More Exotic Fibers – Camel/Silk Blend

I am making excellent progress on my stash of exotic fibers. The camel/silk blend I spun today is the second-to-last variety I had left.

I had sort of expected that it would be similar to the yak/silk blend I did a few weeks ago and I was correct. Neither one is a good choice for a beginner, but for the intermediate spinner it’s an excellent way to improve skills and the resulting yarn in both cases is really lovely.

The undyed camel/silk fiber spins to a lustrous champagne color, with beautiful drape.

Camel-silk 4 gram sample

Camel-silk 4 gram sample

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The only exotic fiber left now is some Eri silk that I got in Phoenix last year when visiting family out there. This comes from cultivated silkworms that are fed castor leaves. The undyed fiber that I got is a lovely gold color. It will be interesting to see how it compares with Bombyx and Tussah silk in both the spinning process and the resulting yarn. I will be spinning this fiber next, to wrap up my “summer of exotics,” so I’ll have more to share soon.

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Back to the Bunny – Angora Batt #2

I decided to spin my other Angora batt for my next project.This batt is called Untamed Woods, and the colorway is green with yellow and blue highlights which make for a visually interesting spun yarn.

The fiber content is only slightly different than the first batt but the spun singles is REALLY different. It has a little more merino (50% instead of 45%) and a little less angora (42% instead of 45%), a little less silk (7% instead of 10%) and a touch of angelina (1%), which is a very fine sparkly fiber. The spun singles has a very springy feel to it, and the angora has not haloed out yet so it isn’t fuzzy at all.

Until next time.

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The Yak/Silk Gradient Swatch

In my last post, I talked about spinning a gradient yarn from two colors of Yak/Silk blend fiber, and promised a picture. Well, here it is. The yarn felt wonderful to knit.

While I’m not completely crazy about these two colors for spinning gradients, I’ll be looking at SAFF for more of this in different colors. I have a scarf pattern that uses gradient yarn in “panes” of color so I think this will be an excellent choice.

Yak/Silk Gradient with Undyed fiber and Alfalfa Green

Yak/Silk Gradient with Undyed fiber and Alfalfa Green

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My New Love – Yak/Silk Blend

Yak/Silk blend - Alfalfa Green

Yak/Silk blend – Alfalfa Green

After yarn-bombing, and after the Starry Night silk, I have turned my attention to a new exotic fiber blend – Yak and Silk. At SAFF last year, I bought the most gorgeous green 50%-50% yak/silk fiber. I already had some undyed yak/silk that I had bought the year before and never touched.

Yak Silk Blend Fiber, undyed

Yak Silk Blend Fiber, undyed

For practice, I spun a little sample of the undyed fiber. It is a lovely silvery taupe color, with a silky feel and drape. It was a bit challenging to spin because of the slipperiness of the fiber in “top” form, definitely not for beginners. But I *love* the way it came out. As I was looking at it, I realized that it will make the perfect cuff for the fingerless gloves I’m planning with the possum yarn my friend brought me from NZ. I blogged about that a while back. MUCH nicer than the alpaca blends I was playing with! So I swatched it with some of the possum fiber to see how they go together and, well, see for yourself. So then I weighed out and spun enough for that project.

Swatch with possum yarn and yak/silk blend handspun

Swatch with possum yarn and yak/silk blend handspun

Now, the lovely green. Play time!! I got the inspiration to try a gradient blend of the undyed and the dyed just to see how that works out. To get a good even blend, you have to use hand cards, so I made 5 rolags – pure green, green with a little undyed, about half and half, undyed with a little green, and pure undyed. I carded the pure ones as well as the color blends so that they would all spin the same. Fiber prep matters in the finished yarn! First thing I noticed when spinning is that the carded fiber is MUCH easier to spin than the uncarded top. Yay! That’s because the fibers are no longer all lined up the same way and the slipperiness is way less of a challenge. I was also able to spin it thinner. This is good because I used Navajo plying to make a three-ply yarn without mixing up the colors. This way my three-ply came out close to the diameter I want, as a light worsted (DK or sport). I promise I will post pictures of it once it dries.

Gradient Rolags with dyed and undyed yak/silk blend

Gradient Rolags with dyed and undyed yak/silk blend

You’ll notice in the picture of the rolags that they look unfocused – if you click on it you’ll see the full-sized version, which is quite sharp. That’s just how soft the carded fibers look.

I am in love with this fiber. I will definitely look for more at SAFF again this year!

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Yarnbombing – It’s complete!!

The Yarnbomb Columbia project was installed a couple of weeks ago. Those two blocks of Main Street are beautiful right now, and if you want to see pictures of the whole thing please take a look at this public Facebook page Yarnbombing of Columbia.

I personally knitted a tree cover, a parking meter cover, and bench backs for the Sweet Cream ice cream shop. Altogether, it was 6 months of effort for me. You can click each picture below to see a full-size version.

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It was fun to have complete creative freedom. It was fun to make public art like this and then install it, seeing the finished product and knowing that people are enjoying it. I got to make new friends and be more involved in my community. And I have a LOT of leftover acrylic yarn in beautiful colors – I see a new throw in my future!

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Starry, Starry Night – More Silk

While I was knitting away for the Yarnbomb Columbia project, I needed a spinning project that wasn’t too demanding. In other words, a fiber I was familiar with and could just enjoy. I decided that another skein of that luscious Chasing Rainbows bombyx silk was the perfect thing. This is the same company that made the New Blue fiber that I posted about back in May, about spinning exotic fibers.

This time I spun a colorway called “Starry Night” – lovely turquoise and darker blues. I’m really happy with the way it came out.

To catch up visually, I’m including a little gallery here of both colorways.

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Alpaca and Blending

My next exotic fiber for the summer is alpaca. I bought several colors and varieties of alpaca at SAFF in 2015 and it’s been waiting for me ever since.

I chose this fiber next because I have a project in mind for it. One of my friends recently took a vacation to New Zealand, and brought me back some lovely possum/merino yarn. If you are American, this is NOT the possum you are thinking of! It’s the brushtail possum. The yarn is Zealana Rimu, in a lovely muted teal color called Oceanwave. This yarn is available in the US but is quite expensive here, so I’m really happy to have gotten it as a gift. I have enough to make a pair of gloves. One of my fingerless glove patterns has a lovely lace cuff, so I want to spin an alpaca yarn to knit the cuff.

I started off spinning just the alpaca by itself. In order to have a strong yarn and match the gauge of the Rimu, it needs to be at least a three-ply, and so I spun a sample and navajo-plied it. I’m not very good at that anyway, and I found I had a lot of problems with the singles flying apart while I was plying it. So then I did some reading about alpaca, and learned that it takes more twist to make a sturdy yarn than I was using. So I tried again, and it was better but still not strong enough.

At that point I decided to blend the alpaca with some wool, and I chose Falklands because it’s a nice long fiber and soft against the skin. I tried two different blending methods. First, I used hand cards to make a fairly uniform blend, color-wise. This creates a very lofty yarn, and I still had some issues with the singles coming apart while plying. Next I used my blending board to create a more variegated blend, and it came out really nice. You can see from the picture that it is a more marled result, which I like very much. That stripeyness knits into an attractive tweedy look. Plus it created a much stronger result, which I was able to ply with no problems.

So the blending board, in this case, gave me the yarn I want for my cuffs. Next I’m going to start knitting the cuff for the first glove and just see how much more yarn I’ll need to spin to do the pair.

Black alpaca and White Falklands blends. Top: blended using hand cards. Bottom: blended on a blending board.

 

 

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This Summer: Exotic Fibers

I have finished the Bunny yarn I talked about in my last post. As usual, with a new fiber, I learned some things. For example, this blend of fiber does not lend itself well to plying from a center pull ball. I had problems winding it off the bobbin, and more problems in the actual plying process. I ended up trashing about 5 grams of spun fiber because it got tangled & I broke it in frustration. But I have 225 yards of perfectly lovely 2-ply yarn, fingering weight (13-14 wpi) that will be a lovely something someday.

I had to put some thought into what I want to spin next. I have so many beautiful, intriguing, exotic fibers to choose from, right here at my fingertips. Alpaca! Baby Alpaca! Several different kinds & preps of Silk! A different Angora blend! Yak/silk and camel/silk blends! All of them just waiting for my attention. So I’ve decided that this summer will be devoted to these various fibers and blends. I’ve done enough wool for a while, time for something different.

I really want to spin the yak/silk blend – I have some undyed that I can practice on, and then some that’s dyed a gorgeous green. But first I decided to spin some gorgeous Bombyx top (that’s Bombyx, or mulberry, silk in a smooth preparation that’s easy to spin) that I got at SAFF last year. I got 3 different colorways because it’s so freaking gorgeous! I picked the one I like the least to start with. Haha, always easier to practice on that one. I’ve spun this kind of silk before but only undyed, and that was a while ago. Today I spun one little sample and it is sweet to work with. It’s hanging now to dry. One gram yielded 8 yards of 2 ply yarn, so with any luck I’ll end up with over 400 yards of finished yarn, which is enough for a “one-skein” scarf.

Today’s picture is the silk I am spinning now. Until next time.

Bombyx Silk from Chasing Rainbow Dyeworks in colorway New Blue

Bombyx Silk from Chasing Rainbow Dyeworks in colorway New Blue

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Bunny Time!

I have, at long last, finished the Desert Rose BFL-Silk blend project. Whew! But the wonderful result is that I have just over 1900 yards of sport-weight yarn to make something lovely with.

So what’s next? Bunny fur! Aka angora from bunnies. Specifically, this is a batt that I purchased at SAFF last year that is a blend of ultrafine merino, Angora, and silk. MMMMMMMMM. Yes, it is amazing to touch and spin with. Light, soft, and warm. I bought it fromĀ Bama Angoras. They have the cutest bunny pictures on their site – you should click over just for those!

I’ve spun one little 3 gram sample just to see what it’s like. I’ll swatch the yarn because really that’s the final assurance that I’m happy with the results. Then I’ll adjust as necessary and do the whole batt. I have another one, in greens, that has a different fiber blend.

It’s really difficult to get fiber photos right – the hue and saturation just really don’t come out well with digital cameras. But I think I’ve got this one pretty close, lovely saturated blues with the lighter streaks from the silk. It doesn’t take dye as intensely and will always provide streaky contrast, which helps provide depth to the finished yarn.

Fiber and yarn from my Angora Batt

 

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Yarnbombing!!

Because I don’t have enough fiber-related projects in my life, clearly, I am now knitting a yarnbomb for a tree! There’s a group here in Columbia, SC who are yarnbombing 2 blocks of Main Street to help celebrate the solar eclipse in August. Columbia will be a prime viewing spot: we will get 2 and half minutes of totality! If you are interested you can read more at Eclipse2017.org.

If you are not familiar with yarnbombing, it’s basically getting creative in covering public stuff with yarn. Wrapping, knitting, crocheting, whatever you can think of. My objet d’yarn is a tree trunk that is 29″ around and 73″ tall. I’m having total fun planning what I’m going to do, PLUS it is a great excuse to buy more yarn. Thank you. I’m barely started so no pictures of my effort yet, but here are a couple of pictures from around the web to give you a taste.

A quick search on Pinterest or the search engine of your choice will show you hundreds more!

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