The Never Ending Gradient Club has been running for a whole year!
When I took the decision to end my Best of British Club it was a bit of a sad moment, I loved dyeing the club, and exploring the different British breeds, but I was ready for a change, and the gradient club certainly provides that.
It's an interesting club to plan, as I want to keep the colour palette shifting, but at the same time not move colours and shades too quickly or it makes it hard for people to use the fibres in larger projects.
I always dye some spares of club fibres, sometimes the dyeing goes wrong and a broad won't be a good match for the rest of the batch, and I like to have spares in case parcels go missing (though this happened extremely rarely). When the club first started Mum very nicely asked if she could spin up one of the spare braids once it became apparent they wouldn't be needed. Since then she's made up 2 whole garments using the club fibre.
She's horrendous to pin down for modelled shots, so I'm afraid a hanger is the best I could manage. This one is Sugar Maple, and uses the first 4 months.
Then she got a bit more inventive. This isMoore with a few modifications, such as a folded hem to neaten the front edge. It uses the Gradient braids along the bottom, paired with some Jamiesons and Smith 2-ply jumper weight
The majority of the skeins were more jewel toned, so Braid 5 (August) was left out completely, as was the first half of braid 6 (September). They're wound up in a giant 150g ball and will work for another smaller project.
After that it uses all of October, but then sections out of November and the start of December so that the colours progressed more quickly.
The leftover sections will be put to good use at some point... and of course, the magic braid fairy keeps delivering more wool!
I wonder what she'll make next...
If you'd like some ideas for patterns that work really well with gradients then I've been collating a bundle of favourites on Ravelry.
The club has a limited number of spaces, I can only dye so much fibre in any given time, and dyeing 100 braids of the same colour way would be too much like working in a production line. Therefore this club is comparatively small, and I don't operate a waiting list. Spaces are offered on a first come, first served basis, and are advertised using my shop mailing list, if you don't already get my emails then you can sign up below.
Wonderwool is under 2 weeks away, and in my head that means spring is here. (We'll ignore the year it snowed in through the slats on the sides of the hall). The hedges are only just starting to get green shoots, but the daffodils have been out for a couple of weeks.
Also, just like clockwork, the lambs have appeared in the fields behind the house. The Welsh Mountains lamb outside, pretty much by themselves, the farmers check the fields regularly to keep an eye out for problems, but other than that the sheep are left to get on with it.
So getting good photos is hard... the ones in the field behind the house don't get any supplementary feeding, so don't even associate humans with food.
Getting close requires a degree of sneakiness... and careful spotting of a sleepy lamb.
This one was very sound asleep, it wasn't until I was stood right over it that it jumped up with a start.
It was not impressed at having it's doze interrupted.
Though finding Mum made everything better.
At the moment they all want to stick close to their Mums, and are basically sleeping and eating. Give them another few days and gangs will start forming, and then the run can really start!
Over the Christmas holidays we were chatting as a family about our move to Wales. We were trying to work out how long we'd been living here, and indulging in the usual family disputes about such basic trivia.
Final piece of evidence, perfect for halting a younger brother in his tracks, was the date I opened my Etsy Shop, 25th April 2011.
I then realised that meant Hilltop Cloud turns 5 this year.
5.... 5 whole years of doing this. I still can't quite wrap my head around it.
I started out with a vague idea, spent a chunk of money from my final pay check as a teacher, evolving ever since.
In some ways I feel very lucky to have got to this point. I get to do a job I love, and I make a decent living doing it. Then my inner feminist snaps in to place and tells me to not be so wishy-washy. I work hard, I've developed a lot of skill at what I do, and I'm good at running a business. This didn't all happen by accident!
I've been pretty privileged to have some awesome role models amongst the wool-world. Natalie Fergie from The Yarn Yard patiently answered so many of my questions, and encouraged me to find my own path. Since then I feel lucky that my virtual office is filled with some of the most talented, clever, inspirational business women around. It feels so very good to know that I can be part of a community that supports each other, and want each other to do well.
Since Christmas I've been planning various ways to celebrate. The biggest thing is the In5pire challenge running over on the Ravelry Group. I've always been a big cheerleader for using up fibre, and not letting it sit in stashes spoiling. Right from the beginning I've ben a fan of using images to help inspiration flow (I even teach classes on it now!), and this challenge combines both those elements.
It's unlikely that I'll ever get to meet all my customers, but in threads like this one it feels like we're getting to meet up. It's like a giant spinning guild meeting, or an online version of a spinning retreat. It's a giant party featuring all of our favourite crafts, and it lasts until June!
I also wanted to create something to commemorate the occasion, things that are useful items in their own right, but also beautiful and unique. So there's a very small number of 5th anniversary goodies available to buy if you'd like something to remind you that you've been part of something that's hopefully been about more than selling things.
You lovely people are part of this. Yes you buy things, but I hope our relationship is about more than that. When we all talk, online or at shows, we pass on knowledge, spark new ideas, and have fun.
I'll finish this post in the way I end the club letters.
With great joy and thankfulness,
One of the things I refer people to most often is the piece that I wrote about plying twist. (Not read it yet? You can find it here, go read it and then head back to this post).
Plying twist gets much easier to judge as you become a more experienced spinner. In general, most people don't use enough plying twist. When I first learnt to spin I was taught how to do a ply back test. The one where you take a length of singles and let them twist back on themselves, then use that to judge your plying twist. What I failed to pick up on was that you have to do that test with freshly spun singles. Even singles that have sat on a bobbin for a couple of hours won't give you an accurate measure of plying twist.
Some of my first "proper" skeins... the singles were pretty good, but the plying job was just plain shoddy!
However, I knitted with it and was pretty happy with the finished shawl.
So with that in mind, just how important is plying twist in a finished fabric....
The Underplayed fabric is actually really nice, it has a nice feel to it, doesn't really suffer from biasing, if I hadn't labelled carefully I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between that and the one with a balanced ply.
The singles I used were actually from the same bobbin I used for the singles swatch in the last blog post.
The only disadvantage will be long term, the lack of plying twist means the ends of the fibres aren't as tucked in to the yarn. Over time it will be more prone to pilling, and won't wear as well.
The over-plyed swatch however has the opposite problem of the swatch made from singles, it skews, though this time in the opposite direction. It also feels harsher, stiffer, and just not as nice. I bet it will wear very well though...
Here's a close up of the skeins, left is under-plyed, centre is balanced, right is over-plyed.
How do you make sure you get it right?
When you're spinning pull off a small section of singles. Break the singles being sure not to let any twist escape. Fold it in half, then let the single wrap around itself. Tie a knot in the end and put it in a safe place!
When you start plying find your sample, and use that to judge the plying twist. Be sure to take a look at the yarn after it goes on to the bobbin as sometimes the stuff by your hands is ok, but as it winds on you can alter twist slightly.