Home from SAFF – This Year’s Loot!

Cashmere/Silk 50/50 from Lisa Souza Dyeworks

Cashmere/Silk 50/50 from Lisa Souza Dyeworks

The Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair is always a huge experience for me. The fiber! The classes! The huge buildings full of vendors!

This year was no exception. I got lots of fiber: silk and silk blends, pure merino, pure cashmere from Patagonia, and even some cotton!!! I even got a little yarn – a couple of skeins of sock yarn and 4 coordinated colors of merino/silk yarn for a shawl.

I took two classes. The first was Spin for that Project, and unbelievably I was the only student. So I got focused 1 on 1 attention from the instructor, Nancie McCraw. Before class I selected a knitting pattern that I would like to spin yarn for, and we analyzed everything you need to know to spin a comparable yarn so the knitted garment would come out like the pattern writer intended. It was kind of technical, and included things like wool characteristics of different breeds and MATH to figure out how much fiber to get and how to spin and ply it. We also got to go shopping to buy the right fiber and then spin a sample to see if I liked it. Since that was a yes, I went back & got enough for my project plus some for practice as far as getting the twist and diameter right.

The second class was Fractal Frolic with Jillian Moreno. She is famous in the spinning world and the class was great. Fractal spinning is a technique that yields beautiful yarn. I’ve tried it before, but really wanted to learn more about how to pick good colors for it and different ways to do the spinning.  She definitely delivered everything I was hoping for. She even took some time with me on a different question, not related to fractals, that I had about something in her book Yarnitecture.

Last but not least, Nancie recommended a book to me called Spinning for Softness and Speed, by Paula Simmons. This book describes a method of spinning wool that is fast, requires only one hand and produces a soft, perfectly twisted and even yarn. I’m in! I was able to get a copy at SAFF, and after I got home I tried it yesterday with some practice fiber. My goodness, it’s humbling to try something new! The “yarn” I produced looks pretty much like my earliest attempts at spinning 3 years ago! But I will persevere, because for projects that use wool fibers, especially in large quantities, I think this will be a good technique. I’ve ordered two pounds of inexpensive wool to practice on. Practice makes better.

Here’s the rest of the loot, in addition to the cashmere/silk blend above. I’m including these as a gallery, and I know that doesn’t show up in the newsletter version for some of you. So if you can’t see the pictures and you want to, click the “see the full post” link.

You can click any thumbnail to see the full size photo, and then scroll using the arrows at the sides. ESC to return.

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The Final Batt

I am now spinning the last of the batts I got last year at SAFF. It’s different from other batts that I’ve worked with in that is a single fiber type, merino wool. I was drawn to it because of the lovely colors – red, orange, purple, green, gold – with red and orange being predominant. As you would expect, then, the spun yarn is primarily red/orange with other flecks of color that make it visually interesting and provide depth. It’s very fall-ish, appropriate for the season.

Because it’s a batt, created on a drum carder, the fibers are not all lined up as they are from other prep methods. If you are familiar with merino yarn spun from top (where the fibers are all aligned) you know it’s very smooth and almost not like wool at all. THIS yarn is much fuzzier and has slubs and loft even though I am spinning it using the worsted method. It’s interesting to spin because merino fibers are not very long (compared to other wools) so you have to stay right on top of your drafting. BUT it’s also very “grabby” because of the prep, so it doesn’t slip apart easily.

Because of the fuzziness, I’m interested to see if it feels scratchy against tender skin. I like to test that by taking the yarn and wearing it around my neck for a while. Guaranteed if it’s scratchy that I will feel it there!

Yarn from Merino Batt

Yarn from Merino Batt

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How the Camel/Silk Came Out

I just wanted to post a quick update on the Camel/Silk blend that I wrote about last time. After I soaked it and hung it to dry, it seemed like it was not as soft and drapey as the yak/silk that I had spun. However, once I wound it into its little twisty skein, it softened up and is really quite nice with a lovely silky feel to it. So this is another fiber that I will put on my “yes, please!” list.

Camel/Silk Blend Yarn

Camel/Silk Blend Yarn

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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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