WIPWed #49: Ground to a Halt

I have become afflicted with one of a knitter’s worst fears: wrist pain (second in awfulness only to wool moths, probably). I woke up yesterday with little twinges in my wrist that grew to full-on, need-a-brace-because-I-can’t-even-type-at-work pain. It feels better so far today but I’m not going to chance any knitting or spinning for another day or so at least. (Siiiiiigh.) I think this was the cause:

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Flick carding Southdown fleece, before and after.

I spent about an hour flick carding my Southdown fleece to see if I could get more of the VM out before attempting to drum card it again. I didn’t notice any pain at the time but those locks are quite short (~2″) and a bit sticky (gummed-on lanolin, likely) so they weren’t the easiest things to flick open, and it was my first time trying so I’m sure my ergonomics were off. Anyway, the flicking process was super effective at getting the VM out, so I do hope I can attempt it again one day without hurting myself. I didn’t get around to drum carding the flicked locks yet but I did spin a little sample directly from the locks and it was much nicer than my drum carded sample with all the VM stuck in it.

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Wee sample, fairly consistent and virtually VM-free!

As far as WIPs go, before my knitting ground to a halt I finished some socks and worked on a few things.

Stitch Block Blues:

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Quince & Co. Osprey, colorway Glacier. Click for project page.

I made a good start on my Purl Soho Stitch Block Cowl. I’m really loving the Osprey yarn. It’s substantial, bouncy, and lofty with really great stitch definition. I could see myself making a big cozy sweater out of it someday.

November Melody:

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The Verdant Gryphon Mithril, colorway November Moonlight. Click for project page.

I recently resurrected this pre-holiday WIP. It’s going to be terribly boring to photograph until it’s done because it is essentially just a wide stockinette tube all crumpled in on itself, but it’s much nicer in person. When it’s done, the tube will be cut down one side and partially unravelled to make the fringe for a lightweight, flowy scarf. The fabric feels good and there’s even some subtle variegation in the yarn that is creating a neat effect. I’m thinking of adding some beads to add some sparkly vertical lines in the finished scarf, just for a little extra pizazz.

In other news, I’m halfway through the rebranding and reformatting of my pattern line! I’ve realized that if I don’t start prioritizing my design work more, it’ll never get done. Between my day job, publishing a paper, planning a wedding, and keeping up with things around the house, it often gets pushed to the side (when in reality, it’s what I really want to be doing). Now Tuesday and Thursday evenings are going to be dedicated to design work. No housework, no couch-potato time, no wedding planning, just knitting-related work. I’m excited about this plan and it’s proven productive so far. Last night, I finished reformatting both my Huacaya and Beribboned Hat patterns. Both have been streamlined and updated to my new layout. They’ve had metric measurements added and some language cleaned up. I also added crown decrease charts to the Beribboned Hat pattern. If you’ve purchased either of these patterns on Ravelry you should have received an update.

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Huacaya and Beribboned Hat

That’s all that’s new with me! Check out more WIPs at Tamis Amis.

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IS #62: Drum Carder Explorations

Remember that Southdown fleece I washed a while back? I’m still trying to figure out the best way to prepare it to make a yarn I want to spin. Since I’ve rented my guild’s drum carder, I gave it a go on that.
IMG_5868This was my first time carding anything, really, so I probably overloaded the machine a little bit. See all those fibers sticking to the smaller licker-in drum on the left? They shouldn’t be there.
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And even though there was still a lot of vegetable matter (VM) left in the batts themselves, the carding process also removed a ton of the stuff (as evidenced by my now icky tabletop).
IMG_5870But I have to admit, I was really not a fan of the amount of VM remaining in the batts. Because anything caught in a batt will likely make it into the finished yarn, especially if the wool you’re working with is a short, fuzzy, sticky, down breed.
IMG_5911So even though the finished skeinlet puffed up adorably with washing, I’m really not pleased with the VM in it. HOWEVER, after doing a little research on the ever-helpful Ravelry boards, it seems like people have had good luck with flicking open Southdown locks and spinning straight from the lock. Alternatively, people will flick open locks prior to carding in order to open up the fibers and remove the VM. This is what I will try next, I think.
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But first, I wanted to cleanse my carding palette with a blend that is basically the opposite of Southdown wool: baby alpaca (natural) and silk (dyed)! I used about 5 oz of alpaca and 1.3 oz of silk, mixing them together on the carder in small bunches. I also added a teensy bit of white firestar, for occasional sparkle. The photo above shows one bunch after its first pass through the machine.
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Once I had passed several bunches through, I began tearing them into chunks and combining random chunks from different bunches (very technical terms, here) together and running them through a second time to further blend the fibers.
IMG_5942I ended up with 10 delightful little batts (weighing between 0.5 oz and 0.7 oz each) that are basically airy, fluffy, silky bundles of joy. Seriously, they are instant happiness. I couldn’t resist spinning a bit of it up right away.
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I am really going to love this yarn, guys. Truly. I’ve learned a couple of useful things from my messing about. 1- Don’t throw too much fiber on at once, and hold it back a little on the feeding tray so it doesn’t all rush in and jam up. 2- I should’ve run some kind of bristle brush over the top drum while it was spinning to pack the fiber in more, I ended up using my hand which was less than comfortable at times. 3- Baby alpaca fibers get absolutely everywhere. Everywhere. Don’t wear black while carding or spinning, for realz.
I also found a few helpful and fascinating drum carder tutorials. Here are some great tips on drum carding a fleece from Osborn Fiber Studio (such cute little batts!). There’s also a wonderful three-part tutorial on drum carder basics on the Vampy blog that ends with a demonstration of how to create blended and gradient batts. And there are a couple of truly inspiring examples on the SpinStar’s blog of the batts she created by following the Vampy tutorial and the pretty yarns she spun from them.
What’s been inspiring you lately? Leave a link in the comments to share with us!
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