Doodling with Fiber

Posted in spinning by tchemgrrl on November 8, 2009

A 3-ply, worsted-ish weight yarn. 120 yards, 65g, which puts it somewhere in the Cascade 220 classic worsted weight range. I have a little bit more which is all spun up and just needs to be plied. Superwash Blue-Faced Leicester, dyed by Susan’s Spinning Bunny. What for? Who knows!


A relatively clear pic


And an arty pic, because the light was lovely and because I just figured out a focus-related setting on my camera. Viewed ginormously, you can see the individual fibers are in focus. So sweet.

I didn’t spin the fiber in any particular way, as far as preserving or wrecking the color organization of the fiber. I tend to be less organized with spindle-spun projects, because they are more likely to be picked up in spare odd bits of time–just grab whatever fiber is handy and get started. Some of the top got split into narrower pieces, which will lead to shorter stripes, but some of it was spun straight from the top, and I paid no attention to lining up particular colors. I spindle-spun most of the singles for this yarn, and plied on the wheel. There were some extra bits of fluff about when I first stated spinning the singles, so I added them into that particular batch, just putting them into the drafting triangle as I spun, or holding them together with the top and letting the fiber catch hold whenever it wanted to. I did this for one of the plies, and did not do it for the other two, in the hopes that when the fabric was knitted up, each odd color stuck out and sang on its own, without ending up plied next to something that clashed. Should give the relatively monochrome fabric a bit of interest. I’ve been trying to play around a bit more with yarn, be creative, try new things, and this seemed like an amusing experiment. One odd spinning habit I have is that when a few stray fibers from somewhere else get stuck into the fiber I’m working on, I don’t remove them, I just let them in. There’s a teeny line of blue somewhere on the biscotti socks for this reason, and for me it’s part of the delight of working with a handspun yarn. This is the first time I’ve done it in a more organized, but still relatively random way.

I’m trying to come up with something that would make sense with this yarn because I’m really curious how it looks knit up, with those occasional stripes of other colors thrown in willy-nilly. I may need to swatch it, just to find out. This is often the case with me and handspun yarn, incidentally; I have a really difficult time just stashing it, because I can’t wait to see how it knits up. This doesn’t help with the rather ridiculous number of WIPs and swatches cluttering up the craft area right now, but I’ll enjoy it until the disorder bothers me, and then go on WIP-hunting.

Batt Man

Posted in planning, spinning, WIP by tchemgrrl on November 6, 2009

I’ve been a spinning fool the past few weeks. I’ve knit about 5 inches of a hat, which is nothing. But for spinning, I’ve:

-plied 1400 yards of 2-ply laceweight and spun a few more hundred yards of singles,
-spun and swatched a little sample for a sweater for J,
-spun and plied 100-odd yards of worsted weight 3-ply,
-plied up 70-80 yards 3-ply sportweight alpaca I had sitting around,
– started spinning on some 3-ply sock yarn–I’m about 2 ounces into 8 ounces for kneesocks,
– started some 3-ply DK weight for a sweater for me.

I’ll talk about all of these eventually, but right now the one I’m most excited about is the very last one, yarn for a sweater for me.

A few weekends ago I was planning to go to the New York Sheep and Wool festival but wasn’t able to due to some health-related messiness. I’d been thinking of buying batts at the festival to spin up, so I took the money I’d planned to spend and went wandering over to Etsy instead. I’d seen some recommendations for Corgi Hill Farm from folks on one of the Ravelry spinning forums, and ended up with four wool/silk batts (about 7.5 ounces total) in a colorway of browns and blues.

Corgi Hill batt

I am in love, man.

The sweater that has caught my eye is Tink’s Racing Stripes Pullover (Ravelry link, pattern link), a raglan-sleeved sweater with variegated striping along the sleeves and sides. I may borrow the idea without using this specific sweater, as it’s a little heavier than what I’m spinning, and it’s not clear from the pattern notes of other users whether the shaping would need a lot of mods or not. Also, I think I can handle a striped raglan.

I was starting to spin this batt up at a recent knitting group, and someone mentioned that they had batts in their stash but didn’t feel very sure about how to process them. Honestly, *I* don’t feel very sure of how to process them; this is only the third batt I’ve spun up. But I thought I’d document my methodology in case anyone was curious.

If you lay out this little jelly roll, you find that it’s a single large sheet of mostly-aligned fibers.


When you look at it like this, it’s also pretty clear that there are multiple layers of fibers, sandwiched together. If I’m reasonably gentle I can separate some of them from the others:

Batt layer

So the first question is, do I actually *want* to separate those different color layers? This would make a nice tweedy yarn with occasional flecks of brown, blue, and white. But the sweater I have in mind originally used Noro, to give you an idea of the color separation. I wanted to have at least several-yard lengths of different colors, while still having a reasonably manageable fiber format to work with. So I separated a piece of the topmost layer of batt and removed a strip of that layer.

Batt strip

You can pretty clearly see where I removed the top layer; it’s the area with the blue peeking through. In looking at the strip I did remove, you can also see that I didn’t do a perfect job of getting a single color; there’s a bunch of lighter and darker bits in there. That, I don’t mind at all. While I’m encouraging the batt to work in a particular way, the batt is at its heart a fairly random fiber prep, and I’m trying to let it do that to as much of an extent as my desire for control can allow. I do want it to show a bit of its history as a mixed-up fiber, that’s a big part of what will give this yarn a character that is distinct from a dyed top. Really, it’s the whole point of buying a batt, along with being so open and airy that it spins beautifully.

Time to strip out the next layer.

Batt Strips

Again, this isn’t too perfect, again I don’t care, again you can see a new layer of fluff under the previous one. Note that instead of removing the next layer from that strip, I could just remove one whole layer at a time. Personally I find that a bit hard to work with, unless I’m going to strip this whole batt down and spin it all in one go. Usually I remove a bunch of layers from one strip, spin that up, then move to the next piece. The whole chunk of batt is much more stable and transportable than these little wispy things, so I only do this processing with an amount I know I can use at a sitting.

I keep removing layers from that same strip until I get all the way to the bottom, and twirl them around a bit so I can carry them down the hall without them falling to bits:


Different amounts of fiber, and different mixtures of color. I don’t care too much about exact lengths of color here–I couldn’t begin to match this with other plies, I’m going to chain-ply to preserve what color order I can.

Spinning it up, you can see that there’s definitely color variation, and on a reasonably long scale. This means that the individual stripes should be a few rows a piece if I have my act together.


I started working on this project last week, and finished spinning up one batt. I started to chain-ply on the wheel but that was a thorough failure–looked like garbage, totally uneven, really frustrating, incredibly slow. A few yards in I threw the whole thing into a corner and sulked. The remainder of the skein went much more smoothly on a spindle, but I thought I’d use the ugly bit on the wheel just to see how the colors and general thickness worked as a knitted fabric–didn’t even wash the yarn, just knit it off of the bobbin. It’s a pretty wide swatch, about half the width of the sleeve at the top of the arm, and so for success the stripes would need to be at least 4-5 rows long, hopefully with some intermediate coloring in between.


Success! The yarn goes from brown to blue to light gray to dark gray at a decent rate. The errant flecks of other colors make it interesting, but don’t dominate. It’s a bit hard to tell with the crummy plying job but I think the remainder of the yarn will be a fair DK weight, this is 5.5-6 stitches per in on US 6’s, slightly mushy, may move down to 5’s. Batt #2 is half done now, so I expect that another week or two should finish this guy, as long as I can keep the wool-loving cat away from the lovely sheet of wool that she eyes every time I lay it out to tear into strips.