Thursday, July 31, 2014

More Spinning

I think I may have mentioned some time ago that I had received a part of a fleece from a woman I know that has three "pet" ewes. They are of indeterminate breed, but do have quite a nice fibre. I had used some of it before, and asked if I can get some more. She very kindly brought me more.

It was raw fleece. There is the usual dirt and grime in the fleece, but were relatively free of vegetable matter.

I was able to pick out the locks, and I washed them individually. I then laid them out to dry, making sure they were in the same direction. Later, I combed them carefully, and made a sliver out of each combing. I spun all the singles from the cut end, naturally very fine and all on my trusty CD spindle.

Because I wanted a very soft spun yarn, I put only enough twist in the singles to hold together. Usually, I put in added twist, which produces a good firm yarn and give me good definition when knit. But I wanted something very light this time. I used my spindle as a supported spindle, so thta there was little weight on the very fragile single strand. Being so fine, it could not support that much weight. But it only took a few spins to give enough twist to hold these fibres together. You really don't need that much twist in a yarn!

It took a very long time to fill one cop on the spindle. Of course, I am spinning as fine as possible, and I think as I get more practice, I am getting finer and finer! It was fun to do. I would put on a movie or some TV shows, and spin away. I can get many kilometres done in very little time!

I have plied all these singles I had. Then this weekend, I decided it was time to put them into a skein and wash the yarn, and get working with it. I have a project I want to make with it, and there is a time crunch now! I didn't measure how much yarn I have in the skein.

The fleece is natural white, which is actually an off-white. I washed the two skeins I produced, and then hung them to dry. It really didn't take that long to dry. Our climate is very dry and now very hot, and perhaps the finer yarns meant it dried very fast.

So here is a look at my skeins. That is one strand on the dime, but there is a reflection off the mirror finish which I didn't notice at the time I took the photo. This is all two-ply, even though you can't see the strands too clearly this way.
There is a great deal of elasticity in the yarn -- it looks very soft and delicate, but when you put some tension on the yarn, it stretches very far, and holds together surprisingly well! It is quite strong. I'm very pleased with it.

So now to start the knitting. This time, I will do a gauge swatch!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Newest Lace Project

For the last little while, I have spinning some wool I got from a friend. I am enjoying washing the locks, combing them, and spinning the very fine singles.

But to take a break from all that spinning, I wanted to have some knitting on the go as well. I have been watching Chicago Fire (and the companion series, Chicago PD) and need to have something to do with my hands or else I fall asleep!

I found a really nice shawl called Ashton shawlette, by Dee O'Keefe, free on Ravelry. It's very simple to do, basic design of double-down triangular shawl. As I was working on it, I thought it looked rather small, so repeated some of the patterns to add more rows than usual, and I'm glad I did. It ended up being a good size this way, and I do like the additional pattern repeats. It is really very simple to do, rather basic and boring if you are used to something more complicated, but is interesting enough to keep you going through it. It's a very good introduction to lace knitting, since it is very logical, and you will be able to "read" your knitting as you work, and can predict what is to come just from seeing where you have been! Simple pattern with astounding results.

Here are some pics of it on my blocking wall:

I used a bright red yarn for this from my stash. I thought it was wool, but there was no label on the cone. As I was working with it, it felt rather harsh in my hands, so I thought it was some sort of acrylic. But I stayed with it, despite the feel. When I washed it, a lot of the red came out in the water, so I knew it wasn't acrylic! It softened up really well once washed, so I think it is wool. It has a very high twist to the ply, which is probably why it felt hard. But I like the elasticity in the yarn because of that.

I really liked doing this one, and I think I may do another, in a different colour. Maybe with the yarn I am spinning now!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Check Everything!

Last week, I went over to Safeway since there were a few things in their flyer that I wanted. The prices were acceptable, although not at any reduced price. I know the regular prices, and Safeway (as well as every other store) will artificially inflate the prices for a short time, and then "reducing" the price down to regular, and we [less-than-bright] shoppers think it is a good deal. But you can't always trust those lower prices.

So they had 10-lb bags of potatoes for $3.99, which a good price considering they normally are at about $9. On the other side of the table were 5-lb bags for $3.49...and the 10-lb bags were $3.99. Now I don't understand the logic here! I don't normally like a large bag like that because I don't have anywhere to keep potatoes for so long, and by the time I get to the bottom of the bag, they are soft or have sprouted.

However, I decided to take the larger bag, and will have to use them up quickly in some way. I picked up a few other things as well.

The cashier was one of those chatty types, which I find annoying, but I was civil and tried to respond when I really had to (at the minimal). And there was some confusion about which bag I wanted to use, since I had brought my own. Anyway, I filled my shopping bag and left the store. The one thing I always have to do is go over the receipt before I leave the cashiers counter, no matter how long the line is behind me. This time, I didn't. I have been surprised by what they charge me other times.

When I got home, I started supper, and had to cook up a couple of potatoes. I really do enjoy my potatoes! And while it was cooking away, I went to the computer and entered my expenses on my accounting program. I am a former bookkeeper, so like to do these entries and get all kinds of reports (okay, so I am a nerd), and see who is taking all of my money! That is when I discovered that I was charged $8.99 for the potatoes! I know the sign at the store clearly said these were on special for $3.49!! I made the mistake of not checking the receipt at the store, even though I thought the total was slightly higher than it should have been for a few items. I think it was this same cashier that tried to distract me at another time and she failed to give me a $10-dollar bill in change. That is why I always check before I leave.

So my warning to you is always keep an eye on what you are being charged. Check it before you leave the cashier counter... and you can catch any error right then. I don't know if the cashier takes the extra herself, or whether she gets any kind of bonus, but I was overcharged, and I don't like it much.

This is one of the reasons I haven't been to Safeway for a long time. This kind of thing has happened a couple of times, and I just scratch them off my list of places to shop. I thought I was being careful, but got distracted once more. I am very careful when I go to any store, but this time I slipped up. I have to say she was pretty good. Very unassuming, really slick and that is why she is so successful.

You just can't trust anyone anymore!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I'm Ba-a-a-ack!

Okay, so I didn't realize how long since I have posted to my blog. But I haven't been away, just busy. You know how it is, you get things working on on a few things, time just goes by, and suddenly it's months later.

I have been knitting, and will post a few pics of some of the things I made. I also have been spinning, and have used up most of my fibre. I do have one bundle of lovely combed top, which I am not sure how to spin, so it is waiting. I did spin up another bundle in the same colourway previously, trying to separate out all the different colours, and then plying them back in different combinations, but nothing was quite what I liked. So it needs to wait until it decides how it should be finished.

The other night, as I got into bed, I heard a crashing in the other room! I got up to take a look, and found a pile of boxes had fallen into my one open working area but couldn't really see where they had come from! And then noticed one of my towers of boxes had fallen over -- it was bound to happen since it was slightly on an angle -- but I didn't want to deal with it then. In the morning, I got up and decided I had to clear it up before I could get to work on anything. In the process, I found many of the scarves I had woven so many years ago. They had price tags on them, from the time I was selling them at some sales. I packed them up into boxes once more! It was nice to see them again, and remember that I did good work back then.

I also found that a couple of boxes had cones of yarn on them! Some were huge cones, of very fine yarn. I don't know when I will ever use them up, unless I get back into weaving. Knitting would last a lifetime, I'm sure. Not sure yet what I will do with those.

But the greatest find was a box with huge bags of fibre in them. I could just barely make out the writing on the outside of the bag -- 1 lb alpaca. Wow! I was just saying that I wanted some alpaca, and here it is. Amazing how the Universe provides when you ask properly! I guess I had purchased these so very long ago, put them away (as I do with most things) and promptly forgot about them. There is a rusty grey/brown, a mottled silver/grey and a white. This is raw fleece, very dusty, what I saw had a lot of VM in it. I combed and spun a bit of it last night, and will continue to do more. I am spinning it fine, but would like a thicker yarn. I'm going to have to try very hard to spin it thicker, but it just wants to be this fine! Really, it does. After I ply it, I'll see how it looks, and may use it just as it is for something. I'm trying very hard not to put much twist into it.

I do want to do some very thick cowls, but I really don't think I will be able to spin yarn that thick. I just can't do it! I may have to combine it with some other yarns to make a bulky yarn that way.

The main reason I haven't posted here much is that I don't have internet at home anymore. Late in the summer, the cable company I was with (Shaw), had a fire in their office complex. After that, connection with them was very sporadic and intermittent. Eventually, it just stopped. When I went down to their office, they told me everything is working fine. Except I know it was not. And that was the end of that. I paid for the month of August and only got a few days out of it, and never heard from them since.

I've been trying to get internet only (without telephone service) with Telus, another provider here. But they have high connection fees, or something, and after paying over $900, I still don't have anything. I keep on trying, and I won't pay any more money to them, so I think we've reached an impasse. Of course, they have the controls, so there isn't much I can do until they deem me worthy of their over-priced services! I don't know where this will end. That money may just be lost now.

It's been bitterly cold here for the last few weeks. Winter came early this year, and hard. Although this is Canada, and I have seen winters with a lot of snow before, this time it seems to be much harder to bear. Perhaps I am older, or perhaps the winters are much more severe. It's a good time to stay indoors, and knit. Which I will do. I will attempt to get some pics posted in the next few days to show you what I have been up to lately.

I just realized that this is my anniversary day! I started blogging this date in 2005. Wow -- nine years! Doesn't seem that long, and I've got nothing so show for it! :-)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Enough is enough

When I was a youngster, and when I wanted more of a treat, Mom would ask "Haven't you had enough yet?" Well, really, wouldn't you think that if I had enough, would I ask for more? It was a very simple issue then -- I knew when I had enough, and when I still wanted more.

Now that I am older, and now that I have to decide for myself when I have had enough, and knowing that a lot of things are not good for us (me specifically) when taken in excess, the issue is much more complex. There are many more factors to consider, and it is harder to know when enough is enough.

And so now that I am spinning, my spinning teacher and the books I've read all warned me to be careful not to over-twist. But they never said how much is enough. We are told to put in "enough" twist in the yarn, and that it should be suitable for the intended purpose. Ah-ha! So now we have to know how we intend to use this yarn, and to know how much twist we are going to need. As we study further, we find out that the amount of twist will determine how soft this yarn will be, how well it will wear, the texture it will produce in knitting or weaving. This spinning thing is not as easy as I thought it would be!

When I first began spinning, and when I did a balanced ply, I found that my yarn was sadly very poorly plied, and very wimpy. I wanted a sturdy yarn, with good definition, and that didn't split for me when I was knitting with it. So I was sure to put in lots and lots of twist when plying. In fact, I was vastly over-plying -- but it did give me a yarn I liked. There was some kinking when in the skein, or when using it, but that was alright. Certainly, I can "set the twist" and it would be just fine.

So I have now decided it is time to do a study and find out how much twist we really need in a yarn. What effect does under-twist or over-twist have on our work? Does the twist really matter that much?

I have spun and knitted a couple of samples for you with singles, and with a 2-ply yarn. First, I used a single that had a moderate amount of twist (neither too loose or too tightly twisted) and have knit a swatch.
You will see that the swatch is fairly even, and rectangular. (There is some curling, but that is stockinette)

I then did another swatch with a single that had a lot more twist in it. I then washed and blocked the yarns with some tension to keep it straight, and it looked very nice and normal (no excess twist). You can see it here
and note that it is fairly rectangular. The stitches themselves are more mis-shapen, and "irritated".

The final swatch is a 2-ply yarn. I have part of it with a balanced yarn, and then with an over-twisted ply.
You can see the the bottom half is decidedly angled, while the top is even and rectangular. The bottom half is the over-twisted yarn, and seems to have some slant.

I remembered that many people have told me that you can block out your knitting, or that they will settle down once you have washed the pieces, or have "set the twist". So I did that. I soaked and washed the pieces together and then laid them out on a towel to dry. I patted them flat, and let them take the shape they wanted.

Here, you can see the first swatch with the moderate twist in a single.

It has retained its rectangular shape, and seems to be very much as expected.

The overly twisted single swatch really shows what can happen with a strong twist -- even though I had "set the twist"!

It biased badly!! It is nearly a diamond shape, and that is not what I wanted. The stitches themselves seem to be settled, but the whole piece has bent all out of shape.

The swatch with the plied yarn shows this dramatically.

The bottom, with overly twisted yarn, still is slanted, while above it, with the balanced yarn, shows a nicely-shaped rectangular piece of knitting. I think that I could have blocked the bottom section nice and straight, but I feel that it would all slant again when it was washed the next time. All of these washed pieces were simply laid out flat to dry; I did not pin them or stretch them in any way. It has helped somewhat in that the stitches are knit fairly tight, so there is not much room to move around.

I have a t-shirt that twists on me. That is, the side seams don't stay on the sides. There is a definite twist to the whole t-shirt; the body turns slightly to the right from the arms down. It's an undershirt, so it doesn't matter too much, except it is hard for me to accept that it won't hang properly! I can see how annoying it would be if it was an outer-wear shirt with seams that would not lay where they should. I would be constantly trying to straighten it, and it would just move back where it wanted!

This brings me to the question of what would happen if I blocked the twist out of the yarn, knit a garment and then sold it. The buyer would take it home, and eventually wash it. BROING!! It would twist all out of shape, bringing tears to a young mother, thinking that she had ruined her darling daughter's lovely little sweater! When in reality, it was not her fault at all, but the fault of the spinning. Should I warn her not to wash it?

I wonder whether many knitters -- or even many spinners -- are aware of the effect twist has on their knitting. They understand that yarn is made of twisted fibres (in some weird way), but that might be the extent of it. Are knitters aware that they put in Z twist with every stitch (throwers, or English knitters)? Luckily, most knitting yarns are S-spun, Z-plied to compensate for that. Do they know that they put in twist when taking yarn from the centre of the ball, and the opposite twist from the outside?

Now, does this really matter at all? Isn't knitting just supposed to be fun?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cotton


For the last several weeks, I have been spinning some cotton. Actually, it's been for many, many weeks -- I don't really remember how long -- but cotton is not a very fast fibre to spin.

I located two grocery bags of raw ginned cotton; I don't really remember where or when I got them. I seem to gather lots of things with the idea that one day I would make use of them. Sometimes it is many, many years before I find what to do with them, but usually I make use of it all.

Cotton is a very short fibre. It is very fine, and quite delicate. It doesn't card that easily. You need special equipment to card cotton. I don't have that equipment. I do have some small cards, which work quite satisfactorily with wool, but is not so good with cotton. I tried a little bit, and I created a lot -- and I mean A LOT -- of noils!
I did spin those little batts, but was not very satisfied with the result. I also made some punis, and that made spinning a bit easier.
It is a whole different technique than one uses with wool. I was never very good with the long draw, but have now learned to do that. You really spin better with the long draw with cotton.
So eventually I settled on drawing a small tuft of cotton over the teeth of the carder, and "combed" it that way. It's slow, but works quite well. I didn't get so many noils this way.

You may know that cotton needs a lot of twist. In fact, you need to put in far more twist than you think is possible, and maybe just a little more. Cotton is very resilient, and can withstand much twist. It needs it. It is a short fibre, and does not have any scales as does wool. So in order to hold itself together, it needs a lot of twist. It also cannot be spun thick. For that reason, you will find that cotton is usually a multi-ply yarn to give it some thickness, and strength.

I was going to make this a 2-ply yarn to knit a special project this summer. I may not get it finished until Christmas, but there is no time limit on these things! Ha-ha-ha. But after looking at some samples of the 2-ply, and seeing how thin it still is, and seeing it is somewhat uneven, I decided that I would do a 3-ply instead. So it's a bit more spinning; that's alright. There is no deadline!

I had forgotten how long it takes to spin cotton. I remember spinning some about 20 years ago. At that time, I made it a point to spin each and every day, even for a few minutes. I was working very long late hours back then in a stressful position, so even when I came home after midnight, I always sat down and spun for about 10 minutes or more. I found that it helped me "unwind" while I was winding the cotton!! There is a meditative quality to spinning, which I used to advantage. I found that spinning for a few minutes would relax me enough so that I could get to sleep, and be rested enough to be back at work early the next morning. Very often I would sit far longer than I expected since I really found it so enjoyable.

But it took me a long time to fill one bobbin! I seem to recall that it took well over a month to fill one bobbin. I did a 2-ply, as I recall, and just doing one bobbin of plyed yarn took me almost 2 full weeks!

This past Sunday, as I was reaching the bottom of the first bag of cotton, I could see a piece of paper in the bottom. It probabnly was a label of some sort, but forgot what it said -- probably where it came from. I reached down and felt that it was a rather stiff piece of paper. Pulling it out, I can see that it was a card in an envelope!  It was addressed to "Mr. Super Spinner"! Inside was a card with a lovely picture of a lighthouse on it. Inside, a short note addressed to me saying "A box full of cotton for you".

Then I remembered: this came from a dear friend of mine several years earlier, who had some cotton she said she wasn't going to use, and she sent it to me. I remember that I wasn't prepared at that time to do anything with it, but as with all things I have, I would use it "one day". That was in June of 2006. The day had finally come.

I have been so truly blessed to have met some absolutely wonderful and precious friends through fibre. This was a friend that I have known for many years, but have never met. We were "friends" through the internet. I can't remember how long it has been, but we used to meet twice a week, most times, for an internet chat. There was a small group that used the chat room through All Fiber Arts, but sadly, that chat has now dimished. There are people from across Canada, from Rhode Island, from Ohio, and even New Zealand. Through the years, we have gone through all kinds of tribulations and joys. We had a lot of good laughs, and have helped each other through difficult periods. We still keep in touch by email. I value these friendships better than most others, because we have survived for so long, and have shared so many parts of our lives.

So to you, Kessie, thank you so much for your gift of the cotton. I am spinning it now, and thinking of you often. Your generosity of sending me all this cotton, to someone you have not met, touches me deeply. I am going to use this to make something special (details will come later after I get started) and will treasure this as something that comes with a very unique story. Kessie, you are a very special lady.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Catching up

I really thought I had written something recently! I must still have it in my head and have not uploaded to the blog! Happens quite a lot.

Last week, as I was walking to work at about 8 am, I noticed the sun was now shining directly in my eyes, and it was looking directly down the avenue. Remember I told you it had happened in September, and now it is doing it once more. I thought it would be sometime in early April, but I miscalculated. This time, the sun is on its trip down south. The days are much longer now, and the weather seems to be improving, but some days its hard to tell. I didn't wear any mittens to work this morning, and it was a bit chilly, but I refuse to accept that it is still winter! Although the calendar says it is spring, I really question that. We had some snow flurries yesterday.

I was looking at the Nanking Cherry bush in the next block this morning on my way to work. I am expecting it to burst out in blooms sometime in May. We then get one more final snowfall, which knocks the blossoms off, and we get no fruit! That's what happened last year. I think I only saw about 5 green cherries last year, and never got to taste any in the fall at all. Some years are like that.

I did find some Saskatoons in my freezer that I picked last year. I decided I needed to make room for other things, so took some out (still have more left) and cooked them up, thinking I would make some jam. They didn't want to break up! I tried mashing them too, but they are stubborn things. No matter. I will eat them up as they are. They are very good -- at least, I like them -- and have been using it for a topping on my cake (I made 3 last week; yes, they are all gone now).

What have I bee doing all this time? Well, I located two large grocery bags of raw ginned cotton that I acquired from somewhere, and I started to spin it. I did spin some many years ago, and I recall it took me a very long time to fill only one bobbin. I now remember clearly all over again! It does take a long time to fill one bobbin, mainly because the wheel I was using has a very low ratio and you need to put a lot of twist into cotton. I need to dig out (and I really do mean "dig out") one of my other wheels with a higher ratio and see if I can be more productive. I have to card the cotton first, make some punis, and then spin. But I don't have cotton cards, which means that my regular cards are creating too many noils and I don't want that. So I carefully use the teeth of the cards to "comb" the cotton, and I'm much happier with the result. However, this still takes time and slows down the whole process.

I have a project in mind that I want to do this summer, and I think it would be nice to use my own hand-spun cotton. It is going to be very fine. So I was toying with the idea of doing a 3-ply yarn... and then thought of all the extra spinning I need to do, and may re-think it later. Right now, I'm just spinning the singles, and will see what I do with them later.

There have been some other spinning and some knitting that happened during my long absence. I will post some pics later on. But this cotton is taking so much of my time right now that there hasn't been much else going on. On the weekends, I sit and spin all day long, watching some old TV westerns, until the sole of my foot (not my ankle) gets really sore. But I am making a lot of progress, and think I will get enough done by the time I start on my knitting project later this year.

That will have to be all for now, but wanted to let you know I am still here, doing fine, being very busy, and I don't seem to be getting anywhere. And so it goes.