Posted in Knitting Patterns

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!

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