Spinning My Wheels

So I went to the Rhode Island Spinner’s Guild meeting last weekend and this happened:


Borrowed drum carder!

I’ve been curious about trying out drum carders for a while and the Guild has one its members can rent so this not-so-little-guy is living with me for the month. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a pretty busy month but I think I can find a bit of time to card up some odds and ends and see how I like the process. I’ve already used the drum carder on some of my Southdown fleece and I can see how it would be a big time-saver when processing a lot of fiber at once.


Carding Southdown wool.

In other spinning-related news, I started on the 6 oz of alpaca from Long Island Livestock Company that I want to spin as a birthday gift for my mom (one of my February goals). I had never spun alpaca before and all I have to say is: wow, I love it. I had heard that alpaca was difficult to spin, that its longer, smoother fibers gave people trouble, but I’ve experienced none of that.


Beautiful, chocolate brown alpaca.

That bobbin represents about 2 hours of spinning, during which I spun 1/3 of the fiber I have. Honestly, it felt almost effortless. All I did was fluff up the roving width-wise to get more air into the rather densely-combed fibers and poof! Instant yarn. I can’t wait to spin the rest of it.

What are your experiences with either using drum carders or spinning alpaca? Tips? Pros/cons?


Weekly Spin

I know back in this post I said I’d post pictures of spinning on Instagram every day, but I realized during the course of the week that spinning the same fiber on the same tool (wheel, spindle, what have you) looks pretty much the same from day-to-day. Spinning is one of those things that takes time to see progress. Therefore, I’m now going to aim to post my spinning progress at least once a week with the hashtag #weeklyspin. Feel free to join me!


3″ Golding Cherry Ringspindle

Soon after I received my first spindle (Golding starter spindle) one or two of the little wooden ridges on the shaft that make it so easy to grip and spin started to peel back. It functioned just fine but this always irked me a little, like a nails-on-the-chalkboard feeling when my fingers or fiber would catch on the jagged edges. I finally asked if the shaft could be repaired and it turned out it was not a problem! They fixed it cheaply and mailed it back in just a few days. It felt like a brand new spindle when I got it back and I couldn’t resist starting a new project.


Blue Moon Fiber Arts Camel / Merino / Silk, colorway Spring Dreamin’

The fiber I couldn’t resist is the third shipment of the BMFA Rockin’ Whorl Club and it is just dreamy. It’s a blend of 40% baby camel, 40% Merino wool, and 20% silk. It is soft and fluffy and the colorway is amazing. I swear, I’ll never get over the things Tina does with color. I gravitate towards cool colors but I am still somehow so in love with this golden, warm braid. Most people just think of Socks That Rock when they think of Blue Moon but they have a surprising selection of fiber blends (and other yarns, for that matter) and I love that this club allows me to try a bunch of them.


Colors! Pretty!

It’s taking me a little bit to get the hang of the spindle again. For some reason, I can’t seem to successfully draft worsted-style (short forward draw) on a spindle, I can only manage spinning from the fold and doing a sort of forward draw/longdraw hybrid for a semi-woolen yarn. It’s strange. For this spin, I split the 6 oz. braid in half right across the middle, then split each of those halves lengthwise. I’m planning to just do a basic 2-ply but might decide to chain-ply my 2-ply afterwards (for a faux 6-ply!) if I want a thicker yarn and seem to have enough yardage. What’s your default drafting style like? Do you notice differences between the spindle and the wheel?

IS #55: Dyepot (Mis)Adventures

Remember my first time dyeing yarn, back in November? I dyed a lovely skein of Elsa Wool Cormo yarn a decidedly less lovely shade of day-glow green. To figure out the best way to overdye the skein for results that I like, I thought I’d practice on some of the 30 oz. of Romney fiber I have stashed. I apologize in advance for the eye-searing-ness of this post.


I took about 4.5 oz of fiber, replicated the low-water immersion dyeing that I performed on the Cormo skein, and produced that hunking mass of ectoplasm which I split into 7 tiny bundles of about 0.65 oz each. I overdyed one of the bundles with yellow at a depth-of-shade (DOS) of 0.75.

QUICK LESSON: When you mix your dyestocks in a 1:100 solution (1 g of dye powder for every 100 mL of water), a DOS of 1 would mean that you used the same number of mL of dyestock solution as grams of wool you want to dye. Since 0.65 oz of wool = 18.5 g, I would’ve used 18.5 g of dyestock if I wanted a DOS of 1. A smaller DOS such as 0.75 would result in a lighter color because you use less dye. I used 13 mL of yellow dyestock, which is 75% of the 18.5 g of wool.


I also tried out a bunch of different methods for applying dye to fiber. I poured out 6 cups of dyestock: yellow, silver grey, amazon green, chestnut, amethyst purple, and turquoise. The top right shows one bundle with grey dye just poured over it. The bottom right shows another bundle half dipped in green and the other half dipped in chestnut. The bottom left shows a third bundle with yellow poured on and grey dabbed on with a paintbrush. Not shown is a particularly messy bundle where I alternated between dipping sections in green and purple as well as one where I poured lots of turquoise on and dabbed a little grey.


For my last bundle, I used whatever was left over of the yellow, green, and chestnut to paint stripes across the fiber. For this bundle, I carefully folded the saran wrap over so that the dye wouldn’t mix across the surface of the fiber (the others I just rolled up because I wanted mixing). I bought a handy dandy steamer specifically so I could do this little multi-dye experiment. Unfortunately, I think it’s a little small to be able to fit a lot of fiber in, I packed it pretty tightly to fit about 2 oz on one tray and 2 oz on the other.  I steamed for 45 minutes and then since there seemed to be a lot of unabsorbed dye in the bundles I rearranged the packets (with tongs!) so that bottom ones were on top and steamed for another 30 minutes. Then I let them sit overnight. In the morning I let each bundle sit in water with some vinegar added for a few minutes to rinse out any remaining dye.

IMG_5755Here are some of the results… Top left is the yellow dabbed with grey, top right is the half chestnut and half amazon green dipped bundle, and in front is the one with turqoise poured on.

IMG_5756And the rest: top left is the amazon green alternated with purple, top right is the one with silver poured on, bottom left is the yellow immersion dye, and bottom right is the one on which I painted stripes of yellow, chestnut, and green.

To be honest, I don’t love any of them. I like the chestnut/green and the purple/green overdyes best, but they’re not what I was going for. When I first dyed the yarn/fiber I was hoping for a spring green and all of these are still too electric, especially with the yellow added on. Someone helpfully suggested overdyeing with red or pink, the opposite color on the color wheel, which should help tone down the green. At some point soon, I’m going to do another round of experiments overdyeing with different shades of red. Thankfully this fiber won’t go to waste as the next meeting of my spinner’s guild will be a carding party and all these different colors will be fun additions to art batts!

Have you tried dyeing before? How did you get results you were aiming for? I have always loved hand-dyed yarn but now my respect for the people creating beautiful colorways has gone even higher! Feeling inspired this week? Share with us in the comments below!