Revisiting one of my original Tweed Chronicles recipes, posted four years ago nearly to the day, before I even thought of doing a fiber blending series and calling it Tweed Chronicles. But this time I wanted to expand the project up to at least 300g of fiber so that I could make something from the spun yarn (oh, like a small vest). Admittedly this time of year brings heartful memories from that time of intense creative discovery I ascended to with fiber & color on my newly made blending board. The time was just before the wildfire, so I suppose that it feels good to return and pick up where I left off , celebrating Tweed Chronicles and the coming of Autumn. I am especially keen on refining ” the hand-mix ” recipe, a preparation of multiple fiber & colors and textures, which uses mostly hand manipulation and minimal work on the teeth of the blending board or carders. Its actually quite satisfying to split a color into halves, then half again, and again, quite relaxing, and works so well to homogenize everything. So from the original tutorial, which has the slide show and I recommend checking out, in this post I am merely refining the method. Here is what I did…Continue reading
Category Archives: Spinning for a Project
Tweed Chronicles: Early Morning Blend
Yesterday I was blending on my blending board in the early morning light, listening to the inauguration on NPR. I had just finished the gloves design and figured I’d dedicate the meditative hours of dawn to prepare for a new spinning project. I am using up some of the mystery roving I received as gifts from spinners a few years ago, and not sure what, just odds & ends, but I figure blending together they would make a lovely 300grams of something beautifully natural looking with a teensy bit of color. I did five 60g batches layered on the blending board, of carefully divided and weighed segments, and got quite a massive pile of rolags! I am very pleased with the results, here now, the next day spinning it.
I have used no particular recipe or technique as I have been documenting in Tweed Chronicles, rather, I just picked out three bags of mystery roving and layered on my blending board. I am attempting to only spin for a project in mind these days, so I scaled the total weight for possibly a vest I would like to have, so in the near future I will post again with finished yarn , and shortly thereafter begin knitting!
Quick Mix Spun
Taking a break from sweater knitting and have enjoyed this short Tweed Chronicles experiment, the Quick Mix. Just as I expected, a slightly more homogenized affect than straight off the roving, resulting in a pinkish brick fired terra cotta shade. Yet still slightly barber-pole , so I do think I could have blended it twice and had a more softer variegation. I am not the greatest spinner on the planet, because I just cant seem to produce consistent super fine singles, and if I do, the yarn often is under spun, so when I ply, I get thick and thin plied. That is okay, thick & thin handspun is a fine normal for me, because I like rustic handspun, however, I don’t like plying underspun yarn, for it breaks so much in the plying. This fiber is superwash Blue-faced Leicester, which is an excellent fiber to make into socks, even if the yarn varies from fine fingering to sport weight. If I knit a toe up format, I can figure gauge while increasing in the toe section I can adjust for the number of sts in the sock as I go. That is my thinking at least. I guess the toe-up sock with gauge substitution chart pattern is inevitable for me and my handspun yarn, so that is what I’m up to, hoping to knit this up from the toes sometime in the next few weeks, into just a plain & simple sock form. I’ll keep posting on this as I go along.
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Today is a beautiful day out and tomorrow is going to be dumping a lot of rain, so I believe I’ll go out for a walk to the peak, and then settle in to make some progress on eldest nieces’ sweater that I really want to finish. My primary goal presently is to get into good walking shape and so off I go !
Tweed Chronicles: Quick Mix
I wanted to try spinning my first ever sock yarn, so I looked in my basket of gifted fiber, and chose some lovely hand-dyed superwash Blue-faced Leicester fiber in beautiful Autumn tones. I wanted to spin this fiber without the barber-pole affect that one often gets when spinning straight from the dyed roving, but a softer and slightly more homogenized result. So you know what that means, I have an excuse to pull out my blending board and do some carding!
It is much easier to do a quick mix from a dyed braid, than to haul out all my separately dyed colors, and although it is a little less controlled, offers a bit of an element of surprise, and is really just fun, as the colors are all there in the braid. But one must choose the braid wisely, for each time I card the fiber from the braid out on to the teeth of the blending board, the colors fuse more, sometimes dramatically. Sometimes very quickly can depart from vibrant splashes of color into a muddied neutral appearance of one shade, especially if there are any complimentary colors in the braid. Also the colors will blend even more after plying the singles. So this time I am only going to fill up the teeth on the board just once, and draw off the rolags to spin. And here is what I did …
(click 1st image to go to slideshow)
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Techy stuff …
- My extra long blending board holds a lot of fiber, but to play it safe, I made 4 batts approx. the same. I have 100 grams of fiber, and I want to get four 25 gram batts, drawing off 3 fluffy rolags each to spin.
- First I divided the braid length-wize into half, then each half into half, so I can get 4 lengths in the same dyed sequence.
- When layering on the board, I started all four batts with the same end, and layer up in the same way, basically repeating every motion four times.
- Then I drew off the rolags.
- See Blending For Tweed Simplified for my basic blending board slideshow how-to.
Watch this space for my plied finished yarn and sock project, which I am guessing will end up a rather muted colorway, close to a shade of terra cotta. See all posts in Tweed Chronicles
What I would do differently next time:
Given that one 100g braid could be done in two batts on my extra long blending board (24″ x 12″) which can hold comfortably 50 grams of fiber I would have not bothered to split the the braid into four lengths, but only two, and fill the teeth closer to capacity twice, drawing off more rolags each time. This would have had the same affect but much faster, and when I think of the whole theme of this post ” the Quick Mix” it makes more sense. However, with a conventional smaller blending board 12″ x 12″ to 18″ , four times would probably be better, as I’ve demonstrated above.
Edit in: See spun and plied yarn in Quick Mix Spun
Many years retrospect . . .
I want to set some goals for myself. I’ve always struggled with goals, but it shouldn’t be difficult if something is a only a certain win, involving no sacrifice, only focus. One of my goals is spinning intentionally. This is actually a trend I’ve heard about a lot lately, a buzz phrase so to speak. I know how to spin, I know how to knit, but decades have passed where I have done so little to bring the two together. So now its time to bring the two together as they are meant to be . . . to spin for a project in mind. . . to me, that is what is spinning with intention. My secondary goal is to purchase far less yarn, and to use up what I have, so that eventually I will be reliant on spinning for projects. Stopping the addictive yarn buying, and making do, will involve a serious concentrated effort, and in future recreational yarn purchases will be a much rarer event.
Backstory: I learned to spin in the Autumn of 1987, when I joined a spinning group which I attended for many years, and which I posted about way back in my blog archives, and the first thing I spun on a borrowed spinning wheel, was about a pound of washed uncarded Lincoln-Corriedale locks from Joanie. She helped me dye the locks of fleece in a pot with splotches of different colors of Rit Dye, then steamed gently. I then spun directly from the dyed locks. Then learned to ply. Then last, my mother taught me how to knit my first vest with my new hand-spun, during the last spring season she was alive. It was a simple improvised pieced thing with two fronts and a back, bands picked up and worked at finish. I don’t think I even blocked the vest after I finished, having been the first thing I ever knit, but just put it on and hardly took it off. Here I was back then about 1989, must have been a while after the vest was finished . . .
Decades pass. A few years ago, having gotten somewhat decent at knitting I designed my Calidez Vest pattern, inspired from that very vest of old days, a connection to my mother.
Another backstory: Shortly after the wildfire of Oct 2017, Lynette who lived on the other side of the Bay, brought up to me and gave her Ashford Traditional spinning wheel along with many bobbins and even fiber! Also happening at this time; all kinds of fiber was sent to me from an Upper Napa Valley spinning group, (which I attended only once) and ashamedly I didn’t keep track and lost those contacts through my horribly unsettled transient months. If any of you reading this are or were a part of that generous Calistoga group in Autumn 2017, you know who you are, and I’m sending you hugs of gratitude! Its been several years now, but I finally feel I am back into my feet. I am dedicating this whole new focus of Spinning With Intention to everybody who has been nudging me along, and I realize only now how much :to tears: that I miss spinning, like I use to, way back in that decade before I knit much, when I spun just to spin beautiful hopeful skeins. After revisiting the blending board project of summer of 2019 . . .
and then moving into our house and promptly forgetting about it most of the year, I have finally finished the spinning . . .
Almost 500 grams of my own tweed blend hand-spun yarn. What a lot of work! You wouldn’t know it by looking at the photos, but what I have been doing for ultra soft and fluffy yarn lately is scouring the skeins right off the plying bobbin. I guess the effect is similar to a felted tweed sort of thing, but I don’t let the yarns stick to each other, am just careful enough in the scouring to felt only a tiny bit. Moz taught me the “thwacking” trick; grabbing the skein and sailing it through the air, and whacking it really hard against a smooth surface, like on the inside of the bathtub, at 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, etc, which straightens out all the strands just before hanging out to dry so nothing is crumpled. Of course, when fully dry I must re-skein everything to get all the partially stuck fibers dislodged, and then to let it rest without even the tension of a ball, just a nice relaxed skein for a few days, before starting to knit it. Super lovely yarn if you ask me.
Scoured tweed is my thing, and since I’m not making yarn for anybody but myself, I think this way the yarn gets a head start in the world of hard wear, and like I mentioned, it really ends up terrifically fluffy, soft, and airy. Just like they do with the waulking of the wool in the woven tweed. Soon I will be casting on my first intentionally spun-to-knit project since that time over thirty years ago, with a Calidez Vest with my own tweedy handspun!
Thank you with a heart burst of gratitude to Lynette who brought me the best spinning wheel I could have imagined for myself, Lori-Go-Lightly (who broadcast my wildfire tragedy on a Ravelry spinning group and through her efforts I was recipient of so much generosity via Ravelry pattern buyers and her Upvalley Spinners who sent me a big box of fiber, Adele for sending me her Ashford Blending Board to use as well as a gift of a lovely drop spindle to keep me going, and of course, and last but not at all least, thanks to Bernard & Joanie for sending me the above photo recently and reminding me who I was & what mattered, and for helping me span the decades. I am coming full-circle now, into my roots.
newness & oldness
Spinning in a room that feels old and familiar,
yet is barely even new.
The rest of the house is in building chaos & still no doors, but I’ve got the skeleton of my Loft room in place, filled with old furniture. I have everything I think I could possibly need, as I have been collecting the essential now for nearly two years, and some unessential as well. I am exhausted of shopping, I want to be doing now.
I have struggled with the place of things in this room, but now I think I have arrived at a floor plan that works, although a bit on the cozy side. I am so intrigued with clean surfaces lately, with everything in its proper drawer or cabinet, so the bookcase of three shelves is potentially problematic and some day I plan on downsizing as it for its too large for my little library, dangerously inviting clutter, and therefore indecision into the room.
I have been indecisive and feeling strangely familiar with everything, yet at the same time I feel an awkward discord just not being use to anything. I hope that odd feeling goes away in time as I begin to work at things, because now all tools of the trade are ready. I am waiting for the waves of inspiration to carry me away!
So far only spinning for a project.
I am committed to these fluffy beautiful swirls of wool and getting themt spun at a casual pace in the weeks ahead,
and committed to getting to know this room of newness & oldness.
Spinning For A Project – Part Four: Fiber Preparation
I am more than half way through my fiber preparation, and I am really happy to say that I have made a breakthrough with the blending board! In the last two years I have been doing a lot of fiber blending experiments but it seems recently I’ve noticed my results are overly compact rolags, so much that spinning has been difficult. I couldn’t even see why I ever decided trying to spin from the rolag method or why I thought it was better.
Backstory: If you see my post from August 2017 “Woolen or Worsted?” , I muse a little bit about the preparation of the wool & that I noticed how it affects the end result of the yarn. Whether taken off the blending board in one big batt, and pulling apart into smaller sections, or using a ” diz ” to gather a continuous roving from your carded fiber, or like I am doing here, making rolags around two dowels from off the blending board, in a perfect world, a spinner should try all ways I would think. I am aiming for a bouncy airy “woolen” spun yarn, and why I’m practicing spinning from rolags.
After the first 50g color test of my 500 gram project of English Rose Tweed blend, I realized I may have a technique error. I remember back in my first blending projects , especially this one, blended with super fine & fluffy ingredients, and how light & airy the rolags were, and so very easy to spin. So I tried a change with this batch; I lifted more and pulled over the teeth less. That’s it! Just more lifting when rolling the fiber around the dowels ( I use slick aluminum needles) to make the rolags, and less pulling, and that took a lot of friction out of the process. I guess my technique had morphed without my thinking about it, and over time I was working the rolags with a massive amount more friction. Well I had a big ” duh ” moment, and now I am conscious of this I am getting fluffy frothy whipped woolly confections again, to spin later.
Later that is, when I’m through blending all of the rest of the carefully measured ingredients to English Rose Tweed. Committing to the long-haul of a big project is something I haven’t done in a long long time. This is work I tell you! But just look at these beauties….
See all posts in this series Spinning For A Project.
(( click 1st image to go to slideshow… ))
Spinning For A Project – Part Three: Color Test
I think I really like it. I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to have so much rose pink in a yarn for myself. But then again, I recall having knit the protoype for Calidez Cardigan in Berocco Inca Tweed in a color which has been woefully discontinued , I remember being disappointed I couldn’t find it again, and I really do think this spun English Rose Tweed is very similar, but not near as vivid.
Still, there it was in my brain that as I was spinning this test 25g spool I thought of how I would alter it if it is too color-intense. I thought; a little more white, and perhaps a splash of turquoise (or light blue & light green) to neutralize the deep pink. I really want to try that, so I decided to take half of one of the rolags here and blend it with some more white and turquoise (light blue & light green mostly), just to satisfy my curiosity. Here is the result of that , do you see it, on the right? It is rather subdued . . .
I wonder , did curiosity win in this case, and shall I proceed with the rest of the 450 grams by adding turquoise? Or shall I keep the original, and spin up the rest of the 500 grams?
See all posts in this series Spinning For A Project.
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Incidentally, while I was walking up with my camera to the new house to go work this color test, I saw this most interesting mushroom right on the side of the road. I’ve never seen a mushroom sprout in August, but it has been rather humid lately. Istn’ it just beautiful? Does anybody know what sort of mushroom it is?
Spinning for a Project – Part Two: “English Rose Tweed”
Part two of my series “Spinning for a Project” (see Part One) and second post of the day, this one being about designing the wool blend for the hand spun yarn, so eventually knit into a future project. A blend which I’m calling “English Rose Tweed” for the Malabrigo colorway’s namesake. These are the wools I am blending all together to make 500g of yarn, the amount I forecast needing to knit a sweater. (Note: So much of this fiber was a gift to me from “rescue spinners” after the wildfire, when I was given my Ashford Traditional wheel from L. ) When recently I thought to try the Malabrigo Nube roving, I chose “English Rose” and thought that I really wanted to try doing a blend with it with natural undyed roving.
I have weighed off each wool color into ten segments each, to put each together into ten 50g batches to do incrementally, but I wanted to share the recipe after the 1st blend, so I could refer to it for the rest of the batches, and so I could do a test spin-up on the first blending before proceeding.
In the next post you will see these rolags all spun up! I may not like the results after the first 50g test and add a color to continue, but stay tuned to find out if these are a keeper. Also you can see all posts in my Spinning for A Project series.
Okay, here’s what I did…
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Techy stuff for English Rose Tweed…
- I need 500g for a sweater project; using 113g Malabrigo Nube (roving) in English Rose colorway, along with 122 g of grey merino, 200g mixed brown & natural wool (unknown breed) and 65g white cormo.
- 500g of wool blend divides into ten 50g batches, so using a gram scale, I divided all into equal 10 segments.
Note: With hand-dyed braid of Malabrigo Nube “English Rose”, I decided to keep a consistent color ‘bookmatch’ by splitting the dyed braid along the length into 5 segments, then each of those long skinny segments more easily in half, folded end to end and pulled apart at center. Otherwise, pulling apart the dyed roving when full thickness it was seriously hard (being 100% Merino), and should never ever be considered to cut it.
- Layered very thinly one color at a time, alternately. using this technique: Blending for tweed simplified
- Lifted batt, and sectioned into strips of four, to photograph the transition wool rolls.
- I took the wool and layered again, then photographed rolls again.
- Layered wool rolls once more and drew off rolags.
- I’m naming this colorway blend ” English Rose Tweed “
- See ALL color blending experiments & recipes archived in Tweed Chronicles
(( Click 1st image in mosaic to go to slideshow with commentary. ))
Spinning for a Project – Part One: How much fiber?
This post is about establishing amount of wool/fiber needed for a sweater, without knowing what I want to knit, and before I even spin the yarn, or have a gauge. But first, a little disclosure…
Disclosure: I am nearly a self-taught knitter and spinner, so I want to say that what I am about to experiment with is not from anything I have read, but only from what I have personally experienced, and am continuing to do — please do not quote , copy or paste any of this anywhere, it is probably all wrong. 😉
Then a little backstory: I had a spinning mentor in the early 90’s who guided me through my first spinning and knitting projects. I recall being so overwhelmed with the spinning ahead of me when I decided to spin for my first sweater (had never even knit a whole sweater before), wondering about how on earth a person could know how much to spin to make one, and I recall my mentor saying “It takes about two pounds of wool to make a sweater.” That’s it? How did she know? Well now I know that was her personal general sweater weight guideline, and she was likely speaking for her size; she was a tall and larger person than I was then, so I think she may have pared it down for me to about 1.5 pounds of wool. I do remember spinning up a lot of yarn for a project and having a lot left over after knitting it, thinking her overly simple guidelines impossible and inaccurate and was maybe even a little frustrated at all the extra spinning I was required to do to get the sweater I wanted. This is especially so because I had so much yarn left over ended up reknitting the sweater two more times in order to use up more of it. Looking back I realize my mentor must have wanted to be safe, knowing it to be safer to have too much yarn rather than too little, and the garment to be too big rather than too small, so I spun up way more than what was actually needed. That sweater is a distant memory now, as I lost all in the wildfire, but I did post that sweater knit in 1994 (scroll to bottom) back when I first began this blog in 2010.
That sweater was knit over 25 years ago, but the memory of it has come back to challenge me — and I would like to experiment with the 2 lbs per sweater theory. A couple of things to say right off is that now I am accustomed to the international yarn lingo and think in grams for yarn, and so I’ve got to put the conversion here: 2 pounds = 907.185 grams. Let me round it to 900 grams of wool per sweater. That sounds rather generous though, maybe right for a large sweater, which would be 9 balls of Cascade 220 (up to 1980 yards) in worsted weight, or 7 balls of Cascade 128 (up to 896 yards) in bulky weight. Indeed an overshot by several hundred yards for most, but maybe as a safety barrier, the start-with-more-than-you-need thinking. Hmmm, I think I’d like to refine my theory a bit more that that.
I have no sweaters with me as they were all lost to wildfire, but I have many knit for myself and others on my Ravelry pages with notes, and I see that the last sweater I knit for myself using Studio Donegal Aran Tweed, used only 450g or 9 (50g) balls of yarn. 450g = .99 pounds, that is roughly a 1 pound sweater. Of course, I think it would be safest to round it up to 500 grams per sweater, or 1.1 pounds. Giving a wide berth for a comfortable yardage overshot, I am thinking maybe that I should have 500g per sweater be my personal “basic sweater” weight, with a comfortable overshot. The comfortable over estimate is because in my experience most hand-spun is denser than most mill-spun yarns, and can often weigh more per yardage than the light fluffy balls we get from the yarn shop. I just want to be safe when spinning for something to knit like a sweater. If my sweater ends up being too small, I’ll happily keep it for the day I lose a few pounds, but this is my starting point of my experiment, and a 500g sweater it will be.
Now, one might wonder how the grams and yardage play out in a size. Basically, the bigger or smaller your stitches, the fewer or more stitches in your tension gauge will be. My experiment is to see that weight of fiber and yarn remains approximately the same, even though yardage and gauge change. That 500g of yarn, whether dk weight, worsted weight, or super-bulky, in theory it should end up the right amount of yarn; given the stitch gauge is accurate, the appropriate size needles are used for the gauge, and I make consistently the same size and proportions.
Going from this theory; that weight remains consistent through the changing and varied selections of yarn & yardage, I have a hunch that if any of you out there who are reading this and are interested in experimenting along with me, if we go into our sweater chest, and pick out our favorite sweater (of average length & proportions) and weigh it, we will have a starting point, because as sure as can be, we can’t all abide by the Two Pound general rule of my old spinning mentor’s, and you can see how I’ve figured out my own from general rule. I may not have any sweaters in my closet to weigh, but fortunately I have that sweater I knit for myself in Autumn 2016 in my Ravelry project page, right here, and I will go by that.
Your sweater might be 1 pound/450 grams , or 1.5 pounds/ 680g, or 2.25 pounds/1020g , or whatever. Also as all of us experienced knitters know, its essential to round up to more yardage & weight to allow for anomalies. Where is all of this going? Okay, so I want to spin yarn again for something to knit, as its been a few decades since I’ve undertaken such a huge spinning project, and I want to aim for the yardage to be very close. I’ve got myself some roving all ready to go, and I just need to weigh it all and then I can begin the magic on my blending board! 500 grams sounds like an easy enough job of wool blending and spinning to me. Watch this space for Part 2, the wool blending!
See all posts “Spinning for A Project” series HERE.