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.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Tour de Fleece 2013 and other fibery things

I've been a member of Ravelry since February, 2008 but haven't used it extensively until this year.  Oh I'd added some of my books to the library area, put a few yarns into the stash and made some projects.  I even took some photos of my work and yarns and attached them in the appropriate places.  But I didn't use it extensively.  Then for various reasons I put my fiber stuff on the back burner for a few years.  I missed it, but was so busy with other things that there just wasn't time to do much about it.

Then in December 2012 my older son graduated from Marine boot camp at Parris Island, SC.  There were several days of family activities before Graduation Day, as well as a very long trip there and back.  Lots of time to knit and not lots of other things that had to be done!   So I dug into my languishing WIP's (Works in Progress) and found a pair of socks that were a few inches long with lots yet to do and some pretty purple yarn that I decided would become a hat.  I had a book with an interesting construction for a hat, so that's what I took.  I made a small version of the hat to better understand the construction, then made a full sized one.  I finished the hat on that trip except for the I-cord strings, which I finished shortly thereafter.

In the process I reaffirmed how much I love knitting and the fiber arts.  I kept knitting, on the way to and from work, in meetings, on conference calls, while walking the dogs, whenever I had a few minutes with nothing else that had to be done, and whenever I could multitask and do it.  Finished the knee socks.  Knit garters for knee socks.  Made another pair of knee socks.  Started another pair.  Got sidetracked by shawlettes, a shorter, crescent shaped shoulder shawl.  Made 2 of these in very different yarns using the pattern English Ivy.  I now keep them at the office as a bit of extra warmth in the A/C.

Right after Easter my new local fiber studio, Stringtopia, had a 'seasonal activity' where we dyed some tussah silk using Easter egg dyes.  I started to spin up one of the 2 lengths on a trindle, thinking to make a reasonably softly spun 2-ply.   Then a little at a time I started to get back out more of my spinning equipment, first my Mazurka wheel then the Lendrum.  The Lendrum needed new drive bands and treadle connectors, so those got replaced.

Then along comes the end of June and there is talk on Ravelry about Tour de Fleece.  The basic premise is to spin every day that the racers in the Tour de France race.  I decided this was a good way to help me focus on spinning some every day.  I'm posting photos here on Flickr.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Springtopia Spring String Thing, more knitting

Over the weekend I attended Stringtopia's Spring String Thing.  This was primarily a spinning related event, but there were also knitting and color related classes, which is what I took.  Carol Sulcoski, author and owner of Black Bunny Fibers, did a wonderful job.  I highly recommend her classes.  I now better understand how to use various sorts of hand painted, variegated, self patterning and striping yarns.  This is a topic I'm quite interested in.  I enjoy knitting self patterning yarns, but it is nice to know more about how to manage the results.

I have some quite nice hand painted yarns that I have been trying to decide what to do with them, and these classes have helped me make some decisions regarding projects to best take advantage of them.

Currently I'm in the middle of a sort of sock analysis project.  Having several balls of the same brand of yarn, Regia, in different colorways, I am experimenting with how needle size affects durability in the toes, heels and foot.  Initially this will be in stockinette, later I expect to do some tests that use heel stitch or EOP (Eye of Partridge). Using Regia Blitz Color 02530, a grey-blue self patterning yarn I used 2.0 mm needles for the toe and heel, and 2.5 mm needles for the rest of the foot.

About the time I started to work on these socks I realized that I had missing gaps in my needles in the smaller sizes.  I had 1.5 mm (US 000), 2.0 mm (US 0), 2.5 mm (US 1 in some brands), 2.75 mm (US 2), 3.0 mm (US 3) and so on.  What I finally paid attention to is that it is possible to get needles in between some of these US whole numbers.  Note also that the size of a needle in one brand is not always the same as that same size in another.

Because of this I am stopping using US sizes to reference my needles and instead trying to simply use the mm size.  I also ordered more needles.  I now have 1.75 mm, 2.25 mm as well as a full set of 1.5 and 2.0 mm.

Since I prefer knee socks I am doing a concurrent experiment with a ribbing I read about on Ravelry.  It is quite stretchy and thus far I really like the bounce back that it has.

This ribbing is a multiple of 3 sts:
Rnd 1: k2, p1
Rnd 2: k1, yo, k1, p1
Rnd 3: k3, p1
Rnd 4: sl, k2, psso2, p1
(note that your st. count changes for rnds 2 and 3 and then is restored on 4)

Many thanks to author Barb Brown who posted this ribbing.

So, on the blue Regia 02530 socks I used that ribbing from just after the ankle (toe up) on up the leg starting with 2.0 mm needles.  At the point where I started to need more room for my calf I switched to 2.25 mm needles.  This really did give a lot more stretch than I expected.  However, as expected it wasn't enough for the calf itself, so I increased up the center back around the middle column of stitches.  This really made for a nice fabric.  Stretchier and more flexible than the same ribbing on the 2.0 mm needles.  I just can't believe how much difference there is between fabric made with 2.0 and 2.25 mm needles.

Above the calf my leg tucks back in below the knee, so I switched back down to 2.0 mm needles and also did decreases.  I took out half of the increases I'd put in for the calf, then continued on the smaller number of stitches up to right below the knee itself.

These socks with this ribbing stay up quite well.  I wear my hand knit socks mainly as bed socks.  Often hand knit socks will fall down unless held with a garter, but at least thus far this pair stays up.

To continue the experiment I want to know more about durability on the foot and sole, so my next socks, currently still in progress, are Regia Blitz Color 02526, a nice green with some dark grey and purple.  This pair I'm doing on the smallest needles I've ever knit socks with, 1.75 mm.  The gauge is quite dense, as one would expect.  I plan to use the same ribbing, although since I'm using smaller needles and thus more stitches on the foot I will likely adjust the needle size through the ankle and calf a bit differently.

After this I will probably take a short break from socks and work a shawlette/crescent before getting back to socks.

Things I still want to check:

- What happens when a larger needle is used on the instep?  How does this affect fit and durability?
- What happens when heel stitch or Eye of Partridge stitch is used on the heel alone?
- What happens when heel stitch or Eye of Partridge stitch is used on the whole sole?
- On the toe and heel?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Socks and such

Lately I've been knitting socks again.  I've always enjoyed knitting socks.  They are small projects, portable, and with enough things going on to keep me interested.  Cat Bordhi came out with a new ebook, Cat's Sweet Tomato Heel Socks.  This book describes using a new short row technique based on multiple wedges instead of the usual 45% angle wedges that result from traditional short rows.  I quite like the results and it is very simple and easy to do.  No wraps, just turns, and a very simple pick up technique to prevent holes.  This is probably going to be my go-to heel from now on, and what I've learned from this book will change how I look at all short rows and how I decide to construct them in future.

Some other interesting links I've run across are this one, which lets you upload images and get knitting charts.  And here is a link to a blog post with a lot of size information that could be quite useful when you are knitting for a foot you don't have handy to try things on.

A couple of days ago I learned that there is a fiber shop in a town not far from where I live.  It has apparently been there for a few years, but I've been so busy with non-fiber stuff that I haven't noticed.  Well, I also never go into the downtown part of the town, I just go through on the highway to the grocery and then home.  Anyway, the shop is Stringtopia Studio, in Lebanon, Ohio.  They have an upcoming weekend workshop the end of the month which sounds interesting.  They also have a couple times a week when they are open for people to drop in and work on their projects.  I'm hoping to get over on Thursday to check it out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mouser's status - All better now!

I've been pretty busy lately so have neglected to post about Mouser.  She was inside with me for 6 weeks and 2 days.  Her last abscess healed up, walking quite well on the injured foot and with new, short fur on her completely healed chest she went back out into the world on a Wednesday.  I was working from home that day and when I took the dogs out mid-morning and she wanted to go out, I let her through the door.  She stayed on the porch and didn't seem to want to come back in when I took the dogs back inside.  When I checked on her about 10 minutes later she was happy to come back in.  It was a bit cold, but dry.  A few hours later I checked to see if she wanted to go back outside.  Yes, she did, but when I went back in, she came right back inside as well.

Mid afternoon, around 3 or 3:30 PM, I took the dogs back out.  This time when I took them inside she didn't want to come back in.  She hung around for a little while, and I fed her outside again as I had always done when she was living outside.  Over the rest of the day I checked on her a few times, and while she was often there, she didn't want to come back inside the house.

Since then she has gone back to her usual pattern of being around for a few days, then gone for a few days.  She is more vocal about greeting me, and even more insistent about being petted.  She tolerates being picked up, but clearly prefers to be on her own 4 feet.

The fur on her chest is now fully grown in and it is no longer possible to tell it was ever shaved.  Her foot is fine, and all the fur has grown back on that as well.  I was amazed at how fast the last couple of abscessed areas grew the hair back once the abscesses were healed.

It is wonderful to see her running up to greet me, jumping up on the railing and clearly a very happy, confident cat!  Many thanks to my wonderful husband and younger son who helped care for Mouser.  I couldn't have done this without my husband.  Many thanks also to the wonderful vets and staff at Waynesville Veterinary Hospital.