21 July 2010


The recent radio silence is due to a awesome long weekend trip to NYC. We took the train down and talked most of the way. It was awesome even if it took all day. Much more civilised than taking the bus and less of a hassle than taking a plane. We hunted for vinyl, found great books and visited craft mecca. There's pics on my Flickr if you're bored/interested.

I won't have much to report on until sometime next week as my parents are in town visiting. But on the upside, my mom is actually letting me use her iPad. I know, I'm surprised too.

13 July 2010

Fear Factor Fibre - Cotton Balls

Over the weekend I was doing some research on how to approach some of the upcoming fibres when I came across these wonderful YouTube spinning tutorials by Spin2weave. I started off watching the cotton prep video, then intro to spinning cotton, then any of the other videos she has of any interest. I really like her presentation. I love when her dogs come a sniffing when she's working with dog hair in one of the videos and there's something fabulous about her spinning wheel/chair set up. The big fairytale wheel didn't appeal to me until I saw hers paired with the beautiful chair she uses with it.

In her second intro to spinning cotton video, she mentions that you can spin cotton balls. Yes. From the drugstore cotton balls. She even has some colourful ones and SPINS THEM RIGHT THERE FROM THE BALL!!! My mind exploded a little bit when I saw this.

So I of course stopped at the drug store yesterday and of course HAD to pick up some cotton balls to try. Extra bonus of learning by playing with cotton balls is that I don't have to feel bad about "ruining" my nice cotton when it arrives.

They look really fun to spin, like little marshmallows to spin and play with rather than eat.

But man, cotton is HARD. I've been practising a supported long draw while working with soy silk and I've kind of gotten the hang of it, but clearly cotton is a whole other animal. I had ALL kinds of breaking issues. I was getting into some decent long draw rhythms but then it would break or separate (not sure which) and I'd have to start again. I think I may have to go up a whorl but that's pretty scary too. I'm already using a higher ratio than I'm used to. I even swapped out the wheel ratio pieces when plying the milk.

This is my initial progress of spinning cotton balls:

As you can see I didn't get very far into it. I stopped after maybe 3 balls. I was tired and getting pretty frustrated. I'm going to try some more tonight. Or I might give up for now and go back and finish the second half of the soy silk.

11 July 2010

Fear Factor Fibre - Milk Fibre

Next on the Fear Factor Fibre list is Milk.

I found this very lovely braid of Milk Fibre on Etsy from Moonlight and Laugther. After buying it, the seller started a conversation with me and sent me a link to this post about working with milk.

After reading up on it, I tried just drafting straight from one end. It seemed to draft really quite easily. Especially compared to the issues I was having with drafting the silk so I decided to treat it as usual and spin from one end.

I found that the milk didn't like to go too fine or it would break so I left it a little thicker than I've been spinning lately. Also the milk has a tendency to slip out if there's not enough twist so I made sure I was getting that bumpy appearance to my singles before moving on. I've been using a higher ratio on my wheel lately, so this didn't slow things down much.

I originally planned to 2-ply this but after loading up my bobbin with all the fibre, I REALLY wanted to ply straight away. I just couldn't wait a day for the twist to set and then fight with a center pull ball so I changed my mind and chain-plied instead. I think it turned out really nicely.

Once done plying and off the niddy noddy, the yarn was perfectly balanced. That NEVER happens to me. Milk is some kind of wonder fibre. I wonder if I even need to wash and finish it. I might anyways just to be safe.

'Faerie Dust' Moonlight and Laughter
100% Milk Fiber
approx. 189.8 yards
15 wpi
3.75 oz.

I REALLY liked working with the milk, especially with all the difficulties I had with the silk roving. The yarn has this nice cotton-y/silk blend sort of feeling and is nice and shiny. I will definitely be spinning this fibre again.

10 July 2010

Fear Factor Fibre – Silk Roving

Next up on the Tour de Fleece Fear Factor Fibre challenge is working with pure silk roving. As it happens I already had 2 pure silk rovings in my stash. Since they're both sort of in the same colour range, I decided to spin them separately and ply them together.

'Ice Queen' Space Romantic
100% Mulberry Silk
2 oz.

I bought this Space Romantic mulberry silk this year shortly after buying my wheel, when I was sampling from various indie-dyer types. It's very pretty, soft, silky (of course) and was pretty straightforward to spin.

I spun directly from the top, no pre-drafting. Once I figured out the optimal drafting zone size (large), things went quite smoothly.

'Mermaid Darling' Ozark Handspun (my name for the colourway)
100% Silk
1.75 oz.

This silk has been living in my stash for a few years and for some reason was super difficult to draft properly. Early in my career as a spinner, I did work with another bump of Ozark silk roving and remember finding it pretty tricky. But as I was a new spinner, I figured it was me and not the fibre. I'm not sure if the issue was that it's been sitting in a bundle for 2 years, or that it's just tricky to work with. Whatever the reason, there was a LOT of swearing while spinning this up.

Randomly, there was a large piece of blue/aqua silk and this smaller piece of green/brown. Totally strange. I alternated a green piece with an aqua piece when spinning. For some reason, the aqua was more cooperative than the green/brown.

I tried a few things to try and get the silk to draft nicely.

I tried teasing open the roving before spinning, which didn't always help things. While spinning, if I got a largish lump, I stopped, teased it open and was able to draft out the extra fibre.

What I found helped the green/brown be somewhat cooperative was lightly pre-drafting the piece before taking it to the wheel. Really, just breaking things open a bit here and there so that it would actually draft. Still it was not nearly as nice to spin and the Space Romantic.

Look! Pretty singles:

Plying was pretty straight forward. The skein has a largish section with the Ice Queen plied back on itself near the end—I used an Andean plying bracelet for this which was kind of a bitch in places.

The finished yarn is very nice. The green has mostly disappeared making the blue more turquoise in places. The areas of brown seemed to have softened to a tannish. Overall the skein is very pretty.

'Ice Mermaid Darling Queen'='Ice Queen' Space Romantic + 'Mermaid Darling' Ozark Handspun
approx. 385.3 yards
100% Silk
3.75 oz.
19 wpi

I'm now partway through spinning the milk fibre and its a dream to work with. Drafts like nobody's business which is REALLY nice after all the swearing-inducing Ozark silk.

8 July 2010

The Fibre has arrived

1. Hankie mixed pack, 2. Gray Overdyed Coopworth Locks, 3. Clover Honey loose, 4. Guanaco, 5. Pink Granite loose, 6. Urban Decay Silk Hankies, 7. Moonlit Walk loose, 8. Locks goodie baggie bonus, 9. Faerie Dust loose

Most of the fibre I ordered for my Tour de Fleece – Fear Factor Fibre challenge has now arrived. Isn't it pretty? I just finished plying the silk that seemed like it took forever to spin/ply. One of the bumps was much less cooperative for some reason plus it turns out I'm a busy girl during the week so I haven't had much spinning time. Add in a bout of 30-36°C (86 - 96°F) weather around here and my free time has been spent with my feet in a tub of cool water rather than treddling away with Fiona.

So enjoy the pretty pictures of the pretty pretty fibres. I promise I'll have the silk report properly set and documented tomorrow. I have it set up so I can soak my feet like I'm 90 while on the computer.

5 July 2010

An army of one

I have begun my army of dresses with McCall's M4769. After playing fantasy seamstress and as the patterns begun to arrive in my mail box, I took them with me to my regularly scheduled crafterday at Effiloché and continued to play the game.

Turns out adding fabric makes the game more fun, but hard to stay reasonable. I was going to start with getting fabric for one dress and it quickly became fabric for 5 dresses. In the end I kept things reasonable and only bought fabric for 2 dresses. Very restrained I think.

Daniel helped me fit the pattern in the style of Fit for Real People. There's a bit of a learning curve with these techniques but I think it's worth the pay off to get a dress that actually fits properly.

The last time I sewed garments was back in the summer between grades 6 and 7 when my mom decided my brother and I would learn to sew. Our aunt, a self-taught seamstress and my mom showed us how the basics of making clothes. I ended up with a closet full of dresses and my brother got a complete wardrobe of colourful vests (it was the 90's after all). That year my mom bought a serger for us to use so I'm learning about "properly" finishing the inside of a garment. French seams, bias tape and all that jazz.

It's coming along quite nicely. Well at least between fights with my vintage free-to-me sewing machine. I try to show reverence and respect. I even recently moved it to a more permanent part of the kitchen so it may feel more cooperative. I've been giving it some personal space for a while, but I'll try it tonight and see how hospitable it feels. Fingers crossed that it goes well.

I have had some difficulty fitting the sleeve cap into the armhole. Our adjustments to the sleeve seem to have added an awful lot of fabric to the top. I hand basted it into the dress. The effect of a 19th century sleeve in a 20th century dress design really doesn't jive.

So I rebasted the sleeve into position, taking the excess fabric into two pleats near the top. It's still not quite right. I think I might have to adjust the pleats a bit to get them to sit nicely. There's a lot of fabric in each pleat so I might try splitting 2 pleats into 4: two smaller ones on the front part and 2 on the back part of the sleeve.

I'll keep you posted.

Oh and don't these shoes look cute with the dress?

4 July 2010

Fear Factor Fibre – Mohair Locks

I decided to begin my Tour de Fleece Fear Factor Fibre challenge with something that has been sitting in my stash taunting me for years. I've wanted to spin locks since I started spinning because it's one of my nicknames from my group of girlfriends that lived together in London. Locks for Locks. It's just too much isn't it?

This little baggie of Mohair Locks was brought back as a souvenir from someone's fibre tour of New England and has been just waiting for me to get on with it already and just spin 'em! Apparently I needed to wait a few years, get a wheel and spin a bunch of wool before I could attack the locks.

But these locks have been tamed.

1. Mohair Locks, 2. Single Lock, 3. Teased Lock

Someone told me about how to work with locks. At least I think someone did. Or maybe I read about it somewhere. Anyways, you can see above how I teased open each lock so that it would draft nicely and then spun each one from the fold like so:

Again this is something I read/heard about. But of course being who I am, I had to try out the alternatives. I tried spinning from either end of the lock. It's a little easier to spin from the one to the other.

Of course it's tricky to tell which end is which, especially once they're teased open. So spinning from the fold makes sense. Half of the fibre is "the right way" and the other half is pulling the other way, averaging out the difficulty. And you don't have to pay attention to which end is which. These locks were kind of greasy which I hear makes them better to work with but I found that sometimes I was really fighting with the stickyness.

It took me a while to get used to spinning from the fold. I've never done it before and learning any new technique is bound to feel strange at first. By the end of the baggie, I got the hang of it. I'm ready to tackle the next bundle of locks once it arrives. I have some Merino and some Coopworth locks making their way to my mailbox.

Overall I really liked working with the locks. I teased a bunch, then spun a bunch, then teased some more and spun some more until they were all done. The variations of green really evened out in the spinning. But the resulting yarn has this nice semi-solid quality without being splotchy like some kettle dyes can be.

1 July 2010

Tour de Fleece—Fear Factor Fibre

Amanda and I were discussing our plans for the Tour de Fleece during our last St-Jean Baptiste Spin-in and came up with what I think is a pretty fun challenge.

Introducing Fear Factor Fibre!

Here's the idea. We're both going to take the plunge into spinning things all those freaky fibres that intimidate us to spin.

My list includes: locks, pure silk, silk hankies, pure alpaca, cotton, flax/hemp, milk fibre, soy silk, sea cell, guanaco.

Both of us have travel plans during the traditional Tour de Fleece dates so have extended the challenge to the full month of July. We've also relaxed on the whole spin everyday thing. I kind of went overboard ordering things on Etsy, so there's a whole lot of freak making it's way to me.

I figure if I can get 2/3 of the list accomplished during July, I will have achieved the challenge. Plus I'll have the rest of the freaks in my stash to continue playing with.

Happy Tour de Fleece to all those spinners out there.