Communing with Ents & Other Things

We had a busy weekend in the very best of ways. Saturday, started with two inches of fresh snow so the kids raced outside to build snowmen from the super wet snow before it was doomed to melt later in the day. I got bunches of work and cleaning finished. Most impressively though I got the pom on that hat I mentioned last week. I’m hoping to get a post up about that later this week.

Once I waded through the less fun & exciting tasks, I took some time to wind yarn for a first pair of Christmas socks and got the foot measurements of certain future handknit sock owners so I could do some math and get going. I used a basic custom toe-up formula and plan to utilize the Fish Lips Kiss heel and — get this — I am taking notes as I go so I know how I made them. I know, I know. Pick your jaws up off the floor! I’m really doing it!

Since they’re stockinette, I’ve just been working on them a bit before bed and a bit right when I wake up and here and there in between.

img_8654

And I’ve been making great progress. I think I’ve got 2-2.5″ left to go before the heel (and that’s saying something because these are for size 11-11.5 men’s feet). I’m loving this whole yarn wound into separate balls for each socks — it definitely makes me less weird about getting bogged down in toe-up socks land. I may have to wind for individual socks more often! I also need to mention that this is my first time using Turtlepurl Yarns and I am IN LOVE with the base as well as the colors. It’s just a treat to knit.

I also finished up spinning the singles of my Three Waters Farm Polwarth + Silk 60/40 fiber in the Granite colorway.

img_8658

This colorway is another thing I’m super IN LOVE with. It’s seriously just like granite — with that silvery grey and subdued bronze-y-ness. Just yum.

I prepped the color I intend to weave with Granite straight away…

img_8657

This is Moving in Circles, also from Three Waters Farm, on the Merino/Superwash Merino/Silk 40/40/20 base. I didn’t get to start it right away though as another adventure was in store…

img_8644

My family and I had a date with this deep, dark forest. Mr Knitting Sarah tracked down this forest about an hour north of our house. The Gerstberger Pines County Park is home to some very old trees and especially on this dark, foggy morning it had all the feelings of amazing and slightly creepy that comes with forests that have been around since the last ice age.

With some pines and hemlocks that have been standing for as long as 200 years, it was a majestic place and had that feeling of holding a lot of secrets that come with being around for two centuries.

moose

Moose tried his very best to blend with this place’s majesty and was listening closely to what the forest had to say.

The canopy in places is substantial and much of the ground is damp and moss covered…

img_8623

You can see that not even all the snow has melted yet on the forest floor.

It’s a favorite haunt of Pileated Woodpeckers.

img_8635

We didn’t see any, just flocks of chickadees at the end of our hike, but they’ve certainly left their mark with the trees.

And with the dampness, of course…

img_8637

There is plenty of wild plant and fungi around.

The trees were the real stars of the show though…

img_8639

Some of them with over a foot in circumference and over a hundred feet tall. Whether there were quiet predators observing from a safe place or it was just the ancient trees, it was hard to not feel like we were being watched. Like I said, it was slightly creepy and amazing. A new favorite spot for us; to commune with the Ents, to remember that grand scale of time, and to be reminded that we are kind of small in the grand scheme of the world.

We drove up to a small town nearby for lunch and saw Buffleheads on the neighboring lake while Moose snored away in the van. And then, full of good food, humbled by the ancient trees, and ready to be in the comfort of our home and out of the cold misty air, we journeyed back to our little cozy home.

When we got home, everyone went back to their rooms to reflect and relax and I, I dug into that freshly prepped fiber…

img_8656

And I kept going until there was just a fraction of an ounce left of the first half, the portion set aside for the first bobbin.

All in all, what a wonderful weekend. Full of just the right amounts of adventure, chores, family time, Ents, and craft. For us, there’s no better way to recharge the ‘ol batteries and be ready to go for another week.

 

 

 

 

Unabashedly Nonspecific

A couple weeks ago I had a comment here on the blog asking that I get into more of the specifics of my spins — wpi, tpi, ratios, etc — when sharing my finished handspun yarns. I’ll admit, I’ve always found myself walking a line here between my knitting readers and spinning readers, unconsciously trying to feel my way to where the right amount of detail is for both groups of crafters. I don’t want to get so specific that I lose those who aren’t spinners, but I do want to share enough detail that spinners can understand easily what I’m doing. I’m likely making a mountain out of a mole-hill, but it has been an issue that I feel like I’ve been dancing around for a good long while now.

After quite a bit of consideration and more than a little of my own special brand of soft-shoeing, I’ve come to the realization that I’m in a time and place where I’m as much spinner as knitter and my readers may be likewise more evenly divided. Therefore, it seems right that going forward I’m do my best to dive a bit more into the spinning mechanics and details when I talk about my handspun yarns. It’ll take time for me to develop the right words and vocabulary not to mention a hefty dose of discipline for me to keep better track of how I spin things, but it’s my belief that this new endeavor will not only help spinners reading this blog to learn from my work, but also help me as I continue to learn and grow as a spinner. I think all of us — knitters and spinners alike — will gain more depth of knowledge in the world of yarn if I take this next step. Together we can expand our vocabulary and understanding and I think that’s a pretty exciting prospect.

Today, however, is not day one of this journey. Today I am going to be unabashedly nonspecific. Today I’m going to share some yarns that I spun and finished before Spinzilla (and one from after), before this comment came up, and before I resolved to delve deeper. Today, I’m going to show you some yarns I spun just because, and the details, well, I’m leaving them out for today. The spins, however, I think will still be fun to see.

First up, this is a Polwarth + Silk blend called Red Rocks…

img_8473

I spun it as a simple 2-ply worsted weight yarn.

img_8474

As is true of all the yarns in this post, I haven’t properly measured it yet, but I would guess it’s around 200yards.

Next up, a Merino+Nylon blend called November Skies…

img_8475

Again, this was spun to be a simple 2-ply worsted weight yarn and is likely in the 200yard realm.

img_8476

And my third pre-spinzilla spin today is a Superwash Merino+Bamboo+Nylon blend called St Bartleby’s…

img_8478

This one I spun to be a little lighter, but as a traditional 3-ply yarn and is more like a sport of DK weigh yarn.

img_8477

I had quite a bit of waste with this one as I ran out of time and interest right before Spinzilla to try to squeeze every last yard from the singles. This 3-ply is probably more in the 200-250yard arena. I’ll be interested to know the yardage post-spa day because I usually don’t have as much waste as this one had.

And I did have one post-Spinzilla spin, as well. I won’t lie, it’s my favorite of this lot.

img_8472

I give you Rocks & Sand from Three Waters Farm on a 100% Rambouillet base.

img_8471

Again, this is a simple 2-ply, but this spin is a bit heavier, probably in the heavy aran or chunky classification. As it is heavier, the yardage is a little lower. I think it’s between 120-150 yards. I do think it’ll make an awesome hat which is what I’d originally planned for it. As you likely have noticed, hats really are my favorite thing to do with chunky Rambouillet and Merino. Cozy and smooshy and just all in all a wonderful project.

And there you have it! My latest handspun yarns, just as they are. Fast and furious spins, without a lot of technical talk. Buckle up, though, as I attempt to include the details of my new spins. I’m excited and nervous and ready to start developing a little more depth in the language I use for my handspun. The same yarns, just hopefully a little more informative and easier to fellow spinners to try out. Today, unabashedly nonspecific. Tomorrow, we start discovering how to discuss yarn in a deeper, more explicit way. I hope you’re excited to join me!

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.

img_8426

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.

img_8427

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!

img_8430

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.

img_8431

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

The plan is to pair it with African Sunset…

img_8434

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…

img_8433

 

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…

img_8428

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

img_8429

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.

img_8435

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!

Every Skein Has A Story

My in-law’s arrived early last Thursday and after a busy and very fun weekend of visiting and gallivanting, we saw them off yesterday morning. Like the true impatient person that I am when it comes to to-do lists, I immediately started the process of tidying up — got the laundry going, the kitchen organized, the floors swept, and sheets changed. You know how it goes. Between this and school with the kids, the morning flew by and before I knew it our mail carrier had parked his truck at the end of our driveway.

I’ve come to learn that when he stops the truck short of the mailbox, it means that he has more to deliver than will fit in the box. I was expecting one package, but not an overload the box situation. I hesitated. The irrational fear that one of those carts of dream yarn had accidentally been purchased tightened my chest. It’s never actually happened. I’m very careful about that sort of thing, but I still stress about it when I’m unaware why the mail truck is sitting at the end of my driveway.

In any case, I went out and collected my mail. I found a couple of bills. There was a skein of yarn I was expecting. The third issue of Laine Magazine which I’d pre-ordered from Wool & Honey was in the mix, too.

img_8318

And then there was a simple manila envelope from my friend Jennifer containing this…

img_8310

Before we open it, let’s take a few steps back.

Many moons ago I taught a knitting class where I discovered one of the students shared a lot of the same interests and values. Over the years, Jennifer and I have become good friends and, of course, as she was a knitter, I started giving her my handspun yarn to knit. Eventually she became interested in spinning and I attempted to show her how to use a spindle. She was the first person I ever tried to teach how to spin, so I’m 1000% sure that my instruction left a lot to be desired. In fact, I was so unconvinced of my teaching abilities with spinning that for a long time, I didn’t even realize that I’d been her teacher.  To my mind, she was teaching herself — I think she might as well have been because I was certainly not very coherent. Despite my often scatterbrained and not super logical teaching methods, she kept at it. Luckily, she is made of a lot of the same stuff I am. That love of yarn and fiber and creativity and perseverance runs deep.

Before long, this budding spinner mentioned that she was interested in getting a wheel and it just so happened that I had a friend interested in selling one. They were able to strike a deal and ever since she’s been spinning away and I’ve been joyfully sharing my favorite fibers, so happy to have a fellow spinning friend to share the journey. We shoot texts back and forth of our latest spins. We oooh and ahhhh and troubleshoot and talk about our latest dreamy fibers. We share ridiculous photos of our pets and families, too, but that’s a whole other can of worms. In short, she’s awesome and her spinning has been steadily improving as the days and weeks and months go by.

That plain manila folder that I received yesterday contained — as you may have guessed — a skein of my dear friend’s handspun.

img_8320

Isn’t it beautiful?!

img_8321

This is her very first attempt at a 3-ply fingering weight yarn and it is absolutely incredible. I am humbled and touched that it should land in my hands, that I will have the honor of knitting with it. I am very nearly without words.

It’s not just because it’s from Jennifer and she is undoubtedly awesome (which she is!), it’s because I’ve been there since her first spin. I’ve never been there, in-person, to witness a spinner evolve. I remember the first evening I tried to show her how to use a spindle. I remember the first time I let her test out my wheel. I remember going to her house to help her sort through her first plying efforts. I’ve seen her spins take shape and her confidence grow with each new project. It’s been so incredible to watch her branch out and take on more challenges. She gives me so much more credit than I deserve in the process — all I did was offer some poorly executed demonstrations, encourage her always to be fearless, to use the good fiber, and to just go for it with whatever skills she wants to learn. This beautiful yarn is totally of her own making. and yet somehow she felt I deserved to have this, her first 3-ply fingering weight yarn, land in my hands. I just… I don’t have the right words.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this yarn. I think it will sit on my desk for a bit while I marvel at it and try to wrap my mind around the whole experience that has led to its existence. Its beauty and the skill it took to create it, but also the whole journey. And that’s just the thing about handspun, isn’t it?! This is what sets handspun apart from commercially mill spun yarn. Every skein has a story, a history that goes so far beyond fiber meeting twist. Some skeins start long before we’re treadling at a wheel, long before the fiber with which it made is ever dyed. Some skeins start with two friends and a spindle, on a dark evening in a tiny kitchen.

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.

img_7792

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.

img_7793

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.

img_7794

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!

img_7795

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.

img_7790

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.

img_7791

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.

img_7788

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

img_7789

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 First Spin

As you all well know, a bit over a week ago my Schacht-Reeves arrived on my doorstep in two very large boxes. Of course, as is only right, we’ve been spending the last week or so getting to know each other.

Do you hear angels singing a glorious chorus when you see it, too?

img_7779

Or is that just me?

I’ve been sharing progress shots as the spinning of my very first project was happening, but I thought it would be fun to bring it all back and show the full project unfold in one post.

It all started with the wheel, of course (cue angels singing), and this braid of BFL from Three Waters Farm.

image_small2

Named “Lost in the Rain,” this is one of those super special colorways that I added to my stash simply because it was so pretty and I knew one day, I would spin some magic with it. My first spin with my Schacht-Reeves seemed like just the ticket.

img_7671

I’ll be perfectly honest with you because we’re friends here, and I’m a firm believer in the importance of honesty. The double drive has had a learning curve accompanying it. As I mentioned when I first shared the wheel, having been a Scotch tension girl since I started spinning, the double drive kind of confused me in the set-up. And then it took some getting used to just to get spinning. It got easier with time…

img_7683

But the further I got along in the project…

img_7685

Well, I started to get a little sloppy with it.  There were some over-twisting issues that plagued me and as the bobbin filled I had a harder and harder time making a neat bobbin and keeping the whole process balanced.

You can see my… ‘opportunities’ in the finished skein…

img_7783

The yarn is less consistent than my norm…

img_7784

And despite a warm water bath, so you can still see some of that extra twist lingering. I could have weighted the skein while it dried to take some of that twist out or even just run it back through the wheel, but I opted not to. It’s not so over-the-top that it won’t knit nicely and I can always choose to knit something more heavy wearing to take full advantage of that extra strength provided by the uber twist present.

img_7780

It’s a pretty skein regardless and at somewhere between 300-400 yards of fingering weight yarn, I’ll have lots of options for how to use it.

There’s no good way to show it in photos, but I can definitely see and feel the point in the plying where the double drive and I stopped talking past each other and started to speak the same language. What I’ve learned is that where the Scotch tension is very direct, double drive is a bit more nuanced. With Scotch tension, as the bobbin fills, you adjust the tension incrementally as you go to keep the uptake where you want it. With my Lendrum, this tends to translate to many small increases on the tension over the course of a spin allowing me to maintain more or less the same rhythm and speed throughout.

With the double drive, it’s so much more subtle. So far, what I’m finding is that it’s actually your hands and feet making minute changes throughout the spin much more than any adjustments to the wheel. Attention to keeping that harmony between your hands & feet and the wheel is of paramount importance. Exactly like the different set-ups achieve the same goal, you need a slightly different approach to make the spin go smoothly. Recognizing that I had to be attentive to different tells within the spin was my “a-ha” moment. It came about three-quarters through the plying of the Lost in the Rain spin, where, of course, you can’t see it.

But the next spin…

img_7742

I think you really can see the difference, don’t you? The bobbin is wound more smoothly, the over-twisting isn’t present, the singles are pretty consistent. All in all, it just looks more balanced. And this spin is being spun on the biggest whorl available, moving relatively slowly with both feet on my giant single treadle to keeps things nice and smooth. This is especially noteworthy because these heavier spins are much more challenging for me, so to get them this consistent is an accomplishment even on my Lendrum, let alone a wheel I’ve had for a little over a week.

And thus, the first spin on my Schacht-Reeves is done and the second is well on its way. The lessons continue to be learned, the familiarity continues to grow, the knowledge reaches new depths. On and on, the new wheel spins!