Another Spinzilla in the Books

Before I get rolling with my Spinzilla 2017 wrap-up, I wanted to take a second to thank the ladies at Knit Like Granny/Crafty Like Granny who included my blog on their list of the Top 100 Best Knitting Blogs to Follow in 2018. It’s a great resource if you’re looking for knitting blogs & resources to check out. The post was even picked up and shared by Vogue Knitting’s Facebook page! So many thanks for including me and I extend the warmest of welcomes to anyone who is new to my little corner of the internet. I’m so glad you found me!

And now, on to a recap of Spinzilla 2017! This year was my second year participating in Spinzilla and once again I was captaining the Three Waters Farm team. Last year I spun through a whopping 28oz in one week, turning in a Spinzilla total (which includes a plying credit) of 6546yards.  It was a lot. The total was high for me largely because everyone in my house was sick that week except for me. Of course, spending a week with light on school and high on quiet screen time with kids, means a lot of spinning can happen.

This year, I had a later start due to visiting family and then the kids and I had school all week. The mister was kind enough to “enjoy” some quality time watching Downton Abbey with me while I spun on a couple evenings, but for the most part we just had a normal week at home. I fully expected my Spinzilla total to be lower and that was fine by me. I knew last year was likely to be an anomaly because of the whole illness thing. Before I share my totals, though, I think I’ll share my individual spins, sound good? Good.

First, I spun up 4oz of Maple Leaf Rag on a 60/40 Polwarth + Silk base.

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I just did a simple 2-ply because, really, with a braid like this I usually feel like I’m just going to spin as consistently as I can and let those colors do the talking.

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I’ll be doing a proper post-spa measurement and wpi check in the coming week as I tag it and send it to its new home, but I do believe it’s a fingering weight and should wind up in the 450-465yards realm. I home its new owner loves it as it’ll be a surprise and it’s a skein I think just turned out really to be a stunner.

Where do you go from there, really?!

Iron Blue! That’s where!

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This is my favorite blue of all time, Iron Blue from Three Waters Farm and this one is on the 75/25 BFL + Silk base, a favorite base on mine, too. It’s currently available as a pre-order item in the TWF shop on either this BFLTS base or Superfine Merino.

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I’m a blue fiend and this one just sings my song.

The plan is to pair it with African Sunset…

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My spin was in the same BFL + Silk blend as Iron Blue, but it’s currently available in Mixed BFL in the shop, a sort of moodier incarnation, I think. Perfect for this time of year.

In any case, the pairing…

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I think will be lovely and is destined to be knit up into a Brillig for the NimbleNim SAL+KAL taking place currently in the TWF Ravelry group. Mine will be a bit different as I spun for a lighter weight, but I think with some needle adjustment it’ll be just fine. Now both Iron Blue and African Sunset I chain plied and came out at about 325yards and 375yards respectively. Normally I wouldn’t fret over the discrepancy, but I do want to be able to use the entirely skein of African Sunset for the full color repeat effect so I’ve already got more Iron Blue on the way. It certainly didn’t take any arm twisting to convince me I should spin more!

And lastly, with the 12oz of fiber spun and plied that I’d hoped to finish, I spun up half the singles of this 4oz of Zinnias During Dusk…

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And I went on to ply it after Spinzilla had officially ended, but I couldn’t help but share the finished skein.

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It’s probably in the area of an aran weight and will likely be around 140-150yards once it’s washed and set.

So all in all, I’m very proud of my little Spinzilla pile.

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My total Spinzilla yardage (which includes the plying credit) is 4356yards. Honestly, that’s a lot closer to last year’s total than I expected to get! More importantly, though, I really enjoyed the spinning and Team TWF — as always — was wonderful to spin with. I’m hoping to wind Iron Blue and African Sunset here momentarily and maybe while I have all the equipment out I’ll get Maple Leaf Rag reskeined and labeled and ready to head out to its new home. Zinnias During Dusk, I’m not sure yet what’s in store there, but I assume a cozy hat for the fast-approaching cold weather.

But there you have it, another Spinzilla is in the books!

Meat & Potatoes

As a fiber artist, generally speaking I really like to change things up. I don’t much care for doing the same project multiple times in row in my knitting or in my spinning. It just has to be different or I get bored. Sure, I like relatively simple socks and I knit a lot of vanilla socks, but at the same time, I do like to mix it up with textured patterns, different types of yarn, etc. Spinning is no different. From project to project I like to spin the full gamut, too — from different weights to subtle play with texture to different wheels or spindles. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

Every once in a while though, my spinning self gets on a roll with 2-ply worsted(ish) yarns. They aren’t thrilling or particularly fast spins, but they are like the meat and potatoes of spinning for me — the basic sustenance of my spinning self. 2-ply worsted is where I started my spinning adventures and every now and then, I just like to spend some time making these simple, fun yarns. Compared to many other spins, once I’ve got the feel for the drafting in my hands, they are easy to start and finish in a relatively short amount of time and the resulting skeins are perfect for simple projects like a nice basic hat or a pair of mitts or a cowl. In winter, I can never have too many of these hanging around in my stash. We inevitably lose hats and wind up with wet hats, so I simply never have too many and almost always can easily justify making more.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been enjoying some of these ‘meat & potato’ spins in an effort to stash down some fiber that’s been hanging around for a while as well as just learn this basic skill on the new wheel. All right, I’ve got a confession, I’ve actually been spinning them on both wheels. Not just because I’m a hopeless fanatic (which I totally am at this point), but also because moving between the familiar and unfamiliar wheel has really helped to speed the process of learning how to acquire this skill on the new wheel. So much of spinning is tactile memory, having that 2-ply worsted feel in my hands before I sit down to spin it on the new wheel really helps the learning curve, I think. Boy, am I lucky to have this as an option!

I’m also lucky in that I’ve got 4 new skeins of this lovely 2-ply yarn finished! Can you say whew-hoo?! All these skeins are Superwash Merino + Nylon 85/15 — a fact for which I was so happily cruising along that I only realized it when writing this blog. I knew they were all merino blends, but hadn’t paid too close attention to the exact blends. Le sigh. Let’s get to those SWMerino + Nylon blends, shall we?!

First, let me introduce Sandy Claws.

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You’ll notice it’s not as poofy as an unblended Merino would be — that’s the nylon at play. It’s still super fun, I think. As a UW Madison alum, I see Badgers, but I’m definitely biased.

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These are totally not my normal spinning fiber colors, but I really enjoyed the true red and high contrast in this fiber.

Next, let me introduce, Phlox.

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This was adopted by way of the no longer available Cloudlover Fiber Club, which definitely dates it as that club ended probably 2years ago. Thank goodness fiber does not have an expiration date!

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The delicate, barely-there colors were another departure from my normal color selections and again, pretty fun to experiment with.

And then there was, Ragdoll.

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This colorway I really love. I actually bought this on a special order, if memory serves, thinking it would be perfect for spinning and then knitting a sweater for my daughter. This was back when 8oz was laughably more than enough for the task.

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I could probably still make it work, but there’s a beautiful pink from Three Waters Farm that I have stash for this task and I have much more of that on-hand. My daughter’s preferred color choice plus more than enough fiber to have unlimited options for this project means it was time to just spin it up, meat & potatoes style! I’m so glad I did — it’s just fun to finally see it spun!

And last, but not least, As You Wish.

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This was also part of the Cloudlover fiber club and it was one that I was pretty skeptical about, but it surprised me.

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It’s this combination of neutral and super subtle purples and greens that I find pretty interesting.

All in all, I think this skeins turned out pretty darn nice. And I’m so very glad because these skeins have a very special, super secret destiny. I don’t have any details for them yet, but I’m guessing they’re in the worsted, 200yard(ish) vicinity. The perfect meat & potatoes, back to basics spins indeed. You can expect to see more of these types of spins over the coming weeks as I work on clearing through some of my deep stash — I believe I’ve got 4 or 5 more braids prepped to spin, 2 bobbins full already resting, and 2 spins on my 2 wheels. Variety is definitely the spice of life, but sometimes there’s nothing like a little comfort spinning!

The FrankenSkein

As a spinner, I’m pretty good as using every last bit of my singles yarn when I spin. If I’m spinning a 2-ply, more often than not I’ll use an Andean Plying Bracelet to use up every bit. If it’ll drastically change how the colors are handled and look I might not, but oftentimes it’s not going to make enough of a difference for me to notice or mind. If I’m doing a traditional 3-ply, I’ll often wait until the first bobbin runs out and then take whichever remaining bobbin has the most left and make a plying bracelet from that and carry on with the plying bracelet plus the ply from the other remaining bobbin. In this case (as well as a few others) though, there will generally be some leftovers at the very end.

So what to do with these leftovers?

A couple years ago, before I realized anyone else actually does this (and it turns out many people do!), I just started putting any leftover yarn that was mostly lightweight onto a bobbin. I didn’t discriminate at all so we’re talking all sorts of random colorways and fiber contents.  If I had leftover yarn, it went on the bobbin which I quickly dubbed my “FrankenBobbin.” And for about two years, this is just what I did and I didn’t think too hard about it.

I added a bit of yarn onto the FrankenBobbin just before the Tour de Fleece started this year and while there was still room for more singles, I thought it was a good time to just call it a day and see how this experiment would look. I could have chain plied it to keep the colors whole, but I figured that with such a wide range of colorways I would actually probably be better off mixing them as much as possible. With this in mind, I put the bobbin on my tensioned lazy kate and wound it into a center-pull ball. And then I proceeded to ply — 1 ply from the inside and 1 ply from the outside of the center-pull ball. Of course, I totally spaced on taking photos of the process — sorry! I was kind of excited to see how it would turn out and forgot to slow down and take photos.

I did, however, take photos of the finished yarn. Would you like to see the FrankenSkein born from my FrankenBobbin?

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Isn’t it wonderful?! I’m totally in love with it! Who would think all these misfit colors would create something so incredibly stunning?!

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Of course, it’s not a perfectly consistent yarn as it came from probably at least a dozen different spins. I’ve got one join that is… not pretty, too, but that’s easily dealt with when I actually go to use it. Any knitter who has been at it for a while knows and has dealt with a break in the yarn or a not-so-great knot or a weird spot in some commercially spun yarn. It’s no different beyond the fact that I probably could have and should have done a better job in that spot. But I digress. Because…

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It’s about 420yards of fingering weight yarn. I have no idea yet how I want to use it, but this is one of those experiments that’s turned out so well that I’m pretty happy just to bask in the beauty of it for a while.

I feel like my lovely FrankenSkein is a true testament to the fact that spinning is an incredibly amazing, wild, creative, and forgiving art. How odds and ends from a dozen or so wildly different colorways and fiber contents can produce such a pretty yarn — it’s totally beyond me. That said, you had better believe I’ll be starting another FrankenBobbin at my earliest convenience. If you often find yourself with leftovers from your spins, I recommend you do the same tout de suite!

A Touch of Green

When I looked back to see which edition of Three Waters Farm Top of the Month Club the fiber I’m about to share with you was, I was thinking, “I remember the green was the key. It must have been that time of year when we’re thirsting for green.” To me, in Wisconsin, that means March.

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Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

In North Carolina, where Mary Ann dyes this fiber though, it appears it’s February! February’s “A Touch of Green” on 100% Corriedale is the spin I’m going to share with you today. It’s long overdue as this was the first spin in our new home which we moved into in April. The singles were done shortly after the move and the plying… I’m not sure exactly when I got to them, but I do know it was before the Tour de Fleece. In any case, long overdue. Indeed.

I really wanted to try something different with this braid, so I split it up for a “gimp” yarn. Very simply put this yarn is comprised of 2-plies with one ply being half the size of the other (spinning friends, it’s on page 119 of Sarah Anderson’s The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs if you want to see the recipe I followed) . In this image the fiber for this spin is the fluff on the computer.

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As you can see, I pulled out all the bright green and a bit of the blues tagged along for one ply and the rest — the fiber in the bowl — was set aside for the other ply.

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I did a sample of this type of yarn last year in my one fiber six ways experiment and I’ve been really wanting to try it again on a larger scale. For me, I think this is a really fun technical challenge. It’s one thing to spin a 2-ply yarn that has equal plies (or thereabouts), but to try to get 2-plies that are specifically different… well, I find that it really pushes me to be more attentive and to have better control over what I’m creating. In the grand scale, these skills definitely help me to spin the yarn I want not just in this spin, but any spin so I consider it a very worthy undertaking.

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You can clearly see the bobbins are different weights for the singles here, right? Probably because this was a full 4oz braid of fiber instead of the sample I did a year ago, I wasn’t quite as exact in the size of my plies, but I didn’t do half bad either. I did use my Spinner’s Control Card throughout — a tool that I always have around when I’m trying to get a specific weight yarn. For a long time I thought spinner’s just eyeballed everything and were just kind of magicians. While many do, you certainly can help your “aim” and teach for tactile senses a lot  about spinning by using good tools.

In any case, I really do think the finished yarn is lovely.

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It’s not technically a spiral yarn, but I love the swirling look of a good gimp yarn.

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I could have given this skein a bit more twist, I think, but… well, hindsight is always 20/20. There’s always a little something I’d change and that turns into an experiment the next time I spin up a skein. That’s the nature of learning and improving, right? Building on your skills and learning as you go. One thing I wouldn’t change is how I handled the colors. I think that bright green as the lighter ply makes this yarn. It makes it unique and fun and utterly my own.

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The finished skein is roughly 160yards of DK weight yarn. I haven’t yet settled on what I’d like to do with it. According to the blurb about it in Sarah Anderson’s book, it’s supposed to be a good option for socks. I don’t know, do I dare trying to eek out some shorties with this? I’m fairly certain I don’t have enough yardage, but it might be worth a try. Or shall I go the safe route and knit up a quick hat or mitts? I’ve got a few other projects on the needles, so I will let this one ruminate. I certainly won’t mind dreaming over this “touch of green” for a while.