This year I've been working on chipping away at my stash of wool fleeces. I've amassed quite a few over the last four years. When I get one home after a fiber festival, I scour it, which is a time consuming task in itself. Once that's done, I'm properly sore from hauling hot water all over the place, and the clean fleece sits on the shelf for an embarrassingly long time!
This year, with no fiber festivals or other bright shiny things to distract me and plenty of stash to work from, I've turned an eye to these fleeces. Follow along as I spend some time making roving from my swing picker and drum carder!
This past month, I decided to create a gradient of colors on my drum carder. It's almost all the colors in the rainbow (leaving out yellow and orange). Most tutorials show how to create a single batt that contains a gradient. However, I knew that I wanted a large amount of yarn of each color, so in this instance, I created a single batt that contained each color, and then pulled the batt into roving using my Spinner's Multitool.
My gradient starts with green, and ends with a dark pink. These were created from Spring and Confetti. The blues and purples in the center were created from Orion's Nebula. Where I had similar colors lurking in my stash, I blended those in too.
To start, I carded three colors - the pale green, the middle blue, and the pink. Then I blended each together with its neighbor to create an intermediary color, and then once again, for a total of seven colors. I'd meant to create a video tutorial showing how this is done, but after spending a whole day recording, the video was out of focus! Maybe next time.
I did manage to get a video (with no narration) showing how the colors are blended on the drum carder - in thin layers to promote a heathered effect in the final yarn. There's more detail on how layering colors works in this post.
Once all the fiber was carded and pulled into roving, I spun it into singles. Most of the fiber in this blend is Falkland, which is a medium wool with lots of bounce. I also knew that I wanted a bulky yarn. Mostly I spin very fine yarn, so this was a challenge for me, but I took my time and checked my yarn thickness with my spinner's multitool. I spun the singles at 18 wraps per inch, then chain-plied them . After wet finishing (with a good thwacking), the final wraps per inch measurement is between 6-9 wraps per inch - a nice thick yarn like I wanted!
If you're staying at home to help flatten the curve of COVID-19, you might have more time on your hands to knit, spin, weave, crochet, or participate in other fiber arts. This can be a silver lining, and it is also a time to make sure you're taking care of your hands! It would be a huge bummer to be staying inside with hands that are too sore to knit!
I shared some of these links a few years ago, when I was suffering from repetitive stress at work. Now, they're updated with a few more tips I've discovered.
ICYMI, How to wash your hands. And, if you're tired of humming "Happy Birthday" twice through, you can use this website to come up with a different song (plus a downloadable poster). And don't forget the lotion!
If you're missing that massage you'd normally get during a manicure, here's how to massage your own hands.
This video helped me a ton. And I wish I had incorporated the exercises from this video a little bit sooner.
Esther Rodgers (aka Jazzturtle) has a great class called Fiber Preparation for Spinning. Don't let the title of the class fool you - she shares lots of ergonomical tips and exercises for taking care of our most precious equipment - our bodies.
We Are Knitters has this handy infographic. It moves! (Is gif-o-graphic a word?)
If you're more into the written word, Carson Demers is the expert on ergonomics for knitters. He has this fantastic book, and he's written a few great articles for Ply Magazine, too. He also has an interview on the Fruity Knitting Podcast. (Interview starts at about the 41 minute mark)
Everything we do with our bodies has a cumulative effect, which is why I love "spoga," aka Spinners' Yoga. Also great for knitters, weavers, crocheters, rug hookers...basically anyone who sits down and uses their hands to craft.
I'd love to know if there are any other resources you find really helpful for keeping your hands in tip-top shape!
I bet I don't have to say it, but here it is - everything is up in the air right now.
I'm still showing up to work, because it's pretty much the same as working from home. My husband and I run our businesses out of our big warehouse building. It's just us and one employee, so social distancing and sanitizing the surfaces we touch are all pretty easy. Or not easy, but very, very possible. We don't have many visitors and have shut down our normal "open to the public hours" for now.
I'm lucky that I still feel like I have somewhere to go, but everything is topsy turvy. Like a lot of other folks, I've had at least one event cancelled due to COVID-19, and there's the possibility that more will be canceled. It's really hard to tell how much of an impact this is having on my business, since this is the first year I signed up to do fiber festivals.
Instead of doing my normal dye runs last week, I decided to experiment instead. I was gifted a bunch of "worms," or offcuts from Pendleton blankets. These are a by-product of the industrial weaving process, and people can buy them for weaving, rug hooking, and more. I have a big stash of them, but they weren't really in colors that were exciting to me, so I decided to see what would happen if I overdyed them.
Usually when I dye, I'm using pretty exact formulas to get exactly the colors I want. But with these, I eyeballed everything. When the pink was getting *too pink,* I threw in a handful of unspun BFL locks to absorb the extra dye, a tip I learned from Suzy Brown of Fibery Goodness.
There's still a huge pile of braids waiting for labels and to be listed on my website. I also have a couple of new products to photograph and list, so those will be coming soon. But for now, I'm trying to do as much offline as I can, so I don't fall down the rabbit hole of reading headlines.
How are you staying busy?
One of the most fun parts of my job is spinning up samples of fiber so people can have an idea of what it might look like once it's spun. (Of course, there are many, many ways to spin a braid - each of my samples is just one possibility!)
This sample is Hush, spun from merino fiber. It's also available on Falkland fiber. For this sample, I stripped the braid into narrow sections of top, and spun my singles to between 48-56 wraps per inch, using my Ultimate Spinner's Multitool.
After plying, a washing, and a light "thwacking," the two-ply fluffed up to about 22 wraps per inch. I have about 600 yards of this two-ply.
I had a lot of singles left on one bobbin. Sometimes it's fun to try different plying techniques, so for this mini-skein, I spiral-plied my singles with a gray commercial laceweight merino yarn. There are about 80 yards of this one, and I look forward to playing with the texture in my weaving!
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