Friday, September 25, 2015

Spinning with a friend

A friend of mine is learning to spin yarn on a wheel.  She loves creating colourful, textured yarn and I love watching her.  I'm very lucky she choose my wheel to learn on.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Flax processing tools

dried flax plant with seed pod

removing the seed pods with a dowel

seeds ready to winnow

Once the flax is retted and dried, we break the flax.
This begins separating the boon (chaff) from the fibres

The flax is then scratched using a wooden sword and board to remove more boon from the fibre.

The flax is then passed through the hackles, starting with coarse ones like this

Long and spiky, these hackles work well.
Traditionally the spikes would not be round, but have three or four sides,
with very sharp corners

Carding cotton into punis

Cotton Boll

Seeds easily removed by
gently holding fibre and pushing out the seed

Charge the cards with the fibre

Card the cotton to organize the fibre

Rolling the carded cotton around a knitting needle

To create a puni which keeps the fibre organized and easy to spin
The cotton I'm working with for the tutorial didn't come in boll form (that's from a floral shop), but rather it's already been removed from the spiky shell and is ready to separate from the seed.  The seeds are about as heavy as the fibre, so a pound of cotton, actually makes about half a pound of fibre, and half a pound of seed.  But with luck, maybe these seeds will grow and the house will be full of cotton houseplants.

Monday, September 14, 2015

cast-on bonnet for auto knitter sock machine

There are some times in life when one simply needs professional help.

About three years ago, when my arthritis finally forced me to stop knitting, I received the  most wonderful machine: An ancient circular sock knitting machine made by Auto Knitter.  I had great fun trying to get it to work, and I was nearly there, but in the end, life happened, and it was time to put the machine away.

Although, to tell you the truth, at the time, I think I had the machine working perfectly, it was simply the user that was broken.

So, for the first time in over a decade, things in my life started to calm down and I was able to take my Auto Knitter to a mentor and see if he could fix it (or the user) so that knitting could happen.  Getting help from someone with loads of experience and enthusiasm for the machine - that was amazing.

I'm very happy to learn that it was mostly user error.  I now know how to do the knit stitch, picot edging, decrease, yarn overs, cast on, cast off, and change yarns.  Yet to learn are turning a heal and the purl stitch, but once I know those I can make just about anything.

To practice my new skills, I have been making cast on bonnets.

It's a funny looking thing, but what it does is provide an easy way to cast on stitches on the knitting machine.  Trust me, it really does.  Maybe I'll show you some time.

This one is for my 80 needle cylinder - see, 8 stripes.  I'll make one for my other cylinders once I have them up and running.

The ultimate goal, once I have the machine running perfectly, is to make socks with yarn I've spun, with wool from my sheep.  Hopefully it doesn't take another three years to get there.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cotton silk puni

This is my first attempt at making a cotton & silk puni.

The yarn it made was pretty good, but a bit more slubby than I liked.  With a bit of practice I think I can create much better punis (cotton roll thingies that organize the cotton for easy storage and spinning).

I have some purple silk fluff that I don't really know what to do with.  The staple length is short, only about 1/2 inch long.  So I thought, why not blend it with cotton for a long draw style spinning?

So I bought some cotton from ARaysCreations on etsy.  I bought an entire pound of it, which is a lot when it comes to cotton.  This cotton is unprocessed, it still has seeds in it.  The seeds are a bit fuzzy, so the fibre isn't super-easy to get off, but with a light touch, it come off fast enough.  Certainly faster than picking vegi matter out of wool.  I'll be saving the seeds with the idea that maybe they will grow.

To make the puni, I applied both silk and cotton fibre to the hand cards and followed this tutorial.  It spun up quickly on my charkha wheel.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pretty handspun yarn

Merino, corriedale, baby alpaca, angora, and silk blended together on my wild carder - all little bits I had left over from teaching some spinning.  I played it with a fine single of bombyx silk that I 'borrowed' from another project.  Final yarn is textured, soft, with a strong silk core.

I've half a mind to put this on my etsy shop, but Knotty by Nature put in a request for more yarn, so It's going there tomorrow with a few skeins of alpaca/icelandic wool yarn.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Shooting star

Last night I saw the biggest and brightest shooting star I've ever seen.  It was huge, like an airplane and although it was bright white with all the colours like a prism, it was at the same time deep crimson.  It came in very steep and felt like it would hit the trees across the road, but I'm certain it was much further away than that.  Just before it drew even with the tree tops, it winked out.  I don't think it touched the ground, but it was amazing to see a meteor that large and that close.  I had to be looking in that exact direction, at that exact moment, on that exact day.  Half a second delay or too soon, and I would have missed it.  That rock, or chunk of ice fell into this planet's atmosphere at that exact time, and it will never do so again.

Not much later in the night, just before Tuesday finished with us, my grandfather passed away.  He had been very poorly the last few days, and in the end it was a blessing that he didn't have to suffer anymore.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Green cotton

Every insomniac knows, there's a point in the night when one realizes that sleep simply won't come.  For me, it's usually Monday nights, I don't know why, perhaps it's just the horrible notion that Tuesdays hate me.

Instead of venturing to the land of nod, I spent the night spinning cotton.

I call this colour - ghost of green

Beautiful, natural colours of cotton.  I'm fascinated and inspired that cotton has so many natural colours.  Browns, golden, bage, green, red, white, and I bet even more.  For more on naturally coloured cotton, check out FoxFibre - Sally Fox has some amazing cotton plants that she's bred over the years, 

off white, unbleached cotton
These days I'm working on my support spindle skill - perfecting my cotton spinning on a takli spindle.  It's very portable and fast.  Not to mention, it fits an impressive amount of thread on the shaft before needing to unwind.

Sometimes I feel like using my charkha wheel.

I've even been playing with cotton bolls and discovering different ways of preparing the fibre for spinning.

Then there's the plant...

These days, every time I want to grow something exotic, someone tells me 'it won't grow here'.  In the past, I've believed them, only to find the next year that everyone is growing it.

So this year, I've stopped believing them and decided to try cotton for myself.  So far it's right on schedule.  Don't know if it will make fibre yet or not, but hope it does.