Mae’s happy feet

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:

mae-slippers

thrummed-slippers-long

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Jonah’s slippers of many colors

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!

handspun thrummed knitted slippers

handspun thrummed knitted slippers

handspun thrummed knitted slippers

plying, pre-drafting and feathers

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:

full bobbin with plied swaledale yarn

Here it is finished:

handspun swaledale yarn

handspun swaledale yarn

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.

separated merino roving

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.

pre-drafted merino 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:

merino single on bobbin

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):

2-ply multi-colored english garden on bobbin

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…

finished english garden 2-ply

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.

free-range hen in backyard

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):

molted feathers

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!

Spin Control book - feathered yarn sample

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:

spinning on a Louet S10

spinning wheel progress report

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.

spinning from the fold

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.

spinning wheel single learning