My First Hand-Spun Yarn and more!

So back in August this past year, I started on a new hobby that set my head spinning. You guessed it! It is spinning! No – not the cycling type of spinning but that type that makes yarn… image_medium2 (5)So here it is my first own hand-spun, hand-dyed little creation! Being that this was my first spinning project, I threw myself entirely into the process. I not only learned to draft my first singles yarn, I also took on the task of plying it! I decided for my first plied yarn that I would use the ‘chain’ ply method (aka Navajo ply). A chain ply yarn creates a very nice 3-ply finished yarn. This method ended up being very easy for me to learn and master because of my crochet background. Basically you create large chain loops with your singles yarn, one-after-another, letting the singles ply back onto itself. I surprised myself on how well-balance my first project ended up. image_medium2 (3)Now that I had a lovely bare white yarn to knit with, I really wanted to try to see if I could dye my first skein to add some color. After some extensive internet research, I choose to use more natural method of using food coloring and natural acid source so the yarn can accept the dye like vinegar. Here are some excellent online articles that helped me: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Dye-Yarn-with-Food-Coloring/?ALLSTEPS http://knitty.com/ISSUEwinter07/FEATfoodcolordye.html image_medium2 (1)This little skein was created with love and intention. The intention was to knit it into a project, but alas in the end this was not meant to be. First of all, even though my first project seemed okay, it was very rough on the skin. This was mostly due to the fact that I had too much twist in my yarn. The second problem was that even though 4 ounces of fiber sounds like a lot, but once spun, I only ended up getting only 22 yards. Unfortunately, in the knitting world, 22 yards isn’t very much at all. Despite this, I did attempt to knit up my first yarn into a cowl, while it looks pretty good, I was ultimately unhappy with the results. So I ‘frogged’ (unmade) my little cowl and decided I would keep my first hand-spun yarn as a memento instead. It is very interesting how much more knowledgeable I am today versus those first steps I took on my spinning journey on my spindle.I will say that I learned a lot in a short period of time. I took time to learn about the different types of fibers, how they are prepared. pre-drafting, spinning and drafting out the right amount of fiber to make consistent yarn, how to fix mistakes, understanding the difference between natural dying and chemical and most of all, I learned to enjoy the entire process. There is so much I learned that I cannot possibly blog about it all in the post. I can say that I have definitely grasped the concept of spinning. While I feel I have mastered the basics, I will continue to strive to improve as practice each day and seek to learn new techniques. Since my first project, I have spun other projects on my spindle. Here is my second attempt:

This one was also created using the chain-ply/3-ply technique. I ended up with 48 yards of usable yarn out of this project. This one was dyed using a commercial dye from Dylon called ‘Terracotta’. Seems like I am getting better right? For my third project I spun, this time I used a pre-dyed fiber It was a Wool of the Andes from KnitPicks called Salsa Heather. Instead of using a chain-ply, I opted to try 2-ply spinning instead. It got a little tangled at points, mostly due to my inexperience, but overall I am pleased with the results. I will definitely need to try to improve my 2-ply plying technique as I find that it worth the extra yardage I get out of my spun project. I got a whopping total 81 yards – wow!

BTW – The pictures I have doesn’t do it justice. It’s an awesome color! So that’s all I have to show for today. Next post I will explore all the knitting projects I have been working since August. Until the next post 🙂

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My head is Spinning!

Interesting spinning wheel illusionIt’s not what you think. My head is not spinning. I am not joining a spin class at the gym and I am certainly not watching spiders spin their webs (creepy!).

So what is spinning then?

I have been spinning my own hand-spun yarn, that’s what!

In my last post, I alluded to working on a side project that has overtaken some of my knitting time. I have fallen in love with art of hand-spinning. But what is even better, my new spinning past-time compliments my knitting passion perfectly!

So what drove me to want to make my own hand-spun yarn? Well, it started with a television series with a scene that showed an actor spinning on spinning wheel (any guess to what show I am referring to?). I thought to myself, that looks so relaxing. I also thought that making my own hand-spun yarn could save a lot of moolah. Some of that gorgeous hand-spun yarn at the local yarn shop is dreamy but also really expensive!

In order to turn my little day-dreams of spinning into reality, I needed to do some research. Should I get a wheel? Well, I wish I could afford wheel, but alas they are not cheap to buy. At this point in my day-dreaming, I liked the idea of spinning, but in reality, I could hate it.  Now what is a girl to do?
I proudly introduce the humble drop-spindle!drop spindle top

I had no idea that this little tools could do such amazing things and have such a long rich history. So first off,
what is a drop spindle? According to Wikipedia, “A spindle is a straight spike usually made from wood used for spinning, twisting fibers such as wool, flax, hemp, cotton into yarn. It is often weighted at either the bottom, middle, or top, commonly by a weighted object called a whorl. Spindles come in many different sizes, styles and weights depending on the thickness of the yarn one desires to spin.”

As I continued my research I found that there were many positives to learning and using a drop-spindle over a spinning wheel. First off, a drop-spindle is much cheaper. Pre-made ones can range from $20-$80. You can also make your own spindle for under $2 dollars and are super easy to make – I even made three spindles in one night! (I promise will post the instructions on how to make your own soon.) Another reason a drop-spindle is more awesome than a wheel is that it is super-portable. Just drop your spindle and some fluff in a bag and you are good to go!

1 Unwinding thread from the drop spindle & making a skein. MS Fr. 599, f. 48, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris 1400sRemember that rich history I mentioned earlier? Once again, Wikipedia states “For thousands of years, fiber was spun by hand using simple tools, the spindle and distaff. Only in the High Middle Ages did the spinning wheel increase the output of individual spinners, and mass-production only arose in the 18th century with the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.” I discovered that some of the most famous art in history depict women in the act of spinning.  Even the beautiful arm-less sculpture of ‘Venus de Milo‘ is hypothesized to have been originally sculpted with her spinning. If you were to re-attach her arms, some believe they fall in the exact position that a spinner’s arms would be – how cool is that?

After all these positives, I was sold on the idea of drop-spindling. Now I just needed to decide the method of learning, what type of spindle I would get, and where I would get my fluff from (a.k.a. fiber to spin).

The learning part was the easiest task to overcome. There are a plethora of resources available online and in the local library. Here are my top picks for learning resources:


BOOKS:

Respect the Drop-Spindle by Abby  Franquemont (One of the most complete resources of drop-spindling out there on the market. The book goes into great detail without overwhelming you. I loved learning about the author’s history with spinning on a spindle; very enjoyable!)

Start Spinning with Maggie Casey ( This book covers both drop-spinning and wheel spinning. Plenty of picture and clear concise writing offers an introduction to the world of spinning and gently guides you to which method of spinning might work best for you.)

DVDs:

Respect the Spindle with Abby Franquemont (This video is a great introduction to spinning on a drop-spindle and offers loads of advice to get you spinning your first project)

Getting Started on the Drop Spindle with Maggie Casey (This is great way to learn the basics of drop-spinning. I watched this video three times already and keep discovering tips I missed the first time around!)

ONLINE COURSES:

Craftsy.com:  Spindling, From Fluff to Stuff with Drucilla Pettibone (a wonderful online class that gently guides you from start to finish. Best of all you get to interact with other students and the teacher to help you through your first project!)

ONLINE ARTICLES

Spinning Daily: How-to Section (a site that has tons of free downloadable ebooks and articles on spinning)

Knitty.com: Got Spin? ( a great article that has an awesome chart for spindle weights and yarn weight)

YOU TUBE VIDEOS

DN Knitting Corner: Spinning YouTube Playlist ( I have too many videos I like on YouTube so here is a convenient playlist for you to view)


spindlesNext I needed to find out which type of spindle I would use. Should I go with a top-whorl, middle-whorl, or bottom-whorl spindle. Should it be supported or suspended? What style should I go with? Traditional, Ankh, Turkish, Navajo, or Russian spindle? I won’t go into differences of the numerous styles of drop-spindles here. Unfortunately, there is too many to explore and this post is getting long enough as it is….

At first, I purchased and started to use a commercially made Turkish style drop-spindle from KnitPicks which can be used a top-whorl or bottom whorl. At the time, I thought this was a perfect choice since I wasn’t sure if I should get a top-whorl or bottom-whorl spindle. This type of spindle ended up being too light for me to start off with, so as I mentioned earlier, I ended up making my very own top-whorl spindle. (Don’t worry my Turkish spindle will still be put to use after I master the basics)

25462Finally, I needed some fluff to spin into yarn.  I already knew I wanted to stick with wool as my fiber of choice since it is readily available and easy to work with. Lucky for me, KnitPicks offers a nice range of un-dyed and commercial dyed roving wool. Roving, BTW, refers to how the wool was prepared after it was sheered from the sheep. Again, I won’t explore of the various wool/animal fiber preparations here. I will just have to save this topic for another time.

To continue, I picked out some lovely roving that was an un-dyed Andean wool and included a beautiful dyed orange-red Andean wool with my purchase. Armed with my spindle, wool, videos and online class, I was off spinning!

The rest, as they say, is history. I have been spinning and knitting my free-time away and occasionally sneaking in an art sketch here and there (check out my other blog DN Art Corner if you are curious what I have been doing in the art world).

For now, I leave you with a picture of my first project (still in progress) and will continue to post my progress.

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Up next: I am almost finished with the first round of roving and will decide how I will ‘ply’ my newly spun yarn. That is definitely a topic for another time: how to ply my yarn, how scary is that?

Until next post…

Sock it to me and more placemats!

Hello all you knitters out there. This post is long overdue since I have been back from vacation for well over a month now 🙂

I hinted in my last post that I would attempt to knit my first-pair of socks. I am happy to report – success!

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Not only did I complete both pairs of socks while on vacation, I began and finished a  set for my husband. He now wears them proudly around the house…

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So what is next for this knitter? Well, I found this awesome round knitted dishcloth pattern from VeryPink.com called ‘Quaker dishcloth’ the pattern is fairly easy to learn and adapt to any size that you want. Here is a glimpse at the beginning of the project:

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I have already completed one placemat so far and will begin starting on the next one soon. I promise I will post pics of the completed set as soon a I finish all of them.

Even with all of these projects going on, I started and nearly completed a bottom-up garter stitch shawl. I began the project because I needed something very easy to do over the 4th of July weekend that did not need a lot of concentration. The shawl pattern is so very easy to do. I posted a video in an earlier post about this pattern, but in case you are interested, here it is again:

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Easiest Shawl Pattern Ever

Needle:  US 13 – 9.0mm (or size needle recommend for yarn of choice)

Yarn: 1-2 skeins color of choice Weight: Super Bulky (5-6 wpi)

*Gauge is not important.

Cast-on: 3 stitches

Row 1: YO knit all stitches, turn

Row 2: YO knit all stitches, turn

Repeat Rows 1 and 2 until the shawl reaches the desired size

Weave in ends.

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If you end up trying this pattern yourself, please be sure to send me a picture or link. I would love to see what you have done!

I definitely keep a busy lifestyle with all of these projects. I have even managed to keep up with some of my drawing (if you curious about my other art blog, please visit dnartcorner.wordpress.com). Keeping up with all of these knitting projects and little art drawings is a choice I make every day. These activities keep my mind active and my hands busy. They bring peace to my life when things around me can seem hectic and stressful. These hobbies do not add to my stress, they relieve it.

I will always seek out new ideas and inspirations. It what drives my passion for creativity and keeps me sane. So what’s on the next horizon? I’ll give you a hint:

Think Spinning…

Until next time knitters ~