The Pill-Bottle Cotton Project

I’m not one to shy away from a fiber challenge. Cotton is thought to be a challenge to spin. Cotton from pill bottles, because it is so linty and short-stapled, is thought to be nearly impossible to spin.

Herewith I submit evidence to the contrary: I started with a pretty good sized bag of cotton that we’d been saving from pill bottles over the years (vitamin bottles, mostly). I didn’t weigh it, but there was enough to mostly fill a gallon zip bag. I carded the cotton with my fine hand cards (top left) and rolled the carded cotton into punis (top middle). I carded all of the cotton I had available before I started spinning and filled up a plastic salad mix container with punis, ready to spin.

I spun the cotton on my Sonata wheel with the fast flyer in place, using the smallest whorl and ensuring that the smaller end of the bobbin was facing the break band at the back of the flyer to get the most speed out of the set-up. I set the break with the least amount of take-up I could get away with, and plunged into spinning. I spun using a mix of long draw and supported long draw.

I spun two full bobbins before I ran out of punis. Some of the cotton I plied with a merino/silk single spun supported long draw. I had previously dyed the wool fiber with Queen Anne’s Lace, turning it a pale yellow color. I spun half of the braid that I’d dyed, leaving the other half for another project. The wool single was plied with two cotton singles, giving me a finished yardage of 252 yards of light DK weight yarn that’s light as air: just 72.5 grams for the skein. (Bottom left.)

The remaining cotton I plied with the remaining pale green linen from another project and a third single comprised of pearl fiber, and later, when that ran out, the remaining 3-ply cotton that I happened to have on a weaving bobbin. 104 yards of fingering weight yarn to play with.

The moral of the story? Save up your pill bottle cotton – you never know when it might come in handy for a really unusual spinning project!

Advertisements

Be the Bast

Anyone that reads this blog knows that in the past I have mostly worked with wool. However, going forward I will be working with more cotton, linen and bamboo. Getting a start on this change, I have been spinning linen and cotton.

Cotton on weaving bobbins

The bobbins shown above are cotton that was spun from a Hipstrings colorway and some other natural brown and white cottons. The bobbins are weaving bobbins (except for the brown TP roll bobbin), but work really well for winding off from a tahkli spindle. The image shown below is of cotton being spun on the Kromski wheel using a fast flyer and very little tension.

I find it easiest to spin cotton using a double-draft method. Here’s a link to a video that demonstrates how to double-draft: video I find it easiest to spin cotton from hand-carded punis (above).

Hand-dyed cotton on the fast flyer & standard bobbin

The linen that I am spinning was dyed by Inglenook Fibers, and is a colorway that I bought a couple of years ago and have had in my stash all this time.

Why so long? Frankly, it took until now to work up the mindfulness to spin flax. I was a little scared of it really, because I had heard that it was difficult to spin. There are many techniques for spinning flax fiber, including laying the strick, or fiber supply, on your lap in a damp towel while you spin. Another technique is to spin over the fold, lightly grasping the fiber supply with your hand. Using this technique, you lightly dampen your leading fingers so that you can apply a little moisture at the twist zone, while smoothing down the fiber. I am actually just holding the fiber bundle loosely with my back hand and smoothing the fiber while controlling the amount of twist that I let into the fiber supply. This seems to be working very well and I have completed spinning my first two ounces of flax fiber.

Linen (flax) singles

I plied the cotton and linen singles together – 2 of cotton to 1 of linen – and finished out the first skeins of this project with some lovely yarn that is destined for a summer-weight knitted top in the near future.

Stash-quisitions!

In March, B and I traveled to Scotland and attended two days of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival – Friday and the Sunday “Make Wool” event. We were traveling very light & had very little extra room for extras (traveling, as we do, a la Rick Steves), so I really limited the stash enhancement that happened at EYF.

Here’s a rundown of our goodies: (top left) buttons in glass and ceramic from Mrs. Busy B and The Textile Garden – no projects in mind yet, but these buttons and the 3 toggles will surely find their way into some great knitwear; (top middle) hand-dyed Wensleydale longwool top from the Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop (I’m thinking maybe socks??); (top right) some luscious polled dorset/hebridian roving from TJ Frog that will pair up nicely with the remainder of the light grey Shetland that I just finished spinning; (bottom left) mini skeins of natural-dyed Shetland that I picked up to incorporate into some colorwork, and (bottom right) six balls of Shetland fingering from Jamison’s of Shetland. I had a good visit with Garry Jamieson & mentioned that I’d really enjoyed his interview on Fruity Knitting.

But wait, there’s more!

After our week in Scotland, we traveled to Ireland, where we spent a week exploring Dublin, the weekend on the coast at Wicklow Town, and even took a day trip to Galway! While in Wicklow, we happened in to a newstand looking for a proper map of Ireland (’cause we like maps, in general), and I found this copy of The Knitter magazine – with an interview with Martin Storey and several lovely patterns! Oh, yes, I’d make room in my bag for this!

Following our time in Ireland, we spent the rest of our time in France. One of the first forays on the metro in Paris, we found our way to Place d’Italie and to La Bien Aimee – for sock yarn! I bought a single skein of beautiful lightweight sock yarn (merino & nylon) in a gorgeous springy colorway, and a small wooden stitch marker, spending a whopping 31 euros – I don’t think I’ve ever spent this much on any single ball of yarn in my life!

We took an overnight trip to Chartres, and while wandering around this picturesque 12th century town, stumbled into – a yarn store!! I picked up the pink ball of yarn shown above, Lang Jawoll superwash, to use for contrast heels, toes, and cuffs on my “April in Paris” socks – which I finished today!

Light and Shadows

Sharing a few images from our spring 2019 trip here, with plans to flesh this out after we get back home. Hard to write on a smart phone!

On a day trip to Galway, we found the ruins of a 14th century castle in the heart of old town. Among the artifacts display was a replica of a stone spindle whorl found in the dig.

I could go on and on about our visits to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and I will in a separate post. For now, though, here is a picture of B being patiently amused with the crush of crazy knitters on the Friday of the event. We saw Steven West, mobbed by adoring fans, and I met the Jamiesons of Jamieson’s of Shetland (and bought six balls of their yarn!).

At the Scottish National Art Gallery in Edinburgh, one of the many dazzling paintings we saw was the “Madonna of the Yarnwinder.” Looks like a supported spindle to these eyes. 😉

Fast forward to Paris: we almost literally stumbled over a tremendous display regional artisanal work at a beautiful old exhibition hall, Galleries de Gobelins. This piece, standing about a foot tall, appears as though it was hand-stitched with fabric bits and seed beads, with a ceramic face and stainless steel claws. One of several in the exhibit, and breath-taking in person.

This is detail of tensioning used on a beaded piece. I was less interested in the beading than I was with the tensioning: sewing pins placed in a line parallel to the edge, with lacing strung through and around the frame. So simple, yet quite effective for temporary stretcher bars. An idea to save for later, certainly.

And, lastly, a visual treat: the difference between these two images was that I moved about a foot to the right from one shot to the next. The glass screen panels are not only installed on an angle, they are also wavy and twisted in such a way that the view through them changes as you move in any direction in front of them. The pattern of shadows also changes as you change perspective. A simple yet captivating display!

Traveling

We’re in Mazatlan, enjoying a little warm weather. Accordingly, we bring art/crafting supplies. Last trip to Mexico, I brought a pair of socks to knit and a Turkish spindle with some tie-dyed silk hankies to spin.

This trip, I brought a shawl to work on and another pair of socks.

The shawl is a Cobblestone in a two-ply ecru handspun. One ply of cotton and the other is mint fiber. The mint fiber gives the yarn incredible tensile strength and an iridescent glow.

Cobblestone Shawl

The socks? A toe-up pattern with really cool star toe knitted in a broken rib pattern with an afterthought heel. I’m knitting the pair concurrently on two 16″ US1 needles, rather than a single long circular or a set of dpns. For quite a while my ‘go-to’ method for socks has been two-at-a-time Magic Loop on one long (32″ or 40″) circular needle, but I wanted to switch it up a bit this time. I am also practicing knitting in Continental style with the socks, too – especially with the k1p1 alternate rows. Teaching my muscles new tricks.

Toe-up Socks in 80% superwash Merino / 20% nylon

But what are we doing while we’re here? So far, not much, as B is down with a cold – but what a lovely place in which to be ill!

Seafood Soup (aka Sopa de Mariscos) at Muchacha Alegre

Rollin’ In It

Time just gets away from me. We had a busy summer, full of garden, growing fruit, a little travel, a little family time – lots of things. Here is a little of the fiber fun I had since we got back from Oaxaca last February. 

Fiber Prep

I acquired just one fleece this summer – a full Jacob fleece from a ewe named Polly, owned by my cousin Robin. She’s the same cousin that I bought a fleece from last year, and whom I made a cap for to show my appreciation. Polly’s fleece is wonderful: the white part is downy with minimal guard hair, while the brown part is rustic. Both will spin up to some great yarns. I’m pondering a Winemaker’s Waistcoat for this fiber.

The Clown Barf is a quick space dye job that I did on some leftover Merino/Silk blend top that I’d purchased for B’s Reversible Cable Scarf.  It spins up pretty nicely on a supported spindle: 

Concrete plans for this light-as-air DK yarn haven’t been made yet, but I suspect it may end up as caps for grand-daughters, perhaps paired with some dark yarn for contrast. 

Knitting

Lots of projects on the needles in the past six months. 

The Roberta Socks are based on Hermione’s Everyday Socks, and are knitted in a bamboo & wool blend that breathes amazingly well and is cool on the toes. Selfish knitting: these are for me! 

The V-neck vest is in progress, and is very loosely adapted from Tami Parks’ Diamonds For Him – a pattern I used for B’s Mocha Vest last spring. 

Something a bit different for me this autumn: I got bit by the Fair Isle bug after watching a video on the Two-Handed Fair Isle technique. I combined remnants from my combo-spin cardigan and some brown 2-ply Shetland that I’d spun and adapted Paula Berman’s Semi-Swedish Hat for DK weight yarn. What fun! This pattern is going to be knitted again – perhaps many times!

And, lastly, spinning cotton generally results in having cotton yarn to knit with. I knitted myself a little treat for my gym bag – probably the softest, most absorbent washcloth I’ve ever used. Nice! I’m looking forward to working with more cotton yarns.

Spinning

And, yet there’s Cotton . . . .

We grew cotton this year. Six plants each of green and brown cotton, in big black plastic pots against a sunny, warm wall of our house. Just an experiment, but such fun! I’ve got a little stash now of each color of cotton and will be spinning it after the first of the coming year. 

Cotton spinning is a new thing for me, and I’ve taken right to it. Heretofore, I’ve spun it on a coin tahkli spindle, but I just recently bought a fast flyer for my Sonata wheel, so let the cotton spinning commence. . . . I want to spin enough to WEAVE!! 

Acquisitions

Yup, I’ve been bitten by the bug. OLAD strikes again! (Obsessive Loom Acquisition Disorder) Now, we just need to finish that studio! 

Take Me Back . . .

To TeotitlĂĄn del Valle!

 

DSCN4398.jpg
Weavings at a vendor’s stall

This charming Zapotec village in the mountains of Oaxaca state in Mexico hosts the most amazing weavers in the region. We spent a few days here in February, 2018, and were immersed in the weaving and farming lifestyle there.

 

Nearly all of the community of about 5,600 people weave commercially – this town is a full-time fiber festival! Everywhere you go in town is full of examples of weaving – rugs, fine woven cloths – amazing and colorful work, many using yarns dyed with natural dyes derived from native plants and insects.DSCN4513.jpg

DSCN4507.jpg
Weaver Antonio Bautista of Artesanias Bautista – flicker.com/tonyartesanias

DSCN4516.jpg
At the loom – Dixza Rugs – https://www.dixzarugsorganicfarm.com/

We visited several artisans and stayed with a local family, where I spent an afternoon at a floor loom and dreaming of having my own loom someday . . . .