Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blogger blocks Flickr photos

I had planned to post some more about my various projects, but after once again running into Blogger's blocking of images from Flickr, I have decided to try another site for blogging.  It's a shame, but I have been using Flickr for my photos for years, long before I did any blogging.  Early on in my use of Blogger it worked fine to link my photos into my posts, but now Blogger only really wants to pull photos from Google locations.  This is why so few of my posts have had photos.

After a little bit of research I've decided to try WordPress.  Will see how that goes, but it definitely will let me include photos from Flickr and other sites without barfing.  Trying to keep a similar name this is my new blog:  http://timelythoughtsforfun.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Knit, Swirl!

I've been doing quite a lot of knitting over the last year.  Hats, mobius scarves, wrist and ankle cuffs for a bit of added warmth at these pulse points, socks, lots of socks and I've become enamored of a new sort of jacket called a Swirl.  These were introduced in the book Knit, Swirl!  I learned about it when a LYS had a Ravelry post about a class for making Swirls.  So of course I did some research, found the book and really liked the look of the garments.  For several years I've been interested in a longer jacket sort of knit garment and this looked like a nice possibility.

After reading the book I ended up purchasing a kit for the Coat of Many Colors, in the Clemantis colorway.  I figured that a kit would let me try things out without having to do all the yarn selections myself, since this pattern calls for 9 different colorways.  This kit pushed my color preference boundaries, as it includes some colors, like orange and yellow-green, that I never wear.  But the overall effect from this while very colorful is of purple.  Purple is good, I like purple, so I went for it.  And with a few minor points of confusion loved knitting the Swirl with this yarn.  It is Mountain Goat yarn, by Mountain Colors, a wool and mohair blend.  This is not a brushed yarn, so while there is a subtle raising of fibers in the completed Swirl it isn't hairy like many times we think of mohair.

I found the knitting to be simple but interesting.  It starts out with the entire outside edge of the Swirl, so a whole lot of stitches, but then as the welts are knit and decreases made it gets smaller and smaller, and thus knits faster and faster.  Then after the outside edge and collar are done it switches from knitting in the round to knitting flat, back and forth, but now getting faster yet because in addition to the regular decreases at the markers the opening for the neck decreases are also being done.

There are all these mini-milestones.  The Swirls are knit with welted fabric, sort of like sideways ribbing.  Several rounds of knit stitches follow several rounds of purl stitches, 4 or 5 of each, to make this rich, flexible and visually interesting fabric that is extremely simple to knit.  Decreases are all k2tog or p2tog, dead easy.  So finishing a welt is a mini milestone.  Then switching to flat knitting is a milestone.  Then there is the milestone where all decreases for the outside Swirl part stop and you switch to knitting the bodice, which is knitted flat with increases.  Then come the sleeves, where rather suddenly the number of stitches increases quickly.  But this is a milestone and it's very exciting because by this time you are actually very close to being finished!

When the increases for the sleeves are done you knit straight for a while, this is the actual sleeve and cuff of the Swirl and it's a lot of stitches.  But you're almost done!  Part way through the sleeve section it's time to cast off for the back of the neck and do neckline decreases, so suddenly it's tearing along like gangbusters, faster and faster and faster and you're done!

Swirls are such great fun to knit, and are very beautiful.  I am really enjoying wearing my Coat of Many Colors.  So much so that I am currently knitting another one, a Strata Sphere in Lamb's Pride yarn in Jack's Plum, a very deep, dark purple.  And following that I plan to make one out of Cat Mountain Fusion yarns in the color Aurora Borealis.  Blue to green to purple, just my sort of colors!  The yarn is lovely and the skeins have been washed and are dry.  Just need to swatch to verify gauge and finish this Strata Sphere...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Butterfly e-spinner modification

In 2007 I purchased a Butterfly electric spinner (e-spinner) from Jerry Womack. Shortly after I took a several year hiatus from most of my fiber arts, including spinning.  In 2012 I started knitting again and in 2013 resumed spinning.  I got back out my Butterfly e-spinner but was not happy with the WooLee Winder that I had gotten with my e-spinner. I tend to spin very fine yarns, and the WooLee Winder pull in was too hard and erratic for these very delicate yarns.  It works fantastically for plying, and I am sure it would be great for thicker yarns, say above lace or sock weight, but for extremely fine yarns from shorter fibers it would either not pull in or it would give sudden hard tugs at the ends of the bobbins where the direction turns.  Neither of these is conducive to happy spinning.

Since a WooLee Winder is only one of several flyer options originally available for the Womack Butterfly e-spinner I tried to contact Jerry Womack for options only to find that all contact info I had for him no longer worked.  I hope he and his wife are well, but my best guess is that they are no longer involved commercially in the fiber arts so I needed to figure out whether I could make changes to my e-spinner without assistance.

One of my regular spinning wheels is a Lendrum, for which I have all but the quill head, and several extra bobbins.  I checked the length and it looked like I could use a regular Lendrum flyer on my Butterfly, if only I had the right bearings.  So I took measurements and ordered a bearing for the front orifice.  This bearing didn't seem to want to come off of the WooLee winder flyer that came with the Butterfly, so I didn't try to remove it.  The rear bearing is smaller, but comes on and off easily.  It has to be removed every time the bobbin is changed.

The new bearing and my regular Lendrum flyer fit just fine on the Butterfly spinner.  There isn't any particular pulling like the WooLee Winder does when changing directions.  The most difficult thing will be remembering to move the flyer hook as I'm not in the habit of doing that with the WooLee Winder!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Spinning Luxury Fibers

Yum, luxury fibers.  One of the wonderful things about spinning, knitting and fabric is all the textures and colors.  My local fiber arts studio, Stringtopia, has been having a series of classes that are basically advanced spinning studies.  It has mostly been the same group of people and we have a lot of fun while we are learning about and spinning different fibers and yarns.

The latest series of 4 classes was all about spinning luxury fibers.  The last class in the series was this week and was incredibly fun as well as being very educational.  We discussed several fiber bearing animals, some properties of the fibers and had an opportunity to spin several of them.  The sample fibers were short lengths of roving of natural dark brown bison fiber, 2 colors of natural colored yak, a dark brown and a sort of grey/taupe/medium brown, an incredible blend of cashmere, muga silk and possum, and finally a handful of unprocessed possum fiber.  The yak fibers and the blend had been obtained from another Ohio fiber company, Lucky Cat Craft.  There are not very many sources for these fibers.  All of them but the raw possum were a joy to spin.

I have spun both bison and yak before, and I like spinning them very much.  Bison is quite short, very soft and can be spun into a very fine yarn.  The yak is a bit longer and smoother, and is slipperier than the bison.  Both fibers are from the down, the shortest, softest, undercoat of the animal.  It is a lot of work to collect, dehair and process these fibers, and they are correspondingly expensive, especially the bison.

The possum by itself while incredibly soft and fine was a bit slippery to spin by itself.  Because the fibers are short it takes a lot of twist to make a yarn that will hold together, and more yet to keep the slippery fiber in a yarn.  We agreed that the possum did best in a blend.

I hadn't been sure about the final blend (photo 1, photo 2), as in the braid the roving didn't seem to be especially soft and luscious.  Visually it reminded me somewhat of tow, which is not soft.  Part of the issue for me personally was the natural creamy taupe color of the fibers.

While beautiful, my personal color preferences do not include cream or gold, but the point of this class was to learn about the fibers so I pushed on and further examined my section of roving.  The roving had a bit of sheen from the muga silk.  Not a lot, but especially in the yarn there is some.  The ends where the roving had been broken were quite open and fluffy.  Not in danger of shedding the fibers all over, or the roving slipping apart, but the simple act of pulling the roving into pieces had opened the fiber and it looked like it would be easy to spin.  And it was.  This blend was really luscious, spinning very easily.  I really liked this blend.

The silk helped to trap the shorter fibers in the twist and gave that typical silk sheen to the yarn.  The shorter possum and cashmere are very fine and soft.  The final yarn samples have sheen and drape, and I believe that the possum would provide a lovely halo as the yarn blooms.

This week at Stringtopia there will be a couple of interesting activities.  First there is a Silk Tasting Party on Wednesday, then Saturday is a class on Spinning Spectacular Silk Singles.  I took that class a few months ago and it's a really informative class.  Lots of great info on spinning silk in general, and specifics about spinning and using silk singles in projects, whether knitted, crocheted or woven.  A very fast way to create yarn for a special project!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bobbins Up!

As a spinner having more bobbins to hold yarn is important.  To make a multiple ply yarn you usually need to have multiple bobbins.  Even with a simple 2-ply yarn you need 2 bobbins of singles plus a third bobbin to ply onto.  Bobbins for spinning are fairly expensive, so having a less expensive alternative for storage and to ply from is a nice option.  This rewinding not only frees up your spinning bobbins for reuse, it also helps to equalize the twist through your singles which makes plying more even and thus more successful.

So I have been considering options for some sort of bobbin winder.  These tools aren't cheap, but with the price of spinning wheel bobbins it doesn't take to many to make the bobbin winder a relatively inexpensive option.  And storage bobbins are much less expensive than spinning wheel bobbins, making the long term cost much less.

When one is working on a large spinning project, say spinning a fleece, being able to store the singles until all the singles are spun can be a useful option.  My personal preference is to keep track of the order bobbins of singles are spun then mixing the order when plying.  So say you spun 6 bobbins of singles.  I would then either spin the first and last, or first of the first half and first of the second half together.  So numbering the bobbins in order by date of spinning, bobbin #1 would be plied with either 4 or 6.  Bobbin 2 with 5, and bobbin 3 with either 6 or 4.  This isn't a hard and fast rule, but since quite a lot of time can pass between my spinning sessions I prefer to average out differences in the way I spun the singles by mixing up the plying.

Some time ago I happened to learn of a product called Bobbins Up.  It looked like a very nice idea, nice large storage bobbins that could be filled with the use of an electric drill or screwdriver.  But I didn't order any at that point, figuring to do some more research before making a purchase.

Several months went by, then Spinzilla came along and I got to thinking more about bobbins.  So I did some more research and thought that I would just get a winder through a local shop.  Only due to Acts of Nature none were available for over a month.  I decided to try to find the other bobbins, only I couldn't remember what they were called!  Did some internet searches, but didn't see them.  Finally found the right reference and ordered some.

I've been really pleased with these bobbins.  I have weighed most of the ones I got and they were all between 30.15 and 30.19 grams, most were 30.18 grams.  Since they are made of a recyclable plastic I just marked on the end with a Sharpie the weight of that particular bobbin so in future when I weigh them with yarn I'll be able to tell just how much the yarn itself weighs.

Each bobbin comes with its own bit that fits into your electric drill or screwdriver.  You really only need one, but it is nice to be able to store each bobbin with its own bit so you always know you have everything you need.

Another really nice feature of these bobbins is that one end has a whorl.  Having a whorl means that you can use your tensioned lazy kate when plying to keep it from back spinning.  Ingenious.

My order arrived in 2 days.  In fact, before the mail came that day I had sent an e-mail to the supplier asking for an estimated arrival time.  I was sent a tracking number but the package had since arrived.  I thanked them for the fast service and was told that if an order is placed before 3 PM ET it will usually be shipped out the same day.

Just in case you are wondering, no, I am not affiliated with this supplier in any way other than as a satisfied customer.  So, if you are looking for a nice, affordable, option for storage bobbins, consider trying Bobbins Up!  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Final Spinzilla Results

Finished measuring the last of the Spinzilla singles yesterday.  Here's my final submission photo.  I tried to insert that as an image, but it wouldn't accept it.  Weird.  In all I spun 3217 yards in a week.

I've got a bobbin winder on order, which I'm waiting to come in so I can put some of these yarns back onto bobbins ready for plying.

Monday, October 14, 2013


The first full week of October is Spinning and Weaving Week.  So this year there was a contest called Spinzilla.  I joined Team Stringtopia (#teamstringtopia) spinning up a number of different fibers during the 7 days the contest ran.  Each team can have up to 25 people, and the Spinzilla pages explain about all the details.

As someone for whom spinning is a relaxation, a way to relax and enjoy fiber going through my hands to become yarn, enjoy the process as much or sometimes more than the end result, the production spinning for yardage was a bit of a jolt.  However, I put aside all my knitting projects and spun as much as I was able.  Now mind, I work full time outside the home, we have a multi-pet household and I take some classes of an evening, so the amount of time I had to spin was limited.

Knowing myself it was important to have multiple projects to work on during the week so I selected a number of different fibers.  Some were single batts, some larger amounts.  Prior to the beginning of the week I cleared my spinning equipment of yarn so I could start from empty bobbins/spindles, making it easy to keep track of just what I did during the week.

I have 2 spinning wheels, a double treadle Lendrum, and a Mazurka, and a Butterfly Electric Spinner.  The Butterfly I have been spinning up some bouncy carded dark grey wool, so using an empty bobbin I spun more of this.  As of noon on Sunday I had spun 732 yards of this wool.  The Mazurka I spun some light grey CVM cross batts.  I had recarded the wool the week before so it would be soft, fluffy and easy to spin.  And it was.  I ended up spinning 901 yards of this.

The Lendrum I used for all the other bits of fiber that took my fancy.  In September I took a class at Stringtopia called Color Blending on Drum Carder.  We made a number of interesting blends as well as batt structures like layered batts and taking a roving off through a diz.  Several of these were spun up as part of my Spinzilla spinning.  I found it very helpful to be able to switch around to different projects either as my eyes got tired or I just needed to do something different for a while.  All in all I spun over 1168 yards of singles on the Lendrum.

In addition to all this wheel/electric spinner spinning I also took a carbon fiber micro trindle spindle and bison down fiber with me when I carpooled to work.  Over 4 days of commuting I spun 3.15 grams onto one spindle then 6.63 on another.  The 3.15 grams yielded just over 61 yards of yarn.

I still have to measure how many yards are in the 6.63 grams of bison fiber and how many yards I spun on the electric spinner last evening.  However, as of this writing I measured over 2800 yards of singles spun over last week.  In addition to the measuring of yardage I also need to get a photo taken of what I have spun.