A Priest Crafts: Episode 2 – Striped Top Study

Hello friends! Episode 2 of my new blog is ready for your viewing pleasure. This month I play with a new-to-me preparation. I did something a little different with this video: make a plan and show you the process from idea to singles to finished yarn.

Links:

Nebula Medallion Vest:

Rachel Smith’s tutorials on:

If I find anything more about the top, where it came from or what it’s called, I’ll add it here.

Ravelry page for this spinning project

I ended up with ten mini skeins, all of the same wpi, but using different drafting techniques to get the singles, and plying them together differently to get subtle variations in how the colors mixed. The next step will be take the yarn all the way to finished product, where I can get really down in the weeds with what the colors are doing with each variable. (It’ll be in a blog post, in case you want to skim!)

I’d like to commit to six months with these videos. Probably posted early in the month. I’m not sure where this medium is going for me, so I’ll play around with some different styles. After September I’ll evaluate.

Please leave your thoughts and corrections and ideas; they are deeply appreciated! Thanks for watching.

A Priest Crafts: Episode 1 – Intros and Corespinning

So after all my wailing and gnashing of teeth last week, I’ve decided to go ahead and do it. I used some of my birthday money to register Wondershare Filmora, and recorded my first video on my birthday. After I finished re-recording the last bit, I was immediately bulldozed by a headcold that has left me trapped on the couch. I hope this isn’t a sign. Anyway, this couch time gave me time to edit, but means that I am now missing the Palm Sunday service.

I hope you like the title I came up with at 6 am today. It’s nicely tongue-in-cheek, as “priestcraft” is generally a negative term according to google. Our beloved Mother Martha always used it to just describe what priests do. For me it captures an important reality that I am a priest first, a maker second. I make in the context of my priestly calling, not the other way around.

So, check it out! It was super fun to make, though also quite humbling. I apologize that the audio is kind of quiet. I think I know what went wrong, and hopefully I can fix it next month.

Here’s some links to what I talked about:

frostyarn’s etsy shop (Please note her shop is locked because she is prepping for a show in June, but if you don’t mind a little PG-13 rated language, follow her on Instagram. Her work is the bomb.)

Esther Rodger’s corespinning videos (1 of 5) And here is Esther’s website. I actually just remembered that I got to meet Esther once when we were both selling in the Cloverhill booth at Maryland Sheep & Wool, back in 2009 or something. She was wearing a giant circular sleeveless sweater just like the one I’m making, made entirely of artyarn, so I guess I was subconsciously copying her!

Here’s the ravelry page for this spin. You will find all the Nerd Numbers there, including grist for each skein.

Candy Clouds #1 and #2. 

What I didn’t mention in the video because of all my excitement were the aspects that didn’t work. I was happy for this yarn to be thick and thin, which is a good thing, because I’m not very practiced at drafting merino, so there was no way it was going to be even. The downside of this is that my wheel is not really built to handle this kind of artyarn spinning. The yarn liked to get stuck in the oriface at every thick point, and the bumps sometimes got stretched out in the squeeze through, or they caught on the guide hooks. If I try corespinning again on this wheel, I’ll do it with a fiber I feel more comfortable drafting evenly, and/or with a less fluffy, out of control core. I’m already pondering the possibility of someday investing in a portable wheel with large oriface and bobbins for easier artyarn spinning. I could suffer through these difficulties for one spin, but I would hate doing this all the time. Ya need the right tools for the job.

Stay tuned for the last stages of knitting the sweater; I have high hopes of wearing it for Easter morning and being able to write about it. Now I’m off to make some tea, read the Bible, and kick this cold, because I need to be on my feet by Tuesday for the last night of my Big Work Thing. God’s provided for every stage of the Thing so far, so I’m not even worried about it.

Have an amazing Holy Week, and may you see all your dreams surrendered to die with Christ rise again with him someday.

Penitence and the Green Dragon

The first two weeks after Ash Wednesday didn’t really feel like Lent.

I tried to be penitential, but my efforts to induce reflective suffering were repeatedly thwarted. The things we gave up – too much phone, TV for the kids – were a relief to be rid of. Putting them down didn’t feel much like a burden, and that space was filled with joy. I even tried to be more penitential with our food, switching breakfast and lunch to something more boring, and sticking to simple, vegetarian, bean-based meals for dinner. But that intentionality accidentally reactivated my cooking mojo, so we were just eating tasty, fun, filling simple dinners.

All that changed a couple of weeks ago, in the buildup to the Big Work Thing’s Biggest Thing. That’s a sort of retreat called the Alpha weekend, part of the Alpha course.

Bobbins filled last weekend.

A big part of being a priest, functionally, is event planning. If I had known that, I probably would have eschewed ministry life entirely, because me and event planning don’t go together well. I felt inspired and called to lead this Alpha, and that’s been widely encouraged, confirmed, affirmed, and supported, but I knew it would be hard for me. I have a ton of prayer support, and awesome leaders and teams to work with, but sometimes it is hard. Especially in the last week and a half. It came out in my Lenten disciplines – rather, at my total failure to keep them.

Two skeins, 6.3 oz. total, and a baby .6 oz. skein of leftover Polwarth.

One of the hardest things about it, although it was also the best, was that God kept sticking his hand into it. Every single week of Alpha, something major has looked like it was not going to work out. But, at the last minute, it kept working out. Either someone would step in and surprise me, or someone I thought would surely say no would say yes, or someone would decide to be more generous than I had any right to expect. I sent a lot of long emails to my prayer team (and am still sending them, because we have a few weeks left).

God keeps coming through, and in ways that make it clear he is invested in this project. What this is teaching me is that I need to honor him and give him the glory for it. That’s what I asked him to do, after all: make it happen if he wants to use it to glorify himself. Why am I surprised that that’s what he did? I think that’s the main reason he keeps waiting for the last-minute save – I don’t think it’s coincidence, and I don’t think he’s doing it just to mess with my head. I think he’s doing it because it says, in a way we can’t ignore, yo, I’m here! This is my kingdom you’re working on, and I’m gonna build it!

Color mixing. This is going to make amazing tiny subtle stripes.

A key moment for me actually came in association with this yarn I’m showing you. I’ve been using spinning as a way to get my mind off the pressures, to relax and even pray when my brain won’t shut down. I’ve been passionate enough about the spinning that it’s been an effective escape. This yarn in particular was a joy to sample and test and decide exactly what to shoot for. I really enjoyed spinning the singles, as the sampling had helped me refine not only my target yarn, but how to relax into the process of making it.

1 skein is consistently 11 WPI; the other is consistently 12 WPI. Total yardage is 356 yd. in 6.3 oz. Avg. grist between them is 907 YPP.

I was really looking forward to plying this yarn. I love plying; it’s that moment when everything comes together for the first time. It’s the final yarn being born, really, and it’s not a terribly long labor.

When the time came to ply, though, there were only a few days left before the Alpha Weekend. Things were getting sorted, but it took until the day before it started for me to even have confidence that all the pieces would be in place at all. Then there’s always the question of how it will go, and if anyone will show up. I was determined to be present, not to run away from the anxiety, but that meant that spinning was not an effective escape. I enjoyed the plying, but it didn’t delight me. I was distracted. The creation of yarn, though a gift of beauty from a creator God and a good thing, was not going to rescue me. The power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of my friends carried me through, not my coping mechanisms. This might surprise you, but that actually lets me feel much more free to enjoy my coping mechanisms, because it was finally proven to my subconscious that yarn can’t really compete with the power of real relationships. That’s a bit of obviousness I’ve been struggling to internalize, so I’m glad it happened.

The weekend itself went very well. I won’t go into details, but a great number of prayers were answered, and the guidance myself and others had been receiving from God were confirmed. When the event actually started, I was able to be present and calm.

And best of all, the way God had been making his investment in the project felt – by his annoyingly last-minute semi-miraculous contributions – meant that I was completely confident that he would do exactly what he wanted to do in it. The success of an event like this isn’t in the number of people who show up, but in what the Holy Spirit does inside each person, and that can’t be measured, certainly not by me.

I like dragons. I know they’re usually bad guys, both in the Bible and in Tolkein, but I can’t help it. I used to have a little necklace with a dragon on it, and a necklace with a “dragon tear” glass pendant, and I especially liked to wear it during Lent. They gave me two reminders. First, that the great dragon will, along with all evil in the end, put into submission to the God who is good (see Revelation 12, esp. verse 8). Second, that God is in the business of releasing us from our dragonish-ness, like Eustace in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and that’s pretty much what Lent is for.

Closeup on the polwarth leftovers. Gorgeous, warm, and much more even than the combo ply, but I’m happy with my choices.

I called the samples “dragon eggs” just for their color, and for how cute the mini-skeins looked curled up into fat little twists. I’m calling the final yarn “Green Dragon,” for that color, for all the Lenten dragon-y reasons above, and for the location of the same name in the Shire, a place of much ordinary enjoyment and frivolity.

It can’t be very comfortable being wool that’s in the process of being made into yarn. It’s shorn off its sheepy home, then scalded, brushed, pulled through small holes, and finally stretched out and twisted under tight tension – usually more than once. But then, a warm soapy bath, and ah! The release! And something new and beautiful is born. That is Lent, and this yarn, and this week.

Thank you for reading. And thank you God.

Four Baby Dragon Eggs

Last week you read about how I fell in love with a yarn sample I made, combining a Polwarth top from Pigeonroof Studios with a crazy art batt from Tempting Ewe Yarns, but how it was super-annoying to combo draft them. I went on the hunt for a way to get those same wonderful results, but without the pain in the neck of having to combo draft. I combo plied, but felt kinda meh about it.

My next thought was, maybe I should try prepping the fibers with handcards. Not necessarily fully carding them, just using the cards to make the fibers play a little nicer together, by stretching out some of those blobs of silk noil, and making sure I had an equal amount of Polwarth in the mix.

I floated this suggestion on the Wool N Spinning ravelry group, and Rachel pointed out that this plan could work well, as long as I was okay with the colors blending a lot. I cheerfully contradicted her, saying I suspected the pops from the silk noil would stick around. She, very politely, said nothing, and let experience by my teacher.

While I waited for the cards to come, I had been doing my research, and I had a couple different techniques to draw from. These are the main tutorials I looked at, if you’re interested:

  • This blog post by Karen Kahle talks about just using hand cards to blend, not card, almost like a mini blending board.
  • This knitty article by Lorraine Smith talks specifically about using hand cards to card blended, heathered colors
  • I also read the portion on handcarding in The Spinners Book of Fleece by Beth Smith, which arrived in the mail the day before the handcards.

I had a couple of variables to work out:

(a) rolags, or just an attentuated mini-batt?
(b) two blending passes on the cards, one pass, or just put the fibres on the cards then take them off (no blending)?

So I tried them all.

Above: attenuated mini-batts, taken right off the cards then stretched out diagonally. From right to left: No blending, one blending pass, two passes.

Below: Rolags. From right to left: no blending, one blending pass, two passes.

In the prep stage, I found the actual carding really fun. Putting the fiber on was quick, and I could easily keep track of how much I had left to make sure I was putting on similar amounts of each fiber. Rolags were easier to make than the attenuated mini-batts, and made more sense of what I was doing.

To spin, I arranged them mirror-wise based on how much I was blending: no blending first and last, most blended in the middle – so that, when I plied from a center-pull ball, the most-blended and least-blended portions would match up. I’d have to knit the yarn up to see if there was a difference, of course.

The difference in preparations would really only be evident in the spinning itself. The rolags were more natural to spin, but not necessarily easier. (I’m just spinning everything short-forward-draw right now; I didn’t want to add a less-familiar drafting technique into the mix, even though short-forward is not really what rolags are for.)

I tried to spin the singles evenly, but did not try to control the silk noil very much. I let them pop out and do their thing. The blending on handcards definitely made dealing with them a little easier – a big plus.

I bracelet plied the singles, which is sorta my new favorite thing…

So much so, that I bracelet plied with waaaaay too much singles.

Yes, my middle finger is turning blue.

Here is the new little dragon-egg that resulted.

In the picture above, the third sample is in the middle. In the two pictures below, it’s on the right.

I stared and stared and stared at this trio of samples. I enjoyed carding and spinning the third sample a LOT, but I couldn’t help feeling something was lost in the blending. The noil stood out, but all the other pops of color were gone. I especially missed the pops of blue. This is what Rachel was trying to give me a heads up about.

Frustrated, I went back to the wheel with one more sample idea. Something about the combo ply was bothering me, but maybe I could give it just a little more nuance by doing a combo draft with two strips of the polwarth in one ply and just the art batt in the other.

This time I just spun all the combo-drafted polwarth and immediately followed it with the art batt, as you can see on the bobbin below. Then when I bracelet plied, they plied together. I can only credit luck with the fact that I had maybe four inches of just polwarth plied on itself at the end.

I tried it and, surprise surprise, I really liked the results (far right, below). Not, I think, because of the combo drafted polwarth, but because in the interim – by spinning the punis, mostly – I’d gotten generally better at short forward draft.



Above and below, you can see the four samples clockwise:

  • Top left, sample 1, combo drafted
  • Top right, sample 2, combo plied
  • Bottom right, sample 3, carded
  • Bottom left, sample 4, combo plied, with two strips of polwarth combo drafted in the polwarth single.


Here they are blocked. (They are actually a good bit brighter than this, but got a little washed out by natural light and phone camera.) Again, I stared and stared at them until I didn’t even know what I was looking at anymore. But having gained a little distance on it, here are my conclusions:

  1. The first sample, while attractively uneven in the skein, made a fatty, messy fabric that threatened to pill immediately. Some yarns are just gorgeous to look at and are not really meant to be knit with. There is a place for yarns like this, but not in my life right now. This skein inspired me to look for what I wanted, but ultimately, it did not give me what I wanted when it was knit up.
  2. The second sample was crisp, even, and kept all the idiosyncrasies of color intact. There was a little striping as is inevitable with a combo ply, but that doesn’t bother me. The two ply was tightly plied enough to not be too jagged. This was an important lesson: barber poling looks really stark in the skein, but in the fabric, it turns into wonderful little dots. In this case, those dots stood out just as much as I wanted them to.
  3. The third sample, while gorgeous, looks relatively lifeless next to the others. I enjoyed blending on the hand cards very much, but I can’t live with the loss of all the character the art batt brings to this blend. It’d be perfect for a sweater yarn, which I would want on the calmer side, but not for what I have in mind – a large chunk of stand-out stockinette, either on a large, plain accessory or a large block of a colorblock sweater.
  4. The fourth sample does have more nuance than #2, but more nuance really ends up meaning more grey. I’m going to have more grey anyway because I’m better now at drafting the many parts of the art batt together than I was when I made #2; I don’t really need to add more grey by combo drafting the polwarth.

I learned a lot more from knitting these little samples. Like, for example: this 9 WPI yarn knit up at 4 stitches to the inch (blocked) on US 8s. That’s a bigger gauge than I thought. I will err on the finger side to make it match the gauge of an average commercial worsted weight yarn.

More importantly, I noticed this: the yarns I fought with a little bit were the ones I loved the most. The carded sample was easiest to spin, but the ones where I was struggling against even drafting? Those had the pops of color that I loved. I realized, to get the yarn I love, I need to surrender to the unevenness and unpredictability of this spinning process. I don’t want an art yarn, but I do want a yarn with a little texture. So I should relax, and spin to a sample, but also let the yarn be what it wants to be. The imperfections are what will make me love it. There will be a time for a perfectly even yarn, but that time is not now.

Well, that was quite a drive-by of a post! If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for spending your time with me. I find this sampling process incredibly informative and motivating. I even had my fifteen minutes of fame when Rachel used my questions about this spin in her latest Wool N’ Spinning radio podcast. That podcast is exclusive to her supporters on Patreon, but if you support her at even 1$/month, you can hear the episodes. Check out her Patreon page; you can hear her reading my goofy post on episode 3.

If you can’t tell, I ended up choosing to spin the combo ply (sample 2 above). And, in the interim between these posts, I’ve spun about three quarters of it. I’m very much hoping it’s finished by next week (though the Big Work Thing has its biggest push this week, so no promises). I can’t wait to ply it up and see how this story ends!

I hope your Lent is off to a good start. By which I mean you’ve already failed miserably and thrown yourself on the mercy of Christ. I know that’s where we’re at in this house. Blessings!

Two Baby Dragon Eggs

Now that my precious punis are DONE DONE DONE! I’m ready to move onto the next project, one that I’ve been meditating on for nearly a month now. I have Lenten meditations, But they’re as yet too personal and informed to really write about well. Can I share these wooly meditations with you instead?

As I was nearing the tail end of the Blendlings, I started to wonder, what should I spin next? I knew I wanted to stay on the two-ply worsted thing, and I’m limited to the fibre stash I brought with me when I first moved up here. A couple of those things I set aside as things I wanted to spin when I got a little more practice, or wanted to blend with something I don’t have with me. That left these two:

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That’s a 100% polwarth braid from Pigeonroof Studios, and an art batt from Tempting Ewe yarns. (both purchased at Maryland Sheep and Wool festival in 2013.) As I stared at them, I realized, you know, they kind of go together. Kind of a lot.

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I pulled them out of their bags and stared at them some more.

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I opened them up and stared at them still more.

You can't see it in this picture, but the underside of the batt is a thick middle layer of kinda mermaid-colored faux cashmere and a bottom layer of a lot of hairy grey wool.

You can’t see it in this picture, but the underside of the batt is a thick middle layer of kinda mermaid-colored faux cashmere and a bottom layer of a lot of hairy grey wool.

I posted pictures of them on the Wool N Spinning group – and then it was all over. All it took was some friendly strangers saying “Those would look totally amazing together!” and I had to do it.

The obvious thing to do was to start sampling.

I’d been doing combo drafting for the Blendlings, so I figured that was the place to start. I pulled off a small piece of batt and pre-drafted it, and I stripped down some top, and I tried drafting them together into one singles, then plying the singles together.

This was an enormous pain. I felt like I was fighting with the fiber the whole time. Spinning an art batt worsted is a ticklish business at the best of times, but doing so while trying to make sure the Polwarth was getting in there felt impossible. “Welp,” I thought to myself, “I’m not doing that.”

I only had one problem. I loved the sample.

Like, I loved it. Doesn’t it look like a fantastical little dragon egg? The unevenness, the pops of color, the round poofiness, the way everything nutty about the art batt is calmed down by the polwarth being drafted into the same ply but not hidden by it… I had to have this yarn. But I knew if I tried to spin it that way, all eight ounces of it, I was just going to hate it. I did not want to do that to myself. I want to stick with spinning this time, and that’s only going to happen if I am having fun.

So the next question was, could I get similar results while spinning in a way that doesn’t make me want to light the fiber on fire? This is a job for… more sampling!

This time I did one ply of Polwarth, and one of art batt, and plied them together. This is called combo plying.

Combo draft (original) on left, combo plied (new) on the right.

You can definitely see the difference. The one on the right preserves all those wonderful colors, but looks much more barber-poley. I have no problem with barber poling, really, but I loved what that little bit of marling the combo ply was doing to the colors.

Ugh! This would not do. What other options do I have?

That’s when I called my mom and asked her to send up my handcards. They got here quite fast, but the two-week wait seemed like forever. Tune in next week to find out what I did when they arrived.

Puni Progress

Spinning, sadly, is not that portable. At least, wheel spinning is not that portable, and I just can’t get into my spindle these days. It seems too much like exercise. My wheel isn’t a monster, but with all the paraphernalia I need to oil it and take notes and make samples, it’s much easier to leave it ensconced in the study/spinning closet where it’s also protected from curious toddlers and their penchant for mindless destruction in the name of adorable precociousness.

Fiber prep, however, is decidedly portable.

On one of the rare nights that I got to spend with my husband, cuddled up on the couch watching early and questionable episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I turned my remaining 34 punis into two boxes of nests.

As I pulled them apart, they revealed their true nature. You can see that some of the dark ones have a lot of white, and some of the white ones have a smattering of dark. I arranged them accordingly, to no particular end except cuteness.

Fiber prep is so soothing. I might like it even better than spinning. Kind of like my favourite part of sewing is cutting out the pieces. Hm.

The really fantastic thing about these punis is that you can spin one in about 10 or 15  minutes. So even in those short snatches of time I get to myself, I feel like I’ve Gotten Somewhere. I even make sure to change guide hooks with every puni so I can look with mine eyes and see progress.

Here a little, there a little, the caramel punis got finished. Despite the Big Work Thing being in progress now, rather than just anticipated, those snatches of time add up.

Unfortunately, this last week has been hampered by illness as well as work, so my progress on the white is much less inspiring. plus, my handcards got here a few days ago, and I had to play with them a little bit right away. 

However, even horrible February head colds have to subside eventually. One day at a time, here a little, there a little, I’ll get these done too. Maybe they’ll even be done by the time you read this, and I’ll keep these daily posts going a little longer. You’ll know, of course, if you follow me on Instagram.

#winkyface

Sampling Punis

 I got these little pretties at the Yarn Party thing at Savage Mill, Maryland, back in… what was that… 2014? Which makes this possibly the youngest stash I own.

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After yesterday’s post, some of you on Facebook were wondering, what on earth is a puni! Basically it’s a little sushi roll of river, generally a very fine fiber, carded on fine handcards, then rolled up tightly around something like a pencil or knitting needle. Traditionally this was used for cotton, but it is also a fancy way to prepare luxury fibers for a small amount of fancy spinning. Gourmet Stash, from whom I bought these punis, has this handy page of explanation, but if you’re not a spinner that might be a bit much. Its easier to watch than read, and this short video shows a cotton puni being made. (Though I don’t think Gourmet Stash compacts her punis post rolling that way; I don’t know. )

Back at the Yarn Party, I bought a mystery package of punis from GS. The idea is, since you’re buying blind, you can save a few buckzoids and have a nice surprise. This last week I’ve needed something short to tide me over while I waited for my handcards to arrrive in the mail, so I pulled out these pretties and started pulling them apart.

Above you can see an attenuated puni next to intact punis, for length comparison. They just sort of explode into puffy loveliness when you stretch them out, though there were some points where the fibers knotted into a tiny chokehold. I blame that on my stash habits; they were perfectly packaged in tissue paper and plastic, but compacting is a little inevitable over that length of time.

I wound them into little nests the size of a Kinder Egg and started spinning. Short forward draw, 1″ draft, 15:1 ratio. (How happy I am that my fastest ratio works now! Turns out all it took was a better drive band. Hemp twine rather than dishcloth cotton. Sheesh.)

With such a small amount (just over 1 oz total) sampling seemed a little silly. But I had 17 caramel punis and 22 white ones, so I did the five extra whites first to make sure I knew what I was doing.

Oh, what a delight! I spun thin and tight, knowing the superfine merino was probably the dominant fiber and could take the twist.

I watched this nifty video on chain plying for a refresher, though next time I definitely will let those singles rest because they were a handful.

The other advantage of sampling is that I now have a pretty good idea of how much I’ll get in the end. I will have just under a hundred yards of light fingering at a 3 ply, so I can think ahead.

A 3 ply might seem an odd choice for such a small quantity of super soft yarn. Shouldn’t I 2 ply it and make something lacy with a good shake more yardage? That would be the expected thing, yes. By I’ve had an idea for these fuzzies ever since I bought them in 201?, and 3 ply roundness and durability is called for. My idea is only confirmed by our family’s recent obsession with My Neighbor Totoro. I’ll leave you to puzzle out what that means.