The final plied woolen spun skein, washed & dried, and my nep cloud experiment is finished !
The neps were so subtle and very difficult to get to show on the camera, so I had to intensify the color saturation of the photo just so that you could see them, the blue and green neps. The whole skein looks rather seafoam color when hanging out on the line.
This time of year the Black Oak leaves are budding out a soft fuzzy beautiful crimson velvet!
The landscape by the way, is healing slowly from the wildfire. We’ve had to cut down so many dead & dying old Black Oaks around the house, and since I was outside photographing yarn drying on the clothes line, I want to show you how the young shoots are vigorously growing from their parent trees, from root systems perhaps a hundred years old. I have been shaping the new growth, and now the tallest of these young oak trees is almost 10 feet tall. I’m so proud of these young darlings!
I was thinking of trying another variation of the technique I posted in my first Nep Clouds Recipe on my new hand-carders, but I don’t think I can really improve it, for it seems to do best I think , to achieve the affect of the traditional woollen spun rustic tweed, so drawing off the rolags from the blending board work very nicely ( I have made some more notes in the original Nep Clouds Recipe for those who don’t own hand-carders ). Alternatively one could spin from the batt, worsted technique. Anyway, this method suits me just fine, and I will look forward to blending up some more neppy colorways just as I did this skein, and that about wraps up this nep clouds experiment!
I have got an almost new pair of Schacht hand carders, for a great bargain, from someone who didn’t need or want them anymore, practically a gift. These are an essential part of my blending experiments past and future! Rather a coincidence as before I had a nice pair of carders given to me decades ago, along with a splendid drop spindle, from someone who couldn’t use them. Now that I think about it, that was the chance reason I started spinning in the first place.
Little sentimental pieces of my creative life are falling into place, one re-acquisition at a time, and I think I am fully kitted now, having all the bare essential tools of the trade. Anyway, as creative energy slowly returns, so do lists of ideas, rolling out on the straight and narrow progressing path, in patient commitment to my knitting & spinning, and sharing the process here on my blog.
Speaking of this blog, I want to mention that it was ten year anniversary a couple of days ago, when I started this WordPress blog with this first post ( soon thereafter I transferred all the relevant earlier dated posts from another blog I had) and ever since I have truly been immersed in what it has become, documenting my life and my creative endeavors, things and details which may have otherwise been forgotten.
I love blending colors and fibers , even more than spinning, and almost as much as knitting! The reason I wanted a pair of wool carders is because I hope to pre-blend some color and tweedy neps before layering on my blending board, as I have learned that my jumbo sized board really is a work of labor to load and reload, quite exhaustive for fine tuning blends. Sometimes I have to lift and reblend the 50g batts three or four times before it is nicely homogenized, then multiply that by about 10 to make 500g, it becomes a serious amount of work. So I am thinking about using hand carders to premix parts of the blend, and curious to see if I can have more control over the results as well as save myself a lot of effort. Coming up– premixes from the hand carders to layer into a fully loaded blending board project — watch this space!
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, 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!
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 !
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.
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.
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. I dyed the fleece in a dyepot with splotches of different colors of Rit Dye 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 Vestpattern, 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 boardproject 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 & Joaniefor 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.
I am pushing myself to walk every day this October, so therefore I am naming this month Walktober. And while most days I’m perfectly happy to walk solitarily along with the scenery , there are times when I find it hard to put down things I want to get done, especially so of all things having to do with wool. I guess I am a compulsive fiberist. Not long ago, in my series Gifts From The Sun, particularly Part 5, I talk on about spinning like the Peruvian herders do, and I just had not found the focus to do it until this morning. This little bit I’ve spun is a good amount for a short mile and a half walk I think, in a fine lace-weight single of Wool Of The Andes in Dove Heather roving. My default spinning is surprisingly fine on this drop spindle, with this fiber.
Truth be told, I have been experiencing a resurgence in spinning lately, mostly with my Ashford Traditional wheel and Tweed Chronicles ideas, but now adding this spin-walking thing, so watch this space for more spinning posts inevitably on the way.
Mario Testino, a renowned Peruvian fashion photographer, in his Alta Moda series seems to carry the theme of his native homeland into a remarkable modernized, carnival like image from his camera, depicting typical things men and women of the regions around Cusco do in the work of their days. It is everyday life to meet the herd in the early morning with a days worth of spinning to do, walking from pasture to pasture, walking while spinning, as quite possibly these women are doing . . .
I am excited and anticipating a nice long post-designing break after my forthcoming, to shake off stress from deadlines and the pandemic and just try to enjoy the remaining months of summer. I am hoping to practice walking and spinning in the technique as has been done for centuries in the Andes (sans herd). But I need to make a little shopping list first, to get prepared.
First I thought I’d get started by finding a sensible wooden drop spindle like I use to have before the wildfire, similar to those used in the Andes, so I am considering either a very inexpensive unfinished Kromski spindle, or a basic sturdy Schacht spindle , both rugged wood that can withstand being dropped on the rocky soil time and time again . . .
A few months ago, when conceiving of the Gifts From The Sun series, I had gotten some Wool Of The Andes roving, which is Peruvian Highland wool. I am wondering now, that I might need or at least want just a few more of these beautiful colors, and Knit Picks has really got it going on! Be forewarned, although the supplies they carry are exquisite and inexpensive, often they get low on supply and you simply must wait for them to replenish.
Now, as my Peruvian Wool Of The Andes roving and spindle will soon be on their way, I will be readying to spin around the time my upcoming design is finished. Hoping by mid-August to be celebrating summer solstice belatedly, as well as finished and promoting my upcoming pattern, while studying the lessons from Nilda’s “Andean Spinning” below. I actually bought the download about a year ago and posted about here , although never really committed myself to spindle spinning. If anybody out there in the world reading this and wishes to do a little Andean technique in spinning along with me, I really want to encourage the sale of Nilda’s dvd/books/work and there is no better source to purchase it than from the “Center Of Traditional Textiles of Cusco” …
In previous posts I’ve been going on about the camelids ~~ llamas, alpacas guanaco & vicuna of the ancient Inca empire ~~ but sheep are equally a part of herding, spinning, weaving, and living in the Andes of today. I have been looking for videos of Andean women spinning while out on the grassy slopes with their herds, and I just tripped over this beautifully filmed very short little treasure!
Two years ago today I was having a magical summer of discovery of wool blending and of color mixing. It was on this day, between blending Seashells, and spinning Seashells and my hands were full of fluffy ultra-fine merino fluff with streaks of silky shiny bamboo, and splashes of color, and I fell totally in love with color blending on the blending board in that month of September 2017.
I am now making a running start folks, to land this phoenix bird in flight to the very same heartful & mindful place as then, as if it were a blink of two years that I have not just wasted mourning in upheaval, but I have developed inwardly from great depths. In transition homeward I feel the grip of intention taking hold and whether I am waking from a dream (yes, it so feels that way) or just finally ready, I am feeling suddenly endowed with a plan. A real plan. More on this in forthcoming posts!
I have been spinning in the last few weeks a big 500g project of color blending that is mostly wool that was given to me — top roving mostly — and up until now my biggest focus has been color mix. I am all about color these days, being more of a colorist than a spinner with any real talent, but I am feeling a shift going on. I crave to spin submissive fluffy air light rolags and it occurs to me that I need to now focus not only on color, but staple of wool (that is the length of the hairs) and on drafting the rolags in a fashion which allows light-as-air spinning. To get my thought, please watch this lovely short video (with gorgeous violin) that Morrie (“Moz”) just sent to me after I was writing to her about woolen spinning, and fiber staple, and even fiber consistency ((thank you Morrie, this was just the drink I needed!)) . . .
If you go visit the page of the video, in the notes the author Ruth MacGregor writes a little bit about woollen vs worsted spinning. Woollen spinning is the technique which is beckoning to me, and at the risk of seeming so fickle, I have a hankering to start another blending project as soon as our building final has passed sometime in the weeks forthcoming, and really sink my teeth into this woolen spinning technique. I am committed to spinning up all my 500g of English Rose Tweed, although not ‘monogamously’ ~~ I am going to be off on a tangent at the same time. Many tangents perhaps.
Can any of you spinning talents out there suggest your opinion of the perfect breed of sheep for traditional woollen technique of spinning?
One of the things I have wanted to do for a long time, probably starting since that Autumn in the wake of the wildfire, when I was spinning up a storm and developing a tribute color range in the colors of my mountain — such like Manzanita Blossom, and Madrone, and Red Clover , and Moss , to create a personal palette of colors and post the recipes. I guess when we moved to the tiny house their was no room for spinning and it all got packed in boxes, but now I fully intend to work on that project.
So, here forthcoming, more colors from the mountain, but simultaneously developed with technique of woolen spinning, learning about those particular properties . . . staple and all of that completely obsessive woolly stuff. I’ll probably be posting in a mad frenzy now, so brace yourself, I fear my blog has caught fire.
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….
which I am having a wonderful reunion with after being separated from for over a year.
That about wraps up the first One + One blending recipe, although I think I could have gone for even more white neutral — that would have been (1 + 1) + 1, which is blending again with more white after blending one + one, or 1 + 2 which is blending one part dyed roving, and two parts white at the first weighing of portions. I think I will refine this recipe a little more, but for now, its on to the Tweed Chronicles recipe I’ve been dreaming about doing, as I’ve got in my pale primary & secondary colors finally … and well, you know where I’m going with this !
I’m halfway through unplying my three balls of Merino Tweed, in natural white, beige and brown (my newest technique posted previously.) I will over-dye the beige and brown with pink, and also with green, resulting in a light and dark variation of the colors. You can dye once and if you vary your yarn ‘base colors’ and the result is like having dyed many colors ! I plan on a project which will have a dark and light pink, and a dark and light green, and natural white. Watch this space for continued progress posts!
Meanwhile, as I unply on the drop spindle, I have been educating myself endlessly watching Nilda’s film,
Nilda so deftly prepares fleece without carders — the Andean way — then spins into fine single plies, then single plies into yarn, expertly without ever using anything other than the most basic tools and her own hands.
She is one person I would love to walk and spin with, as I’ve learned from her video how in her culture moving is intrinsic to spinning … out to the herds, up the mountains and down again, strolling and spinning, a constant activity for the women & girls.
Continually spinning or plying means it is necessary to simplify the process and limit the tools to what a person can carry, using unique & interesting techniques of how to not let things get tangled, and spin while tending the flock, keeping drafted fleece or hanks of single plies ready for plying neat and attached to the body.
I highly recommend Nilda’s film “Andean Spinning with Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez” , a film which has reaffirmed my notion that working with hands really does belong with walking ~~ as if double tasking was invented in the Andes! I relate very much to Nilda’s teaching that in her culture one spins constantly, for it is necessary, and one does it while moving from one place to another, or visiting with friends, or just meditating quiet moments.
I will leave you to check out the links and discover for yourself just how elegant Andean spinning really can be!
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Last spring I made a series of posts about the weaving in Cusco & Nilda’s work with the Center of Traditional Textiles of Cusco , and I’m really looking forward to one day having my upstairs loft studio again wherein I can organize it to work while letting the Andean’s utmost simplistic methods show me the way ~~ to a truly refined Less Is More way of making things.
Moss is the most complicated color in nature that I can think of. Here in the mountains of Northern California, it is dormant through the dry season (most of the year if not half) during which it shrivels and turns an olive green to brown color. When the rains come, it is fat full of water, it glistens with nearly neon golden tips and has every shade of green present, plus a few other colors in there too …
Last and lightest color in my geological series is the ash layer from volcanic eruptions, and which show up a couple of feet down, seen mostly where there is water erosion in the ditches along side of some of the vineyard roads next door …
It is a stripey design of very light grey to medium grey, depending whether it is wet or dry, so “Ash” perfectly names the light grey color in my Geological colorways.
The bulk of the color is silver — natural grey and natural white fleece — so the range from a warm silver to a cool medium grey is up to the mood, and a thing which invites a lot of personal touch.
In my three geological colors of dark Shale, medium Sandstone, and now light Ash, either natural grey or natural brown can be blended with natural white for the rock tones, because the distinguishing difference is dark-to-light variation more than it is color hue.
The other distinguishing feature of geological colors is that I’m using undyed natural colors for the all-over color, with a splash of the color-saturated neutral showing …
… which by the way, the “color saturated neutral” (primary and/or secondary triad mix) is the unifying element of ALL of my tweedy colorways !
Next time I will use less ratio of the color-saturated neutral, because when one is blending a light wool , like paint, the proportion of pigment actually is very little. Also next time I will use more white in the mix to make the all-over color a lighter silver (noted below). But for the sake of documenting my experiment, here’s what I did…
The blossoms of the Arctostaphylos (manzanita) on the ridge trail of the mountain ~~ one with pink flowers, and one with white ~~ are the first blossoms arriving in winter!
pink blooming manzanita
Nestled side by side on the ridge, the two varieties are perfectly complimenting of each other, and as fragrant as they are breathtaking in beauty.
white blooming manzanita
((You can read more about the manzanita in this post ))
Now looking at my latest tweed yarn colorway: “manzanita blossom” … it will be a pink, with a just a dusting of white.
A blush of pink against rocky volcanic landscape is one of the most beautiful things in the mountain landscape, and I do think I found just the right shade ( although I wished I put a tiny bit more white in the last blending layer) …
A shy pink.
A pink which is the color of mid winter … pale and fresh.
There in the pink is the saturated neutral too.
Now, let me show you how I do it…
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Techy stuff for Manzanita (pink)…
Color Saturated Neutral recipe for approx 5g each of primary triad of blue, red, and yellow: Blended thoroughly on blending board with 15g of white as many times as necessary to fully homogenize…
There is absolutely nothing that I can think of as red in the wild landscape as the crimson clover which grows abundant in the meadows nearby on the mountain, the meadows where Emma and I have walked countless times, and forefront of my mind when I think of a name for the colorway of red. Wild, herbaceous gobs of crimson, are the trifolium incarnatum flowers.
Crimson is the color I am trying to grasp.
It needs a little improvement for next time (perhaps more red)
But this is it ~~~ my crimson clover .
I am looking forward to six months from now when the wildflowers will hopefully have returned from the burned topsoil, as the grass has already … shy little green sprouts everywhere ! Tomorrow morning is the winter solstice, and I am glad to see it finally come, and to see pass my huge disappointment of once favored ( oh how fickle of a season) Autumn. Winter come, o’ please be gentle, cast your sleepy spell on the landscape, and clean up the blackened death from the wildfire, soften it with rain and bring back the wildflowers and the moss, so that the landscape may wake anew with spring growth, restored and resilient and colorful. Autumn, to you I bid good bye.
So naturally, my next tweed endeavor must capture the color of fog !
It is my basic white, well, a near white, where like fog, you see faint color of images behind …
Just a tiny bit of the color-saturated neutral to start, then blended several times with increasing amount of white wool, so you’ll see flecks of blue, red and yellow upon close inspection.
I really am enjoying developing a personal hand-spun color palette, and see no end to my combing wool in different combinations, racing obsessively from blending board to the spinning wheel, grabbing my camera to photograph, wash, dry, wind on swift, photogragh again …
… then on to the next !
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Techy stuff for Fog (white)…
Color Saturated Neutral recipe for approx 10-15% base, primary triad of blue, red, and yellow: Blended thoroughly on blending board. Note: for a more dramatic tweed, with gobs of color splashing through, blend only once , then continue.
What I miss most right now, are the madrones ,Arbutus Menziesii, a unique kind of tree native to the California Coast and mountain ranges, with an interesting rusty orange bark that sheds in papery sheets…
Madrones have an indescribable color if ever you were to witness, it turning at first shed a bright green, which changes in a matter of days to a greyish orange, then to browner rust.
Among the madrones is a wonderful place to be; hidden, enchanting, and ever-so-quiet, and kept company right outside of the window where I loved to write, knit, or spin. I have tried to capture my madrones, blending color after color, overdoing the layers, but eventually I think I found close to the indescribable. A bit too much orange I think, but I have made notes of how to improve my next blending experiment.
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Meanwhile Emma seems to be perfectly happy in her new napping places…
I take her up nearly everyday to the woods, the place where the house was ~~ will be again~~ (which is as of last weekend a nice freshly excavated dirt area) , and she loves to sniff the air while riding in the back of the car with the windows down, and bark at the cows or horses she see’s along the way. I spoil her a lot these days, and we love our trip up the mountain to the ‘house’ … we meander as before, and I am knit-walking again!
Spinning by a window …
light flooding in to unwind my shadowy worries.
I cast my mind to a warm landscape of wild flax …
hoping to find the colors of the flowers in the wool blend …
I have been doing a lot of fiber blending, and a little spinning too, which is for now easing me slowly back into creative mood ( and am so grateful to “L” for the gift of a beautiful Ashford Traditional spinning wheel!)
Wild Flax; Linum perenne var. lewisii , Lewis Flax, blue flax or prairie flax, seen on the roadside along Mt Veeder road in July, and sometimes early August. Not the domestic farmed species for linen, but just one of the common beautiful wild flowers of Napa Valley that we all call “ wild flax “.
In closing, FEMA clean-up crews have been working rapidly in Napa & Sonoma counties since the wildfire of October, and by the end of December, maybe a clean slate for us? Impossible to forecast the rebuilding ahead, for now I find the cozy window here my joy of the afternoon.
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Techy stuff for my Wild Flax Blue …
2 g each of primary colors (6g tot) , for a base of color-saturated neutral , see this post; blend thoroughly on blending board 3 times Total 6g. Note: for a more dramatic tweed, with gobs of color splashing through, blend only once , then continue.
6g cornflower blue, layer very thinly one color at a time, with neutral base. Tot 12g.
Lift batt, layered again with 2g each of white, light green, teal. Tot 18g.
( I was trying to get more blended base, with a ‘dusting’ of brilliant blue on the last blend…)
Lift batt, and layered again with 2g of cornflower blue. Tot 20g.
I have successfully made a color saturated neutral.
Nested in a mountain of other neutral tones, you don’t see it right away,
but look at where I started …
Primary and secondary colors all in exact equal amounts …
carded three times on the blending board …
then drawn out into tasty wool sausages !
If you check out my Primary triad blend here , I’ll say that the secondary triad blend experiment was much the same, nearly indistinguishable from the primary , and theoretically should be the same for any color triad on the color wheel . Tertiary triads too, and lighter values of the triads; as light blue for blue, pink for red, aqua for teal, peach for orange, etc.
In this experiment, I used two triads together ; primary + secondary , for my ultimate color-saturated neutral, and I must say this blend was really fun to spin … the colors are all there.
I’ve got my color-saturated-neutral base recipe, a base for my own color palette of ‘slightly earthy heathers’ , as I’ve never been drawn to vivid hues when buying yarns. From a color-saturated neutral I can base everything, light or dark, and with color intensity varying. I’m looking forward to developing more recipes ~~ watch this space!
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Techy stuff …
Equal amounts of each of primary: red, yellow, and blue , and/or secondary: purple, orange and green.
Layered very thinly one color at a time, alternately. I mean really a lot of thin layers … using this technique,
I am deep into the study of color saturated neutrals.
What is a color saturated neutral? Well, when I blend equal amounts of the primary colors together, the affect is at first glance, a seemingly dull clay color , as I posted previously about HERE.
In this experiment I added to the primary triad mix, one secondary color – green, integrating all of the colors on the blending board with this technique , bringing the whole color balance leaning a little bit toward the green … a weathered sea grass green.
primary colors + 1 secondary (green)
first blended batt
second blended batt
I then added some un-dyed natural white to give it some texture and depth.
third blended batt, adding white
Colorway reminds me of the pampas grasses which grow along the Pacific coast.
While enjoying some spinning on my Ashford Traditional wheel (( a resonating gratitude to “L” who wishes not to be mentioned )) I have decided that perhaps Tweed Chroniclesis a new love which causes only happiness …
And the studying of color is making me look deeper into the surface, and imagine how the colors are found the same way in nature.
Next I am pairing primaries with secondaries, and finding super color saturation in what is an alarmingly gorgeous & complex neutral. Watch this space!
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Techy stuff …
5g each of (near primary) red, yellow, and blue — plus green, merino roving = 20g.
Back into Tweed Chronicles I have found once again rhythm in myself, perhaps a melody too. I have been thinking about the color wheel, and the basics I learned decades ago, and so I am applying it now to natural fiber ~~~ easy enough!
In fact, my whole color blending Tweed Chronicles has little to do with wool breeds and fibers, almost nothing to do with spinning technique ( I am only a fair spinner) … but nearly all pure color theory, and blending technique. I am a colorist perhaps, above all.
I am merely attempting to relive the high points of discovery that must have happened with folk centuries ago in the tweed mills, of a bygone era. I am all about the bygone era I think, feeling that deep tap root into human creativity that runs timeless and wild.
Putting the primary colors together in a kind of color triad, is something that normally I would never do, for I am not in the least fond of primary colors, or even secondary. But the complex blends of colors are made of of the basic colors, and so I am working with the primaries & secondaries in a tweed experiment that I hope works just as I am conceiving it in my mind, as I lose myself to sleep at night, dreaming the magic of heathered tones.
The best time of day is when the sun shines through the window bright enough to bring to life the best work of my imagination. Couple that with a delicious cup of coffee, and who would want anything more of the morning?
Well now, its off to the charity shops to see if I can find some good chairs! Aside from this recent color blending euphoria, I am feeling a bit too tender and not wanting to cooperate with the holidays this year. Scotty, beam me to January.
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Techy stuff of what I did …
5g each of (near primary) red, yellow, and blue dyed merino roving = 15g.
Layered on blending board very thinly one color at a time, alternately. I mean really a lot of thin layers … using technique Blending for tweed simplified.
Lifted batt, layered again a second time, then a third. Lifted bat, and sectioned into strips of about 5 or 6.
With 15g white cormo roving, divided in as many sections as the color blend.
Layered very thinly white, then color blend, alternately.
Lifted batt, and layered again twice.
Drew off rolags.
I’m naming this colorway blend ” Primary Triad + white”.
Lingering question of the day: Which one of you generous people sent me all of the Cormo wool? Was it Laurie? Rose? Adele? Lynette? (I am so sorry I lost track, but I’ve been rather hollow in my head!) From the bottom of my heart~~ thank you~~ it is absolutely dreamy!!!!
Okay, I have now edited in the finished spun skeins into their respective posts, starting the last one Tweed Chronicles. Not all of these experiments yielded great results, but I had a colossal learning curve, and I am pleased to see that my most recent is indeed my best…
With these two as close seconds…
But my spinning wheel and blending board are put away as I must get to work and finish up my nieces sweaters, while pondering my next Autumnal obsession immediately thereafter!
and layering them ever so finer … and finer …. and even finer…
1st batt, 1st carding
just to see how the colors will work together.
Because perhaps I am just ridiculous!
rolags from 2nd batt, second carding, and wonderfully oceanic!
So I have decided to make a new category ~~ Tweed Chronicles ~~ wherein I can post my tweed yarn making refinements, as I explore both predictable as well as the unpredictable color combinations (maybe especially the unpredictable), my learned improvements of technique, and so on.
20g of white undyed roving I acquired decades ago, the tweedy “nepps” from the slubby roving are excellent for tweed, 20g of mixed Shetland I over-dyed with color peacock, 10g of Corriedale aqua, and 10g of Corriedale dark denim.
I have found another gem in the “Hands” series I’ve been watching countless times over the last month, while I learn the technique of long-draw tweed spinning on my little wheel, and learn the art of color in fiber. And because I have always been so deeply inspired from nostalgia, this one is my new favorite. Enjoy!
This is my first experiment in hand-mixing the fiber before it gets loaded into the blending board to draw out into rolags. Going for a slightly more tweeded affect, I blend the fibers more — by hand — so the colors begin to haze into each other a little bit.
One thing, when using a blend of different types of fiber, adding shimmering slippery bamboo for instance, the odd fiber tends to clump up, which is desirable for a loose mix. Its a little more blended than the fiber lasagna, but not as blended as if it were carded.
Solid colors still coming out in stray untamed splashes…
Fibers used in this micro batch are: grey Corriedale, grey baby alpaca, fuscia solid Merino, salmon solid Merino, topaz bamboo. Here is what I am doing , as illustrated by a photo slideshow at the bottom of the post.
Portion out the fiber I want to mix, weighing if possible.
Divide into smaller manageable piles to mix by hand.
One at a time, mix fibers in the smaller piles by hand, holding each end and firmly pulling fiber apart. Repeat as desired — I did this about 10 times each, but it can be more or less.
Fill teeth of blending board with hand-mixed fiber.
Draw fiber out into rolags!
This method is pretty loosely mixed, but still more homogenized than my Blending Recipe 1 – fiber lasagna. Splotches of color still are varied and add color explosions to the spinning. And here it is spun up…
Spinning has a way of hazing together the colors more than the rolags show, quite a bit in the spinning of the singles, and even more after plying two singles together. I have to keep this in mind when I make the rolags, knowing the spun result will play the colors down far less dramatically.
Almost a disappointment, although I hate to admit, after careful ‘painting’ of the colors and all the work hand mixing, to have the colors melt into each other so much. Again, one learns for the result, how to prepare the fiber. For big splashes, I prefer the fiber lasagna, and for fine splashes, the hand mix.
And next will be my experiment with a combination hand-mix & carding, for a far more color integrated tweedy result, so watch this space!
This fiber “Optim Ultrafine Merino” is just so luxurious, and in a way, effortless to spin, yet really takes some practice. I posted the blending recipe the other day when I made the rolags “the color of seashells” , I remark how the fiber base Merino Ultrafine is incredibly downy soft, and fine….
But let me tell you, it is slippery and not easy to manage without breaking it a lot while spinning, that is , until you get the hang of it. I am practicing sort of three new things at once; long draw drafting from rolags, fixed my wheel so it can go high speed, and also spinning this new gorgeous slippery fiber.
This woolly confection is inspiring me to put up a shop on Yarnings just to sell a few little luxury ultra-handmade things ~~~ knitted things that I’ve knit from yarn I’ve spun from art rolags I blended on my super nice blending board that I made, and in my own designs of course. A little too much in all directions, yes, I’ll agree, but oh boy these tasty wool sausages are sweet nectar to my eyes, and deserve as much publicity as I can muster up!
Made from nice combed top roving, so there’ll be no bumps and slubby bits in this batch, and the amazing thing is that all the color in these rolags are from combing tips of stash yarn!
During my last blending post, I discovered a “yarn brush” technique, and having invented this for myself, I feel like I should explain how I do it. From doing a few times I think it is easiest to to cut a handful of the yarn, in lengths about 4 to 6 inches, loop around and hold the ‘brush’ firmly in the middle. I am using my paintbrush comb, but you can use hand carders or a fine tooth comb, and comb the ends of the yarn to loosen up and fray the plies, which then you can then push into the carding teeth…
I’ve found that most of the looser plied fluffy yarns, like some Berocco Inca Tweed I had handy, work best, and certainly any of the single ply yarns work beautifully without the combing the tip, they just brush off into the carding cloth easily. In the slideshow, if you hold your mouse over the images, the text will explain what I’m doing.
I am so inspired by this video about the weavers and the local culture around Harris Tweed, on the Isle of Lewis & Harris in Scotland’s outer Hebrides. I seem to be hooked on these woolen mill films these days! I am not so much infatuated with the idea of weaving the tweed yarn, but if I could be immersed into any one part of the process, it would be the blending and carding of the many colors of wool for the tweed affect in yarn spinning. This is what excites me the most, and thinking a lot about what to card next on my new blending board. I realize that I am , and always have been a colorist. Like a painter dreams of mixing pigments on palette, I am the very same, and training to see past the surface into a hidden palette of color in the fiber. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this video I’ve watched now countless times…
I am experiencing a bit of a renaissance in hand-spinning. I never was that much of an intentional spinner, although I am attempting to be now…. perhaps I’ve grown up a little bit? With this alpaca that I brought out of the recesses of my loft closet, I worked it from raw fleece and in this post I show the carding & blending process. After spinning it up, here I am measuring & weighing the yarn to discover what gauge it is.
Here is what I do: I run the yarn through a ‘winding station’, which measures yardage while winding off the skein on to a ball, then weigh the ball, and take notes.
This is about an aran weight. Getting more savvy in substituting hand-spun and I am itching to ‘paint’ again with fiber on my blending board. Recycled sari silk (yes, made from silk cloth of saris), bamboo, rose fiber… the works, and Oh! This was my most recent creation over the weekend, taking some very coarse Lincoln-Corriedale I’ve had for 30 years (from my sheep Hazel, plus another part fleece I have long forgotten where it came) , and blended it up together into a bat of 50/50 dark & white, which the white was extremely slubby (thats having little bits of wool puffs) I used that blend to layer with some ultra nice dyed corriedale roving I recently bought, in colors amber, mulberry, and ruby, and also a little Huacaya Alpaca , and made tasty little wool sausages….
And, over the weekend, here is what I spun up…. slubby, exotic woolen spun blend
Meanwhile, the general news…
Emma is in her last days of having to endure The Cone, for the surgery she had a week ago already (to remove a low-grade sarcoma on her front leg, she will be alright, no reason to be alarmed). My nieces have started school already, Miss Seventeen is a senior this year, and Miss Fourteen is now in 9th grade! I’m very busy presently working up two patterns to be available in a double download, and prototyped in the hand-spun alpaca! And we’re having some gorgeous cool foggy mornings at last! Life is good.
Spinning from rolags is a different experience for me. Especially these tightly rolled sausage-like ones drawn off of those nifty blending boards, and from which I posted about a few weeks ago. Raw, dirty & weedy alpaca is what I’m practicing this woolen technique I am learning, from rolags. In my spinning past, I’ve spun from locks, from picked fiber ‘clouds’ , from bats, had also tried a badly produced rolag or two and gave up ~~ but mostly all the years I’ve spun its been from roving, sliver, and combed top. I am learning that although I was getting better at spinning a fine even single, the yarn I’ve been spinning has been dense, tough type of yarn. I think I was unconsciously aspiring to spin worsted (or semi-worsted) , however there is true woolen style of spinning which is done this way, from rolags I am learning, and ‘long draw’. Okay, I’m getting this…
I must say, this rolag thing is where it is at! Its fascinating, long-draw spinning method, and as yet I am far from being able to do it, and I must resist the urge to pinch the twist too much and let it compress through my fingers into tight even yarn, for that is what is to spinning, like knitting yarn with too small of a size needle I think. It creates a dense compact yarn, that squeezes the life out of the fiber. Just look how the yarn pulls out of the rolag in a line all by itself, with really very minimal fussing if you do it right…
Well, I’ve got this pile of rolags that I made from my first carding on my board, a loosely carded alpaca, and when I’m done with this, I will wash it very well as it is dirty. Hopefully it will bloom and be fluffy & beautiful.
As I’ve been ordering & collecting a bit of fancy fibers to play with and blend, and even ‘processing’ some bits of yarn I have on hand to incorporate into the tweed mixes which I am envisioning for art rolags! For now I’m glad to be taking a break from knitting as the previously posted yarn was not very nice at all, and I sent it back only to have to start all over with nicer yarn that I enjoy knitting, and more important, that my nieces will enjoy wearing! So I’m waiting for new yarn to come in. In the mean time I’m spinning! All you spinners out there, I invite you to share in the comments about your preferred spinning methods, and anything you might be able to say about woolen vs worsted spinning ~ thanks!
I’m closing with a posting of a video from 1970’s that I found about sheep & spinning in Donegal Ireland, I hope you love it as much as I do!
In recent days, while knitting I have been learning about Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, about spinning & carding, and the art & industry of spinning, and also listening to NPR political news which always is a dreary subject. But more about Mahatma, the “great-souled” man.
Caption from LIFE magazine (1945): “At 76, the Mahatma is in good physical condition. He weighs 110 pounds, but he is not so frail as he looks.”
Gandhi was a religiousleader,nationalist, andsocialreformer (1869-1948) who’s method of peaceful protest brought change to India, and through his example he empowered millions with a sense of direction and courage. One of Gandhi’s notorious civil disobedience acts protesting British rule was organizing & leading thousands of people to walk 241 miles to the sea, so they could simply make salt, something that was illegal under an obnoxious salt taxing law of Imperialist oppression at the time (read more about this significant protest….) Gandhi has since his lifetime gone beyond being a leader of peace in India, to an example of peace in the world.
[wurld]noun + [pees] noun: World peace is exemplified by an ideal of freedom, peace, and happiness among all people in all nations , ideally encompassing ethics of planetary non-violence by which nations willingly cooperate, either voluntarily or by virtue of a system of governance that prevents warfare.
But the most iconic thing about Gandhi that I think of , is his gift to people of the spinning wheel to empower and unite them. Gandhi taught his people to spin and to take pride and ownership in their labor & contribution, and so the millions spun on the wheel as it became an integral part in creating the cloth of the nation. The spinning wheel even became the emblem of the nation and was printed on to India’s flag…
“Every revolution of the wheel spins peace, good will, and love.” –Gandhi
The simple mechanics of turning a whorl to make fine finished thread out of unorganized fluff. When I think about it, spinning is a wonderful example of human potential, and perhaps what belonged even to the earliest prehistoric civilizations as they made cloth to better their lives.
However in modern days it seems as though the craft of spinning has become a sort of privilege of the artisans life, if not the perpetual hobbyist, but I am digging deep into the well of my own humanity to find a stronger direction from it. I am suddenly in the throes of wanting to be inwardly groomed by these concepts. Although my life is already a peaceful protest in a way, I am spinning hope for the future.
Well, what I have learned about Gandhi and his spinning has at least inspired the name of a new little design forthcoming, but that will be another day. I will leave off today with one of my favorite quotes…