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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

TdF Week 3

My last efforts for this year's Tour de Fleece were both with Cotswold fleece.  The first was some fleece I'd dyed earlier on with an onion skin dye that I'd made.  This was the 2nd item to go into the dye bath so is a much paler colour than I normally get.  It's still a nice colour though - kind of apricoty.


This was a very quick spin - only took me one day :-


From 75g of fleece, I ended up with 65g of yarn - 120 yards/11 metres.

My final offering of the Tour was more Cotswold.  I dyed the locks midway through the three week period using about half of the woad leaves in my garden.  They weighed 550g and I wanted to get a good, deep blue so I put in 100g of fleece.


This is one of the deepest blues I've ever achieved with woad and, although it's still wet here, I think it will still be pretty deep once it's dried.









I was pleased to see I got a bit of pink in there too!









This spun up like a dream.  I didn't card the fleece, just pulled it apart and spun from the cloud.


This was destined to be a tail-spun yarn as I have a cardigan project in mind.  A couple of months ago we had friends here from Australia and she was wearing a gorgeous cardigan that I want to copy.








She very obligingly sent me a photograph.  The tail-spun yarn is needed for the cast-off edge on the fronts and around the neck.  If there's enough I might add a pocket with some of the tail-spun yarn across the top.










Anyway, to get back to the making of the yarn!  I split the single that I'd spun into two separate balls and flicked the cut ends of some of the locks.


Then I was ready to ply!  Before I started this yarn I looked up "tail-spinning" in all of my spinning books and they all said this should be a core-spun yarn, i.e. you spin a single then put it back through the wheel in the opposite direction and spin the fluffed up ends of the locks onto and around the single.  This usually ends up quite a chunky yarn and I didn't want that.  I watched a few videos on this subject too, and they all did it the same way.  I began to wonder if my idea of spinning the fluffed up ends in between the two single plies was actually going to work, or was I trying to produce impossible yarn!  Well, there was only one way to find out!

I think it worked out pretty good, don't you?  The only thing I decided to change was the way some of the locks looked a bit "messy" where they were spun in.  They were quite secure - I couldn't manage to pull them out - but weren't as tidy as I'd hoped.  That was when I decided to use a binder yarn to hopefully make them look a bit better.

I still had some locks left so I carded them and spun a fine single which would be used to wrap around the yarn I'd made.

Lovely fluffy blue clouds!

I was quite happy with the finished yarn - the binder thread did what I wanted and added a bit of character too (not that tail-spun yarns need more character - they have enough by themselves!)


I didn't use all of the 2 singles that I'd spun, so they were plied together to form a 2-ply yarn, and I also had some of the binder single left.  I n-plied that to make it a 3-ply.

Here are the finished yarns :-


The middle one (the n-ply) was still finer than the 2-ply below it, but I'm sure it'll come in for something.

Finally (if you've managed to hang in there until the bitter end), here's a photo of all the yarns I spun during TdF this year.


Another year over and another year to wait until TdF 2018!  It'll be here in no time!

Monday, 17 July 2017

TdF Multi-Ply Challenge

Before I start, let me warn you that this post is very heavy in photographs.  It seemed necessary though to explain exactly what I did to create this yarn, but I won't be offended if you scroll down to the end instead of reading every painstaking step!

During week 2 of the TdF, our team (DIY and Dye) proposed a side challenge of making a multi-ply yarn which I just couldn't resist!  So, I started by spinning two singles (z-spun - clockwise).  I picked out a large bag of World of Wool Botany Lap Waste and selected this for the first ply :-




























I spun it fairly finely because I'm aiming to get as many plies as I can without it getting too fat.













The second bobbin was made up of various yellows and whites with a bit of shocking pink for emphasis.


The two singles ready for plying :-








These two were "s" (anti-clockwise) plied together to make a 2-ply yarn.







Next up, I chose some red merino top which was spun in the "s" direction.

This single was then z-plied with the first bobbin, giving three plies.  I made this into a centre-pull ball :-


and plied it back on itself ("s" ply) to give 6 plies in total.








Then a chunk of grey Botany Lap Waste became a thick and thin, "s" spun single.


























Then it was ply time again!  The ever-thickening main yarn was plied with the grey ("z" plied) with the thick bits of the grey yarn being "granny stacked" over the main yarn.  This means it was spun in a disorganised "clump" on top of the yarn giving a sort of "nub".  By now we had 7 plies.



Again, I made a centre-pull ball and plied it back on itself in the "s" direction.  I now had 14 plies.


The last addition to this never-ending project (or it felt like it anyway!) was a leftover ball of blue singles from a previous spin.  I have no idea what this is, but it was probably a bit of single left on a bobbin after plying with another bobbin.

This was plied with the main yarn again in the "z" direction.  The blue single had also been spun "z" so it got a bit tighter as it was plied.  Now up to 15 plies and my Aura was visibly struggling to take the yarn in.  I'd tightened the tension on the black band as much as it would go and it still wasn't enough.  I think that's when I realised just how much this band had relaxed since I first got the wheel. Initially, even on the loosest tension possible, it was grabbing the yarn out of my hands as I spun.  It was very difficult to spin normally for a while.  Anyway, I moved  the mother of all to a higher position, which had the effect of tightening the black band again and all was well.

Finally, I re-plied with the same blue single ("s" direction) and called it done.  My total was 16 plies.


After its bath today, it weighs 130g, measures 20 yards/19 metres, and is 4 wraps per inch!


Friday, 14 July 2017

Cotswold Slub

During Week 2 of the DIY and Dye Group's Tour de Fleece journey, we had more challenges to choose from as normal.  I chose to do an art yarn with my olive leaf dyed Cotswold fleece that I wrote about here.

I spun a bobbin of the fleece that I'd carded before TdF started,


made it into a centre-pull ball and plied from both ends together, at the same time inserting "bits" of pulled fleece between the two plies.  I used some merino that I'd dyed in previous years for TdF :-



Top left was dyed with blood peaches from the tree in my garden (blood peaches are bright red all the way through to the stone), top right was logwood chips, bottom left was with madder, and I forget what the green was!



The plying was pretty slow, but worked together well.



The finished skein weighed just over 100g giving me 199 yards/184 metres.  

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Tour de Fleece 2017

Well, here we are in July again and the Tour de Fleece has started once more.  It seems to come around faster each year . . . must be an age thing.

This year for our (Team DIY and Dye) week one challenge I chose to spin a rainbow again.  This time though I've used acid dyes and spun each colour  individually.  This is merino from Maco Merinos which is really soft after spinning.

"Red"


I started with red (although I couldn't seem to get it deep enough to actually call it red - it's more of a pink!) and progressed through to violet.  I only have a six colour rainbow as I ran out of time to do the seventh.  The deep blue is missing; I may do it after TdF finishes, just for completeness, but I think it looks OK as is.

Orange


Yellow

Weird green


Blue


Final rainbow, including violet

My plan for this is to spin some black alpaca given to me by my friend Sarah and knit it up into a kind of "stained glass" effect, possibly a scarf.  I only have about 20g of each colour as I lost about a third in wastage. All but two of these skeins was dyed as fleece and I always seem to have trouble with tangling afterwards.  I much prefer to spin from raw, unwashed fleece and then dye the yarn.  The blue and violet were done that way and I have maybe 25g of each of those - much less preparation waste.

The second week's challenge I have chosen is art yarn.  I'll be using some of the Cotswold I've already dyed and carded for this, so week 2 should be a doddle!  (I had to do all the preparation of the above merino as we went along - not organised as usual).

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Gradient Spinning

Hi everyone, well, I'm back on line again with my super-duper brand new MacBook Air (RIP old MBA) and ready to deluge you with all the things I've been doing since then.  I was about 6 weeks without a computer, so it's really nice to be back.

A while ago we had a little holiday just north of Bordeaux staying in a chateau with lots of old friends, some of whom we hadn't seen for over 20 years.  Realising that I might just have a bit of spare time here and there, I took my Louet Victoria and some fleece to spin.  I'd been hoarding some really nice merino in various contrasting colours from Barber Black Sheep (it was actually from a "Build a Batt" box that I'd bought and hadn't gotten around to using) so I grabbed that and teamed it with some other fleece that matched quite well from a World of Wool Botany Lap Waste bag.  I like to have an "easy to spin" project when we're travelling so I don't need to take a lot of other equipment with me for preparing it.

I managed to spin every day we were there, but still didn't manage to finish this until about a week after we'd returned home.


This next shot shows how well the colours go together, I really love the deep pink.



Because I wanted to keep the colours true when I plied it, I had to n-ply it and it turned out a bit thicker than I normally spin - probably about double knitting thickness - and consequently I didn't get as much yardage as I would have liked.  However, I think this will go really nicely in a project I started in the winter.  I think it was probably about November/December I went through all my handspun stash and picked out all the skeins of double knitting to make a lap blanket.


Not a very good photo as it's being knit on a circular needle, but I started by knitting a large rectangle in seed stitch with some art yarn I made a while ago, which included lots of yummy colors and . . . feathers!


I love to put feathers into my handspan, but I'm always a bit concerned they might be scratchy.  That's why I thought of using this for a lap blanket because it won't be used next-to-skin.  I still have a nice selection to choose from, but I'm not sure I'll use them all.


Hopefully the new yarn will finish it off nicely :-


but I can't decide which end to start knitting with.  I think it might be best to start on the outside of the one on the left and then start the second one on the outside too.  Of course, that will probably change multiple times before I actually knit with it.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Computer Demise

Well, after various visits to Toulouse with my Macbook Air, it has been declared officially dead!  When they took the back off the computer, they said only a small amount of coffee had penetrated and it was only the mother board that had been affected.  However, when we received the estimate for repairing it, they quoted for replacing practically the whole thing!  The cost of repair was over 900 euros!  This may have been influenced by the fact that it's over five years old and, as such, not worth repairing.

After a lot of thinking, we finally decided to order a new one, which isn't costing much more than repairing the old one, especially as we get 100 euros knocked off the bill if we hand in the old computer, and our Apple account is credited with 50 euros to spend later.

The estimated delivery time was 10 to 15 days, mainly I think because I need an English keyboard rather than the French one.  So, after sitting waiting patiently (!) for the last 9 or 10 days, today I received a phone call from the shop . . . who said the machine I was going to be receiving had been replaced by a newer model with a faster processor.  Nice, I thought, especially as there would be no extra charge.  Then the guy said that Apple had cancelled my original order and placed another order for the new one which will be delivered in . . . yes, you've guessed - another 10 to 15 days.  Aaarrghhh!

This evening I've spent quite a lot of time trying to upload photos onto my blog using Hubby's old I-Pad.  I was getting nowhere so he was drafted in to help.  We managed to get some photos on here, but in a not very useful format.  If I don't manage to sort them out, I'll see you in 10 to 15 days when my new computer arrives!   

Monday, 8 May 2017

Catastrophe

Two days ago whilst surfing at the dining table after lunch on my trusty Macbook Air, disaster struck in the form of my coffee tipping itself (!) all over the table.  A tiny trail of said coffee trickled into the hinge area, and Maccie immediately turned up its toes and refused to speak to me ... Ever ... Again!  In the end we contacted an Apple helpline who said it needs to go to one of their shops for repair (hopefully).  This may take a while as the nearest agent is in Toulouse which, whilst not being too far away, we're visiting anyway next Monday to take my sister back to the airport.  Not much point in making two trips I suppose.

In the meantime, Himself has lent me this new-fangled I Pad thingy and so far we're not getting on too well.  Being trained at a young age to touch-type, this picking and poking thing is driving me to distraction.  As for updating the blog with photos, as soon as I work out how to get them on here, we might make some progress.  I have been busy, spinning, making soap and yesterday (having no computer to play with) I dug out a really old patchwork project that I haven't touched for years.  Maybe being temporarily cut off from the world isn't a bad thing after all - it means I have more time to do the things I actually blog about!

See you soon!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Dandelion Dye

April's challenge on my dye calendar is dandelion dyeing.  So, where's the March project gone?  Well, March was daffodils, so I collected all the flowers as they died back and put them in a tub in the freezer, at the end of which I didn't have a lot.  Then the dandelions happened - big time! They went in the freezer too, until the main flush of flowers was finishing, then I picked the rest and put them all in the dyepot.  I knew I had to have quite a high proportion of flowers to yarn, and when I weighed them I had at least 750g.  My skein of handspun Cotswold :- 

 
was 125g, so no worries hopefully.

After simmering the flowers for an hour or so, the dye didn't look as promising as I'd hoped,


but was more green than yellow, so fingers crossed it would give me a decent shade on my alum-mordanted yarn.

I strained the flowers and squeezed as much dye as I could out of them, then added the wool.  After simmering I left the skein soaking overnight.  The resulting colour (unphotographed!) was yellow, but very pale.  I tried altering it with vinegar, but that did absolutely nothing.  A dollop of ammonia in the rinsing water, however, deepened and intensified the colour to what I'd hoped I'd get.


This photo doesn't actually do it justice, the colour is much brighter.  So, roll on May when the next project is . . .

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Ditching the Chemicals 2

Another new soap to add to the collection.


This is a lemon essential oil scented soap, coloured with turmeric powder.  I actually thought it might be a bit more yellow than this, but you can never tell how the caustic soda and oils will alter the colour as they work together.

I had some castille soap hidden away in my cupboard - the only oil I used in that was olive oil, and it came out quite a nice creamy white.  I pared off curls of this soap with a potato peeler to put into the middle of my lemon soap which sounds very easy, but it was particularly difficult to get the soap to curl up.  It either wanted to stay in a straight strip, or break into numerous pieces.  Eventually though I had enough to make a statement in the soap and, after pouring about half of the soap into the mould, carefully placed the swirls on top and then filled up with the remaining soap mix.

The bits on top are grated from a bar of choc/mint soap that I made last year.  Maybe not very practical as I'm sure some will fall off when I start using the soap, but it looks pretty.

This was made almost 2 months ago and should be ready to use on 9th April so I'm looking forward to giving it a go.  In the meantime, I've got itchy fingers to make some more soap and have plans for a cocoa/lime swirl soap that I made last year.  It turned out really smooth and creamy and very nice on the skin.  Also, I want to make a dandelion and honey soap.  We're currently in dandelion season here so there are lots about.  I picked a jar of the flower heads last week and have had them soaking in olive oil.  This needs to be heated to extract some of the colour and, let's say, "essence" of the dandelions, and the olive oil will be used in the mix.  On the day I make it I need to make dandelion tea with flowers and boiling water and use that with the caustic soda.  I can't decide whether to add any fragrance or leave it natural.  I don't think there'll be much scent from the dandelions.  What do you think will go with this?  Lemon, orange?  I'm thinking citrus will be best, but not sure.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Olive Bark Dye

I'm very late at posting this.  The February project on my Plant Dyes for All Seasons Calendar was bark dyes which was very opportune (obviously planned that way!) as I was just about to prune my olive tree.  It had grown rather tall and I wanted to make it a more rounded shape, so the top branches had to go!

Once I'd finished pruning the tree I took a vegetable peeler and carefully peeled off strips of the bark.  After cutting them into smaller pieces, I put them in a large jar of water, supposedly for a week!  About 3 weeks later I remembered I hadn't done anything with them and boiled them up for at least an hour at a time over several days.  The dye liquor turned quite a nice deep colour so I put in some Cotswold locks, not much (maybe a large handful) as I only had a small amount of dye.  I weighed out 100g of bark and I wasn't convinced that would dye 100g of fleece, so I used much less.

Tree barks don't need a mordant as they contain a nice amount of tannin, which serves as a natural mordant.  So, once the fleece had soaked in the solution for a while, I heated it up and simmered for a couple of hours.  It then sat in the dye for 3 or 4 days before I remembered to rescue it!

Here's the result, quite a nice colour I think :-


Not really enough to do much with, but I'll monitor it over the next year to see if the colour is stable, and if so, the poor old olive tree might just have to have another haircut!

Friday, 24 February 2017

The Second Sock

"The second sock" - sort of implies there was a first sock, doesn't it?  Actually, there was a first sock which was given to our neighbour Rob on his birthday.  He should have had two socks for his birthday present, but I ran out of both time and yarn.  Luckily, he didn't mind and now has two socks to wear instead of hopping on one foot!

The yarn for these was made up of 3 different fibres : Jacob lamb from Rob's flock, Ambrose's baby alpaca (also from Rob's animals) and some Italian mohair I bought at the last Lot et la Laine festival here in France.  I used the opposing ply system again, as Eric's socks (The Engineer's Socks) seem to be lasting quite well apart from a couple of moth holes that have just appeared in the leg.  The opposing ply system uses three plies - two are spun in a clockwise direction, one is spun in an anti-clockwise direction, then the three are plied together in an anti-clockwise direction which adds twist to the third ply and gives a bit more strength to the yarn.


The finished yarn was flecked with white (mohair), brown (Jacob) and ginger (baby alpaca).  It's a very subtle fleck and doesn't show well on photos.  I was woefully lax at taking photos of this project, but did manage a pic of the 2nd sock :-


Thankfully, the two socks both came out the same size - I was a bit worried about that because the first one had been given away before I started the second.  By the way, you'll notice a small ribbed section in the middle of the sock, I like to do this as the rib sort of "hugs" your feet and makes them feel more cosy.

So, another test for this engineered sock yarn.  I'll be interested to see how they perform on a different pair of feet.