Mae’s yarn, which I spun from the “Amethyst” multi-colored merino, didn’t take nearly as long to make as Jonah’s. I’m not sure why, but it could have been the combination of making 2 larger skeins instead of 4 smaller ones, and more experience on my part. Each skein was almost 100 yards, and I had a lot of yarn leftover. Mostly because of her smaller feet, I’m sure. Also, finishing the slippers went faster because she helped me. She knit quite a few of the straight knit rows while I made thrums, and then we switched. So now she no longer has slipper envy. I think her feet look pretty happy:
Jonah’s handspun thrummed knitted slippers are finally done! It took longer to make the yarn than the actual slippers, but it was worth it! I feel really good about how the yarn turned out. It was mostly evenly spun (Jonah even helped to spin some of it on the wheel!), and I made 4 fairly full bobbins’ worth, about 175 yards of bulky weight worsted spun, 2-ply merino. I used about 12 oz. of fiber for both the yarn and the thrums. That seems like a lot, but they are very thick and sturdy, (but still soft) and I made lots of thick, fluffy thrums, probably 3-4 oz. worth. I think it’s interesting how they just blend into the stitches on the outside… since the fiber is full of so many random colors. I used the thrummed bunny slipper pattern, but minus the bunny stuff, and where the pattern started the ribbing rows, I just kept going, decreasing in the front for several more rows until I had the leg thickness and height I wanted. At the top, I added 2 rows of 1×1 ribbing and used a super stretchy bind-off. Jonah wanted them pretty snug and high around his skinny legs, but the first one I made too skinny…he could barely get his foot inside… so I had to go back and re-knit it. But the end result was a success! He loves them, and doesn’t want to take them off. And Mae can’t wait for me to make hers too… but she’s going to have to… probably a couple more weeks. Hopefully she won’t get as jealous as Joseph’s brothers did about his coat and sell him into slavery in order to claim them for herself!
I finally finished my spinning wheel practice yarn that I’ve been working on all week. Actually, I just decided to be done with it, already! I was a little nervous about plying it, since it would be a first for me and my lovely Louet, but it turns out she plies like a dream! I actually started using the brake band for this as it felt like more tension would be helpful, but the whole process was very quick and fun and felt almost effortless. And It’s a good thing I stopped when I did, because I don’t think I could possibly have fit any more plied yarn on this bobbin:
Here it is finished:
It’s OK, I guess. Uber-chunky for sure (love that phrase, willowcreekfarm!) and very all over the place in terms of thicknesses. But I’m sure I’ll think of something to do with it. I might try some experimental dyeing with it. I think it would be interesting to see what the heathered color does with dye on top of it.
My biggest motivation for finishing it was the fact that I just received the multi-colored merino that I ordered for Jonah’s slippers and I was excited to start spinning that instead. I decided to try pre-drafting this time, as I didn’t want to waste the fiber and I thought I might get smoother, more consistent results this way. Boy, was I right! I really wish I would have started learning on my wheel this way, and I highly recommend it for anyone transitioning from spindle to spinning wheel. It takes a bit more time, but not too much, and I was reminded that this was actually one of my favorite parts of spinning on the spindle… more hands-on time with the fiber! And SO much easier than trying to draft at the wheel when there is so much else to learn at the same time. I’m sure there are other ways that people prefer to do this, but I thought I’d share my method for anyone interested, as it’s worked so well for me.
First, I tear off a piece of typical roving… about 2 feet… and separate it vertically in half, then those in half, etc. until I have 16 even pieces. I’ve found that more than 16 ends up being a bit too breakable, and less than 16 ends up with very bulky yarn.
Then I start at one end with my fingers a few inches apart, and carefully draft it apart a tiny bit at a time along its length until I see the fibers aligning nicely together. Just a little bit of drafting creates a medium weight yarn, but if I want a thinner yarn, I draft it out a little thinner. When I’m finished, I lightly run it back through my fingers in the other direction to see if there are any thicker places to draft out a bit more. I then lightly wrap it around my fingers to make a little spiral. I do this for all of them, and then set them aside and start spinning. This also usually seems like a good amount of fiber to spin before I need to take a break. When I get almost to the end of one piece, I stop spinning and overlap it with the next piece, trying to align it so it creates the same amount of thickness as the rest of the fiber.
Here is my first single with this fiber on my lovely Louet. I think it looks SO much nicer and was so much easier to spin than the other drafting methods I used with the swaledale:
I’m really liking this multi-colored fiber. I’ve been studying it to see how it was made, and it looks like they just took several separately dyed batches and then carded them together. Here it is plied (also super quick and easy on the spinning wheel this time):
And here it is finished. I think it’s going to make lovely slippers for Jonah, and I’m excited to see how the thrums look with this fiber as well. But first, I’m going to have a lot more spinning to do…
Meanwhile, off in chicken-land, Gloria has decided to molt a TON of feathers at once. I’ve been a little worried because she hasn’t laid an egg in over a week. She’s usually more sporadic than Cleo, and she’s seemed happy and healthy, but it’s good to have a known reason now.
She doesn’t really look like she’s been molting, but these are all from today.. and not even half of the amount I found in the coop and yard, just the cleanest ones (plus one nice brown one from Cleo):
I decided to start collecting them because of a very inspiring photo in one of my library books: Spin Control by Amy King. I’m going to try making yarn out of them!
I wrote a poem once about spinning yarn out of feathers, but I had no idea that it would actually be possible! How cool would that be… to have a scarf made out of my chicken’s feathers?
I’ll leave you with a photo that my Sweet Prince took of me spinning… and Gloria out the window in the backyard watching me:
My lovely Louet and I are definitely starting to get to know each other better. My attempts over the last few days have been gradually improving, and I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable. Many thanks to all of my wonderful readers for your encouragement and advice!!! Most notably, the advice from Empress Fibers to practice treadling without fiber until I feel more comfortable stopping and starting has been VERY helpful. While I was doing this, I realized something about my wheel that I’m not sure was intentional (probably), but the big hole in it helps me to quickly see which foot to use to start up again in a clockwise direction. If it’s on the right when I stop, I use my right foot, and on the left, my left foot. Clever. And the advice from ilikecolors has been invaluable as well. She recommended drafting backwards at first… as far as my hands will go while gradually letting in twist before allowing the wheel to take up that length. This feels more like using my spindle, and I can more easily see what kind of twist I’m putting in. I also found two really great books at the library that have been very helpful, as well as fun to look at: The Complete Guide to Spinning Yarn by Brenda Gibson and Spin Control by Amy King. These are full of knowledge about fiber and different spinning techniques, and I learned from them that the easiest way for me to draft right now is from the fold, tearing off a chunk of fiber, wrapping it around my left index finger, teasing out a tiny bit (the amount I want to draft) from one side, and going from there.
I feel more control over how much I’m drafting this way, and it will produce a semi-worsted yarn… not quite so heavy in tightly knitted garments. I also hear this is a great way to spin fine slippery fibers… which I plan to do a lot of.
So, all of this is starting to result in better looking singles… I think. Once I feel a little more comfortable, and fill up 2 bobbins, I will try plying it.
Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I LOVE my new Louet spinning wheel! She arrived safely, and is absolutely gorgeous. So modern and streamlined, with beautiful solid wood construction that’s sure to last for a very long time. She was easy to assemble, and I just want to stare at her and run my hands over her smoothly finished wood. The cats, of course, were curious about her too:
The bad news is that I feel like I’m having to learn to spin all over again… and it’s much more complicated this time around. It took me forever to just figure out how to attach a leader yarn that wouldn’t slip on the bobbin, and of course the footwork is going to take some practice. I’m not sure what I was expecting, I knew there would be a learning curve involved, so I’m probably just being silly and putting too much pressure on myself, but I can’t help but be disappointed that it didn’t really start feeling more natural by the end of the evening. How long does it usually take to get accustomed to a spinning wheel? I’m guessing probably more than a few hours, so I’m sure I’m being silly, and shouldn’t let myself get so frustrated. Here are my tragic first attempts. For all of you who have been tempted to believe that I’m a quick learner, you can feel free to laugh now:
What even is that? It looks like I tried to wrap the sheep itself around the bobbin! I don’t think it helped that the practice wool they sent with the wheel is so hideously scratchy and rough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad they sent it, I didn’t want to ruin any of my other beautiful fiber, and it won’t be wasted regardless… I’m thinking dryer balls, whatever the end result. But I’ve just been so spoiled with all of my lovely, soft fiber that working with this didn’t help my frustration level. After about 3 hours, I was able to occasionally start to feel a bit of rythm, but then something would happen to throw it all off again. Mainly I think I’m not used to working with my hands this way, and timing them with my feet. I kept letting the twist enter the main fiber, and then I wasn’t sure about the timing to let the fiber wrap around the bobbin, etc. It feels like it should all work together eventually, and I’m still hopeful that I’m going to eventually get it… it’s just going to take longer than I’d hoped. I think I got some better results by the end of the evening, but I’m not really sure how it happened, and there are tons of kinks and weak points:
I know I should probably just relax and be OK with this learning process… I’m sure that would only help my cause. It just feels so much more out of control than the spindle right now. I really want to master both tools, and use them as I feel the whim. I’d love to use this to make a lot of yarn quickly, and the spindle when I’m feeling more leisurely, or want to be more portable. I really am in love with the design, and I can tell it’s going to be very comfortable eventually. I especially love the double treadle, and the detailing on the bobbins. Let’s just step back and admire that for a minute:
I’m excited to get to know my lovely Louet better. I can tell we’re going to be great friends. Any beginner’s advice from my fellow spinning wheel users would be very welcome… and may help me relax a bit.
I could no longer keep myself from the angora in my luxury sample pack. The fiber itself is incredibly soft and sleek with an angelic halo. It has a longer staple length than cashmere and it spins very gracefully. But you don’t really want to bury your face in this one (unless you like breathing hair) while you are working with it. I remember breathing in a lot of the tickly, tiny hairs when I’ve knitted with it in the past as well. They are so light and fluffy, they just want to fly around like tiny angels! But once the finished piece has been washed and worn a few times, and the hairs have decided to reside peacefully in your knitted piece… bury away! One of my favorite garments I’ve ever made is an angora cowl. I basically leave it around my neck all winter long… it’s stood the test of time. It’s so soft, silky and breathable, not itchy at all, and many times warmer than wool. I wrap it around my face when I go out on a cold day for instant insulation, like a bunny burrowing under her mama rabbit. And it’s so light, I’d hardly know it is there, were it not for it’s soft, warm embrace… an angelic presence enfolding me.
Here’s my single:
And washed & thwacked (very important for the halo to properly bloom, and to remove some of the loose hairs):
I can’t wait to make something with it. Maybe a new cowl? Or a hat? Or mittens? The possibilities are endless, but it definitely needs to be touching my bare skin somewhere.
Thanks to ilikecolors I now know that merino (especially superfine) is one of the most difficult fibers to dye, because it is the easiest to felt, of course! So I feel slightly less abashed at my cavalier efforts to dye it. But the pink roving was actually not quite as felted as I thought, and I was able to pull it apart and salvage some of it for spinning. Not the easiest drafting/spinning I’ve done so far, having to work around/with the felted parts, (velcro is right!) but still worth the effort, I think. The color is very fun, anyway… cherry kool-aid, 1/2 package per ounce of fiber.
I got about 35 yards of worsted weight out of it, which is not going to be enough for Mae’s slippers. Thanks to all of my lovely readers’ excellent advice, especially Empress Fibers, I decided to try again on another 2oz. of the roving left. I knew I couldn’t get the colors exactly the same, but maybe close enough that one could be used for the soles or the straps, etc. I didn’t have any more cherry kool-aid left, so I used tropical punch instead, and I tried to touch the roving as little as possible through the whole process, slowly and gently pushing it into the bowl that already contained the dye, only microwaving it for 1 minute, then 30 seconds, gently placing it in a container of warm water to rinse, only slightly squeezing it to remove some of the water, then draining it in a collander, before hanging it to dry (with a bowl underneath to catch the drips… there were a lot of drips!) I also did all this after the kids went to bed… to avoid more sets of playful fingers, mine were bad enough! Two days later it was finally dry, (I’m so tired of waiting for wool to dry!) and here are the results:
Not bad! No real felting to speak of, just a tiny bit here and there. But the color didn’t soak in as much, I guess less agitation will do that. So maybe next time I will let it sit longer before heating up? I think it will be a close enough match to the yarn though:
As for the purple roving, I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with that… probably a purple felted scarf. I pulled off some of the roving to make thrums for the slippers, but I don’t think there will be enough.
Meanwhile, Jonah has informed me that he wants REALLY long thrummed slippers. And his feet are getting enormous, almost a mens’ size. That means probably I will need around 400 grams of merino roving to make them. The thought of trying to dye all of that successfully and evenly has made me chicken out, so I’m going to cheat and buy pre-dyed roving. I found this really cool multi-colored English Garden merino (he wears a lot of blue and green) at Alpaca Direct. I’ve been wanting to give them some repeat business anyway for giving me that gorgeous teal merino for free with my drop spindle order. I’m hoping a pound will get the job done, with some left over for practice on my spinning wheel when it gets here (Monday!!!). And while I was at it, I thought I might as well take advantage of their free shipping offer and buy a pound of this amethyst color for Mae… either for her thrums, or even for her slippers as well if the pink doesn’t look like it’s going to work out (or if she commandeers it to knit with, as she has hinted) … or just for her to enjoy spinning with! Plus, I think just studying this will provide some dyeing knowledge/inspiration… it’s so interesting how there can be so many different colors, but it can still have one main color overall… like pixels in my Graphic Design day job. Color is SO fun!