Monday, February 23, 2009

Even battier

New batts on my Etsy Shop. These are "matched batts" which were all made at the same time, with the same materials, but mixing them differently so that a spinner can end up with a striping yarn. Definitely fun to spin!

Fluffy rainbow

An experiment in blending, and an experiment in woolen spinning.

The roving (hand-dyed)

The rolags

And the yarn

Sooooo fluffy!

This yarn now lives at the Hillsborough Yarn Store. At least, it does until someone snags it up!

It was very fun to make, so I'm going to make another one for my Etsy shop. It was nice too seeing the difference between my spinning from a couple years ago and now. I've improved a LOT.

Monday, February 16, 2009

For Jenningma


has become this

Approximately 140 yards of worsted weight, super fluffy single. Ships tomorrow since the post office is closed today, and its still drying. There was some VM still in the batt which came out nicely when it was spinning, and then it had a bath in some eucalyptus Eucalan.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More things a-brewing

My friend Phil has now gotten me into beer brewing. We started a nice thick scottish ale which I've tasted before when he made it. So we have 5 gallons of beer brewing in our laundry room. And boy is it bubbling away. Beer ferments a lot faster than mead, and this stuff will be done in 5-12 days. I'm hoping that next weekend we'll be able to bottle it and let it carbonate up just a little before the dojo party on the 28th.

We also discovered that the mead we'd made went far too fast. So we're making another 5 gallon batch of mead. This time the recipe will include:

1 gal organic wildflower honey
4 gal water
The zest and pulp/juice (but not pith) of 8 organic limes
1 1/4 oz fresh organic mint leaves
2 T organic lemon zest (leftover from baking lemon cookies)

2.5 tsp yeast nutrient
4 tsp high alcohol yeast nutrient
1 package dry mead yeast

We're using dry mead instead of sweet because the mead actually ended up a little bit too sweet for our tastes. This is going to be called grog mead, since grog was traditionally watered rum with lime and sugar. Pirate mojitos!

We're also going to bottle more of this, rather than drinking it out of the carboy. While it was tasty young, it aged extremely well.

After cooking and mixing, the alcohol potential of this mix is only 8-9% based on my density measurer. Odd, considering we started with the same ingredients.

Etsy Live!

Finally, my etsy shop has gone live. You can find me at

Per another Etsyer's suggestion, I'm letting the things I have trickle in, to keep me at the top of the page.

The first set of offerings will be the batts from a couple of posts back. I've bundled them into groups of three coordinating or complimentary batts. I think I'll go assemble a couple of drop spindles to make up drop spindle "learn to spin" kits, like what I had at the Ren Faire, and select which handspun items will go. I'm going to list some of the things I've had on hand since the Hillsborough Farmer's Market, like the corn bags, neck coolers, coffee cup cozies. All in good time.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I'm participating in a quilt-a-long! I'm very excited, since this will give me lots of incentive to quilt, something I've been wanting to work on for a while. My assignment over the weekend is to pick fabrics, which shouldn't be too bad. I just have to decide if I'm going to use stuff from my stash or buy new.

You can see a picture of what the finished pattern will be here.

I may only do 3x3 blocks, and finish it at 71 1/2" square rather than rectangle. That's a good cuddling size right?

Update: Fabrics selected!

The blue hearts is going to be my directional fabric, fussy cut so that the hearts are all facing the right direction. The variety of rich cream and yellow fabric will be the sashing between the blocks. The red-brown batik on the left will be the red borders and the binding, the white-on-white will be my background color, and the various colored fat quarters and bag of scraps behind it will be the half-square triangles and blocks between the sashing. The bag is comprised of scraps from a quilt my aunt made for me and Jeff as a wedding present. The quilt still sits happily and warmly on our bed, and the scraps are slowly being whittled away. With the blue in the focus fabric and the blues in the scraps, I thought this was an ideal project for using up a lot of those little scraps. It also will be great to use up some of the inexpensive fat quarters I' ve picked up over the years. Those fabrics I just LOOVE but have no idea what to do with!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Can't Stop Here. . .This is Batt country!

With apologies to H. S. Thompson.

I will admit. I've been going a bit crazy with the drum carder.

I love it. love love love it

I took the entire 1 lb bag of Cotswold Curls I'd ordered from Brown Sheep, mixed them up into 1-ounce mixes, and now have 16 gorgeous batts, ready to start my Etsy Shop! (If they don't sell there, there's always the Ren Faire).

The Cotswold was as advertized, brightly dyed with the potential for some VM mixed in, and there is still a little bit of VM in some of the batts, but it will come out when spinning.

And now I have this:

And want to do this to each and every one of them!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Twist and Shout

I was explaining to some friends about why I spin yarn, and the topic of S versus Z and the effects of those spinning techniques on the finished project came up. This was responded to with a number of blank stares.

To put it simply, when the flyer twists the yarn in a clockwise fashion, you're spinning (or plying) Z, and when the flyer twists the yarn in the counter-clockwise fashion, you're spinning (or plying) S.

Here's a picture to help:

Whether this is two plies of yarn we're looking at, or the direction of twist of the fibers in a single, picture yourself holding the near end of those fibers, and something twisting them clockwise or counter-clockwise at the other end. For the purposes of this tutorial, it doesn't matter whether the finished yarn is a single or plied. All that really matters is the last twist put into it. The only difference is with plied yarn it may come unplied a bit, and for a single yarn it may come untwisted (and potentially hinder the integrity of the yarn, but I'll cover how to avoid that).

So how can twist work for or against you while knitting/crocheting/weaving your project?

I'll start with knitting. The yarn goes around the needle in the clockwise direction (generally. Although there are stitches out there that wrap the opposite direction, but let's keep it simple). This will add twist to Z twisted yarn and remove twist from S twisted yarn. Makes sense, right? We're moving the yarn in the opposite direction to which it was last spun, thus taking just a little bit of at last spin out.

On to Crocheting. Again we have the issue of which way the yarn goes around the hook before being pulled through to make a loop. My friend Kim wraps the yarn around from bottom to top (counterclockwise) to pull it through, and I wrap the yarn from top to bottom (clockwise) so our crocheting looks very different. The same principles apply to crocheting as they do to knitting, counterclockwise will remove twist from Z and add twist to S, clockwise will add to Z and remove from S.

So what about weaving? Let's take another look at the picture above. See how the fibers or plies slant to the right or the left? Let's stack them, and make those letters a little smaller:

See how when you stack two sets with the same twist direction (Z-Z here, but the same would apply to S-S), the plies or fibers crisscross each other? Here the texture of the weaving would be distinct. Then when you stack yarns with twist going in the opposite direction, they almost nest together. This fabric will be flatter, less textured.

So what are the ultimate ramifications of this? Two-ply yarn illustrates this the best. Sometimes, when knitting or crocheting with yarn that's 2-ply, it almost ends up seeming like you're just working with two strands held together, because some of the plying twist has come out. Other times, yarn that feels soft and drapey in a skein (its relaxed state) will seem rougher once knitted or crocheted. It's all about the twist. While the small amount of twist added in the act of knitting or crocheting isn't much, it can still have an effect on your final project.

So what to do?

I like to add more twist than I think is necessary to my plied yarns. This is because I knit continental (picking) and my favorite way to spin and ply is to spin Z and ply S. I know that my knitting will take a little bit of the spin out of my plying efforts, so I plan ahead.

When I was spinning yarn for my friend to crochet into a hat, I studies how he crochets. He moves the yarn clockwise, so I spun the singles S and very loosely. I know that the structure of his crochet stitch will add a little twist to the singles, making them stronger, but it should keep enough air in it still to make the hat super warm and soft. If I were spinning yarn for my friend Kim, I would spin singles (or ply) Z, because she moves her yarn counterclockwise.

With handweaving, if you're working with commercial yarns, you're stuck with however they spun the yarn. This is where the art really comes in. You can spin singles that go in the Z direction for warp, and either singles spun in the S direcion for weft, or 2-ply yarn that's spun Z and plied S for weft. Your weaving will lock together like cobblestones. Or, if you want a more textured handwoven piece at the end, make sure all yarn is spun in the same direction so that those plies intentionally do not nest.

I hope this tutorial has been more helpful than confusing, I know I've had fun writing it!

(although it may need more pictures!)