Category Archives: Spinning

Yarn bombing

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Sometimes a person spins a yarn but there isn’t anything sensible to knit it into.  Perhaps there isn’t really enough of it, or it was an experiment.  Or it’s badly spun.  or too… something… to ever be a garment.  This is banana fibre and wool dyed with madder exhaust, being knit on an evening in Warrnambool a while back. Not enough for anything I can think of.  What to do?  Well, the title of the post gave it away.

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I’ve been working my way through all kinds of leftover weirdness in my stash (and needless to say, creating more weirdness as I go).  One fine day over Easter I went for a walk with these.

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Here is the banana fibre.

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This is combing waste from spinning sock yarn.

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All those short ends and grass seeds, so troublesome in a sock, won’t bother anyone now! While I was applying this one to a pole, a local sculptor pulled up on his mozzie bike and had quite a chat about what I was doing and what he was doing and the importance of treating one’s neighbourhood as a shared place for beautification, care, thought and cleaning up.  I’d seen his sculptures around and he’d seen my “beloved tree” banners.  Now we’ve met.

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This is lock spinning over a core, leftover from knitting a tea cosy (another good use for weird wools). Now it is over by a tram stop.

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Badly spun coils that won’t hold together for long unless felted.

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Now adorning a pole… where they will felt in the weather.

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Core spinning–it made a great tea cosy, but there were just a couple of metres left!

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Indigo dyed carding waste.

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What even is that?? Well, now it’s a blur of colour as you ride your bike past!

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Leftover strips of indigo dyed worn out t shirts the main parts of which are slowly awaiting conversion to their next life (cut out and partly stitched).

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Close up…

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This one is at a tram stop.  I wonder how long it will last? Finding out is part of the fun of yarn bombing…

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Spinning

Fleece processing, dyeing and spinning

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Over the holiday, more local fleeces arrived.  This is the view down into a chicken feed sack full of greasy fleece.  I washed, I dried wet fleece in summer heat, I even managed to do some carding. I now have various wools dyed with woad or indigo exhausts as well as good old naturally brown or grey wool. I have taught a few beginners to dye at our evening spinning group at the Guild in the last while (or at least, I’ve been one of the people helping them to learn) and sometimes people are just so overcome at being given wool.  In the future they will know that the real gift is time and effort. But I do try to let them know that I have a lot of wool and that I am happy to share.

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People were generous to me as a beginner spinner, and I love to share spinning (as well as wool).  I finally spun some llama fleece a friend at the Guild gave me in the spirit of adventure.  It came out OK but it did have a lot of guard hair in it, so I’ll have to give thought to what it might become.

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Here’s a another skein–woad on grey, I believe.

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And here are indigo and indigo dyed over yellows. I realise it is better practise to dye blue first and yellow after, but, well, I didn’t like the yellows too much and just decided to dye and see!  I love these colours. But my thoughts are beginning to turn toward eucalypts and their oranges and reds again…

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Summer Dye Camp at Beautiful Silks

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Over the holidays, I went to a summer dye cap at the Botanical Studio run by Beautiful Silks, in Allansford (near Warrnambool) country Victoria.  I stayed in a cabin at one of the caravan parks by the beachfront in Warrnambool because the on site accommodation was booked out.  I haven’t been to Warrnambool since I was a child.  It was just beautiful.  The frisking around of many small people on skates and scooters and bikes had me in mind of childhood holidays at the beach.

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I arrived early and had beach walks and runs before dye camp each day and long strolls through town too.  My photos of scenery are a bit rubbish and really don’t reflect the glory.  Like me, my photos are largely focused on small lovelinesses such as lichen.

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After dark there was spinning and some experimental printing on paper.  Since I had the car to myself, I came with wheel and dye pot! I converted carding waste to yarn and knit some yarn bombs. One night I had a wonderful dinner with a couple of the other dye campers.  I taught one of them how to cast on a sock and how to turn a heel with short rows, and we talked blogging and dyeing and, well, everything.  Awesome and lovely.

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All round, it was a fabulous holiday.  But dye camp!  Dye camp was focused on indigo and woad.  We had Jenai Hooke from Eudlo in Queensland as our expert guide and instructor, and I learned so much.  There were some big fructose vats.  The method I really do want to learn. Perfect.  We learned how to start them, how to feed and tend them, how to dye in them.

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There was making of little vats so we could grasp the principles.

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There was a massive pot with leafy bundles in it. E Crenulata sent its spicy notes through us all on the first day.

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Who doesn’t love leafy bundles?? Some of my companions had brought along leaf printed samples, their own indigo dyeing, their hand made and dyed scarves and bags, samples of their wild and creative experiments in dyeing yarns, and of course their genius, skills, ideas and energy.  There was hand sewn and hand made clothing, spontaneous pattern drafting and people’s own clothing designs. There were three other women from Adelaide, hurrah! In short, I was among my people, and this seemed to be a shared feeling.

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There was ice-dyeing with fresh woad leaves.

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There was shibori.  Jenai is a shibori expert and teacher, and taught the basics to some of us with spectacular results (the others were too busy dyeing to stop for that!).  In short, there was dyeing.

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So much dyeing.  I could not believe the number of garments and other things that turned blue.  Light blue, mid blue, blue-black. Turquoise-green colours from the ice dyeing.   Oranges and browns from eucalypts.

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We ran out of drying space.

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I dyed bags.  I know, shocking.  I got deeper blues than before.  I believe I deepened my understanding. And it was good to be reminded of the complexity of the skills, the complexity of the process and the years of apprenticeship that would have been undertaken by historic dyers. A little humility is a good thing in the face of a large learning curve.

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I even dyed a linen shirt.  I pulled it out of the cupboard where clothes go awaiting reincarnation, and felt moved to try it on (it was an op shop find).  I decided it just needed a new button, and it was clamped and dyed and has been out in public several times already!

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Immense thanks to Marion Gorr and Elephant at Beautiful Silks for a wonderful learning opportunity and fabulous catering and company, and to Jenai Hooke for such wonderful education!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Purple socks

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Remember this skein of hand spun sock yarn?  Suffolk/mohair/silk, three ply.

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It made a perfectly good cake. One day I cast on, on public transport. The train, evidently.

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And then I forgot to take photos for quite some time the next thing you know, here I am ready to graft the toe of the first sock at a conference in Wellington, Aotearoa (New Zealand)!

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Did I mention the wonderful beauty of Aotearoa?

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And then… suddenly there were two. When I was part way through the second they were lost!  Then found again by security and here was a happy reunion a few days later with great relief on my part.

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And now I am preparing to make them into a nice little parcel for a friend with popsicle toes. With some hand twined silk string.

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Spinning day lily leaves into string

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I was looking for something else in my room the other day when I saw this home made seed envelope and wondered what was in it.  Imagine my surprise when I found shells and pieces of shell all with holes in them.  Just the kind of thing I wanted to spin onto string.  It quite revived my interest in spinning string on my spinning wheel.

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I put day lily leaves on to soak this time, the whole of the crop of spent leaves from my day lily for the year. Then  the spinning began.

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This time, I decided I wouldn’t ply. I liked my iris leaf string better before it was plied.  I also decided not to clip all the ends.  They are softer and less numerous and I decided I quite like them this time!

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Well. That’s one of my show entries sorted.  And a wild, strange looking thing it is. Now for the others!  I have some effort to put in and a bit of focus is going to be required if I am to submit them all…

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Winter planting

Once I got started on the rushes, I wanted to keep planting and there have been some breaks in the rain.  Today I noticed a leak from one of our rainwater tanks.  It was near the top, from the overflow pipe, suggesting there is water up above the overflow outlet in that tank which is struggling to escape.  That has never happened before, and is evidence of HOW MUCH RAIN we have had.  You know what I’m saying: planting time is upon us.

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Here is my bike trailer load of plants bound for a bed alongside the tram stop on the nearby main road.  When I got there, there was another woman already at work cleaning up, who said she picks rubbish up there twice a week (she also cleared the paving and all manner of improvements).  She was impressed that I was doing my own planting and propagating and suggested I might want to join the adopt a station programme, which apparently provides plants.  Clearly she works up and down the pubic transport corridor, because she knew the best planted stations, where work for the dole are active and where the lavender is growing so well anyone could pick it. It was fun speaking with another close observer of these often unloved spaces.  She had noticed the reduction in rubbish and weeds from my efforts!

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This time I had rhagodias from my generous friend (this is a sandy site where I hope they will do well), creeping boobialla that has come on strong since the cuttings went in months back; some little wattles and yet more ruby saltbush.

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I put them up into the bed and climbed up after them.

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In they went!

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There are previous plantings that look dead in these beds, but perhaps they will come back… and in among them, there were some struggling knobby club rushes and…

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Can you tell?  In the foreground, a small patch of the Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes!

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In the meantime, I finished all my grey handspun in an airport a few days back and I am now creating more so I can finish! More soon… it would be so good if this jumper could be complete before the cold weather passes!

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Spinning iris leaves into yarn

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Sometimes an idea just comes to me with such force that I have to try it out.  I had been wondering whether to enter the Royal Show and thought perhaps not, since time has been especially tight and I didn’t have any really great ideas.  Then an idea came to me.  Could I spin string from leaves on the wheel?  And spin shells onto it? I had to try it out (no shells to hand this moment, which is a small hitch)…

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These iris plants came originally from the trading table at my Guild.  I recognised them immediately because there are some just like these growing in a street near ours that I walk along often.  I believe they may be Algerian Iris, (Iris unguicularis), drought tolerant iris from ‘Algeria and Tunisia but also … Greece, Crete, Rhodes, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.’ This would explain why they are doing well here, though those that were not watered over summer all died. Before I planted them, I trimmed off the leaves and saved them.  Almost a feed sack full of them.  How can you know when such a thing might come in handy? Ahem.

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I weighed and soaked them in water in preparation. Weighed, because a show entry has to be a certain weight–I made sure I had much more than required.

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I hand twisted a sample just to check concept.  So far so good.  Much more plausible than daylily leaves, which I had decided against.

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And then, on with the apron, leaves in a damp tea towel, leaves divided into narrow strips, and the challenge of working out how to join one strip to the next began.  The short answer is: insert each new strip of leaf at almost 90 degrees to the forming single, make sure it has been twisted between at least two other strips, and then move on.

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Before long, I had some extremely ugly, spiny looking string forming.

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It took me several evenings to have two bobbins of this, and then to ply.  Before plying I soaked my bobbins, singles and all, in water to make them pliable.  When I transferred the ‘yarn’ onto the niddy noddy, it was soooo spiny.  I took scissors to trimming off the ends.   For an hour or two.

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The finished yarn is decidedly less good than hand twined string, both in looks, texture, and strength, but I can’t imagine how long making this much string by hand would have taken.  So… now I have done it, and I know I can do it.  But I am not sure it was worth doing!  I am still thinking over whether more practice would (or course) improve the outcome, or this was just one of those things you do once and then set aside permanently…

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A quick spin…

A friend came around for an exchange of books and thoughts on dyeing and, as it turned out, an exchange of gifts! She had some naturally brown and lovely greasy sheep fleece of unknown breed that she will not be able to take on her next big adventure.  That was a gift to me!  For some reason, a day or two later I felt the urge to wash it. Who can explain this? But–washing fleece is one of those jobs where I have made an in-principle decision.  If I ever feel like doing it, and I can do it, I just leap in and do it.  The urge doesn’t come upon me very often.

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The fleece was lovely actually, long locks, little chaff and rather soft.  It reminds me of the Finn X that is sold at my Guild by a local grower. It carded up beautifully. Apparently the manageable quantity was irresistible… as I have entire fleeces awaiting me….

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Here is the finished yarn, which I intend to give back so my friend can enjoy knitting it.

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And here is  a yarn created from carding and combing waste over the last while… I am not sure what its final use might be, but here it is in all its neppy glory!

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Spinning for slippers

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Suri alpaca cross.  I could not resist these when they came into the Guild with a local grower.

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I dyed them… and carding was quite a challenge. Some went to a friend at the Guild who showed up with wheel but no fibre one night when I was there with fibre and combs and carder but no wheel!

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I also dyed some local gift sheep fleece from a sheep called ‘Lentil’.  I had been taken in by Lentil’s lowly status as a lawnmower and the filth of the fleece.  Actually, Lentil’s is a long and lustrous fleece with a burden of burrs.

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The first batts look great–

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And perhaps they are destined to become slippers–because I am trying to spin for the things I knit this year.  Really, I knit slippers and socks.  So.  Here we go!

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Lentil in berry colours on the left, and suri cross in pale greens on the right.

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Lentil in shades of blue. It might be almost time for slipper knitting…

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Lessons for spinners, courtesy of Noro

This post arises from a pair of socks I just recently finished, in time for the birthday of my beloved fairy-goddess-son. They started off with a gifted yarn, Noro Taiyo S69.  It’s cotton-wool-polyamide-silk.  Something in me just loves a gift from my beloved becoming a gift to our ever growing and beloved friend.  Here we are at the start, on the beach.

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Casting on.  If you look carefully you’ll see that the colour effects for which Noro are famous must be achieved by spinning, while in many other commercial yarns they are achieved by dyeing after the yarn has been spun.

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Here I am making a little progress watching other people swim, unable to remember why I didn’t bring my bathers. Noro is a Japanese yarn company justly famous for the colours it uses and its selection of yarns that feature a sequence of long, changing colours.  As a person who loves knitting socks from their yarn (whilst always thinking that the fibre miles involved mean I should never do it again), I think the experience offers some tips for the spinner who may wish to create her or his own sock yarn.

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On a beach, at a picnic, on holiday. Home grown basil and backyard hen eggs!

Lesson 1: Three plies?  Why bother?  Noro sells at least two sock yarns that are unplied singles, and this is one of them.  Everything I have learned about how to create one’s own sock yarn suggests that a minimum of three singles should be tightly plied together to create a tough sock yarn.

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Lesson 2: Knots?  What is the problem with knots?  Spinners really try to create one continuous thread.  Novice spinners curse when their thread snaps and requires a splice of some kind when plying.  Noro seems not to care.  You can be knitting away and find a knot right in the middle of a colour sequence.  It isn’t joined up to continue the colour sequence you expected, either.  The knot might join two colours together abruptly and disrupt any repeat colour sequence completely. As happened twice in this ball!

Lesson 3: Vegetable matter–just accept it.  Spinning is a craft that should not be taken up by the squeamish. If you are going to process raw fleece, get your tetanus booster and set out squick meter to low, because any minute you will be dealing with grass seeds, chaff, burrs, seeds, dead beetles, sheep manure, mud and, umm, things you can’t identify… and that might be for the best.  Once I removed a dead mouse from a fleece I was processing.  Hand spinners try to remove this vegetable (and animal) matter from our yarn.  So does Noro.  But Noro sometimes fails, and so do hand spinners.

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Lesson 4: Unpredictable colour changes can be perfect.  When I am knitting Noro, there are always times when I just LOVE the colours.  And other times when I wonder how much longer I will be knitting this unpleasant grey shade of mauve.  Perhaps I should  be less judgmental of my own colour choices.  Would I apply the same scheme of judgments?

Lesson 5: Evenness is overrated.  In a Noro yarn, some sections will be at least double or three times the thickness of others, and slubs are a constant.  I still love knitting Noro, and perhaps I could take the same attitude to any yarns I make that are uneven or slubby?

Alert readers will have begun to suspect that I have a plan to spin sock yarn this year.  This is the only way I’ll have locally sourced fibres or naturally dyed socks, or even both at once.  More soon!

 

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