French Roses Background

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Technique: Turning A Batt Into Roving & Spinning It All Up

In last week's installment, I showed step-by-step how I space dyed a batt of alpaca/silk in LSU colors for a client of mine, ending with the batt in the steam pot.

Here is the finished batt enjoying some Texas sun.
The colors are truly stunning - no color manipulation in the photography here!
Sunning BattFinished Batt 

Splitting the Batt

Once the batt was completely dry I split it down the middle, just shy of the other end. Then in the opposite direction, split each half in half again - making one long, continuous length.

Hand Cream Required

And then I remembered how much silk likes to stick to dry hands. . . . .

Hand cream is required!

Next I made a diz with a plastic milk cap by poking a small hole through it.  The fiber is then drawn through the diz to create a smooth, even roving - which makes spinning much easier.
The DizPulling Roving   Threaded Diz

Big Ball 'O RovingAfter pulling all the fiber through my diz, I had a huge pile of roving that I wound into a large ball to keep the color sequence intact & the fiber tidy

Pencil Roving

In the end, I still had to pull the roving a bit thinner to get the smooth, light yarn I needed

Some friends suggested I make a how-to video for drop spindling.  However, the Queen of Spindling, Abby Franquemont, has already done so.  You can't improve on perfection.  If you'd like, go here to see Ms. Franquemont teach an introductory lesson.

Trio of Finished Fiber

You can see why this particular fiber is one of my very favorite to dye, spin and knit!

Drying Yarn

I finished the last of the spinning & gave it a long soak in hot water & wool wash, followed by a good "whacking".  Now I'm just waiting on the finished yarn to dry!

I hope to post knitting progress pics on Thursday!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On My Needles - Whiskey Felted Cap

Although I am in the process of spinning for the Geaux Tigers project, I always have at least 2 (or 5) projects going on at the same time.

Using up the rest of my merino blend roving, I spun a 2-ply fingering-ish yarn  This one should be a quick & fun knit.
Whiskey Cap

In fact, I was hoping to have this bound off last night & in the washer for felting today.  Key word: "Hoping".

Sigh . . . This is the perfect example for checking gauge.  Because this hat will be felted, it isn't absolutely crucial.   However, when you are only about two-thirds done with the hat and only have about 40 yards of yarn left, it isn't a good thing.  Especially considering I spun an extra 40 yds. . . . Sigh

Around 11 last night, I completely frogged the whole thing (knitter-speak for ripping out stitches. . . you know, "Rip-it, rip-it. . . ") and actually knitted a swatch to figure out my gauge.  Then I did a little math (my yarn is a little fluffier than the commercial yarn used) and knit the first one-third of the pattern.

Now I'm chugging right along with no worries about running out of yarn. Or of having a hat that would be too big for Frankenstein no matter how many times I felted it.

I'm still working on the Maikell scarf, just taking a break right now.  My goal was to complete one repeat of the lace each day.  Then I got The Migraine That Wouldn't Leave.  I didn't knit a single stitch for a whole week.  I really don't remember the last time that happened.

Then I got distracted.

Now I want to finish something.

Maikell is still a good way from being finished.

So I started the Whiskey Felted Cap

However, to prove that I have made some progress:
Maikell Progress
Just look at all those lovely nupps!

A little over half-way completed!

This will definitely be a thing of beauty!

Come back on Tuesday to see how I split & drafted the fiber for the Geaux Tigers project. . . . Maybe some spinning & yarn pics?  I hope so!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Technique: Space Dyeing A Batt

I know it's not Tuesday.  But, people, if you had seen my day yesterday, you would understand.  The only knitting I got in was while my husband was driving us across town yesterday evening. . . .

Since my last post, I have had 3 custom orders placed! *Squeeee!*  I am so excited!!  Seriously, folks.  I really enjoy knitting from other designers' patterns. . . .
. . . . . BUT. . . . . .

There is nothing like creating something on your own.  I love talking to my clients about what they're interested in, favorite colors, hobbies, etc., and using this information as design elements.

Take, for example, this scarf I recently put in my shop:
Rolled Waterlilies - Edited

A client saw it & commented how nice it might be in LSU colors.  That got the ball rolling.

Before long, we had planned a lightweight scarf/stole in gold & purple, featuring a custom-designed fleur de lis motif. (I had taken pics of the design process & swatches, but my iPhone completely crashed & I lost them!)  Details were finalized, & I ordered the requested fiber - a prepared batt of 50/50 Alpaca/Silk (Heavenly!) from my favorite fiber source, Crystal Creek Fibers.

 A few days later, I got to open this:
Raw Fiber

This fiber is absolutely amazing.  In fact, everything I've ever purchased from Crystal Creek is amazing!  (Big Rivah Shawl was spun & knit using a gorgeous blend of silk, alpaca & merino I purchased from Crystal Creek)  Plus, with every purchase you get a little something extra:
Free Sample!

How can you not love a seller like that?!

On with the Technique!

With the Waterlilies Scarf, I spun, then dyed the yarn.  With this new design (Geaux Tigers), I needed the colors to be more saturated, with longer color transitions.  After researching different methods, I decided that space dyeing the batt would give me the best results.  I usually use food-safe dyes (Kool-Aid, Wilton Icing Colors), but given the rich, royal purple needed, I didn't want to risk the purple separating into pink & blue.

Three days after I opened the box of fiber, the dye arrived (purchased from Knit Picks)
Dye Kit.

Right after breakfast today, I put the rolled-up batt of fiber in a warm vinegar-water solution to soak for about 3 hours (unfortunately, I didn't think to get a picture. . . )  Then the Princesses & I Saran-wrapped the table, unrolled the batt and mixed up the dye solution.
Wet Fiber

First, I test-dyed a small piece of fiber to see how far the dye would travel once applied, and how long it needed to be steamed before exhausting.  Very important, considering the colors I was using - if you recall from your elementary school art class, any time you combine the three primary colors (yellow + red + blue), you get brown.  NOT an official LSU color. . . . Aside from needing to saturate the fiber with more dye - Success!!
Test Run

I used quite a bit of dye, making sure to "squish" it in real good. . . . .
LSU Stripes

. . . . yep, needs more dye.

Getting wrapped up to go in the steam pot, you can see both sides of the batt are evenly dyed:
Fiber Roll-Up

The last step was to steam this beauty for an hour, carefully flipping it over half-way through:
Steam Pot

I'll leave it in the pot all night to cool, then rinse it and let it dry in the hot Texas sun.

Next week, I'll talk about how to draft to ensure an evenly-spun yarn.

Until next time!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Getting Organized

With school having begun everywhere across the nation, most parents are heaving a sigh of relief.  Most days will begin the same: Wake up the household, make breakfast, pack lunches, sign permission slips, check homework, see kids to school, enjoy a cuppa in peace. At least that's the way I imagine it.

In my house, it usually starts like this: Brew a cuppa, wake the Princesses, make breakfast, gather school books, gather Princesses, begin lessons.  There is still the daily cooking, cleaning, washing stuff to do.  There are still co-op classes to be taken to.  The list goes on & on.  Homeschooling is not for the faint-of-heart.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching my children from the comforts of my own home,  However, it can get kinda hectic!  Creating routines makes things run much smoother.

Unfortunately, there is something inside of me that really doesn't like being told what to do every waking moment of my life.  According to the results of the recent Personality/Temperament test I took, that's because I'm extremely Choleric in the Control areas of my life.  Thank you, Victor Alba.  Now I can officially blame it on something.

The good news is: I hate chaos even more!  I have decided to control my To-Do's and not let them control me!  That's what I like about FlyLady.  She taught me that, as long as I am consistent, doing a little bit at a time can get the job done.  Since I found the Cozi app for my iPhone, I am loving it even more!  I can easily schedule various tasks & events, then assign who in my family should be involved.  It's like having a dry-erase Family Calendar that sends out reminders!  I even found something to help me keep track of lessons & grading (Homeschool Skedtrack.) 

Basically, I like gadgets to help me stay on track.

I have decided to organize my blog posts, too. Regularly discussed topics will be "Technique" on Tuesdays and "What's on my Needles" on Thursdays, with a little bit of other stuff in between.

Come back tomorrow to see what I've been working on - you're gonna love it!