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!
Just a quick post today to share some upcoming classes! I've been having a blast teaching at Black Sheep Handworx Studio - there are so many talented artists there from so many fiber arts backgrounds, that I always learn something new! AT the end of the week, I'll b e teaching in Montrose and Ridgway (there's still time to sign up!), and in June I'll be teaching at Estes Park Wool Market. Head over to my Calendar page for more information!
I've been working on warping up my Leclerc loom. It lives in my basement loom room, which is quite dark, meaning that it has probably been neglected for too long. (This was the last thing I wove on it.)
The warp for this project is silk from Redfish Dye Works - purchased at last year's Interweave YarnFest.
I warped this piece back-to-front. I learned to warp by warping from front-to-back, so going back-to-front is still something that I'm getting used to. This tutorial is very helpful, and I find that I reference it often.
After measuring out the warp on a warping board, it gets spaced out in the raddle, shown in the top picture. The raddle keeps the warp the right width as it gets beamed on.
After the warp is beamed onto the back beam, all the heddles are threaded. This piece has about 500 warp ends, all threaded in the pattern below. As you can see in the image above, I tend to tie each section into a loose bundle. This helps me keep track of where I am in my threading, as well as helps me double-check for errors. Catching an error at this stage is much easier to fix than once the whole warping process is finished!
This pattern is a twill pattern. There are lots of twill patterns out there, and this one combines a couple. When I'm doing this, I usually play with design software like WeaveIt until I have a pattern that I like. In this instance, I had a specific number of warp ends that I was trying to design around, so I played with ideas until I got a number that worked.
After threading the heddles, I untie those bundles one by one and pull warp ends through the reed. This particular yarn is a 20/2 silk, which a lot of people set at 27 ends to the inch. Since I don't have a reed that has 27 dents to the inch (most people don't!), I use a reed substitution chart to figure out what to do. I have reeds that are 8, 10, 12, and 15 dents per inch. Looking at the reed substitution chart, if I used the 12 dent reed, and sleyed in a sequence of 2 per dent, 2 per dent, 2 per dent, then 3 per dent, I would get 27 ends to the inch.
This was the first time I tried threading the reed laying down flat instead of upright in the beater. It was a lot easier than the way I learned and led to a lot less neck strain than the methods I'd tried before. (A description is in the tutorial I linked above.)
Of course, because nothing is ever as easy as it should be, I grabbed the 15 dent reed instead of the 12 dent and was almost halfway through the task when I realized what I'd done. (It was early, and my coffee apparently hadn't kicked in yet!) This mistake needed to be fixed, otherwise I'd end up with a narrow scarf as stiff as cardboard!
To fix the mistake, I could have pulled all the threads out of the reed and started over with the correct one. But because I had already done a lot of work grouping the threads together correctly, I improvised an easier and faster solution. I pushed the incorrect reed back, and then put the correct reed in front. Then I pulled each group of threads out of the incorrect reed and placed them into the correct one. It was a process all its own, but much faster than starting from square one! Once I was finished, no threads remained in the incorrect reed, so it was easy to just pull it away.
After sleying all the ends through the reed, I tipped it upright and put it into the beater, then tied on to the front beam and checked for errors. All ready to weave!
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?
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