Apples and seaweed

Posted in FO, spinning by tchemgrrl on February 27, 2010

Over the holidays, took a trip to Toronto with J and his family for a few days. Aside from being really cold, it was a nice time. One afternoon we all went in separate directions, and J and I did a bit of cross-referencing and then headed straight for the part of town with a comics shop and fiber store in closest proximity to each other.

(This is our usual method of deciding where to go. You think it’s coincidence that we live less than 10 blocks from two comics shops and two fiber-related stores? No.)

The fiber shop was Romni Wools, and it was lovely. I’ve been on such a spinning kick that I’m not sure when a commercial yarn will *ever* get used, so I was very happy to find some spinning fiber in their basement. I finally decided on two hanks of a sea silk/bug silk blend from Fleece Artist, one in what I think is sugar plum colorway. Fleece Artist doesn’t list their colorways on the labels, so as I was paying, J decided that it was all the colors of apples, and he was absolutely right–the leaves and all different shades of fruit, and even the mushy brown of the bruised windfalls.

I didn’t get a shot of the fiber because I started working on it more or less immediately, as I got a beautiful 18g Bosworth spindle as a Christmas gift, and here I was without any fiber to use it on. It’s hard, having all these first world problems.

apple silk 2

I decided to make a 2-ply yarn with what I’ve seen called a “fractal” technique, though the term’s a bit mathematically problematic. For the first ply, I split the fiber into 2 equal pieces, leading to quite long color repeats. For the second ply, I split it into a good number of narrower pieces (6-8 depending on how the particular chunk of fiber I had in my hand wanted to split), leading to narrower stripes that would nonetheless fit into a single one of the longer repeats. I’ve done this before for dyed yarns where all of the colors coordinate with each other with good results. I like it because 1: the color divisions are more subtle and better tied-together, 2: it requires less advance planning than trying to line all the plies up does, and 3: it still leaves just enough up to chance, which means I want to knit it up right away to see what it looks like!

This was a blend of sea silk and regular silk, but I could not tell the difference between the two at all, even holding pieces up to the light. It spun exactly like good silk top ought to. The only hint of its oceanic beginnings came when I washed the skein; my bathroom turned into Seafood Sam’s at low tide, and several washes didn’t reduce the smell of the yarn. I’m a little nervous about the looks I’ll get wearing this if I get caught in a rainstorm!

There was a bit of yellow-tan dye bleed but it didn’t make a big difference in the color of the final yarn–the sea silk must be pretty happy taking up dye.

apple silk 3

I consciously did a more worsted-style draw than I normally do in an effort to maximize the sheen of the silk (I’ve been disappointed by that with my handspun silk before). It seems to have worked pretty well, I love the way this yarn catches the light, and I couldn’t stop taking ridiculous closeups. Just so pretty.

apple silk

Final stats: 2 ounces, 320 yards of two-ply, 23 wpi. A knitting/spinning friend has recently made several Lacy Baktuses with her handspun, and I really love the wide, shallow triangle shape, the ability to use every scrap of yarn, and the way it shows off the varigation of a yarn spun from handdyed yarn. I’ll probably do that pattern, or a variant, with this.


Posted in spinning, toys by tchemgrrl on February 22, 2010

Okay, okay, I’m done sniffing the charkha, and I may have even started spinning on it. (Incidentally, my more knowledgeable friends tell me that the smell is just linseed oil. I thought that maybe cherry wood just smelled that way, the way pine and cedar have unique smells. It’s still lovely.) Let me introduce you!


And since I don’t feel like I’ve seen sunlight since early October, I can only show a picture with the flash to show off the grain.


So! Stats. This is a Bosworth book-sized charkha. It’s so perfectly book-sized, in fact, that it blends right when not in use:

book book book charkha book

After an hour or two of flailing, then comforting myself with just admiring all the bits and pieces, I got the hang of using it.

charkha spun cotton

Um, a little bit of spinning. I think this is a pretty clear demonstration that I like it. It’s so portable, and fast, and beautifully made. The yarn is still somewhat variable, but I am getting the hang of it and enjoying the process a whole lot. I think I’m going to be making a cabled yarn with this.

J was trying to explain the mechanism to his mom over the phone and it just wasn’t quite working. Fortunately while I was waiting for this baby to arrive I did a lot of Youtube wandering. My favorite video is probably this one, for the blinding obviousness of the spinner’s competence. She gives new meaning to the phrase “making it look easy”. It’s nice to see, and it’s an image I often have in my mind as I muddle through.

Trading Hat

Posted in FO, knitting, made with handspun by tchemgrrl on February 21, 2010

Over the summer, J and I moved from an apartment on the edge of town to one just a few blocks from downtown. This happened in a very last-minute way–an opportunity opened up for an apartment that we loved, which had fallen through just two months before. So we had to get all of the details of moving organized in less than a week.

Fortunately during that week, there was a meeting of Share Tompkins, a local group that recently got started to help people in the area trade goods and services. Without really knowing how it would work, we said that we could use any help moving.

20 minutes later, we had moving help and a truck, all from people I had met once, or less. Totally amazing. We got moving help from people who were also moving that month, and we just traded help for help. The person who loaned us the truck was a bit trickier as it wasn’t a straight one-to-one thing, but I’d brought some of my early handspun yarn to offer, and we decided on some kind of hat, details to be sorted out later.


3-ply, early wheel spun yarn, corriedale cross roving from Four Crows Farm.

Border Leicester Handspun

2-ply, early spindle spun yarn, Border Leicester fiber, and I wish I’d saved the tags to say who it was from, but I bought this the day I bought my first spindle, so I didn’t know this wasn’t a standard commercial fiber.

After talking to T (the gentleman who lent us the truck) and getting some ideas from him, I decided on modifying the Deep In The Forest Mittens to turn them into a hat. The handspun yarn seemed a little scratchy for close against-the-skin wear, and as T has an outdoorsy job I thought knitting a hat liner with a soft commercial yarn wouldn’t be a bad idea.

It turns out that I had tons of problems with gauge–two totally different handspun yarns and a commercial yarn totally different from either of *them* will do that to you. I ripped back to the cast on edge three times. But the end result was totally worth it:

Trading hat

I worked a provisional cast on at both the bottom edge of the liner and also of the outer hat, and sewed them together at the end.

Here is the hat with the liner pulled out:

More Trading Hat

I had originally planned on the liner being completely tucked up inside the hat, however, being superwash wool, it grew. (I had accounted for that, but something didn’t quite translate from the swatch). The liner just peeks out from the bottom of the hat now. It’s not so bad, it actually looks intentional, and it means that there’s no part of the scratchier wool against the skin at all.

Son of Trading Hat

(husband modeling the hat for me)

More pattern modification notes: I ended up using three repeats of the mitten chart–first one half, then the other, then the first again. The pattern is organic enough that the lack of rotational symmetry doesn’t hurt it in any way. I started my decreases about 2/3 of the way through the chart. If I knit this hat again at a similar gauge, I would start farther into the chart, since initially there are a lot of plain knit rows, and as a result there aren’t as many branches as their would have been if I’d done the whole chart.

After a few months of making decisions, ripping, setting it aside, and buckling down again, I finally was able to stop by T’s farmer’s market stand on Saturday and pass the hat back to him. He seemed super happy with it, so I’m thrilled–I even got some sprouts in return!


Posted in toys by tchemgrrl on February 11, 2010

Can’t talk now. Sniffing charkha. (’cause I sure can’t SPIN on the dang thing yet.)