If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that the new wheel has arrived and it is a Majacraft Aura. It came on Thursday, March 27. That morning I finally received a tracking number from the Woolery. It was being sent directly from the Majacraft workshop in New Zealand, and I hadn’t heard anything for almost four weeks. When I looked up the tracking, I discovered that it had already traveled from California to Ohio, and I spent all day Thursday watching its slow progress from Cleveland to my local office. It was agonizing! Around the end of the day, I got a notice that it wouldn’t be delivered until Friday. Unacceptable! I would be leaving early that morning to go to Pittsburgh for the festival and didn’t want to wait until Sunday night to open the box. So I called the post office to ask if I would be able to pick it up. They said yes. But they’ve done this to me before — saying on the phone that I could pick up a package, but refusing to give it to me when I get there. I got myself so worked up on the car ride over, preparing myself for a fight. But thankfully the box was waiting for me and I took it home!
Even though I had plenty to do that afternoon (we were leaving at 8 am the following day, but luckily the car was already packed), I wasn’t going to leave that box unopened. I was able to get it put together without too much anguish. There were a few parts of the instructions that were oddly vague, but in the end I was able to get some yarn on it before having to resume my packing. From the beginning Olive had decided it was her wheel.
When I got home from the show I continued to fiddle around with the settings. It didn’t feel great at first and I was disappointed. The treadling wasn’t as smooth as I had imagined it would be (did I mention I did not have the chance to try this wheel before I bought it?). I think I was feeling overwhelmed by the newness of it all. I chose this wheel because I wanted something that was different from the wheels I’d had in the past. Everything else had been scotch tension and this was a double drive! Why buy a new piece of equipment that is the same as what you’ve already got? So basically I got what I asked for and now I had to figure out how to use it. I read about other people’s experiences on a Ravelry forum and was able to make adjustments that helped. Feeling more confident, I decided it was time to spin in earnest.
My first yarn off the new wheel was a 2-ply of Blue-faced Leicester locks and a mohair single. I guess I just wanted to jump right in there and see what this thing could do, so why not curly locks AND a thin yarn AND plying? I hadn’t spun locks in so long, so for just that reason I love the way the yarn turned out. I also love that the curls didn’t have anywhere to get snagged on. The sliding loop thingy is great. No more peaks and valleys created by the hooks. The delta/pig tale orifice is nice too. It’s just cool and weird. It really holds the thinner yarns in place and you can wrap around it twice to lessen the tension. Another thing I noticed (not sure if this is specific to this wheel, double drives, or random chance) and love is that the yarn packs down so tightly. I used to hate how fluffy the bulky yarns were on the bobbin. So much wasted space! I’m still working on bulky yarns. I am finding it easier to spin thinner yarns than chunky, so there is still a lot of work to be done.
The second finished yarn was a mohair/Merino blend that I couldn’t resist buying or spinning. Such a gorgeous luster. Ugh! It was wonderful to spin on the wheel. I have never been great at spinning anything below worsted weight, and this might be a light worsted if I’m lucky. But it was enjoyable and doable. At some point I may get another whorl with higher ratios for finer spinning, but even on the highest ratio I can spin finer than I expected. It’s exciting!
Did I mention Olive has claimed the wheel?
Every January our local SCA group hosts an evening of eating and dancing. To help pay for the site, we hold an auction. Usually the tables are piled with cast-off garb, feast gear, books, nicknacks, etc. We don’t generate a huge amount of money for those things. But one year there were several handmade items on the table, which helped to increase the money we made. For this year I suggested we do an artisans auction — all items donated must be made by hand and relevant to our group. My contribution is handspun yarn (surprise!). I have three skeins of Shetland. One is the natural fawn color and the other two constitute my first attempt at natural dyeing in many years.
I started with three pots on the stove. One had alum, one had copper, and one had madder root. While the madder was simmering, I mordanted the yarn along with some fiber. I put one skein of yarn and a braid of roving in with the madder. In the alum pot, I dumped some turmeric and brazilwood. Since there was extra space in the pot I tossed in an old dish towel. After removing the yarn, I dyed a piece of linen fabric. The copper pot got logwood extract and then later I threw in some tin. Nothing exploded and I didn’t pass out, so I think it was okay.
The yarn dyed the best, but what a mess! I rinsed the skeins so many times and still it seemed like the water wouldn’t run clear. And despite straining, I ended up with all these fine pieces of plant matter in the yarn. When I reskeined them, I ended up with a dust pile underneath the swift. But overall they turned out better than I had expected. And you cannot deny the power of natural light in photos!
Madder root, turmeric + brazilwood, logwood
Let me clarify – these are not “summer” hats. These are most definitely cold time hats. But I made them for the Summer Festival of the Arts this weekend in hopes of encouraging wool purchases during July. Hats are more of an accessory, right? People wear them all the time… right? Honestly, I don’t care at this point. I’m loading up the car today. We’re selling tomorrow, so if my merchandise is wrong, it’s too late now.
Regardless, I had a blast making these hats. I ended up with a whole pile of super chunky yarn, most of which were my corespinning experiments. I knew they were too thick for mitts and perhaps a little too coarse for neckwear, but I thought they could work in hats. Combining them, in my typical way, with neutrals, each hat contains a funky yarn full of different fibers and a nice natural shade of wool or alpaca. Now I have some good examples of what you can make with a 40 yard skein of corespun super bulk! Even though I have a lot of experience knitting hats, I had never really gone from brain rather than patterns. This was also a good exercise in hat shapes and learning how many stitches to cast on. For each hat I kept casting on fewer and fewer (some ended up pretty big) until I was down to about 40 or 50 stitches.
Thanks to Instagram, I am now documenting everything down to the last insignificant moment of my day. I baked muffins? Photo! New shoes? Photo! Cute kitty pose? Photo! Project in the house? Photo! Spinning yarn? Photo! It may get a little dull sometimes, but the up side is that when I am in the midst of a knitting project, there are many more process shots.
I finally finished the Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief using approximately 250 yards of handspun Shetland wool and size 8 needles. For each section I used a different color of yarn. The pattern was so easy and quick. Although my measurements didn’t come out quite as the pattern suggested, it’s much wider than any other shawl/kerchief I’ve made. I didn’t make any adjustments, just followed the instructions as is.
Despite the weather, I had a nice time at the Winter Market last weekend held at the B&O Station in Youngstown. I’ve been purposely building up my home base and it seems to be working! Along those lines, I will be setting up this weekend at the Good Life Fest at the Calvin Center, just down the street. In addition to what you see below, I’m going to bring more of the “yarn show” inventory, such as spindles, Eucalan, etc.
Remember that lovely, natural, spindle-spun Shetland I blogged about a few weeks ago? I finally got around to knitting it! I started it last Sunday while I was at the Winter Market. All afternoon I would knit a bit, count, and realize I had messed up. It’s actually a very easy pattern, but I was distracted by shoppers and the constant picking up and putting down of it. Once I had the opportunity to focus a bit, I made a lot of progress and now it’s almost done!
I am super excited about the new GE logo tote bags that arrived last week! I’ve wanted to have a nice thank-you gift for my big spenders, plus I have to admit a bit of envy when I see shoppers carrying around logo bags for other businesses. After shopping around a bit, I ended up having these done by VistaPrint since I could get all the colors instead of just one. They are $10 each, but if you spend $75 or more, you will get one for free! They are not available for purchase in my Etsy shop because I’m not sure if I am “allowed” to sell them there or not. Do they even have rules anymore? However, if you really want one and will not be at any of my shows, please send me an email and I will get one out to you!
Speaking of Etsy, if you feel the desire to make a purchase in my shop this month, use the coupon code YarnSchool to get free shipping. I decided it was time for some continuing education (and inspiration), so I signed up to attend Yarn School in Harveyville, KS at the end of April. I was worried that it might be just beginner stuff, but then I was reading on the Ravelry group about how many people go back again and again. It can’t be too dull/easy/basic then, right? I’m excited to get out of my corner of Ohio and see a new state! I’ll be flying out there alone, which is an adventure all on its own. And I’ll have to be friendly all weekend. I think that is scarier than flying! I tend to get weird and distant in situations like that (roommates, group lunches, chatty classes, socializing with strangers). Let’s just hope I can keep my mouth shut and learn something new!
Contrary to popular belief, every now and then I make something that isn’t fingerless mittens. Sometimes I make hats! Actually, I do that rather frequently since they are also small, quick projects. In December I started a hat using a pattern by Lee Meredith called Scant. It is worked top-down without swatching, so I thought it would be perfect for my handspun!
I finished it in two days. Unfortunately, my measuring skills are not so great and it ended up too big at the brim. After having the recipient try it on, we decided I would pull out the ribbing and decrease a few rounds to bring it in. In fact, it was really easy to adjust since it was knit top-down.
I decreased a total of 12 stitches over three rounds and used a smaller needle to get the ribbing even tighter. Once I reworked it, it fit great. I think there is more volume in my hat than was originally expected according to the pattern, but the new owner of this hat is very happy with it. I love the way the colors came out. I definitely will use this pattern again!
I’ve been sitting on this yarn for at least two years. No wait, I got the fiber on our first visit to Rhinebeck in 2008. Good heavens!
It was all spun using my drop spindle. Initially I thought it would be perfect for a shawl. However, at the time I had never made one and perhaps felt intimidated or that I wouldn’t wear it? Now I’ve made two, so I think I can handle it (and I know I like triangle over half-circle). There should be around 6 ounces all together, though I’m not sure on the yardage. I went through my Ravelry queue to see what patterns I had saved the last time I got shawl fever. I came across the Age of Brass & Steam Kerchief. It has three sections, so I thought that would work well. Now I just need to get it on the ball winder! And then cast on, of course. It’s time to do some stash busting!
Basically I’ve always lived on the edge when it comes to my knitting. I don’t do gauge swatches. I don’t worry too much about matching up my yarns. I don’t do a whole lot of counting and calculating. So far there haven’t been too many circumstances where this has come back to bite me in the ass, but last week, it did.
The funny thing is that it was and wasn’t my fault. I knit two fingerless mittens using the same needles and diligently counted the rows. When I was done, one was little and the other was big. I counted and recounted, but I had the same number of stitches. Waaah!? The gauge was off, but it wasn’t simply a tension issue. The yarn had actually increased in size! And here is where it was my fault. I spun that yarn. It was a navajo-plied yarn, so if the single had gotten thicker as I went, the ply would have gotten thicker and thicker too. Looking at the two mitts, I knew I couldn’t block them to match, so I knit another mitt. With barely enough yarn, I managed to complete a third mitt. It was just slightly larger than the second. Aarrrrg! Thankfully, the difference is minimal and I should be able to block them to match.
Here they are: my Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear mitts!
Or at the very least, turning white fiber into colorful fiber. It feels like I’ve been spinning more in the past three weeks than I have all year. Totaled up, I got 10 new skeins done. Some have already found new homes, but I’m going to keep at it this week because I’m not quite done yet.
This past weekend I went to Pittsburgh for Indie Knit & Spin and it was a fantastic day. When the right people are there, ready to shop, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, it just doesn’t get any better. I sold the Country Craftsman spinning wheel, so now my living room is a bit more spacious (just in time for Christmas!). The totes and bags I just filled with fiber are already empty again, so I see plenty of dyeing in my future, although that can wait until January!
Even though I am done for the year with fiber festivals, I have one more event to attend. I am participating in a local art/craft show this weekend. Many of the other vendors are friends from my days in college, so it will be nice to be “back home” this holiday season. For this event I will need primarily finished goods, but I’m going to bring yarn and a bit of fiber to help fill in the space. I’ve been trying to get as much knitting done as possible, but I always wait until the last minute. And where I should have 50 pairs of fingerless mitts done, I only have 12. My goal is 15, so this week I will be doing a lot of frantic knitting, some felting, a bit of carding, and some spinning.
After all the hubbub dies down, I swear I’m going to start crocheting more. I bought those two books from Knit Picks and I just haven’t had the time to really sit down and work with them. My December and January are clear right now, so I’m looking forward to taking a breather, washing my fleeces, conducting some experiments, and learning a few new things. Sadly, when you are in production mode, you don’t always have the time to explore. But if you don’t, then your work can get dull. It’s a delicate balance.