We (being my daughter and I) decided to have a session dyeing recently. We had not done so for quite a while and fancied some unique yarn making material. We used acid dyes that we already had, and set up in the lovely warm weather outside. As a trial, we used a fish pan on a stove, which predominantly worked, but with a gas stove, fleece that touched the sides of the pan were a little sticky, so we won’t use it again on gas!
Anyway, without further ado, here are the results. We were very happy with the results and they gave us something different to spin for about 2 weeks (note to self, dye more often lady!).
Now, I have a confession to make. I have purchased an electric spinning wheel. In fact, if I’m being 100% honest, it came into my life, brand new, last summer. OK, well it feels good to get it off my chest. Why did I get an espinner? Well, it’s the foot thing again AND portability when going away in the car. I really can’t cope without spinning even on holiday, but Tess (the Aura) is a heavy and space taking wheel when the car is full. So an espinner is a good option, as long as you have electricity (which makes me feel really guilty when I have two usable legs).
Therefore let me introduce Peter
Peter is an Ashford espinner mark 2. Now, as you can imagine, one is a little miffed (read pretty cross) that just two months after my investment, the espinner mark 3 is brought out and much smaller. Still, let’s not stop our enjoyment because of it shall we? *rage building up*
At first when I started using it, I giggled a lot, because I was making yarn with my legs crossed. Now I am past that stage!
The good points are the obvious. Portability; ability to make yarn even when you’re legs can’t do the treadling (knee issues, arthritis etc); ease of use; constant speed for “normal” spinning (ie each day you come to a project doesn’t depend on how fast/slow you treadle)
The not so good.
Control (not using your feet to slow down/stop when you want is not as easy as you would think); noise (certainly not as quiet as Tess); using electricity (as a green person, this one is big, even though I’m told it doesn’t use much juice) and this last one is really attached to control, but I’ll make special mention. I have the foot pedal for stop/starting, which I wouldn’t be without, but doing art yarns, which at times need you to stop treadling many times, are just a pain to try and do. Plus when you switch back on, it is to full speed, whereas your feet would ease back in. However, I didn’t buy her to do fancy art yarns, so that’s fine, I’m just saying, some types would be too difficult, therefore I am grateful I don’t have to rely on him.
Peter lives on a small, low, ikea table with wheels on the base, so he can be wheeled around. I have to say that I sit back on our deep sofas, mostly crossed legged, and spin in a fairly meditative (read vegetative) state. It is delicious. And when we go on holiday, he happily doesn’t take up much room.
For plying, it is an absolute revelation. Set the speed and feed it in for very fast consistent ply. When doing a simple yarn, it is a joy.
So there you go. Peter has good points and flaws, but overall, I wouldn’t be without him in the spinning wheel family.
Now then, how cool is this. I’m blogging again so soon!
Now I have gratuitously congratulated myself, let’s get down to business.
Christmas was THE most relaxed and wonderful Christmas for many a year. It was delicious. So, I was able to invest lots of time in spinning (which added to the deliciousness). So I thought I would share those yarns and how they were made.
Firstly, I really wanted to make a good (if I do say so myself) bead yarn. Bead yarn is not for the faint hearted, as there are various processes to make it. So, I decided to cut one part out, by using a cotton yarn to ply with, so I didn’t have to make a 2 ply yarn (cheating, but....). Then I made an overtwisted thick and thin from the commercially prepared fleece. Overtwisted because once the two yarns are plied together to make beads, you reverse spin the same area a lot, so you don’t want it to come apart.
This is the result.
The next yarn was the same fleece, but spun as a single, with a little overtwist so that I could full it once finished, to make a stable and substantial single. Because of the wonderful colours in the blend I used, I didn’t want to ply and lose all that loveliness in it becoming muddy.
Next, I used a merino and silk blend, and this time, did make an overtwisted 2 ply yarn. Overtwisted because the next step was a thick and thin that I just wanted to ply with, but again, there is a chance of the yarn coming apart if you are not careful, so overtwisted is best. So, rather than make beads, this time I just plied the thick and thin with the 2 ply. It could be argued that a single, rather than 2 ply would have worked, but 2 ply, although extra work, does give a more stable yarn to ply with.
As it is almost impossible to not have a little bit of single left when making a 2 ply, I decided to make another new art yarn from the leftover. Often, I will Navajo ply the remainder, continuing on the same bobbin from the 2 ply. But, I end up with bits are that a bit useless. I plied the leftover blue with a gold thread and dark blue lurex thread. The lurex was allowed to do what it wanted as I sat spinning. Interestingly, it was fairly even! The gold and blue were alternately plied back on themselves to create small beady areas. Because of the gold thread, it is quite a harsh yarn, so will need to be used thoughtfully and not next to the skin, but it is very pretty (blimey, blowing trumpet again, this just won’t do!)
Finally, I spun 200g of white merino, which I won’t add a piccie of - tad boring. However, it won’t be when it is dyed later on. Natural dyes will be used and I can’t wait to get back to it when the weather improves. Not for the dyeing as such, but the drying thereafter.
So there, a productive time and lush. Life doesn’t get better than this!
Love and light.xx
Well, it appears it’s happened again. Life has got in the way of art! Now, don’t get me wrong, spinning never stops - never! But blogging, well, that gets shoved to the side whilst life gets in the way. So, to rectify this, I am going to try and post at least once a month next year (yes I know, a dreaded resolution, except now they are intentions for me - very different!) I do tweet about my spinning as well, so now I just need to expand that into a blog post, that will record my work, if nothing else!
Reflecting on this year, it has been difficult personally. I won’t go into the details, but I am finishing it a happier person than when this year started. As far as crafting is concerned though, I feel it has been very positive and I am looking forward to moving all areas forward next year.
So, definite positivity about the future, and yes, excitement.
Below are a couple of projects lately, and soon, I will tell you about an electric wheel I bought earlier this year. Plenty to talk about there. You see, started my New Years res - erm intentions early.
This is a piccie of some Christmas beads I did recently. Just playing, but love how they turned out.
and this, which looks a lot like tinsel, is actually a Navajo plied wool yarn, which, because I wasn’t concentrating on what I was doing, was not good at all. So I plied it with eyelash yarn, and created this lovely “tinsel”.
Well, I've gone and done it. A saori loom has entered the house!
As I mentioned, I fell out of love with weaving. Mainly because all the looms I have had bar one have been a pain, in one way or another. Now you may say a bad workman blames his tools, but I think one size does not fit all. I got fed of making warps; I got fed up of expensive looms not performing and as a result I no longer enjoyed what I was doing. I sold my octado and eventually kept just Ken (see previous post) and one rigid heddle. Now - I do love floor looms, if I am going to weave at all. The rigid heddle loom is great, but has limitations and Ken - well he has needs that was part of the boring bit of weaving. So, a search later and enter the world of Saori. Firstly, let me introduce you to Jennifer:
Basically she is a 2 shaft floor loom. Her maximum weaving width is 60cm and get this - you can buy ready made warps up to 30m long!!
Now I do intend to make my own some time as well, but to be able to getvones already made is perfect. They are available in black, white, cotton, wool and colour combinations. The one you see on the loom, is the original 6m warp, which not only came with the loom, but was already threaded through the shafts and reed! My idea of heaven. I have purchased 2 other ready made warps, one black wool (this one is cotton, but I am a wool girl) and raspberry something or other - basically 6m of raspberry coloured different warps. Lish!
I've had it a week, and nearly finished the first 6 m warp - mostly because it is 38 degree heat outside, and quite frankly there is very little you can do!
With this warp I have been playing. The philosophy with Saori is that there is no such thing as a mistake, only a design creative. Mmmm - I'm liking this, although it is hard to think like this when all your weaving life has been aimed at creating perfection. But Misao Jo, the Japanese lady who created this form of weaving over 40 years ago, wanted weaving to be an art form made using creativity that a machine would be unable to do. You are not taught saori weaving, only the basics of how to do it, then use your own creativity to make cloth.
It is so simple, with a wonderful big shed and lots of lovely little details that show how well thought out the loom is. I am in love! You can get a 4 shaft version, and I may invest in updating Jennifer at some time, but for now, she is perfect just the way she is, and I am happy making cloth again!! And , I have a couple of books on creating clothes with simple designs. This could be where the wheels come off, because I may look awful in them, but for now this is a great deal of fun.
So, weaving is back on the agenda and I'm loving it. I will keep you posted on cloth made, garments made and more adventures in weaving. This doesn't mean spinning has stopped. Far from it. I am beavering away during the evenings making white yarn for dyeing, because next on the creative path is an indigo dye vat. All ingredients are in the house I just need to get on with it. The loom has kind of taken all my spare time after working in the permaculture garden and renovating the house. But I can't wait to do indigo, and as the natural dye garden is starting to develop, I really do need to get back to some dyeing as well. Now where did I put those extra hours in the day I ordered............
Now I know this is The Spinning Shed, and I know that we are nuts for all things fluff, but I used to be a weaving nut, and also adored all things yarn. I lost the weaving bug a couple of years ago. I had a George Wood 16 shaft dobby loom, that lifted shafts I didn't ask it too, and created faults in my work that drove me mad. I had a Louet Jane 8 shaft table loom that was slower than I would have liked using my hands instead of feet, so then invested (and I use that word correctly) in an 8 shaft Louet dobby, brand new. It was smaller but just as big a weaving width and had a raddle included in the top shelf. Ahhhhh, I could breathe out as I had found, finally, THE loom. Except it wasn't the loom. It had strings holding it together, performing major tasks, that required really huge amounts of effort to get them working correctly. I also didn't like the friction brake on the back beam - my god that thing could slip!! Now I know at this point that I will have already upset some people. Louet are great looms, but they weren't for me. I then had a 10 shaft Glimakra that was so big, it never got made up properly. Blimey! There are two looms that I have loved. I borrowed my weaving teachers George Wood 4 shaft, which was an amazing loom, but huge and she also gave me "Ken". This is the other floor loom that I still own and has now been put up in the spare room upstairs. He isn't fully sorted and functioning yet, but I know this will not take me long when I am ready to sort him out. Ken is a simple 4 shaft floor loom, fairly small footprint, counter balance. He works hard, can do everything I currently want and more and I hope will be used in the not too distant future. I have unpacked the enormous number of boxes of yarn into shelving, and feel really bad that it has been packaged for the last 3 years!!
Here he is in the flesh. This is not in his current situ, as he is not put together, and I think the bottom is wrong here (I will have to see when he is up and running, but it looks wrong), but he is, nevertheless, something to fall in love with. My twill thrills weaving book is back in business!!!
Love and light.
There have been two new wheels in the house in the last couple of months. I will deal with one of them here today, and move onto the other soon.
I wanted a single treadle for myself that I don't have to take my ongoing project off when I teach (very indulgent with 6 wheels here already I know). The trads are absolutely lovely wheels, and I adore them, but I have a slight problem with my right leg/foot. I was in a car accident about 12 years ago, when someone ran me off the road and I ended up in a ditch. I braked hard when I realised what was happening and in doing so, had my right leg locked straight as the impact happened. For the first few years the pain was in my hip, but now it is more in my foot and ankle. This can cause problems sometimes with treadling with this foot, so I wanted a single treadle wheel.
Whilst treadling with one foot on the trad, I am slightly twisted, as the maiden and flyer are to the left of the treadle. This is ok for a while, but not long term, and sometimes I spin for days on end. Of course this is all a bit of an excuse to get a new wheel!
I fancied something really new, and a couple of students gave excellent reports on the Woolmakers Bliss wheel. When I looked, I liked that the single treadle was large and in the middle, so each foot could do the treadling separately if I wanted, or together. Also being white was so different and pretty. So I ordered one.
I have to say this is a wonderful wheel. It has near silent operation, and is very easy to spin. I love that I don't need an orifice threader (minor point I know) and the orifice has a small reducer if you are doing fine yarns. The scotch tension is very easy to use and again, small, but I love the hooks are coated - looks lovely and smooth to not catch yarn. I ordered the extra bobbins, so I have 6 bobbins in total, which will be enough for anything I want to do. The built in lazy kate down the side is really clever for keeping all the bobbins together.
I am not sure yet whether I will exclusively use the lazy kate for plying, as the singles are coming in at an unusual angle, or is it just not what I am used to and will be fine? Only time will tell. So far I have predominantly plyed from the side and it has been fine. Again, another lovely design element is that each bobbin has a centre pin which slots into the hole in the side of the wheel.
The flyer is another different feature that I am not used to. The front is magnetically attached, and just pulls off. It is so easy to change bobbins. The drive band even stays on when changing the bobbin as well, so there is a lot less fuss than I am used to. In fact, that would adequately describe how I find this wheel. Less fuss, more spin!
Now for the slightly negative bits.
It is a tiny bit light. I like a meaty wheel. I don't mean delicate - she doesn't feel like she will break - just not weighty. There are a good number of ratios on the wheel, but with the smaller ones, she doesn't feel quite comfortable doing it, so I don't use the fastest any more - bit too much vibration. Also, as Louet don't have time to develop this wheel further at the moment, there is no jumbo flyer. So for doing normal yarn, it is fine, but if you think you may want to do more than that, then there are no more bits for the time being. Now, I only spun "normal" yarn for years, and didn't need a jumbo flyer, but as we don't know when they will develop one, it is not totally future proofing at the moment. However, if you can afford two, and use this one as a main work horse, then I would still advise it.
Overall, it is the simplest, quietest, easiest wheel I have ever had the pleasure to spin on. I heartily recommend it, subject to the caveats above. She is called Grace.
On another note, I already have an Ashford drum carder, but how cute is the Hero drum carder by the same people. It is narrower than mine, but a girl can always make way for more. Just not at the moment....
Love and light
I have been asked to give a bit more detail of how I make batts. There are lots of videos on youtube that I think are very helpful, but everyone has their own method, so although I don't do youtube vids, here is a visual break down of how I make a batt.
First of all I get colour inspiration. Sometimes I use a colour app and play around until I have a combination I am happy with. This is the one used this time
Then I go to the colour store (where the fleece is kept) and choose as close to the colours as I can find.
This is what I came up with. They are all merino. (The colours in real life are a bit different - I never cease to be amazed at how different they look when photographed. These were in natural light as well!)
So next job is to weigh equal amounts of my colours. Sometimes I want a dominance of one colour or two over the others, in which case I just do a percentage calculation. With the colours above, it was equal, so I weighed 25g of each. I usually make 2 batts with the same ingredients, with a total weight of 100g.
Then I start making the batt. I lay out a layer of one colour and then a layer of another. In the combo above I chose to put the red and blue together in layers and the green and yellow in layers.
Then I take the next two colours and do the same. Sometimes I stripe them, but this time I layered. The reason I put a couple of layers on, is so that there is a base of wool to hold in the next funky stuff to be added.
Then I add whatever I fancy to make it a bit more interesting. I go to my goodies box. My daughter made this up for me originally. It contains cashmere nepps, sparkles by way of angelina, gold yarn and lurex, silk caps, odd bits of fibre, and my absolute favourite, sari silk fibre.
When using different fibres to add, especially sari silk fibre, the threads are short, so I always layer it between some fleece, so that it catches on properly.
I also add sparkles in a sandwich, as above, but add the silk directly to the big drum. The reason for this is that the silk threads are long and could tangle, so I wind the drum and as I am doing so, pull the silk cap fibres onto the drum. This is difficult to show in a picture, because you can barely see the silk.
And finally, the batt off the drum. As a lot of the interest is sandwiched, it is a bit hard to see what is going on, but if you could see all the colours and sparkles - well, it is lovely, even if I do say so myself.
So there you have it. A batt from first thoughts to finished. I love creating them. And then I adore spinning them.
Happy New Year by the way. May 2016 be an absolute cracker!
Got all this fluff and stuff, and have decided to make an art batt from it. For Christmas I am getting an Ashford Country Spinner 2, so am making batts ready to make big yarn.
I have the Ashford drum carder with standard carding cloth. It is amazing what you can get on there. I like the idea of the wider teeth on the drums made specifically for arty batts, but have not had any issues with making a batt on here, so not necessary. I feed in little and often and put some of the airy stuff straight onto the drum, or at least sandwiched between fleece so that it doesn't float off. Sparkley yarn is trimmed to little bits and sandwiched, or it just comes straight off on to the feed drum.
This is the resulting batt. It weighs 85g, so pretty pleased with that. Roll on Friday! Not sure yet which art yarn technique I will use, but can't wait to give it a go.
I have lots of other posts planned, but if I don't get round to another one before Christmas, may I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas, and peaceful 2016.
Spindles are amazing little beasties. I have tried spindling quite a few times, and only in the last couple of years have I appreciated it's beauty. Now Arthur has gone (the Merlin Tree Roadbug) I am happy to take a spindle on holiday and some crochet hooks. Portable, small, lovely. I truly believe that if you don't like spindling, then it is only because you haven't found the right spindle yet. They are pretty cheap, so I think it is worth getting a few and selling on, until you are happy. And if you are not yet happy, have you thought of trying a support spindle? The drop ones are fine, as long as they are not too heavy, but even then to learn on, I think it is worth supporting them in a bowl or on a table whilst you get to grips with it. And why continue to support this craft? Well, if you are here, it is likely you love spinning, so it is also likely you take your knitting/crochet away with you when you go anywhere. This will allow you to spin anywhere too, and not miss the feeling of fluff in your hands.
So let us get down to the different types of spindle.
Firstly, there are top spindles, where the hook, notch or tip is spun from the top. These are best used as drop spindles in my opinion. Here are a few examples in my collection. Personally I prefer a hook, rather than having to half hitch every time I move on, but that is personal.
Then there are bottom whorl spindles. These are easier to support when the weight is on the bottom. They can be supported on a table where you spin, and the finger used to just flick whenever you want to put twist into your yarn, or they can be supported with a bowl or tea saucer. They can of course be used as drop spindles, which unless they are too heavy, may still be your preference.
Next are Turkish spindles. They cleverly create a centre pull ball as they are wound on the spindle. This has the huge advantage that the spindle is spinner, ball winder and plyer all in the one tool. Once the ball is created, take it off and onto your thumb, and then ply back onto the spindle using the two ends from the ball. It makes it incredibly portable, as you only need this and some fluff, and also, as the parts come apart, they are easy to stash away in your bag! I also have one that can be used either as a top or bottom whorl, to suit your mood!
Finally there are support spindles (russian spindles). These appear to be sticks, but in being supported, they spin from the very tip of the spindle. No hook or hitch, just spin and go. I only have a couple of these, and don't often use them, but again, very portable. The key is to find the most comfortable support mechanism, and I don't think I have done that yet.
The number of designs and choice available for spindling is vast. I find it a bit addictive collecting these beautiful tools. And now Arthur has gone, this is most likely the spinner of choice when we go away. They may not be as quick as a wheel, but it is slow, meditative, considered yarn making, and I can get behind that, can't you?
In a future post, I will go into the specifics of how to spin on a spindle. It really isn't as tricky as you think.
Love and light