Spinning Wisteria





I’ve spun five-eights of the Wisteria fibre (from Freyalyn on Etsy). Four of those eighths (ie 100g) are wheelspun with a long draw (my first attempt at same), and then wheel-plied into lovely soft squooshy aran-ish three-ply, about 100m thereof (top picture). The leftovers from the three-ply made about 12m of two-ply (second picture) with a similar effect; not enough to do anything with, but I must admit to wearing it around my wrist and admiring it ;-) The two- and three-ply are both plied from non-matching singles, to blend and mix the colours, and I really like the effect. In fact, I like the effect so much that I nearly backed out of my plan to navajo-ply the remaining 100g…

I’ve spun a quarter of the remainder so far (the singles are in progress in the third picture). Spindle-spun, to make it as fine as I can, and getting fairly even laceweight singles. Impatiently, instead of leaving that 25g on the spindle and attaching the second 25g (I only split it in the first place because the length of roving was too long to be manageable), I wound it onto the swift, turned it into a ball and went straight ahead with navajo-plying, to produce the bottom picture. The colours are stronger and less muted than the thicker wheelspun yarn, and I really like them this way too :-) I should get something like 200m of something only slightly thicker than bought sock yarn out of this. 

The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook has been making me think about contrasting yarn from the same starting point – the three-ply aran and the navajo-ply sock are spun from the same fibre but using different tools and techniques, and they look quite different; I’d love to see how they look together. The tentative plan here is to knit toe-up indoor socks from the whole lot. Knit the foot from the fine navajo-ply yarn, with its strong colours and clear colour changes, and then switch to the squooshy aran – more muted colours and more soft and cuddly – for the leg (making appropriate adjustments to stitch count and needle size). I guess it’s kind of an in-joke-for-one – the point of the plan is to compare and contrast the two different yarns, and the audience for whom the experiment is intended is just me (I don’t know any other spinners). But the colours are so beautiful that it can’t help but look pretty :-)

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These are the (finally!) finished Shadow and Ghost socks (from the Cheshire cat pattern at Purlescence). They’re a late birthday present for female-friend-R (in honour of her grey-Ghost-cat and her black-Shadow-cat), who seemed pleased with them and impressed at the cleverness of me (even though I explained that it’s entirely Alice Bell who’s clever; I’m just following instructions ;-)

I’m plotting lots of other socks, several of which are inspired by New Pathways: Bartholomew’s Tantalising Socks for partner-R, who turns out to like the handpainted red and green Opal I ill-advisedly bought on holiday last year, hoorah; Coriolis spirals for me from the red and pink sock yarn that Frax currently has custody of, and especially the Clematis vine socks, with vertical stripes, because I agree with Cat Bordhi: two-handed knitting is coooool.

Which brings me to my ‘new’ project. It’s not new at all, really. I cast on for BMP sometime towards the end of November, and almost immediately sent the project into hibernation awaiting me getting around to learning to knit continental – dropping and picking up the yarn every other stitch was driving me potty. But now I’ve finished a project I’m allowed* to start another, and since I’ve now learnt continental (knit stitch, anyway; I still have to look up how to purl, and my muscles haven’t learnt it yet), I’ve now properly started making gothic space invaders :-) The contrast between the purple and the black isn’t perfect, but I figure over the whole sock it will become more obvious. And I really like how they look so far. The Knitwitches yarn is lovely, and knitting one yarn with one hand and the other with the other is loads of fun.

*This doesn’t, of course, mean that I only ever have a certain number of projects on the needles – I might easily start yet another before I finish the next, but I’ll worry a tiny bit about my attention span and lack of finishing ability. If I’ve just finished a project I don’t need to worry ;-)

I’m actually plotting another sock project, which I might end up casting on for before these are done, but that’s a matter for my next post…

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Spinning and reading

This is the result of the Caribbean fibre I bought from Freyalyn’s Etsy shop :-)

It’s two-ply, about 324m and about 200g. Unfortunately (for me), I chose this to make for Katie, who gave me my wheel – I checked that she knits when she gave me it, and promised to spin her something. It’s lovely and I wish I was keeping it, so I hope she likes it! Haven’t yet figured out how to deliver it, since I don’t want to do it in person.

The first two skeins (one and three in the picture) are more blended and less candy-striped than the second two, which is noticeable to me, but I don’t think it’s too bad, and it taught me some things about how to treat colour, which I’m considering with my current spinning project, which is the Wisteria colourway from the same dyer. 

In other spinning news, my Amazon package finally arrived yesterday, with two new spinning books in it. Hands On Spinning is more basic than I was hoping – large chunks of it deal with things I’ve more-or-less taught myself already – but does feature useful discussion of drafting methods, one of which – long draw – I’ve put into practice with the Wisteria.

Talking of the Wisteria, here it is, fibre and two bobbins of singles. It’s lovely :-) When I’ve spun the remaining fibre, I’ll three-ply it and probably make socks – it’ll be a bit thicker than fingering, I think, but I’m hoping it will work for around-the-house socks anyway. Of course, I reserve the right to see the finished yarn and completely change my mind and do something else with it, or just keep it around to stroke.

Depending on how this lot (which is 100g, half my supply of this fibre) works out, I might navajo-ply the other lot. I’m not especially keen on stripes in general, but I’m interested in the technique, and I’m interested in comparing what the two different yarns from the same fibre look like. I might even knit them in the same thing as an interesting experiment in colour. This thought, and indeed much of how I’m thinking about the colours in this fibre, is influenced by the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, which I’ve been flipping through. I haven’t read all of it yet, and I think it’s going to be mostly inspirational rather than instructional, but it’s got me thinking about things to do with colour. And it’s very pretty indeed – lots of good photos. It hasn’t toppled the crown of New Pathways as my favourite sock book, but I’m glad to have it.

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New sock books

New Pathways for Sock Knitters may actually be functional as well as pretty. I’m not sure how I ended up with so many sock books, but this is my fourth, and I think I like it better than the Vogue Ultimate Sock Book. It certainly does what I was disappointed that book didn’t do: deal happily and evenly with top-down, toe-up, one circ, two circs, dpns, whatever you like. And Cat Bordhi’s central revelation, that the gusset increases/decreases can go wherever you like, leads her to various interesting and attractive kinds of sock. There are at least three socks in this book that I want to knit, but more than that, I’ll find the mix and match toes, heels and cuffs really useful. I’m cautiously declaring this my favourite sock book.

The crown might not stay there, though. A contender is in the wings. Those books that were cheaper on Amazon? They were also just about enough between them to qualify for free postage, and once I’d identified them as the spinning books I wanted, there was no good reason to wait. Hands On Spinning is not very interesting in anticipation, although it looks set to be the basic spinning book that I want. The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, on the other hand deals with dyeing, spinning, designing and knitting socks. I can’t wait. And I have 100g of undyed BLF fibre just waiting for this book.

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Spinning samples and dangerous shopping habits

I’ve started making sample singles of fibre to help me plan what to do with it. The top row of cards in the photo are all fibre from Freyalyn on Etsy. The first card is a bit of superwash merino that she sent as a sample – it spins up nicely but feels a bit fleecey compared to the other two, which are the fibres I bought. The green (colourway ‘caribbean’) is for a gift, and the purple (colourway ‘wisteria’) for me. Both of the samples are spindle-spun two ply, in varying thicknesses from about laceweight to about DK. I’ve started spinning the green on the wheel – it will probably be about DK or worsted when it’s done and plied (I can go thinner on a spindle than I can on the wheel, for some reason. I suppose practice will help). I might even think about navajo plying this, because the greens are all quite close so it won’t end up very stripy if I do.

I’m less sure about the purple. It might not be visible in the pic, but it’s purple and green and pink. It probably wants to be two ply to blend and merge the colours the way I like, but I’m not sure about thickness. I love the thinner bits of the sample, so I’m thinking about spinning it on a spindle to get it thinner (and because I’d like to have both a wheel and a spindle project on the go at once), but then I don’t know what I’d knit with it when done. As alluded to in the previous post, I need to work out what the point of spinning is (for me) and resign myself to it. If I’m spinning for product, I should not begin until I know what I’m planning to make. If I’m spinning for process, I should stop beating myself up about what I’m going to knit, and just enjoy the spinning. And of course there’s always spinning for gifts, which means I’m spinning for a point, but someone else gets the problem joy of deciding what to knit with the stuff when it’s done ;-)

In related news, Ravelry has allowed me to tentatively identify my wheel as an Ashford Traditional. To celebrate this discovery, I decided to buy an Ashford spinners’ maintenance kit, which contains wheel oil and various bits and pieces to replace things that might break or get lost, some of which have indeed broken or got lost (and been fudged one way or another). This decision created a problem, though. Buying such a small thing is not cost-effective where postage charges are concerned, so clearly I needed to buy some other things to make it worthwhile. I’ve been thinking for a while that I’d like a/some spinning book(s) to add to my knitting books, and I’ve been wandering around Ravelry and Amazon looking at reviews and trying to choose the ones I think likely to suit me best. 




Fibrecrafts, the purveyor of my spinning maintenance kit, have a pretty decent selection of craft books, so this seemed like the ideal thing to do. The problem came when I decided to start comparing prices with Amazon. Two of the three books I was considering were significantly cheaper on Amazon. But the third one wasn’t, and was enough to make the Fibrecrafts delivery charge sensible. While I was there I allowed myself a very quick look at their fibre. Their wool is solid colour, so I knew I wasn’t currently interested in that, but I’ve been wanting to try spinning dyed ‘silk hankies’ since reading the article on Knitty about them (which may even have been what made me want to try spinning in the first place). Silk is expensive, but two tiny little 10g bags of silk not so much ;-) It’s crazy stuff to handle, however. It snags on everything. I’m aware that my hands are probably not the smoothest ever, but this stuff was snagging on my skin. All I’ve done with it so far is extract one gossamer sheet of the stuff and start predrafting it into roving, which is not as easy as the literature had led me to believe. It’s pretty, anyway.

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Peacock and purple




This looks much less peacocky now it’s finished than it did in progress, but the name remains anyway. The weird thing about it is that it often manages to look like blue-shading-to-purple, when it’s actually blue and green, and neither shade of blue admitted to having any association with purple when still in fibre form.

It’s soft and smooshy three ply merino, really quite evenly spun and plied (both on the wheel), and about DK/worsted sort of weight. I’ve no idea at all what to do with it but I love it anyway. Maybe I’ll just keep it as a pet, and get it out and touch it every now and again ;-)

The second picture is ‘two thirds peacock’ – a tiny amount of two ply from the light blue and the green left over from the three ply. The last picture is ‘ever diminishing peacock’ – a very tiny indeed skein of green two ply. Both of these are too small to do anything much with. They might go into the scrap scarf, or I might eventually come up with something that requires tiny bits of yarn. Some sort of freeform patchwork ‘art’ type thing, perhaps.

Oh, and this (right) is a better FO picture of the purple three-ply – it’s much more like the actual colours than the one I posted the other day. I started making flip-top mittens out of the other skein of this, but they didn’t work in various ways, so I’ve frogged. Back to the drawing board. If only spindles and spinning wheels came complete with an automatic inspiration generator for what to do with relatively small amounts of yarn – things in the 200-300m area. Hats and scarves and gloves are the sorts of things I’m thinking about, but since I already have enough of those items and am fussy about (a) what I knit, (b) what I wear, and (c) what I want to do with my precious handspun, perhaps I should work on considering yarn as an FO in its own right, without feeling that I need to knit it into something immediately.

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Lace-up gloves



These are Leigh Radford’s lace up gloves from Alterknits. They’re a belated Christmas present for female-friend-R, to stop her complaining about how nice mine are. In what might be taken as role reversal, mine are bright-dark-red Manos (or possibly Maya, I can’t remember), and hers are purple Knitting4fun spacedyed.

I have no WIP photos for these – I cast them on on Thursday, and finished them yesterday. They barely even appeared as WIPs in my Ravelry projects list before I marked them as finished. I reckon each glove took a maximum of two and a half hours – I can be so specific because I knit everything except the thumb of glove number two on two one-hour train journeys yesterday, then knit the thumb, tidied the ends and threaded the ribbon when I got home. 

I had two moments of synchronicity with these. On Friday I was casting off the main body of the first glove while looking through Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters (of which more later), and as I got to the last couple of stitches to cast off, I arrived at the very last page of the book, which includes “A very fine end, indeed” – a way of finishing a circular cast off that creates a continuous chain, rather than a step. I immediately used this on the glove, and it is indeed very fine. I’ve gone on to use it on all three other cast off edges in these gloves, and now can’t even tell where the ends are from the outside of the glove :-)

The second moment of synchronicity was on the train yesterday. I went into London on my own to meet some friends, and although I’m less travel sick on trains than on most other forms of transport, I prefer not to exacerbate it by reading if I can find something else to do (I can read on trains, which is more than I can on coaches or in cars, but still best not to push it). So I packed needles, yarn and instructions (scribbled out, not the whole book), and an ipod full of back issues of Cast On, which I’m still catching up with, and one of the ones I listened to featured an interview with Leigh Radford, who had just released her one skein book at the time.

Choosing the yarn for these was hard. R wanted them just like mine, and in either red or purple, and she was happy to have mine second hand if I was willing to give them. Although I was theoretically willing to knit myself a nicer pair and give her my old ones, I didn’t feel that was really in the spirit of a gift, which left me with the options of either knitting her red ones (which might be too much like mine) or knitting her purple ones (which I’d be likely to like more than mine and would therefore agonise about which to give her). I considered various options from my stash (including my fibre, not-yet-yarn, stash) and others from online stores, and didn’t really get anywhere. Then on Thursday I remembered about the Knitting4fun space-dyed, which is in my stash, but some of which is currently a stealth WIP* so I don’t think of it as available yarn. I’m hoping it’s ideal – I love it, but at this size circumference it’s a bit too brightly patterned for me; R will probably think it’s ‘jolly’. And comparing the texture of the new gloves with the old ones, I’m glad I decided to knit hers fresh – they’re all smooth and pretty, whereas mine are a bit bobbly, a bit fluffy around the edges. I love them, but they’re clearly used.

*Stealth WIP = one which is not on my Ravelry projects list and therefore doesn’t count towards my WIP total. In this case I had an idea for the yarn – and possibly a pattern submission – but it hasn’t quite worked out so I’m probably going to frog it, so I don’t mind cannibalising yarn for these gloves.

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In praise of the internet

A couple of days ago, I posted in the beginning spinners forum on Ravelry asking where UK spinners go to get exciting hand-dyed fibre. The replies introduced me to enough places to keep me going for a while, including someone reccing the Etsy store of a Raveller who then turned up in the thread herself with a bit more information. So I finally checked out Etsy, which I’ve been meaning to do for ages, ordered some hand-dyed fibre for me, and some more to spin as a gift, and five minutes later I received a lovely email from the seller (Freyalyn), telling me when she’s going to post my package and asking if I came from Ravelry :-)

It’s probably abundantly obvious, but I love the internet. Ravelry lets me tap into the vast reserves of knowledge held in the brains of my fellow-crafters, Etsy lets me buy unique hand-made supplies directly from independent producers, email lets us communicate about it, and Vox lets me write this post squeeing :-)

Some of this wouldn’t even be possible, pre-internet, and the bits that were possible would be an awful lot slower. Now all we need is a way of delivering yarn and fibre instantaneously!

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Purples and pinks and peacocks








If there’s a way to alter the order of the photos to the left, I can’t work out what it is :-(

So, in slightly bizarre order, my latest adventures in fibre:

  • (top picture) this is my first attempt at carding, using all the stray bits of fibre from my other projects, which I’ve been collecting in a pretty wooden bowl on a shelf next to my desk. It needs more work still, but I’m intrigued by the possibilities in carding
  • (second picture) this is the end result of the purple and mauve I’ve been spindle-spinning, although it’s not this bright in real life (actually, take this comment as applying to all of these pictures. Apparently there was actually light in my library this morning when I took the pics). It’s three ply, two of bright purple and one of mauve, 200m, and really soft. I plied it on the wheel, because spindle-plying is the dullest thing ever. Not completely sure what I’m doing with this, but then that’s true of so much of my spinning!
  • (third picture) bright purple singles left over from the above. Maybe around 130m; not sure. I might leave this as singles, or I might two-ply it with itself, or I might just wait and see what other inspiration strikes
  • (fourth picture) Remember what I said above about these pictures being too bright? That’s especially true here. This yarn isn’t actually glowing. Honest. This is  Valentine merino from Violet Green that Dyddgu traded me for the ex-Jaywalker sassy stripes. I still think I got the better part of the deal :-) This is my first real wheel-spun, and technically it’s a bit of a mess – the singles are over-spun, and then I underplied it, so it’s pretty hopeless. But the colours are gorgeous, and it feels beautifully soft and velvetty knitted up, so I don’t care :-) Talking of knitting up, the knitting visible in the pic is my second attempt with this yarn. I started off thinking I’d make something in reversible entrelac, because the way the colours work seemed well suited to entrelac’s small blocks, but I don’t much like its onesidedness. Alternating squares of stocking and reverse stocking stitches seemed like a great idea, and I intend to try it again sometime with smooth yarn to see if it’s inherently flawed, or if it was just let down by my uneven yarn. Anyway, I frogged it, and am now making an attempt on the Dashing fingerless gloves from Knitty. Which I like so far, although I’ve been neglecting them for other pursuits (such as the Shadow and Ghost socks, and the next picture…)
  • (fifth picture) Peacock yarn-in-progress! This is my current project. I’m a bit over halfway through spinning the dark green (Petrol from Texere), and then I’ll do the dark blue (Rich Royal, ditto) and the light blue (Cornflower, ditto ditto), and ply the lot together. And then I’ll look at it and think about how pretty it is, and fail to decide what to knit with it but I Don’t Care :-)
  • (sixth picture) The rest of the Texere order that supplied the above. A big (400g) bag each of purple and dark red, and a bunch of small (50g) bags of other colours. When I made the order, I was thinking about doing some blending with the hand cards that came with the wheel, but having discovered that it’s actually quite a lot of work, and that I like blending-by-plying, that might not actually happen. Still, should keep me in fibre for a while.
  • (seventh picture) This is the sample for the Peacock. It’s spindle- rather than wheel-spun, just because it’s easier to do tiny quantities that way, and I was sampling for colour rather than for spin.

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