Monday, October 30, 2006


Yippee, it's good to have things back to normal again! Computer problems over the weekend had me in a mad scramble to try and copy all irreplaceable files, not knowing whether I'd be losing this computer and having to buy a new one or not. But, thanks to the consistently super-fantastic eMachines tech support, I can hang in there with this machine for awhile longer. And it runs so much better.

Enough of that and on to the fiber stuff.

Dan made it possible for me to attend the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) over the weekend. It's been 2 years since I've been able to go so I was delighted to spend the day seeing old friends and immersing myself in all things fibery.

The drive to Asheville, NC was lovely. The weather was perfect and the autumn color, though just past peak, was still glorious.

This year's SAFF was the best I've seen. There were more vendors, more workshops, more demonstrations, more people, and less parking than before.

SAFF, Oct. 28, 2006, Asheville, NCThis is a shot of the inside of the main arena, where the vendors and workshops are. The workshops are held in the partitioned areas in the center, and vendors are packed into the different levels. The nice thing is that the arena is covered, so that rain isn't a problem.

I would have liked to have taken Eileen Hallman's point spinning workshop, but our transportation situation prevented me from knowing whether or not I'd have a vehicle for the weekend. As it was, it was a last minute spontaneous decision to go anyway.

Here is the Beginning Spinning workshop.....

One of the SAFF workshops in action...... I loved the spinning wheels and couldn't resist taking a pic.

I went with a shopping list but didn't buy a lot. Typical for me, I got quite overwhelmed at all the beautiful fibers, yarns, tools, garments, projects, etc., and become exceptionally indecisive.

Some things I was looking for I found, other things I didn't. And I saw some things I wished I'd added to my list and planned on getting. I did buy more Cushings acid dyes and weaving bobbins. My luxury purchase was this......

California Variegeted Mutant fleece.  Wonderfully soft....... some clean California Variegated Mutant fleece from Delly's Delights Farm who traveled all the way from Trappe, MD. Now I'm trying to figure out how to squeeze it into my Rare Breed Sweater, for which I already have plenty of samples!

We also had a chance to visit the barns. My favorite (besides the angora bunnies who were all in the main arena) is this......

Alpacas wondering who all the people are.I love alpacas. We were introduced to them at Alpaca Magic USA when we lived in Florida and my dream then was an Alpaca ranch............ which will probably always remain a dream. :)

The best part of SAFF was getting to see friends. From the Blue Ridge Spinners I saw Carol, Mary, and Eva. From the Western North Carolina Fiber/Handweavers Guild I saw Betsy, Pat, and Charlene (though Mary and Eva are members of this too.) Betsy was my weaving teacher, so I was especially glad to visit with her. She is still just as encouraging as ever.

It's fun how an event like this can be so inspirational. It's refreshing as well as energizing. Now all I have to do is put that inspiration and energy to work.

© 2006 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Thursday, October 26, 2006

One More Shadow Weave Sample

Well, after these samples, I thought I had set shadow weave aside as I prepare for next month's lace weaving workshop. But I had just enough success with this one, so that my brain switched itself to its problem solving gear.

I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps a darker color to contrast with the loopy rayon would look better.

I found some black 2000 ypp acyrlic chenille (which I'm not very fond of, but hey, it only cost a buck) in my stash and decided to give it a try.

I re-threaded the heddles for a different shadow weave pattern, this time using Powell's profile number 4-2-1 on page 67 of 1000+ Patterns. I used the same sett of 16 ends per inch. Close up it looks like this:

Shadow weave in loopy rainbow variegated rayon & black acrylic chenille.And when you step back:

Same stuff from further away.So I'm pleased. I think this fabric would make a nice stole or scarf, or even vest fronts. Perhaps if I ever buy some black rayon chenille I'll give it a try.

© 2006 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Next - Last Shadow Weave - shadow weave with texture

Related Posts:
Shadow Weave: Doing The Triple S - My introduction
Shadow Weave Profiles - How to interpret
Shadow Weave Samples 1 - Begins a series of samples

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Rare Breed Sweater - 1st Sheep Row

I'm pleased with my first row of sheep.

1st sheep row of Leigh's Rare Breed Sweater, back
I gave horns to the breeds which have them. From the left I've got: North Ronaldsay from the Orkney Islands, Hebridean from Scotland, Soay from England, Manx Logthan from England, and Lincoln from Kentucky.

Next will be a green background row with white and light colored sheep. Later I will embroider in eyes and outlines of the faces.

Here's a shot of the inside with the sheep in progress.

Intarsia knitting the sheep, view from the inside.
I stranded the legs (if back and forth with the same yarn can qualify as stranding), and intarsia knit the sheep as you can see. I am happy to report that I haven't had any battling butterflies so far.

It's a great time to be sweater knitting, we just had our first hard freeze last night and frost was everywhere this morning. I love autumn anyway, I guess because it means relief from the summer heat. And I love the autumn colors, one of the things I truly miss about living in the northern US. I love colder weather because it means I can wear sweaters and wool! And since I've started knitting sweaters my handspun, I've begun to associate sweater knitting with the change of season. Another reason to love this time of year!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Weekend Weaving.....

......has consisted of experimenting with some ideas. I've been wanting to try shadow weave utilizing different yarn sizes or textures instead of color. This yarn was what caught my attention:

It is a 2950 ypp rayon filament loop. I thought to try it with rayon chenille for both size and texture contrast, so I tied a yard of these two yarns onto a section of this warp.

My first sample used a dard red, 1450 ypp rayon chenille, sett at 16 epi.

I wanted to check sett and see if the shadow weave pattern was visible. As you can see, the is subtle, but still visible (even with a sleying error and a treadling error.)

But.......not especially impressive, although encouraging enough to try another sample. So I got out some 1000 ypp rayon chenille in a different color and tried that with the same sett.

I quit when several warp threads broke (this is only a sample after all, so I'm not too interested in struggling with the warp just to get a few more inches. ) Plus, it did give me the information I needed. As you can see, the shadow weave pattern is lost at this sett, and possibly not helped by this color combination.

Here they are from a distance.....

Neither sample motivates me to try another. In fact, I'm already beginning to switch gears, mentally. The Online Guild will be offering a lace weaving workshop in November and I would like to participate in that. So perhaps its a good time to clean off the loom, do a little vacuuming, put away my odds & ends, and tidy up my stash a bit.

Even so, I can't say that the weekend was a waste, weaving-wise. I'm just glad I decided to do the samples instead of throwing all caution to the wind and warping the loom for an entire project!

Now see the one that worked by clicking here.

© 2006 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Related Posts:
Shadow Weave: Doing The Triple S - My introduction
Shadow Weave Profiles - How to interpret
Shadow Weave Samples 1 - Begins a series of samples

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rare Breed Sweater - Sheep Feet

I can't believe I am finally knitting on this project. It was conceived four years ago and I've spent those years collecting rare breed fleece and roving samples, spinning, and thinking. I developed the sheep motif fairly early; after I got the fleece for the body of the sweater, a kilo of Ryeland.

Now, with over a dozen rare breed yarns it felt like time to start knitting. I worked up a tension swatch and am using the measurements from a favorite sweater as a guideline. My gauge is 20.5 stitches and 32 rows per 4 inches.

I've started on the back and have just finished the stick-like looking legs on the first row of sheep:

The beginning of Leigh's Rare Breed Sweater.As you can see the sheep will be intarsia knit. It's been a lot of fun arranging and rearranging the different colors of yarns, trying to decide what to put where.

A close-up:
Close up of the color transition & sheep legs.As you can see, so far I've abandoned all my sample swatches.

I have to admit that I'm still contemplating exactly how I'm going to do the sheep on the fronts. In some ways it would be so much easier to make this a pullover as five sheep are fitting nicely across the back width. That means each cardigan front will have enough room for 2 and 1/2 sheep(!). One idea I have for the rows of sheep on the fronts is to to knit a ewe and two smaller lambs (instead of 2 and 1/2 sheep ;). I think this would be a nice way to show off the variety of fleece colors for some breeds like Navaho Churro, Shetland, and North Ronaldsay.

Also I still have to make decisions about the front and neck bands, and buttons; things which are fun to contemplate as I sit there knitting. If only all my decisions could be this enjoyable!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rare Breed Sweater Swatches

Over the weekend I started working on some swatches for my rare breed sweater.

I have two sets of rare breed yarns to work with, one light and one dark.

The body of the sweater will be Ryeland yarn in natural white. My dark rare breed yarns will work with this:

Naturally dark colored rare breed yarns.From left they are: Ryeland (white), Manx Loghtan, Hebridean, Shetland, Lincoln, Soay, Jacob, and 2 colors of Navajo Churro.

I also have quite a few white and light color rare breed yarns. As a background for these, I dyed some of the Ryeland green:

Light rare breed yarns in natural colors.From left, these are: Ryeland (green), Teeswater, Wensleydale, Tunis, White Faced Woodland, North Ronaldsay, Leicester Longwool, Cotswold, and Karakul.

Using this motif, which measures 16 by 16 stitches, I will have enough different types of yarns for 2 rows of sheep on the body of the sweater.

This is a sketch of the design idea I'm considering:

Leigh's sketch for her rare breed sweater.My plan is to knit a cardigan so this view is from the back. I have some dark blue Hog Island yarn which I plan to use for the seeding pattern and as an accent in the transition pattern between the stripes of sheep.

It's been this transition I'm working on at the moment. So I've been knitting strips to experiment with possibilities:

I haven't decided which I like best. Perhaps I'll knit a few more. I tend to want something simple.

I'd like to be able to say I'll finish the sweater this winter, but I know myself too well. I'm pretty much an "all thumbs" knitter and so tend to knit slowly. I'm usually good for one sweater or vest and several pairs of socks each year. And with the kids in college our lives have changed. In the winter my knitting time used to be in the evenings, when we would read aloud rather than watch TV. Our favorite books then were the Little House series, the Ralph Moody series, Watership Down, and Rascal by Sterling North.

So with the daylight hours dwindling and long evenings of dark ahead, perhaps a trip to the library for a good book on CD is in order. Any suggestions?

© 2006 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Related Posts:
Winter Knitting Project
TA-DAH! Rare Breed Sweater Done!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Recycled Silk Yarn

Silk tops from the thrift store.The idea for this yarn came from Jane Deane during the Online Guild's Silk Spinning Workshop. It is a way to recycle silk fabric from old or discarded silk garments. I was able to pick up several colors I liked from a local thrift store for just a few dollars.

The first step involved cutting the fabric up into small pieces. I cut the tops into approximately 3 inch wide strips and experimented cutting scraps small enough to handcard. I decided that scraps about a quarter of an inch wide or less worked best.

Cutting up a perfectly acceptable silk blouse wasn't the easiest thing to do!These were handcarded to break them down. I found that my cotton carders worked best.

Cotton handcarders   worked the best.The lighter the weight the fabric, the faster and easier it was to card. The off-white broke down quickest, the fushia fabric was the heaviest and took the longest. In fact, you can see that it didn't break down very well at all.

Handcarded silk scraps.To spin, I used the largest ratio I had (always a good idea for something new) and treadled slowly (also a good idea!) At first I tried to make rolags out of the stuff, but these didn't hold together very well, so I simply spun it out of my hand. I inch wormed slowly because it gave me the most control. I added a lot of twist to hold it together.

Spinning was a challenge but went okay as long as I treadled slowly & added plenty of twist.I wound the single off into a center pull ball and plied from that. The final 2-ply is bulky and measures 6 WPI.

2-ply reyucled silk yarn.It took quite a bit of work(!) so I doubt I'll spin a lot of it.

Still, it makes an interesting yarn. It doesn't have the characteristic luster of the fabric. Also, I haven't washed this yet, but I think doing so will unravel the sticky-out scraps a bit more and add more character! I'm not sure if I should try a small knitted sample or just save it for a weaving project. Most likely it will sit in my "Samples" box for a long time to come.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Leicester Longwool 3 – Two Yarns

I have finished spinning my first handful of Leicester Longwool; about as much as I need for enough yarn for one sheep motif on my Rare Breed Sweater. The total weight I worked with was 54 grams (1.8 ounces). From that I was able to comb 34 grams (1.2 ounces), from which I spun a worsted yarn. From the remaining 20 grams, I picked out about 4 grams (0.1 ounce) of neps and second cuts. I handcarded the remaining 16 grams (½ ounce) for a woolen yarn sample.

So, percentage-wise, that handful yielded 63% worsted, 30% woolen, and 7% waste.

Here they are, with the worsted yarn on the left.

Worsted Leicester Longwool yarn on the left, woolen spun on the right.I used my Kromski Minstrel for both yarns, spinning with the 8.5 ratio whorl. Both measure 14 WPI. Neither one has a soft hand.

The worsted yarn is smoother and has I love its luster, though it is not as silky to touch as Wensleydale. It was lovely to spin however. I tend to spin short fibers more often than long ones, so I had to keep reminding myself of its 6 inch length and adjust my hand positioning accordingly. Still, it was so easy to spin that I developed a rhythm quickly.

The woolen yarn still has some rare neps and short bits in it. The fiber length was anywhere from 1 to 3 inches. I don't think this style of spinning does the fiber justice, but it is nice to know I will be able to utilize most of the fleece.

The Leicester Longwool has such lovely wave and curl to it.....

Leicester Longwool staples.
.....that I'm thinking someday I'd like to experiment and try some in a woven fleece sample.

And the best news is that this is the last of my rare breed yarn samples for my sweater. So it's soon time to start swatching. I have lots of ideas, I only hope that some of them are workable. Too often the picture in my head doesn't match the results on my needles! :o The weather is finally turning cooler, so sweater knitting will be a welcome activity.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Undulating Shadow Weave 3 - Finishing

After my somewhat successful hemstitching experience, I have cut my undulating shadow weave off the loom.

I wet finished it in cold water. I let it soak for about half an hour in the washing machine, agitated briefly, and then put it on the spin cycle. I ironed it while still damp. This softened the fabric beautifully.

To cut the fringe, I finally broke down and bought one of these....

Rotary cutter & self-healing cutting mat...... a rotary cutter which I found in the quilting department at the local big box store. It made trimming the fringe a breeze.

Using a ruler to make a straight cut.I think this is the first time I actually got even, straight fringe. No more eyeballing with scissors for me!

So here it is:

Undulating shadow weave in 8/2s black & 16/2s green cotton.In looking at it I'm now thinking more of a shawl than a table runner. Either way I am very pleased with it and interested in exploring undulating shadow weave a little more. I have a few ideas to vary it somewhat, so hopefully I'll have another project on the loom soon.

Next - Weekend Weaving - Shadow weave with novelty yarn

Related Posts:
Shadow Weave Profiles
Undulating Shadow Weave 1 - Weaving
Undulating Shadow Weave 2 - Hemstitching
Shadow Weave Samples 1 - Begins the series of samples

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Color Blending on Woolcombs

By Leigh

I am very pleased to report that the more practice I get with my new woolcombs, the less awkward the process of combing feels.

A couple of things which I've learned (because, even though I've read this advice, experience is after all, the best teacher :) :
1. The fiber must be very clean. Even a little leftover grease both gunks up the combs and slows down the process.
2. That 4 transfers (or whatever it's called) works well to remove the noils and short bits, and creates fiber that truly "spins like butter."

I think I've found a new love!

Jesse wondered about trying to blend fibers with the combs. That idea piqued my curiosity too so I wanted to give it a try.

I knew that I had some small amounts of dyed Border Leicester fleece somewhere, so I dug around in my stash and pulled them out. I found two colors of blue, both from Cushings acid dyes. One from the exhaust of a navy dyepot (because who can let an exhausted dyepot go waste), the other Cushings Copenhagen blue (my favorite.)

First I sorted them out by staple length. Otherwise, the longer fibers catch and pull out first, and the shorter fibers will be pulled off last. This obviously isn't helpful for blending.

I chose the 6 inch locks and loaded the comb about 50/50.

The blues blended well with each progressive exchange of fiber.

Below are the results with the two original colors for comparison. Navy exhaust on the left, Copenhagen blue on the right, and the blend in the middle. The results are subtle because of the colors I used, but successful enough to encourage more experimenting.

I didn't waste any time spinning these up. What a joy! Since they are only samples and will probably find their way into some knitting project, I put a low amount of twist in the yarns to keep them soft.

Instructions for color blending with a diz can be found at the Majacraft website. And somewhere I think I've seen instructions for blending with a hackle. However, I'm too lazy to try the diz method. And considering how long it took me to purchase woolcombs, don't look for the addition of a hackle to my fiber equipment any time soon. :)

Related posts -
Adventures in Woolcombing
Polwarth - Experimenting With Blends

Monday, October 02, 2006

Adventures In Wool Combing

Well, actually I wouldn't call it “adventures.” “Experiments “ would be more like it.

I have procrastinated purchasing woolcombs all these years for various reasons. Mostly though, because their cost required me to not make a frivolous purchase. Besides, I had a flicker, wouldn't that accomplish the same thing?

However, after a lot of knuckle busting from the flicker, a lot of deliberation, and the recommendation of my friend Ruth in Kansas, I finally decided to purchase Forsyth Minicombs. They have the advantages of being small, lightweight, portable, and not too deadly looking, as well as being well made.

My new Forsyth mini woolcombs, complete with canvas bag & plastic diz.These are 2-pitch, meaning that they have 2 rows of tines.

“Charging” the comb means loading it with fiber. The biggest disadvantage to minicombs is that one can only deal with small amounts of fiber at a time. But, I figured that since I would probably make quite a few messes anyway, smaller messes would be easier to deal with than larger ones.

Comb charged with Leicester Longwool.The butt end of the locks are loaded onto the comb, lashing on about ½ inch of fiber, about half-way down the tines.

The combing itself requires that the combs be worked perpendicular to one another. Exactly how this is accomplished is by whatever method is the most comfortable and least perilous to the comber. So I did a lot of experimenting, and tried every angle.

I tried combing this-a-way.
And that-a-way.I admit that it felt rather awkward no matter which way I held the combs or which dorection I combed. This is a feeling that I know that practice and experience will tend to.

After the fiber is transferred from one comb to the other, the short bits and VM are removed from the first comb and the process is repeated several times.

Dizzing the combed fiber.The other tool which requires some practice is the use of a diz. I'm sure the complimentary one that came with my combs is adequate, but I couldn't help but admire some of the fancy ones in the Woodland Woolworks catalog, nor contemplate the ideas on the Online Guild discussion board for making my own.

A clamp is also available, which I didn't purchase. Without it I had to enlist the help of an spare off-camera hand to secure the comb as I dizzed the fiber.

The result is this lovely open roving, ready to spin, which I will report on soon.

The resulting roving.
In the meantime, woolcombing tips and suggestions are welcome.