WIPWed #100: That’s a Nice Round Number

I’ve reached 100 WIP Wednesday posts, woohoo! Now, that’s not 100 weeks in a row or even 100 weeks of knitting, as there has been plenty more knitting than that, but 100 weeks of cataloging my knits in a systematic way, at least! (You can see all WIPWed posts here, if you’d like.) This week, I have spinning and socks.

My Favorite Socks Ever:

My favorite socks are currently in the toe stage of development, which means they’re almost done! I’m going to wear the bejeezus out of these things come fall. Also, I thought I should illustrate how difficult it is for me to get good blog photos sometimes; I have to fight off kitties for space and light (especially the yarn-hungry Darwin) through the entire photo-taking process.

Stealth Socks:

WIPWed #100

BMFA Socks That Rock Heavyweight, colorway Grimm. Click for project page.

The secret stealth socks are progressing, but not nearly fast enough. I’m on the heel flap of both but need to put some serious time into them this week.

TdF Merino Mind Bullets:

WIPWed #100

BeeMiceElf Merino top, colorway Mind Bullets. Click for handspun page.

Even though they are a pain in the butt to wind neatly, my favorite part of Turkish spinning is the fat little turtles of yarn you get when you take the cop off the spindle. That’s only about 0.5 oz of fiber, so I have a bit more to go *eye roll*.

TdF Dusky Greens:

WIPWed #100

Three Waters Farm Falkland, colorway Greens at Dusk. Click for handspun page.

As I am on the Three Waters Farm Tour de Fleece team, I figured it was about time I started in on some Three Waters Farm fiber. In one evening (!) I spun up 1/3 of a braid of Falkland wool in lovely green shades. I’m planning to make a 3-ply yarn to coordinate with the pound of Falkland I spun up when I first got my wheel. Now if I just had more time to spin… Work is going to be insane through the end of the month and the first couple of weeks of August will be busy with a vacation and a conference, so chances are my posts will be a bit spotty until later in August. I will do my best but if I disappear for a while, that’s why!

As for reading, I started a new book:

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Definitely worth the read.

Some of you may have already heard of the Whole30 program, and even if you have, this book is worth reading to better understand the reasons behind it. The idea of the program is to stop eating certain unhealthy foods for 30 days and see how your body feels. Then you reintroduce them and observe any changes, so that you can make well-informed decisions about your diet in the future. I love this idea. The book does a good job of summing up the very complicated and unclear science of how food interacts with your body. Admittedly, the authors overuse analogies waaaaaaaaaaay too much, but the science they describe is pretty sound and clearly explained. They define unhealthy foods as those that do one (or more) of four things: 1- have an addictive or unhealthy psychological effect, 2- unbalance your hormones, 3- disrupt your gut health, and 4- induce an immune system response. For the most part, these foods include all grains, dairy, legumes, and seed oils. It essentially encourages a Paleo-style diet of protein, veggies, and fruit. For people struggling with their health or their weight while eating what seem like healthy foods, giving this program a try might be worth it. I haven’t done it quite yet, but the diet I did last year was very much like it and since I’ve been slowly-but-surely regaining some of the weight I had lost (despite calorie-counting, yoga, weight-lifting, and walking regularly) it’s worth a try to see if it can get my metabolism-related hormones back in balance.

Also, if you’ll allow me a moment on my soapbox, I think people should read this book so that they realize that obesity is a real biological problem. It’s not just mental (put down the fork!) or about willpower (get up off the couch!), it involves overcoming real biochemical challenges (genetics, metabolism, stress, hormones, brain chemicals) as well as societal pressures (restaurants, ads, easy junk food, peers) at every turn. And for some people, it’s a lifelong freaking struggle, despite doing everything right. It’s a legitimate disease and as far as I can tell, it’s one of the few left that people feel justified in openly mocking and belittling. Next time you have unkind thoughts about a fat person, take a beat and remember that there’s a pretty good chance they’re working on it and it’s not all their fault.

Soapbox done, back to your regularly scheduled knitting! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesdays.

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WIPWed #99: Spinning Through

Tour de Fleece is in full swing and I’m doing what I can to participate. I was away celebrating our first wedding anniversary when it began, but I did take my spindle and some fiber to at least make a start. We got back stupidly late Monday night (more like early Tuesday AM) so yesterday was all about catching up with life, but I did manage to get a couple of ounces spun up on my wheel, as well. Needless to say, my knitting progress has slowed with all this spinning going on, but I’m not complaining. Spinning is quite soothing, despite the old wrist injury that I aggravated by using the grip of death on a crazy carnival ride the Fiasco made me do. (Yeah, I blame him for my wrist pain. That’s what marriage is for!)

TdF Merino Mind Bullets:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf Merino top, colorway Mind Bullets. Click for handspun page.

This spin is going to take a good long while, but I’m loving it. That Subterranean Woodworks Turkish spindle is one of my absolute favorites. The weight is perfect, the color makes me happy, and it’s a zippy little spinner.

TdF BFL/Silk Singles:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Bee Mice Elf BFL/Silk, colorway Eggplant in Ashes. Click for handspun page.

I spun one braid of these singles before TdF began (left bobbin), but got a decent 2 oz spun last night while I watched more Vampire Diaries (still obsessed!) and made a few batches of lotion bars (Lavender EO has been restocked and a new scent, Smoky Patchouli, has been added to the shop). Fingers crossed that I can speed through the final 2 oz tonight.

Rotted Days:

WIPWed #99: Spinning Through | Woolen Diversions

Actually using my handspun! Click for project page.

Spending 9 hours in the car over the long weekend lead me to resurrect my handspun Dotted Rays shawl. I’m at the point where the short rows take much longer to get through, so there isn’t as much flipping back and forth and I’ve settled into a nice rhythm with it. I’ve nearly finished my first skein of handspun and desperately need to switch to a larger cable so the shawl won’t look like a pile of mush in photos.

That’s all I’ve really worked on this week. I’m currently in between books right now, although I’m listening to a really good one (Birthmarked by C.M. O’Brien). It’s about a young girl who is a midwife in a post-climate-change society and there is some kind of drama starting between the ‘advanced’ people who live within the walls of the city, and everyone else on the outside. Not deep into it yet but it’s intriguing so far.

And just for fun, here are some pics from our trip to Maine:

Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesdays.

(And congrats to Alexis of CobCottageCraft, the winner of the Myra cowl pattern from my review post and giveaway. Keep an eye out for my e-mail!)

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet

As you might recall, on Wednesday I mentioned that I came home to a giant box of fiber-y goodies from Louet*. Want to hear more about that? Of course you do!

Woolen Diversions

Thanks, Louet!

Louet is putting together super cool, heavily-discounted fiber bundles to help us all prepare our stashes for Spinzilla, the week-long spinning marathon that happens in October. There will be a different fiber pack each month leading up to the event. The May pack contains $160 worth of yummy fibers to play with, and retails for less than half that price. After sampling some of the fibers included in the pack, I can’t deny that it is an absolute steal.

The fiber pack contains 4 bundles of 2 oz each Dyed Merino Top (in Champagne, Dusty Rose, Lupine Lavender, and Tawny Gold), 4 oz of Angora/Lambswool Top, 100 gr of Eri (a.k.a. Peace) Silk,  8 oz of Light Romney Sliver, 8 oz of Dark Romney Sliver, and 8 oz of SWTC Dyed Karaoke (50% soysilk / 50% wool). I wanted to write my review before May was over so I’ve only had time to dabble in half of these fibers thus far, but here we go.

Eri Silk:

I practically attacked this lovely bundle of silk as soon as I had it out of the bag. It’s a beautiful, natural champagne/honey color, a nice light tan. It feels incredible. Since it comes from silkworms that spin open-ended cocoons, the silk is not reeled off in one continuous piece. This makes the fiber a bit fluffier and less sleek than typical mulberry silk (and the critters get to live!), but I like this quality as it makes the silk easier to draft and spin.

Review: Spinzilla May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Eri Silk sample skein

I spun a small amount (7 g) with short forward draw (worsted) on the fast flyer of my Lendrum wheel (12:1 ratio) and made a 2-ply sample skein with 38.3 yards. If I had spun the entire batch of silk up (4 oz), I would’ve ended up with 618 yards of laceweight yarn (2,481 ypp, 24 wpi). I love this little skein and think that the rest of this silk will make an elegant shawl.

Angora/Lambswool:

The next fiber that my fingers couldn’t resist was the 50/50 blend of angora (from bunnies!) and lambswool. This fiber comes undyed in 2 oz bags (2 bags included in fiber pack). As you can imagine, it’s wonderfully fluffy stuff. I tried spinning this worsted but had a bit of trouble (it’s not my favorite drafting style) so I switched to my old standby, spinning from the fold. This allowed me greater control over the short, sleek angora fibers while introducing a nice bit of air into the single.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Angora/Lambswool sample skein

I spun a bit up (11 g) on the fast flyer of my Lendrum wheel (12:1 ratio) and made a 2-ply sample skein with 20.7 yards. If I had spun the entire batch of fiber (4 oz), I would’ve ended up with 214 yards of sport/DK weight yarn (856 ypp, 14 wpi). The yarn in this wee skein is thicker and fluffier than the silk but still has a lovely density from the angora and a nice bit of bounce. I imagine any knit fabric will develop an enticing halo over time. The angora and wool fibers were well blended and only a few times did I find myself at the end of my handful of fiber with just bits of angora left loose in my hand.

Carding Dyed Merino Top:

For my last sample skein, I experimented with hand carding the 4 colors of dyed Merino wool top I had received. I carded 4 rolags of each color blend and spun them in the following sequence: champagne alone, champagne/rose, rose alone, rose/lavender, lavender alone, lavender/gold, gold alone, gold/champagne. Since I was spinning from rolags, I used a supported long draw technique to create a woolen-spun single.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Dyed Merino Top sample skein

I switched back to the regular flyer and spun 38 g of wool into a single that I then chain plied (10:1 ratio) into a 3-ply yarn. If I continue spinning all 8 oz of wool in this manner, I will ended up with 455 yards of DK/light worsted weight yarn (910 ypp, 11 wpi). I found the wool top easy to card and spin. I did not notice any compacted areas that can sometimes result from the dyeing process and the colors were consistent throughout the top.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

My pretties!

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be done with one of these fiber packs. Things I’d still like to try:

  • blending the Eri silk with the dyed Merino top in rolags
  • plying one single of silk with one multicolored single spun from the dyed Merino
  • plying light grey and dark grey Romney singles together for a subtle marled yarn
  • spinning a bulky singles yarn from the variegated soysilk/wool fiber.

In summary, these fiber packs are an instant stash, and a great way to explore different fiber types in a low-risk way. For instance, I’m not in love with the feel of the soysilk/wool blend (even though I adore the color!) and I’m glad I found that out through the discounted fiber pack before purchasing it on its own for a project. Louet’s fibers are well-prepared, easy to work with, reasonably-priced, and offered in relatively large amounts (usually 8 oz at a time) that allow for experimentation and sampling without sacrificing project yardage, which I really appreciate. I’ve had my eye on some of their more ‘exotic’ fibers for a while (yak, anyone? How about camel/silk?) and the fiber pack they’ve put together for June looks intriguing, too!

Have you experimented with any new fibers lately? What have you been itching to try?

*Disclaimer: This fiber pack was sent to me from Louet for review. All opinions are my own and reflect my true impressions, I only support businesses whose products I truly love!

FOFri #36: That’s A Lot of Falkland

I have yarn! I present to you the first finished handspun to come off of my Lendrum wheel. (You can hover over photos for captions, or click to enlarge.)

Isn’t it lovely? I basically just want to wallow in those gigantic skeins. You might recognize the smaller one from the ply experiment I conducted where I spun and swatched samples with different amounts of ply twist (oh, the #spingeek-ery!). I learned a lot from that little exercise and I truly love the finished product.

I’m still working out what types of details I want to track about my spinning projects, but for this one I recorded a variety of information. Here’s a recap:

  • Dates: Dec. 1st 2014 – Feb. 12th 2015
  • Fiber: Ashland Bay Falkland Wool commercial top, 16 oz in finished yarn (1 oz used up in sampling).
  • Singles: Spun with Z twist (clockwise) on middle whorl of regular flyer (8:1 ratio). Used a semi-worsted backwards drafting style, occasionally from the fold. Measured 25 WPI (wraps per inch) and 2350 ypp (yards per pound).
  • Ply: Three plies with S twist (counterclockwise) on larger whorl of regular flyer (6:1 ratio). Treadled 4-5 times per length of yarn. Measured 10 WPI and 600 – 900 ypp (measured 600 in reality and 900 on the balance).
  • Yardage: Skein 1 had 306 yards on the winder but after wet-finishing the skein measured 255 yards. Skein 2 had 438 yards on the winder but measured 340 yards after finishing.

Even though the yardage measurements are unclear (I suspect a yardage counter could be handy in the future), I likely have somewhere between 595 and 745 yards of approximately worsted weight yarn. That’s enough for a generous cozy shawl, a boat-load of accessories, or if I spin a little more Falkland up, perhaps a vest? I haven’t decided if I will dye these skeins or not. I’m tempted to try a rainbow skein like what The Lemonade Shop dyes or something like the Tipsy skeins at Blue Moon Fiber Arts but I don’t want to ruin so much spinning if it goes wrong. What would you do?

lovesale

Clicky-clicky!

There are still a few days left to receive a discount on your Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe lotion bar or gift set order. The coupon code ‘love10’ is good through Sunday. Treat yourself or a friend to some sassy sweet Ribbon Candy, tart juicy Kumquat, cinnamon-kissed Gingersnap, or refined and stately Black Tea (to name a few). As always, if you don’t see a scent in stock that you’d like, you can request whatever suits your fancy from over 30 options with a custom lotion bar or custom gift set order.

I don’t think I’ll make it to this space over the weekend, so have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ply Experiment

A few weeks ago, I watched Jillian Moreno’s spinning class on #Craftsy called Ply to Knit: Spin the Yarn You Really Want. If you’re not familiar with Jillian, she writes and edits KnittySpin articles as well as a weekly spinning blog post on the Knitty blog. I enjoy her writing and her spinning very much, so when Craftsy had a sale I figured I’d give the class a try.

Screenshot from Craftsy.

Screenshot from Craftsy.

I don’t intend this post to be a thorough review of the class, but I will say that I probably would have been a little disappointed if I had paid full price for it. I think Jilllian is a great teacher and I love the Craftsy platform, I just don’t think there was enough material in the class that I didn’t already know for me to feel it worth the money. I would recommend it for an absolute beginning spinner. As a very beginner, or as someone who has only spun on spindles and just started on a wheel, it is always worthwhile to watch someone else’s spinning technique. You will invariably pick up little tricks and tips you never thought of if you are primarily self-taught. If you’ve never plied singles together before, the class will likely provide lots of little lightbulb moments all at once. Since I’ve been spinning for three years now (how did that happen?!) and I’m a voracious reader of spinning-related books, blogs, boards, and magazines, not much in the class was news to me. At one point, I thought she was going to start getting into some of the more unusual ways to ply yarns (for art yarns and such), but then she stopped and implied that those topics were for another class.

Ply Experiment | Woolen Diversions

Three bobbins of Falkland wool, ready to ply.

There was, however, one excellent nugget of information that I gleaned from the class, my own personal aha! moment that inspired this post. I’ve sometimes been underwhelmed by my handspun, feeling that some skeins lacked the oomph that other lovely skeins had, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why or what was different. I plied them to the point where they seemed balanced, I did the same to one skein as I did to another, but I didn’t really pay close attention to exactly what I was doing. This class taught me that the secret to great yarn is in the plying twist.

Ply Experiment | Woolen Diversions

(L to R): Ply 1, Ply 2, and Ply 3

You see, I knew that handspun skeins lost some twist after finishing, but I didn’t really understand how much, nor did I know how to tell how much twist was enough to add in the first place. Jillian does an excellent job demonstrating how to detect the amount of plying twist you are adding, and how to get a feel for when enough is enough. So I conducted a small experiment to see what difference the amount of plying twist really made in the finished yarn. I used the same Falkland wool singles for a all three 3-ply yarn samples (spun Z twist on a 8:1 ratio whorl), and I changed the ply twist as follows for each one:

  • Ply 1: ply ratio = 8:1 (same whorl), treadles per length = 5
  • Ply 2: ply ratio = 8:1 (same whorl), treadles per length = 3-4 (roughly alternated)
  • Ply 3: ply ratio = 6:1 (larger whorl), treadles per length = 4-5 (roughly alternated)

By adjusting how many times you treadle before you allow a set length of yarn (whatever is comfortable and consistent for you) wind onto the bobbin, you are adjusting the amount of ply twist that enters the yarn. You also adjust the amount of ply twist by changing your whorl or drive ratio, which determines how much twist energy is inserted with each treadle (higher ratio/smaller whorl = more twist, while lower ratio/larger whorl = less twist). Ply 1 seemed to have way too much ply twist, while ply 2 (not pictured above) had too little with 3 treadles per length, but too much with 4. So I lowered the ratio and aimed for roughly 4 to 5 treadles per length, which resulted in the nice easy loop on plyback that looked just about right, and this amount of twist is what I used for plying the rest of my singles.

I then took a series of notes and measurements about the different yarns. I measured wraps per inch (WPI), which helps classify the thickness of the yarn, and yards per pound (YPP), which you can think of as a measure of the density (or grist) of yarn. In the photo gallery above (hover for captions or click for closeups), you’ll notice that the sample strand for Ply 3 (to the right) is much longer than for Ply 1 or Ply 2. Those samples were strands that were cut until they balanced out on a McMorran Yarn Balance (one way to measure YPP). The Ply 3 strand is longer because the scale could hold a longer length before it balanced out, meaning that yarn had a much higher YPP. (Translation: you could spin more yardage out of a pound of wool at this grist because it is a thinner, less dense yarn.) I used a chart from an old issue of Spin-Off to help determine what the knitting weight was (classifications are not very standardized at all so it differs by source) but another chart you could use is here. The stats:

  • Singles: WPI = 25, YPP = 2,350, knitting weight = laceweight to fingering
  • Ply 1: WPI = 9 -10, YPP = 525, knitting weight = aran to bulky
  • Ply 2: WPI = 10, YPP = 625, knitting weight = aran
  • Ply 3: WPI = 10 – 11, YPP = 900, knitting weight = worsted
Ply Experiment | Woolen Diversions

Swatches, pre-blocking.

While the changes in measurements were subtle for WPI, I was a little shocked at how big of a difference small tweaks in the number of treadles per length or the size of the whorl made in the YPP measurements, or the grist of the yarn. More ply twist (Ply 1) lead to a thicker, denser, chunkier yarn while less (Ply 3) resulted in a thinner, fluffier, more pliable yarn. I commenced swatching each yarn on size US 8 needles in a variety of stitches.

From a distance, the swatches don’t look all that different and their stitch gauges were practically identical, but you’ll have to trust me that they each felt different to knit. Ply 3 (which I knit first) was delightful in every way: fluffy, soft, smooth, and it produced a cohesive, fluid fabric in all stitch patterns. Ply 2 was distinctly beefier than Ply 3, it was a tad thicker and denser and it felt it, but it had a pleasant ‘toothy’ feel to it and I could see adding a little extra ply twist to purposefully make an extra spring-y yarn. Ply 1 was the least pleasant to knit with, I would have wanted to go up a needle size to relax the knitting process. If you look closely, you might notice that the extra ply twist is much more visible in the stitches of Ply 1, making the fabric as a whole look less smooth. The extra twist created great 3D relief in the seed stitch sections, but is somewhat less desirable in the stockinette and garter stitches.

Conclusion: You could certainly not pay much attention to your plying and get a fairly serviceable yarn in the end. However, I did find that checking for the right amount of ply twist (and actually counting my treadles!) produced a yarn I enjoyed knitting with the most. From a practical standpoint, plying ‘properly’ also produced a heck of a lot more yardage than I would’ve obtained from overplying my singles: 375 extra yards per pound of fiber, in fact. Finally, while the stitch gauge or swatch appearance didn’t change much when using the same size needles, the thickness of the yarn and the feel of the fabric certainly did. All in all, I will certainly be paying closer attention to my ply twist in the future and I’m excited to explore its effects further.

If you spin, how do you usually ply your yarn? Do you keep track of how much twist your adding?

WIPWed #76: Neutral

A terrible thing happens when your December is full of work/life deadlines: you kind of miss the whole thing. You get a little bit like “Huh? Christmas is coming? When is that happening again? Let me check my calender…” despite the many images of holiday cheer flooding all forms of media. You feel a bit like it’s not really happening. My favorite part of the holidays is the anticipation and the build-up beforehand, and because I basically plowed through November preparing for the GRE and am now barreling through December with grad school applications and work deadlines, I’m left blinking in confusion at how it could possibly be December 10th already.

Woolen Diversions

We did get the tree decorated, though, Limulus style.

I’ve been living so far in the future that I’m missing the present, and I’m trying to remedy that. I’m trying to remember that there’s always January for the resolutions and the plans and the goals, that December can be for going easy on things and taking care of deadlines one step at a time. I’m trying to remember that spending an evening shopping for gifts and baking treats is not a waste of time that I should be spending more productively. That relaxing, itself, can be a worthwhile use of time. (The Fiasco will likely laugh his ass off when he reads that line…)

Woolen Diversions

Falkland on my new Lendrum. Click for handspun page.

So I’ve been taking a few minutes a day to spin on my new wheel. Nothing ambitious, no grand plan, just working my way through the 17 oz of Falkland wool I got from Webs and loving the thin, even single I’m spinning with hardly any effort. That’s my second bobbin, I’ve spun up about 5 oz already. Sherrill from The 1764 Shepherdess (Baabonnybelle on Instagram) is proposing a #spin15in15 hashtag to spin for 15 minutes a day starting in January. I intend to use it.

Woolen Diversions

New design in the works. Click for project page.

Even my knitting has been uncharacteristically neutral. This cowl is a delightfully soothing knit in a squishy, fluffy farm yarn from Foxfire Fiber. It’s intended as a Christmas gift (I know, I couldn’t resist) and it’s also the first new design that I’ve worked on in a long time. It’s been nice to play with stitches again. (If you’re interested in testing this cowl, please email me at alicia at woolendiversions dot com. You’ll need less than 200 yards of a fluffy DK or worsted weight yarn. Something like Malabrigo worsted, Brooklyn Tweed Loft, or a woolen-spun handspun skein would work nicely.)

So here’s to slowing down, tackling the to-do list one thing at a time, and letting my dreams of exciting and colorful future projects and endeavors wait until January, because I’m determined to pay attention to December before it’s gone. What are you working on this week?

(P.S. There’s just one more day to vote for your favorite name for my new holiday lotion bar scent! Check it out here. It’s a close race between Home for the Holidays and Jingleberry!)