Sunday, July 26, 2009

Finish Line! Woohoo!

Turning up the gas, I pump up the proverbial hill and speed toward the finish line. I'm not here for glory, just to finish. The crowds are gathering in the early dawn as I set the Lendrum up to ply, this is the last leg, I can almost see the finish line.
Okay, so maybe I'm using a bit too much poetic wax. But the truth is the Tour de Fleece was not only fun, but a little bit exhausting. On more than one occasion, I'd be up pretty early and spinning like mad before going to work, trying to get closer to my goals.
Complicating this was a roadtrip I took with my husband to buy a new-to-me loom (I'll tell you about that in my next blog) and then I invited my entire spinning group to my house for a spin-in. Now that was a lot of fun and it helped me get some spinning done, but it also meant cleaning and making sure there were plenty of snacks. Of course, everyone brought snacks and yes, there is nothing better than spending a good part of the day hanging out with fellow spinners!
I managed to spin 4 skeins of sock yarn during the three weeks of the tour. Above, you can see them clockwise from top left: the skein of grey Corriedale mixed with some blue and lavender Cotswold, knitted Blue Faced Leicester and Firestar, a skein of red Cormo blended with grey silk, and grey Corriedale blended with purple and grey mohair. All of these blends will be knit into socks and tested for durability and I will report on them in future blogs.
I never did get to the brown Romney and Firestar blend shown. I think I will take my time spinning that over the next week or so. My next big spinning project is some purple dyed Shetland which I still need to card and then I'll be spinning up some warp for a blanket I want to make from a blend of merino and llama.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Treadling like mad on the Tour de Fleece

Treadling like mad, I’m spinning fine singles with excess speed to catch up with the pack on Ravelry’s Tour de Fleece. My ride, a Schacht Ladybug, is up to this marathon, taking the yarn up beautifully.
The first week went great, and I breezed through my first batch of batts, but this second week has found me behind, only spinning a little bit each day. I’ve just finished my second bobbin of a three-ply sock yarn. I still have enough batts for two more pairs of socks, and tomorrow, on the rest day, I’ll be carding batts for a third pair.
I’m not exactly sure how I got so far behind—beautiful days where I relaxed outside without my wheel, meeting with my knitting group, watching some show on TV (I knit or pick fleece there) or just plain not spending enough time at the wheel. But here I am, behind. I was hoping to have plied and be at least a couple of bobbins into my third skein for socks. To make up for it, I will finish bobbin three today and ply on my rest day. I might even start the third skein.
My stash has yielded some interesting blends. Above to the left, you can see the three ply yarn I spun from the batts below, purple dyed Bluefaced Leicester blended with red Firestar during the first week of the tour. It’s nice and glitzy and I’m hoping the nylon Firestar will add strength as well as pizzazz. Because the yarn ended out thicker than I wanted, I am knitting them into warm house socks. I suppose I’ll save these for company.
Downsizing the whorl on my wheel, I’m now better able to spin thin. This time I blended red cormo with some purple-grey and rose silk to create a colorway I am calling “Prairie Dawn.” You can see the batts on the right and the singles to the left. I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks plied. It should knit into some elegant socks. Another blend I’ll be spinning soon will be some brown Romney and multicolor Firestar, and grey Corriedale with red and purple mohair. Both of these blends should fit my goal of sturdy and comfortable socks.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rugs are finished!

My plan to write about spinning sock yarn on the Tour de Fleece has been preempted by a major development in my studio: today, I cut off the two runners I was weaving from my loom. I also finished them, tying the tassels and finally placing them where they need to go. This is my first weaving project, if you don’t count a long sampler I did investigating twill. I would call it my first “real” project as I made something. The rugs were woven out of necessity, because my store bought ones were worn out and are ready for the trash. It didn’t make sense to spend a couple of hundred dollars on commercial rugs, when I could use that money toward weaving supplies and enjoy making my own.
You can see them pictured above in a place of honor at the entrance of my house. They have a few flaws, and I will need to ask more experienced weavers what has caused them and how to avoid them in the future. I kind of jumped into it with no real idea what I was doing—learning by doing is what it was. My friend Beth put me in contact with a rug weaver, Nanette, and she was able to help me quite a bit via e-mail. As serendipity would have it, I just happened to buy 8/5 linen warp, which is what she uses, so her help was very useful. The whole project required lots of yarn—so I was spinning up a storm. Rug weaving is wonderful for stash reduction—what you see represents 7 fleeces worth of yarn all spun as four-ply.
What’s next in weaving? I still need to finish winding on the warp on that 20 inch loom I bought.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Darn Socks!

Winter Survival Socks have long been a staple of my knitting repertoire. Thick warm and sturdy, the socks are the perfect protection against February floors. They are also easy to knit—a simple 48 stitch cast on, a basic sturdy heel, and all the fun of turning the heel (this has long been my favorite part) and then round and round to the toe. What could be more perfect for mindless knitting?
The only drawback: the wear--darn socks! There has to be a better way! So I’ve been experimenting over the years with plies of different kinds of wools and finding ways to make a better sock yarn. (The ripped up socks to the left were two plies—yuck) On the left is an early experiment—a three ply of two shades of Romney for strength and a dyed Corriedale for softness. These socks have held up pretty well but I feel I can do better. I’d also like to knit some prettier socks—maybe adding a few fancy cables to the tops—so I need to discover a fine and sturdy three ply yarn.
To maintain focus, I’ve joined Ravelry’s Tour de Fleece. I’ll be spinning sock yarns everyday this month, going through my stash to experiment with sturdy blends for yarns. I’ve joined Team SOS (Spin our Socks), Gone Batty (for people who spin from batts) and Stash Busters, since I’ll be spinning from stash. I will do some of the blend experiments I’ve been thinking about the past couple of years. In future blogs, which I plan to do each Sunday, I will report on the progress. The real test will be in the wear, so this may take awhile. Creating indestructible sock yarn information will also be provided on my website under the tab “Sock Saga.”