Alpaca Silk

This alpaca/silk I finished spinning the other day is finally dry, measured, and skeined up.  I ended up with about 270 yards of mostly fingering-weight yarn.

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I say “mostly fingering” because there are a few spots where it’s more of a sport weight, but they’re actually pretty few and far between.  I was amazed at how consistently I was able to spin this fiber.
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The fiber is from Abstract Fiber and it created a heavenly soft yarn.  My only complaint is that something about their dyeing/prep process seems to pack down the fibers pretty tightly so that there is a lot of pre-drafting needed to fluff up the fiber so it’s spinnable.  The colorway is Mt. Hood Rose and the fiber is 70% alpaca, 30% silk.  My LYS has chosen the Rustling Leaves Beret as the February knit-a-long and I think I will see how it looks in this yarn.  I’m hoping the yarn is a solid enough color that it doesn’t obscure the pattern.

Satisfaction

I was patient and waited until this evening to ply my singles from yesterday.  However, I got a comment from someone on Google+ saying that she never waits to ply, she just fills a bobbin then uses her ball winder to make a center pull ball and plies from both ends.  Anyone else tried this?  Anyone ply without waiting overnight?  How much of a difference does it make?  My finished yarn on the bobbin:

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This color is near impossible to photograph well.  At least for my mediocre photography skills.  The fiber is 70% alpaca 30% silk.  It started out looking like this:
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Spinning muted the color changes quite a bit, but there are a few places where pink barberpoles around the cream.  I managed to spin pretty darn consistently, after dividing the roving into two halves and spinning the singles and then plying them this is all that was left on my “fuller” bobbin:
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After plying, I used my swift to skein up the yarn so that it could be washed.  I don’t bother to use the niddy noddy at this stage because the length will change with washing and hanging anyway.
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Then I drop the whole thing in the sink with some wool wash.  I just picked up this tester-sized bottle of Eucalan and I love it.  It’s grapefruit scented, but not overpoweringly so, just enough to be pleasant.  For $4 it was a great way to see if I liked the scent.  I used less than 1/10 of the bottle, so it’s a pretty good value.  (Especially compared to the $10 per bottle of SOAK testers.)
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The fiber is Abstract Fiber Alpaca Silk  in colorway Mt. Hood Rose.  It appears to be available on the website, but they don’t have a picture.  I got mine at For Yarns Sake.  I let you know the final yardage and weight once it’s fully dry.

SIP (Spinning In Progress)

You know you are falling behind on your blogging when you non-knitting boyfriend notices that you haven’t posted in a while.  (Thanks for the kick in the butt Ry! Love you!)  It’s been a solid three weeks since I’ve posted anything.  Partially it’s because I don’t have anything finished and my favorite posts are showing off finished things.  Partially it’s because the weather has been horrible… 5 straight days of rain… and there’s been no sunlight to take pictures in.  My apartment is destroyed and I don’t want you all to see the mess.  Really, I’m thinking of you all.  It’s bad.

I’ve been very uncommitted to any one project lately so all my projects have some progress but not lots.  Mostly I’m trying to get some market bags done for my mom’s birthday present (her birthday is December 21.)  I’ve got some socks going for working on at sock hour at the yarn shop.  A sweater that I started as part of an October knit-a-long and am only about half done with.  Socks that I can’t work on at sock hour so only get attention when I’m on the bus.  A cabled pullover in bulky yarn that I love but don’t focus on too much because every time I do I feel guilty I’m not working on gift knitting.  Granny squares for an afghan that I sometimes have interest in.

There are some other things I need to cast on as gifts, but I think I’ll keep them a secret for now.  But I don’t want to talk about any of that right now.  Right now, I want to show you my current spinning project.

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That is 2 oz. of Alpaca/Silk from Abstract Fibers in colorway Mount Hood Rose.  This luscious fiber is 70% alpaca 30% silk.  I’ve spun it to a lace weight but I’m planning on spinning another 2 oz. and plying it so that I get a fingering weight.  I’m hoping for enough yardage for a triangle shawl–they make the best winter scarves because they cover the whole gap in my coat, not just up by my throat.

Spinning this was a bit hard to adjust to.  I’ve never worked with alpaca before or any other really long-stapled fiber and I wasn’t used to drafting with my finger so far apart.  Once I finally figured it out and got in my rhythm it spins so smoothly and it can be drafted down to almost nothing.

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The yarn is not as garish as the photos make it look.  The sheen from the silk and alpaca make it hard to photograph.  Especially in the bad lighting the weather has left us with here in Portland.  Don’t expect good pictures on the blog again until June… grumble rain grumble grumble

A spinning miracle

So I showed you the beautiful new wheel I got at Sock Summit.  Time to show you what I’ve created with it so far.

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This is a 2-ply worsted (mostly) weight yarn that I spun up in about 3 days.  One day for each single, then another day to do the plying.  Honestly I would have finished in two days except that I’ve heard that you have to let your singles “rest” overnight before you ply.  Anyone know why this is? What’s the benefit?  It was pretty frustrating to have to not use my new wheel while I waited.

I wanted to try to spin a thicker yarn as recently I’ve been drafting down to almost lace weight.  The choice of ratios presented by the Joy and the ability to finely adjust the tension made it pretty easy to stay at solid worsted weight.  That’s not to say that there are not some think and thin spots, but very few.

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In fact, that’s where my miracle comes in.  You know how you have to split your fleece into two so that you can spin your singles, then you ply your singles into a finished yarn?  (Of course you do.)  You also know how no matter how hard you carefully separate your fleece, you always end up with more left in one “half” than the other.  Well, look at this.

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That’s how far I was off by.  Less than a yard.  When my first bobbin ran out and I looked at the other to see how much was left I could hardly believe my eyes.  My singles were by no means perfectly consistent, but they must have been inconsistent in pretty darn equal amounts.

The fleece I started with looked like this.

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It came in 3 little 1.5 oz. slivers of natural undyed Corriedale wool.  I got it during the Portland Yarn Crawl back in March.  It was pretty soft to the touch as sliver.  Now that it’s spun it has a slightly “rustic” feel to it, but not too bad.  I plan on making the Habitat hat with it.  All in all I ended up with about 168 yards so it should be just enough.  Awesome.

Sock Summit

Dear YarnHarlot,

I walked into the Portland Convention Center totally excited to be attending Sock Summit for the second time.  When I saw YOU hanging out talking to someone right in front of the booth for buying marketplace tickets I (internally) “lost my shit” as they say.  I grabbed my boyfriend’s arm and frantically (hopefully quietly) whispered to him “That is the YarnHarlot!” (Yes, I dragged my boyfriend to Sock Summit, he was awesome about it, proving he is the best man on the planet.)  You were talking to someone and I wanted so desperately to ask to take a picture with you.  While you were talking I started thinking, “you know, I bet she’s really busy, I bet she has tons and tons of stuff to do, I bet it would be a total inconvenience to break up her flow and ask her to stop what she’s doing for me, especially when she’s running this amazing show (with some help) and I’m just here on my Saturday off to spend a grip of money on some yarn, I bet she’d be totally resentful and hold it against me and spend the rest of her days telling stories about how this totally rude girl in a black dress with a nose ring completely threw off her chi on the second day of Sock Summit and made the whole experience crap.”  So, I didn’t ask for the picture.  I’m a wuss.  I don’t like talking to strangers at the best of times, and even though I’ve read your whole blog and have, in a teeny tiny way, been a part of your life, whether you know it or not, in real life you’re still a stranger and I’m still a wuss.

All my knitterly-love,
Melanie

P.S. I did the same thing with Franklin Habbit.  I convinced myself that maybe it wasn’t Franklin.  Maybe I would just end up making a fool of myself in front of some other 5’2″ bald dude with a goatee wearing a utili-kilt who came to Sock Summit and can’t understand why people keep pestering him.

Now that my lack of courage is on public display, lets see the goodies!

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Cats not acquired at Sock Summit, they’re just nosey.

What’s that you ask?  Oh, why yes, that is an Ashford Joy spinning wheel.  Why yes, I did buy it at Sock Summit.  Why yes, I’ve already spun over an ounce of beautiful brown cormo on it.  Why yes, I love it like a baby.  Why yes I did spend all day at work today (my first day away from it) wondering if it was OK in the apartment with only the cats and the Babe to keep it company.  I went to Sock Summit pretty sure I was going to buy a spinning wheel but pretty sure I was going to buy a Schacht Sidekick because it’s also small and folds up and is a bit less expensive.  I pointed one on display out to Ryan saying “that’s the spinning wheel I’m going to get” and he said something strange.  He said, “that doesn’t feel like your wheel.”  In my head I sort of thought “you’re crazy, that’s what I came here for.”  We found a booth that had several spinning wheels including a Sidekick and what is now my Joy.  The woman running the booth insisted I try them both.  From the minute I started treadling on the Joy I knew it was the wheel for me.  Spinning on it feels effortless.  It’s perfect.  The cats are totally jealous.

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The first booth I hit up after acquiring my new wheel was the Sanguine Gryphon booth.  Yummy.  I wanted to take one of everything home with me but alas I had to be content with just these two precious skeins.  The carmel-y colored skein is Skinny Bugga! in Honeybee.  It’s screaming STEPHEN WEST at me, we’ll see what pattern it ends up in.  The gorgeous teal is Gaia Lace in Lobstrosity (I think that name should go on a red yarn because it makes me thing of Lobsters… anyone know why it’s teal?)

While standing in the Sanguine Gryphon booth trying to make an impossible choice I asked Ryan, “what’s the most beautiful thing in the booth?” trying to get his opinion.  He said “You.”  AWWWWW. Good man.

Next booth was the Signature booth.

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Those are 5 size 1 double pointed needles in 5″ length.  I want to cast on new socks immediately just to try them out.  Other than the spinning wheel these were my most expensive splurge.

Next was the Fiber Optic Yarns booth where they had this on display.

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It’s the Evenstar Shawl knit in hand-spun from one of her gradient-dyed yarns.  Of course this colorway was totally sold out, but I’ll be stalking her online shop so that I can try to make a replica of this beauty.  I did buy this 50% merino 50% tencel blend from her booth…just to tide me over till I can get my hands on the gradient.

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Also on the fiber front I got this 4 oz Tussah Silk top from Teresa Ruch Designs.

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I’m thinking of trying to spin it down to a lace weight to get the most milage out of the luscious silk.

The last fiber I bought was this gorgeous top from HAY by Rachel. It’s only 4 oz but it’s so fluffy it takes up as much space as most 8 oz tops.  It’s superwash merino.  I’m hoping it spins up nice and tweedy because of the carmel splashes.

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Lastly, I bought these earrings made from cross-sections of old aluminium knitting needles.  I love them because I know it’s knitting jewelry but it’s totally inconspicuous.

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Overall it was an awesome Sock Summit, minus my wuss-ness about asking the YarnHarlot for a photo. I hope you had as pleasant a weekend.

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Handspun

Last September at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival I picked up this lovely roving for $10.

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There is just a little hang tag which is hand written and says “color: sea mist, 70% merino, 30% Tussah silk” so I can’t tell you who the vendor was.  Probably best for my wallet that I can’t remember.  The colors are carded together so beautifully and subtly.  I immediately got the yarn onto the spinning wheel.

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I spun up one whole bobbin, then it sat… (totally unlike me to leave a project mid way through huh?  I’m never like that, I totally always stick with things to the end… cough… on an unrelated note, Ryan may have called me a “sock slut” yesterday… I think the exact comment was “you’re totally not a real slut, but you are a sock slut” in that same voice you use with the know-it-all who is standing before you swearing up and down that they are most certainly not a know-it-all in any way, shape, or form, they just test well, and memorize easily, and you know, learn things fast.)

I blame school for this particular abandonment.  Since I’m still new at spinning it takes me quite a while to acclimate to the wheel, find the right treadling speed, the right way to hold my hands to make drafting easier, etc. so if I’m going to spin I like to have a big chunk of time to work at it.  Big chunks of time aren’t easy to come by with a law school schedule, hence the not so much spinning.  If you are thinking to yourself: “If you just took those small amounts of time to practice you would get better and learn to be productive in those smaller time allotments,” you can hush.

Once school ended I got back on the wheel and quickly filled the second bobbin.  Here are the singles.

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I divided the 4oz of roving before I started into two 2oz pieces thinking this would give me a chance at getting roughly the same amount of yarn on each bobbin.  Here is the finished yarn.

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The puny little skein is the amount that was left on one bobbin when the other was used up.  I wound it into a ball on my ball winder then plied it against itself pulling from the center and outside of the ball.  Plied it’s about 32 yards which means that I had 64 yards more on one bobbin than the other.  They say (whoever “they” are) that beginning spinners tend to start by spinning bulkier yarns and as they settle into the rhythm begin to spin finer and finer.  This seems to have been the case here.

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I love the color, “Sea Mist” is the perfect name for the colorway.  I also love the shininess from the silk.  It does make it hard to get an accurate picture though.  It’s more muted than it shows here, some of that shine is just the camera.

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Isn’t my WPI tool cute?

This yarn is pretty consistent (especially for only being my second adventure in wheel-spinning) most of it is about 17 wraps per inch.  The internet is telling me that this is even finer than a standard fingering weight, but it looks like to me more like a heavy fingering to a sport weight.  Do you find the WIP guide to be an accurate comparison to machine made yarn sizes? Maybe I “squished” my yarn together a bit when measuring.  Anyone know what tension the wraps are supposed to be done at?

In the end I ended up with about 326 yards of 2-ply in the fingering-sport range.  There are a few places (not too many) where the singles got over energized and corkscrewed and there are a few places that were under-plied but overall I’m really happy with how this turned out.

Now comes the peril of trying to find the perfect pattern for it.  Any suggestions?

Fiber Adventures

Way back when Sock Summit came to Portland I decided that I wanted to learn to spin. Student loan budgets being what they are, I decided to learn on a drop spindle. I bought the spindle and some fiber that looked pretty.

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I didn’t get to far with it though… I had a hard time getting a hang of drafting while the spindle was spinning and was getting frustrated. I later learned that Targhee (that’s what the fiber was) is knowing for being trickier to draft and isn’t the best “learning” fiber. I set it aside for a long time and pretty much gave up on spinning.

Then in August I got the idea into my head that I would tie up all my loose end projects. I got the spinning back out to finish it. Something clicked this time, and I blew through all the fiber and wanted more.

The end result is certainly not perfect, but it was quite fun to make.

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This is 3 0z. (I used one oz to make thrummed mittens) of 100% Targhee wool. It ranges it weight from super bulky in places down to light fingering in others.

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The color is much more like the top photos, a happy pink rather than the muted coral of the last picture.

At that point I pretty much decided that I was hooked on spinning and I jumped into the deep end and bought this:

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That is a Babe Fiber Arts Fiber Starter Double Treadle Spinning Wheel. I bought it on eBay. It is made of PVC pipe and a wheelchair wheel. It is perfect for me. Cheap, easy to use and maintain, and pretty near indestructible. The cats have not been able to do any perceptible damage even though they are completely obsessed with the wheel. The wheel came with 8 oz of mystery wool fiber which I promptly spun up. It’s way over-spun in some places and pretty thick and thin but it was great fun to make. I’m sure I’ll just knit something to felt that way it won’t show. I’ve been stashing fiber ever since.

Last weekend was the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival and I somehow managed to convince Ryan that it would be a good idea to take time away from our law school studies to drive an hour over to Canby and spend the whole afternoon looking at yarn and fiber. I think Ryan was expecting a few tables with a few piles of yarn on them since he still has a hard time believed that there are actually people in this world that get super excited over yarn and fiber. It was glorious. Every building of the Canby fairgrounds was packed with booths and the entire lawn/picnic area was covered with outside booths as well. There was easily 250 vendors present. I walked away with a fantastic new fiber stash and, this is the most amazing part, I only spent $75! Yeah for local products!

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These are each 4 oz of 70% Merino and 30% Tussah Silk. The top picture is colorway Sea Mist and the bottom picture is colorway Red. This fiber is fantastic. I’ve heard the phrase “drafts like butter” bandied about on the Ravelry forums but with my Targhee experience I never really believed it… until now.

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This is only my second wheel-spun project and it’s so even. It’s drafting down to almost lace weight. I don’t know if I’ll ply it or just work with it as a single, it’s spinning so evenly it would work well as a single and I would have more yardage. I love the subtlety of this color. “Mist” is the perfect word for it.

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This is 4 oz of 70% Merino 30% Tencel blend. The picture makes it look like its silver and that’s because it is. Yeah, that’s right, SILVER yarn. I don’t know how the dye looks so metallic, but it’s wonderful.

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This is dyed by the same woman. It’s 4 oz of 70% Merino 30% Yak. That’s right, Yak. It’s wonderful. It’s harder to draft than the Merino/Silk but easier than the Targhee was. It’s on my spindle now. I don’t have a picture of it because it lives at Ryan’s house so that I have a project to work on when I’m there. Ryan seems to understand that having something for me to work on at his place is necessary for keeping me sane.

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This is 8 oz of 60% alpaca 40% wool. It’s super soft and I love the earthy colors. This will be interesting to spin since I’ve never spun from a bat before, only roving.

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These are 4 oz each of Blue Faced Leicester. They were $5 each. Amazing deal. I love the colors. They will make something fun to wear during the bleak Portland winters

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This is so shiny it’s impossible to get a picture of it. It’s the softest thing I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s 2 oz of pure silk. I don’t think I’ll be able to get any real yardage out of it, so I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but it’s worth it just to feel the fiber.

I haven’t really done much knitting. I’ve finished one project since my last post… (and I can’t even show it to you since it was a test knit and the pattern hasn’t been released yet.) I have several projects that will only take an hour or two to finish but I can’t bring myself to do the boring bits like weaving in ends, sewing on buttons, ribbing, etc. Hopefully, I’ll get something off the needles this week that I can show you.