Lessons in Long Draw: Fauxlags & Rolags

Earlier this year I shared my very first attempt at long draw. For that spin, I used roving from the fleece of a sheep my husband adopted for me a few years back. After that spin, I felt fairly confident that I was getting the skill down so when Mary Ann of Three Waters Farm mentioned that Shetland top works well spun with long draw when rolled into fauxlags, I ordered a small load of Shetland top and set to giving this technique a whirl! If you weren’t aware, when presented with a new spinning challenge, I have a pretty hard time walking away. I just so enjoy the challenge & adventure of new technique!

I had a bit of experience rolling fauxlags from a few years back, but it had been a while so I went back to David of Southern Cross Fibre’s instructional post on rolling fauxlags from combed top. Basically, it goes like this:

  1. Predraft

img_1251Maybe even a little more than this picture. Yes, now I would probably open those fibers up a bit more.

 

2. Roll with a smooth something — rolling pin, dowel, or, in my case, the wooden end of a dough whisk — spreading out the fiber as you roll and being sure to not roll too tightly.img_1254

David shows you rolling and breaking as you go once you’ve gone around once, but I had broken up this spin for colors, so I went with the breaks I had and made slightly bigger fauxlags.

3. Press down the tail a bit just so it stays put (it doesn’t take much with this wonderfully grippy fiber) and slide off your rolling device.

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Voilà! Fauxlags!

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This basket was not my first run at rolling fauxlags during this round of lessons in long draw – this was my third! It is definitely a learned skilled, an art in and of itself!

My first fauxlag spin was with Three Waters Farm Shetland in the Red Dirt colorway and my finished yarn shows the steep learning curve I met…

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For this spin, I attempted a true long draw with my Schacht Reeves.

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I had a very hard time staying consistent working with my fauxlags. Part of it, I believe was that I wound the fauxlags too tightly, part was that I was struggling to get the uptake just right. It led to an inconsistent, bulkier than intended yarn.

For the second attempt, I started to experiment with a supported long draw. Using my Three Waters Farm Shetland in Night Blues, I tuned in the uptake and I got into a “pinch, pull back” rhythm. Pinch with my left hand, providing a little resistance to make the long draw “pull back” with my right hand easier.

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You can see the huge improvement in this yarn’s consistency.

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I was so much more comfortable with the supported method, though, that I consider it totally worth it. I was really fighting that first spin to get all the different elements of the technique to jibe, but this second one I was much more in control and the spinning really shows that. The trade off for consistency with this method was that I lost a bit of the spring associated with long draw, but had a hunch that a little extra twist in the plying might help with that.

Because I was still working on the prep for my next fauxlags, so as not to lose the feel of this type of spinning totally, I took a brief foray into 4oz of rolags I purchased as Shepherd’s Harvest last month. If you’ll remember…

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I picked these up these two packs from Bumblebee Acres.  Not ready to stop experimenting with supported long draw, that’s exactly how I spun these as well. They were different because the bands of color are often different fibers so to remain consistent, that required adapting the draw for each fiber within each rolag and accepting a little extra texture in each spin.

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I cruised through these fibers in a relatively short amount of time and got right to plying. I wound up with a pretty fabulous skein of yarn, if I do say so myself.

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Oh, can’t you just see all this practice paying off?!

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I added a smidge extra twist in the plying which got me a bit closer to the springy, lofty woolen spun yarn I was after.

And last, but not least, the fauxlags from the beginning of this post! I took 8oz of Three Waters Farm Maybela’s Promise on Shetland…

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

And rolled them into these fauxlags according to color, more or less.

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And I spun them into reds…

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Yellows & oranges…

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Greens…

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And Blue-Greys…

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As you can see, I wasn’t super fussy with how I separated colors, but I think together…

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They make a beautiful family of yarns! They are all roughly aran weight and I hope to use them in a colorwork project someday. I think they’ll be perfect together!

It would have been really easy to leave out the first spin I shared here or to break these spins up, highlighting each skein individually. On their own, they are all lovely, usable yarns. I think the story that all 4 spins tell in succession is much more compelling, though. Learning a new spinning technique doesn’t just happen overnight. To really explore a new skill, learn its ins and outs, and grasp all that it has to offer takes time and practice. It was no accident that I bought over 16oz of Shetland top or that I picked up those rolags at Shepherd’s Harvest because you need the right materials, too. Once you’ve got the tools & the time and you set out on a course of learning such as this, your understanding evolves as you experiment. Your yarns change, getting more consistent and easier to manage. The yarns you have in mind when you start slowly start to become the yarns you actually create. Whether its lessons in long draw, beginning spinning, or anything in between or beyond, it’s a process, a journey. Don’t break it up or water it down, embrace it. The whole story, from start to finish, is much more interesting.

 

In The Spirit of the Season

As is probably true for many of you, this week has been one commitment after another. All good things — volunteering, visiting friends, getting our home ready for friends to visit — but non-stop nonetheless. Today, I’m carving time out of my no-less-crazy day to share a story with you that is dear to my heart. I invite you to take the next five or ten minutes to put your feet up, take a deep breath, and spend just a little time here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the fiber arts community lately for a lot of reasons — reflecting on the past year, looking forward to the next, and just plain being thankful for this craft that does so much for so many of us. To say this community is made up of some of the best people I’ve ever met would be the understatement of the century. This collection of men and women are kind and generous in ways that are always beyond expectation and often in quiet, anonymous ways. One thing I’ve come to whole-heartedly appreciate is that when one of us is in need, we all step-up with support in whatever way we can.

In this spirit I wanted to share the story of Samantha Troia.

Over the years, many of you have seen projects I’ve spun and knit with yarns from Bumblebee Acres Farm. They are regular vendors at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival which is where I met them. I’m not sure when they started attending or how many years back I have shopped there, but my first real memory of interacting with the ladies behind the farm was in their festival booth. I remember that I was there with my mom and daughter on a Friday. It was quiet because the weather wasn’t spectacular and one of the girls happily chatted with my daughter while I shopped. I was so thankful for their kindness and patience with my little girl. I left with what would become the first of many gorgeous hand-blended batts and rolags I would buy over the years and my daughter left feeling so special. It was an interaction that made an impression on me and one I’ve never forgotten.

As I’m always curious about where my fibers come from, I went on to learn about this farm shop. Theirs is a story rich in history beginning in rural Latvia in the early 1900s and extending all the way to the present at a little place called Bumblebee Acres Farm in Northern Illinois (you can get the full story here). It’s run by Carissa and her four children — Sarah, Samantha, Hailianna, and Joey. Their fibers are as beautiful and wonderful to work with as the individuals in this family and I’ll admit to hoarding their batts and rolags. My absolute favorite treat when shopping in their store is to match one batt with a set of rolags and spin each onto a bobbin and then ply them. It’s just so much fun!

But I digress…

Early this week, I received a special newsletter from the Bees. They were asking for help. This is Sam.

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Photo courtesy of Bumblebee Acres Farm

Sam handles much of the farms’ social media accounts and regularly designs knitting patterns to showcase the beautiful yarns offered. I’m also convinced she’s literally one of the nicest people on Earth. Sam also has Type 1 diabetes and is in need of a new insulin pump. Like so many small business owners, this medical necessity isn’t covered by insurance and is very expensive. The “Bees” are asking for help to get Sam this device.

As soon as I read her story, all I could think was, what if this was my daughter? And that was quickly followed by, how can I help?

So how can you help?

  1. You can purchase Sam new “Joyful & Cozy” pattern right here. It’s just $5 and includes 2 cup cozy patterns.
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    Photo courtesy of Bumblebee Acres Farm

    All proceeds from this PDF pattern will go toward Sam’s new insulin pump. They would be make great gifts knit up. I also asked about purchasing additional patterns and having them sent to knitting friends as gifts and you can totally do that, too! Just purchase the number of copies you’d like and in the notes section of the check-out, include let the Bees know that you’d like to send the additional copies as gifts and a list the email addresses where you’d like them sent. Easy-peasy! (And don’t forget you can certainly grab lots of fun mini-skeins for this patternin their shop, too, they’re right here — just remember to grab the Squishy DK option in the drop-down menu of each set).

  2. Donate here through Sam’s fundraising page. You fill in the amount, so you can send whatever amount works for your budget — from $1 to the sky’s the limit.
  3. Share Sam’s fundraising page with your own family, friends, & community.
  4. Continue to shop in their wonderful online shop and visit them at shows!
  5. Follow Bumblebee Acres Farm on Facebook,  Instagram, Ravelry, and their new Podcast, Caught in the Wool (hosted by Sam!) to stay up with the latest from the farm.

I will say that I had planned to purchase the pattern as gifts for the ladies in the Friends of Knitting Sarah Ravelry group only to find that as soon as I went to make the purchase (I was actually at a volunteering shift when I got the newsletter), I thought to check the group first. It had literally been less than 2 hours and these amazing ladies had already shared the letter, the links, and many had already purchased the pattern and some yarn as well. I purchased patterns for my remaining friends there and made a cash donation in honor of the rest. It’s just one example of how incredible this community is — really & truly!

I know we are all stretched thin this time of year for time and funds alike, but I hope you’ll consider sending Sam and the Bees what support you can — a donation, some social media love and sharing, or even just a kind note, thoughts, or prayers. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you so much for helping support these wonderful people in the fiber arts world!

Twisters, Tumbleweeds, & Ancient Oak

It seems only fitting after the wild weather this week brought to bring you a spin inspired largely by the wind. Last year at the Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival I purchased some rolags and batts from one of my favorite local(ish) farms, Bumblebee Acres.

When I found the smooth spinning batt called “Twisters & Tumbleweeds,” I knew I wanted it right away, but I also knew that at 2oz I would ideally like something to ply it with. I combed through the loads of selection and came upon these rolags (of which there were actually four, I believe) called “Ancient Oak.” I’m usually not super brave with purchasing with a combo spin in mind because I’m still such a novice at seeing how colors and textures are going to blend.  This, I thought, could work.

In February, just before the whole move thing happened I got to work on spinning this hunch up…

I really adore how subtle the bat was. You can see those little tiny pops of copper here and there.

And the rolags…

Seriously, pretty drool-worthy.

I’ve been asked to go into a little more detail as to how I prep & go about spinning my handspun yarn so while I don’t have added photos of the process for this spin, I’m going to work on being a bit more technical and descriptive in the future. For this spin I can say that I really didn’t do a ton of color manipulation — I spun straight from the batt and straight from the rolags, one on each bobbin. Because of the nature of batts and rolags they are less consistent than spins that I create from top, but that is something I embrace & celebrate as the nature of batts and rolags. In any case, when I finished the singles, I just plied the two bobbins together.

And, voila! This 2-ply yarn is a fingering weight and measured 470yards before it had it’s finishing bath. I tend to lose a bit of yardage in the wash and finishing process, so I’m guessing the finished skein is in the 450yard realm. Eventually I’ll remeasure (probably… maybe).

As you can see, it’s a really soft, subtle skein colorwise. And I still adore those pops of copper. I really don’t have any idea what I want to use this one for, so it’ll head to my stash for a while as I think and dream it over. It’s very tempting to give this away because I have a lot of friends who gravitate to this palette and I think would love it. Usually that’s enough to let me happily part with it. This one though, this one is a little more near and dear to my heart. I think it’s going to stay right here with me.

Pretty Darn Pleased

It’s Friday and while I’m not ready to commit to the whole FO Friday tradition, today I thought I’d share some finished handspun yarn with you. I meant to do so a couple days ago, but — I’ll admit it — I was kind of hung up in actually knitting and spinning. Ironically, when I really get into my craft, I get behind in the writing about knitting and spinning here. In any case, here I finally am ready to show you a couple news yarns.

Today, since I got a little carried away with beauty shots I’ll start by just sharing with one. You’ll remember that I’d started this project.

bumbleacresI had 8oz worth of purple/navy/grey batts from Bumblebee Acres Farm. Along with the beautifully subtle colors here, one thing I really love about the batts from this shop is that they list what type of spin the batt will be — a smooth spin or a textured one. I think that especially for someone like me who has relatively little experience with batts, this really helped me to make good selections when purchasing and to know what to expect from the fiber when I sat down to spin it.

My goal here was to spin a worsted/aran weight yarn in a traditional 3-ply and even before hauling out my WPI tool I felt pretty comfortable saying that it was pretty much on target.

bbacresfullI really love a nice, round 3-ply and this skein is definitely in that category.

bbacres2It’s not exactly the most even spin of my life, but I think it turned out awfully pretty. I think my favorite part of this skein is those little pops of magenta. There are also pops of silky sky blue which are equally lovely as well as some dusty pink undertones that give this yarn a lot of depth in color. All in all, I wound up with about 100yds of aran weight yarn. Seriously. I can hardly believe that I managed to hit the target weight, but I will say that I’m pretty darn pleased with it.

These batts were the a colorway labeled ‘Avalon’ and were a Polwarth + Silk blend that were listed as a ‘smooth spin.’ I said it earlier and I’ll say it again — I really can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate the label of a ‘smooth spin’ batt. I love the more ‘art’ or ‘textured’ batts as well, but if you are new to spinning batts I would highly recommend the ‘smooth spin’ batts from Bumblebee Acres Farm. They are just such a great way to dip your toes into batt spinning without being overwhelmed by handling the wild textures and blending of different fibers that more arty/textured batts require. I also loved the lofty, airy prep of these fibers. They were truly like spinning clouds and I have no doubt that the ease of the spinning and the evenness I was able to achieve was largely in part to the wonderful prep.

While this yarn is destined to be a gift to my friend’s wonderful daughter who was a great sport with my kids on a field trip earlier this year, I will definitely be keeping this farm in mind for future spins. I encourage you to follow them on Instagram and Facebook, too, where they share their latest news and updates to the shop.With results like this…

bbacresI certainly don’t wan to be a stranger to their fibers!