Last year for the Tour de Fleece I created special colour way for Team Flossy (Hilltop Cloud). It was a Gradient Pack called Cobblestones, inspired by the minted colours you get on set stones when they're used as a road surface.
The general look of the colour way was muted grey, but with a bit of a rainbow lurking underneath.
I had 3 packs, and spun the yarn in to a 2 ply fingering weight. Two packs I plyed with each other to make one large gradient skein (actually 2 skiens as 280g is too large to wind on a niddy noddy). The 3rd pack I split in to quarters, and spun it in to 2 matching shorter skeins, each containing half a pack.
The big skeins were for the body of a jumper, and the shorter skeins were for matching sleeves.
The end result is a gradient jumper, with matching long sleeves. Isn't being a hand spinner useful at times!
The original pattern (Sugar Maple) uses cap sleeves so that you don't have to worry about matching sleeves when using hand dyed yarn. It's a top down pattern so I put the stitches on holders instead of casting off, and then joined in my sleeve skeins. I used up every last bit of the yarn for the sleeves, but I didn't use all of the body yarn as it was getting a bit long.
My Ravelry project page can be found here- http://www.ravelry.com/projects/hilltopkatie/sugar-maple-2
The beach is a winter destination for us. The joy of living so close to the sea is that it's very easy to just nip down to the beach for a morning dog walk. By summer the beaches will be filled with visitors, so we tend to stay away.
So this week was probably our last visit to the beach for a good while.
I've always loved the light on this particular beach, when the sun isn't out everything gets quite dark and moody which makes me appreciate the flashes of colour.
Even a bit of World War 2 concrete somehow looks pretty under these skies. The beach still has lots of the costal defences in situ, looking a little battered after 50 years of storms, but they still provide a welcome stop for a breather when the dogs have been running around.
As well as the natural colours there are some very unwelcome bits of unnatural colours. This isn't a beachfront close to the town, and as a result you get full exposure to the horrifying amount of waste we put in the ocean.
This daffodil must have been washed up in one of the winter storms after being swept down river during the floods this year. It was doing it's best to survive in the sand dunes.
After a very wet winter it's finally starting to feel spring like. A whole week of dry weather has reduced the sogginess, and everything is feeling the benefit.
I've been able to dry fibre faster than I can dye it, which is a first for this year. Over the past couple of months I've been reaching the point where there isn't a single spot I can put damp fibre, on a very regular basis. With a bit of sunshine, and a slight breeze I've been drying stuff in 24 hours without even having to bring it in to the house.
The chickens have also been most appreciative of the drier weather. After a whole winter of refusing to get out of bed because of the rain, there's now a rugby scrum of fluffy bodies in the rush to get out of the door every morning.
They've also been able to indulge in some much needed maintenance, an afternoon dust bath and snooze in the sunshine is just the ticket.
The dust gets in to their feathers and cleans out all the dead skin. It must feel wonderful to be able to have a good scratch after so many weeks of dampness.
After a while all the itches are scratched and they just close their eyes and enjoy the sunshine. The first time you come across a pile of bodies, lying on their sides with their feet stretched out you tend to think the worst, but hilariously they are just napping.
Of course the sunshine and longer days have the additional effect of kicking reproductive systems in to play. We're now getting eggs again, which is lovely.
But the boys... they're being boys.
I am weak willed, and have 4 cockerels because I raised them all from eggs and couldn't bring myself to get rid of any of them.
Froome, my chocolate brown cockerel has his own little gang of 2 grey ladies, and they keep themselves to themselves. Big Bird is top cockerel, he bosses over a giant gang of all the other ladies, known as the Dark Side. Dusty is Big Bird's henchman, he hangs around with the Dark Side flock, but doesn't challenge Big Bird's position. Poor Millar belongs nowhere though, Froome is certainly not going to share his ladies, and Dusty isn't willing to let another male in to their flock. As a result Millar is always on the edge of things, trying very hard to convince the girls that his smooth good looks are what they want. In winter this is fine, but spring has bought rising testosterone levels, Millar and Dusty are scrapping for seniority, and the right to hang around with the flock.
My cockerels are looking a little like they've gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson... Millar is now living in his own house until the rush of spring fever subsides and they can all get on again.
As I might have mentioned previously, there's been lots of behind the scenes stuff going on recently. One of which has been developing a new workshop. There's a lot that goes on when I come up with teaching ideas.
After all there's a whole day to fill, and I like to make sure it's done professionally. That means writing a plan, creating visual aids, and quite often coming up with samples to show to people. It takes days when I add it all up (good job I don't really, I teach because I love it, rather than because it makes any sort of monetary sense!)
The latest workshop I've developed is called Spinning with a Purpose, and it's designed to get people to think about their yarn rather than just spin something and hope it works. It focuses on woollen vs. worsted, the effect of ply number, and why sampling is a "good thing" particularly when spinning for a garment. We also dissect lots of commercial yarns to really work out what the industry means when it describes something as DK weight.
There's quite a lot of things that we're always told are true, but it's nice to have concrete proof in front of you, so to that end I've been spinning and knitting a small mountain of swatches.
,In an ideal world nothing beats handling them to really get a feel for how they work as fabric, but I thought I'd share them via the blog as well. There are a lot, so this will be a semi-regular series of posts for a while.
One of the things that I hear quite often at guilds when I visit, and read even more online, focuses around leaving singles as singles.
A single is just 1 ply, just one length of yarn. It will be what is sat on your bobbin before plying.
Singles yarns are great, they're quick to spin, make a lovely fabric, but they are something you have to plan for. And it's the planning part that I wanted to illustrate with swatches.
I always sound like a bit of a grumpy guts when I tell people that if they want singles yarn they need to have spun it with an appropriate level of twist for it to be a singles yarn. If you intend to ply, then your singles need enough twist for them to hold together during the plying stage. That level of twist will be much too high for you to be able to use the singles without plying. Not unless you want a fabric that looks like the one above.
That swatch was square when knitted, there are no sneaky increases and decreases hidden the borders! Twist is stored energy, and when you knit with it that energy causes the fabric to lean more in one direction. It means that any item you make will also lean and twist.
If you spin a yarn intending for it to be a single you put in less twist, the yarn will always be unbalanced, as normally you ply to even out the twist energies. But if you spin for a single the twist level is significantly less, and the final fabric will have minimal skewing and twisting.
And no, you can't just hang the singles up with a weight dangling from them. The only people who should treat yarn that way are weavers. If you're a knitter hanging a weight from your yarn as it dries will just cause you even more problems. As soon as you get that yarn wet again you reactivate all that twist, and the item will be just as skewed and twisted.
So in short, don't do it!
If you want to spin singles you need to plan to spin singles, not just decide to do it later because you can't make a decision about plying.
Here's a close up of the singles used to knit that swatch. They're not exactly mega twisty...
I tend to like my yarns when the singles aren't too tightly spun, and tend to put slightly more plying twist in. Purely personal preference, but I find it gives me a nice durable fabric as the ends of the fibres are trapped by the other ply, but it's still soft due to the lower twist in the singles.
If spinning singles sounds like your sort of thing then the Winter 2015 edition of Ply magazine is a must read. You can buy it direct from the Ply magazine shop, or if you're in the UK or Europe it's cheaper to go direct to Janet at the Threshing Barn.