Needing some blue

After the pink texel, I switched my spinning to tussah silk in an intentionally challenging colorway (Mardi Gras colors). From the beginning I had thought I would ply it with purple, which then shifted in my mind to the purple llama for my spinner’s challenge. As I was spinning the silk, I decided blue would be a better option for plying. It also started reminding me of iris and springtime, which is an improvement on Mardi Gras. Below, some of it spun on a bobbin, predrafted, and not drafted (but split lengthwise).

tussah silk spun and unspun

A couple year ago, I bought some fiber at a spinners’ fiber sale/swap. I had been wanting to try some superwash BFL. I found 4.5 oz. in a colorway I wouldn’t have picked, but the price was good for trying it out. I figured I could probably do something for DJ with it.

red aqua BFL superwash

It occurred to me that I would like it better if I overdyed it blue. Since I didn’t have any blue appropriate for plying with the tussah silk, but I did have 1 oz of white bombyx silk/merino combed top, this meant pulling out the dyepot this past weekend. Of course, I also lack any blue dye for protein fibers and I do not have good option for protein fiber dyes in town. At our local art supply store, I found one that would work on protein fibers, from iDye (a brand I have never heard of, and picked one of the two blues (brilliant blue), with no real idea what color I was choosing. I used about 1/8 of the packet for the 5.5 oz of wool/silk fiber.

The BFL came out quite dark, but I like it.

red aqua BFL superwash after over dyeing blue

The merino-silk is a much lighter blue, and has a purple haze to the outside. The inside of the roving is blue only.

merino-silk dyed blue

The roving felted some in the dye pot, so I spent some time opening it up.

opening up blue merino-silkAnd predrafted.

predrafted blue merino-silk


A bit of spinning

I finally finished spinning the pink Texel. It took far longer than it ought to because I wasn’t enjoying it. I had to keep picking out short cuts and vegetation. The resulting yarn is quite nice, but the spinning went slowly. But to be honest, most of the slowness really was because I was choosing to do other things.

Texel 2 plyI now have about 550 yards (162 g) of 2 ply.

Texel, close-up

In order to ply, I had t tie a 2nd leader onto a bobbin because I had some silk still hanging out from the beaded yarn of two years ago. I also had silk on the drop spindle from last winter when I didn’t want to carry my wheel to the Spinners group. The next project was supposed to be the purple llama which I need to spin and then knit into a doily with beads for the May challenge.

unpun silk

Instead, I have decided to finish off the silk. I started by emptying the drop spindle onto the bobbin, joining the ends. Spinning this is a nice change from the somewhat trashy Texel. I am considering plying it with the purple llama.

silk with llama

I need to think about this. I had originally thought about spinning this with purple (the color is itself a bit of a challenge), but I’m not sure the llama is right.

Textured Yarn

This week we had a great program at Spinners on textured yarns. The presenter had many nice examples, showing her learning process. Like most of us, she is accustomed to making a smooth, fairly thin yarn. These yarns require time to learn because you need to work differently, moving slowly, and typically near the orifice to not add too much twist. She warned us to be sure to break frequently, especially since we will be working in unfamiliar positions. I really liked her sample of the thick and thin yarn; the reverse stockinette showed it off well (the stockinette side was a bit of a dud).

The following are the resources she has used (most of which are available in our local library):

  • Anderson, Sarah. The Spinners Book of Yarn Designs. North Adams, MA : Storey Publishing, 2012. Comes with 64 reference cards. ISBN: 9781603427388 Public library owns.Guild members said it was very useful, but library copy lacks cards.
  • Boeger, Lexi. Intertwined. Beverly, Mass. : Quarry Books, 2008. ISBN: 9781592533749 Public library owns. [I looked at this book and wow, it really isn’t for me.]
  • Boggs, Jacey. “Coils: Adding to Your Art Yarn Repetoire” Spin-Off Winter 2009, p.44.
  • Boggs, Jacey. Spin Art. Loveland, CO : Interweave Press, 2011. ISBN: 9781596683624. Comes with DVD.
  • King, Amy. Spin Control. Loveland, CO : Interweave, 2009. ISBN: 9781596681057 Guild & public library owns.
  • MacKenzie, Judith. The Intentional Spinner. Loveland, Colo. : Interweave Press, 2009. ISBN: 9781596680807 Guild & public library owns.
  • North, Symeon. Get Spun. Loveland, CO : Interweave Press, 2010. ISBN: 9781596680647 Public library owns.
  • Spin Artiste – a monthly publication focusing on making unusual and artisanal yarns
  • Namaste Farms: Tailspinning a closer look – YouTube video
  • Funhouse Fibers – Blog and videos

It might be fun to try some of these techniques in the future. I am always left with the basic question of what to do with textured yarns after they are spun, but gaining new skills is always useful.

DPLA and Basque Spinning

Yesterday the Digital Public Library of America launched. It is a great collection of freely accessible images and texts from all over the country. Hopefully more collections (including ours) will be added soon. Of course, I had to do some searches right away. One of my default searches is “spinning” so I tried that and found a picture of a type of wheel I hadn’t seen before.

There are two pictures of a Basque woman seated at a wheel, which she is turning by hand. There is little information about the pictures, which come from University of Nevada, Reno, by way of the Mountain West Digital Library. There is very little information about these pictures, so I don’t know when or where they were taken.

A woman spinning wool into yarn, Basque Library, University of Nevada, Reno,,2428

The pictures are the same, but flipped. I wonder which is the correct orientation – the black & white or the color one? I am guessing the color photo where she is cranking with her left hand and holding the wool with her right. However, I could be quite wrong since I think when woolen wheels are typically operated with the right hand (as was the spindle), so that one could continue to draft the fibers with the left hand. I have now changed my mind. I think the color one has been flipped, in part because the UNR collection gives this the title “Basque Slide Show: Sheep raising is important. The wool is collected each spring. A woman spinning wool” which makes me think the color one comes from an online exhibit where someone flipped the image to look better. Although the black and white picture is cropped (and of course it would be easy to convert a color picture to b/w with an image editor), which makes me flip my decision. Hmmmm.

Basque Slide Show: Sheep raising is important. The wool is collected each spring. A woman spinning wool, Basque Library, University of Nevada, Reno,,3308

Scarf with a Wide and Handsome Border

Habu Scarf detail

When I was a fairly new knitter, I purchased Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby. I decided to knit Scarf with a Wide and Handsome Border in the Tsumugi Silk it called for (as an excuse to try a Habu Textiles yarn). I purchased some at a yarn store in Atlanta while at a conference in 2008. I even purchased the color used in the book, although that had to do with what was in stock not with wanting to completely follow the pattern.

Soon after the conference, I cast on. At some point in the first border I realized I had made an error. I wasn’t sure if I should rip it out or keep going. I kept going. The error kept bothering me. I kept going. I finally realized I had to rip it out without the error. This was a good lesson for the future—when in doubt, I should rip it out because it will bug me.

This scarf was the first thing I have done where you change direction (the border is knit side to side, you almost full bind off, then you pick up stitches and continue down the length, at which point you cast on more stitches, go back to the side to side border, joining each row with one of the live stitches. The first turn wen OK. The only problem I had with the center was judging how far to go while allowing sufficient yarn for the border.

The second border had me flummoxed. I was still a pretty inexperienced knitter and it just wasn’t making sense. I set it aside. For years. Probably from about summer 2008 until March 2013. I decided it would be good plane knitting for another conference trip, interesting enough to keep me occupied but small and lightweight. At the airport I looked up how to do a crochet cast-on and got started. I figured out what I was supposed to, and then it went fairly smoothly.

I wasn’t sure I would have enough yarn; I was watching it run down and had no real sense of how much I might need or how many yard were in quite a small space. I did have sufficient yarn, but as I approached the end, I realized I somehow had 66 stitches not 65 as called for in the pattern. And I could only figure out how to deal with 64 stitches anyway, so I shoved a couple stitches together because I was NOT going to find the problem.

Feeling a little triumphant for finishing a project that had been languishing for so long, I laid it out so I could see the whole thing for the first time. I saw holes. That shouldn’t be there. Sigh. After a delay fixing them, it was time to block.

I am a bit unsure about the pre-blocking size. I measured before fixing the holes and it was 11-12″ for the borders but only 8″ for the middle, and 59″ long.  I didn’t want to mess with it too much because there were those holes. After fixing it I laid it out and got 10″ wide and 53.5″ long. It says to block to measurements (10″ x 70″) but I didn’t pay attention to that and am only now checking how that compares with my finished size. [Pause to measure]. I apparently blocked it to 12″ x 64″.

Here it is being blocked. I clearly need a another set of blocking mats (as well as T pins).

Being blockedAfter blocking:

Habu ScarfHabu ScarfI am happy with how it turned out. Now I just need to figure out how to wear a scarf (and remember to do so).

Habu Scarf

I didn’t know moths ate silk

I should have known, I really should have, since silk is a protein fiber. It just didn’t occur to me that moths might eat silk. A while back we had a small infestation of moths. I think they were mostly confined to my poorly stored WIPs. I have found damage on a baby surprise jacket, a cardigan for me and socks for TH. I recently finished a silk scarf and when I got to the end, I looked at the whole thing and then saw the holes.

moth holes

I immediately used safety pins to stop the holes from growing and to decide what to do.

holes stopped with pins

I didn’t have much yarn left. I first considered mending the spots, but I wasn’t really sure how to do this without being obvious. The was about 5″ in the middle that needed serious help.

5 inches with problems

I decided to split the scarf, putting a needle on on either side of the bad regions. This shows the needle in and beginning to pick up the stitches.

separation beginning

After the scarf was in two pieces, it was easy to rip back to the first needle.

separation in process

I then had two sections and varying lengths of yarn.

fully separatedUsing the longest sections of yarn I had, I reknit that middle section.

ready to beginThen I watched two videos on garter stitch kitchener so I could join the two sections. The pattern for garter kitchener is knit-knit-purl-purl, so it is a bit different than regular kitchener. The first time went pretty well, but after I was done, I realized I should have remove one more row; I had connected a front with the back and the pattern was wrong. The incorrect row is to the left of the needle.

mend completed incorrectlyI almost left it alone. I wove in all the other ends and decided I needed to fix it. Out it came again.

ready to begin kitchenerKitchener stitch in process. When holding wrong sides together, you should see purl bumps on both sides facing you.

kitchener in process

Finally, back together, correctly.

mend completed

Next up: blocking.