Image heavy!

(I’ve used the smaller versions of my photos on this post to help with page loading – click on them to go to their flickr pages if you want to see them larger.)

Quick update on the spinning – I’m very close to the end of the first half of the BFL I dyed up last –

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It’s all going much better – I think my main problem previously had simply been not enough twist in the singles.

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I spent most of yesterday afternoon having a bash at spiral dyeing, as part of the dye-along that the UK dyeing group on ravelry have organised. It was a bit of a departure from my usual routine – I usually bank on some mingling between colours when I dye, I tend to paint my fibre after plonking it into a glass bowl, which leaves lots of room for random mixing of dyes in the pot. Random is the order of the day with my dyeing, generally speaking.

Spiral dyeing, however, requires mingling in an orderly fashion, so I invested in some cling film, and approached my dyeing purposefully and with some kind of plan. I managed to create an entirely clear surface to lay out the cling film and fibre –

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– made up some supercook dye pots –

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– and went for it –

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This is the second batch, all wound up – I had a right time with the red leaking everywhere with the first one, so this is wrapped up twice.

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And this is the first batch rinsed out in the sink. You’ll notice the green in there – that’s not the result of mingling, that’s some extra green that I made up quickly and painted on, when it became clear that I needed more dye than I’d made up to start with. After I’d done that I wished I hadn’t, as I’d originally tried to stick with primary colours, and the green kind of muddled things.

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First conclusion here is that Supercook green and red do *not* mix well. They certainly don’t turn into a hearty brown.

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I’ll have to have another attempt later at taking more photos, that show the progression from one colour to the next more clearly – this one shows most of them, but the second blue/green crossover is hidden –

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– the next two photos show why I had to move quick with the photos and didn’t get much of a reshoot – someone else in the house thinks the big colourful fluffy things are nice to kiss and hug too –

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The second attempt’s simpler – just red, green and blue – and shows the mingly bits clearer, I think I prefer it. Still no brown though – and the purple from the red/blue combined is more like maroon – I prefer more violet/indigo purples, personally.

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Still, it’s colourful stuff – I’m going to aim for a weightier yarn with the 100g batch, I think it’ll make a nice bright DK yarn.

I love the smell of…

…pickled woolly stuff.

So, come on let’s have a look at it…

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…come along now, let’s have a sniff of it…

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…come along now, let’s have a little bit more.

Ahem. Roughly 100g of BFL. Dyed with food colouring as per, and I’m starting to itch for some ‘proper’ dyes – this went into the steamer an interesting mix of ruddy brown, muddy red, and dark grey-blue, and emerged looking… well, like this. This might be in part due to the fact that the blue I used was Asda ‘natural’ (aka ‘all they had on the shelf’) – made with spirulina, according to the ingredients label. If memory serves, this is the foodstuff that makes a flamingo pink – so the fact I’ve ended up with something that reminds me of a rose is probably down to that.

The reason I spent yesterday doing this was because yes, my bobbins are free, free! of the green and yellow string that’s been driving me crazy these past two weeks.

Plied –

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It’s come out at an average of around 38-40wpi. Which I think goes some way to explaining why it almost broke my brain. I ended up with a 25-30g-ish skein, 217 yards, which could have been bigger if it weren’t for this pile of snapped singles and sworn-at-and-flung-across-the-room fluff –

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– which weighs about 10-15g itself (I really need to get some decent, digital scales).

I’ve just realised that if you look at this picture of my skein closely, you can see a small, dried-up tomato pip sitting behind it on this cushion. I suspect that if I were to pay any heed to the perfectionist part of me that’s screaming at me to reshoot this picture, I might be able to find a surface or piece of fabric in the living room to lay it on that doesn’t look quite so knackered, and hasn’t been ‘enhanced’ by a snacking toddler, but it could take a while.

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And in all this, the swallowtail’s coming along nicely. I had a momentary panic when I realised I only had a week left to complete it – but I’ve only one more repeat of the budding lace section left to do and will probably get that done this afternoon. Fingers crossed.

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Cue Bernard Hermann…

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas;

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..you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

Fruits of an afternoon with the Supercook green and yellow, and 50g of BFL. Not sure what it’ll turn out to be, hopefully it won’t be an alien lifeform out to suck my brain – but I’m all good to go with it now, as my first Louet-spun yarn is all done and dusted (and sniffed and squeezed).

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(yep, I’ve decided that LP sleeves make handy backdrops for my woolly pics)

I’m very happy with it, all told. It’s 2-ply, 71yds, somewhere between 15 and 20g (I really need to get some digital scales), 16-18wpi, definitely Shetland.

And I’m inches away from another FO.

first handspun knit aka the shortest scarf in the world

This is going to be a helluva short scarf. It’s currently about 3 feet – at most – and I’ve only got a ball the size of a modest truffle left to knit.

You’ll notice the slightly redder, lighter patch just near the top there. I’m not sure I’m entirely pleased with that, but hey ho.

Still no sign…

I’m going to leave it till about 2pm this afternoon – the latest I think the parcel van tends to show up here – and if there’s still no sign of the wheel, I think I’ll pm the seller, see what’s happened. Another ravelry user that bought one from her a couple of weeks previously had theirs sent via Denmark, due to a mistake on the part of the postal service, and it’s only the seller/poster that is able to track packages.

My yarn arrived for the bokaclavas, and it’s all good, so the first one’s well underway. Need to get cracking with thinking of a name for my etsy shop, now!

I finished plying the last lot of spinning, and I managed to finally name the previous lot (the black/blue – it ended up as ‘Lithia’, because it reminded me of the evening skies up here in midsummer), and also name this one –

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Erica, 2ply, 300 yards, 25wpi, about 45g.

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I’m going slightly mad…

…as Freddie might say. Waiting for this wheel to come has scattered my brain.

Still, I’m making progress in other areas in an attempt to take my mind off it. The latest laceweight attempt, with the as-yet-unnamed lightpurpleyturquoisey roving is currently skeined up and sitting in a nice warm bath. And, realising that the all-day plying would soon mean nothing on the spindle, I dyed and dried another 50g of BFL. This was black and red – the Supercook ‘natural’ red – though I went mad and overloaded the dyepot, and then didn’t press it, or give it as long as I might’ve done, which produced an interesting effect –

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(I used a flash – if you check the weather out of the window in the background there, you’ll see why.) Those greens and pinks came out of the black – not sure where all the red went, but suspect it tipped the usual turquoise you get out of the black into green, and then, um… who knows…

Yesterday the Shetland roving arrived from bluefaced.com (thanks Andy, it’s another package of squishy goodness). And the day before, the New Lanark 100% wool aran yarn I ordered for my balaclava knitting arrived. This, sad to say, was a bit disappointing – not just because on one of the balls, the first few yards were terminally underplied (I wound them off, will probably use it for seaming). It’s just too coarse to use for balaclavas – but this is the risk you take with a first-time online buy, I guess. Not sure what I’ll use it for, but I certainly won’t be making anything that’s intended for next-to-the-skin use – there will be no Limestone New Lanark pants.

Not to be undone by this, I spent yesterday afternoon scouring the internet for a bargain-priced source for the original yarn I made Andrew’s with – RYC Cashsoft Aran. (I might add at this point that the main reasons I went with this yarn initially were that it was the right colour, it was soft enough to wear against one’s face, and I found 5 balls of it in the John Lewis clearance bin, and got them for just a couple of quid each).

Had no joy with that (or the currently-controversial-in-the-US DB Cashmerino Aran), so checked out ravelry’s yarn browser, and came across Jaeger Matchmaker Merino Aran, which I managed to get hold of with only a little browsing about. Now, this could be tricky in future, as I suspect there are dwindling supplies of this now-discontinued yarn, but hopefully someone else has/will have a merino aran in the right shade should I need it in the future.

I wanted a couple of balls of a nice bright red in a soft yarn too, and bloomin’ eck, that wasn’t easy either (no one seems to like stocking a primary red wool, apart from anything else). I contemplated dyeing a couple of the cherished skeins of BFL aran that I’ve had now for about three years (I bought them when Andy was still selling them on eBay for about £25 a kilo), but couldn’t bring myself to do it – in the end my stash came to the rescue. I have a leftover ball of Sirdar’s Aran With Wool (now called Bonus, I think?), the remnants of the sweater I knit last year for my eldest (and which I’m about to rip the arms out of and *fix*, because try as I might, I can’t be happy with them the way they are). A moment’s nuzzling revealed it was plenty soft enough for a balaclava. Finding an online stockist of that wasn’t as easy as all that either – in the end I got a ball from a seller on eBay.

We’re out tomorrow, to look at another house (fingers and everything else crossed that it’ll be one we like, and we’ll be tenants the landlord likes, because I have to say I’m starting to get househunting fatigue). This fact alone should increase the odds of the postman coming, I’m thinking.

Happy distractions.

Well, it’s been a busy few weeks since my last post. I’ve had a couple of trips away (both to the north-east), and spent a while running about checking out houses – we’re moving.

So it’s not so much that I’ve been terribly snowed under with horrible things to do, more that inbetween doing all the busy stuff there’s not been so much time to be spinning, knitting and dyeing recently. Probably for the best, though, as apart from anything else, it means I can hopefully get this post done in one sitting.

I got the third of the lollipops plied and skeined, and started on the fourth –

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The purple is something you could call laceweight –

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..but I wanted to go even finer – this is the blue/black in progress –

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The purple – which I’ve called Cairngorm – yielded 100yds, which was a good indication that I was getting there. These last two have been eerily close re length of singles – in both instances I was left with less than a foot, a fact which other members of my household seemed decidedly underwhelmed by, but one of which I felt inordinately proud. Or smug.

As I drew close to the end of this last roving, I thought I’d better dye up some more, and sharpish, lest I end up with nothing at all to spin (I know, I could spin the BFL as it stands – and I will, soon, I’m sure, if only to see what it spins like before I’ve put it through the steamer). And this time, I decided I’d make a dyelot with 50g of BFL, so that I might actually come close to making an amount that I could actually knit something with (strange idea, eh?).

This is the top –

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And this is the bottom –

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It’s a little paler than I could’ve coped with, tbh. I need to get more dye from somewhere, though – that was all the blue I had.

So, I finished up the blue/black, plied it, set the twist –

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And here it is, all 170 yards of it (hurray!) –

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I’m very pleased with it. It’s balanced, reasonably even, finer and yet softer than the Cairngorm. I’m still a bit flummoxed as to what to call it, mind.

And now I’m onto the light purpley-bluey thing. This is also defying any attempts at naming –

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And blimey, it seems to be going on forever, though I’m done with this first spindleful, and on to the second single (I split it, as I intend to make it a 2ply).

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I’m nearing the end now – I think I’ll spend part of tomorrow with the Supercook and the steamer, though I’m not sure what colours to go for just yet. (The fact that I haven’t yet replaced the blue I used up last time will doubtless have some bearing on it.)

And, um, I made some purchases recently – most notably, a secondhand (though reconditioned, I think) Louet S10. It’s coming from Holland, and hasn’t arrived yet. I’m on tenterhooks.. (I just looked this up, as I had a feeling the word had something to do with textiles, and yay, it’s suitably appropriate.)

I was in two minds – I nearly bought a spindle, as I’ve dropped my spindle many, many times in the process of trying to go as fine as possible, which has resulted in a not insubstantial crack, down from the hook (you can just about see it in the photo above, though it’s got a lot worse since that was taken). I can’t find the wood glue either, so at the moment the whole thing’s held together with a piece of sticky tape. I will buy a new spindle at some point, but for now, it works in its own wobbly way.

There’s also a nice bag of Shetland wool sliver on its way from bluefaced.com, and a couple of balls of New Lanark aran wool in Limestone, which are destined to be made into gargoyles, and become the first items in my etsy shop. After I think of a name for it, of course.

Mad professor time..

In a former life I was a lab technician, and applied for (and was offered) a job at Stevenson’s Dyers, in Derbyshire – I didn’t take it, with one thing and another… I expect it would’ve been just a *tad* different to what I’ve been doing in the kitchen this week, though the principles would be fairly close.

I probably wouldn’t have had to have made my own glassware out of Paul Newman’s Ranch Dressing bottles, for starters….

Paul Newman's Graduated Flask!

I even attempted a spot of chromatography..

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These are Supercook food colourings – the top row, yellow and red, behaved as I expected and didn’t split into anything – they don’t in the roving, either. The black and blue did some interesting things, the blue seems to contain a vivid cerise colour, as well as the turquoise which is more indicative of the colour of the dye when it’s in the pot – the black seems to contain a similar red/cerise colour, but this time mixed with a dark green. (That’s not proper chromatography paper, it’s just a bit of ordinary A4.)

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And this is the result of my experiments – I did make detailed notes, of time soaking, vinegar/water ratios, that kind of thing – and tried a few different methods of applying heat. The red/blue ‘lollipop’ was, I think, the most successful and reliable method, using a steamer. The purple roving was a mixture of red and blue food colouring, initially just dyed in the sun, but despite adding salt, it came out more maroon than purple, and not all of the blue seemed to be taken up… basically, I dumped a load more blue into the ziploc bag I’d sat it in, and put it in the steamer – it came out a much more pleasant purple (there’s more variation in it than is immediately obvious in that picture, too).

There’s 25g of roving apiece in those, too – I’m going to pack them for my holiday, to keep me amused in the evenings when we’ll most likely be in the caravan (we’re staying in a caravan on the Banffshire coast, near Findochty, and I suspect there’ll be a few quiet evenings).

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Finally, this is a collection of all the things I’ve spun so far, plus the Cygnet superwash at bottom left, dyed by my eldest daughter. I knitted up the very tightly spun and plied Manx Loghtan – it’s a strange material, remarkable in its sturdiness, but oddly elastic.

Seeing the Yellowhammer alongside Wee Tut, you can tell they’re not really suitable for plying together, but I’ve resolved to just keep experimenting and practising and if I find a plying partner for either of them at some point in the future, great, and if I don’t, then so be it.