Tag Archives: fiber

Brains? Brains!! Braiiiiiins!!!

It’s been a hectic month, with not much posting from Yours Truly. I have a pretty good excuse, though–I got married! And so far, married life is pretty wonderful, with loads of great surprises. And more than a little paperwork. Eh, whaddaya do?

Anyway, I thought it might be nice to get some normal Maus stuff back on track, and dyed up some roving this morning. A coworker had given me her late mother’s fiber stash, along with several very nice balls of white milled wool. They looked like they would take dye very well, so I mixed up some black and red Jaquard dyes for a nice blended black-cherry sort of thing…

Black Cherry Roving
The roving turned out really nice, good and saturated!

While I was adding the red dyes, the pot looked rather…ominous…

Gory wool
What’s in that pot, Maus? What is it? Wool, you say? You sure? It looks…not good…

Sure enough, the minute I put up the photo on my facebook page, all my friends started weighing in with, “That looks…gory!” “It looks like brains!” “Entrails!” “Don’t lie to us, Ms Maus, you put brains in there, didn’t you?” “Brains!!”

So, for the record, I did not stick brains, entrails, or any other unnatural substance in with my lovely, gory looking wool. Because then it would be terribly sticky and hard to clean. Also hard to spin and knit. Gore is nobody’s friend in the fiber arts, my darlings.  Though what goes into my gumbo recipes? Wellllll…

 

 

Tutorial: How to spin with a drop spindle…

Ahhh, today is wonderful…dark, rainy, gloomy! Just the right kind of day to do some spinning! What’s that, you say? Don’t spin? But you’re dying to learn? *rubs hands together* Eeeeeexcellent…

Don’t be frightened–spinning is easy to learn and takes very little money to start. By now you probably have a nice little spindle you’ve made, all by yourself, with instructions from my last tutorial. Or you can buy them online–there’s all kinds of gorgeous spindles out there for beginners for reasonable prices. Wool is also easy to come by on the net–before long you’ll have your favorite suppliers to stock you up on demand, but I started out with the mother-ship of spinning acoutrements, the website at Halcyon Yarn. They have everything you need, and I do mean everything. But for a starter yarn, go easy and cheap–no alpaca or camel or angora or yak, not yet. Blue-faced Leister is a great beginners wool, as is Icelandic and Romney.

Beginner's tutorial
A simple drop spindle and a handful of fiber, waiting to be transformed into something wonderful.

The first thing you’ll want to do is fluff up your fibers. If you bought roving in long strips or braids, untie the braids and gently tear the roving into nice, manageable strips. If you have a batt, you can tear off chunks as you spin. Or you can just take locks of wool and use your fingers or a dog comb to make a nice fluffy pile. And take a minute to roll a little fiber around in your fingers. How does it feel? Twirl some around with your hands, and see what feels good to you. That’s how you’ll want your yarn to feel. Now, tie some leftover yarn to your spindle, under the whorl, and loop it through the hook on top. (This is called, the ‘leader” yarn.)Put a slip knot in the top, then thread a little fiber through the loop and pull nice and tight. This will anchor your fiber for spinning…

Spindle ready to spin
A spindle, all ready to spin!

Now, hold the yarn loop with your dominant hand, and let the spindle hang down from the leader yarn. Spin it with your fingers, counterclockwise. Let the twist go up into your fiber. You can stop your spindle anytime and use your fingers to smooth out your yarn. One hand will end up controlling the twist by pinching off the yarn, and the other hand will end up “drafting”; basically pulling at your fiber until it’s the thickness you want. Don’t be too worried about drafting right now–you just want to get the hang of the twisting from the spindle running up into your fiber the way you want.

Spindle with yarn
Spinning up the first bit of yarn. Let the twist from your spindle run up into the fiber.

How’s a good way to tell how your yarn is going? You can let it loop back on itself to see if it feels soft and comfortable. If it feels too tight and harsh, it has too much twist, and you can fix it by letting the twist run further up the fibers. If it’s coming apart, twist it a little more. But trust your fingers; they know what they want your yarn to feel like. You can always stop, untwist all the fiber and start over if it’s not the way you want it.

Looped fiber
This fiber looped onto itself really nicely. it’s not too tight, not too loose.

Running out of fiber? Add a little more! Just take your next bit of fiber and layer it over the end of your yarn. Give your spindle a spin and watch the twist run up into the new addition. Wool wants to hang onto wool, and you can keep adding on and on until your spindle is full or you’re tired of spinning, whichever comes first.

New fiber!
New fiber added onto the first bit of fiber. The twist holds everything together!

Now, while you’re spinning and spinning, you’ll make mistakes for sure. Your wool will be lumpy. You’ll drop your spindle a dozen times or more. Your hands won’t know what to do. Just keep at it–eventually your hands will find a rhythm that makes sense, and things will get much easier. My rhythm goes like this: “Spin the spindle, pinch the yarn, pull the fibers”. The pinching is to stop the twist going further than I want it too, the pulling is to even out the next fibers to be spun up. And you can stop whenever you want, start back up whenever you want, and keep going until you can no longer fit anything onto your spindle.

Very full spindle
A very, very, very full spindle…

So what do you do with your spindle full of yarn? You can wind your new yarn into a ball as it is and knit with it. I usually prefer to set the twist–I wrap it around a niddy-noddy, a wonderful tool used to measure and skein up yarn, then take the yarn off, give it a good gentle soak in lukewarm water, *very* gently wring out the water and hang it in my shower to dry. (I use clothes hangars to weigh down the bottom of the skein so the yarn doesn’t kink.) When it’s dry, it’s nicely balanced and much easier to use. You can use that first yarn to make a funky potholder, or a headband, or a little bag to put in spinning fluff for later. But be proud of that first wonderful, lumpy, blobby yarn, and be proud of yourself!! Not everybody sticks it out with something new, and you just did!!

(If you have any extra questions about spinning, or get stuck and need a little coaching, ask me in the comments section!! I’ll walk you through any fiber kinks you run into. But I think you’ll do better than you expected.)

Weird things in jars…

I took a little time off this week for dyeing more wool and various putterings. It’s hot and sunny out, which is perfect for drying lots and lots of fiber…I was also trying my hand at dyeing a fistful of silk cocoons a friend of mine gave me to play with. They looked a little more sinister than I’d expected, blobbing around in a jar of blue-green tinted water with a hint of pink.

Overdoing the fluff
Lots and lots and lots of fluff out drying in the sun…with a sinister jar of blobbyness…

Everything looks so wholesome in the photo except for that weird jar. What’s in it? Olives? Eyeballs? It didn’t help that the silk threads kept trying to attach to each other and they came out in a creepy globby green mass that stuck to my hand. It was like running into a spider web, except I’d done it to myself on purpose. But the cocoons turned out a pretty shade of lime, so it was worth it…

Also, I decided there weren’t enough creepy candles at my house, so I bought a few more. there’s an Etsy shop called Darknessvoid that offers wonderful spine-candles. (I developed a crush on them when I saw these huge, flickering spine-candles in Prisoner of Azkaban.) I thought I’d try a smallish one first before investing in one of the full-sized ones. There were also some great skull-candles to keep my crystal skull-head company…

Skull candles
They all look like they’re singing to me…I’m not sure I want to hear what the song is, exactly.

Between the dyeing, carding, spinning and mercenary knitting I’m quite the busy thing lately. It’s a good thing; it’s why I went part-time at my day job; to have a little more time for money-makers that soothe me and make me happy. Just looking at all the fiber I dyed up made me so happy. So many colors! such great textures! And it was all for me to play with…

And today? I wonder if I can stick a few more cocoons in the dyeing jar, just for more globby fun…