Monthly Archives: July 2015

2ply or not 2ply

  
This is what’s on the loom right now; it is an absolute joy to weave for many reasons including because the warp is Egyptian cotton, so beautifully soft and it flowed through my fingers when I wound it; the weft is handspun rose fibre – it’s the first time I’ve spun a weft for a whole wrap and there is a special feeling in using yarn I’ve made. But the main reason it is a joyful warp is because this is for a friend I have made because of weaving; the other wrap is for another friend and the last part will become a shawl for me.

I have thought a lot about the ways in which crafts like knitting and spinning join people together through a shared love of fibre and respect for our different skills. Weaving has carried me into a community of some wonderful women and in congruence with the woven cloth, our lives have become interlaced. It’s a blessing.

OK, so this clearly isn’t what the title refers to and I’ve wandered down a bit of a side road…but there is a bridge to the main topic via the handspun weft. As baby wraps need to be functional as well as good to look at, I had to put some consideration into what would work as a weft if it were to be handspun. Part of this led me to think about whether it needed to be plied or not, as you may be able to tell, I chose to ply the spun singles, for lots of reasons.

  
Firstly, plied yarn is stronger. A single of spun fibre is stronger than unspun fibre and two singles plied together increases this strength exponentially (I am rather blatantly plagiarising Judith Mackenzie here).

Also, there is no getting away from the fact that, no matter how good a spinner you are, handspun is inconsistent. Indeed that is part of it’s charm and some commercially spun yarn tries to replicate this quality (although failing imho!). By plying it, the inconsistencies are reduced as well as ensuring the fibre is more ‘protected’; all yarn will experience wear and tear, plying ensures that less of each individual fibre is left exposed, reducing the chance of pills and breakage.

OK, that’s the end of today’s uninvited spinning tutorial; you may have noticed the Saori style accents in the weaving, I added some core spun banana and angelina on the tails of the wrap. The banana was very flyaway and of course the angelina (sparkle fibre) got everywhere so after spinning my jeans looked like they had encountered a suicide bombing angora bunny blowing up a glitter factory. Thank heavens for lint removers. 

  

Crackle and pop

  
It’s a while since I wrote about weaving. Ollie the Octado and I have settled down together very well now. I’ve learnt a lot about Fiberworks, the weaving programme that controls the loom and I’ve found my way around all the little annoying things, like how to quickly re weave the last pick – useful for bobbin changes – and clever things like how to treadle the threading (a weaver’s dream come true).

The most recent creation has been some crackle weave, so called as it resembles the cracked glaze on pottery, although it tends to make me think of those crinkly toffee wrappers.

It’s a kind of block twill with floats no longer than 3 threads and I find the finished fabric is a lovely blend of plain weave and twill. 

I’ve used three different drafts so far, one from handweaving.net by Griswold and two from Carol Strickler’s book on 8-shaft patterns (my bible).

One of them, I won’t say which, was a bit of a nightmare in respect to selvedges and I ended up adding floating selvedges. These are supplementary warp threads not threaded through any heddles and weighted separately. I’m not used to using them and I found they slowed me down considerably. It was frustrating as I couldn’t get into my normal rhythm and they kept breaking too. Very annoying; I crawled my way through one wrap (which did look very pretty) but then changed the treadling as soon as I could.

  
The final wrap used my own pattern design and was so much easier due to the absence of fiddly floaters (sorry) that it could’ve looked like something the cat dragged in, so relieved was I simply to be flinging the shuttle at my usual pace. Thankfully it’s rather pretty and will become my ‘go to’ crackle I think.

  

My apple is very wild

The ‘Wild Apple’ cardigan is coming along nicely, if a little slowly.

  
The angora/merino yarn is simply gorgeous. When the kit first arrived, I was surprised that the yarn wasn’t especially fluffy in that inimitable angora way, but as I knit with it it develops a beautiful little halo of fluff, as though it is waking up and having a good stretch!

The colourwork is a little challenging at times (a slight understatement there perhaps…), especially as I’m attempting the cardi version where I need a ball of yarn at each side for the button bands, as well as the balls of yarn for the stranded work in-between.

There is a discussion how to manage the rows where you are working with three or four colours in one row on Ravelry and some knitters prefer to knit a row with just a couple of colours at a time, by slipping the stitches of the colours they aren’t using, then using them in the next row and slipping the stitches already knit previously. It’s a clever way of managing it  but I find I’m quite enjoying the slightly chaotic nature of knitting and managing all the colours and balls at once.

Despite my best efforts to ensure I keep each ball separate, the little fuzzys love to stick to each other for a cuddle and I usually have to have a couple of untanglings during each row.

  
I also haven’t twisted any long yarn carries as you would in fair isle but am hoping the yarn is ‘sticky’ enough to hold these in place, especially after blocking. My tension is a bit dodgy too and I do have a bit of puckering in places. I know from experience though that this usually settles down with blocking, as long as it isn’t gathered quite to badly (she hopes…).

Knitting in the Bohus tradition gives me a powerful sense of connection with the knitters and designers who developed this amazing cottage industry that became an international business. I imagine them knitting away (much faster than me) at home while also looking after the children, cooking and cleaning as they created these works of art.

If you are interested in the history of knitting styles I  thoroughly recommend reading Poems of Colour by Wendy Keele; it’s fascinating to read about how the Bohus style developed and the incredibly high standards the knitters were expected to achieve.

The designer of ‘Wild Apple’ was Kerstin Olsson and she was inspired, not by apples as you would imagine, but clusters of berries on a mountain ash outside her studio. It has fifteen shades of greens, reds and oranges and the yarn is painstakingly hand dyed to exactly replicate the original colours. It’s just beautiful but I am quite looking forward to some mindless stretches of knitting the body of the cardigan; thank heavens it’s only a yoke in the colourwork!

Roses are red…

I’ve recently fallen down the rabbit hole of unusual fibres and a couple of weeks ago discovered pearl infused rose fibre from Blue Barn Fiber.

Now this confused me somewhat as somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my mind I knew that fibre from roses exists. However, this isn’t actually made from roses, but is basically cellulose from various plants like oats and other grains; the name comes from the Chinese word for ‘soft’ which also means rose. 

OK, so now I’ve cleared that one up, it is, however, infused with pearls, or so the manufacturers claim (not Blue Barn but the actual original manufacturers), as well as claiming various other wondrous properties like ‘moisturising’ and anti-fungal. Hmmm. 

Well there was great excitement (on my part anyway, strangely Mr Weavingheart appeared rather unmoved) when it arrived earlier this week looking like this:

  
   
Rather lovely I’m sure you agree.

It looks exactly like a lot of other cellulose fibres like Seacell (from seaweed) and I wondered if it was the same until I tried spinning it. It was easier and not quite as ‘sticky’ thankfully.

While I didn’t actually notice my hands getting softer and softer (some good old lanolin soaked wool is great for that!), it has turned out to be quite gorgeous with a silky sheen.

  
150g (700m) which is the most and the finest yarn I’ve ever spun so something rather wondrous about it anyway.