Time to Dance!

Introducing Dance…

Dance is one of my most favourite yarns that I dye, but I haven’t mentioned it much on the blog until now.  It has made a few quiet appearances in my Etsy shop, but the person who holds most of the stock is Affinity Yarns.  And, this month, Affinity Yarns are giving away a skein of Dance to one lucky winner!  Go see how you can win (I’ll wait…)

Dance is a sock weight/4-ply yarn in a decadent mix of 55% Bluefaced Leicester (superwash) and 45% Silk.  It has a wonderful, soft lustre without being completely in-your-face with the shiny, and it takes colour amazingly well.  Scarily well, you could say.

(By the way, if you haven’t met Bluefaced Leicester (or BFL) wool yet, you’re in for a treat.  It’s a wonderful, slightly shiny long-stapled wool that is so, so soft.  Some of my favourite spinning experiences have been BFL).

Because of the high percentage of silk in Dance, fabrics knit up from it have quite a heavy, drapey hand.  It does have some memory and ‘spring’, but not as much as you’d get from a pure wool.  Because of this, it blocks beautifully for fingering weight shawls, and I am absolutely itching to knit a cardigan in it: the swing would be divine!  Perhaps for springtime, eh?

And yes!  This is a sockweight yarn.  But you will get best results if you pick stitch patterns with built in elasticity if you want to knit socks in this yarn; that silk content makes for drape, shine, warmth and beauty- but not bounce.  Plain stockinette socks in Dance will probably slump – but there are plenty of more complex patterns out there to set your needles dancing!

71) Travels through time: a 15-minute musing

Several months ago, there was the Tour de Fleece1.  Since the major goal of this is to spin, even a little, every day, I started giving myself 15 minutes spinning time first thing in the morning.  Oddly, I started getting to work earlier as a result – but that's a musing for another day.

Usually I spin on my wheel in this time, but this morning I grabbed the spindle I'm using to ply the tussah weft for my spindled silk scarf project.  I was working on this last night at spinning group, and was so close to the end of the plying ball, I thought I'd try and get finished.

I don't usually use a plying ball (which is where you wind your singles, together, into a multi-stranded ball, so that all you have to do is go back through the ball and add twist when actually plying).  By default, I've been using plying bracelets, which are a kind of magic, and haven't caused my any significant problems.

But then, it's always worth trying new techniques, and this one comes recommended by Abby herself.  So, each time I finished a spindle full of singles, I wound it off into a neat, tight ball (bo-ringgg! I hate winding!).  Then I picked the two balls that were closest to the same size, and laboriously wound them, together, into a double-stranded, extra large ball. (Booorrrr-ingggg!!!).  At this point, I'm not loving the plying balls.

I didn't love it when I started plying from them, either.  I didn't know what to do with this squirrely, bouncy little ball of tightly wound silk.  Eventually, I figured out that I can hold it loosely in my fibre-control hand (my left, for me), and just let it unwind in a cage of fingers.  After that, this proved to be a really fast way to ply.  Really fast.  I don't know if it's faster than the bracelet overall, what with all that winding and re-winding, but the spindle sure fills up fast when you get going.  And it is much easier to pick up and put down your work using a ball rather than a bracelet.  You can take the bracelet off, but you need to have something else to put it on when you're not wearing it, and you do have to be a bit careful with it to avoid tangling and subsequent swearing.

But what does this have to do with journeying through time?  Well, this was the spinning project that I took up to visit my folks a couple of weeks ago.  And all that winding has some strong memories associated with it.  As the plying ball unwound, I felt as if I was travelling back to the moments when I was winding the ball.  I was transported to conversations with my parents; to the giant box of chocolates on the coffee table; to stopping at a motorway cafe and boggling the other patrons by pulling out a spindle whilst I waited for my coffee to cool; to the smell and feel of the air that weekend (mostly damp.  But it smelled of the sea).

Those memories were a definite bonus.  Oh, and I finished the plying ball:

(the little balls are the mismatched ends from my four balls of singles.  I'll make a mini-plying-ball with those, and bracelet ply anything left over.)

I think I *will* be using plying balls in the future, but I will see if I can find a storage mechanism for my singles which does not involve winding everything twice.  It should be possible to slide my finished cops of singles onto short needles, or something.

1 Note for non-spinners/people who don't hang out on Ravelry:  The Tour de Fleece happens at the same time as the Tour de France.  It's an opportunity excuse to spin every day, to challenge yourself, to try new things.  Frankly, it's fun.

42) Blue silk, all spun up

Another 'proud FO' – my blue silk is all spun up!


(My photography skills have not yet magically improved.  I cannot do this yarn justice, but if you click for big, you'll get a better idea).

This is about 120g of silk, dyed by Silksacks (i.e. not me!), and spun up to a sort of heavy lace/light fingering weight. (around 25wpi?)


I managed about 900m out of the one brick; I put it back through the wheel once I'd finished plying to tighten up the ply twist, and it looks much better for it (wish I'd taken before and afters.  Oh, well – never mind!).  The yarn feels heavy and fluid, not limp, and not wiry at all, the way silk can if it's over-twisted.

Some of this stuff was a dream to spin, and some was not.  I will be interested to see how my second brick spins up; it is a much less saturated colour, and silk is known to become 'clumpy' in reaction to certain dyes.

I plan to knit the Peacock Feathers shawl with this yarn.  That has been my intention from the moment I bought this fibre, well over two years ago.  Although I haven't quite achieved the yardage 'required' by the pattern, I'm happy with what I've got (and I wear smaller shawls more often anyway).  I honestly feel I've managed to spin a yarn which will do this stunning pattern justice, and I'm really, really excited to get started – but first I need to finish Basil (my sweater-in-two-weeks, maybe), and really, if I'm going to keep my Monogamous Knitter status at all intact, I really ought to finish the Nightingale Wing.

Can I keep my resolve intact?  My only hope is to Knit Faster!

34) Spinning the blue silk

At the start of yesterday evening (no, I am not always a neat, even bobbin-filler):


After about an hour and a half of spinning:


I've already filled one bobbin with the singles for this project; I'm aiming for a two-ply heavy laceweight/light fingering weight.  I'm probably about half way through the second bobbin, so I'd estimate there are 3-4 hours more spinning left.

This is a 125g silk brick I bought at Textiles In Focus.  The colours grabbed me from across the room and simply would not let go!  Now I come to spin it, though, I'm not sure I'm enjoying it all that much.  The producer of these bricks doesn't really expect them to be spun, I think.  His wife makes stunning costumes involving a variety of felting and surface embellishing techniques, and although some sections of this stuff spin beautifully, others are matted and very difficult to draft.  It's quite a workout for the hands and forearms!

I wanted a very smooth, sleek yarn, but I'm having to temper my desires with realisation.  You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and nor can you spin a lumpy prep into a smooth yarn.  I considered carding or combing some of this to smooth it out, but decided that would probably blend the colours more than I want.  I'd rather keep the colours distinct, and have some slubs.  So, I'm trying to let go of my perfectionistic tendencies and let the fibre be what it wishes.  With any luck, it will have a 'charmingly handspun' quality, rather than a 'yucky mess', but I'm finding it difficult to have pride in this project right now.  I want to do better!!

Anwyay, here's what's left of my brick after last nights' efforts:


It's stunning stuff, isn't it?  I just wish it wasn't such hard work!  Oh, it turns my fingers blue when I spin it, too.  😦

It's probably pretty clear that I'm very ambivalent about this fibre.  The problem, if such it be, is that I have another brick in my stash.  I'd been planning to spin it for weaving into a stole, but I don't know if I'm enjoying this enough to actually embark on another project with the stuff.  The slubs I'm getting in the singles would be a problem for warp yarns, so I'd have to be more careful, and progress would be very. very. slow.  Then again, I'm not sure that the stickiness is actually a property of the fibre, or whether it's been caused by this very intense dye job.  The other brick I have is much, much paler; a soft grey with hints of pink/green/purple.  Think mother-of-pearl.  Again, it's gorgeous, but I'm all about fun in my hobbies, and if I'm not going to enjoy spinning it, I might as well destash it.

I suppose all I can do is finish this up, see how it comes out, and sample the grey to see if it's the same texture.  Hmm…

All About the Labels

I finally finished dyeing and re-winding all my yarns and fibres for Textiles In Focus over the weekend, so now it’s all about the labelling:


I’m really, really pleased with how my labels have turned out.  Somehow, packaging up and labelling everything makes it feel as if it’s all coming together, and transforms all these ‘bits and pieces’ that I’ve been staring at over the last two months into ‘real products’.  It’s completely magic!

I’m not normally a ‘sparkly’ person, but I’m *so* in love with my sparkly batts:

Producing these is just so much fun!  Oh – and can you stand the cute??

These are little 3 g bundles of silk hankies.  Three grams of silk can go a seriously long way, in case you were wondering…