morning at 10:00 am. Please note that there may be a bit of delay if the demand for a particular colourway is high, but I have plenty of the base and will get it out to you ASAP!

Spinworthy

"Knitworthy" is a term that gets discussed a fair bit in the knitting world, particularly in the run up to the winter holiday season. What makes someone knitworthy is an ongoing, and sometimes contentious debate - the recipient's appreciation of and understanding of the value of handknits is dissected within an inch of its life, their ability to care appropriately for said handknitted gift is considered, and the giver's ability to "let it go" (it being the knit item in question) is discussed and pondered. It's a tough thing, putting all the time and energy and work into a handknit present when you're not sure what will happen to it in its new home.

What you don't hear discussed very often is if someone is "spinworthy".  For me, spinning a gift for someone is a different undertaking then knitting something. When I spin, part of the enjoyment is in being early in the creative chain that begins with the sheep growing the wool and ends with the finished object. I take a raw-ish material (the "ish" being reflective of the fact that I'm usually working with already processed but not always dyed fiber) and create something that, while beautiful in and of itself, isn't actually the finished product. There is still potential in that skein of handspun - it might grow up to be a hat, or a cowl, or some warm cozy mittens. It might end up as a square or two in a big blanket, or an edging on a sweater, or just about anything at all. The final fate of that wool is still up in the air.

All of this is a rather long and indirect way of saying I've finished a big spinning project. For Christmas in 2013, I gave Alli a sweater lot of handspun, fiber and colors TBD. After much back and forth and a bit of sample dyeing/spinning, she decided that she wanted yarn to knit the Gradient Pullover by Amy Miller. We went back and forth on colors, but she finally decided to go with the same pale to deep orange as shown on the pattern page. After some disagreement about fiber (I was pulling for BFL, she was enamored of merino-silk), we finally found a solution (that is, she got her way), and the project was underway.

Sadly, this was sometime in late May or early June that all this got settled, and the rest of the summer was pretty much a wash (what with the moving and all). I finally got the fiber out to dye and realised that I was short by about 10 ounces. Thankfully, my parents came to visit in October, and brought some more fiber with them (thanks Mom!). Much singles spinning and plying later, I present this:

IMG_4772.JPG

Fiber: 80% merino/20% tussah silk, dyed in three different shades of orange

Spun/plied: singles spun at 12:1 on a ST folding Lendrum, plied on a Hansen miniSpinner (hence the ginormous skeins!)

Yardage: 455 yds/6.8 oz of light orange, 645 yds/7.9 oz medium orange, and 660 yds/9.4 oz dark orange. Plus a couple of mini skeins of medium and dark so she can swatch. Total yardage 1760 yds/24.1 oz, approximately 1170 ypp. The medium orange is a bit lighter in grist then the other two (sport vs. DK) but I think they'll be ok all together.

One last beauty shot:

IMG_4775.JPG

There's a bit of odd plying going on in some places, but that can be fixed if needed down the line. I'm hoping it will be a non-issue when knit up.

So - Happy Late Christmas A! You are definitely spinworthy, but no, I will not knit the sweater for you.