This is my blog to share my adventures, misadventures, exploration, and experimentation with fibre- and as it turns out, with life as well. There is some of both. One thing leads to another. Collecting, spinning, weaving, dying, learning, building a web of relationships. Here we are: welcome.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Silken treat...

My computer is back home after yet another trip to Texas, and I've gotten all the software reloaded and most of the data back in place.  Again.  Hope it takes this time: my warranty ran out.  Third time's the charm, eh?  

I've got lots to catch up on, but this time I wanted to share something with you that I found delightful.  It's from MIT, where a group of people created an amazing structure with the help of several thousand silkworms.

Silk Pavillion

Here's the link to a video they made of the process that is itself a delight:

And the link to the website with more info and lots of images:

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. (Thanks to Anita Osterhaug and Weaving Today for posting a story about this!)

I've been busy cleaning up my poor garden, badly damaged by the cold, snowless winter, and catching up on my spinning.  I have some lovely handspun yarn to show you next post.  Just scored two Corriedale fleeces, so expect to be spending considerable time sorting, washing, and preparing it in the coming weeks.  My test run looked very good, so I think these fleeces are going to be a pleasure to spin.  Chunky!  Also, I am planning some new weaving projects again (finally!).

I've been taking photos all along, and now that my computer is back home again, I'll try to post on the stuff I've been doing instead of spending time on the computer! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Corriedale experiment photos...

A couple of posts ago... well, okay, a couple of months ago... I wrote about practicing blending colors using undyed natural commercial Corriedale top in white and medium brown.  I was curious to see if I could do it by hand (I could, though I did not try for very fine blending).

I tried different ratios of color, and laid them out in different ways.  Some broken into  patches and gently drafted to join the patches.  Some laid out side by side lengthwise.  Some with just a little of the light color, followed by a little more.  I found the process fascinating.  Now I want to get (or make) a blending hackle. 

I was also using the Corriedale to practice making thicker yarn.  It is an axiom that it is easier to spin thin yarn evenly than it is to make thick yarn even.  Though it may seem counter-intuitive, it is true.  You can see some of the variations in thickness in the yarn.  As I proceeded, I got better at keeping the yarn even.  If you look closely at the jumble of skeins of various attempts, you may be able to see this happening.

During this time, I  switched from double-drive to single drive using Scotch tension (my wheel accommodates either).  If you're not a spinner, don't worry about it.  If you are a spinner, you may already have found what I did: that Scotch tension makes it easier to spin fat yarn.  Though, as in all things having to do with doing things with our hands, we each seem to develop our own personal techniques that work just fine.

  The Whole Jumble
...except for a large skein of white I used for the hat and for another project. That's the rest of it lying snuggled in there.

The reddish "cake" of yarn (a cake is just a ball with a flat top and a hole in the middle) in the upper left corner is actually the remainder of some burgundy colorway Corriedale top. I'd spindle spun a skein to send a friend.  The rest I also spindle spun finer, chain-plied it, then cabled two sets of plies to see how it would turn out.  In the photo below, you can see how cabling added texture to the yarn.  It is now 6 plies total, and would be described as Corriedale 2-3 cabled (or 3-2, depending on where you are), meaning 2 strands of 3 ply yarn have been plyed in the opposite direction of the original ply.  Cabling can be carried through several layers.  

Cabled Corriedale 3-2

 Now here's a series of pictures of the blended Corriedale, most of which is two-ply.  A couple are three-ply.  Three-ply yarn looks rounder than two-ply.  The white at upper left and the brown at far right are the colors I used.  The black bits are simply yarn scraps I use to tie up the skeins.

And finally, a closeup of some of the blended yarn: 

The Peruvian earflap hat

One of my granddaughters really really wanted a Peruvian earflap style cap.  Together we selected a pattern for a crocheted cap I figured I could manage (it's been years since I crocheted).  I'd love to do one of the fancy patterns full of bright colors, but that wasn't in the cards, either for my current skill level or for my granddaughter's needs.  Often fancy patterned caps tend to be relatively thin, and what my granddaughter needed was something thick and both wind and moisture resistant.  Vermont winters are variable. 

The cap we selected called for a thick yarn, with 4 st per in.  I had come by a few skeins of worsted weight Corridale yarn spun up by a local mill (a test run, I think, while they were checking out their setup).  A lovely celedon green flecked with blue.  I plied two strands together, creating a four-ply strand, just right for the gauge called for.  For the pattern yarn, I chain-plied (sometimes called Navajo-plying) the "rainbow" yarn, also of Corriedale) I'd made last year.  The chain-plying kept the overall order of the colors, and added more through the visual mixing!  Finally, I had spun some triple ply yarn of white Corriedale that I could use for the trim.  Amazingly, each of the yarns came out the same gauge! 

Here are the yarns (except the white) as I began the chain for the cap:


This is the pattern part of the cap, before beginning the decrease for the tapered top: 

And here is the finished cap: 

The pattern turned out to be poorly written and with some significant design errors. I ended up unraveling the band once and the top twice in order to correct errors in the written pattern.  Actually, I tore out parts of the band more than once, as I learned that crochet fair isle is done very differently from knit fair isle! And if I were to do this cap again, there are still other changes I would make. My advice: do not use this pattern!  When one downloads patterns, one takes one's chances.  And even commercial patterns are not immune: this was originally a commercial pattern.  An advantage of non-commercial patterns is that the originator often makes improvements based on feedback from other people and posts it. Something to keep in mind.

However, at the end, my granddaughter had a warm, stylish hat just in time for the bitterly cold winds we had this winter, made by my hands.  She was even warm during the sleet storms that we had too many of this year.  I wish I had a photo of her wearing the cap, but those still reside on my son-in-law's camera! 

I wouldn't mind doing more earflap hats (I get the next one!), but if I do, I am going to go the traditional route next time:  my own hand-dyed spun singles, knit in a traditional free-form pattern from the crown down.  Or, I'll just buy one from one of the several cooperatives selling caps knit by Peruvian women.  I like that idea, too.  Truth is, I'd rather spin and weave than crochet or knit!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I haven't really disappeared....

And I have been busy, though you can't tell from here.

I have been spinning, and learning a lot. 

I have some photos to post (later) of a bagful of border leicester.  The owner was pulling off about half the fleece was going to discard because it was loaded with VM ("vegetable matter").  The fleece was beautiful stuff.  The sheep was barn-raised and so it was full of loose chaff on the underside, but clean.  Boy, did I nab that!  I knew that chaff would simply fall out in the combs-- that's what combs are for!  I made short work of that, and then spent some happy hours spinning that wool and learning all kinds of things.  Tomorrow I'll pile up all the different ways I spun it and post it for you. 

Right now I am busy hand-blending some brown corriedale with white corriedale. I love the feel of corriedale.   I want to have a kind of random tweedy look, so I decided to blend by drafting. This is commercial top, and I've been pulling off shanks from each, plucking them apart, then laying the "feathers" into a bundle, varying the arrangement and layout. 

To blend, I gather up the bundle, and gently start teasing it out in a roving, not too much at a time, and keeping the ends spaced evenly as much as I can. Then I break it in two, keep the fibers pointing the same direction, and redraft.  I do this however many times it takes to get a look I like.

Some of the bundles are more blended than others, giving a softer look.  Some have more white, some have more brown.  I am spinning the bundles end to end, and working to improve my feel for larger diameter singles.  I want to 2-ply this and then use it to weave a scarf, or maybe crochet if there is enough of it.  I think it should make a handsome variegated pattern.  I promise photos!