Made of Blendlings and Learnings

Have you ever noticed that big projects tend to wrap up around the same time? In that vein, I finished a sweater last week.


Remember the Blendlings? My blazing re-entry into the spinning world in January and February of this year? (First post here, last post here) These wee skeins mean a lot to me, hand and heart, and they deserved to be used.

This was a leisurely project. It seems odd to me now, in my present state of urgency and indecision, but this was a project where I took my time, followed my gut, and persisted until I got it right.

My basic plan was to make Elizabeth Zimmerman’s “Scandinavian Ski Sweater” from a very early issue of Wool Gatherings. I was inspired by this sample sweater from The Opinionated Knitter, a book which fills me with nostalgia for a mid-century midwest I never remotely knew:

I considered my contrast yarn very carefully. I went with Imperial Stock Ranch Columbia 2-ply, because it was one of a very few 2-ply worsted yarns I could find. It’s woolen spun, so it’s a lot lighter than the dense worsted-spun Blendlings, but in the end that meant the sweater is a lot lighter than it could have been, and it was very adaptable to the varying gauges.

I knit a swatch in which I measured each yard used in different rows of fair isle, so I could estimate the yardage of a given band of stitch patterning, and choose a Blendling with sufficient yardage. These estimates were very successful.

It traveled with me at first- even to the dentist.

I kept hearing that the best way to learn from your handspun is to use it – in my case, to knit with it. Boy was that true.

This project could even be decent company for a card game – if the stitch pattern was simple enough.

The Blendlings are all 2-ply, some kind of nondescript British wool (likely BFL), and somewhere in the remote vicinity of worsted weight, but that’s about all they have in common. Some were underspun and overplied; some looked dull but were soft and balanced; some were tightly spun and plied into a plump, colorful rope. Some were noticeably thicker than the contrast yarn; others were so thin that I had to double them. I got to see them all knit up, and how they each acted in a fair isle pattern with woolen-spun yarn.

Gotta love the wrong side of a piece of fair isle.

The long and the short of it is that handspun is very forgiving. My least favorites were the ones that were so ropey that the stitches looked like jagged teeth, or so underspun and overplied that you could see a visible lean in the band of patterning (see the sage green S pattern below). But honestly, both of these came out fine in the wash. Colorwise, I learned that the yarns with the highest amount of color contrast within themselves (see the Xs below, and the flowers below that) were the most ungraceful in a fair isle pattern. But these complaints were exceptions. Overall, I was happy with how the yarns performed, independently and together.

Pre-steeking. I briefly considered leaving it as a tube top…

Now, the really great thing about Elizabeth Zimmermann is that she encourages the knitter to be an independent thinker. She gently chides those who ask for very specific directions by addressing them to “mindless followers.” I was looking forward to trying one of her sweater patterns and embracing the spirit of her work by putting my own spin on it.

However, I overdid it a bit. I got so excited about being an independent, knowledgeable knitter… that after a certain point, I didn’t actually read or follow any of her directions. (So much for my caution of the early stages.)

I thought to myself, “I know how to make a hemmed collar.” So I did. Then I thought, “I know how to do a steek.” So I did one. Then I thought, “I know how a sleeve is shaped.” So knit two of them. Without reading a word of what the actual pattern said about them.

Apparently, I know none of those things. Hold your breath, then look below at the horrible tragedy that was the initial steeking attempt.

I have steeked before, but apparently it was so long ago that I quite forgot how to do it. My crochet chains were too loose and too close together, but my really big mistake was that I picked up stitches (thinking to knit the sleeves top-down, since I’m oh-so-independent) right next to the crochet chain. That pulled the short cut floats right through the crochet chain and turned my neat cut into a gaping wound.

I did recover, but only after hours of delicate work that could have been avoided. EZ, it turns out, sewed down her steeks three times with a sewing machine before taking scissors to her work. Good grief.

The sleeves were… well.

I wanted to knit the sleeves top down, so I could use up the largest amounts of yarn on larger stitch patterns near the top. Fair enough. And I thought, reasonably, that I knew what a sleeve should be shaped like; I have enough sweaters and have knit (and designed!) enough of them myself. Well, first off, I did not have an accurate idea of my row gauge, so I was not decreasing fast enough. Second, I know how a sleeve is shaped on a fitted sweater… but this is a bag sweater. My mom is a bag-sweater master, so I grew up in and around the things, but it never occurred to me: have never made a bag sweater before. In a bag sweater, the top of the sleeve has to be enormous to be comfortable.

As a result, after two weeks of careful two-at-a-time work, I had two perfectly matched sleeves which squeezed awkwardly on my upper arm, and flapped stupidly around the wrist, while bunching up from being four inches too long.

I took my medicine. I ripped one out entirely (except for the cuff, which I had forcibly decreased down to the correct size), and followed directions this time, knitting from the bottom up. Increasing every four rows still sounded drastic, but I complied, and barely came up to the correct number of stitches at the top! What do I know, indeed.

It went very quickly, though. It turns out knitting one sleeve goes much faster than knitting two. I left the other sleeve intact while I was knitting the first over again, and used it as a pattern. It helped a great deal that I had already made my decisions about what patterns and colors to use, and so wasn’t stopping every half-dozen rows to dig through my bag of Blendlings and leaf through the pattern book.

Old sleeve on the left, new on the right. I also got the chance to flip those blue birds around which I had inadvertently knit upside-down.

The second sleeve was re-knit in a trice. A hearty blocking evened everything out, though it took a full four days to dry through all those layers. I had to deepen the steeks for the wider sleeves, but a couple evenings of careful work had it all put together.

This sweater is so… wearable. I don’t wear handknit pullovers much because I get sweaty, then the thing has to be handwashed, which means it never gets worn again. But I threw this on over a long sleeved shirt on a mild arctic August day, and wore it comfortably all day. There isn’t a gram of acrylic in this thing, and with all that woolen yarn mixed in, it’s so light.

About the hem collar – I didn’t follow those directions either, and made the hem all the way around the top, rather than just around the collar (which is what EZ actually describes). As a result I have a much thicker area at the shoulders where the doubled portions were sewn together. It creates a very shoulderpad-like effect. But I think I can live with it, as a reminder to pay at least some attention next time.

I love it. Both because it works, and because it is doubly made of learning experiences. I hope I wear it to bits.

A Priest Crafts: Episode 4, How TDF Went

Slightly belatedly, here are my reflections on Tour de Fleece 2017 – my first time participating. I focused on one big (for me) spin, which challenged me in a couple of ways. I’m happy about how it went, and hope you’ll check out my thoughts about it, and that you share your thoughts as well!

Show Notes

These original three braids are all one-of-a-kind braids from Woolgatherings. For easy reference I call them “blue,” “orange,” and “pink.” They were purchased in May 2010, at the Cloverhill Yarn Shop booth at the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival. (OK true confessions: I think they were actually purchased at the shop, before the festival, when the box arrived and we started unpacking it.) I had actually always envisioned putting them together in some kind of massively multicolor gradient.

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Spreading out the top. Isn’t that floofy BFL crimp just gorgeous? I was actually surprised at the amount of VM still present. This was quite comforting; I hope this means it was processed in a relatively low-impact manner. The silk was, for the most part, well-blended in, though there were cut bits of silk I had to pull out at times. There were some nepps as well, but I blame that on how long I left these poor dears in my stash. Two thumbs up; I would definitely recommend woolgatherings! They’re still doing handpainted tops, but have branched out into some interesting color blends and breed specific rovings.

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Stripping away on a hot June day in Maryland, while getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.

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Top left: Ply #1: 4 bumps blue, 3 orange, 2 pink.
Top right: Ply #2: 3 blue, 3 orange, 3 pink.
Bottom: Ply #3: 2 blue, 3 orange, 4 pink.

I absolutely filled my instagram and ravelry accounts with bobbin shots of this spin, so I will not re-post them here. If you’re interested in more details, here’s the ravelry page for this spin.

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The Nerd Numbers:

  • Total yardage: 884 yards
  • Total weight: 11.7 oz
  • Grist: 1208 YPP
  • Finished by soaking and snapping
  • WPI (finished): 12 WPI, or about DK-weight
  • TPI (plied & finished): 3.5
  • Twist angle: ~35 degrees

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Thanks so much for watching and reading.

In Depth: Striped Top Color Study Analysis

In my second video, I explored spinning a striped top with different drafting techniques and 2-ply plying arrangements in order to achieve different color affects. I was only able to flash the yarn up at the time, and talk about it a little, but I promised a more in-depth analysis of the yarn to come. I knit the samples up into a swatch-scarf (swarf?) over vacation, and I’m finally ready to share my analysis! Get ready to get down into the weeds with me, folks. I hope you like gettin’ nerdy with me.

I won’t go over the details of the singles again here; if you’d like your memory refreshed, please check out the video. But for the sake of reference, here are the four types of singles I made, with brief notes:

A. All Colors: whole top was predrafted together; spun short forward draft. I wasn’t exactly spinning all the colours together at all times, but pretty close.
B. Across the Top: attempted to spin across the top with short forward draft; found that I was generally taking from one side of the top (green-blue-red) or the other (purple-orange-red) and so had alternating sections of these colors combo-drafted.
C. Stripped: divided the top into equal sections lengthwise, then stripped each section into four, spinning each set of four in the same order. This made for very consistent color repeats of only 2-3 colors drafting together.
D. Over the Fold: Tore off short sections of the whole top and spun them over the fold, drafting off the end of my finger. This made woolen singles, much airier and longer yardage for the same weight, and interestingly, most isolated the colors from one another.

I plied three different ways: traditional 2-ply, center-pull ball, and plied A against each of the other colors.

The original top:

These are presented neither in the order that they were knit, nor in the order that they were spun, nor in the order they were plied, but in the order that it makes sense to me to talk about them.

Sample #1: All Colors against Itself



This first sample served as a sort of “control” for the experiment. Pre-drafting the top meant that I was drafting as many colors as possible at any one time. With the many hues in this top, blending them together as much as possible would make as much mud as possible. This is not as blended as it would be if I had, say, carded it together, but the optical blending is pretty thorough. This way we can also see the overall tone of the blend, which is a greyish purple-red.

Sample #2: Stripped in Traditional 2-ply



This was the sample I was most excited about. Since the drafting method made for very consistent stripes in the singles, and I plied them together starting at the same point in the color repeat, the colors matched up beautifully. There’s still a ton of complexity in the yarn, due to the fact that I was still drafting at least two colors at any one time, and the colors did not line up absolutely exactly. Who knows how this would work on a larger project, as the consistency in color repeats would drift eventually. But if there were a way to keep it exact, that would rock, because this is a really neat self-striping yarn!

Sample #3: Stripped in Center-Pull Ball



This is the exact same single, but plied out of a center-pull ball. What a dramatic difference. There are still stripes, but they are much shorter and more subtle, because the same colours that were lined up in the last sample are folded in half against each other in this sample. It’s interesting to me that the blues and greens really popped out more in this one than in the other samples, while the red receded a little bit.

Sample #4: Stripped against All Colors



The stripes in this sample are the same length as in the traditional-2ply, but much more subdued, since the second ply was the purple-grey All Colors. I appreciate the subtlety of this effect, and the overall purple tone comes through. Note also that because the variation is only in one ply, this would be very easy to replicate in a larger project, because I wouldn’t have to worry about lining them up!

Sample #5: Over the Fold in Traditional 2-ply

As mentioned above, spinning over the fold did the best job of isolating the colors – meaning I often was spinning only one color at a time. Thus, you see that the colors pop most of all in these samples. However, not much of a pattern comes through, because the colors were quite short and inconsistent. I could not be very consistent in the lengths I was pulling off to spin over my finger, and I did not really try. What I got out of the plying, then, was a bunch of bright barber poling. I love it in the skein, and find I’m ambivalent about it knit up.

Sample #6: Over the Fold in Center-Pull Ball



Since the colour repeats were inconsistent in the singles, the center-pull ball yarn is nearly indistinguishable from the traditional 2-ply. I did always spin from the same edge of the top, so the colours are in the same order, if not the same length. That means the colours in the center-pull ball sample are a little more scrambled than in the traditional 2-ply. But the difference is so slight I wouldn’t even look for it outside this experiment.
(Interestingly, you can see the dramatic yardage difference as well. I measured the exact same length of top for each type of drafting, but the samples made from this woollen-style spinning are much longer. It’s the same exact quantity of wool, and the same thickness, just with more air.)

Sample #7: Over the Fold against All Colors

(Skein shot lost, sorry)

This sample preserves the short pops of colour, but with much less barber poling, and a subler tone. I find it more pleasant than the previous two, and again very purple. For maximum subtlety, compare to #10 below – you can see stronger variagations in this than in #10.

Sample #8: Across the Top in Traditional 2-ply



Spinning this across the top was an exercise in frustration, because I’m inexperienced in the technique, and because the top was too narrow to see much distinction. The colours I drafted together were inconsistent and unpredictable. This means that most of what I see in these samples is mud, albeit less blended mud than sample #1.

Sample #9: Across the Top in Center-Pull Ball



Again, since the colour changes were of inconsistent length, there was no obvious difference between these. Even more so since going back and forth across the top makes for palindromic colour changes, so direction is irrelevant. The colours lined up more in this sample, giving a few pops of blue, but I’m pretty sure that’s a mathematical coincidence.

Sample #10: Across the Top against All Colors




This final sample hardly differs from the other two, as both singles were really quite muddy. Some gentle emphases come through, because when a colour was occasionally strong in the Across the Top single, it was reinforced by its presence in the other single. This reinforcement of pop colours means that the yarn almost never looks barber piled. There’s not enough contrast. It’s got a little more visual ebb and flow than sample #1, and is definitely less uniformly purple.

Conclusion

When I started this project, I thought this kind of top very unusual. But I’m seeing it turn up in different places, mostly in wider tops custom blended for sellers like hipstrings, woolgatherings, and regenbollenwolle, to name a few. (Please name others in the comments; I still haven’t found the name of this wools source.) The colours are usually more blended in those tops and less boldly distinct. But I hope for those who enjoy such tops, that this shows some of the variety available for the colour conneseur.

I would love to repeat this experiment on a wider top with brighter colours. The dark value made some of the differences harder to see.

When it comes down to finished objects – and I am shamelessly product-oriented, you know – what spinning really offers is the chance to design a completely unique fabric. I found it very rewarding to discover how much subtle control I could have over the look just by playing with a few variables!

A Priest Crafts – Episode 3: TDF is coming!

I wanted to do a short vlog while I am down south on fast internet, and it’s turning out quite short! Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess.

In this video I talk about Tour de Fleece – that’s when yarn spinners around the world rally around the awesome cyclists pushing themselves to the limit in France, by pushing our spinning skills to new heights.

I’ve always wanted to participate, but I haven’t managed to get it together enough to plan my project. This year I have the additional stumbling block of traveling for the first third of the Tour, but in the video I talk about how I’ve structured my Tour spin around overcoming this obstacle!

The Tour is July 1-23, and we follow the rest days and challenge days as well. I’ll be migrating the first rest day from July 10th to July 7th, since I’ll spend that entire day in airplanes, and I’m not going to test my luck by putting an antique wheel in my carry-on.


My current spin is 50/50 BFL/Tussah silk from Woolgatherings, in the colorway “Modern Love.” Purchased less than a month ago at Cloverhill. I’m spinning it for a Navajo-ply worsted-ish weight, in the ridiculous hope that it will be enough for a circular shawl-vest for my 4 year old.


My TDF spin is the same fiber – 50/50 BFL/Tussah silk from Woolgatherings, purchased something like seven years ago at Cloverhill (under different management). I’ll be spinning it for a traditional 3-ply staggered gradient, worsted-ish weight.

As usual, I will imagine putting it into a fair isle sweater. As usual, it’ll be much better in a shawl.


My wheel is an antique castle wheel of unknown provenance, lovingly called “Doris,” and anyone with guesses as to her make, please let me know your thoughts!

I will be on Team Wool n’ Spinning. See you on Ravelry!

 

Wool n’ Spinning Color & Breed Study: Split Complement on Gotland

I spun the Gotland the day after I posted that last post about the BFL, but I didn’t finish it before we moved onto our next leg of vacation, so here it is nearly three weeks later. I was inspired by Rachel’s live stream video last night (I won some stitch markers! Woo!), so I thought I’d finish it up while my thoughts of spinning it are refreshed in my mind. Forgive the casual style; I’m dictating this to my phone while taking a walk through a sunny neighborhood! I might forget a few pieces of punctuation.

Same prep, same dye, same dyer. The only difference between this batt and the last is fiber, and both are longwools. But in these same hands on the same wheel, Gotland is a very different spin.

BFL is a longwool in that is a relatively long staple, but it’s on the fine side, and very smooth. Or maybe I’m just used to spinning it. Katrina’s prep was light and airy and spun like butter. The Gotland was an entirely different experience.

I had never heard of Gotland before this year, but now I’m seeing it everywhere. It’s got this shiny mohair quality, is very hairy, and only comes in grey. Its most recent claim to fame is that it was used to make the elven cloaks for the Lord of the Rings movies. If a wool can convincingly pretend to be from Rivendell, it’s got a place in my heart.

It’s decidedly a longwool, in terms of strength (meaning the thickness of actual fibers, since it’s not PC to say “coarse”), and length of fibers. I don’t have a lot of experience to compare it with other longwools; I’ve only spun Dorset and Wensleydale out of the longwool type. But it seemed different. Quite different.

It’s remarkably soft, considering its strength. But what made it different for me to spin was that it was somehow sticky and slippery at the same time. It was a challenge! Part of that was my own fault, because I was limited by the wheel I chose to work with. The CPW only has a 16:1 ratio, so I was drafting two or three times per treadle, and that was pretty challenging. It got better once I started pre-drafting carefully. It definitely didn’t want much twist, so I kept it minimal

I wonder if somehow the Gotland just has more open scales? That would account for the softness and the stickiness. I’m so glad it was a carded prep, since that opened it up a bit; I imagine a compressed commercial top would have me fighting with it even more.

There was another weird thing that kept happening to me. I was trying to match the same singles sample as the BFL, because I wanted to spin basically the same yarn in the two fibers. But I kept spinning thicker than I thought I was. As in, I would think that I was spinning too fine, then I would compare it to my sample card and find I was spinning at the same thickness as the thickest part of my sample. That ended up being fine, because the BFL bloomed in the wash and the Gotland did not. Meaning even though the Gotland singles were thicker, the finished yarn is the same WPI. (Additionally, that meant it was denser, so less yardage.) But it seemed bizarre while I was spinning the singles.

BFL sample card with Gotland singles

I kept the singles twist as low as I possibly could, because I wanted to have more ply twist, and it would take very little singles twist to make it ropey. In the end after finishing I had a ply twist of about 33°, which was still less then the BFL had, but was close enough that I think they will work together swimmingly in a project.

Colour wise, I ended up doing the same thing that I did with the BFL: that is, I tried to line the colours up not quite exactly. This time I just stuck with the colour order of the batt, purple green yellow. In the final yarn, The colours actually lined up more than I thought they would, so I won’t see you that much colour play in barber poling. Oh well. I would have made myself nuts trying to control that any more.

The other big color lesson? Grey Mutes Everything. It literally desaturates the colors. That meant that the two analogous colours – yellow-green and yellow-orange – were much harder to distinguish, and they all blend together more easily to the eye. In a split complement, that meant that the split part (the two analogous colors) acted more like a single contrast to the more distant complementary purple. Thought for the future: if assembling a split complement on greys, balance the colors more as if I were balancing two hues, not three, because that’s how they’ll act from a distance.

Singles TPI of 5 with a ply TPI of 4 makes for a quite overtwisted yarn! It washed out to slightly overtwisted. Should be fine in the knitting.

The Nerd Numbers:

  • Source: carded gradient batt from CraftyJAKs Boutique
  • Prep: opened into two sheets, then stripped somewhat randomly; split into equal amouts for two bobbins, with a little extra purple on one for intentional slight misalignment of colours. Additional predrafting before spinning.
  • Spun Z, plied S
  • Singles ratio: 16:1
  • Drafting method: short forward, 3″ draft
  • 2-3 drafts per treadle
  • Singles TPI: ~5, just enough to hold it together
  • Plying method: traditional 2 ply
  • Ply ratio: 16:1
  • 3 treadles in 12″
  • Final TPI: 4
  • WPI: 11
  • Twist angle: 33 degrees or so
  • Yards: 150
  • Grist: 668 ypp
  • Ravelry page for this spin

Hairy and shiny at the same time! A fiber of contradictions.

It’s pretty cool seeing the two skeins together. They are about as similar as I think I could have gotten them under the circumstances. But just from the length of the skeins you can see how much the BFL bloomed and contracted in the wash, while the Gotland just relaxed. 

We’ll see how they knit up together. I want to stripe them in a round yoke; I swapped around colors in the BFL so I could stripe them and have different colors together. I still need to get a main color for the rest of that project, though; I’m looking for that natural grey DK Gotland that Blacker Yarns makes, but it’s looking hard to find. It’s either that or buy some Gotland top to spin myself, which I’m not sure about.

That was a very fun spin, and extremely fast after all my anticipation! It’s loads of fun seeing how everyone else’s yarn is turning out. Participating in a global spinning project is something very special. Thanks for reading!

Wool n’ Spinning Color & Breed Study: Split Complement on BFL

The real reason for tuning up the CPW, as described in the last post, is that I have a very specific spin I want to use it for. For the first time, I’m participating in a “study” spin-along: a thingie in which a bunch of spinners around the world have the exact same fiber, and we’re spinning it however each of us like, learning from our own and each others’ experiences. This is happening through Wool N’ Spinning, my friend Rachel’s blog-vlog-ravelry-slack-patreon community. If you’d like to check it out, a good place to start would be the Wool N’ Spinning ravelry group, where you can look at the “color and breed study” thread.

For this study, Rachel is leading us in a study of Gotland wool, dyed in split complement colors, prepared as a batt. Katrina over at CraftyJAKs Boutique dyed up some Gotland base in a split complement of purple, yellow-green, and yellow-orange.

This is my Gotland batt. The Gotland base is a perfectly gorgeous grey, which has a huge impact on how it takes the dye. The purple dye was rich and dark, but the green and yellow seemed much lighter, so they didn’t compete very much with the influence of the grey. I was really curious what the same dyes would look like without all the grey influence, so I asked if we could add another breed to the study, one that came in a lighter base. Katrina and Rachel were pleased with the idea, so here are the exact same dyes on a cream BFL.

Cool, huh? Katrina has a fantastic color sense and a reflective inspiration; all her colorways are very soothing and thoughtful.

I spent a very long time hemming and hawing and pondering and deliciously deciding what to do with these two batts while I waited for them to come in the mail. They arrived just a week before we went on vacation, and I didn’t want to rush through them, so… I brought them with me. It seemed rather silly to bring fiber down when I was being ruthlessly stingy with my packing for the sole purpose of bringing as much fiber back north with me… but I didn’t want to wait until July, and let the study go by without me. So down it came. CPW is fixed up and had a practice spin, and I was ready to sample.

I sampled off the BFL, because even though the two batts are the same weight, the Gotland was obviously a lot denser, and that would mean less yarn of the same thickness.

This BFL is a dream prep. It’s so incredibly light and fluffy and easy to spin. The funny thing about it was, when I just went with the flow, I kept wanting to spin it too fine. Above is my first sample, a good 14 WPI fingering. I want more of a worsted weight, at thinnest a DK, so I tried again.

Now is the time to tell you My Plan.

I want to put these two batts together, so that the comparison of color and fiber can be carried all the way through to finished object. The idea that pegged itself in my mind is garter stitch stripes, particularly in the yoke of the Puffin sweater. I would have to cardiganize it, switch it to top-down, and adapt it to worsted weight, but I’m not going to bother my head about such details at this stage.

What that inspiration does give me is some direction about what kind of yarn to shoot for. I wanted two-ply because of how I would handle the colors, but I wanted no-thinner-than-DK so I could leave the door open to spinning a sweater quantity to coordinate with this stuff. Fingering weight would close that door! The sweater inspiration is also why I overplied it a bit. I’m spinning all these singles pretty low-twist, and plying them high twist, so they can be light but strong. This should make a yarn that is as round and sturdy as two-ply can be, but not so overtwisted that it’s unpleasant to work with. I like my sweaters hard-wearing.

With decisions settled about yarn structure, I turned to color. I wanted two gradients to put together with garter stitch stripes. The problem is, when you put the two batts together as-is,  the value contrast takes over the eye. The Gotland just looks dull, and the BFL looks overly bright.

I started matching different colors from the different batts, and came up with color pairings I was happy with. I best liked how the BFL yellow and the Gotland purple set each other off, and the Gotland green with BFL purple were also pleasing. (I apologize for these poorly-lit phone photos; they don’t give an accurate sense of the color pairings.) The BFL green and Gotland yellow I was less pleased with, but the light yellow dye went so subtly onto the Gotland that I don’t know if there’s anything I could do to keep it from just looking grey.

I stripped the batts down, rearranged them, then split them in half lengthwise to spin into a traditional 2-ply gradient. I didn’t want to the colors to line up perfectly – or, really, I knew they wouldn’t line up perfectly, and was happy to embrace that fact, since it would result in a wider variety of color combinations to study. So in each of these pairs of trays, I put an extra yellow strip in one, and an extra purple strip in the other. I’d be CPB-plying the leftover bits anyway, so precision was not important.

I started with the BFL. With all this prep out of the way, the spinning went by in the blink of an eye. I struggled to keep it as thick as my sample card, and was glad to have it handy. It wasn’t my most even spinning, but I wasn’t fussed.

It’s pretty striking to see one finished single next to the tray of yarn that is identical to the one it was spun from. This is why my 8 lbs of fiber stash takes up far more room than my 16 lbs of yarn stash!

If you notice in the batt, the gradient includes sections of overlap between colors. I had rearranged this batt so the yellow and purple were next to each other, which were at the ends, so they were not carded together at any point. I preserved the sense of gradation with a little bit of combo drafting at the color change. It looks quite marled in the singles, but that was unavoidable with a value change like that. I put the green-to-yellow at the end of the yellow section; I don’t know if I’ll end up using it in the knitting.

Plied with plenty of twist, I got just the finished yarn I was hoping for. Quite twisted, with just a titch of energy still in it after a bath, very round for a two-ply. Not too ropey, since the singles were soft, and the carded prep helped with that as well. Healthy sections of barber poling overlap at each color change, but not so long that they overwhelm the solid-color sections.

The Nerd Numbers:
Prep: Smooth batt, stripped, not predrafted
Drafting method: short forward draft with smoothing, 2 drafts per treadle
Spun at 16:1 on CPW, 2 x 1″ drafts per treadle, so ~8 TPI in singles
Plied at 16:1 on CPW, 4 treadles per 12″ length
TPI: 5.5 average
WPI: 11 average (yellow sections were thinner, purple sections were thicker)
Ply twist angle: ~45 degrees
Weight: ~96 grams
Grist: 821 YPP

So far, so good! Now on to the Gotland. I’ve started, and I can tell you already it’s a very different spinning experience!

Hello Old Friend

Hi friends. I am on vacation! Huzzah and hooray! We’ve been gone over two weeks now and are having a lovely time. Being in Maryland in May is like heaven. There are lots of things I miss about the North while we’re away, but it’s a treat for a little bit to just be with my family and do all the things we used to do together, initiating my kids into the ways of long grass and skinned knees. I’ve been spamming my Instagram and Facebook with vacay pics, if you like to see lots of green things.

I’ve also been crafting.

I wanted to sell my Canadian production wheel, because I was sad that she had sat unloved in a basement for two years. But the more I looked into it, it looked like I wouldn’t be able to sell her for enough to even buy an upgrade for my Traditional, let alone another more practical wheel. I took her out, and on the advice of an Instagram friend, washed her up and oiled her down.

After the usual amount of arguing about the right amount of oil and the right drive band, working out her tension system and the installation of a little shim to even out her wobble (thanks Dad!), she was ready to spin. I pulled out a fun-but-not-precious item from the basement stash to get her used to moving again.

This is some alpaca roving – yes, roving! – that my mom bough me when we were both first getting really into gradients. That Christmas she bought me this roving, a gradient already spun into singles waiting to be plied (she knows I love plying), and a gradient yarn. The other two stages of gradient are already now finished objects, but this roving languished in the basement stash, having joined the club when spinning was already on the way out for me.

It’s 100% alpaca, or so says the bag, with some very substantial handfuls of sparkle thrown in there.  It’s from Painted Spring Farm Alpacas, which a belated Google tells me is in York County, PA.

An aside about sparkle: If you’re going to put in sparkle, put in a lot of sparkle. I love it when a sparkly fiber prep is just loaded down with sparkle, and when it’s well mixed in. A little bit of sparkle just feels like a mistake, and concentrated clumps of sparkle are fine for art yarn, but a pain for most yarns I make. This roving hit my sparkle sweet spot: loads of it, and very well blended.

See how jumbled up the fibers are, rather than being all straight and smooth? This is definitely real roving.

As we got used to each other again, my CPW started spinning very nicely. She hoovers oil like my sister does ice cream, and her hooks are so deeply grooved that anything fuzzy likes to catch on them, and I’m still working out how to use the tilt-tension system with any amount of precision. But she still loves to make yarn. All her grooves – the wear (not warp!) on the treadle, the grooves on the near edge of the flyer, the grooves in the metal nails that serve as guide hooks – they always make me wonder, how many miles of yarn has this wheel made? How many people have been clothed from her lonely bobbin? She’s probably made more yarn than I will make in my lifetime.

The roving was fun to spin; it was a new kind of challenge. I spun it long draw, or at least as long draw as I could. It was compacted, obviously, from its years of basement confinement, and needed a bit of pre-drafting; even then, it liked to stick. There was a lot of support from my left hand as my right hand pulled back. But I didn’t do any smoothing. This is as close as I’ve come, I think, to a true woolen yarn. Look at all that fuzz!

It was funny to be spinning something that was in one way very processed and in another very earthy. It was obviously carefully dyed, and had all this sparkle well blended into it, but right beside the sparkle was a lot of VM. Additionally, the finished singles were soft, but they also had a strange squidgy feeling to them – as if there was a lot of lingering dirt.

I built my second bobbin load very precisely. You can tell I’ve been on Instagram too much.

I spun the 4 oz on two bobbins just to avoid overloading, and wound them with my mom’s ball winder. When I use a ball winder with my singles, I am in the habit of turning the handle in the same direction as the yarn’s twist. I’m not sure, but I hope this means that the slight bit of twist applied by the ball winder adds to the twist in the singles, rather than taking away twist. And when I use a ball winder to wind singles, I use it to wind all the singles. I figure, be consistent?

Navajo plying was awkward, but not terrible; I’m finding it’s harder on this wheel to get high tension spinning Z twist, so in future I’ll save S twist for plying and spin my singles Z. I got it done, though, and made a yarn I’m proud of. As you can see, I didn’t hold back on the twist. I have a thing these days for sturdy, overplied yarns, going into my imaginary sweater stash. (The sweaters are imaginary, not the stash.)

Since it’s all alpaca, with a hint of sparkle, it won’t have any memory. I learned the hard way with my first alpaca handspun, lo these eight years ago, that I shouldn’t attempt to do ribbing or hats or mitts with 100% alpaca, or anything that would suffer from sag. One day it’ll be a shawl, either by itself or with a contrast yarn, or it’ll be a pop in a sweater yoke. (It sat next to some dark eggplant purple the other day, which surprised me by setting it off beautifully.)

My old friend the CPW passed the test. My parents don’t want me to sell her; they want me to keep her as a vacation wheel. Who am I to argue with people who have that much room in their house?