It has been a busy couple of weeks chez moi. I’ve been spinning up a storm, knitting a fair bit, and planning future weaving projects. I’m not sure what has brought on this creative surge, but it is certainly welcome in the dark days of January. My little world is a colourful one at the moment.
The two spinning projects that I’ve been working on have each included experimental techniques, as far as I’m concerned anyway. The first is a singles yarn, unusual in my repertoire because this is only the third such yarn I’ve made in over six years of spinning. The first was a complete disaster, seeming to have enough twist to hold, but falling apart after skeining it up and wet finishing. Many, many little pieces of Gotland wool. So sad. I’d thought I had achieved a beautiful fuzzy laceweight yarn, but it was not to be. Nine or ten months later, I had another go at it, this time using Wensleydale wool top, reputed to be the ideal fibre for a singles yarn. Spun up beautifully, seemed stable….until I was knitting with it. Of course, it was a complex pattern and I was on a deadline as it was a pattern test for the designer. It was horrifying to watch some portions of my yarn disintegrate before my eyes several rows of knitting below my needles. Let’s just say there was some colourful language uttered. And a lot of spit splicing.
So why would I embark on another yarn of this type after two unsuccessful attempts? Stupidity, I guess, and more than a little stubbornness. The last try was almost five years ago and I’ve gained quite a lot of experience in the intervening time. Also, just look at this fibre:
The high proportion of silk and the intense dyes make it positively glow. It would, in my opinion, be muddied by plying. I wanted to retain the amazing dye painting and not risk having plies of more than one colour. While that is often my goal as I love barberpoled yarns, I couldn’t do it this time. Additionally, I thought that the gradient colourway was worth preserving. Figuring that a fingering weight would be the most versatile for my use, I dove in. It took me just over a week to spin this up and the experience was simply delightful. This was the most incredibly seductive blend of fibres that I’ve ever laid my hands on.
After a bit of trouble getting a sense of the correct amount of twist to insert for the diameter yarn I wanted, I was off to the races. Five ounces of fibre rapidly disappeared. Then came the tricky part. Most sources advise that this type of yarn be fulled, that is, slightly felted. It is soaked in hot water with soap, treated roughly, dunked into cold water and back into hot….generally everything one is told to never, ever do with wool. You have to stop this process at exactly the right time to ensure that your yarn has integrity without turning it into a messy pile of felt. More than a bit nerve wracking, I can assure you. Even as it was drying, I was not convinced that I hadn’t just ruined the entire thing. Once completely dry, however, I had a plump silky yarn with a glorious sheen. I’ve not yet decided what its eventual fate will be. In the meantime, I will just enjoy looking at it. And perhaps touching it.
The other yarn I’ve been working on is the same weight and diameter, however it is composed of three separate plies. In order to make this, I had to spin three exceptionally fine singles and then spin them together, twisting in the opposite direction. However, I had to play and not do it “by the book”. I wanted to mix the colours up a bit, so I took out my hackle, which has not seen any action for several years.
As you can see, blending the colours in this fashion results in some optical blending, softening their intensity. When spun, you get very short colour runs. I only did this to the fibre in one ply of the three and it created quite an interesting colour play. I will be very interested to see how this knits up, as it is destined for a pair of socks.
There is another spinning project waiting in the wings. This will be a larger one, hopefully a sweater quantity. I have these rather bright braids of Falkland wool that I bought in a weak moment without the slightest idea as to what I would do with them. They really aren’t my thing as they stand, but toned down by combining with a natural brown Shetland, they may just be perfect.
A pair of colourwork socks are on the needles, another technique that I’m revisiting after a long absence. The last stranded knitting I did was very successful and I was hoping this would be as well. There isn’t as much contrast in the yarns as there should be; however, I am continuing with it simply because I like it. I’m also casting on for a lace shawl in the near future. With beads and a wintery sparkly yarn.
Today I took an inkle weaving workshop through the guild, which was a huge amount of fun. I’m hoping to make some guitar and yoga straps for the Etsy shop. I’m also beginning a series of towel projects on the floor loom and working on selecting a colour palette. I’ll show these in a future post.
So, what have you been up to during these first weeks of the new year?