I am oh so very behind in writing this post... but I am finally in a position to work through my to-do list and get round to all the things that are on it that I wanted to do, but weren't urgent!
Over in the Hilltop Cloud Ravelry group we have a community thread for people to share photos of their spinning, and finished objects. It's called Spin It, Knit It, Win It, but of course you're not limited to just knitting. It's one of my favourite places to browse in the mornings with a mug of tea, and is a huge source of inspiration.
These are the highlights from the last round, but if you missed posting in that thread fear not, there's a new thread every 3 months and you can post in it at any time. If there's a Ravelry project/stash entry for the photo then clicking on the image will take you to the appropriate page.
And while I'm writing a post that feature Ravelry projects, I am going to repeat here what I have already said on my various social media accounts. I am in complete agreement with Ravelry's decision to ban support for Donald Trump on their site. I am tired of trying to express kindness and tolerance towards individuals who support him, when their views display a complete lack of tolerance and kindness towards the individuals who are harmed by his policies. I have tried having polite discussions, but to use a well used analogy, it's like trying to play chess with a pigeon. They're not interested in opening their minds, and I'm no longer willing to share my space with them.
If you've not received your parcel yet, then look away now!
Are are the videos and fibre information to go alongside the June round of the Non-Wool Club. The spare fibre from previous rounds is now live in the Non-Wool section of the shop if any of the previous videos have wetted your appetite to try these fibres.
We're on to a new 3 month block of this club, some fibres are ones we encountered last time, but others are brand new.
I've started off with Viscose. This is a shiny fibre, in many ways similar to silk, but it's a manufactured cellulose fibre. The plant material is turned in to a pulp, and then forced through fine jets producing the fine stapled fibre. You may also see this fibre described as Rayon. The smooth, shiny nature of the fibres produces a yarn with very little memory or bounce so I think it's best suited to being spun more finely. I prefer to spin it straight from the end of the length of top to produce maximum shine, but you may like to try spinning it from the fold if you're struggling with the fibres getting away from you. The amount of twist will depend on your intended use, knitting yarns can use much less twist, but if you plan on weaving with it them add more twist as it will suffer from abrasion from the heddles and reed.
The next fibre in this round of parcels is Ramie. This is another cellulose plant fibre, but not a manufactured fibre, this is a traditional base fibre like Linen (Flax) or Hemp. It comes from the nettle family; Boehmeria Nivea and Boehmeria Tenacissima. These plants grow incredibly quickly, they can reach a heigh of 2 or 3 metres and be harvested several times in a single year. When linen is processed you can remove the outer stem by hitting it, but this isn't possible with ramie. The inner stem is instead treated with lye (the same chemical used to make soap) and that dissolves the pulpy material, leaving behind the fibrous vascular bundles. The fibre is then combed to make the length of top we are spinning from. The fibre has a long staple length and develops a beautiful lustre when spun. Be sure to keep your hands well spaced, and don’t use too much twist or you’ll end up with string. This fibre blends beautifully and evenly and adds strength to your finished yarn. You can spin this one from the fold but it really does lead to a slightly hairy yarn, rather than one with beautiful smoothness and shine. It works better when spun more finely as it has no memory or bounce, but it does drape beautifully, and as with all bast fibres the more you handle and work it the softer it becomes.
The final fibre is a new one for the club. Yak down is a very fine stapled fibre, at 17-19 microns this is nearly as soft as cashmere, and with many similar properties though is slightly shorter in staple length. The yak is collected when the animals moult, and is then commercially dehired to remove the diff guard hairs leaving behind the soft undercoat. The short staple length will be your biggest battle with this fibre, if you try to use a short forward draw you will continually feel as if you are having to grasp the fibres for grim death to stop them getting away from you. Switch to a point of twist draft and it will all become much easier. Don't panic if your yarn isn't super even, plying will make a huge difference to the final yarn. You can use lots of twist with this fibre, in fact lack of twist will produce a yarn that is likely to pill very quickly. If you over-ply your yarn slightly you will increase the bounce and memory, making this yarn ideal for things like hats and cowls. It will work well when spun more thickly, though thinner yarns are also beautiful in fibres of this type.
I finished this cardigan a couple of weeks ago and it's already got so much wear. The combination of an open front, but still with a Mohair fuzz has proved to be perfect in the Welsh spring.
I spun the yarn from some hand dyed BFL & Silk I bought from Mandacrafts a couple of years ago.
It's dyed in what I refer to as a repeating style, so the blocks of colour repeat at a regular interval. Fine if you want stripes, but I knew I wanted to use this in a garment, and didn't want broad stripes that I would want to match up on the arms and the body. So I stripped it in to thinner pieces of varying thicknesses, and broke those up in to chunks of varying lengths.
That gave me 1100m of heavy fingering/sport weight yarn....
I also had some Mohair singles that I'd intended to use as a carry-along yarn in a project, and thought it would work well with this BFL & Silk to allow e to work the yarn at a looser gauge and to knit something larger.
I swatched the 2 together to check I liked the fabric, and then dyed a small sample to bring out the orange shade in the BFL & Silk.
I really fancied an open fronted longer length cardigan, and found Mama Vertebrae, which is excellent for handspun because it gives you instructions that cover 4 different yarn weights (fingering, DK, light Worsted and Aran). The open front makes it very size flexible, and the top down construction means you can put the sleeve stitches on holders, knit until the body is long enough, and then go back o use up every last scrap on the sleeves.
We're getting in to my favourite time of year. The garden is starting to come alive, the weather is warming up, and the days are blissfully long. After a winter of dashing from house to dye studio it's blissful to be able to stand at the top of the garden and feel the sun on my face.
I've been out and about quite a lot over the last month, which has meant that the online shop hasn't had quite as many shop updates as is normal. However, I've nearly finished working on a commission project, and have got the first batch of Tour de Fleece team fibre sent out, so as we go in to June I should be able to ficus a bit more on the bread and butter work of dyeing lots of fibre in lots of colours!
On a personal spinning note I've just finished a big batch of spinning for a cardigan. I'm not going to go in to too much detail, because I think it's deserving of it's own post with the technical information on spinning to specific grists for certain projects. However, I was rather pleased with the colour I dyed it with once the fibre was spun. I used some undyed Cambrian, and then dyed the yarn because I wanted this lovely glazed effect with a deep red with a wash of black over the top. The colour is going to go perfectly with some of my summer dresses, here's hoping I get the project finished before the warm weather disappears!
This time last year we were just in the middle of sorting out leaking pipes that bring in our water supply, which eventually led to building our new rockery and pond...One year on, and we can see what survived the drought last summer, and the winter, so it was off to Aberconwy Nursery to fill in some gaps. If you're ever up on the north Wales coast this is a lovely little place, filled with some really unusual alpines. While we were up on the north coast we went to Plas Mawr in Conwy. This is a stunning Tudor town house, that is amazingly well preserved. I can't believe we've never been here before, but it's an absolute delight.
One of my 2019 resolutions was to make more of the opportunities I get when I travel round the country teaching at workshops, so when I was teaching at Oxford Guild I came home in a slightly circuitous way, and spent a couple of nights on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, and went to Bletchley Park.
I spent the whole day here, getting utterly immersed in the work of the World War II code breakers. By the end of it my brain hurt, I don't think I'd have been selected to work as a code breaker!
The Non-Wool section of the shop has continued to expand, and there are now lots of unusual fibres that are not commonly available in the UK. In particular one that I've not seen before is Wild Giant Himalayan Stinging Nettle. This fibre comes from Nepal, growing in the foothills of the Himalaya at heights of 1800-3000m. It can grow up to 3m in 1 yer, and the harvesting process actually encouraged the plant to put on better root growth which stabilises the soil structure. This reduced land slides and soil erosion. Local people do all the harvesting and scrutching, providing vital employment in this area in a way that encourages the protection of the local forests, as the plant will only grow when there is a tree canopy above it. It spins in a very similar way to Ramie, making a beautiful smooth, strong yarn that would be great for lace or summer tops.