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 from 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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More Fractal Spinning

Since late December I’ve been doing another fractal spinning project. This is a technique where you take a braid with multiple colors and split it up into fat and thin chunks. You spin then ply in a specific way so you get nice barber-pole mixes of color between stretches of solid color. My first project with this was with some fiber from Sweet Georgia yarn, back in Oct 2015.

This new project is with a BFL/Silk blend from Frabjous Fibers in the Desert Rose colorway. To be honest, I was not that thrilled with the colors as I was spinning the first skein, but the yarn came out BEAUTIFUL. So I’m inspired to keep going. I’m spinning it fairly thin, and the 2-ply yarn has come out around sport weight. So not too heavy, good for our not-so-cold South Carolina “winters”.

I’ve had several knitting projects going as well, particularly socks! I’ll post about those all on their own.

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The Silk Lap

The Silk Lap Drafted Out

The Silk Lap Drafted Out

No, not like a lap formed when you sit. Mulberry Silk Laps are produced while carding silk fibers to produce silk top for spinning into yarn. They have a similar staple length to top but with much more texture. They are in layered ‘blankets’.

The one I have was purchased last year at the DFW Fiber Fest, when I was visiting family in Fort Worth, TX. It’s gorgeous, dyed a shimmery turquoise. It’s large, 18.2 ounces, and covers nearly half my king-size bed when laid out flat. Frankly, I’ve been too intimidated to touch it, not least because it was expensive. I even bought a “practice lap” last year at SAFF, a smaller less-expensive one. Unfortunately, it was not very good quality and ultimately not helpful.

Well, I’m over that now. On Monday I took my gorgeous lap out and got to work. I cut a strip off of one edge, then a square off the end of that strip. It has layers similar to silk hankies, and I took one of those layers and drafted it out, spun it, and knitted a swatch. I took another layer and knitted it directly into a swatch without spinning it first. I took a class on that at SAFF and it makes wonderful knitted fabric.

This is the first time I’ve worked with Mulberry, or Bombyx, silk. It’s much “silkier” than Tussah silk, which is what I’ve worked with before. It’s really quite lovely, and I’m already thinking about what I want to make with the yarn. I think I prefer the spun to the directly knitted, due to the texture.

The pictures below show the various steps. In the pictures of the lap itself, it looks lighter because of the shimmer of the silk in the light.

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Milk Fiber – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Finished 2-ply Milk Fiber

Finished 2-ply Milk Fiber

I have finished all the milk fiber. It’s spun, plied, and washed, and is now hanging the bathroom drying. I’m glad I did it, but I doubt if I will ever buy more.

Yes, it’s lovely. It has a beautiful sheen and drape. BUT it is very tricky to work with – slippery and requires LOTS of twist. In the interest of sharing what I have learned, here are some spinning tech tips that worked for me.

  • Split your roving up into pencil roving.
  • Pre-draft this out to get rid of all the clumpy, grabby places. See pictures below.
  • Use very light tension on your bobbin.
  • I used the middle ratio (8:1) on my wheel. This allowed me to control my drafting and work at a speed that was comfortable for me.
  • Once you get it started, keep your hands 12-14 inches back from the orifice and inch-worm your way along at about a half-inch per pull. Your hands will be quite close together. (Some people like to spin it from the fold, but I’ve not yet mastered that.)
  • If you are having trouble drafting smoothly, you probably didn’t pre-draft well enough.
  • Spin thin, and be EXTREMELY vigilant about slubs. The fiber is so slippery that slubs tend to pull apart under the tension of plying. Consistent diameter is important.
  • I did not find it suitable for Navajo plying (see note above about slubs). Andean worked OK, as did plying from multiple bobbins.

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The Beautiful Chaos of SAFF

This gallery contains 24 photos.

The Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair was last weekend, and as always it was an overwhelming experience. The main vendor area is a giant room with over 400 booths FULL of fiber, yarn, equipment, finished garments, and more. Like any show, … Continue reading

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Mountain Sapphires Sweater Done!!

Mountain Sapphires Cardigan

Mountain Sapphires Cardigan

I have finished the sweater I created from the Mountain Sapphires Art Batts! I’m just taking a moment to bask in that….

It’s so beautiful. It fits. The colors are sweet. It’s warm and not scratchy.

This is the fiber that I started spinning back in April when I was color-starved and ready for something fun. It took me about 2 months to knit after the yarn was spun, and another month to motivate myself to sew the seams and get the buttons on.

The only thing I am not 100% happy about is the collar – it isn’t as wide as I thought it would be in terms of how it lies, but it’s OK. I am thinking about a couple of things that might help with that, but even if I leave it I am happy enough.

On the spinning front, I’m nearly done with the milk fiber. I’ve got a pretty good handle on how to work with it, and as soon as I ply it (and confirm that I really know what I’m doing 🙂 I will post a spinners’  tech-tips post.

SAFF is coming up at the end of the week, so I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to Asheville, NC to enjoy that. Can’t wait! I’ll be posting all about it.

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