3 Months Later

Has it really been that long since I’ve blogged?

I wish I could dazzle you with the pile of knitting I completed while AWOL but I can’t. It’s looking like this blanket is going to take me several years to complete.

I did complete several sewing projects in time for Christmas though. None of which I can show you since family members read this blog. Pictures and pattern reviews will have to wait until after Christmas.

Elly and I made ugly Christmas ornaments to deck the tree with from my stash of roving.

My attempt to wrap the felted balls with bits of hand-dyed wool failed miserably. The colorful wool just fell off in the dryer.

So ugly brown ornaments will be hanging on our tree for years to come. Woo.


I’m spinning again!

All thanks to Baby Einstein, a continuous onslaught of pretty yarn from Vicki’s blog and the pretty fiber I couldn’t pass up at the recent River Festival.

You’ll note that I have not started to spin the pretty fiber. Instead I am bound and determined to finish the spinning project I started 2 years ago! (Gosh, I’m a bit embarrassed to mention that I’ve been working on it that long. Pregnancy and Elly derailed me, but I hope to finish up soon. I’ve placed the pretty ‘Gallery on High’ fiber next to my spinning chair to encourage me).

What is Elly’s hobby?


She loves to turn pages and to stare at the pretty pictures.

Spinning for Sanity’s Sake

Elly is still quite comfy despite the ever-shrinking walls around her. If this extended stay is taking a toll on anybody, it’s me. I have gone through the whole spectrum of emotions:

frustration over still being pregnant (41 weeks and 1 day)
excitement over the false labor contractions getting stronger disappointment over the false labor never progressing into true labor
joy at still being able to take my daily walks with Jake
anger over the assumption that surely by now I’ve gone into labor
gratefulness to my husband for being my rock
sadness over the fact that we are still without our Elly
happiness at finishing the final project for E: embroidered quilt label

Since I have finished all my current projects for Elly (excluding the knitting projects that I can’t work on because I’m too hot just sitting around the house in a t-shirt), I decided to start a project just for me.

I had stayed away from it as I was certain that it would cause the same overheating problem that knitting did. Yet, with spinning, there is no huge blanket or shawl sitting on my lap allowing me to spin to my heart’s content.

It had been so long. I had forgotten how much I loved to spin on my Jenkins Turkish spindle.

Currently, I am finishing up a project I started months ago: brown Shetland wool blended 50/50 with silver hair from an alpaca named Buddy.

This is a post from Knitted Gem’s blog, authored by Marie Haigh.

Prepping Alpaca without Tools and a Tag

A question was posted on Ravelry asking how to prep fiber without a carder. I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I just use my hands to prep alpaca fleece. (I haven’t tried to prep sheep’s wool yet). However, I’ve never taken the time to write down all the steps and take pictures along the way. I finally did this weekend.

This is how Buddy’s fleece looks before it is washed. Buddy is the blind alpaca that resides at my local alpaca farm. If you look closely enough, you can see the tips are matted.

Before I even wash the fleece, I first comb out the matted tips using Jake’s flicker brush. I also take the time to pull out all the second cuts and the large bits of vegetable matter, such as straw. The pile in the middle of the picture is all the junk I managed to pull just from this small section of Buddy’s fleece.

Then, I wash the fleece in warm water with a little bit of soap. Afterwards, I rinse it 2-3 times or until the water runs clear of grime and soap. This is what the fleece looks like after it is washed.

Next, I pull a small chunk out of the washed fleece.

From the small chunk, I remove 1 lock of alpaca.

Now starts the fun. I tease the fibers open width-wise.

Then, I pinch the ends of the fibers in each of my hands. Pulling gently but firmly, I coax the fibers completely part.

Next, I stack the fibers on top of each other and repeat the last step 2-3 times or until the fibers no longer cling to one another. The fibers should resemble a cloud.

Finally, I gently roll the fiber cloud down my thigh until it resembles a mini roving. It’s like rolling a cigar.

I repeat these steps until I have completely filled my recycled stationery box.

To spin the mini rovings, just grab one and start drafting it. When you get to the end of the mini roving, join in a new one.

OK. I admit that my technique does take a while to accomplish. You can make a batt on a drum carder in the amount of time it take me to make 10 mini rovings, but you won’t have nearly as much fun!

Meri of Elbit Blog bestowed a Brilliant Blog award on me. Thank you so much, Meri!

In accepting this award, I agree to:

1. Display the logo and link to the one who awarded it.

2. Nominate at least 7 blogs to receive the award.

3. Add links to those 7 blogs to my blog.

4. Leave the nominees a message that they have been nominated to receive the award.

And here are the 7 blogs I nominate:

Mr. Pooper’s Day Out
Mrs Petersson Knits
Knitting Knoobie
Hadley Gets Crafty
Today We Are….
Tom’s Astronomy Blog
Daily Fiber Adventures with WildHare

Top Whorl Question and Buttons

I had promised to give my opinion on my new top whorl spindle.

The experience was so awful compared to my Jenkin’s Turkish spindle that I must question whether or not I used the top whorl correctly. Seriously.

Before I go any further, I want to stress that by no means do I believe that my bad experience has anything to do with Dragoncraft’s craftsmanship. Dragoncraft makes beautiful and well-loved spindles. Their feedback is 100% positive. This, of course, makes me believe that the problem does indeed lie close to home.

I chose to spin Shetland roving on it. It had spun up so quickly and evenly on my Turkish that I felt it would provide a fair and accurate report on the top whorl’s ability. I used Red Heart’s Super Saver as a leader (I’ll be darned if I’m wasting my good wool on a leader strand). Then, I started to draft and spin the Shetland. Rolling the whorl on my thigh or flicking it hard with my fingers produced a fast and balanced spin. Yet, the spin didn’t last long.

There is a clause about the top whorl I bought. I knew when purchasing this top whorl that since the whorl was not located at the top of the shaft, the spindle would wobble at bit until I started adding spun yarn underneath the whorl.

I should write a 2nd clause about my lack of patience. In 10 minutes flat, I was frustrated and looking for my tin whistle (to blow off some steam). Needless to say, not a lot of spun wool got wound underneath the whorl.

OK. Clauses aside, the spindle didn’t just wobble a bit when spun slowly; it wobbled like it was 3 sheets to the wind, swinging like a pendulum. It couldn’t hold a slow spin any better than a drunk person. I had read that a top whorl could spin fast or slow. True, it was designed for speed, but any spindle should be able to spin at any speed. Right?

So, after all my rambling, here’s my question: Does a top whorl spindle typically wobble when spinning slowly?

If the answer is Yes to the above question, the top whorl is going to be looking for a new home. I prefer a long, slow spin. There is often a baseball game going on when I am spinning and half of my attention is pinned on the game. (Which by the way, we lost last night.)

I’ve already ripped the Shetland off the top whorl and put the spindle aside, focusing on my Turkish which is spinning an alpaca and Shetland blend.

From Spinning

Spinning aside, let me show you the buttons I received in the mail.

Although I wish there were such things as button fairies that randomly sent buttons in the mail to people who could appreciate them, these buttons were received because of a swap I participated in. Mandy of SewSpun hosted the button swap last month. The Purple Lady was my swap parter.

I signed up for the swap because, to be honest, I have a lot of buttons. I thought it would be so neat to give away some of my collection in exchange for … more buttons. It made perfect sense to me.

Mini Skein of Yarn and Butterflies

From Spinning

It’s a very small skein of wool. It took me three weeks to spin. I probably won’t be able to knit anything out of it. (What can you do with 10 yards of wool anyway?) But oh, the things I learned while spinning it!

First, mohair is slippery, but manageable if worked from roving.

Second, alpaca would much rather fly away on a cloud than be bound and spun into a yarn. Blending helps.

Third, even though alpaca does not have the lanolin that sheep’s wool does, it is much more enjoyable to work with after it has been washed. (Extensive washing is not required. A good soak to get rid of the dust is all that is needed.)

Fourth, practice makes perfect. By the end, I had quite a good rhythm going.

Fifth, I love to spin!

From Spinning

So, what is on my spindle now?

Well, I have 2 spindles (not counting the plying-only spindle), so naturally I have 2 projects.

Project #1: More of the brown Shetland roving. This is being spun on my new top whorl (no hook) spindle. The spindle wobbled at first until I got a good length of yarn wrapped around it. Now it spins like a dream – a fast dream.

Project #2: Since I’m still nervous about washing and prepping the llama (it’s precious to me), I thought I would practice some more on the alpaca. This is Buddy’s wool that is being washed in the basin. I plan to blend it with ever more of the brown Shetland roving.

From Spinning

Even though I have a butterfly living in my tomato garden that flies all around me when I water my plants, my blog title wasn’t referring to her (him?). I was referring to the butterflies in my stomach. I always get them right before I publish a new pattern. You see, my Christmas tree skirt pattern is complete. It has been tech edited. By the way, if you are a fellow designer and have been sitting on the fence about hiring a tech editor, allow me to push you off. Hiring a tech editor was one of the wisest business decisions I have made thus far. First, my tech editor caught several mistakes in both my charts and in my written instructions. Then, she took the layout I had and spit-shined it. It gleams now. I’ve never been so proud of a pattern. (Of course, I tend to say that about every pattern I write).

Still, I’m nervous. Will people like it? Will people hate it? Will the newness wear off and leave it as dull as a rock? Time will tell. It goes live soon – very soon.

Review of book: Spinning in the Old Way

I read Spinning in the Old Way by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts from front to back in two days. I might have finished it in one day if it hadn’t arrived in the late afternoon.

From Spinning

This book is filled with information on spinning tools, fiber types, fiber preparation, spinning techniques, drawing, drafting, woolen yarn, worsted yarn, plying, storage, etc. The parts I found the most helpful to me were the chapters on plying and drawing. Most spinning books quickly mention plying and then move on to other topics. Gibson-Roberts took the time to explain how to ply the yarn and, more importantly, how to make a balanced yarn from two singles that had been resting for a considerable amount of time (since I’m not the fastest spinner in town). The advice was so simple: base the amount of desired twist in the singles and the amount of required ply on a freshly spun length of fiber.

With regards to my anxiety over drawing, the bit of wobbling that I experience in the spindle is normal. All this time, I thought I was doing something wrong on both accounts.

Thus, I happily recommend this book for beginner and new spindle spinners. I wouldn’t presume to tell an experience spinner what s/he may or may not need.

My only qualm about the book – and I knew this before I purchased the book – is that Gibson-Roberts is biased about top whorls. She firmly believes that a top whorl is the Rolls Royce of spindles. She objectively compares the top whorl against the bottom whorl, listing the positives and negatives of each. Then, she quickly and emphatically dismisses the bottom whorl as inferior. Based upon the two designs she lists in the book, I must agree with her assessment. However, she completely ignores and doesn’t even mention my favorite spindle: a Turkish spindle.

Gibson-Roberts’s list of negatives for the bottom whorl:
1. Slower speed, since you are required to flick the shaft rather than roll the shaft up/down your thigh
2. Yarn must be double secured no matter the design: No Hook Design: once underneath the whorl and again with a half-hitch knot at the top of the shaft or Hook Design: once by barber-poling the yarn up the shaft and again by pulling the yarn through the loop on top

The Turkish spindle eliminates problem #2 unless you made the mistake of buying a Turkish spindle with a hook. There’s no need to be ashamed. My first Turkish spindle was from Ashford and came with a hook. It was my first ‘real’ spindle (the cheap bottom whorl spindle I received in a learn-to-spin kit and promptly threw out doesn’t count). As is often the way with new things, I was excited to spin on it and didn’t mind the extra effort that was required. The yarn had to be barber-poled up the shaft before I could pull it through the hook. I didn’t mind the extra work at all; it was so pretty to see the newly spun yarn wrapping its way up the shaft.

From Spinning

By the 10th time, I was starting to get annoyed. So, I tried omitting the barber-pole technique and just pulling the yarn through the hook. Countless number of times I watched the spindle fall onto the floor, unwinding all my pretty yarn. Stubbornly, I muddled through, but eventually I couldn’t take it anymore and retired the spindle to the task of plying-only.

If you should ever make the same mistake and buy a Turkish spindle with a hook, carefully take the spindle apart. Extract only the shaft and walk it down to your tool bench. Using a saw, cut that silly hook off. Of course, you could always do what I did. Hand the shaft to your husband and ask him to cut the silly hook off. Dan recommends using a good hack saw. It will cut through both the wood and the hook, leaving the majority of the shaft unmarred. Afterwords, you might want to sand the edges with a fine-grade sandpaper.

From Spinning

With the hook gone, all you have to do is pull the yarn up from where it was wound on, make a half hitch knot at the top of the shaft, and continue spinning the fiber. There is no need for barber-poling, wrapping the yarn around the back of the hook, and/or locating any notches.

As far as Problem #1 goes, I don’t see it as a problem at all. I prefer a slow, steady spin rather than a fast spin.

I mentioned this matter to Dan before I purchased the book and again afterwards. Ever the enabler, he encouraged me to buy a top whorl just to see if it didn’t spin any better than my Jenkins.

How could I say no?

I didn’t buy just any top whorl. I didn’t even buy the beloved top whorl: Golding. Thanks to my hatred of hooks, I searched high and low to find a top whorl spindle without a hook. I’m pleased to say I found it.

From Spinning

Dragoncraft sent some lovely roving with my purchase.

From Spinning

Q. Does the top whorl spin any better than my Jenkins?
A. The jury is still out. I haven’t spun anything in the past week. My wrist was so sore from playing the recorder, which I’ve retired and replaced with the pretty tin whistle Dan bought me for my birthday. The soreness is finally gone and I hope to start a new project tonight. I’ll report back with my very unscientific findings.

Bagging It

From Spinning

These aren’t for my or Dan’s lunches. I bought them for my yarn collection.

In her Spin It book, Lee Raven gives a tip on how to store yarn. She recommends “storing wool … in paper bags that are taped shut [since moth’s] larvae don’t eat the cellulose of paper bags.”

I thought that was an excellent suggestion. Since today was only moderately hot and not ‘I’m Melting! I’m Melting!’ hot, I tooled on my bike up to the local grocery store. I purchased 100 bags for about a buck fifty. (Gosh, I wish all organizational tools were equally cheap and available.)

From Spinning

I have 98 bags left. I think I’ll be set for the next 10 years.

My only complaint about the brown lunch bags is that they don’t have a little window in which I can peak inside and see the yarn. Fooey.

Speaking of bags, I don’t think I ever showed you my new bag.

It’s handmade from The Julian Bag Lady specifically for knitters. It has several narrow pockets in which I can jam my straight needles or other tools into. The inner compartment has a zipper closure, allowing me to lug it around as my everyday purse and be able to secure my wallet and other essentials inside. I just LOVE it.

Doubts on Handspinning

I spin in the worsted manner. Mainly because I don’t know how to spin in the woolen manner. I’m not even sure I understand the difference.

My latest handspun:

The specs:
Spun from Shetland pencil roving
Spun on my Jenkins Turkish spindle
Singles spun in lace weight (though not at first – I got better as I went along) and plied together
Each yarn cake weighs 1 ounce
Left cake is 35 yards
Right cake is 66 yards (This is the yarn I am happiest with).

By the way, does anybody have any advice on how I can label the yarn I spin up? Right now, I am using Ravelry’s stash tool in order to remember the yardage on each skein and what it was spun from. I would love to pick up a skein of yarn and know instantly what it is.

Back to my spinning rant: I spin slowly, inching my way along. Though I was starting to pick up speed with the Shetland pencil roving, I’m back at the starting line with the alpaca locks I am currently working on.

I do little to no preparation work on the alpaca locks. All I do is tease the locks open and lay them neatly in a row on a table next to my spinning chair. I haven’t even washed the locks, but I plan to next time around. My hands get so filthy during the spinning process.

The gorgeous green mohair roving is from WhorlingTides. I am using her hand-dyed mohair as a set of training wheels, so to speak, in my attempt to learn how to spin alpaca from the locks. I tried spinning the locks on their own, but I became so frustrated. They were slippery and had more desire to fly away than be spun into yarn. The mohair is acting as a sticky tape, for lack of a better analogy.

I read a lot of forums and emails from other spinners about how quickly they can chew through 4 ounces of roving. I have been working slowly and steadily on my mohair/alpaca yarn for about two weeks now and I think I am going to be lucky to get 5 yards out of it. I must be doing something wrong.

I’ve tried to follow the common advice of “Just Relax and Let Go”, but then I don’t get the consistent weight that I want. Right now, it is more important to me that I am consistent and that I enjoy what I am doing. (I often catch myself smiling down at my spindle full of yarn). I can only hope that the speed will come.

I am determined to get better. My wonderful MIL called me yesterday to tell me about the fabulous birthday present she found for me: fleece. Not just any fleece: llama. OMG, I can’t wait to touch it, smell it, bury my face in it, and then eventualy spin it.

Jake has been a wonderful support to me during my hours of spinning, especially when I become frustrated.

He lays right in front of my spinning chair.

PS. Poor Jake woke up sick this morning. He spent a good hour spitting up all over the green carpet. (I knew there was a reason I hadn’t pulled up the green carpet yet.) I have no idea what was wrong. Thankfully, he’s feeling better now, but sleepy.

A Birthday amongst the Olympics

I don’t know about you, but I have been spending a lot of time in front of the TV watching the Olympics. From basketball to soccer to volleyball to swimming, it’s been thrilling to watch! Of course, more TV time means more dedicated spinning time. So much so that I made my wrist sore from all the spinning.

I finally got the wool off of my spindle.

This wool came from the brown Shetland pencil roving I purchased on Etsy from Serentity Sheep Woolens. I spun it on my Jenkins Turkish spindle. It’s about a fingering-weight yarn. After the Olympics, I plan to ply the two balls together and create a DK-weight, 2-ply yarn.

What I learned from spinning this wool:
I love to spin!
I really enjoy the drafting process.
I like the spindle to turn slowly, allowing me more drafting time.
I should not try to spin anything over .75 ounces on my spindle. It makes my wrist throb.

Thanks to my wrist hurting on Sunday, I didn’t spin a lot. But, I couldn’t resist playing with the Sunshine fleece I have to spin for the Ravelympics Fleece to Fencing event. The rules behind the event state that I have to spin yarn from a fleece and then knit something from the newly created yarn.

I am using the alpaca fleece that I purchased from North Star Alpacas. Though Maple did recommend washing the fleece first, I read from other spinners that the washing step could be postponed until after the locks were spun. Guess which option my lazy self chose?

Yep, I just grabbed a few locks and slowly drafted them into something resembling a pencil roving. Then, I threw it onto my spindle. I was nervous at first, treating the alpaca like it was fine china. Once I got over my silly fears, it went fine. The ends of the locks tended to be wispy. I spent some time just pulling the locks back apart and redrafting/rejoining them together. Next time, I plan to try a little bit of greasy lotion on my hands and see if that doesn’t help tame the fly-aways.

I won’t lie to you. My hands were dirty after spinning for just a short time, but I am washable. I’ll wash the small sample of yarn later today to remove any remaining dirt. Hopefully, the washing will help the yarn to bloom as well, making it softer and more lofty.

I mentioned a birthday in today’s title. It would be mine.

Dan surprised me with an Irish tin whistle this morning for my birthday.

Recently, I have been trying to learn how to play the recorder again. Though I was pretty good at it during my middle school years, I apparently forgot everything. I explained to Dan that my ultimate goal was to learn my favorite instrument in Irish music: the tin whistle. Isn’t he the best?