Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More swatching...

This has to end soon. I must make a commitment and start to have something to show besides a bunch of swatches and index cards wound with yarn. Speaking of which:

These are the blank 3x5 cards that I print on the computer to keep track of my spinning efforts. Persian Pen Name inquired about it in previous comments. The lines on the right hand side are 1/2" apart which helps in calculating threads per inch. I fold the card in half and use double stick tape to hold the ends of the yarn in place. Then the tape and the yarn wound around the card keep the card folded. The genious of this little card? They fit in the plastic notebook pages used for baseball cards. I have a notebook full of them to refer back to when planning projects. It's also easy to keep the card handy when spinning to compare with the wrapped singles yarn.

PPN also asked about determining angle of twist:
The angle of twist is best measured in the singles yarn. The only way to do it with the gossamer weight yarns I'm spinning is with magnification. With a heavier yarn, just lay the yarn out, fully extended but not under much tension. Then use a protractor to eyeball the angle the fibers form to the vertical axis through the yarn. I only consider this assessment important when I'm thinking about using a singles yarn for knitting. Singles yarn with an angle of twist of 20 degrees or less are less likely to bias in knitting.

If you're wondering how I'm figuring the yards per pound, I use a McMorran balance and average 3 different lengths of yarn. However, there hasn't been much difference between the 3 lengths in these recent samples.

Despite all this measuring and averaging, I am not a spinner that counts treadles per inch of drafting. It seems to me that we all have an internal rhythm for treadling and drafting and the yarn will be more consistent if you pick the right whorl (ratio) and set the take up on the bobbin correctly for your personal rhythm.

On to the next swatch, my favorite so far (but certainly not in the running for the wedding ring shawl because of the dark shade!):

This comes from the same batch of superwash merino commercial top as the yarn sample in my entry from Feb. 23. The fiber in this yarn was used in a dye experiment with several hues of blue, from turquoise to purple. The dyed fiber was run through the drum carder. However, in a fit of boredom with spinning natural white wool, I grabbed a handful of this fiber and combed it on the mini-combs. After drawing it into top from the combs, I spun it the same was as all of the other: predraft the top, use a short draw with forward draft, keeping the fibers in the drafting zone under tension.

Click on the photo to see larger, then look closely at the two ply yarn (the bottom sample). See how that yarn is firmly spun with those even little bumps showing the plying twist of the yarn? I like that. It knits up into a clearly defined lace pattern. See how the yarn-overs in the pattern below stay open and don't collapse:

This is one of the things that fascinates me about spinning: the great variation in the character of yarn one can spin from the very same fiber. (Click on the photo to see larger.)

The bottom yarn is the gossamer weight described above. The top yarn is semi-woolen spun (from a drum carded batt) using a supported long draw. When you look at the larger image, the angle of twist is clearly seen in the yarn. Here is a swatch knitted from that singles yarn:

Fun, no? And this is why I love to sample when spinning. The possibilities are endles.
Oh..btw, Charleen: Rick's sample in the previous post? The bottom motif in the swatch is knitted on 0's, the top motif is knitted on size 2 needles.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Going Gossamer...

I guess it's time to update my sampling and swatching for gossamer yarn. Recall on March 21 I posted pictures of wool samples and on Feb. 21 & 23 I posted some swatches done with commercial roving.

Here are some photo's of sampling with the raw wool.

This is wool from Suki:

This is the yarn from Suki's wool:

And this is the knitted swatch from that yarn:

Suki's wool is very fine, but it is also very "crisp". That crispness carries over into the yarn and wouldn't make for the kind of drapey handle I'd want from a knitted shawl. This yarn would be better woven into a light weight outer garment. It would make a great wool twill fabric.

Now this lock was from Rick:

And Rick's wool made yarn that looks like this:

Rick's wool is finer than Suki's wool, so I was able to spin a finer yarn. Note the difference in YPP (written on the sample card). However, Rick's wool has a more defined crimp and is loftier than the yarn from Suki. In this picture of the knitted sample, the bottom motif was knitted on US 0's size needles, the same as the swatch from Suki. That sample wasn't very open, so I went up to US 2 needles to achieve a more open lace effect that you see in the upper motif.

Both of the raw wool samples were washed by the lock, by hand then combed with Louet minicombs and pulled into top which was predrafted to the point where it barely held together as top. A worsted drafting technique was used with my hands held about a fiber length apart and the fibers in the drafting triangle held under tension. This was to create as smooth a yarn as possible. Fuzzy yarns won't show off lace patterning.

That's probably enough to digest for now. Click on the pictures to see them larger and note the the wpi and ypp on the sample cards. I'll post more on some other samples later this week.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Walk in the Park....

It's a beautiful 70 degree day here in SE Michigan. Spring has arrived and the days of having the township park all to myself for my (almost) daily 3 mile walk are over. The play area is now overrun with pre-schoolers, daycare groups, and elementary school field trips. And so it should be.

However, today I was unwittingly drawn into an incident that (I hope) one mother will not soon forget.

This is the pond at the park. Way beyond the right margin of the photo (to the east), across a road, is one of those big multilevel wooden play scapes amid a sea of cedar mulch.

I usually start my walk on the path to the southwest side of the pond. This morning on my first lap around the park, I encountered a little boy, who was probably between 18 mos. to 2 yrs. old at the white X on the photo. There was no one else near him and he was headed for the water. About 1/3 way around the pond was a man setting up to fish and one other man was coming around the path, counter clockwise to my usual clockwise route. So, I asked the man coming toward me, "is he with you?" pointing to the little boy. "Nope, I thought he was with you." was the reply.

So I asked the little boy if he was with his mommy or daddy. The little twerp just looked at me and started running ahead of me on the path. maybe he was with the fishing guy. I proceeded to have a lot of disparaging thoughts about a guy that was so wrapped up in his fishing that he would let that child wander around the drainage pipes to the pond which was swollen from yesterday's cloudbursts.

The little wanderer preceded me on the path around the pond and as we came near the fishing guy, I shouted, "Is he with you?" pointing to the little boy. The guy took his cigar out of his mouth and yelled, "NO!" we are headed further and further away from the play structure, headed up an 8% grade on the path. The circuit of the path is a mile. Each time I talked to the little boy, asking if he was with Mommy or with school, what is his name?...he just giggled and ran ahead.

Considering today's world, there was no way I was touching this kid...not to hold his hand, direct him from the shoulder, pick him up or whatever. I could see it in the headlines of the local paper "Abduction Attempt Thwarted" with my mug shot.

My cell phone was clipped to my waistband and I figured I'd just try to encourage the kid to stay on the path and herd him back around to the playscape. If he conked out on me at the top of the hill, I'd just call the police to come meet us and let whoever lost track of him deal with those consequences.

I'm ashamed to admit that those under 2 year old legs handled that 8% grade well ahead of me and even gathered steam on the downhill side of the path. He still wasn't talking but he was singing something in his own little language as he trotted along. Just as we were coming to the bottom of the hill, where there's a little bridge across the stream, two women came running toward him.

I asked the ladies who they were (thinking if they were a day care center their license should be pulled). The smaller, dark haired woman was his mother. She picked him up and started to shake him. Then she looked at me and started to say thank you. I told her that he started walking with me almost 15 minutes before when he was across the road and over by the water! Why wasn't anyone watching him? She said she was, but she thought he was in the play scape. I then told her the two consequences she had narrowly escaped:

- he was less than 25 ft. away from the pond 15 minutes ago, so he could have been in the water all that time.
- in another 50 ft., I would have called the police if no one were looking for him.

It's my sincere hope that she recognizes that at his age punishment is not what's needed: closer supervision is.

Meanwhile, I know at least one little guy is going to take a long hard nap sometime today!
This is pretty funny because from 1970 to 72 there was a big picture of a white 911T on my bulletin board. I guess some qualities are enduring? (Ha!)

I'm a Porsche 911!

You have a classic style, but you're up-to-date with the latest technology. You're ambitious, competitive, and you love to win. Performance, precision, and prestige - you're one of the elite,and you know it.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Would you be disappointed to know I drive a Ford Freestyle? Hey, it holds the looms and the spinning wheels.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tips for spinning samples for very fine yarns:

Here are two of the tricks I "unvented" while continuing to sample for very fine yarns. Most of what I've been spinning is finer than laceweight when plied. More about statistics in a later post.

Very fine yarns don't take up much space. I use minicombs to comb a lock, then draw it off the comb into a very fine top without using a diz. After doing this with two locks, I head to the spinning wheel which is set up with the smallest whorl and scotch tension w/ a very light touch on the brake band. After spinning one lock, wind the yarn from the spinning wheel bobbin onto the bobbin for a weaving shuttle. Then do the same with the second lock.

By doing this, you don't have to take the spinning wheel apart, mess around with replacing the bobbin and whorl and readjusting the brake band and tension on the spinning wheel.

Judith MacKenzie-McCuin talks about winding yarn onto storage bobbins. This is really an adaptation of that concept.

I've never been very fond of this two bobbin weaving shuttle, but it makes a great Lazy Kate for plying laceweight samples!! The wooden shuttle provides just enough weight to keep the bobbins stable, and I haven't had any problems with the bobbins freewheeling. If you're a weaver and don't have a two bobbin shuttle, two separate boat shuttles would work just as well.

The next idea allows one to stop plying mid-bobbin without getting the fine yarns hopelessly tangled:

Just use a small butterfly clip to clip off the twist at the point where you need to stop. (Sorry for the soft focus on the clip & yarn...I hope you can see it.) It keeps the twist from heading toward the bobbins and the yarn between the clip and the bobbins stays at a mild but consistent tension.

I was amazed that this worked. Of course one must make sure that the resident cat is occupied elsewhere if you plan on leaving the room with this set up.

Speaking of resident cats...did you noticed my newly adopted Cleo in the sidebar. I thought that if I had a pet on the blog to attend to, I'd get to the blog and update it more often. Hasn't worked so far. I just come to the blog, pull out the ball on the fishing rod and play with Clea when there doesn't seem to be much to say. Then Jazzy notices what I'm doing, jumps up in front of the monitor to try and catch the ball too.

Answers to Questions in the Comments:

Cathy: I've been making the near gossamer weight yarns in 2 ply. After sampling with the Shetland singles in the Wedding Ring Shawl
kit from Sharon Miller, I'm sure I want a yarn with more stability. Since there are so few fibers in a gossamer weight thread, a ingles yarn drifts apart easily when repairing mistakes or ripping back. So 2 ply seems to be necessary for sanity.

Persian Pen Name: the most important thing in spinning a gossamer yarn is starting with the finest fiber available. So far my favorite has been superfine merino top which is above an 80's count. The raw fiber that I've been working with isn't quite so fine. Just from the feel and looking through my 30x microscope, I'd bet these raw wool locks I'm playing with are in the 60's count range. Anything larger than that is not going to make a gossamer weight yarn. It will be more like wire.

Cassie: Alas, Carole's 2006 clip is headed for Frankenmuth to take advantage of the "before April 16" sale on washing, carding, and spinning. She'll probably have some of it made into roving and some of it spun there. So you no longer need worry about temptation.

That's enough for now. More on the knitted samples with the handspun later.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

An update from me?!...must be an April Fool's prank.

Not really. Here is the Alpaca Lace Cardy to date. Next step is to pick up sleeve stitches at the armhole and knit down. The colors are a bit washed out in the photo. Imagine it a tad more saturated toward the teal shade.

Here's a little closer look.

I've continued to wash locks and sample the fleeces from the last post. I did order 2# of the fourth sample (the grey multi-color). That wasn't my first pick when the sampling started.

Keep in mind that my spinning focus right now is headed to gossamer weight yarn. That's entirely different than lace weight. From sampling so far, each of these samples will make a suitable lace weight yarn. But getting to gossamer has been a stretch.

Meanwhile, I've come up with some tricks for spinning & plying samples. But I'll save all that until the swatching is done to provide a comprehensive blog entry.