Hello, Dookie!

Dookie (the alpaca fleece mentioned in my January goals) has been a part of my life for a while now.  Dookie is an alpaca, whose fleece came to live with me when Geodyne moved back to her antipodeal home.  This is about 600g of wonderful, dark, bitter-chocolate coloured raw alpaca blanket; most of it is great quality, and really soft:


For a long time, Dookie’s fleece lived in a corner of the hallway.  In November, I suddenly realised that I had no spinning project on my wheel, and my last visit to Rampton Spinners (as a regular, anyway) was the next day.  What to spin?!

Dookie to the rescue.  One of the delightful things about alpaca fleece is that it has no lanolin; no grease.  I’m not a fan of spinning in the grease, so alpaca is a win because I don’t have to wash it first.  Definitely a bonus when I need to have a project on the wheel the next day.

I’m using this as an opportunity to practise hand carding.  This fleece is consistently high enough quality that I can just grab a handful, card it into rolags, and spin from there.


I’m planning a lovely, soft, squishy three-ply yarn, possibly for use in a cabled sweater.  Though I am aware that a cabled alpaca sweater may yet be a recipe for hyperthermia; all plans are always subject to change.  So far, I have two bobbins full of singles (you can see the natural colour variation clearly in this shot); no plied yarn at all, and there is still a lot of fleece to go:


Dookie is is also a very mucky alpaca.  They usually are; there might not be any grease, but there is always plenty of dust.  If I spend an evening working with Dookie, I inevitably end up with black bogeys the next day (didn’t you want to know that!!), and spinning makes my fingers (and wheel) dirty indeed:


Last Friday, I spent the evening carding rolags while watching telly on my laptop.  The next day, I spent some time using the laptop for monthly budget activities – only to find that my fingers suddenly looked like this:


I’m thinking a need a cover for my laptop.

It’s New Sweater Day!!

I can’t remember when I last had a New Sweater Day (Ravelry says April 2011.  Wow! And before that?  April 2010!!).  Clearly, I haven’t been finishing anything like enough sweaters for myself in recent times.


This, I hope, is the start of the end of that trend.    It is also the first large project I’ve taken from fleece to FO. Two fleeces actually: the really short bits from a very soft, very dark alpaca fleece (you can see it before blending here), and the random sheep’s wool that long time readers may remember was left out over an entire winter for a ‘pre-wash soak’.  By the time I rescued it, it was green in places, and smelly, and became known as ‘the pond scum wool’.  A second wash sorted that easily, though it did require picking afterwards.  I prepped this stuff for spinning in the Tour de Fleece 2011, and though I don’t remember how much I spun during the tour, I finished it in October that year.  The yarn singles were spun supported longdraw from drumcarded batts, and plied hard-ish relative to the singles twist.


I really like the fabric I’ve made: it is light and warm and tweedy, and shows up the cables acceptably well, though obviously not as well as a completely solid coloured yarn would. With the very, very short alpaca fibres in it, it will be interesting to see how well it wears.

The pattern is Drops 114-8, the long sleeved version, though I had to rework it for the gauge I got with my handspun yarn – both stitch and row gauge were off. I also modified the neckline cable to be only the first two rows of diamonds instead of four, as I really wanted a neckline detail rather than a large chest-medallion.

I also lengthened both the body and the sleeves, as I am tall with long arms.

The sleeve caps on this pattern are wide and shallow (check out the blocking photo below to see what I mean), and I thought I’d made a mistake reworking the pattern, but it seems to be just the way they are. Anyway, they work, so fear not!


I am really very pleased with this sweater, but it’s not perfect. The neckline is a bit higher than I was intending (must have had a math-fail there when re-working the cable), though it still works well, and the sleeves are shorter (optimism and long arms). I feel like it would look better with a bit more positive ease, but then I’ve gained some weight since I cast on for this in September! We will see what I can do about that this year…

Something new

Since my spinning wheel is really too large to travel in my car over the festive season, I needed to find a carry along spinning project.  (For clarity: (it fits just fine at other times of the year, but not so much when I’m travelling with both hounds, my own luggage, and a metric buttload of gifts).  None of my current spindle projects really spoke to me (and actually, if I’m being honest, I really wanted to start a new one for a shawl KAL that starts in the new year).

so I had to find an empty spindle.  Lucky me, I had one – and a ‘new’ one, too!

At Fibre East, which I knew was going to be my last show for quite some time, I treated myself to an IST Turkish spindle, in bog oak.  unbelievably, this is the first opportunity I’ve had to start using it!  I am **always** recommending Ian’s wares to people, and this spindle is no disappointment.

This is my first Turkish spindle, and so I have some adjustments to make.  My habitual thigh-roll doesn’t work well, so it has to be spun with a finger flick.  The wind-on is taking some attention and I don’t have it automatic yet, but I know it will speed up in time.  In the meantime, though, I’m really enjoying this spindle.

It spins strongly and smoothly. It has tiny brass weights at the ends of the arms, increasing the weight and the momentum, just where it’s most needed.  The finishing work is, as ever, absolutely meticulous, and the beautiful wood is allowed to speak for itself, with no unnecessary frills or furbelows.

Just perfect.

(Incidentally, bog oak is very special.  The tree that grew my spindle did so about 3300 years ago.  It fell, and was preserved in boggy conditions.  It is deep, deep brown, dense, smooth and hard – and I love the magic of handling part of a tree that grew in such an unknown age.)


There is an *awful lot* going on chez Yarnscape right now, though sadly nothing that I can really talk about yet.

Some things never change, though – and one of them is that, yet again, the Rampton Spinner’s project is due very shortly, and I’ve barely even started.

Back in January, we were given the opportunity to buy some fibre from one of our members’ personal stash (the inimitable SarahW on Ravelry).  She is an amazing spinner and enabler; and something much, much more than a teacher.  She has a kind of rigorous enthusiasm that I find utterly infectious, and her plan for this year’s was that we should get the chance to create a project from raw fleece.

She brought in baggied-up portions of various fleeces (it must have taken her ages to prepare; I seem to remember her saying that each baggie included fleece from several areas to give a good overview of the whole fleece), and we picked, chose and bought.

I chose a (coloured) Ryeland.  At least, I am pretty sure it’s Ryeland, though the pictures of Ryeland fleece I’ve found look little like what I have.  I did, at least, get the fleece washed earlier this year – possibly before the second meeting in March, though I’m no longer sure.

This is a selection of the fleece staples in my selection (as always, click for bigger):

The colours range from oatmeal, through a reddish beige, all the way through to a warm grey-black.  Unfortunately, all my photographs were taken last night with the iPhone, so there is a choice between yellowish, no-flash photos, or harsh, flash-lit photos.  The tape measure is marked off in centimetres; you can see that there is quite a lot of variation in staple length as well as colour – though possibly not as much as you might first think.

The texture of the locks ranges from the tightly-curled almost-ringlets in the top right:

Through to the tightly crimped, but not actually coiled, locks bottom left (which it appears I did not, in my wisdom, photograph up close).  Those cinnamon-coloured locks are some of the most tightly curled, but you can see the structure more clearly in some others:

You can fit a lot of fibre in to those tight crimps and coils!  So although each lock may only be 3-4cm long, the actual staple length is probably two to three times that.

My initial plan was to make socks as my project.  Most people seem to think that Ryeland is a natural for carding, but it seems to me that there is actually enough staple length there to comb it, and that, if spun worsted, the crimp might give us a lovely, springy, bouncy yarn.  This time, though, I’m going to be a good girl – and sample!

Half an hour’s work on Monday night yielded these little combed nests (about 5g total; I didn’t weigh the waste):

The fibre does indeed comb and diz well, though.  You can see one little nep – just by the number 3 on the tape measure – but other than that, I’ve managed a very smooth, even prep.  I’m using my Majacraft mini-combs, and I think I can speed up the combing process a lot if I just take some time to get myself set up properly, instead of working on the sofa.

I plan to try two kinds of yarn from this combed top: a regular plied yarn (three or four plies; I haven’t decided yet), and a cabled yarn (either 3×2 or 2×2; see prior comment).  I’m considering a cabled yarn for several reasons: the first is that they are just very, very cool.  The second is that they are reputedly very resistant to abrasion, which strikes me as a really good thing in a sock.  The third is that this crimpy fibre may result in a yarn which really wants to puff up when finished (I’m guessing here, you understand).  I’m also guessing that the multiple interlocking strands of a cabled yarn might tame this tendency somewhat.

I also want to try spinning this woollen style, so I carded some, too:

These aren’t exactly your standard rolags; they’re more like woolly punis.  After carding, I used a wooden dowel to help me roll up the fibre and remove it from the cards.  I think that this yarn, spun woollen, will be too fluffy and bouncy for socks, and probably won’t wear well enough either.  But I’m going to give it a try, anyway!

Start of the spinning year

When I started writing this post – last Thursday – I had not yet spun one jot so far this year.  I know- I’m a lazy spinner.  Roc day was almost a week gone already…  That evening, I sat down to reacquaint myself with the project on the wheel (Shipwreck, part 2), and spin for the first time this year.

I managed to spin up a fair amount of corriedale roving (colour: Ominous, my own dyework), for the second ply of the second half of the Shipwreck Shawl (make sense? Suffice it to say that the singles spinning is more than 3/4 done, and the plying half done…


That’s not the only spinning related news I have for you, though.  Anyone who is already a reader of Knit! magazine (the one that used to be Yarn Forward) will know that the last few issues have featured spinning-related articles.  And the most recent issue (Issue 45) features spindle spinning – and ME!

There are two articles in there: one is about the history and background of spindle spinning, the other is about me and my spinning.  Both are written by Camilla Hair, who interviewed me for the articles back in November, I think.


My hand-woven, spindle spun silk shawl gets a mention – and a rather pretty photograph – too!  It’s an amazing buzz to see yourself – and your projects! – in print in this way.  I’m not sure I’ve come down from cloud 9 yet…

A touch of the blues

Spinning, weaving, knitting: all seem tinged with blue right now:

The weaving is the warp I started for the Houghton Hall Alpacas event – finally off the loom!  I have some finishing work to do on this, but I think I will have a pair of place mats and a table runner when I am done.  I was finally motivated to finish weaving this warp as I have a great urge to put something else on this loom.  More on that anon, however.

The spinning is a second batch of fibre for the shipwreck shawl.  If you remember, I was spinning a marled yarn (one blue single, one dark grey) for this shawl, but realised I wasn’t going to have enough yardage.  I dyed an extra braid of each (the grey was my fibre anyway; the blue wasn’t), and I’m now working my way through the second batch of blue.  I’m not sure I’m getting the same thickness as the original – one reason I generally stick to a spinning project all the way through before starting something else – but I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end…

And the knitting…  Well, I’m quite excited about this.  You almost can’t see it in the photograph, but waay over there on the left is the start of a grand experiment.  It’s a cuff- for a glove.  I’ve wanted to knit myself some gloves that actually *fit* for ages now, and it suddenly occurred to me that the handspun Twilight yarn from earlier in the year would be perfect for this.  I’m loving the fabric I’m getting – cushy, woolly, smooth stockinette – and can’t seem to put this project down at all.  In fact, it may have progressed as far as the thumb by now…  Want a better picture? (No thumb, though) – OK!

What I’m doing with my Samhain yarn (and fibre!)

Of course I kept some for myself!  Did you think that I wouldn’t?  This is the first installation of my first ever yarn club, you know!

Admittedly, the sock and lace yarn I kept are from the prototyping phases – and I havent’ done anything with the lace yarn yet – but I had to keep *some* souvenirs.  The colour prototype, by the way, had a much more abrupt change from orange to black, generally less saturation through the oranges, and was – ahem – technically less together than the finished club yarnz.

I had hoped to have the pattern for these socks (or at least, the finished socks) ready to display on Hallowe’en itself – but no luck.  I finished the whole first sock, then decided that, really, it was too tight.  Yes, I could wear it – but it wasn’t how I wanted it to be.  So I started the second sock (without ripping back the first, I hasten to add; just in case I changed my mind!), and started work on the second.

When I finished the second, I realised I’d done a really stupid thing when setting up the stitch pattern for the foot: the whole thing spiralled gently, biasing it’s way around the sock.  Wearable, again – but still not what I wanted.  So I pulled it out, back to the end of the heel turn, and set at it again.  I think I had the first sock finished for November 1 – and I’ve been plodding my way through the second ever since.  I’m on the foot now – and without any silly mistakes, thank you – so it shouldn’t be too much longer till I’m done!

The fibre was easier.  I wanted to maintain the colour progression, so I spun it all into one long, graded single, and then chain plied it for a fat, round, 3-ply yarn. (Chain plying, by the way, is also called Navajo plying, but certain people think ‘chain’ is more correct, so that’s what I’m trying to train myself to say.)  But wow!  It’s a long time since I’ve chain plied anything, and I’m a much better spinner now, with much higher standards.  I had never realised before how hard it is to keep all the strands under even tension whilst you add the plying twist – and if you don’t do that, you don’t end up with such a regular yarn.  More on that another day, perhaps, but suffice it to say that what I was expecting to be a quick-and-easy ply has taken me a lot longer than I expected, and has needed a lot of concentration, too!

I overplied the yarn relative to its intial spinning twist, so it was quick active (read: twisty – you can see it coiling up on itself!) when it went in for its bath this morning.  But a couple of changes of hot and cold water, a good squeeze and a snap between the hands have it hanging meek and straight in the shower, drying.  I think a hat is in its future.

Finishing Friday


This great big box of batts:

Has been transformed into this:

That’s 19 skeins, varying from 36m/12g (the last, bracelet-plyed little bit) to 230m/69g (and I have no idea how I managed to fit all that on one bobbin!  I’m usually lucky to squeeze 50g on a bobbin with this yarn!).

Picked and drum carded
Spinning method: Mostly point-of-twist long draw
Totals before washing:
2,746m, 444g.  I’ve averaged about 3.5m/g
Started: July 3, 2011
Finished: October 21, 2011

This really has been a long project for me; I wouldn’t normally expect it to take me nearly 4 months to spin just under a pound of fibre.  So, why so slow?  Partly, I think, because I burned out a bit on this project at the prep stage.  Prep really isn’t my favourite part of the process, but after the disappointment of the mixed dye lots, I really didn’t want to prep on the fly again, and end up with another lot of disappointingly varied yarn.  I wanted consistency.

The other issue is an ergonomic one: long draw is intrinsically hard on the shoulder, and my wheel really isn’t the best configuration for me and this technique.  I’ve built strength as I’ve gone along, and I’ve also worked on improving my setup, but there is only so much that can be done.  It may be that  a new wheel is in my future…

Finally: I’m really excited about this week’s Saturday giveaway, so do come back soon to check it out!

WIP Wednesday

Away from my blog for almost a week?!  Unbelievable.  You’d be forgiven, indeed, for thinking that I haven’t been doing much…  But you’d be wrong!

I have now completed ten repeats on my big weaving project:

(Weaving tends to look pretty same-y at this point in the game.  You can only ever see the bit that’s between the front beam and the current working edge, you see, so you’ll have to take my word for it that there’s been progress – and be satisfied with a close-up for now!

And I have 12 of these plump little puppies sitting around, waiting for wet finishing:

(That’s about 500g of yarn, 1855m in total.)  I have 6 and a bit batts left to spin, which could theoretically be done in a week – but which probably won’t be.  I’m waiting for the yarn to be all spun up before I wet finish it, so that they all get basically the same treatment.

Myrtle is coming along, too!  She now has (or is, I should say) a pair of sleeves!

I am planning to do a provisional cast-on for the body pieces, which always takes me a while (and we’ve had company, too).  In addition, I plan to add in some ribbing for waist shaping, and to move the start of the moss stitch yoke down the body a bit, so I need to figure out what’s happening where before I really get going.

Probably the real reason I have stalled on the knitting, though, is that I have been working hard on these:

I’m now up to the start of the thumb gusset on the second mitt!  That means I’ve figured out how to make it, and am now checking the pattern by working the second one.  With any luck, I’ll be able to make this available to all you crochet enthusiasts before too much longer – just in time for autumn chilliness.

If we ever get any, that is.


WIP Wednesday

I’m glad it’s WIP Wednesday around here, because frankly, there’s a lot going on at the moment.  I haven’t finished anything for a while, so the WIPs from my previous posts are still hanging around.  And going slowly, I’m afraid:  this is the second sleeve of Myrtle, and as you can see, we’re not far into it yet:

Spinning has progressed: I’ve plyed up a couple more skeins of the alpaca blend, and spun a bobbin full of more singles.  The problem I’ve had with this project is that I can’t currently get comfortable with long-draw.  Comfortable as in physically, ergonomically comfortable: I’m a tall lass, and hold my fibre in the left hand.  I’m currently having some fatigue/pain issues with my arms and shoulders, so the chair needs to be the right height, right position for me to spin for any length of time.  No photos of these; at this point, one skein of freshly-plied yarn looks pretty much the same as the next.

So!  Sundays’ swatch is now a full-blown WIP – more on that another time:

And there’s another WIP, too:

This is a quick little project; I hope to have it wrapped up by the end of the week…