Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The next thing I did was pull a little sample out of the end of the batt. I've begun to do this to save a small pinch of fiber tied to the information card so I have an idea of what it was like before it was spun. In this case, the wool shocked me. I've never spun Wensleydale before and I was not prepared for the length of the staple. "My goodness!" I thought, "This stuff must be at least nine inches long!" I am accustomed to Merino wool which has a staple around 3 inches. And even now I must report I was mistaken in my initial estimate. I took my sample bit to a ruler and it is TWELVE inches long! Considering that is four times as long as my usual spinning it becomes extremely difficult to do a long-draw on this fiber. I would have to hold my hands over two feet apart!
So I spun the Wensleydale short-draw (ha--a short draw still twice as long as my usual long-draw, which should tell you it's all relative to the fiber you're spinning) with worsted techniques and got a gorgeous, mostly smooth single. There are still some uneven ends poking out in odd places that makes me wonder if it might halo a bit when worked. More than that it was fun to spin. When I pulled out a few filaments with my drafting, they just kept coming and coming and coming, rather than drafting apart.
Doubled back on itself I made about 20 yards of fingering weight yarn. It was harder to gauge exactly how much fiber to draw out to get a thinner single, but I'd like to try. I'd also like to work with a combed preparation, rather than carded, to see if would come out even smoother with worsted techniques. Lucky me, someone else packed in Wensleydale as a sample, too, so I'll get to try again.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
This lovely pink sample is a blend of milk fiber, Shetland wool, alpaca and "wool top" in unknown amounts coming from Giffordables and named "Princess" to fit in with our September box theme.
I have to mention that the lack of information included with each sample is becoming one of my bigger complaints with the Phat Fiber box. If you're going to send a sample, label it clearly. I want to know what I'm spinning, and in what percentages, or I can't really get a good feel for what properties I should try and exploit in the spinning. There are some samples in this box that don't say anything at all about the fiber! At least I have some idea of what's here.
Because of the Shetland and generic wool content, I decided to spin this carded batt with a long draw. This technique yields a softer yarn with more air in it and typically it will be much warmer because of that trapped air. I still spun pretty thin with the intention of being 2-ply yarn, but this sample came out much closer to fingering weight than the laceweight of earlier samples.
The long strip of fiber spun well and was nicely blended. Only the milk fiber wasn't distributed throughout but showed up more as shiny stripes much like a caramel ripple in ice cream. Everything drafted together nicely and I didn't end up with a handful of shorter-staple fibers at the end.
The finished skein is nicely squishy. The milk does show up it some places with a soft luster and no doubt the alpaca will make it very warm.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Unfortunately there isn't a content list for this sample, but I'd lay odds on wool and either milk, soy, or silk blended in. The other major disappointment is that after all that packaging (pop-up-box, blue ribbon, card and gold ribbon holding the card on) there was only 2.5g of material provided. I realize this is a sampler, but 2.5g isn't even 1/10th of an ounce. If I had any advice to the seller, it would be to dump the packaging and include a full 1/4 ounce of fiber instead. I can't spin cardboard, or even re-use the box with the amount of hot-melt glue that was applied to it.
With so little available I didn't save a little tuft for reference later, but rather spun the entire sample. I also went for spinning the fiber as thin as I could get it (and still want to knit it). So with that in mind, I carefully spun it worsted to see what I could get.
It didn't FEEL too tight. In fact it felt deliciously soft and comfortingly clingy as a good sock should. But the lovely lace on the top stretched so terribly you could no longer determine its original shape. How sad.
So after much debate, I pulled the needles from my first sock and ripped the poor thing back to the heel flap. The second followed soon after this picture was taken.
The one bright light in all of this was that we drove to the coast on Saturday to go to the Aquarium. I didn't know this was going to be such a great thing but what it did give me was at least three hours of solid knitting time while I chatted with my husband (who was doing all the driving) and allowed my children to nap in the back seat. It was some of the most peaceful time I've had all week and was all the better for the great conversation.
I also got a lot of knitting done!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
In contrast to the milk fiber, the flax is very clearly made of plant material. It is slightly rough to the touch and brings instantly to mind the feel of grass or rope. It was a bit daunting to plan on spinning this fiber since most of my skills tend towards wool and similar materials. Flax can be spun wet or dry, and after a quick note off to the Bohemian Knitter, herself, I figured I might as well spin it dry to get the best comparison to how I'm spinning everything else lately.
The flax actually spun quite easily. I used a worsted draw on it, smoothing the irregular strands together as I went. There were some little bits that fell off or flew away, but what was really interesting was that it was a little bit warm while I was spinning. As I got a little toasty and sweaty, the flax in my hand actually got softer. I can see how spinning wet would be very different! And that of course tempts me to get some more to try it.
I finished with around 20 yards of spun flax. The yarn itself feels very sturdy. I washed and whacked the skein--not because I thought this would set the twist (because it is plant material and not wool) but rather I wanted to see how it would behave wet, and if a little extra finishing would soften it at all. It soaked up a lot of water easily, wrung out well and dried fast. But after it was just as tough as before. It predictably has no loft to it at all and it lacks the instant softness of spun cotton.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I have to say that more than anything else, the color drew me to this sample. Vibrant yellows reach out to grab your attention, and the hank had a gorgeous sheen. But while first glance might suggest it, this isn't silk top. Instead, Hampton Artistic Yarns has contributed a sample of 100% milk fiber dyed to invoke the spun gold of Rumplestiltskin.
I'm not enamored with milk fiber for a number of reasons. Milk fiber is actually processed milk protein, so it dyes just like wool or silk would. It is chemically created and extruded as a fiber and then processed into top, or reeled off for weaving. Many manufacturers tout how "Green" milk fiber is, and it may be. Without sitting down with someone inside the industry I have no way of knowing for sure and part of me has doubts. It is also touted for many other beneficial properties like making your skin softer, and being somewhat anti-bacterial.
Milk acts a lot like silk. It's even more slippery than the tussah top that I have spun. But it is not as strong as silk and will snap a lot sooner from over-twisting, and being quite so slick it is difficult to join again. I didn't have much trouble with snapping while spinning, but I did break my single several times while winding it off to ply. This was a lot more annoying since it's much harder to splice yarn once everything is all off the spindle and tangled up on itself. The fiber I had came with a tiny and regular crimp and I'm curious to see if that will make it more lofty than silk would be.
All said, milk fiber is really interesting. I can see why people would like it and it could make a really stunning addition to a blended batt. I wouldn't pick it over silk to spin solo again, but that doesn't mean it isn't a lovely and useful fiber.
If anyone knows anything more about the creation of milk fiber and its environmental impacts, I'd love to read more!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
For quite a while I have been watching these items called "Phat Fiber" boxes on Etsy.com. The creator of the Phat Fiber box has been able to get many of the retailers on Etsy to pool together and contribute samples of their product. She then compiles these samples into packages and distributes them. There is a yarn box, mixed box, and fiber box. Each comes with an assortment of goodies with a theme-of-the-month.
I hope you have as much fun reading as I will spinning!
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The batt was silk, wool, and angelina (a synthetic sparkle) and it lived up to its name. It also fit the spindler's challenge for this month of "Night Sky". Of course the first thing that comes to mind is blue-black fiber with silver spangles; that's certainly the sky I remember from camping out in my childhood. But there are plenty of other amazing night skies. This AbbyBatt in particular, brings to mind the low-bellied clouds of summer thunderstorms, pressing in so tight that they reflect the street lights bright enough to seem like day.
Over the course of two weeks I slipped in enough spinning time to finish the one-ounce batt I brought with me, completing the last of it on my final day in town. At home I was able to wind off, measure things out and determine that while I love 3-ply yarn, it was only going to get me about 110 yards. 2-ply would be closer to 180, and likely between lace and fingering weight. I debated and paged through Ravelry quite a bit, trying to decide if I should use it as an accent in another project or on its own, and happened across a pattern for fingerless mitts that suggested 175 yards of yarn.
So there we have it, I went ahead and created 175 yards of lovely 2-ply yarn that will be just about perfect for a pair of fingerless mitts. I can't wait to get knitting!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Bet you didn't know I was in Illinois for the past two weeks. Because I rather forgot to mention it. But I was! I carefully packed myself, my family and my knitting (and spinning) into a shockingly small number of bags and set off for two weeks "back home" with my family. We had a lovely visit and one extra bonus came out of the whole wonderful time...
... my mother took me to Stitches!
We had a lovely time in the Marketplace. We spent about four hours there, including a very brief stop for lunch. For the first half we managed to follow my philosophy: see everything, first, and THEN go back and buy. But unfortunately we chanced upon the cutest little kit to knit a Tooth Fairy and fell down on that resolution. Oh, well!
My last purchase, but first pick, is pictured above. Each skein is two ounces of dyed merino wool blended with undyed silk. These deliciously fluffy strips of combed top are from "Imagine Together" and unfortunately my receipt does not include the name of the booth from which they were purchased. I believe these bright colors are destined for some lovely colorwork.
here). Touching this fiber is like running your fingers through a cloud of dreams. I have Big Plans to blend it with something else--probably merino and perhaps a bit of silk as well.
On top of all the gorgeous yarn and fiber, Miss Babs has got the "extras" thing down. She tossed a couple of really fun items into our shopping bag as we left:
After four hours (and a bunch of purchases for Mom, too) we were done in and gathered ourselves and our things, and headed back home to fathers and family. What a lovely day.