28 September 2012

Dyeing Experiments - A Chance With A Spinning Wheel: Part IV

In this week's spinning class we experimented with rainbow dyeing, in a nutshell it's just cooking the yarn/fibre in a frying pan with just enough water. I say cooking in a loose term, simmering would be more actuate. Of course you need to add dye to the yarn or fibre, we used Landscape Dyes that come in powder form and just sprinkled whatever colours we fancied on top of the yarn/fibre, then you just stand back and watch the transformation take place.
The colours I used were Cyclamin (purple), Citrus (orange) and Sandstone (deep yellow). I had no idea how it would come out, the colours in the pan were quite deep and I was having doubts while watching but once rinsed and dried the colours just took on a new life, it's amazing!

In my excitement I forgot to take photos of the process, I might write a separate post for Rainbow Dyeing at another time with instructions.

I also tried a little KoolAid dyeing in my slow cooker: 
A valuable lesson learnt from this exercise was that do not tie the skein too tightly unless the tie-dyed effect is a desired outcome ... you can see where the tie had been the colour is much lighter, there are actually uncoloured spots if you peel back the top layer. But I'll call it a designer feature, like my thick and think yarn ;)

After last week's lesson I was eager to experiment with mixing different fibres, the skein above is plied with 1 strand of merino and 1 strand of merino/tussah silk blend (first carding by myself). The merino silk blend was so easy to spin, the long staple from the silk makes it easy to spin very think yarn and I just love the luster from the silk. Another experiment I did was combining a silk hankie and a corriedale top, I'm not sure if the little bumps are part and parcel with silk hankies or if I was doing something wrong, but there were quite a few of these in the otherwise very smooth and almost cobweb like strand. Thankfully once plied the little bumps are not very visible.
It's the school holidays here and our teacher is away so there will be no class next week, but that won't stop me from spinning - just as soon as my finger feels better, burnt my right middle finger last night, it's not serious just a bit sore. I might stick to knitting for a few days :)

Thanks for dropping by, there is more fibre arts fun at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. Indulge your creative side and join the party!

21 September 2012

A Test Knit and A Chance With A Spinning Wheel: Part III

Hello there! It's Friday again and that means it's time for some fibre arts fun. Before I continue the story of my spinning adventure I want to show you a small project I just completed, it's a test knit of a new pattern from the talented Shui Kuen Kozinsky. I love Shui Kuen's designs, to me they are poetic and each tells a story of romance, nature or a reminiscent of the bygone years. I was chilling out on Ravelry one day and saw the call for test knitters for the Gentle Beauty Cowl, both the name and design spoke to me so I put my hand up and got started straight away, and here is the finished piece:

It took me six days to complete and only used less than 40g of kid mohair blend in lace weight. The grafting was a little tricky in mohair but a little uneveness is hardly noticeable in this yarn. The design is really simple yet elegant (tick all the boxes for me!), I think it would make a wonderful gift or I might just keep it for myself :) ... In case anyone's interested, the pattern is on sale at half price until November 15th and there is a KAL in the Fans of SK Kozinsky group.

OK, now about spinning! In this week's lesson we learnt about different types of fibre, if you are a seasoned knitter/crocheter you will already know that there are animal fibres and plant fibres. From a dying perspective the fibres are categorized in protein, cellulose and manufactured, we were told to pay particular attention to these as each type takes to the dye differently. Talking about dying, I resolved my last week's dilemma of whether to dye my lovely first handspun - I decided to keep that skein as it is but I spun another one with the stained fleece to use for the dying practice in the next class. Thank you all for your advice and suggestions, as it turned out it wasn't just me, everyone had the same problem. Apparently that fleece was donated to the Guild and if it was sold commercially the stained bits would have been removed.

We had a lot of fun in class experimenting with different fibres: alpaca, cashmere, silk, bamboo, soy... There are so many possibilities one could spin, it's mind boggling but very exciting! Things I learnt from this class:
  • Alpaca fibre is hair, not fleece, hence it's non-greasy.
  • Angora is harvested by brushing the rabbits everyday.
  • Tussah silk is from wild silkworms whilst mulberry silk is from domestic silkworms. 
  • A silk hankie is not something you blow your nose on ;)
  • Bamboo breathes easily and has deodorizing properties (perfect for socks!!).
  • Possums are culled for their fur, they are considered pests in New Zealand. 

This is a mini skein I spun using some practice fibre I got from the class, it's Corriedale Romney cross, both are natural colours. When I was plying I watched the two colours came together to make the new yarn, it reminded me of the book I just finished: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This is not the sort of books I normally go for, but it's the book of the month from my book club and I am so glad I read it.

In the book an (quite) ordinary young man called Richard Mayhew helped a fallen young girl out of kindness in a London street, unbeknown to him his actions set certain things in motion and got him inadvertently involved in a world he never knew existed: the London Below. Eventually he teamed up with the girl he helped, who was on a quest of her own, and began his journey of finding his way back to his old life in the London Above. Neil Gaiman is a master story teller, his unequivocal English sense of humour gave me giggles and I found myself feeling quite nostalgic for London: the long underground passageway between Monument and Bank stations (I used to walk that passage quite often), the announcement in the Tube stations "Mind the Gap", Earls Court, the British Museum, and even the occasional rats one sees next to the underground tracks...  all the familiar sites of London took on new meanings in the book, you recognised the names but it's not the London as you know it,  yet somehow the human tragedies - betrayal, revenge, honour, bravery, loyalty, love... are just as real in the world Below as in the world Above.

Well, that's pretty much my week wrapped up. Thanks for dropping by, there is more fibre arts fun at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. Indulge your creative side and join the party!

14 September 2012

A Chance With a Spinning Wheel: Part II

They say time flies when you are having fun, that is certainly the case this past week. Remember last week I said that in this week's spinning class I was going to learn to ply and scour my yarn and fibre? Well, I did just that and now I can present you my very first finished handspun, drum roll please... tah dah!

I learnt to ply two singles in the opposite direction to the one they were spun to make a balanced yarn, oh I love plying, it's so much faster than spinning! And then because my yarn was spun from the greasy wool I also learnt to scour and wash it to get rid of all the grease and grime. The transformation was amazing!

Project:  my first hand spun on a wheel
Fibre:   raw corriedale fleece
Yardage: 98 meters / 107 yards (2 ply)
Yarn weight: DK (11 wpi)
Amount: 70g / 2.5 oz

I am so pleased with my first hand spun, it's not perfect but I love it and just can't stop petting it. The next question is: What should I do with it? What should I make? And there's another point, I'm not sure I want to dye it - that's part of the lesson plan in a later class, but I really quite like the natural colour, it's so yummy... decision decision...

On a slightly down note, my attempt at scouring the raw fleece did not go quite so smoothly. I prepared my fleece as instructed, like this:

... then I scoured it, washed it and laid it out to dry:

For some reason the stains on the tips did not quite come out, I don't know if this is because I didn't use hot enough water or not enough detergent, but there it is. I spoke with the lady who runs the class, she told me not to panic and that she's going to scour some of this fleece over the weekend and see how it will come out, "maybe it will look better once flicked" she suggested. I think she's just trying to comfort me, but let's hope so! I'm waiting for the fleece to dry so I can find out whether I'd made a complete boo boo of this beautiful fleece.

Wish me luck!

Thanks for dropping by, there is more fibre arts fun at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. Indulge your creative side and join the party!

07 September 2012

A Chance With A Spinning Wheel: Part I

After much anticipation my spinning classes started this week, hooray! The classes are being held at the Handweavers & Spinners Guild of Victoria, there are five sessions all together and each lasting 3 hours. The first lesson was about learning the basics, how to adjust the wheel, how to flick the fleece, how to get started and all that.

Since I don't have my own wheel (yet!!) the Guild loaned me one to practice on. It's a traveller single treadle by Ashford, there are larger traditional wheels available but my beloved little Honda Jazz could only handle this small wheel :)

What I hadn't expected was that we'd be handling raw fleece, well I knew we'd be learning about fleece but for some reason I just didn't consider handling raw fleece, complete with vegetable matter and erm, well, you know, things that get stuck on a sheep's coat... how naive was I! To be fair, the fleece we were given was quite clean, I was assured that there were worse ones. Anyway we learned to turn this corriedale fleece:

... into this: (I do love the sheen!)

... by using a flick carder like this: (yes, I bought my own carder :)

To be honest, at this stage I'm not entirely sure that I like handling greasy wool, maybe I'm just being a typical squeamish city dweller. On the other hand isn't this what it's all about? Learning where the wool/yarn had come from, how it came to be, like growing your own vegetables and making your own bread. In fact, come to think of it, knitting one's own garment is also part of that process of Make It Happen, it's earthy qualities serve as a constant reminder that that's what distinguishes us humans to the rest of the animals, that armed with tools and knowledge we can make it happen.

And make it happen I will, spinning on the wheel that is! It's easily said than done though, just when I thought I'd had the spindle under control, more or less, the spinning wheel is entirely a different kettle of fish! For you seasoned wheel spinners I solute you for making it seem so easy, so fluid, so serene, so transfixing... but to coordinate two hands and a foot while drafting/sliding/treadling is like trying to make a pair of puppets dance cha-cha!! Yes, yes, I know, practice makes it perfect, I'll drink to that! ... maybe I'll drink another one to that!

Next week I will be learning how to ply on the wheel and how to scour the wool, to do that we need to complete our homework of spinning two bobbins worth of yarn. This is my progress so far:

Actually this is my second bobbin - I didn't fill the first one mind you, it's just simply too ghastly to see. I've set it aside as a reminder of "how NOT to do it" whilst at the same time I can have a look at that and give myself a quick pat on the back and say "there there, you're making progress". By that, my friends, I will say good-bye for now because I have some real work to do.

Thanks for dropping by, there is more fibre arts fun at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. Indulge your creative side and join the party!