Monday, 30 January 2012

My First Supported Spindle

LucyJ on Ravelry recently sold some of her spindles since she mainly used her wheel instead. As soon as I saw her Russian made of beautiful Mexican rosewood, I knew I had to have it. The price was good as it was secondhand and I knew the maker (IST) is great, so I couldn't go wrong there. What I wasn't sure about at all was whether I would be able to use a supported spindle in the first place.

Since I only ever used drop spindles before, I couldn't quite imagine how this would work. I searched for suitable videos to give me an idea and though it looked fairly easy, I wasn't convinced I could make it look as good. This was the most helpful video I found:

It shows very clearly how to get started, which is the most important thing, in my opinion. Nothing is more frustrating (and more difficult) than trying to get the leader going. Once you get the hang of it, it's all right.

Once the spindle arrived, I was reluctant to try it right away, which is unusual and shows just how convinced I was I would fail. That evening I finally gave it a go: I got my plait of Krafty Koala's merino and silk blend that I bought at Fibre Fest last year and simply got going. And it worked! Right from the start! I was and still am amazed how easily I took to spinning with a supported spindle. The photo shows the result of that evening's spinning.

I've not found any nice spindle bowls, oddly enough. There don't seem to be many made in the UK. For now I am using a cermamic bowl that's actually for dips, but I will go to a kitchenware shop soon to find a smaller bowl. It will do. Actually, I quite like the one I am currently using, even though the spindle sometimes slips around in it when I forget about it.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Tools of the Trade

It was high time I made a few essntial purchases as a spinner, so I ordered a WPI tool, a niddy noddy, and 100g of BFL tops from an Ebay shop. The delivery, though 2nd class, was incredibly fast and the items were with me within two days.

The WPI tool will come in very handy when my handspun skeins are ready to use. So far I have always had to guess what weight they were, but now I can properly check. I haven't tried it yet, but since I finished my humumgous skein recently, this is the perfect opportunity. I had no idea Ashford was from New Zealand, so I was very pleasantly surprised when I got the tool and it said "Made in New Zealand" on it. Anyone who knows what I got my PhD in will understand why I think that's cool.

The niddy noddy is also from Ashford and it came with a piece of sandpaper so I can smooth it down and finish it with oil. I must say I didn't expect that! I would have thought you get the finished product, ready to use. Even though I have not finished it yet, I just had to try it out that same evening and I am very happy with it.

I was wondering where the word niddy noddy came from and found the following:

A niddy-noddy was a tool used by spinners to wind wool or linen yarn into skeins; made of wood and shaped like two letter Ts attached upside down and crosswise, the tool would bob back and forth like a nodding head as the spinner wound yarn. (Source)
Also, though the OED online does not contain this word, Merriam-Webster offers the following:

Definition of NIDDY NODDY

: a hand reel for yarn


perh. fr. obs. niddy-noddy to nod to and fro unsteadily, by redupl. & alter. of 1nod

As an extra, I bought BFL tops that I will try and dye sometime. I imagine that dyeing the tops instead of the finished yarn will result in better colours. Of course I might be completely wrong, but I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

So Much Spinning

My first whole skein of handspun yarn:

Spun on my cheap learner's spindle and started ages ago.

Ca. 150g fingering weight
2-ply (Andean ply)

I still need to wash the skein, but it already looks really good and a whole lot better than I expected it would. To make the skein, I used my brand new niddy noddy from Ashford that arrived today. I have yet to use the WPI tool I also got to check the yarn just to make sure.

As this yarn was a gift from Zimtschaf on Ravelry and she wasn't sure what fibre this was, all I know is that there is merino in it among other things. The fibre was really hard to work with and it was impossible to draw out sections to spiin one at a time. Instead, I had to wrap the entire length of the roving around my arm while spinning it and it felt rough to the touch. Surprisingly, it was easy to draw out a little fiber while spinning though.

I used my cheap learner's spindle that consists of nothing but a bit of a dowel rod and a wooden toy wheel, but it did a very good job. Now I can start on a new bag of fibre from Fiber Fest back in August and I am looking forward to trying the only one of my new drop spindles I haven't had a chance to use yet. I better practice on some not-so-dear roving first though: I realised that the spindle is heavier than others I have used and I have trouble working with it because I find it difficult to spin yarn thicker than fingering weight at the moment.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Eric's Jumper

Eric has been pestering me about wanting a handknitted jumper, so last night I made him one from leftover aran yarn. He likes it, it suits him and goes well with his new trousers too.

Now he is ready to brave the cold temperatures outside.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Hand-dyed: Raspberry Sorbet

This is the final installment of my recent dyeing phase that resulted in some lovely creations and one rather unfortunate surprise. The final skein of sock yarn was dyed with Dylon's flamingo pink and tulip red. I had to overdye it because the initial result was pretty much entirely pink. Even now, despite having added significantly more red, the skein is still rather pink.

It is the variegation that I like about the yarn and considering that it is Valentine's day soon, this isn't too bad a colour. I threatened my boyfriend with a pair of heart-patterned pink socks for the occasion, which he wasn't very happy about. He won't have to worry, I'll be keeping this yarn for myself.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Sock Yarn: Gemüsebeet

(Image: Pearandprose)
Dyeing has taken a serious hold of me and it is a pity that I only have one skein left to dye. My latest sock yarn turned into a veritable vegetable patch, or Gemüsebeet in German. The colour reminds me of aubergines or even red cabbage in a field.

This hank was also dyed in the microwave, but I had to do it twice because it ended up with too little colour and too large white spaces between the two shades. I don't like having any white in the yarn when I am dyeing, but it can't always be prevented, particularly when taking care not to mix the colours.

Once wound into a ball, the yarn already looks a whole lot better. I do wonder what it will be like once knitted up, whether the colour will pool, and how much of a pattern will be visible despite the colours. I've been looking up some sock patterns and realised that despite having over 200 to choose from, there are none that entirely appeal to me. I might just have to improvise a design again.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Swift Ballwinding

For Christmas last year I got a swift I had wanted for quite a while and it was only today that I had a chance to finally try it. With the swift and ballwinder all set up, it took mere minutes to create the perfect cake of yarn. (Here I used my newly dyed Confetti sock yarn.) I am very happy with the swift and am sure it will come in very handy for the many laceweight skeins I still have in my stash!

"Confetti" is utterly beautiful when wound like this and it makes me want to dye some more. I still have two skeins of sock yarn waiting for colour, so it shouldn't be long - particularly now that I have tried using the microwave to set the colours, which is so much faster. Perhaps there will be more news tomorrow.

"Muddy Goldfish", the unfortunate disaster skein, still does not look much better. I could overdye it, of course, but I have already put so much dye into it that I am reluctant to waste any more. It has a very natural shade, which appeals to a lot of people, but I prefer popping colours in my yarn. I wonder what I will make from this in the end?

Finally, I am still extremely happy with the microwaved skein whose colours are just stunning, in my opinion. I've called it "Just Like Me" - no idea why, but that's what came to mind when I tried to find a name. Never mess with the muse.

All wound into a cake it also looks beautiful and I will have to have a good hard think about what I will turn it into eventually. I have over 270 free sock patterns favourited on Ravelry so there is lots to choose from. Where do I even begin?

Ah yes, perhaps I ought to weigh the yarn as well because I have a sneaking suspicion none of these cakes are enough for a full pair of socks. Yikes!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Hand-dyed: Confetti

That's better.

Experimental Dyeing

At the end of last year I received several skeins of undyed sock yarn from Ravelry friends and once I got around to buying the dye, I was all set to do some serious yarn dying. I have only tried it once before and the result was very good. This time I wanted to try the sprinkle-dye method. At this stage the result for the yarn with 20% linen looked great:

The dye didn't spread enough, so I added some more, but ultimately it ended up in a disaster, looking more like this:

I could tell that the result would not be good. I had used orange, green and blue at this stage, but the whole thing started to look very murky. After some hours I got tired of it, added the rest of the orange dye and some red to new water and just left it to soak it up all night. Ah well. I call this colourway "Muddy Goldfish".

The other attempt with 75/25 sock yarn was better even though the yarn looked best while still in its bath:

Pretty colours! I used red, orange, pink, blue and purple in this one, which reminds me of confetti. The colours are not as strong as I had hoped, but I think the skein will look good once knitted up. I will post again when the skeins are dry and wound.

At the moment I am hand-dying 100% merino sock yarn in the microwave. I am just hoping the clingfilm won't melt! So far so good. There is just one more of three 2-minute rounds to go before I can rinse and check the results. While packed in clingfilm, the yarn looks really good and I love the colours so far. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 1 January 2012