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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Hand Spun Snatch and Grab Bag

Snatch and Grab?  Sounds like I stole this one, doesn't it?  But no, I haven't resorted to shop lifting yet!

This is a little project I wanted to make for my sister who arrived yesterday for a week's holiday.  I finished it on 14th September, so just in time really.

The name of the bag came from the yarn I used - hand spun "Snatch and Grab Falkland" that I spun during the Tour de Fleece 4 years ago.  It's been floundering in a cupboard ever since so it was time it had its day.

The Falkland fleece I used was dyed with all sorts of different plants : logwood, woad, dyer's chamomile, comfrey, fennel, onion skins, madder and Brazilwood, then carded into rolags which were tossed into a bag all together.  When I was spinning them I just put my hand in the bag and spun whatever came out, hence "snatch and grab".

I chose this pattern for the bag which called for 200-250 yards of fingering weight (14 wraps per inch) yarn.  The Falkland was 324 yards so I thought I'd have plenty.  When I got about a third of the way up the body of the bag, I was pretty sure I wouldn't have enough (actually I did make it a little bit bigger than the pattern, so I shouldn't really have been surprised) so I picked out three contrasting balls of hand spun to go with it.

On the left is some merino/silk dyed with woad, in the middle some naturally coloured baby alpaca mixed with charcoal bamboo, and Falkland/silk dyed with raspberry acid dye.

I just chose to do some simple stripes in various forms to add a bit of interest and extend my yarn.

This was an incredibly easy pattern to do, which was just as well as it was years since I'd done any crochet.  I added a little crocheted flower using the raspberry Falkland/silk and finished it with a button in the middle.

The final job was to line the bag and the handles with fabric.  I found a dress that I'd made years and years ago but which I'd only worn a couple of times.  There was no chance it would ever fit me again (I was really skinny then!) so I cut it up and used it for this project. Another photo, because this bag is reversible (I put some deep pockets on the side) :-

A very easy and satisfying project, which will definitely be done again - especially as I want one!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

How Much Waste Does an Alpaca Produce?

No, I don't mean from the back end, I mean from its fleece.

Cadbury's Cria Fleece
I was recently preparing some cria alpaca by picking through the locks, separating them at the same time.  I put the waste on one side while I picked and teased.  This fleece is in pretty good order and really doesn't need carding, so I was just splaying out the cut end of each lock to spin from.  There was surprisingly little vegetable matter so it was quite an easy job.  After a while I noticed the waste pile was getting quite large - mainly second cuts and a bit of vm - so I decided to monitor it.

After spinning the locks and filling a bobbin, I plied it back on itself and, before washing, weighed it and the waste pile.  The whole lot came to 135g, with the yarn weighing 110g and the waste 25g.

Yarn and Waste
I was surprised there was only 25g of waste as it looked a lot more.  Anyway, I washed the yarn, dried it and then weighed it again - 95g.  That means that there was 15g of dust in this ball of alpaca.  I can't even imagine what that would look like.

Now nice and clean and ready for knitting.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Three Colours from Woad

I harvested the rest of my woad plants last week, plus the plants I'd harvested last time had grown again, so I ended up with 880g of leaves.  I had two skeins of hand-spun Cotswold ready to dye, so into the pot they went.  Not quite as deep blue as last time, but I probably had more yarn in there this time.

There still seemed to be some colour in the dye pot after removing these, so I threw in some of the kid mohair I bought a few weeks ago.

Baby blue kid mohair

This is still wet here, but I was really pleased with the baby blue that came out.  It dried quite a bit lighter, and all the pale patches above had turned a very subtle light pink.

This was really difficult to photograph - it's actually not as pale as it shows here.  I think I'll probably separate the two colours when I come to spin it.

After making up the dye bath, I strained out the used leaves and squeezed out as much blue dye as I could, then put them into a pan and covered them with water.  I simmered them for maybe an hour and then put in some more Cotswold locks which had been mordanted with alum and cream of tartar. Another simmer should have produced woad pink, and normally that's what I would get, but this time for some reason I got a very pale yellow.  I modified this (to make it a deeper shade) in a large bowl of ammonia water and let it sit for a while.

It's not a bad colour, but I would have preferred woad pink!

Anyway, three different colours from one woad bath isn't bad (I'm including the pale pink mohair here, in the absence of true woad pink) - blue, pink and yellow.

Meanwhile, the woad plants are growing like crazy and in a few weeks I think I should be able to harvest another batch.  I may put the yellow fleece into the dye hoping to get a green.  Normally one would dye with woad and overdye with weld or some other yellow dye to make green, but I like the idea of being able to produce it solely with woad.  In fact, maybe I'll just put half of the fleece in the dye, then I'll truly be able to say I got four colours - blue, pink, yellow and green!  Watch this space!!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

What, more stash??

23rd July heralded the last day of the Tour de Fleece 2017.  It also heralded the 2nd day of Le Lot et La Laine, the wool festival which takes place every two years here in south west France.  I usually buy lots of luscious fluff to last me until the next one happens in another two years.  This year was no exception.

The first thing to catch my eye was this merino fleece.  I really need merino fleece - like a hole in the head!  But I'm sort of addicted to the stuff, good quality stuff anyway.  This was gorgeous, and once I'd had my fingers in there I just couldn't walk past!

I think the first thing to attract me was how uniform the locks were.  The photo above looks a bit disorganised, but that's probably because I've been fondling it so much!  The second thing was the softness, and the third the crimp.  Just look at the crimp on that!

I did hold myself back with this, buying only a kilo instead of the whole fleece!

Normally when I visit this wool festival I walk around once just looking.  Then I walk around a second time buying those things that particularly caught my eye.  Then I walk around a third time (laden with bags!) and hoover up all those little bits and pieces that I missed previously.  Well, that didn't really work this year.  When I saw this next fleece I snapped it up immediately!

This is "super kid" mohair fleece that I first spied two years ago.  Unfortunately she didn't have any fleece for sale then, she just had a small sample on the table.  I grabbed a sample and her card hoping to snag a fleece when she'd done her shearing, but it never happened.  This year there were 500g bags of the stuff, so one of those immediately went into my shopping bag.

The next item was also a "snaffle it first time round" buy.  This is 100g cashmere top.  What more can I say, it's gorgeous and I had to have it.  I'm looking forward to dyeing this and blending with some of my other super-duper purchases.

After that lot, I started my second trip round (by now hubby had slunk away back to the car park and sat in the shade of a tree playing his ever-present guitar!). He did take all my bags with him though to put into the car.

A bit of colour was needed next and I can never resist pink!  This is a mix of kid mohair, suri alpaca, Teeswater fleece and tussah silk.  The first of my "easy spins" which I save for those days when I need to spin but don't have any raw fleece prepared.  These are my treat days when I look into the cupboard and pull out something soft and colourful.  Quite often these go with me in the camper van when we're planning to be away for a few days.

This next one is only 35g, but I was looking for "ingredients" for making batts.  Kid mohair again - seems to be a theme this year!  I know I could just have dyed some of the mohair fleece I bought, but the colours drew me in and I was hooked.

These next two bags contained two dyed batts each.  The batts had been carded into a sheet and then hand-painted with dye.  I would have been afraid of felting doing it this way, but these are definitely not that - they're still very pliable and easy to pull apart.  The first one is a mix of Blue Faced Leicester, Merino, and Polwarth with a bit of glitz, baby alpaca, tussah silk and gold angelina thrown in.

The second was Merino and Polwarth again, but this time she'd used brown BFL plus a bit of glitz and tussah silk.

My final bit of colour isn't what it looks like!  I tried to adjust the photo to reflect the true shades, but I'm stuck with it looking brown.  This is actually mostly grey with a bit of brown.  Here it looks mostly brown with a bit of grey!  This might not seem important, but when you hate brown with a vengeance, it matters!!

Oh, and this was 60% merino, 20% silk and 20% yak (I've never spun yak before!)

Last but not least, I needed to top up my batt-making supplies.  So into the shopping bag went 50g each of bamboo, rose and milk fibre.  The last two I've never used before so something new again.

Our next door neighbours came (separately) too, so after our exciting afternoon (well, exciting for Tammy and me!), we all met up in Cahors on our way back south and had an enormous ice cream.  No photos of that, they disappeared too quickly!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

TdF Week 3

My last efforts for this year's Tour de Fleece were both with Cotswold fleece.  The first was some fleece I'd dyed earlier on with an onion skin dye that I'd made.  This was the 2nd item to go into the dye bath so is a much paler colour than I normally get.  It's still a nice colour though - kind of apricoty.

This was a very quick spin - only took me one day :-

From 75g of fleece, I ended up with 65g of yarn - 120 yards/11 metres.

My final offering of the Tour was more Cotswold.  I dyed the locks midway through the three week period using about half of the woad leaves in my garden.  They weighed 550g and I wanted to get a good, deep blue so I put in 100g of fleece.

This is one of the deepest blues I've ever achieved with woad and, although it's still wet here, I think it will still be pretty deep once it's dried.

I was pleased to see I got a bit of pink in there too!

This spun up like a dream.  I didn't card the fleece, just pulled it apart and spun from the cloud.

This was destined to be a tail-spun yarn as I have a cardigan project in mind.  A couple of months ago we had friends here from Australia and she was wearing a gorgeous cardigan that I want to copy.

She very obligingly sent me a photograph.  The tail-spun yarn is needed for the cast-off edge on the fronts and around the neck.  If there's enough I might add a pocket with some of the tail-spun yarn across the top.

Anyway, to get back to the making of the yarn!  I split the single that I'd spun into two separate balls and flicked the cut ends of some of the locks.

Then I was ready to ply!  Before I started this yarn I looked up "tail-spinning" in all of my spinning books and they all said this should be a core-spun yarn, i.e. you spin a single then put it back through the wheel in the opposite direction and spin the fluffed up ends of the locks onto and around the single.  This usually ends up quite a chunky yarn and I didn't want that.  I watched a few videos on this subject too, and they all did it the same way.  I began to wonder if my idea of spinning the fluffed up ends in between the two single plies was actually going to work, or was I trying to produce impossible yarn!  Well, there was only one way to find out!

I think it worked out pretty good, don't you?  The only thing I decided to change was the way some of the locks looked a bit "messy" where they were spun in.  They were quite secure - I couldn't manage to pull them out - but weren't as tidy as I'd hoped.  That was when I decided to use a binder yarn to hopefully make them look a bit better.

I still had some locks left so I carded them and spun a fine single which would be used to wrap around the yarn I'd made.

Lovely fluffy blue clouds!

I was quite happy with the finished yarn - the binder thread did what I wanted and added a bit of character too (not that tail-spun yarns need more character - they have enough by themselves!)

I didn't use all of the 2 singles that I'd spun, so they were plied together to form a 2-ply yarn, and I also had some of the binder single left.  I n-plied that to make it a 3-ply.

Here are the finished yarns :-

The middle one (the n-ply) was still finer than the 2-ply below it, but I'm sure it'll come in for something.

Finally (if you've managed to hang in there until the bitter end), here's a photo of all the yarns I spun during TdF this year.

Another year over and another year to wait until TdF 2018!  It'll be here in no time!

Monday, 17 July 2017

TdF Multi-Ply Challenge

Before I start, let me warn you that this post is very heavy in photographs.  It seemed necessary though to explain exactly what I did to create this yarn, but I won't be offended if you scroll down to the end instead of reading every painstaking step!

During week 2 of the TdF, our team (DIY and Dye) proposed a side challenge of making a multi-ply yarn which I just couldn't resist!  So, I started by spinning two singles (z-spun - clockwise).  I picked out a large bag of World of Wool Botany Lap Waste and selected this for the first ply :-

I spun it fairly finely because I'm aiming to get as many plies as I can without it getting too fat.

The second bobbin was made up of various yellows and whites with a bit of shocking pink for emphasis.

The two singles ready for plying :-

These two were "s" (anti-clockwise) plied together to make a 2-ply yarn.

Next up, I chose some red merino top which was spun in the "s" direction.

This single was then z-plied with the first bobbin, giving three plies.  I made this into a centre-pull ball :-

and plied it back on itself ("s" ply) to give 6 plies in total.

Then a chunk of grey Botany Lap Waste became a thick and thin, "s" spun single.

Then it was ply time again!  The ever-thickening main yarn was plied with the grey ("z" plied) with the thick bits of the grey yarn being "granny stacked" over the main yarn.  This means it was spun in a disorganised "clump" on top of the yarn giving a sort of "nub".  By now we had 7 plies.

Again, I made a centre-pull ball and plied it back on itself in the "s" direction.  I now had 14 plies.

The last addition to this never-ending project (or it felt like it anyway!) was a leftover ball of blue singles from a previous spin.  I have no idea what this is, but it was probably a bit of single left on a bobbin after plying with another bobbin.

This was plied with the main yarn again in the "z" direction.  The blue single had also been spun "z" so it got a bit tighter as it was plied.  Now up to 15 plies and my Aura was visibly struggling to take the yarn in.  I'd tightened the tension on the black band as much as it would go and it still wasn't enough.  I think that's when I realised just how much this band had relaxed since I first got the wheel. Initially, even on the loosest tension possible, it was grabbing the yarn out of my hands as I spun.  It was very difficult to spin normally for a while.  Anyway, I moved  the mother of all to a higher position, which had the effect of tightening the black band again and all was well.

Finally, I re-plied with the same blue single ("s" direction) and called it done.  My total was 16 plies.

After its bath today, it weighs 130g, measures 20 yards/19 metres, and is 4 wraps per inch!