Thursday, February 2, 2012

Try, try again

This post is mostly about not giving up on things when they don't go right the first time.  Or the second time.  Or the... (you get the idea).

When I first started trying to spin with a tahkli spindle, it was a miserable failure.  So I put it away and decided that the tahkli spindle wasn't for me.  Part of the problem was not being able to do the long draw very well and part of it was managing the spinning of the spindle.

The next time I tried it, I at least got some yarn made but it wasn't very good.  In fact, I threw it away because it was so bad.

Then I've tried it several other times when I was trying to show people how it worked (in theory because I did more 'splainin' that spinnin').

In all my classes, I always tell people they have permission to suck at whatever they're learning because they don't know how to do it.  It's like Captain Picard said, "Things are only impossible until they're not."  Once they're not impossible (because we've invested some time in them) then they're possible.  N'est pas?

Recently I've been working with the beautiful support spindles my friend made for me and some angora fiber that I'd had in my stash for a while.  Like this, for example.  Working with this fiber and these spindles has helped me heaps in learning how to prepare my fiber and how to keep the spindle under control.

So the other day I got an email from a local teacher asking me to be involved in an arts day they're planning for local school kids.  I'd taken part in a program they did a couple of years ago at a local school and had a blast.  Now she's got some grant money and wants to "go big" with a Saturday gig at the Hoogeland Center for the Arts for kids from a lot of different schools.

I was thinking how fun it would be to do something with cotton since it's definitely something they can relate to and I have plenty that I can let the kids have a cotton seed and see it in the boll, on the seed, spun into yarn, and made into something.  It's educational and yet fun.  Of course that sparked me to pull out and dust off the old tahkli and give it another try.  I predrafted and opened up the fibers like I'd been doing with the angora and started to spin. 

It was like magic - it suddenly all came together in my brain and my hands and this is what happened:
 Over a couple of evenings (and early mornings), I spun a section about the size of the raw cotton on the right of the photo and got what's on the spindle.  Cotton goes unbelievably far.  I plied just a little strip of the yarn as a sample (which you can see in the middle).  The comparison sample is some size 12 perle cotton (on the far left).  Here's a photo to show the comparison of the two:
It has spun so fine and I swear to you it was all by magic.  Who said I couldn't do this?  I can totally do this!  If I play my cards right, this might be the perfect handspun cotton to knit a doily with.  I love it when a plan comes together....bwahahahahaha.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Bounciest Yarn

Last year when I was in Kentucky, I was given a Polypay fleece.  I was going to use it as my Tour de Fleece project but didn't get too far on it.  I've recently pulled it out again and started working on it again.  I put it through an initial wash last year but the tips were still quite dirty so I decided to flick open the tips and wash it in batches which has really done the trick. 
The stuff in the basket is how it came out when I washed it in large batches.  The stuff in the box is washed after flicking the ends open and ready to be combed.  Once it is combed, it's a loverly juberly fluffy mass.
I spun a little sample the other day and was shocked at how bouncy the sample was.  Just laid out, it was about 30 inches but it stretched to over 36 inches.  I took it to knit night so I could show everyone this bouncy yarn.  The funny thing is that, while you can really get some bounce when you card and spin a wool yarn worsted, you don't usually get that same kind of performance when the fiber has been combed and spun short draw.  This sample was combed and spun short draw and still had that kind of bounce.  This post has a picture of the lock (the one on the right).

I'm spinning it on my Kromski Minstrel on the 8.5:1 whorl so it's kind of medium speed.  As usual, I have it set up to spin with scotch tension and I've got a fairly hard draw in.  I'm trying to get enough twist in to hold it together well but not enough for it to lose its soft and bounce.  I am planning to ply using the next higher ratio of 12:1 to help that process, too.  I'm still learning a lot about ratio and how to use it to best effect so that may change once I get to that part of the process.
Right now I'm spinning it pretty fine, although I may try to 3 or 4 ply it for a heavier finished yarn.  I don't know, though. I think I like the lace weight.  I'll have to experiment a little with that, too.  I would love to have something made with it before I go back to Kentucky this year.  Wouldn't that be fun? 

On the knitting front, I finally made the big step and ripped back the body on the bohus.  I ended up decreasing by about 30 stitches which should equate to about 5 inches and I think it's going to be much better now.  From the finished body, here's where I am now:
I never seem to be able to get a good photo of this sweater but here's where I'm at.  I got about 3-4 inches done this weekend and, of course, the stockinette goes really fast in the round so I think now that I've got it working, it won't take long now.