Happy Thanksgiving

To all my American friends, have a Happy Thanksgiving.
turkey dinner

Girly-girl Hat and Cowl

I seem to be having great fun washing fleece and spinning up yarn and then making projects from the results. In fact looking back at my last few posts I realize that I’m a bit behind on posting pictures of finished projects. So before I get to the topic of this post here are a few photos of projects that I’ve finished.

Here is a cowl that I knit up using the polwarth and gold angelina fibre that I blogged about a few posts back. The gold sparkle is nice and subtle but unfortunately you can’t see it in the photo.

Elizabeth's cowl
Elizabeth’s Cowl, by Wendy D Johnson from the book “Wendy Knits Lace”. This is a wonderful book full of good patterns and useful tips. I had taken it out from the library and ended up buying it.

Another project that took a good month to complete and has actually give me shoulder problems from working too many hours on it was Feather and Fan Short Scarf by Kelly Faller. My problem was the scarf wasn’t short I knit it 60″ long.


feather and fan stole

head scarf
A couple of ways to wear it. Not handspun but Paton’s Lace Sequin yarn knit on 5mm needles.

I’ve also been playing around making more yarn but I’ll save that for another post when I finish knitting up the yarn.

Now back to the Girly-girl hat and cowl other known as the 5-Hour Hat and Gaiter by Rachel Kluesner…it started like this.

washed and unwashed shetland fleece
Some shetland fleece, unwashed in front and some washed in the background for comparison.

Woolen yarn spun with the washed fibre.

yarn cooking in pot - Wilton's sky blue
Dyeing the fibre with Wilton’s Sky Blue – turns out it’s really bright!

Exhausted water
Photo showing the exhausted water.

Wilton's Sky Blue on bulky shetland
This is the finished dyed yarn. Both skeins where dyed at the same time but in the one skein I got some barber poling effect. This was a single that was wound into a center-pull ball and spun two-ply on itself. The one end (that corresponded to the middle of the ball) dyed solid while most of it dyed one ply light blue and the other ply darker blue. The only reason I can come up with for this effect is that when I grabbed fibre to card on my drum carder I must have grabbed fibre from two different washed lots. One lot must have been cleaner than the other. Someone said the cleaner fibre probably dyed darker but my hair stylist always told me not to wash my hair before a dye job so the colour would take better so I’m not sure whether the dirty fibre dyed darker than the cleaner fibre. Another experiment for another time.

Bulky yarn on ball winder
Winding on into a ball.

cropped hat and gaiter

blue hat and gaiter
5-Hour Hat and Gaiter by Rachel Kluesner otherwise affectionly known as the Girly-girl Hat and Cowl by yours truly. Knit using Shetland wool and pink bobble novelty yarn on 6.5mm and 9mm cable needles.


Ball-Winder Addition

As I was winding some of the bulky yarn I’ve spun it suddenly occurred to me to share this tip on how to extend your ball-winder through use of a toilet paper roll. I actually did think up this all on my own but have since discovered that others use this idea as well. It’s the old thing, if you’ve thought of the idea then sure enough someone else has as well.

What I do is to take a toilet paper roll, cut it in half and then retape the roll around my Knitpicks ball winder. It’s possible there are better winders out there and you don’t need to do this but for $20 I’m happy with the knitpicks winder.

My winder is slightly wider at the bottom than the top so as I go along with the tape I start at the bottom and work my way up to the top putting the tape in pieces around the roll. Keep the roll tight and snug to the plastic core as you do this. If you tape too loosely the roll will spin off as you wind the yarn on. At the top I then put some pieces of tape length-wise going around the circumference. I do this because I’ve found that the yarn can catch on the roll where the groove spirals up. If you use the modified toilet paper roll enough that little ends starts to come unstuck and your fine yarn can catch on it as you wind. Next, cut two slits in the roll opposite each other; you use these to hold your yarn end as you start winding.

Adding the roll to the winder does two things. One, it extends the length of the winder so you can make larger ‘neater’ yarn cakes, this is handy for thicker yarn. Two, I find the grooves on the Knitpicks winder don’t hold my yarn that well so I’m always fiddling to try and make the end catch.

Ball winder with toilet roll
Ball winder with toilet roll addition.

Bulky yarn on ball winder
Bulky yarn wound on ball winder.

cake of yarn compared to ball winder
Size of yarn cake compared to the regular ball winder height.

Hope this post is helpful to you.

Spinning Polwarth

I was watching youtube videos the other night, cruising all the spinning techniques trying to pick up some pointers to help me learn the craft. Somehow I always end up watching the videos of art batts being carded up. Of course after watching them for about an hour I got the itch to make something with my carder so out it came and I had a go with the Polwarth I’d washed.

I had been thinking of dyeing the Polwarth but after seeing some yarn creations I envisioned a skein of yarn that was fluffy white with gold, after all we are getting to wintertime and Christmas.

Fibre being fed into the drum carder, you’re supposed to be able to read the print through the fibre this way you know you’re not over-loading the drum carder with fibre and causing a jam; plus adding the fibre slowly and a bit at a time will help to keep the fibre from attaching to the licker (small drum).

Another view.

At the time I thought to myself that this would be a good opportunity to try dizzing the fibre off of the drum carder. A Diz is basically an object that has a small hole in it. When you diz fibre you’re pulling some fibre through the hole to make a long rope of roving. It’s amazing how much fibre will fit through this small hole. Anyhow I looked around and grabbed a ceramic button and proceeded to use it.


I have to admit that this isn’t as easy as it looks and I didn’t really enjoy doing it but at least I can say that I’ve dizzed fibre off of my drum carder. The second batt I left as a batt.

polwarth with gold angelina
Washed Polwarth locks drum carded with gold Angelina.

Here’s a picture of some left-over dirt after the carding was done. I guess it goes to show that you can never get all the vegetable matter out when you wash your fleece.


At first I thought the Polwarth was going to spin to a fine thickness but it was very grabby so I immediately thought of spinning up a thicker single than I’ve ever spun before. My vision was of a soft woolen-spun skein of yarn that I could use to make nice soft cushiony mittens. I was surprised at how quickly the 50 grams of fibre was spun, under a couple of hours and maybe closer to an hour. It was a pop of instant gratification especially after spinning hours and hours with the Wilton’s Purple skein of wool.

Needless to say I hadn’t gotten an equal amount of single on the two bobbins so I made a center-pull ball with my ball winder out of the leftovers on the one bobbin. I then tried to make a nice join, lol tried being the operative word here. I’m going to have to figure out a better way I guess.

Trying to join two ends of 2-ply yarn.

And here is the final yarn. It’s got a lot of bumps and underspun spots but for the most part I’m happy with it and if and when I ever learn to be more consistent I’ll be happy with this thickness of yarn. I think the thick/thin areas might be where I’m going from a woolen type of spinning back into a worsted but I assume practise will help me to improve that.

white and gold polwarth chunky
Two-ply bulky yarn, Polwarth with gold Angelina.


Wilton’s Purple.

After much angsting over the whole process I finally finished spinning up the purple fibre I’d dyed with the Wilton’s purple food colouring. I have to admit that while I was spinning up the singles all I could think of was “Am I over-plying the singles?” Sometimes they seemed okay at other times I’d get into a real groove and realize I was whipping along with the wheel and then they seemed to tight.

closeup wilton purple singles
Bobbin of single-plied BFL.

I thought okay tight is good and I’ll ply the singles tighter than I normally do and it’ll balance out. Well needless to say I over-plied the singles so that yarn coming off of the bobbin was really twisty. Thank goodness for Ravelry and the members there. One lady suggested that I spin the yarn back off of the one bobbin onto an empty bobbin counter-spinning but with a fast uptake. This would have the effect of taking off some of the twist so that’s what I ended up doing. The yarn was still over-spun but not as badly.

I then proceeded to do the washout. This involves letting the yarn sit in a sink full of hot water and wool wash. The idea is the fibres relax a bit. After doing this the skein didn’t look too bad but there were still a lot of kinked areas so I proceeded to thwack the yarn. I’d seen a video of this on youtube and at the time thought it looked like great fun. I asked a question about thwacking on Ravelry and got directed to a discussion about the process. Generally it’s thought that thwacking doesn’t do much for the yarn if it’s a worsted yarn, however given how I was feeling at that point thwacking seemed like a great idea.

I can’t tell you what a relief it was to beat the crap out of that hank of yarn, lol. All the frustrations of not knowing whether or not I was over-spinning or over-plying the yarn came out with a thwack, thwack…bad yarn…thwack, thwack, thwack. Don’t know if it helped the yarn but it certainly helped my sanity, thwack!

A few kinks left in the yarn, so I thought about it and decided to re-skein the yarn. The problem is I have a small niddy noddy. At the time it seemed like a good idea but the problem is the niddy noddy is really too small to skein up a 100 grams of fibre. I took two chairs and rewound the yarn around them, old-fashioned but it works.

yarn stretched on chairs
Yarn plus various junk on the floor. If you have a keen eye you’ll notice the luscious fibre from Jamieson and Smith (dog brush for carding on top) and some spinning books from the library along with a new girly-girl knapsack I picked up at Costco for $10.

Rewinding the yarn seems to have really worked and I ended up with a decent looking hank of fibre.

Wilton’s Purple.


Wool locks and Dyed Roving

I washed up some of the English Leicester wool locks yesterday and I have to admit that it creeped me out because this fibre is very coarse. It was also very grey so it reminded me of hair and all I could think of was dead old people hair. I know it sounds strange but that’s what I felt like when I was washing it.

Anyhow I got out the other two types of wool and took a couple of photos in a comparison. By far the Polwarth was the softest and a joy to handle. I’m not sure what to do with the longer locks but maybe I’ll figure it out as I learn to spin.

Polwarth english leichester lincoln
Polwarth, English Leicester and Lincoln wool locks.

English Leicester combed and uncombed locks
English Leicester combed and uncombed locks.

Polwarth combed and uncombed locks
Polwarth combed and uncombed locks.

Lincoln combed and uncombed locks.

Polwarth batt
Polwarth batt.

Today I decided to try dyeing some of the superwash BFL that I have. I was going to dye the Polwarth locks but decided to save them for when I have more experience dyeing. I spent such a long time combing out the dirty tips and the wool is so nice and soft, that I don’t want to dye them up just for the sake of trying to dye something. I don’t know if that makes sense but I’ve got a lot of dyed cotton fabric that’s sitting in the closet and although I had fun dyeing it I’m at the point where when I dye something I want the dye job to count for some project. In other words I don’t want a lot of wool in my closet dyed in colours that I’m not going to use. However I did want to try some dyeing so after angsting about it I went to the Internet and saw a neat video by ChemKnits and she used Wilton’s purple food dye. The neat thing about the purple is that it broke down into it’s components so using the one dye gave several different colours and so I found out.

BFL roving steaming
Roving steaming (forgot to take pictures before this point, sorry)

Roving cooling off in sink.

Wet roving.

Roving that I spread out to dry quicker, at this point despite opening up the roving when I was dyeing I realized that I hadn’t gotten the dye all the way into the middle of the roving since there is some white in there. I soaked the wool for 30 minutes before applying the dye so I’m wondering if I didn’t do that great a job at wringing out this water before applying the dye, it could have acted as a resist. Then again the dye seemed to strike pretty fast on the wool because I had to flip it and apply dye to the back of the roving because the underside remained white despite squishing the dye down into the wool. I was kind of surprised that the dye struck that fast.

Closeup of all the different colours coming out of the purple dye.

Beauty shot.

And for something totally random and because I was working on it while waiting for the wool to dry.

apple soaking in citric acid
Apple slices in citric acid to prevent browning (and no that didn’t work).

apples in dehdyrator
Apple slices in food dehydrator. I’ll leave these to dry overnight as they’re pretty thick. Unfortunately the slices are turning brown as they dry so I’m wondering if the apples were this side of going mushy when I did this.


Washing a fleece

Yesterday I took the time to wash part of a fleece that I’d been given. Originally I’d bought a 1-lb bag of Lincoln fleece as a trial to see if I’d enjoy washing a fleece. I thought I’d blogged the process but apparently not. Anyhow, I followed the instructions on the Internet by Deb Robson One way to wash a fleece and for the most part the fleece did get washed but there were parts of it that weren’t so good so I wrote to the store owner who’d sold me the fleece to get his opinion on what went wrong and he very kindly sent out another pound of fleece along with a trial pack of Unicorn power scour, wash and rinse for free. Needless to say, moved by such generosity I had to order some sparkly gold Angelina, superwash BFL and some striped BFL (Blue-Faced Leicester) wool – lol, it was such a hardship.

The striped BFL is so soft I keep petting it every time I walk by. In fact given the cost of fleece and the labour involved one wonders why spinners process their own fleeces but I’m sure once I get into it I’ll find plenty of reasons. I have to admit there is something magical in taking a dirty hopeless looking matt of fiber and transforming it into a mass of pristine white fluffy goodness.

The store owner kindly split the pound into two lots so I have some Polworth which I washed yesterday and I have some brown English Leicester as well. I didn’t bother taking pictures of the process and now that I think of it I did take pictures the first time through with the Lincoln but since I’ve given you the link above I don’t think there is any point in putting the photos on since the link for the washing tutorial is brilliant.

Polworth raw fleece
Raw fleece sitting on a beige towel.

polworth raw fleece against washed fleece
Some of the raw fleece against the washed fleece.

Dirty tips
These are the dirty tips of the fleece that didn’t wash out. The thing with washing wool is that you need very hot water to melt the lanolin off the wool. You also need soap to help loosen the dirt. If you start to agitate the wool then what happens is that you get a matted lump of fiber. So although I knew I had the dirty tips that weren’t washing out I didn’t do much with them for fear of felting the whole mass of fiber.

washed tips against brushed out tips
So trying to decide what to do about the tips I found another tutorial on youtube showing how to clean the dirty tips. Washing dirty fleece tips by Roo Bear

So I took some of the locks over to the sink and dunked them into the container of soapy water and then started brushing out the dirt from the ends of the locks. I then rinsed them and put them to dry. The locks actually take longer to dry than the stuff that was spun out in the washing machine. I did this with several locks before I realized it was going to take me all night to wash and rinse out the locks so I got to thinking what would be the difference between just waiting for the dirty tips to dry and then just brushing them out. I went to the forums on Ravelry and found out that this is what a lot of people do so I just left the whole lot and then later on while I was watching television I sat and combed out the remaining dirty tips of wool. There is a difference but not much. I think if I wanted pristine white then I might be anal enough to wash out each tip. Given that I’ve decided to dye this lot of locks I figured it wouldn’t make a difference in the appearance of the wool. I’ve also read that when carded you can’t tell any difference anyhow. You really have to look to see a difference but having said that I’m talking about this fleece and who knows; the next fleece could be quite different.

clean fleece vs dirty fleece
Finally I thought you might like to see the difference between the final combed locks up against the original raw fleece. Given the colour of the water in the washout I think the yellow in the raw fleece must be the lanolin.

Next time I post some fiber goodness I’ll put up a picture comparing the three different types of locks I have. The original Lincoln was really long locks. The Polworth was very short around 3 inches on average. I don’t know if that is normal or if I was given some shorter bits of the fleece. The English Leicester looks to be long as well so we’ll see.

Now that I think of it I want try dyeing the locks that I’ve just washed so I guess I’ll blog about that next.


Holden Shawlette

I’ve finally finished my Holden Shawlette – pattern created by Mindy Wilkes(free download on Ravelry). I knit quite a bit of this while on holiday in Italy and Sicily so the shawl is multinational you could say. We spent hours on the bus travelling from one spot to another and although the countryside was great to look at it all turns into a bit of the same after a while so out came the knitting.

The yarn was spun on my spindle and made from rolags made on my blending board. The fibre was from Jamieson and Smith’s combed Shetland top. Here is a progression of photos of the process.Blue & white J&S rollags.jpeg

blue skies yarn from shetland white and colbalt

start of holden shawlette



Holden shawlette

This shawl was the first finished project that I’ve made from handspun so I’m proud of the fact that I made it from fibre to finished shawl. The picot bind-off edging was a first for me as well. It takes about three times the normal length of time to bind-off but it makes for a very pretty edge, it won’t be the last time that I use this technique.

The next project I’m working on is a lacy scarf for a Christmas present. I hope to finish this quickly as I want to make a matching tam and fingerless mitts to go with it.


Pepto Pink

I’m back from vacation in Italy, 19 days filled with new sights and experiences. I’d post a picture or two expcept I can’t get them off of my camera, something about the SD being too big with too many files so I’ll save that for another time.

I came back home sick so for the first four days lay around in bed with a fever and cough. The fever is gone, the cough remains and I have some nasty issues with my ears and vertigo. Hopefully that will disappear soon but so far I haven’t really done much of anything around the house but I did manage to fill the second bobbin with a pink/green single this week and managed to finish plying the two bobbins worth together to get about 178 grams worth of yarn.

Of course the progress pictures are on the other camera that I can’t get the photos off of it but I did take one picture of the finished layer cakes so here they are as proof so to speak.

white shetland and pink green romney
This is an example of the coloured batts I used.

Handspun october 2013 pink green white
Finished yarn. White Shetland base with some coloured Romney in it. Not sure of the yardage or the weight of the yarn but I’d use it as maybe a double-knitting weight? The idea was to make Charlie a little sweater out of it but I’m not sure how much yardage there is as I couldn’t be bothered to count it on the niddy-noddy. I really need to buy a yarn yardage meter I guess.

The interesting thing about the yarn was that after I’d plied it I really didn’t like it. In my mind I was calling it “pink barf”. After I soaked the yarn to set it a lot of the pink dye came out of the fibre and suddenly the yarn looked better/pinker so I upgraded it from “pink barf” to “pepto pink” in honour of Pepto Bismol the stuff you take for upset stomachs.

I’m not sure what I’ll knit out of the yarn but someone suggested a cowl and that strikes me as being a good idea.


I’m off…

I’m off to Italy for 19 days. I have a couple things to blog about when I get back, one is my new spinning wheel and the other is about some wool fleece I washed up, until then Ciao baby!