And just for fun, I thought I would share with you some of the work that went in to the pattern that found its way into Spin Off. This project started with fluff. I spun three different yarns to create, what I hoped to be a tweedy look for the cowl. It was fun, I used three different preps of fiber, as well. There was a beautiful art batt with a mix of fiber from Purple Lamb, there was combed top, and there was roving. The color palette was warm, with a lot of orange. To give it a little punch, I used some blue.
This project was designed for a rigid heddle. It is a plain weave, so it is very friendly for even the most novice weaver. I like using rigid heddle looms with my handspun yarn, it is much more forgiving. There is less tension and the the plastic reed is less abrasive.
I used my Ashford, 32" loom, but I certainly did not need so much room. To be honest, I just really like that loom. I find the reed size is really nice, it gives me a really even beat. My 15" loom is more practical in size for a lot of my projects, but for some reason, with that loom, I always have one hand that wants to pull the reed more than the other one. Using two hands to pull my reed always feels a little more natural to me, but I have to switch to a one hand pull when I use my smaller loom to remedy my own fault of unevenness.
I really liked the look and feel of then final cloth. It was fun to create the cowl, which has its own secret pocket to stash cash when traveling. I hope, if you have a chance, you can take a look at the project in Spin Off. Maybe even create your own Traveler's Cowl. I would love to hear your thoughts or see your own projects!
The hank featured at the top of the image was created from an art batt created by Purple Lamb. I had two "Anduril" art batts of approximately 2 oz each. It was my first attempt at spinning a mixture of fibers and decided to do a short forward draft from the fold. I spun two bobbins, one batt for each, and then plied them together. The result was a beautiful fingering weight yarn with a nice glossy finish and a lovely drape. I gifted all three of these yarns to my mom as stocking stuffers for Christmas.
Next up is my dive into some art yarn. With another art batt from Purple Lamb called "Rainy Day," I spun a rather careless single (intentionally...I wanted thickish parts and thin parts without a lot of organization.) I then took some commercially spun wool and make a super coil yarn by holding my "Rainy" single perpendicular to the wool running through the orifice. I allowed the "Rainy" to wrap around the wool and then pushed the resulting wrap up, making the coils tight and close together. I think this will look interesting in a weaving project I have in mind. I will say it is a little labor intensive for a very low yield of finished yarn, but it is very funky and fun. I do not have a picture here, but I also spun a true thick and thin art yarn with my thick bits being spaced at regular intervals.
Last up for today's post is my subtle gradient yarn, which finished at about a sport weight. I did a short forward draft on a 4 oz Malabrigo roving (merino) called "Glitter." (The name is a little deceiving, there is no glitter in the traditional sense to be seen in this colorway, but it does have nice metallic hues without the shine.) Before I began, I divided the wool up into color groups. The dye on the roving was such that there were no big sections of any particular shade (light, medium or dark) but I sort of went for averages. This meant there were some dark bits that got in the light, and vice versa. I liked it, though, it made for a dynamic and very subtle color shift. Once I completed the single I did a chain ply to create a very nice pseudo 3-ply yarn. In this way, I was able to maintain my color groupings without having to worry if separate bobbins of singles would line up properly. Even with the chain ply I was able to get 200 yards of yarn.
So...that's what has been coming off my wheel lately. Next up, I think, will be some beehives. Woohoo. I'm learning lots while having fun, and that's pretty awesome. I'd love to hear about what you're making!
Dyeing with Stuff in My Kitchen (and Backyard)
My end goal is to develop a palette of colors I like that I can grow, tend, collect in my own home. With a little internet research, there were three things I readily had on hand that I could start my dyeing experiments with in earnest. Those things were coffee, onion skins, and acorns. I will say, it was a lot of fun, but I definitely need to refine my technique when using these super raw and natural dyes. I'll take you on the pictorial journey first.
I feel delightfully like a witch with a cauldron when I'm trying out these experiments with wool and dye. This is not a tutorial page, so I will not bore you with too many details, but I will share some of the most notable discoveries I had. Also, I made sure to soak all of my fiber in a vinegar or citric acid bath prior to dyeing. I used heat with all of the dyes and with the acorns and onion skins I made what I like to think of as a "dye tea" by boiling the materials in water, then straining off the solid bits before adding my wool.
First, my coffee needs to be stronger. Also, we make cold brew and I had a bunch on hand that I used in my crock pot, but I think I need to go more of the hot steeped coffee for this one. I am not sure if it will make a difference, but I thought about it after I dyed my wool- cold brew has lower acidity than its hot counterpart. Worth investigating. I left the wool draped in the coffee for a gradient affect, which worked, but not as well as I wanted. More coffee, too? Not sure, but I'll do this one again and find out.
I need more onion peels. I realize I don't have a picture of my onion wool, and for that I am sorry. But I can tell you it was a very pale peachy color. It's nice in its own way, but I want more of the vibrant golden brown I know onion peels can produce. I exhausted the dye bath, so I worked what I had, but the color was not deep or golden. So...more onion peels.
Acorns by themselves seemed to produce an awful brown color. I like brown. Brown is nice. This brown was not nice. Then I read that adding iron oxide will get you the promised black color from acorns. So, halfway through the process, I tossed a rusty wrench in my pot. What did I have to lose? Not super precise, but I just wanted to see what would happen. Sure enough, it went black! Or dark grey, let's not exaggerate. I left my wool in the nearly boiling bath for a total of two hours. My Merino felted. Oops. Perhaps I agitated the water too much, especially after adding that wrench. However, the Corriedale seemed to make it out okay.
Let's Go Commercial
I also purchased a starter kit of Greener Shades dyes. (I am trying to be responsible with my dyeing, though I know the process is not footprint free.) These were tons of fun and way easier than the dyes I was extracting from my own stuff. But that makes sense, right? Who would buy a dye kit that kinda sorta worked on your first try? Those Greener Shades people know what they're doing, though. I really loved how vibrant the colors turned out. Gives me something to strive for with my homemade dyes. (I do realize I have a long way to go.)
I tried a tonal green affect, which turned out great. And then I hand painted some wool with pleasing results. I haven't gotten to it yet, but next I will try a solid colorway. I am trying to keep meticulous notes, so recreation of these rovings is also a goal.
Needless to say, I am having a lot of fun tinkering with dyes. I've begun spinning some of my dyed wool, too, which I'm really excited to share with you. I want to keep improving with my home dyes, but I am very pleased with the results from the commercial dyes, too. The vibrancy is really great. So, until I get myself up to snuff with acorns and flowers, I will probably continue to use both.
Confession time: I have entered into a new long-term relationship. It's all happened so fast. It's exhilarating, it's intense, it's scary at times but always fun. I have fallen deeply, passionately in love with...spinning. I just can't get enough of it. I feel it has deepened my understanding of my other fiber crafts and that it is elevating me as a fiber artist and, in a weird zen-like way, as a person. Intense, right?
Whew, it feels good to get that out there in the open.
Anyway, yes, I find that I enjoy spinning. A lot.
Oh, there's more. After this, I got some polworth combed top and tried a short-forward pinch and release. (I don't know if that is the official way to describe it, but that is what I did, so that is what I'm typing.) Then, just for kicks, I tried a chain-ply. I didn't actually produce a lot of yardage from this endeavor, so I thought a small project would be best. (Turns out chain-plying sucks up your singles like whoa.) I haven't started them, but this darling number is going to be woven into little mug-rugs with the help of my rigid heddle and some other yarn I have in my stash.
The amount of knowledge I have crammed into my brain in the last few months about fiber has surprised me. I never knew how significant fiber preparation was or that your drafting technique can affect the shine, drape, warmth and strength of your yarn. And then there is the art of balance. Who knew that was a thing? And then there is art yarn. Slow down there, Champ. I honestly am never going to be able to look at yarn the same way again...and that's okay. Yarn has become even more beautiful to me, if you can believe that's possible. I think I might be slowly inching my way into the "weirdo" category, so I will stop while I'm ahead and just give you the summary.
Summary: I like spinning.
I had never heard of this event until this year, but apparently it is because I sometimes live with my head in a hole. The Tour de Fleece has been an annual event for at least a decade, as far as I can tell, with many participants all over the world. As you might guess by the name, it is meant to take place concurrently with the Tour de France...get it? Spinning/spinning? Well, it made me laugh and think it was such a clever and cute idea, I wanted to learn to spin something just so I could participate. The idea is that you take time out of every day to spin some fiber. You may only have ten minutes to spare, but that is completely okay. There is a group on Ravelry for the event as well as competitions, so if that's your dish, you're in luck. Also, just like in the bicycling Tour de France, you can join spinning teams. It is really quite amazing. I, however, just wanted to participate quietly on my own, especially since I am just learning and I am not even using a wheel. I went the spindling route. (Much cheaper and seemed like a logical place to start my handspun adventures.) I get the impression, however, that the Tour de Fleece is a come-as-you-like type event, I feel like everyone is welcome however they spin.
I had a pile of fluff and a simple spindle I got in a goodie bag from a folk-fest, but I went ahead a bought myself a Louet bottom whorl spindle and some Blue Faced Leicester from The Woolery because it came recommended in the class I purchased on Craftsy. (It is a great class called "Spindling: From Fluff to Stuff;" I feel like it really gave me a solid foundation to explore spindling. I have linked it here in case you'd like to check it out.) My supplies cost less than $40 and I got my spindling class for $20, though if you are a beginner like me and not ready to spend a combined $60, there are a whole host of YouTube videos and DIY spindles that could make this an even cheaper place to start spinning.
Let me just say, the Tour de Fleece has been so much fun so far! I am really digging this whole spindling thing. I'm still not very good, but that will come with practice, I'm sure. But there is just something so peaceful and zen about the whole process. It helps clear my mind and relax me, even when I only try spindling for five minutes. And it is so easy to tote about, I can follow my kids around and still enjoy spinning. They think it's fun to watch, too. Bonus! They don't mind at all that their crazy fiber loving mother has found another thing to play with.
If there is a spinning bug, I think I've caught it. I want to spin up enough of this mixed top to ply the yarn and maybe make a fisherman's cap. That would be awesome. So, this is going to be my first post on spinning- we will see where this Tour de Fleece takes me and what awaits beyond the July finish line.