Revenge of the Super Silk-tacular Hankies

Silk Hankie Burrito

When packing for Christmas vacation, I really wanted to bring some spinning with me, but wanted to keep my luggage to a minimum. So I opted to pack this Silk Hankie burrito and my drop spindle. I really haven’t used my drop spindle much since buying my wheel almost a year ago, but as I was already going to be bringing a sewing machine back with me, I thought packing a wheel was a bit much.

Hankie mixed pack

Over the holidays, I did start working with this fibre. Separating and pre-drafting the hankies into little fibre nests was actually quite fun. But spinning on a drop spindle has definitely stopped being so fun after working on a wheel. Especially spinning silk. Especially spinning this silk. I don’t think there was anything actually wrong with the fibre I purchased. I’m sure it’s entirely user un-familiarity more than anything.

I ended up packing up all the nests in a complicated saran wrap dealie and bringing back home. I took what I had started on the spindle, transferred it to a bobbin and continued the spinning on my wheel. It was still kind of a bitch to spin which is why it’s taken me two and a half months to finally finish up this skein.

Silk-tacular skein
‘n° 2457–Navy Blue, Gold, Plum’ Fiber Cottage
100% Silk Hankies
1 oz.
approx. 325 yards

I’ve been REALLY wanting to start spinning something new, so forced myself to finish spinning up the silk already. And after a week of spinning for a bit in the evening, it started getting easier to work with (Much MUCH less swearing). Last night I FINALLY finished spinning the singles and COULDN’T wait to be done! So I immediately begun plying the singles.

Silk-tacular skein

I must have developed some kind of Stockholm syndrom with this fibre or something because as soon as I finished plying and saw how nice the yarn was, I almost convinced myself to get started on the other batch of hankies in my possession.

Luckily I got a hold of my senses and begun plying the other singles that have been sitting around for months. I can’t believe that this is actually the first yarn that I’ve spun this year. It definitely won’t be the last.

Fear Factor Fibre – Seacell

I was a bit over zealous when acquiring fibre for the Tour de Fleece this summer. My Fear Factor Fibre challenge really had too many freaky fibres that I was interested in trying to spin. I’ve been slowly working my way through the basket I’ve accumulated while allowing myself to spin other things in between.
Moonlit Walk loose
I spun the first bump of seacell some time during the fall. There’s a haze of fibre in my mind, so I’m afraid that I can’t be much more exact. The singles were spun and sitting on a “spare bobbin” (read: toilet paper roll) for a while before I spinning up the other bump.
Clover Honey loose
I decided pretty early on that I would ply the 2 bumps together as there’s a small amount of fiber in each braid (about an ounce each). I guess that I was procrastinating the spinning of the yellow bump because I wasn’t sure how nicely the resulting yarn would be. The colouring in each braid was so subtle that they’re easily lost once plied together. It probably would have been good to consider the colours a little more when choosing the fibre in the first place. But it’s still pretty nice yarn.
Clover Walk 2-ply
For spinning, I took the braid of seacell, split it several times lengthwise into smallish slivers. I think I pre-drafted the first bump before spinning it. The second one I spun directly from the divided pieces of top (I was much more cavalier the second time around). The pre-drafting definitely made a difference. Seacell definitely has a tendency towards the immovable velcro-ness of silk at times. Pre-drafting makes a real difference in making it more enjoyable to spin.
Clover Walk 2-ply
All in all I like this little silky skein of seacell. The natural silvery grey colour of the seacell is really unique and intriguing. I would spin it again if I came across another nicely dyed braid. Though I think I’d buy a larger quantity so I could make a usable sized skein.
Clover Walk 2-ply
2-ply using 2 bumps of Seacell:
‘Clover Honey’ PortFiber
100% Seacell
0.7 oz.
‘Moonlit Walk’ PortFiber
100% Seacell
1 oz.

Fear Factor Fibre – Cotton Sliver

It’s been a while since I posted any updates on the whole Tour de Fleece thing. And to be honest, I haven’t spent any time at the wheel for a while. But the past few weeks I’ve been ploughing through the fibre that’s been half spun on the wheel for months.

Here’s the first half of the cotton sliver spun & plied.
I spun cotton sliver!

‘Leaf’ Blonde Chicken
100% Organic Cotton Fiber
2 oz.

For the record 4 oz. of cotton sliver is a HECK of a lot to spin!

Fear Factor Fibre – Cotton Noil

I bought this noil because the colour really struck me. I had never heard of noil before and realised after I bought it that there would be a need for some fibre prep before I could spin this. I knew I was going to have to bite the bullet and get some hand carders.

Up to this point, I have been resistant to getting into the major fibre prep thing as I knew it would be a slippery slope to drum carders, buying whole fleeces and generally turning my apartment into a wool mill. But my I was foolish enough to fall for some pretty pretty fibre in need of prep, so hand carders were in my future.

Luckily for me I wouldn’t have to shell out for a brand new set of hand carders just yet. On a trip to Quebec city with my parents, while visiting the antique shops on Saint-Paul in Old Quebec, my dad pointed out to me this lovely set of hand carders. I looked at the price and pretty much squeeeeeeed in delight. A decent pair of hand carders for pretty much half the price of new ones. SCORE!

Yes, I know they say “N° 5 Wool” on the back, but I figure it’s close enough for me to try things out without too much of an investment. And as my dad said, if they don’t work out, they’re still antiques. He spent the rest of the trip pointing out loom bobbins, flax combs and any kind of spinning wheel he came across. A side note, there are several shops on the way to Quebec along the 20 with a great selection of wheels. You can get a wheel in good condition complete just needing a belt for around $300. But of course you’ll only be getting 1 bobbin at the most.

I’ve been studying up with my spinning fairy godmother, Ruthann Macaulley and researching making punis is no different. So following her demonstration in this video:

I went to work.

After a few awkward attempts, I really started to get the hang of things. Passing the fibre from one card, back to the other almost like a pro. Wouldn’t you know it, but this fibre prep thing is kind of fun! Before long I had quite the stack of hand rolled goodness to spin up.

I never thought I’d like the fibre prep—lord knows I abhor doing hours of predrafting—but working with hand cards is a lot faster than I thought. And I guess add some technology/toy to the equation and it’s party time!

Can I just tell you right now how much I LOVE the word puni. PUNI! P-U-N-I! I love that when spoken, it kind of sounds like a swear or something dirty but it’s totally not. No really, it’s ok to say puni at the top of your lungs PPPPPUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNIIIIIIIIIII! Puni. Love it.

K, onto working with the punis (…puni). Spinning from punis is pretty cool. Much easier than working from the cotton balls. At least at my level of experience with spinning cotton. I found that they were somewhat easier to work with when rolled a little bit tighter around the knitting needle. A firm puni makes for happy spinning. The fibres are more inclined to stick together when somewhat strongly encouraged. Plus I found that working with slightly felted fibres when I was first learning to spin helped me feel like I wouldn’t “break” the fibre while I was spinning it.

There was some breakage here and there when spinning the singles and overall they came out somewhat slubby and quite neppy. I think the nepps are mostly because I was working with noil. Overall there wasn’t nearly as much swearing and heart break as I had when first playing with the cotton balls.

I was quite concerned about getting a lot of breaking when plying the singles so I kind of left it for a week or two. I even started spinning some of the cotton sliver (is it pronounced sliver or sl-eye-ver? anyone know?) which drafts like a dream. I just have to watch that I get enough twist to keep it from coming apart altogether. The twist in the singles was very well and set once I did get around to it. And the breakage was minimal thought swearing was heard when it did happen.

I decided to go chain-ply because I didn’t bother to do any kind of puni counting (sounds kind of like cheating at strip poker doesn’t it?) while I was spinning and just filled one bobbin. Ruthann advises against plying from the inside and outside of a center pull ball when working with cotton and I’m very inclined to believe her.

Overall I’m very happy with how the yarn turned out. I like the neppiness. I like how subtle the colour shifts are. The weight is nice. One comment from a fellow spinner “It feels like Rowan cotton.” Not so bad for my first completed skein of cotton. It’s challenging but rewarding enough that I will definitely be playing with cotton more in the future. And not just because there’s a ball of sliver (sl-eye-ver?) on my coffee table.

I also plan to play more with the handcards. There will be punis and rolags and all sorts of hand carded fun in my future.

Fear Factor Fibre – Soy Silk

Alright, I’m back from playing with my parents in Québec city. I’ve been back for a whole week. But turns out I’m kind of a busy girl during the week and wanted to finish spinning this up before posting about it. So here we go, I give you Soy Silk:

I did some internet research before attacking this bump of soy silk and came across a mention in the intro to this Knitty Spin article on Spinning from the Fold that it’s a good method for spinning soy silk. The article has pictures of Lee Juvan spinning long draw from the fold with soy silk, so I thought I would give it a go. I figured it would be good to practise long draw with something easier to spin like soy silk instead of waiting for my cotton to arrive (this was before I bought some cotton balls to play with).

It’s weird to try a new technique, almost like learning to spin all over again. Things break. The yarn ends up all slubby and weird. Generally feels strange. But it’s good to learn new things. I like learning new stuff. And that’s kind of the point of this challenge.

Breaking the top into little fingers definitely makes the spinning seem faster. Though I had to put them in a shoebox to protect them from the ceiling fan set while spinning. The soy gets really fluffy when drafted.

Overall, I went easy on myself, aiming to get a good spin rather than go for speed right out of the gate. The singles were pretty even I was able to get nice control and towards the end of the spinning, I was actually getting pretty quick with my long draw. I think I’m going to try long draw for the next bump of wool that I spin. Mostly for practise, but it’s also kind of magical. And I like that my fingers don’t get as numb or sore as usual.

‘Pink Granite’ Chimera
100% Soy Silk
4 oz.

The soy silk was pretty nice to work with. It’s a little grabbier than the milk fibre which I might make it easier for someone starting to spin or who is used to spinning wool. Spinning from the fold definitely made the fibre draft easier though long draw isn’t entirely necessary. I just wanted the practise. I would definitely spin soy silk again if I came across some nice colours to play with.

Next up: I play with punis while spinning up some cotton noil.

Yes, I know I haven’t finished my complete list of Freak Fibres and July/Tour de Fleece is over. But I’m going to keep spinning through the list as I’m still interested, have the fibre and have the time to keep spinning.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.