Recent Posts

Viburnum becomes a pattern

Shortly after I completed David’s neck warmer, mentioned in the last post, I got an email from Knitty about submissions ...

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Viburnum origins

Viburnum origins

Viburnum began as a small take-along summer holiday project. It has origins in conversations with Sivia and Cat about the ...

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Viburnum in Knitty

Some of you may have noticed I have a pattern in the latest Knitty!It’s called “Viburnum.” It has been shown ...

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Dandelions

Yesterday I continued sewing up the hexagons from the one block wonder quilt, and have them all complete. I haven’t ...

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Fly-by picture post

I’m starting to emerge from Adventures in Home Ownership!! I have two more projects that are underway but not completed and then ...

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Posts

Making Lace

September 18, 2014 12:33 pm

The third Viburnum sample in Knitty was the lace weight one. It’s an interesting “coming full circle,” since the piece I developed the initial pattern with was also lace weight. 

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That first sample was knit in Art By Eve’s “Anne,” which is a 70% Alpaca/ 30% silk yarn. It’s beautiful and drapey and deliciously soft and warm against the skin of my neck. The fiber blend was pretty close to perfect. That sample has now gone to live with Amanda, as a thank you for modeling in the Knitty article.

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I knew I wanted to spin something similar, but nothing in my stash called to me. I had some delicious kid mohair and some alpaca, but I wanted something colorful that would look good on the page with the lavender DK weight wrap, and nothing I had in my stash was going to work with those requirements.

Then I thought of Terry at Rainbow Farms Pygora. She makes the most delicious batts blending pygora with other fibers. Her batts are done in small lots from fiber she dyes in crockpot sized batches, and each one is built by hand on her drum carder. I’ve worked along side her in her studio and was impressed with her process and artfulness.

Fortunately I had this thought about a week before we were scheduled to get together at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR. I went straight to Terry’s booth when I arrived and had a delightful time with her picking out a complimentary batt to go with the DK sample. I settled on a deep purple. 

I also splurged on a new supported spindle from Spindlewood to spin the batt up. I have a number of spindles including representatives from most of the major artisan spindle makers, but Steve’s are my favorites. And Connie is such a delight to talk to— if you ever make it to a festival where they are selling you should drop in. 

I wanted to make sure the yarn I spun up was strong and fine enough to carry beads well. Being at Black Sheep I remembered a couple years ago when I took a class from Galina Khmeleva on Orenburg lace spinning. One of the things she stressed over and over that made me chuckle was “You can eat butter with your butter, but why would you?” She was referring to plying fine handspun singles with silk or cotton thread instead of spinning two singles of the same fiber together. It is the practice in Orenburg to ply the cashmere singles with drawn silk. That gives strength and a bit of sheen to the finished yarn, keeps the final yarn quite fine, and makes the single go twice as far! 

I checked the SkaSka booth for a plying thread that would go with the purple batt, but they didn’t have anything I liked in stock. Just down the aisle, though, was the Fiber Addict, who had hand-dyed 60/2 thread that was the perfect color.

So here are my tools and the yarn in process:

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I love support spindling. I find it’s the best way to make a fine, soft single, because the single doesn’t need to be strong enough to be wound on through the orifice of a wheel and doesn’t have to support the weight of a drop spindle. It seems to me the fibers stay relaxed and a little fuzzy because they don’t get that extra tug in the spinning.

To spin this I tore off handfuls of the batt and spun from the tips of the fiber rather than from the fold. I experimented with both methods, but the single was finer and more consistent spun from the tips. Terry’s batt spun like magic! I had an ounce spun up in a couple hours. 

To ply I went to my go-fast wheel. I am fortunate enough to have a lovely Canadian Production Wheel that’s about a century old:

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It’s made for spinning fine and fast. I plyed straight off the bobbin, after winding the thread onto a card:

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The spindle is in a tall water glass with a point protector on the tip, and the card with the silk is in a mug. I wanted to make sure the yarn didn’t become a boucle in the finishing, so I tensioned the spun single while letting the silk glide into the orifice with no tension. That way when the single relaxes it won’t form loops:

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After plying it was time for the finish! Still in the mood to avoid a boucle, I opted for a steam finish. Into the steamer basket with the yarn!

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Onto the stove over a frying pan of steaming water:

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And aaaaaah. Nice relaxed yarn:

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The photos don’t show how much of a change a little steam wrought. The yarn went from being kinky and unbalanced to being smooth.

Beauty shot on the porch:

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And then I set straight to knitting. I love how moebius scarves on the needles like to make heart shapes: 

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Next to the cowl is my beading tool. More on that tomorrow!

Viburnum becomes a pattern

September 17, 2014 10:36 am

Shortly after I completed David’s neck warmer, mentioned in the last post, I got an email from Knitty about submissions for the upcoming issue. They were specifically looking for small things, gift sized, and themed for winter wear. 

I mulled over what I might have to submit, and it occurred to me that the pattern I had now knit in two weights could be knit in more or less any weight of yarn, and could be sized up or down as desired to match gauge and style. 

I decided I needed one more size to make my point, so I grabbed a skein of Manos wool and silk and started knitting. I adore the little neck warmer that came out:

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It has been given to my Aunt Lynne as a gift. 

I wrote up the pattern and submitted it. On a whim I sent it to Knitty Spin since one of the three samples was handspun. I was pleasantly surprised when Jillian accepted it— provided I knit all three samples from handspun!

The acceptance note arrived shortly after Spinzilla. I spun for Team Storey, as I have several friends with books published through them. One of the yarns I spun up for the contest was a light purple fulled single from merino/silk top my friend Heidi dyed. It’s the skein in front on the right:

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The final yarn was much less kinky— this is the freshly spun picture. 

This style of yarn is one of my favorites. I first made it in imitation of the Malabrigo and Manos worsted singles I adore, and have knit several sweaters and other smaller projects from it. The yarn is quickly and lightly spun, and then heavily fulled to get it to hold together and to balance out the twist. I find this yarn doesn’t pill as badly as a two or three-ply yarn from the same fiber that’s finished less roughly. It will only work with non-superwash blends that are made mostly of feltable wool.

To make it I spin a middling sized single using a supported long backwards draw from the end of top. I spin it only to the point that the single loses the stretchy taffy-like feel, and then run it into the orifice and onto the bobbin.

Pull back, treadle a couple times, run the yarn in. Slide my fingers back down the top a bit, pull back, treadle, run in. It’s as soothing as a rocking chair. The rhythmic motion helps me maintain consistency in the single, and I can spin up a sweater’s worth of yarn in a couple afternoons. Delightful!

Once it’s spun I skein it off on a swift, tie it up well, and beat the living daylights out of it. I wrote up a tutorial a few years ago on learning to spin long draw and finishing a single with a hard fulling wash. There are bigger pictures in my flickr stream, and I think these two capture the spirit and vigor of the finishing: 

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I swish the single in boiling hot water fresh from the kettle with a bit of soap, then dunk it in an ice bath, and move the yarn back and forth again and again until it shrinks and hangs limp in the skein instead of curling up. To finish the yarn I “thwack” it vigorously against a wall or the edge of a basin. The photos show me doing it in the kitchen sink, but that makes a big splashy mess. Most of the time I use the wall of the shower. This action further “sets” the yarn, helping the fulling process along.

Once the yarn dries I put it back on the swift and re-skein it, gently separating the strands where they have stuck together. Generally I have to adjust the swift in several pegs from where it was originally skeined up because fulling causes the yarn to shrink in length and bloom in diameter.

The end result is a soft fuzzy yarn that is, nevertheless, as solid as a hard twisted multiply plied yarn, for a fraction of the effort. It doesn’t have the glossy sheen of a worsted yarn, but it’s lighter and warmer. It’s generally a bit uneven in diameter, but that disappears in the knitting. 

The end result is the neck warmer I wear the most: 

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Yummy.

Viburnum origins

September 16, 2014 1:48 pm

Viburnum began as a small take-along summer holiday project. It has origins in conversations with Sivia and Cat about the sorts of patterns that work well in a Moebius design. I am fortunate to have such friends. 

The issue with a moebius is they are knit in two directions at once, so the pattern must look the same from the top to the bottom or the bottom to the top. They are also single sided, with the “front” and the “back” flowing into each other, so the pattern has to be the same on the front and the back.  Cat has many designs which meet these criteria. Sivia has the Harmonia’s Rings pattern, which I had just come through knitting into a sweater when I cast on what was to be the first Viburnum.

After a lot of iterations I ended up with a chart and a swatch that made me happy. It took less time to knit out the first one than it had to design:

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At about the same time I was finishing up the first cowl, I ruined a fleece.

David’s Viburnum was made with some gnarly handspun:

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I botched the washing job on a lovely Romeldale fleece by letting it cool too much in the bathtub. In my defense I was a bit distracted for several hours because the bathtub drain had sprung a leak and was showering my basement with sheepy water. By the time I determined what the problem was and drained the tub the grease had redepositied, and removing it required harsh treatment that was fulling the wool.

Instead of rewashing the whole thing, which I had planned for some colorwork and had painstakingly sorted, alas, I set it aside a bit sticky.

David asked for a neck warmer to cover the space between his bike helmet and his jacket for commuting in the Seattle winter muck, and I pulled out some of this tacky fleece because (I reasoned) it would throw off rain and drizzle better than a properly washed one.

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It performs beautifully in that role, but processing and spinning a fine and sticky fleece into a yarn doesn’t produce a smooth or consistent single, that is certain!

I opened the locks with a flicker, and then ran it through my Pat Green Big Batt carder, and pulled the batt through a diz to get a hand pulled roving. This is a picture of dizzing a wool/silk batt for another project:

pulling roving from the batt

The resulting yarn is fluffy and warm, but … rustic. You can no doubt see the thick and thin bits, as well as the neps and other messy bits. What you can’t see is that I had to pry it apart fir this photo because the lanolin had pretty much glued it together. Nevertheless, it knits up nicely.

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Once I had the yarn I went casting about for a pattern. After some talking and thinking we figured out David wanted a moebius so it would fit high on the back of his neck but down under his chin. I realized I could use the same stitch pattern as my beaded lace cowl, minus the beads, and I knit him one that evening. This pattern is so very fast to knit in bulky weight!

I haven’t decided if I will process and spin the rest into a sweater for him, or let it languish. I did use some to stuff pin cushions, in the thought that greasy fleece would be a nice way to keep sewing pins.
Anyway. I encourage you to knit with your yarn. I have learned so much about spinning by actually working with the yarns I make!

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