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Archive for the ‘spinning’ Category

Nesting

We know spring has really arrived, and not just because it is greening up and the wildflowers are coming out on the hills.  Many of our nesting boxes have new residents!  The bluebirds are back, third year in their chosen box – ditto, nuthatches.  There are lots of swallows around and we moved the “duplex” to a better location and think we have takers there.  A Say’s Phoebe is nesting on one of the rafters in the carport.  We aren’t true birders but we do so enjoy sitting out on the deck with the binoculars, watching all the activity.

I finished off the handpainted warp from the Kathrin Weber workshop with a couple of table runners using the repp weave.  I am supposed to give a presentation tomorrow at the guild meeting about my experience, so it was a good motivator to finish these and then clean up and put away the workshop loom.  I didn’t know how much warp I had left so that is why one came out shorter.

Also finished the first 3 scarves using the ombré color transition idea and WEBS merino/tencel yarn.  I am very happy with these (they feel wonderful) and have tied on a second warp and have started another set.  It may be hard to see in these pictures, but the front and back are both attractive.  On the front, the black warp yarn forms the predominant pattern, and on the back it is the weft yarn that predominates.

The colorways below are:  Plum & Elderberry, Whipple Blue & Silver, Grey Teal & Grey Olive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also finished spinning up two Polwarth/Silk handpainted braids I bought at The Artful Ewe (Heidi Dascher) in Port Gamble last November.  One of the braids I split in half lengthwise, the other one into quarters (so the color transitions came more frequently).  Those 2 singles were plied with fine kid mohair, also hand-dyed by Heidi.  I have 2 skeins, with a total of about 600 yards.

 

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Spinning Camp 2017

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I got back from another wonderful week on Orcas Island, immersed in spinning and dyeing with Judith MacKenzie and about 20 participants.  For the third year in a row, I have gone over with 2 friends from the valley.  Somehow we manage to squeeze our spinning wheels, tools, fiber, personal belongings and ourselves into my Honda CR-V and journey across the mountains and onto the ferry at Anacortes.  There you are, you know who you are!

The theme this year was “Colorful Ewe” and this meant exploring many ways to bring color into our spinning, with and without a dye pot.

On the first day we each chose a bag of “scrap fiber” that Judith had put together – bits of spinning fiber, both commercial and JM-dyed, mostly wool or wool/silk blends.  We were asked to spin a singles, using whichever method worked for the fiber prep, and changing colors fairly often.  Ideas of what to do with the singles:  (1) ply off multiple bobbins to even out the color and diameter, (2) spin to the left and then make a boucle onto a silk or rayon thread, then make a compound boucle in the opposite direction, (3) ply with a solid color.  I chose the latter and she had merino top in a variety of colors to work with for the solid.

My bag of “scrap” fiber

Finished the skein after returning home

On Day 2 she laid out a circle of dyed merino tops (see photo above) to show us a technique for making a marled yarn from 5 colors.  You hold 3 of the colors at a time across your hand and spin back and forth, from side to side, making sure to spin 2 colors together for a bit at each transition.  Then drop one of the colors and add in a new one at the other side.  You can make a 2-ply, and optionally overtwist the 2-ply to make a cabled yarn to get even more color mixing.  I have done this exercise in the past so skipped it (worsted spinning also not being my strong point…) but she did suggest lashing the 3 colors onto mini-combs to open up the fibers and make it easier to hold for spinning, if it is a struggle.

This day she also had us do an over-dyeing exercise to explore “The Harmony of Dominant Hue”.  We made pigtail bundles of a variety of commercial yarns (different colors and textures but all  protein fibers) that absolutely did not go together!  They set up mason jars with different dye colors to drop our bundles into for overdyeing.

JM’s samples – all were the same yarns

Project underway

A bonus of this exercise for me was the dye left in the mason jars.  I had brought some washed mohair locks that I wanted to dye in various colors and small quantities, to use in drumcarding wool batts for color and fiber accents.  So I got them soaking in a bucket and later that evening we dropped them into the jars and surrounding cookers.  I also did some later over in the “dye cabin” using up leftover dyepots, and by the end of the workshop I had a nice variety of colors.

Over the next couple of days, Judith also gave us lots of information and samples from lichen dyeing, and we compiled a little notebook with her notes, lichen samples and dyed yarn samples.  I didn’t get any pictures but it was very informative.

Another color exercise was making your own gradient yarn from a multicolor hand-dyed braid, instead of just spinning the color sequence the dyer had created.  She broke the braid up into color groups, from dark to light.

Then split the piles in half and spun 2 singles from dark to light.  When plied in the same order, the 2-ply is your own gradient created from the colors of a braid you loved for the color.

Here’s mine laid out and then the finished yarn.  I added a bit of solid colored merino to augment the color/shade sequence (especially the lemon yellow at the end).  This was fun and I can see doing it again with a full 4-oz or so braid (we only had about 1 oz to play with).

The other dye project I had in mind was to dye some fine 25-micron wool skeins (merino type) to use for weaving.  This we wound up doing in a steam table, and as usual I hovered and Judith worked her magic for me.  I wanted a “semi-solid” effect, i.e. not stripes of color across the skeins, and as it turned out we also got a gradient of color from skein to skein.  We were using Judith’s dyes (weak-acid super milling dyes for protein fibers) and we used lots of vinegar to make sure the colors struck fast and didn’t migrate around and make a mud pie in the dye bath.  She gently poked and lifted the skeins with a chopstick to make sure there were no “white spots” and that the dye worked its way down through all the fiber.

Pre-soaked and laid lengthwise and side-by-side in the steam table tray

Starting to add color at one side

Each one had a transition from the previous one and then went into a new color

My beautiful finished skeins!

It may be a while, but you will see these show up in scarves and/or shawls.

 

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Rick just finished a walnut coffee table using a plank of Oregon claro walnut that he had kicking around the shop for about 25 years.  For the legs he used leftover pieces from a kitchen he just did for a house in Twisp.  These were from a homestead tree down in Wenatchee that had been through a wildfire.  One of the pieces had a big split down the middle which he had to separate to keep the leg stable.  When he did that, he found an actual walnut embedded in the crack – the tree must have grown around it.  He managed to glue it back in there when he fashioned the leg!

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P1000830Our friends in Wenatchee stopped by last weekend on their way into the valley for some skiing.  They fell in love with this table and are buying it, so it will never see the inside of a gallery.  We are taking it to them tomorrow when we go down for a medical appointment.

On the weaving front, I put a warp on Kingston, the 32″ Macomber at home, to do my guild “challenge” project.   It needs to be finished by the April 15 meeting and this year it is a color challenge.  We each drew an envelope with a color photograph, and the challenge is to weave something using at least 4 colors from the photograph, and no others.  My picture is of cherry tomatoes on the vine, laid out on a wicker basket.

I had colors in 8/2 cotton from WEBS that worked but it took me a while to decide what sort of thing to weave.  I didn’t want to do a towel for some reason.  Then I remembered a project in Handwoven magazine last Nov/Dec that used a Bateman Boulevard draft to make fabric for a tablet sleeve.  I really liked the mid-century modern look of that fabric and decided to accomplish 2 things – my color challenge, and an exploration of the Boulevard weave to see where it might lead me.

I wound up with 4 napkins for the challenge part, and have warp left on the loom to try some variations.  There are 4 colors in the warp – 2 greens, a warm brown, and tobacco.  When weaving, I used the red-orange for the pattern weft and one of the warp colors for the tabby weft.  So the four napkins are each a slightly different color, and it was good to see what changing the tabby weft did to the overall color of the fabric.

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I have also kept up with spinning, inspired by my time up on Orcas Island in February.

A 3-ply yarn using 3 rovings from Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks.  Two of them were merino/tencel and one was wool/bombyx silk, but all three were dyed in the same Autumn colorway.

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A 2-ply yarn using 4 oz. of Bluefaced Leicester purchased many years ago from Chameleon Colorworks.P1000833

On Saturday we are off for a week-long vacation to Lake Quinault on the Olympic Peninsula, and then to Port Townsend and LaConner.  Can’t wait!!

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Spinning Camp 2016

I spent last week on Orcas Island at “spinning camp” with Judith Mackenzie.  Like last year, I went with 2 friends from the Methow.  We somehow managed to get 3 spinning wheels and our personal luggage into my Honda CR-V, and did our grocery shopping up on the island (they give us one meal a day at lunchtime, but we are on our own for breakfast and dinner, and the cabins have kitchens).

3 Methow gals at camp

3 Methow gals at camp

Judith in the meeting room

Judith in the meeting room

The theme this year was “Let’s Spin It Right”.  Basically she gave us a lot of different kinds of fibers to spin and showed one or more ways to make the best use of it. Her new book is out and I would say a lot of things we tried drew on the book.  I did buy a copy as there is a lot of great info in there, not just about the various fibers.

“It’s time to look beyond wool, with The Practical Spinner’s Guide: Rare Luxury Fibers!  The go-to expert for fiber artists, Judith MacKenzie shares insights into working with uncommon (but readily available) luxury downs in this comprehensive, yet practical, guide for today’s spinners. With her natural voice for story telling that is both engaging and informative, she discusses the history of each of these downs, how they are used today, characteristics unique to each, and where to find them. She also dives deep into the specific spinning techniques for each fiber, knitting and weaving rare fibers, and dying them once spun.  From angora to bison, camel to cashmere, there’s a whole world of rare luxury fibers just waiting to be spun!”

The first day she gave us 2 oz. of 60% Polwarth/40% silk roving she had dyed.  I wound up buying a second one in a close but more blue color and over the course of the next day or two made this 2-ply yarn which I will use for a lace project:

JM's dyed roving spun into 2-ply

That day we also played around with spinning silk and ways to combine it with other fibers.  She had just received some beautiful darkish red eri silk from India.  She showed us a way she had just come up with to combine it with yak fiber.  The yak has quite a short fiber length and the silk is much longer, but she laid a light “frosting” on top of the yak and just added some in occasionally.  The final effect is a gilded yak singles that you can ply.  My sample is so small it isn’t worth photographing (and I need to practice to get it to look better!) but I was quite excited by this idea and intend to pursue it.

She gave us some washed camel undercoat which has all the lengths of fiber, the shorter of which are lost when it is made into top.  You can spin this directly, but she also combined it with silk on handcards, which requires cutting the longer silk fiber into shorter lengths.  I brought that project home with me as I am not that good with handcards and want to take my time.

They set up the dye cabin towards the end of the week and I did a fair amount of dyeing this year.  Several folks were interested in gradient dyeing of skeins of yarn.  This involves starting with a low water level, then gradually lowering the fiber into the bath as you add more water.

gradient dyeing 1

gradient dyeing 2

gradient dyeing 3

From home I had brought 8 oz of 60% Polwarth/40% silk roving and Judith helped me dye it in the steam table tray.  Basically I assisted and she did the colors!

roving dyeing 1

roving dyeing 2

roving dyeing 3

She has so many years experience she can just pour the dye stock solutions on and get wonderful results.  The challenge for me will be doing this on my own and not making a total mud pie out of it.  But look at my beautiful roving!

polwarth&silk roving dyed

I also did some immersion dyeing of 6 skeins of wool I bought at camp in 2007 from Island Fibers on Lopez Island.  Maxine always brings her wares (whole fleeces, dyed rovings, undyed rovings, etc) to camp.  They had sent Lopez-Island-raised Coopworth and Romney fleeces to be spun into yarn and after 8 years I had done nothing with it and it was still white.  Now with Judith’s help it is a lovely moss green and I have started swatching for a sweater.

It was another inspiring and informative camp with our lovely Judith, teacher and mentor extraordinaire.

Judith with Abstract Fiber

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I am so far behind in blogging it is hard to know where to start.  Part of it is laziness, part of it is lack of picture-taking.  I don’t know!  Anyway, since we last met in early December, we have been to Seattle for a week for the holidays, and then settled back in over here in early January.

I have a new spinning wheel!  It is a Jensen Tina II and belonged to a friend of mine in Seattle, who bought it in 2002 but hardly used it.  The finish was rather dry, so Rick put 2 coats of Profin on it and now it looks wonderful.  It spins like a dream.

 

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On January 7th, my friend Sara organized a “Roc Day” spinning day at Twispworks.  About 20 people came and we had a fabulous potluck lunch, in addition to the general cameraderie.  From Wikipedia:

Distaff Day, also called Roc Day, is 7 January, the day after the feast of the Epiphany. It is also known as Saint Distaff’s Day, one of the many unofficial holidays in Catholic nations.  Many St. Distaff’s Day gatherings are held, large and small, throughout local fiber communities. The distaff, or rock, used in spinning was the medieval symbol of women’s work.

In many European cultural traditions, women resumed their household work after the twelve days of Christmas. Women of all classes would spend their evenings spinning on the wheel. During the day, they would carry a drop spindle with them. Spinning was the only means of turning raw wool, cotton or flax into thread, which could then be woven into cloth.

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We have lots of snow this year.  It is going to be the best ski season, maybe ever!  The folks at Methow Trails are keeping it well-groomed as always.  We have one of the top Nordic ski trail systems (120 miles or 200+ kilometers) in the country right here in our little valley.  It is divided into four areas, all connected by the Methow Community Trail.

We had more fresh snow yesterday and last night, and here was the scene this morning from our back deck:

P1000590Piling up on the deck:

P1000595Curling off the roof of the shop building:

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I have been knitting more Mosaic Mojo hats.  Still haven’t gotten tired of these yet, as long as I have nice yarn to work with.

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And I finished a sequence knitting project, another cowl:

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A week or so ago I put a scarf warp on my 32″ Macomber loom, using some Missoni “Bombay” novelty yarn that I picked up at a stash reduction sale, and some rayon rik-rak on cones.  I put 21 yds on the sectional beam, enough for 10 scarves about 70″ long plus fringe.  Finished the last one yesterday, washed them and cut them apart, and they are hanging to dry.  Pictures to follow!

This past Saturday, we had our annual community association progressive dinner, which is always held on the ML King holiday weekend.  I was the organizer, and we hosted the main course at our house this year (appetizers at one house, main course at a second house, desserts at a third).  There were 41 of us and it was a challenge to fit it into our dining and living room!  We moved most of the living room furniture out to the shop or upstairs, set up 5 tables, and borrowed a bunch of folding chairs from the Winthrop Gallery.  Lots of fun!

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This seems to be a social time of year – we have had many get-togethers with friends and neighbors since returning home at the end of December.

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Spinning Camp 2015

It’s been about a month since I went to the spinning retreat/workshop on Orcas Island with 2 friends from the valley.  I had missed the last 2 years so it was great to be back with Judith MacKenzie as our excellent teacher and mentor, and an interesting group of women.  There were some familiar faces, and some new ones as well – one group of 4 came all the way from Indiana!

The theme this year was “Wit, Wisdom & Wool” but basically it was trip around the world to explore  various fibers.  A lot of these were fine fibers such as yak, silk, camel, etc. and my friend Jacquie, who is a new spinner, really was thrown in the deep end.   It was a good review for me for things I had encountered in previous spinning retreats, especially since worsted draw isn’t my strong suit.

Here is a general view of the room – spinners, fiber and Judith!

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We started with 100% yak (Himalayas, Tibet, Mongolia) and were shown several ways of spinning the top.  Later I also tried a yak/silk blend that is yummy.  The yak fiber is a soft gray color.  On day 2 we went on to a camel/merino/silk blend and then some 100% baby white camel, plus what Judith said was “adolescent” camel – not truly baby.  Of course, all of this is accompanied by many wonderful and informative stories about the nature of the animals, their history, and how important they are to the lives of the people who live with them and use all of their products.  This was definitely the “wit & wisdom” part of the week.

Then we moved on to silk – 5 different kinds, to be exact.  Eri is a wild silk from Tussar, India and is gotten from spent cocoons (that is, the fibers are shorter because they allow the worms to hatch and eat their way out of the cocoon, which breaks the continuous thread).  This is a rare and hard to get silk- it was white.  Muga silk is a wild silk from India and also very rare – it was a lovely honey color and has a lustrous, reflective surface.  I found it easier to spin than the eri and some of the others.  There was a dyed black tussah silk from India which was kind of coarse, I didn’t care for it.  White bombyx silk (cultivated) was finer than any of the others and a challenge to spin.  There was a natural color tussah (wild) that was quite nice, and finally some dyed bombyx that Judith had dyed an indigo blue.

On the third day we had a diversion into a color gradient exercise.  We used cotton hand cards to open up and prepare a solid color dyed merino top (the hue).  The hue was blended on the hand cards with white (for a tint), gray (for a tone) and black (for a shade).  These were spun into singles, and then we made all the possible 2-ply combinations of each to see what different yarns could be achieved.  It was fun!

Next was a trip to the Shetland Islands.  We spun up different natural colors of Shetland from rovings, and learned the different ways to spin it depending on its intended use.  Also we had a visitor in the form of a Shetland sheep:P1040435

By the fourth day they were getting the dye cabin going.  People brought all kinds of things to dye – ugly yarn to made beautiful, spinning rovings, sweaters than needed a change of color, you name it.  This is always a part of camp.  I brought some Corriedale roving from home – it came out a little felted and I need to figure out how to disturb it less if I continue with this at home.  I also dyed some Polwarth/Silk top and that turned out pretty well!  They also had three electric drum carders set up so we could make mixed fiber and color batts to spin.

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The next stop was Australia and a chance to try Polwarth, a Lincoln x Merino cross.  Lovely, long & silky fiber but with plenty of crimp too.  I am in love.  Then we moved to South America and alpaca fiber.  Judith brought a whole haucaya alpaca fleece that we could sort through, and also an alpaca/silk blend in roving form.

Here are some things I spun and finished at home:

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yak, silk, camel spun in class, then made into a random 2-ply to become – something!

Polwarth/Silk roving dyed at camp. one finished and one yet to be spun

Polwarth/Silk roving dyed at camp. one finished and one yet to be spun

Judith's own dyed merino/silk - enough to make this shawl pattern

Judith’s own dyed merino/silk – enough to make this shawl pattern

And here is our Methow Valley contingent, with Judith MacKenzie:

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Fiberarts frenzy

I have been working on some scarf ideas that may make it as far as the pattern stage.  If not, at least it has been fun to “unvent” some things, and to bring along at least one project that has been languishing for quite a while!

First up is a 3-texture shaped scarf using a lightweight wool, a light mohair with glitter, and a lightweight kid mohair boucle.  I also shaped the tails, as I dislike fringe and wanted something more graceful than just a blunt end.  Working title:  Sedimentary Scarf (because this one reminded me of sedimentary rock layers).

3 differently textured yarns, and the swatch

3 differently textured yarns, and the swatch

Trial 1 of Sedimentary Scarf

Trial 1 of Sedimentary Scarf

The long tails came out WAY too long, so I have artfully pinned them up behind the drapey cowl part for the picture.  Next one will hopefully be “just right”.  I do love the colors in this one, though.

Next is a project I started a couple years? back.  It is a slip stitch pattern scarf (but not linen stitch) with attached corkscrew edging.  The first time I tried the edging, which came from Nicki Epstein’s excellent “Knitting on the Edge” book, they were knit individually and then sewn on.  Not fun mainly because of there being way too many ends to darn in when done.  I came up with a modification that lets me knit them as I go across each end of the scarf (this is after the body of the scarf is finished).  I had two scarves knitted in quite different colorways, but had never finished the edgings.  Well, the first one is done now, and I am working on the second.  Working title:  Corkscrewy.

Corks 1b

Corks 1d

Corks  1 fringe b

If I put these up on Ravelry, there will be a Big Announcement here on the blog!

I also finished a version of Hitchhiker by Martina Behm.   This is written for sock weight yarn, but I had been given a “challenge” skein of Mountain Colors  Weaver’s Wool Quarters last fall (350 yds in 100 gm, DK weight).  Actually a small group of us were each given 1 skein of this yarn with the challenge being to bring back something made out of it next October.  So I just knit away on a size 7 needle until I ran out!  It is definitely big enough to wear as a neck scarf, so I am pleased.

Hitchhiker in Mtn Colors 1

Hitchhiker in Mtn Colors 2

I have also been spinning up some of the rovings I bought at Taylored Fibers in Quilcene WA, on the Olympic Peninsula, last fall.

1/3 each merino, alpaca and BFL (Blue-faced Leicester)

13 oz. – equal parts merino, alpaca and BFL (Blue-faced Leicester)

50% merino, 30% bamboo and 20$ silk

16 oz. – 50% merino, 30% bamboo and 20% silk

first skein of 18 oz merino/alpaca/BFL with some silk noil

first skein of 18 oz merino/alpaca/BFL with some silk noil

I am building up a stash of roughly worsted weight handspun yarn to use as pattern weft in some shawls I want to do for my show at the Winthrop Gallery that opens at the end of May.

Which brings us to weaving!  After two months away from the looms, I am happy to say I put a new mixed warp for scarves onto Kingston this week, and am starting to weave again.  This colorway reminds me of the colors and textures you see in the rainforests on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.

Rain Forest warp on the loom

Rain Forest warp on the loom

First Rain Forest scarf underway

first Rain Forest scarf underway

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