Back to the spindle

The last few months have been (as you might imagine) a bit of a whirlwind. My stash and I are currently on opposite sides of the world (both the small stash in Maine and the larger stash in the UK), and it’s currently 35 degrees C where I am, so there is a conspicuous lack of holiday crafting going on.

What I have had with me in the last couple of months is my lovely 3D printed Turtlemade spindle (a gift from Alli via Cat & Sparrow) and a bit of Porpoise Fur fibre that had been languishing in the unsold stock pile for quite a while.

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The fibre is 70% Bluefaced Leicester/30% trilobial nylon. It spins like straight BFL, but the nylon adds some sparkle in interesting ways - it isn’t a fully mixed blend, so there are streaks of nylon in the top that shine, a bit like a silk blend.

So over the past two months I’ve slowly worked away at this 100 g, and this week I finished the singles and the plying! I managed to fit all the singles onto my not-very-large spindle in a monster cop,

Full Turkish.JPG

wound off on an improvised niddy noddy,

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and ended up with 164 yd/150 m of lovely, perfectly balanced (!), DK to sport weight yarn.

It is very well timed that I’ve finished this yarn now, as I’m about to head off to Cairns which has a dearth of yarn shops. Now I have something to knit with, the question becomes what to make with it? Suggestions welcome!

Edinburgh Yarn Festival, Skyesong and Fibre Club updates

Quantum Dots, which will be available at EYF on some super soft Falkland merino

Quantum Dots, which will be available at EYF on some super soft Falkland merino

Well. It seems like the last almost four weeks since Unravel have flown by in a blur of wool and dye and chaos. It seems that way because they have! I've been full on prepping for Edinburgh Yarn Festival, which opens for classes today and for vast and fantastic stash enhancement on Friday. I've sent off five (!) boxes of fluff, have crammed a pile more into my luggage, and will be on a train northward in just a few hours, just in time to set up.

However, a few other things have happened in the last few weeks that I'd like to highlight. First off, slots are now open for Q2 of the 2016 Lab Goddess Fibre Club. The club runs £45 plus actual shipping cost (depending on location), and will include three monthly shipments of an exclusive colourway inspired by a woman scientist, either past or current. Check out the Fibre Club page to see past colourways and to book your space now.

Current fibre club members: parcels will ship out next week, and I hope you like this month's instalment!

Skyesong in Broadbean merino/flax

Skyesong in Broadbean merino/flax

Secondly - I have a new pattern out! Skyesong is a lace shawl designed for handspun, and I'm super thrilled that it's been published in the new issue of Knitty. The body of the shawl is worked in a garter lace pattern (knit on every row - woot!) until it is the desired size, and then the edge is finished with a border worked sideways and attached to the live stitches.

One important thing to mention: this is proper lace knitting, with things happening on both the right and wrong side rows. However, the body repeat is only four rows long, so it's not too difficult to get into a rhythm. The edging is more complicated and longer (20 rows), but the stitch count changes on every row, so it's pretty straightforward to figure out where you are in the repeat as you go on.

The pattern includes two sizes - the small version was knit up in fingering-weight yarn spun from some gorgeous wool/flax sliver that I got at Spunky Eclectic a couple of summers ago, in the Lobster colourway. The larger version was worked in my own 60% merino/40% flax top, dyed in the Broadbean colourway.

I'll have plenty of the merino/flax top at EYF this weekend, in both semisolid and variegated colourways, so if you're inspired for a little lacey shawl project, please stop by!


"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:


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:


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. 

Welcome September

I adore this time of year. I suppose it's likely true for lots of people who knit/spin/weave/craft with wool, but the start of September means some very specific things for me: 1) the start of school (only one more day of holiday to go, not that I'm counting it down or anything like that); 2) a bite to the air that makes me think of wood fires and snuggling into wool sweaters and scarves and hats while the leaves blow on the autumn wind; 3) apple cider donuts (sadly not to be found in the UK, as far as I've been able to discover).

We've settled in to our new digs fairly well by this point. My studio, while being somewhat crowded by the vast piles of stuff that are amassing for the Great London Yarn Crawl, has sorted itself out into its usual state of disarray (there are towering piles around the computer on my desk, for instance, and bags of fleece waiting to be washed piled under the workbench, bits of yarn are strewn everywhere). The important thing is that I know where things are. Really I do...

So much GLYC stuff. So, so much.

So much GLYC stuff. So, so much.

Spinning nook

Spinning nook

I've managed to set up my spinning wheel it's it proper spot, however, and the result has been a whirlwind of spinning. On of my (sadly failed) Tour de Fleece goals was to time how long it takes me to make a handspun woven scarf, from fiber to FO. So over the course of the last three weeks, I've been timing my spinning of various fiber types.

From left to right: Southern Cross FIber South African Merino/Corriedale in "Buccaneer", Hello Yarn BFL in "Scorch" and Hello Yarn Panda in "Villain"

From left to right: Southern Cross FIber South African Merino/Corriedale in "Buccaneer", Hello Yarn BFL in "Scorch" and Hello Yarn Panda in "Villain"

Unwashed, so somewhat mangy looking.

Unwashed, so somewhat mangy looking.

All of these were spun as 2-ply yarns at my default single wpi. The really interesting thing to me is that my production speed varied depending on the fiber type. The fastest singles were from the SA Merino/Corriedale (4.15 yds/min), with the Panda next (3.75 yds/min) and the BFL the slowest (3.5 yds/min). Plying was less variable, ranging between 3.75 and 4 yds/min. 

My other motivation behind this timing experiment is that having all my stash in one room and visible has brought home the hard reality that I have more handspun yarn then I will ever use, and it needs to go to new homes. So I'm setting up to sell handspun over at Porpoise Fur, and the big question to be answered is How much will it cost? I'm very aware of the issues in pricing handmade goods, and trying to find the balance between what the market will bear and what is a reasonable compensation for time and skill put in to making the product. So all these variations in timing are very interesting from that perspective - stay tuned over at the Porpoise Fur blog for more details in the next few days.

The other result of sitting in a room full of yarn has been much knitting! I've knit two shawls in the last couple of weeks, finished off a languishing pair of socks, and started a Tiny Tea Leaves Cardigan for Boo (Devil's will follow shortly). My design brain is going bonkers too, and I've cast on a new shawl design that is flying along...whee!

So what's on your needles with the advent of the new season?

The Ultimate Lanterne Rouge

The Tour de Fleece ended almost exactly 2 months ago. And Thursday night, I finally limped across the finish line, and finished my raw-fleece-to-yarn spinning. At the beginning of the week, I weighed the fleece I had left - I'd been washing it an ounce at a time, and trying to spin on it fairly steadily. Lo and behold,

Almost done!

almost done! So I washed up the last few ounces, and got carding. I found it to be much more effective to card a rolag, spin it straight away, and then card some more. On Wednesday night I finished spinning the Gotland.

Last week's output

I only had 70 yds of the black Hebridean yarn, so I sorted through my bags of colored top that I'd bought, just to try out, and decided that the Black Welsh Mountain was the closest color match to the Hebridean. That got spun up on Thursday.

Hebridean wool vs. Black Welsh Mountain

Can you tell which is which? The Black Welsh Mountain is actually a dark brown, and when put next to the Hebridean, is noticeably lighter. The Hebridean is really, really black. I think that when I knit the sweater, I'll use the BWM for the hem and yoke colorwork, and the Hebridean for the cuffs. I think they'll be fine in isolation, but together the color difference will be noticeable.

Stasis pullover-to-be

The final pile. Yardage stats: 68 yds Hebridean, 115 yds Black Welsh Mountain (I have more of this top so if I run out, I can spin more),  1163 yds Gotland. Total yardage needed: 1125-1270 yds grey, 180-205 yds black, depending on whether I want positive ease or not. Hmmmm...I think I'm going to knit the body up to the armholes, provisionally cast on the sleeve stitches, work the yoke, and see how much yarn I have left and knit the sleeves down until I run out. Hopefully that will work!

In any event, it's a really good thing that I finished the spinning for this project on Thursday. Because you know what arrived on Friday?

The miniSpinner and all the extras

My new toy (and 40th birthday present to myself). And since the Gotland/BWM spinning was done, I got to start playing straight away.


I have since finished this BFL, and am working on some Wensleydale that is going to be a present for one of my P3 hostesses in a couple of weeks. It's taking some getting used to, but it sure is fun!