This year, the spinning group in my guild decided to do a fiber exchange/challenge. The rules were simple: each person would bring in four ounces of clean, unspun fiber, we'd swap it, and make something with it by the end of the year.
I got a mystery wool, along with some light tan alpaca. I tossed it all in the dyepot along with some mohair that had been lingering in the stash. Once the wool was dyed, I blended everything on my drum carder, and spun it into fine singles. Then I 3-plied it, resulting in this yarn:
The mohair and wool give it a lot of shine, and the alpaca gives it a little bit of softness. Initially, I'd loved the color, but by the time I'd finished, I felt like I'd gotten my fill of that shade of pink.
So, back to the dye pot I went. I used a tye-dye method that I read about in the first issue of Tiny Studio Magazine. The result is a variegated yarn with pink, purples, and oranges.
Now to the next part of the challenge - actually making something with the yarn!
This spin is finished! This year, I've set myself a goal of spinning about four ounces of fiber every week. In part, I want to get a better understanding of how much I really spin, because it's not something I've really tracked before. Plus, I have an underlying goal of spinning about 12 pounds of fiber this year, and 4 ounces a week will get me there (plus give me a little bit of grace in those weeks I don't quite measure up).
In January, I blew that goal out of the water! Instead of spinning 20 ounces, I spun about 35 ounces . This project accounts for 30 of those ounces. And in addition to the actual spinning, there's the plying, which I somehow didn't think of when I was setting my goal!
The impetus for this project was two braids of Malabrigo Nube. Both were mostly purple, but one was more blue, and the other was more purple. And while I love Malabrigo, their spinning fiber is often felted, and this was no exception. I figured I would put it through the drum carder anyways, and decided to blend the braids with some other colors of merino I had on hand, plus a little bit of silk that was part of another braid.
My original vision for this spin was a more saturated blend of purples and oranges, but in order to stretch out the colors to have enough for a big project (most likely a sweater), I added a substantial amount of undyed fiber, which ultimately toned the yarn down to a lavender color.
As I was spinning, I figured I would jut overdye to get the yarn to the color I wanted, knowing that would also even out the color of the yarn. But then I saw the yarn next to this bag:
I wove the upper for this bag out of some sock yarn that I failed to blog or Instagram about, so I'm not really sure who dyed it (not me!). The base of the bag is an upcycled cashmere sweater. The colors harmonize so well with the yarn I just spun, I sort of took it as a sign that I shouldn't overdye it. Plus, I did try overdyeing with the singles that were leftover from plying, and wasn't super thrilled with the results. So, for now, this is the yarn I've got, and it's time to get cracking on the next batch of fiber!
Ravelry project page here.
These socks are finally off the needles, after about six months of working on them! They're basic stockinette socks - the stripes are due to how I dyed the yarn. Worked form the toe-up with a short-row heel, there's nothing really different about these socks than the dozens of other pairs I've made over the years.
Except that they took so long to make! Normally, a pair of socks takes me about 16-20 hours of knitting, spread out over a few weeks or a month.
I dyed the yarn in April, at a dye workshop with my local guild. I cast on sometime last summer, and was delighted to find I'd inadvertently created a self-striping colorway!
One of the reasons these socks took me so long was that when I started working on them, I was also suffering from a lot of fatigue in my hands. So even though I was loving the colors, they didn't get worked on much. I know that I was close to finishing the first sock in September. By the end of December, I was halfway through the cuff of the second sock, and decided the ribbing was the last thing I wanted to work on.
Last week, I finally finished the ribbing, and then it sat for yet another week waiting for the bind off (tubular bind-off, my favorite), weaving in ends, and blocking - a silly wait, since all those tasks took me less than twenty minutes.
Besides the literal pain in my hands when I first started working on these, I think one of the reasons this pair of socks took so much longer to make was that I didn't really need another pair of socks. Over the last couple of years, I've knit more than 20 pairs of socks. Adding that to a collection of SmartWool socks that I bought almost 10 years ago when I was working at a shoe store, I have a sock drawer that is pretty well-stocked. At this point, having socks on the needles is less about filling the need to put socks on my feet, and more about having a simple, portable knitting project ready to go at all times.
Which brings me to the question....
Should You Kon-Marie Your Works in Progress?
I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up way back in 2015 when it was just a book and not a Netflix sensation. Now that Marie Kondo has been invited into the living room of just about anyone with a Netflix account, there are lots more people talking about tidying up. Which isn't a bad thing. One of the things I took away from reading Kondo's book was that I really needed to be more thoughtful about how and why I acquire stuff - including yarn and knitting projects.
It's easy to take Kondo's "spark joy" approach and twist it into a consumerist excuse for throwing away too much, with no regards for the consequences.
When my hands hurt, these socks didn't spark joy. They made me feel a little hopeless, really, that one of my favorite hobbies was bringing me pain.
When I had ten rounds of ribbing left to knit, these socks didn't spark joy. They made me downright bored.
But when the socks were finally finished, that sparked joy!
Here's the thing about creative projects - they're not always joyful all the way throughout the process. There are challenges in every project, no matter how small or simple. Sometimes those challenges are draining, and sometimes they're fun. But they don't always "spark joy" immediately. Sometimes that joy is delayed, like with these socks.
As fiber artists, it's really up to us to think deeply about the projects we take on, the ones we hold on to despite the challenges, and the ones we decide to let go. Each of us has different priorities and needs, and we should all take those into account when we are considering our works in progress.
Sometimes, like with my socks, a period in "hibernation" is exactly what the project needs. Sometimes the knitter needs some time to think through the challenges, to heal sore hands, or time to work on other more pressing projects.
Sometimes, as Felicia Lo of Sweet Georgia Yarns said in this excellent video, casting on for a new project might just be about learning a new technique and not making the thing itself. Or a sweater that you started a year ago might not fit with your wardrobe now. It's perfectly fine to let these projects go. The bright side - it's just yarn, and can be easily unraveled and re-used!
How do you decide whether you should tidy up your works in progress?
Spinzilla is a yearly competition to see who can spin the most yarn. There are two categories: teams and "Rogue" spinners. There are winners in each category, based on yardage spun. It's all a friendly competition, and registration fees help fund the TNNA foundation, which helps to educate the public about fiber arts.
I wasn't so sure I was going to participate in Spinzilla this year. Last year I signed up to participate, and ended up spinning almost nothing. All the emails asking me to submit my yardage were a little depressing, since I was so disappointed with myself.
This year, I knew I was feeling overwhelmed with other commitments, and thought it would be silly to add one more thing to my plate. Naturally, I signed up! As I had done in the past, I chose to sign up as a Rogue spinner. I don't usually participate that much on forums, and there wasn't a team close by, so "going rogue" seemed like the best fit.
I decided to be gentle with myself this year. Just spin a little bit in the morning and evening, and don't worry about how much yarn there is at the end. I figured that schedule matched my habits anyways. Plus, I thought it would be interesting to see just how much I could spin in a week without really rushing myself. I often spin for projects over very long periods of time, so using this week's spinning as a baseline for future estimates seemed like a good idea.
In the end, I spun 1,708 yards of 2-ply yarn.* Since I don't have many bobbins handy at the moment, I plied as I finished spinning the singles for each colorway. The middle red-orange colorway had one single that was significantly longer than the other, so I plied that with the bits left over after plying on the other colorways, resulting in a few mini-skeins that are slightly different from their "main" color.
The fiber is Dorset Horn top from the Woolery, chosen because it was their "special" Spinzilla discount fiber this year. I bought 2 pounds (4 eight-ounce packages), and dyed each one a different color. The two darkest colors are very similar, and then there is a red/orange colorway, and a yellow/orange colorway. There wasn't really a method to the madness when I started dyeing the fiber - I just wanted to use up some pre-mixed dyes that were on the old side! I had a lot of red, orange, and yellow, so that's mostly what I used. The darker shades also have some purple and black in there to get the color to a deep burgundy.
I used my guild's spinning wheel, a single-treadle Schacht Matchless, to spin and ply all the yarn. This wheel is really one of my favorites to spin on, since it goes so fast. Lately I've been experimenting with double drive as a tensioning system, and really enjoy that setup.
I'm still undecided as to how I'll use this yarn. It's definitely not a soft-next-to-skin sweater yarn, at least for me. In researching the wool, I thought it would be a good rug yarn, and planned to use it in a warp. It might be a little bit sticky for what I had originally envisioned. I've also toyed with the idea of rug punching with it.
Once I took the pressure off myself to break records, spinning for Spinzilla this year was really a lot of fun!
*Because of the way Spinzilla gives credit for yardage, this is actually 5,124 yards (1,708 yards of single ply, multiplied by two, plus another 1,708 yards of spinning for when they are plied together). That's just under 3 miles of yarn!
The last time I blogged about this, it was still yarn. Now it's cloth, and I couldn't be happier with the outcome.
Unlike some of my other projects, warping this piece was relatively easy - after two days of warping, and a little bit of sampling, it was ready to weave. As I often do, I threaded the loom for a twill pattern, just to keep my eyes from glazing over while I was threading the heddles. A plain weave structure is typically warped on shafts 1-2-3-4, and then that sequence is repeated until the end of time. For twills, there are endless variations of patterns, but the one I chose was 1-2-3-4-3-2-1-4-3-2-1-2-3-4. The upshot is that there are more pattern possibilities with that complexity, including plain weave.
I sampled several twill treadlings, but didn't like them on the cloth. I often find that with a gradient warp like this one (and also this), plain weave just shows off the gradient in a wonderful way.
Originally, I had wanted to use a handspun weft in a dark brown. But I wanted to get the fabric woven more than I wanted to wait while I spun more yarn. Instead, I ended up using an olive green wool/alpaca blend that I bought as mill ends. It's 24/2 (laceweight for you knitters), and I bought a 4 pound cone of it that seems like it will never end. Even with about 5 yards of weaving on the loom, I barely made a dent in it.
I originally set the warp at 12 ends per inch, but it seemed too sticky. I re-sleyed the warp at 10 ends per inch in my 8 dent reed (the 10 dent is rusty), double-sleying every fourth slot. It turned out that the yarn was probably a bit too thick for a 12 dent reed, and I probably could have gotten away with 12 ends per inch if I'd started off in the bigger reed. After re-sleying the warp into a different reed, though, I was not in the mood to re-sley yet again.
Once I got weaving, there was no stopping me. It took a few days, weaving in one or two hour chunks, and then the warp was ready to take off the loom.
I wet-finished it in the washing machine. I was a little hesitant to do so, since even though I have a top-loading washer, it locks as soon as the cycle begins and it's just about impossible to pause the cycle to check on the progress. I set the washer to cool water on the gentle cycle, and selected the "deep water wash" option so there would be plenty of room in the water for the fabric to move around. It still needed a little more fulling once it came out, so I tossed it in the dryer for about 20 minutes, checking on it every five minutes or so.
The results look like this:
Because the weft is so much thinner than the warp, but I wove it as a "balanced" weave (10 ends per inch in both the warp and weft), the fabric is fairly thin and lightweight with a really nice drape.
I'd been intending to make a Wiksten Kimono Jacket from this, and started to gather fabric for a muslin when I realized how much of a yardage eater it is. My mom (an expert sewer) suggested the Fit for Art Tabula Rasa Jacket instead. I'm currently waiting on the pattern (and most of the extensions) to arrive in the mail. Then I'll make a muslin and hopefully be ready to dive in to actually do something with this fabric!
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