Quick Rhinebeck Recap

Rhinebeck has come and gone in a blur of gold-red-green leaves and the occasional snow flurry (no joke). It was a cold-but-wonderful weekend, and these are just a fraction of the images I took away from it. (Click to embiggen.)

Petting all the animals is one of my favorite parts of Rhinebeck. Katy and I certainly had our sheep-petting fill, enjoyed watching the leaping llama and alpaca competition, and wondered at the presence of monkeys, kangaroos, and lemurs at a wool festival.

Another wonderful part of Rhinebeck is meeting up with like-minded friends, old and new. Not only did I get to enjoy the fair with Katy and Rivkah and her mom, but I got to meet new friends from Ravelry in real life! There’s no greater feeling than finally meeting people you’ve spoken to for months online and realizing that you really do like them and can’t wait to see them again! As it happens, in the LITERALLY ONE HOUR I broke away from Katy to meet up with my new friends, Katy got to make friends with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Clara Parkes. (I am trying my best not to hate her for getting to meet my two biggest yarn idols in person without me. Sigh. In truth, I saw Clara later in the day but chickened out on approaching her. Katy is by far the braver one between us.)

And then once all the fair-going is over, we still have the haul to cherish. I tried to stick to truly special items that I knew I couldn’t obtain easily otherwise, or items for which I already had a plan. From left to right, my purchases were:

That last one on the list was my biggest impulse purchase, the rest were more-or-less pre-meditated, but if you had seen the sample of the scarf in person, I doubt you could have resisted, either. I cannot wait to cast that sucker on!

Quick Rhinebeck Recap | Woolen Diversions

Katy took this on her drive, it’s lovely.

And that’s probably my most favorite part of Rhinebeck: the re-inspiration it brings to my knitting, spinning, and crafting. It was much needed and is most invigorating.

Did you get to go to Rhinebeck? What’s your favorite part of shows and wool festivals?

In Five Days Flat

Who would’ve thought that I could transform a braid of fiber into a finished skein of yarn in just five days flat? I’m sure many others have spun greater yardage in shorter timeframes, but I think this might be a record for me. Thanks, Tour de Fleece!

Falkland Dusky Greens:

In Five Days Flat | Woolen Diversions

Handspun Falkland wool 3-ply, click for Rav page.

This Falkland wool from Three Waters Farm was an absolute dream to spin. I split the braid into three pieces cross-wise, and then split each third lengthwise to spin. I noticed during plying that often 2 of the 3 plies would be the same color, which mixed all of the colors up fairly evenly throughout. It helps that the colorway was tonal to begin with, but I really love the way the colors played out. I was aiming for a weight similar to the first Falkland I spun and more-or-less achieved it by referencing the single and ply-back sample I had preserved in my hand-dandy spinning notebook.

In Five Days Flat

Previous vs. current handspun Falkland skeins

The finished skein weighs 112 g and contains roughly 140 yards of worsted-aran weight yarn. (Well, it’s 140 yards measured after washing, but it was about 180 yards wrapped around the skein winder.) It’s approx. 600-700 ypp and 10-12 wpi and should coordinate nicely with the undyed Falkland (10 wpi, 600 – 900 ypp). I am not quite sure what I want to make with it, but it fluffed up so beautifully after a wash that I want to make sure whatever pattern I choose makes use of it’s bounce-tastic nature.

Eggplant in Ashes BFL/Silk Singles:

In Five Days Flat | Woolen Diversions

Handspun BFL/silk singles, click for Rav page.

I also finally got my Bee Mice Elf BFL/silk singles yarn off the bobbins, soaked, and dried. They are quite lovely, if I do say so myself. I’m not sure if they’ll knit up on the bias or not, but I’m willing to give it a try (you know, whenever I have time for more WIPs, that is). I ended up with approx. 700 yards of fingering-sport weight yarn (18 wpi, 1500 ypp). That deep purple bled A LOT with washing, but the finished yarn is really gorgeous. It’s all slinky and silky and delightful to touch.

So thank you, Tour de Fleece, for helping me spin up 8 more oz of yarn than I would’ve this month (so far). I’m happy to add these pretties to my stash! Onto the next spin…

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!

IS #88: Ways with Wool and Words

I could easily count a dozen people in the virtual knitting world who have had an impact on my love of this thing that we do with some string and a couple of sticks, but amongst the top 5 would certainly be Clara Parkes. In fact, I’ve already written about her for Inspiration Saturday a couple of years ago, when I went into detail about The Knitter’s Book of Socks. Here’s what I wrote, then:

All of the mildly obsessive, detail-oriented patterns of questioning that make me a good scientist were being applied to my knitting and I couldn’t find answers anywhere, until I read Clara’s books. She is a thorough, concise, and engaging writer, and she gets into the knitty gritty details in a way that makes you want to know them all. Her website features weekly reviews of different brands of yarn, tools, and other books that I love reading because I trust her. If I’m about to try a new kind of yarn, I usually check to see if she’s reviewed it first, just to better know what I’m getting myself into.

In addition to yarn, she reviews knit-related events and this week’s newsletter about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival was chock full of inspiration. I’m not going to reiterate the whole thing here, so do check out the newsletter, but below are a few vendors I’ve suddenly become quite interested in (be warned: Clara Parkes’ writing is the epitome of ‘enabling’).

Yarn Undyed USA:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words

Photo copyright YarnUndyed USA. Click for website.

I’ve linked to the USA website in the photo above, but here’s the UK website of the this UK-based company. Their name sums up what they sell: undyed yarn, usually in bunches of 5 skeins, for professional hand-dyers or amateur dabblers. The UK site has a wider range of yarns and fibers available, but the aran-weight BFL wool (pictured above), the alpaca/silk blends, and the 100% yak yarns have also caught my eye.

Eden Cottage Yarns:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words

Photo copyright Eden Cottage Yarns. Click for website.

Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns has been flooding Instagram lately with photos of her booth set up and show prep, but with such gorgeous, pastel shades of hand-dyed yarn, I didn’t mind. Her colorways have a wonderfully gentle, peaceful quality about them and I look forward to trying her yarns at some point, particularly the DK weight superwash Polwarth base, Oakworth (pictured above in the Robin’s Egg colorway).

Laura’s Loom:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Laura’s Loom. Click for website.

The photo gallery of handwoven pieces on Laura’s site is incredibly inspirational, even for someone who does not weave. She weaves and sells a variety of products, from scarves to blankets and housewares, and she sells the locally-sourced yarn that she weaves with, as well. The care with which she sources her wool, produces her yarn, and creates her fabric is evident in her item descriptions, and I really admire that. One of these throws (pictured above) must be mine someday! And I’m pretty sure I could gaze at her landscape gallery for hours.

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Laura’s Loom. Click for website.

Knockando Woolmill:

IS #88: Way with Wool and Words | Woolen Diversions

Photo copyright Knockando Woolmill. Click for website.

Given my total immersion into the Outlander books lately, it’s no surprise that I’m in love with every tartan product on the Knockando Woolmill’s site. Plus, the colors! Glorious colors! As Clara wrote in her newsletter, the mill has been operating since 1784 and has a fascinating history. If I ever make it to Scotland, I’ll be sure to try to work in a visit. In the meantime, I’m doing my best not to purchase that scarf pictured above before I even finish this post.

Feel free to blame Clara Parkes for any impulse buys, that’s what I intend to do! What’s been inspiring you lately?

IS