Saturday, October 1, 2011

The warp from h*ll

I was oh so excited to finally have the thread to start weaving the dishtowels for our Bluebonnet Tartan project. Stephanie from WC Mercantile ordered it for us from Halcyon Yarns. The thread is a beautiful 10/2 mercerized cotton. After 5 hours winding it on the warping mill and here's the mound of chained warp.

Warp chain

Unfortunately, I had to finish weaving the towels for the exchange before I could get started. But last Saturday, I met Loretta at the shop and got started. OMG! Who would have thought that anything so beautiful could be such a trial! I spent 4 hours getting the threads separated in the raddle and we started trying to wind on. It was a huge tangled mess!! In despair, I finally just left my loom at the shop with about 2 yards wound on so I could finish this week. Initially we thought that it was just that the thread was really sticky, so I came armed with a can of Static Guard ready to do battle. Alas, that was not the problem and I was once again crushed in defeat. After another 5 hours, I probably had 3 yards on the loom. Apparently when winding the thread onto the warping mill, we were letting it come off the top of a cone on the floor which was adding twist to the thread. Once the warp was no longer under tension on the mill, it began to twist on itself and that was what was causing all the problems. You can see it pretty clearly here.


So now, I'm having to go inch by inch and separate all the threads individually to let some of the active twist run out. What a pain! The worst part of it all is that I know better than to pull yarn off the top of a cone. After spending about 10 hours today, I've got it pretty much under control and only have a little more than 2 yards left to wind on.


I thought hobbies were supposed to be relaxing!

Warped Weavers Dishtowel Exchange 2011

While waiting to get started on the Bluebonnet Tartan project, I joined a dishtowel exchange on Ravelry. Since I had just finished a set, it was a simple matter to adapt the pattern to get the right size for the exchange. I used the same colors in 8/2 unmercerized cotton, but arranged them in a different order. I'm sending in four towels, one plaid (photo), one with white weft, one with yellow weft, one with blue weft. I still need to get them hemmed and will post final pictures soon.


01/16/12 ETA photo of the finished towels.
Finished towels

This was definitely something I would do again sometime. I got four very nice towels back. And contrary to popular belief, I actually use my handwoven towels. They are super absorbent and really wear well.

Shelbyart & Yarnsnthreads

DebbiRYarn & Yagasil

Catch Up Time!

Holy cow it's been a long time since I added anything here! Looks like I was last getting ready to weave my first dishtowels. Needless to say, they've been finished for a while, and the project was relatively successful. They came out nice, but I under estimated the amount of shrinkage, so they're a little on the small side. I've signed up for a dishtowel exchange on Ravelry in the Warped Weavers group and will be able to save myself a little work and just tweek this pattern a bit to get them the right size.


One of the things I learned was that a straight twill (towels middle and right) tends to bias once it's off the loom. In this photo, it's pretty noticable in the plaid towel. The herringbone pattern (towel on left) alternates the direction of the twill and comes out straight. However, a gentle tug as they come out of the dryer makes everything better.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Princess has Arrived!

My first Romney fleece, Princess, has arrived from SkyLines Farm in Idaho. It is 9lb of beautiful sheepy goodness! This is a huge fleece and should keep me busy for a LONG time! I'm not even going to bother spreading it out yet, since I'll be busy with the Tour de Fleece in a couple of weeks and am already hopelessly overcommitted (again). Plus we have the Knit at Night Guild's 15th anniversary luncheon on July 9, and I'm coordinating a workshop with Kenny Chua on July 16th at Park Avenue Yarns. That said, I do have a handful in the sink, soaking, so I can see how wonderful this fleece is going to be when it's ready to spin. It is amazingly clean! There was hardly any dirt after the first rinse. If the bottom of the bag is as perfect at the top, I'm in for a real treat!



Thursday, June 16, 2011


In the midst of all the fleece prep, our little informal weaving group is meeting on Sunday at WC Mercantile. Loretta is going to help me put a warp on the loom for some plaid dishtowels. They'll be woven in 8/2 cotton and I really like the colors. I don't know why I always put off warping. I think it's going to take me forever, then it surprises me and goes pretty fast. At least it's fast for the small projects that I do. I don't like putting a really long warp on my Ashford table loom. It's always been hard for me to get it wound on evenly. Hopefully it will help having an extra set of hands, and I'm hoping Loretta will have some tips to make my life easier next time. This is going to be my tune-up for the Bluebonnet Tartan project.

On the warping board


Warp wound onto sticks for transport

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tour de Fleece 2011 - Prologue, Day 7

Friday night, Day 5, I washed my Jacob fleece, Blossom, in the washing machine using Power Scour. I was not impressed with the cleaning job. Especially considering how expensive Power Scour is! Most of the locks are clean, but they have a hard, dirty tip that I'm going to trim prior to carding. From now on, I'll be sticking to good old blue Dawn dishwashing liquid which has served me so well in the past. I can buy gallons of Dawn for what the Power Scour cost. Oh well, now I know.

Blossom-004 washed

Saturday, Day 6, was fleece day. After much trial and error, I finally am able to card the alpaca on my Louet Jr. and get it off the drum in one nice piece suitable for spinning. It is a dream to touch; so soft and luxurious.


With that problem solved, I moved on to sorting Blossom. I now have six piles of fiber ranging in color from black, dark brown, dark gray, medium gray, light gray, and white. Once I decide on a knitting pattern, I'll be able to start the carding process.

Blossom-006 washed

Blossom-007 washed

Blossom-008 washed

Blossom-009 washed

Blossom-010 washed

Blossom-011 washed

Blossom-012 washed

Thursday, June 9, 2011

2011 Tour de Fleece - Prologue, Day 6

I'm still trying to figure out how I want to process the alpaca fiber. It is so incredibly fine and slippery, that it's almost impossible to take off the drum carder or English combs in one piece. So I'm taking a break while I solicit advice on how to proceed. In the meantime, I took one of the balls of fluff and spun a little sample on the Country Craftsman. I spun it semi-worsted and made a 3-ply yarn. It came out at 14 wpi (wraps per inch) and looks about like sock yarn, but VERY fuzzy which will probably make it knit up to a bit larger gauge. I'll have to spin some more and wash it before I try knitting with it. Feels heavenly though!



I did wash a little handful of Blossom's fleece to see what colors it would be. Very lovely light cream, grey, and dark brown. After someone tipped me off that The Yarn Harlot had done a similar Jacob project recently, I read her blog and the pictures confirmed what I wanted to do. Blossom will get a good washing, then the colors will be sorted, then spun into a laceweight gradient yarn that goes from the darkest brown to white. It should make a beautiful shawl. Now I just need to find the perfect pattern. I was thinking something with flowers (for Blossom) or maybe Fiber Trend's Sheep Shawl.

Blossom-sample washed

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tour de Fleece 2011 - Prologue, Day 4

Nothing much to report yesterday. Just trying to finish spinning the merino/tencel to free up Lendrum bobbins by July. But I did get a new tool in the mail - an electric bobbin winder! No more carpal tunnel trying to wind bobbins. And I can use it to wind singles off my spinning bobbins onto storage bobbins. It will save what I paid for it in just not having to have so many extra bobbins for each wheel.

Got home a bit early today and a surprise was waiting on the front porch. Blossom's fleece has arrived! You can see a photo of her on my June 4 posting. I've never processed or spun a Jacob fleece before, so this should be fun. It's a beautiful cream/brown/black. The plan is to sort it to spin into a worsted weight 3-ply yarn with a barberpole effect of all the colors together. But first I've got to get her washed! It's a dirty job, but interesting to see how the colors brighten and the wool softens and fluffs up.

Straight out of the bag and spread on a sheet
Blossom - unwashed fleece

Closeup of dark brown section (tips are bleached out)
Blossom - unwashed closeup c

Another closeup
Blossom - unwashed closeup b

One last closeup
Blossom - unwashed closeup a

Sunday, June 5, 2011

2011 Tour de Fleece - Prologue, Day 2

What a productive day yesterday! The alpaca is now cleaned and on the drying racks. I wish there was some way to photograph texture. This fleece is so soft and NO veggie matter to worry about. Now that it's clean, it is so lustrous that it is even more difficult to photograph. But I've tried. Now I just have to be patient enough to let it get good and dry before I start carding. So today's project will be to finish winding off all the Kenny Chua workshop kits for the Knit at Night Guild.

Into the sink for washing...
Alpaca washing

Onto the drying rack...
Alpaca - wet

Almost dry...
Alpaca - drying

Almost dry closeup...
Alpaca - clean locks

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tour de Fleece 2011 - Prologue

It's almost time for the 2011 Tour de Fleece to begin on July 2. This is an annual event on one of the spinning groups I belong to. We join teams and spin on the same days as the Tour de France. Last year was so much fun, I decided to do it again. This year I'm on four teams (you can join as many as you want) - Team Lendrum, Team Jacob Junkies, Team A Spinner's Study, and Team Bestlittlewoolshop. For "A Spinner's Study" I'm working on our June study fleece - huacaya alpaca. I'm using the dark chocolate brown fleece from my friend Jane. I spent this afternoon skirting the fleece, and am in the process of getting it all washed and ready to spin. Thankfully, it is just dusty and easy to wash! Here are a couple of "before" photos.

Raw alpaca fleece

Alpaca locks

For the Jacob Junkies I have a fleece enroute, so I'll just have to get it sorted and washed by 7/2. Blossom's fleece is arriving from Honeysuckle Farm in California. Jacob sheep are just so cute in their black and white coats! Here's Blossom at the farm. I chose her because she has some brown spots as well.

I'm sort of combining project for Team Lendrum and Team Bestlittlewoolshop. Since I'm spinning the alpaca exclusively on my Country Craftsman, I'm using the Lendrum for the Jacob fiber and for an assortment of stuff from WC Mercantile (The Best Little Wool Shop). Hopefully, I'll get a lot done over the month of July, but I'm pretty sure that this will be an ongoing project for awhile.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Texas Hill Country Spinning Retreat

I'm back from the Hill Country Spinning Retreat at Mo Ranch. When I first heard about it on Ravelry, I took a big leap of faith and signed up immediately. There's no way I was going to pass on a week of spinning and dyeing instruction with the inspirational Judith MacKenzie McCuin, and in the Texas hill country! I could drive and take everything I could pack in the car. Was I really sending a big check to someone I didn't know, to attend a retreat with a group of strangers I was meeting on the internet? You betcha! Thankfully Roddie decided to go too, so I knew I wouldn't totally be alone. Turned out that I would know two other people, and made 20 new friends. Be prepared, this is going to be a REALLY long post with LOTS of photos! Here are Roddie and I arriving and meeting our hostess and workshop organizer, Karen.

Mo Ranch is a beautiful, Presbyterian retreat facility near Hunt, Texas. We had the entire Guest Lodge to ourselved for the week. In addition to the guest rooms, we had access to a full kitchen, dining room, sitting area with a gorgeous fireplace, and huge meeting room. It was the perfect location for a workshop where each participant had a LOT of "stuff" besides their spinning wheel.

Our view of the river from the patio


There was even an area off to the side of the meeting room where fiber vendors set up tables so that we could get a shopping fix any time we pleased. We spent quite a bit of time fondling the wares by Alecia Goes Around, Hill Country Weavers, Yarnorama, and Kai Ranch Mohair.

Cecil and Darlene from Buffalo Gold came out and brought samples for us to spin, as well as a great selection of their luxury yarns and fibers for purchase.

Judith even brought some of her hand-dyed Buffalo Gals yarn. I snagged some beautiful deep turquoise/green!

We began the week with a study of color. Judith made a big circle of Coopworth roving dyed in various colorways.

We drew numbers, then each person picked one. Then we divided that into quarters and traded two of them with other people. Since I was toward the end of the choices, I started with a sort of seafoam green roving (which was atrocious!) and added burgundy and dark blue to try and improve it.

After spinning all the roving, it was finished into a 2-ply yarn. Still totally disliking the colors, I nicknamed my colorway "butt ugly". It's really funny how certain colors speak to you, and others are so repulsive. In this case, the green and blue worked pretty well together, but the burgundy was so disharmonious that it just screamed at you. Next I knitted a small swatch in garter stitch, which improved it a little. But since it was a 2-ply worsted spun yarn it felt very coarse, with the stitches pulling away from each other rather than melding together.

Since 2-ply works very well as a weaving yarn, we warped Cora's rigid heddle loom with turquoise perle cotton to see what happened to the colors. This was the most successful option, but the burgundy was still not quite working.

Thursday was dye day, so I decided to try overdying the finished yarn with blue. This gave all three colors a common tone which balanced things out much better. Here's the overdyed ball with the original fiber, yarn, knitted and woven.


Our next color adventure began on Wednesday. Judith circled the floor with big bumps of Ashland Bay merino top in a huge rainbow of colors. This is wonderfully yummy stuff to work with!

Our task was to choose five colors and spin a cabled sock weight yarn. It takes about 3oz of fiber for a pair of socks, so this was going to start at the ranch and end up being homework.


This was going to be a marled yarn, which meant that we had to alternate the colors throughout the singles. Judith made it look so easy to hold onto three colors at a time and just spin back and forth, but for many of the rest of us we ended up doing a lot of starting and stopping to change colors. Maybe after I've been spinning 60 years, I'll be adept at it too!

To create a cabled yarn, you have to spin your singles, over ply them so that they have a lot of energy, then ply those together again in the opposite direction. That's a lot of spinning! So here are the singles...


and the finished cabled yarn with a knitted swatch...

All that's left to do is to knit it into a pair of socks for next year's workshop!


On Thursday, we began learning about dyeing. Judith has her own set of colors she uses (and sells in a kit!) which consist of the primes: cyan, magenta, yellow, plus the modifier colors: worker blue, worker red, violet, orange, brown, and black. From these she can create just about anything.

We started out by spinning singles of undyed merino top using a semi-worsted technique. These balls were then loaded into the roaster, ready for Judith to demonstrate how the colors react with each other.

Next comes a big glug of vinegar...

and she's ready to start adding the dye.

OCD me has always thought that dyeing was something so precise. So it was amazing to watch Judith dip a wet stick into the dye, then dab it onto the fiber. First the primes...

then she started to add the modifiers.


We watched, fascinated with the way each color morphed into another. When the first batch of balls emerged from the dye pot they were each uniquely beautiful.

Here are my three.

Roddie's and my skeins hanging in the tree to dry...

We used these balls to make "art yarn" with slubs, coils, and turkish knots. This was really fun to spin, but I have no idea what to do with the yarn other than a scarf or maybe the base for a necklace. It is pretty though.


I saved one ball back for the indigo pot on Saturday.

In the midst of everything we had going on, Judith showed us how to make art batts on the big drum carder. We were all mesmerized watching the colors of merino being layered with bits of silk, mohair, and other materials.


Over the next two days, the basket by the carder would be stocked with lots of fun bits to play with.

Once we got comfortable using the drum carders, we started a little color study. We each chose one color, then blended it with white, gray, brown, and black. Next we were supposed to spin little samples showing the effects of combining them. That's still on my to-do list, but here's a shot of my yellow, and Roddie's blue.

However our overachiever, and amazingly fast spinner, Alecia, not only got hers done, but labled them for the rest of us to use as an example.



Seems like an indigo vat just makes everyone crazy, or maybe it was the margaritas. But on Saturday afternoon, we were dyeing everything we could get our hands on. As fast as Judith could add indigo to the pot, new items appeared to be dyed. People were even dyeing their hair!








Soon, day turned to night and there were into clothes spread across the lawn and skeins of indigo yarn draped in the trees.


Sunday would arrive too soon, and it was time to say goodbye to new friends.

Judging by all the activity on our Ravelry group, everyone came away with a mind full of possibilities and the skills to make them happen. We're already looking forward to next year! Thanks so much Karen for all your hard work putting this together. And a special thank you to Judith for being the open and sharing person that you are. It was an amazing week!