Fibre Notes: February 2021

Fibre Notes: February 2021

Fibre Notes is a series I started over on my other blog for Dominion Fleece & Fibre blog. I thought readers over here might also be interested in seeing what I work on every month – from knitting, to spinning, to dyeing (and even my new-found excitement of quilting). It’s a quick (sometimes not so quick) round up of what I worked on the past 30-odd days.

February has at once been a short and long month, all rolled into one clump of a hazy 28 days where I’m not sure exactly what I did on any given day.

When we bought our house there were sections in the basement unfinished to varying degrees, one of which is a workspace for me (which I am leaving unfinished so I can drip as much indigo as I want and not freak out, yay!), the other we wanted to finish to create a TV/game/whatever room. That is what we’ve spent the past few weeks doing. From drywall, to the window, to painting, to some ducting, to flooring. I will say here, I have never finished a room before, and besides painting, I’ve never done any of the steps to finish a room. Drywall? First time. Flooring? First time. Window and trimming? Absolutely definitely the first time.

Because we had to move stuff to to create a space for construction supplies and building, that means my unfinished area I work in has been piled high, and almost entirely inaccessible. I don’t only make stuff in that area, but I do a lot in that area, so my making of things has been hampered this month. The extended inaccessibility of that area, I’m not too shy to say, is starting to grate on my nerves.

However, we are almost done, and it’s going to be fantastic when we are. Not only because we have a nice fresh room, but because I can get all this crap off my work desk and get back to it. Yay!

All that to say, it’s been an uncharacteristically low-volume month for me. Although I hate to use that term because it makes it sound like it’s all about volume. But it’s definitely frustrating when you feel the urge to work on something and can’t because it’s all piled up, and your area isn’t usable. *grumble, grumble, grumble…*

Spinning – Breed & Colour Study

I treated myself in February with some beautiful dyed braids from my favourite dyer, Katrina of CraftyJaks. The Wool ‘N Spinning Breed & Colour study is happening, and I couldn’t pass up these beauties on Shetland. We explore colour and breed, and this month was three braids of Shetland combed top, all dyed the same but with three different natural base colours. I settled with the half braid set, 150g all together.

I decided to go with a 3-ply fractal. Each of the half-braids are the same colourway, but dyed on different natural colours: white, light grey, and moorit.

Left to right: 6 way split white, 2 way split moorit, no split grey

I did a 1-2-6 split, with the grey being the largest chunk, the moorit being split twice, and the white being split 6 times. My thinking was the grey was the median of the two in terms of tone so have that one be the longest stretches, and the dark moodiness of the moorit to balance out the brighter more frequent, but shortest, hits of the brighter colours and white.

I realized once I got the braids I had never done a combo-ply, nor had I ever spun Shetland from top. I’ve spun lots of Shetland, but it’s always been carded (either that I’ve prepped myself or from a commercial source). Being a primitive breed, the lock staple lengths are not all uniform, which made this one of those spins I really have to pay attention while doing. A combed top from a breed that has uniform staple lengths I can pretty much do on autopilot – this I could not. The staple lengths in the braids ran from about 1.5″ all the way up to about 3″.

I decided to spin short forward, but while letting the twist in between my drafting and supply hands. So I would draft the fibre about one inch, let go, then move it back towards my fibre without smoothing. That way I could retain a bit of loft, but not mess up the alignment of the fibres.

I spun at about 30-32 WPI for my singles, planning to get somewhere between a 14-16 WPI for my 3 ply. In reality it’s about 12 WPI, so it’s closer to a sport than the heavy fingering I had aimed for, but that’s fine with me. I think it fluffed up slightly more than I anticipated, likely due to the lack of smoothing my singles while I was spinning.

To my eye it is heavily marled, but does have some of the matchiness (new word!) that you expect from a 3 ply fractal. Especially where the reds, purples, and dark blues meet up.

Breed & Colour for me is all about pushing myself to do something I wouldn’t normally do. I had an inkling the finished yarn would look marled, which is not an aesthetic I normally go for, but I wanted to see for myself what might happen with a spin like this.

Before I started spinning I had an idea I’d spin up some Manx Loaghtan I’ve been saving forever and make a shawl, maybe some kind of slip stitch deal. Seeing the yarn now I don’t think I’ll go that route because I don’t think I’d ever wear it. I got not too bad yardage though – roughtly 300 yds and a grist of 936 yards/lb. Now I’m thinking weaving, although I’m not sure what. Couch cushions? Some kind of table runner? Not sure, but I’d like to see how the fractal looks in a weave.

Spinning – A Planned Project

I also treated myself to another favourite colourway by Katrina: Starry Night. This is on South American wool, with viscose neps. I first fell in love with this colourway during another Breed & Colour study:

Starry Night colourway on Masham, from left to right: black space dyed, no space dye, and white space dyed

2019 we explored space dyed colours on Masham, and since then I could not get this colourway out of my head, and I was so happy when she brought it back! I’m not 100% certain what I’ll do – I actually love the way the singles look in the Masham, but I also don’t really use singles much. I’m thinking for these two braids I’ll do a 2 ply, and I think some woven cushions would be incredible.

This might give me the kick in the pants to actually use the Masham I had spun up as well. Since I spun singles I’m not quite sure what to do with them, because I just don’t really knit with singles, and I’m too terrified they won’t stand up to the rigours of weaving. I’m sure eventually I’ll figure it out. In the mean time I might find a place to put them just to look at because they’re so pretty as is. Especially that black space dye (bestill my heart!).

Handspun Knitting

I started my Icelandic/alpaca/BFL vest last month, and it’s coming along nicely. It’s not a knit I’m rushing to complete – it’ll get done when it gets done. Stockinette is probably the slowest thing for me to knit, which is rather counterintuitive since it’s just going around and around and around doing the same thing. On the other hand, that’s completely why it’s the slowest for me to knit. When there’s some cabling or colourwork or lace I find I want to keep going to get to that next step. Stockinette there isn’t that anticipation to “finish” anything, so there’s not quite that pull to keep going endlessly.

Not that that’s a bad thing necessarily – if I knit too intensely I get a pain in my mid-left arm, and not everything has to be rushed, or completed quickly, or whatever. Sometimes it’s nice just to have a knit you pick up and down and slowly work on.

It is nice to use this yarn for something, considering I was quite upset when I realized my yardage was so low last year. Sometimes space is all you need from your projects that don’t particularly go as planned, and a few good months gave me the room I needed to rethink how this yarn could be used.

As An Aside…

I happened upon a blog post from The Craft Sessions called Making As Experience and Graft (graft in this context meaning gaining something dishonestly). I love this post. It’s short, and I highly recommend a read. It discusses how being a maker-of-things and being good at it isn’t some intrinsic skill that only the nary few are lucky enough to have. It is a skill set brought by practice. Many hours of practice. And that anybody, with enough practice can not only become happy with what they make, but more importantly, enjoy the process (she also has an excellent post on why “you’re so talented” is a myth).

I truly believe that having one thing you make with your hands is extremely important, and not because it’s part of your job (I wrote a blog post about this myself right over here). Some of us have way more than one, but just one thing for the joy of making it is so important. Making something just for you, a hobby, that you can immerse yourself in the process of, simply to do it. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you enjoy it enough to keep working at it.

I’ve been a spinner for about 14 years, and a knitter for almost 20 years(!!). I was not “good” at either at the beginning, but I enjoyed the process of learning and doing. I still have my first knit project I ever made; a garter stitch scarf that is all lopsided and oddly shaped because I decreased and increased stitches all over the place without realizing it. It’s made of dish cloth cotton, and extremely long and heavy, without being warm or particularly nice to wear. But I have it as a token of where I started, and I love it for that.

I get told not infrequently that I’m talented with my knitting because now, 20 years later, I’ve worked really hard at it. That’s not talent, it’s practice (with a healthy dose of stubbornness, to be honest). And that can be anybody at their chosen craft – if you enjoy it you will absolutely keep working at it, because the satisfaction isn’t in the finished project, it becomes about the process itself.

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