Spinning From Stash (and some little handcrafts)

As the days and weeks tick by and I’m still not done with the updates to my bedroom (the floor is clean and prepped for the concrete paint, and the walls and ceiling are finally painted – with just the touch-ups on the ceiling left) I find myself looking for little things to brighten the day and keep my hands busy.

The relocation of all the bedroom furniture to my usual workspace meant my sewing machine was stuck in a corner. I was able to find a small space to set up my spinning wheel (one of the great advantages of the Ashford Traveler wheel is that it doesn’t need a lot of space), and I made sure my stash of roving was still accessible. I finally worked through the 8oz of roving I had from Fat Cat Knits (colorway: Gaia), and then I moved on to a bag of green and brown Romney (with a little Suri alpaca mixed in) that I bought from Solitude Wool last year. Next up were two braids from Greenwood Fiberworks – these were revisits to a colorway I had spun last Christmas for Heather. I had found the colorway “Durango,” and thought it was ideal for her (We used to visit Durango back when we lived in Cortez). She had made a shawl using the yarn, but Mom informed me that there hadn’t been enough yarn to make the shawl entirely usable. Luckily, they happened to have two braids left at Uniquities (which is, sadly, going to close by the end of August).

[A note on the Gaia colorway: I loved the colors in the braid when I first picked it up and I debated keeping the gradient more or less intact when I spun it. But I was also curious as to how it would look if I spun it from a batt, so I borrowed the drum carder from the farm and made up several batts. I am pleased with the way the yarn came out, but I might go back and purchase more of this colorway, to see how it spins up straight from the braid.]

As I mentioned before, I don’t like to set my skeins until I have several I can do all at once. With the completion of the Gaia skeins, I felt like I had enough to do a batch. I filled a bucket with some warm water, a little bit of Euclan wool wash (I chose the grapefruit scent this time), and let them soak. After thwacking them, I hung them to dry on some spare trellises I had out front.

The fist set of skeins included:

  • Fat Cat Knits: Gaia: BFL
  • Frabjous Fibers: BFL and silk mix (unfortunately, I misplaced the original tag, and I don’t remember the colorway)
  • natural baby camel down
  • Wild Hare Fiber Studio: green/brown wild card art batte

Since I was focusing on spinning, I was able to add a bunch of skeins to the “to set” rack pretty quickly. The second set included:

  • Greenwood Fiberworks: Durango: Merino
  • Solitude Wool: Green/Brown: Romney with Suri Alpaca
  • Halifax, PA Farm: Nebulus: wool/alpaca/silk noile
  • Wild Hare: red/yellow wild card batte: wool/alpaca/linen/angelina mix
  • Gold: Targhee

From top to bottom: Nebulous colorway, green Romney/Suri, gold Targhee, red Wild Hare batte, Durango colorway

I’ve had the targhee for a while. I had spun it into a single, which I then plied with an unknown blue wool called “Kingfisher.” I ended up with a ball of single ply of the gold leftover. I recently purchased an andean plying tool, which allows you to make a two-ply yarn from a single source – which meant I was finally able to put that single-ply Targhee to use!

I’ve already used the first Wild Hare art batte (green) to make two pairs of fingerless gloves (with the baby camel down around the top and bottom, for added softness). The skeins of the Durango colorway went to Heather, to lengthen the shawl she had made using the first two skeins I gave her. The Nebulus wool from Halifax, PA went to Mom, to add to the skeins I had made for her for Mother’s Day this year.

This was taken back when I still had access to my sewing cabinet.

This was taken back when I still had access to my sewing cabinet.

Taking a short break from spinning, I started whittling away at some of the items on my hand-sewn projects list. I made a set of pattern weights for Maggie’s birthday back in June and was so pleased with how they came out (and of how they use up some of the smaller scraps in my stash) that I decided to make a few for myself. The first 13 use fabric that sort of reminds me of a 1930s calico chicken. Don’t ask me why. The second set uses a wacky print that found its way to me from a friend’s relative’s sewing-room-clean-out. I’ve used a small scrap of it before, to make a coaster for my mug at work (I was actually showing someone how to make a quilt, and it just so happened that the finished sample was big enough to make a coaster). It’s not a print I would have chosen by myself, but I’m actually very pleased with the way it looks in a finished product. Go figure.

If you’re interested in making some pattern weights yourself, I’m using this free pattern from Tea Rose Home. Each weight is made with a single triangle of fabric, but you can make each side a different color if you want. You would just need to cut off one of the little triangles and add a seam allowance on one side. I’ve been filling my weights with crushed walnut shells, which you can purchase at a pet store (they are used as litter for both birds and lizards). You can also purchase some through fabric and craft suppliers (sometimes scented with lavender) but you get better value with the pet store route.

#780-Farmer's Market. Sadly, this picture doesn't quite capture what the braid looked like before I spun it.

#780-Farmer’s Market. Sadly, this picture doesn’t quite capture what the braid looked like before I spun it.

Then, it was back to the spinning wheel. I spun up a small ball of Finnsheep roving I purchased from the Homestead Hobbyist at Maryland Sheep and Wool earlier this year (she had roving with the best colorway names, but I went with a natural color), and then moved on to a lovely braid of BFL/Tussah Silk from Frabjous Fibers (colorway: Farmer’s Market). I LOVED this colorway! Even though I purchased this fiber from Uniquities in Vienna, VA (before they went out of business this August – sniff!), it reminded me of all of the flowers and colors I saw when I visited Portland earlier this year for work: greens and blues and pinks and greens, with a little burgandy and white thrown in here and there. The BFL was wonderfully soft, and the silk added a delightful sheen to the fiber. I ended it up spinning it extremely fine (for me, anyway) onto two bobbins, and then making a tightly spun two-ply. It made a lovely fingering weight yarn that I now have to decide whether to give as a gift, or use for my own purposes.

I decided that I was going to spin the remaining fiber in my box in a pattern, of sorts, alternating between dyed fiber and natural fiber. Next up was a poofy pack of roving, also purchased from Uniquities before they closed, that is 70% alpaca and 30% merino. I had heard that alpaca is a little trickier to spin, due to its tendency not to hold onto itself. The merino adds just enough grip to make spinning a little easier…as long as I remember to add enough twist into it, and don’t make it too fine. I decided to spin these as lace-weight singles, and I’m pretty sure I know who they are going to for Christmas – but I won’t say here, as I don’t want to spoil that surprise.

I was a little surprised by the color I’m getting in the spun alpaca. The roving looks sort of grayish brown, but the spun singles look more gray on the bobbin than brown. Just another way fiber changes when it is spun.

The spinning is going a little slower at the moment, due to the continuing back problem I’m dealing with (and trying to be patient with!), but I am trying to work on a little bit each night. I need to chip away at the small stash of spinning fiber I have. Partly because it needs to be ready for Christmas, but also…Mom and I plan to go to the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival at the end of September, and I can’t fill the bin full of fiber if it is still so full of fiber!

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