Fibrous Topics

30 November 2016

I can’t believe it’s been 12 days since I’ve updated! I’ve been busy working on a couple of things and building muscle memory skills with the Griffis wheel.


WIP #1: One of B’s co-workers has a baby girl due in February, so I’m knitting a 3-6 month size sweater for her. The yoke will be an ecru yarn (not sparkly), and you can see the main yarn above. I’m really enjoying this pattern and finding it a fast knit. Last night, I joined the body and two sleeves on the circular needle and knitted the first yoke row. Last weekend while we were in Salem, we bought some beautiful pink glass bobble buttons for this project. The yarn is a superwash merino with just a bit of nylon.


WIP #2: Still working on spinning the merino / silk yarn for B’s scarf. I’ve got just less than an ounce of fiber left to spin, then I’ll two-ply the singles. It looks like it will ply out to about a fingering weight. Once the yarn is plied and washed, I’ll knit up a swatch for the pattern & then get it on the needles. Woohoo! ūüôā

But even more fun than that – I’m doing some “learning” spinning on the Griffis wheel that I bought back in August. This wheel, a 1920s-era flax wheel that was purchased in 1930 by the grandmother of the person I bought it from to use as an ornament for her parlor (!!), is in wonderful shape and is very happy to have me spinning on it. Running very smoothly, with the only problems being from operator error and inexperience.

Accordingly, the task at hand here is for me to develop adequate muscle memory so I can draft either backwards draw or long draw (depending on the fiber) and spin fine singles. While getting to know my handcards, I carded up a small pile of “crap fiber” from drop spinning (matted ends, blobs, etc.) with some sample fiber in a couple of different colors, then spun it all on the wheel:¬†cardedscraps1¬†spunscraps1






I’m really loving the mix of burgundy and blue here. The fiber is a mix of merino, polwarth, shetland, and silk. I’m not usually a fan of “art yarn”, but I think this 60 yards or so will get plied with something for stability then knit into a couple of rows on a hat or something fun. We’ll see!

Another bit of spinning in progress is about 30 grams of merino that was dyed with avocado skin dye, overdyed with yellow onion, then modified with washing soda. During the process I was unhappy with the color and really didn’t take care with the rinsing temperature, ending up with a braid of matted fiber in kind of an odd tan-ish / orange-ish color. ¬†I’ve since carded the whole braid to loosen it up and am spinning one or two rolags every day to¬†improve my wheel spinning skills. I’m still very much at the “park and draft” equivalent stage, as I don’t seem to be able to draft this fiber fast enough to keep up with even treadling, but the skill building is progressing nicely. I’m interested in using some good fiber with this wheel (once I’ve worked through this small mountain of rolags). I’ve got a two-ounce coil of merino in a bright blue to purple-charcoal colorway that I’ll wheel spin next.

18 November 2016


Finished! Amethyst Heather socks in worsted weight superwash wool. So cozy. Wearing them as I type this. I knitted them with Knitpicks Wool of the Andes yarn that I had in deep stash, using Stacie Perry’s Toe-Up Magic Loop Sock pattern. Really liked this pattern! This was my first attempt at Magic Loop socks (yeah, I know, what rock have I been hiding under all these years!?) and I can see it will be my “usual” method going forward. The pattern had 2×2 ribbing just at the top, but I decided that the fit would be better in the worsted yarn if I started the ribbing just above the short-row heel.

The next pair of socks will have 2×2 ribbing across the top of the foot to give it a bit more snugness, but I really like how these purple beauties are fitting.


In Progress! Up above you see the last bit of the first 4 oz. of merino / silk blend on the spindle, along with the next 4 ounces to spin.


Once both braids have been spun up into singles, I’ll two-ply the singles together then give ’em a good healthy soak in warm water and Eucalan to finish. The yarn will be used for this pattern: Reversible Cable Scarf by Bruce Weinstein. I’m working hard to get it finished for B before our anniversary in December.

9 November 2016

A quick photo update – the Exploding Tardis has completed the transition from fiber to finished yarn and is a lovely sock-weight skein. 124 grams / 422 yards. Polwarth (85%) and tussah silk (15%). (Note: the colors are the most accurate in the first photo below.)

I think the balance of twist in this yarn is very nice. It’s going to be great to knit up! It averages at about 22 WPI.
The frogs are liking this yarn!

7 November 2016

I’ve done¬†a lot of spinning since the last update and have a bunch of fiber waiting for me:

Merino dyed with alder bark and dahlia tops – gathered the alder bark here on the property and grew the dahlias in our garden this summer
Natural brown/black Shetland and Moorit Shetland (with a Greensleeves Barebones Maple spindle). Fiber from Pacific Fiber in Newberg, Oregon.
Merino-Silk with “the bonesie”, a Walnut Farms maple supported spindle & cup, and an Essie Tiger’s Eye stone whorl spindle. Fiber from The Woolery.

*And* I have the last of the alum-mordanted merino (2 oz.) drying now after a long cool soak in yellow onion dye. I’m a little “meh” on the color, but it will work well with the Queen Anne’s Lace and mint that I dyed earlier. Not sure right now how I’ll spin it, but might do a fractal with the different colors. I’ve got a little bit of a lot of colors, so that would work really well. [11/9 edit: this fiber really felted up during the dye process, so will hand card it later to see if I can salvage it. I’m glad it’s only 2 ounces!]

Here’s what I’m working on now:


Polwarth (85%) and silk (15%) by Mosaic Moon (Ashland, Oregon) in their Exploding Tardis colorway, on the “boat anchor” made by cousin Angela Weber.

Back in October, I finally got¬†to stop in at The Knotty Lamb in Forest Grove. They opened in August, 2016, but for whatever reason I had not had occasion to go to Forest Grove on a day other than a Monday (the day they’re closed) until now. I met Karen, the shop owner. We had a great visit about all things fibrous – knitting, spinning, fibers, colors, dyeing, etc., and on and on. I found a single 4 oz. braid of Mosaic Moon’s Exploding Tardis colorway¬†for sale among lots of lovely merino. I was open to colorways containing blue or green, which I have not been dyeing, and this one caught my eye. I spun this up on the boat anchor (’cause that’s what I had at the time), wound two chain-ply balls, and am half done with the plying as of yesterday afternoon.

Exploding Tardis in progress. Chain plied.

I took Abby Franquemont’s advice – she really knows what she’s talking regarding all things spinning! – and wound plying balls rather than trying to chain ply from a cake or off the spindle. (Or doing a¬†ply on the fly.) I really wanted to keep the colors “pure” rather than the spin resulting in a “barber pole” effect in a three-ply, so I opted to chain ply rather than make a more traditional three-ply. I also wanted to make a fairly hard high-twist ply so that it would work well for knitting socks. So far, so good. I won’t know the WPI on this spin until after I’ve washed and hung the skein, but I really like the results so far. I may just do a two-at-a-time pair of socks with this, and am thinking about using some of the BFL (Queen Anne’s Lace? Wild mint?) for the toes and heels. Maybe.

Next up: spinning the luscious ecru merino & silk top shown above. I bought 8 oz. of this glorious stuff from The Woolery¬†along with “the bonesie”. I may well spin this on the supported spindle, though, so I can practice long draw. I really want a light, lofty 2-ply for a dress scarf for B. The frugal Scot in me is tickled about spending less than $20 to make a wool & silk dress scarf that you’d buy on Etsy for a minimum of $95. (Average price? $150!!!) [giggle]

Long Draw?? Oh, yes, not just for the supported spindle, but for this also:

E.A. Griffis flax wheel, circa approx. 1920

I am working with this little guy more now, after learning that it really is just me – the Griffis wheel works well once you learn how to make it “go”. I really think that once I master this guy, any other wheel will be a piece of cake. Moving forward s.l.o.w.l.y. . . .

28 September 2016

In the past two weeks, I’ve been doing less with dye pots and more with spinning.


The skeins are “self-explanatory”, although the colors aren’t quite right in the image. The upper skein, Queen Anne’s Lace, is a clear, bright yellow. The lower skein, Queen Anne’s Lace and Mint, is a darker yellow with a hint of green. To make this skein, I spun each single by alternating narrow strip of roving between the two colors, rather than plying together singles of each color. I like the effect – it ends up looking heathered rather than striped. This is all merino top mordanted with alum, with no finish treatment. I expect it to be light- and wash-fast and am eager to knit something with it. The Queen Anne’s Lace skein may well end up as a sampler piece rather than a portion of a garment, but I don’t really know yet.

The single on the spindle and the single that is rolled into a center-pull ball are both spun from natural Shetland. At least half of the first two-ply skein will be plied with a dark blue silk thread. I plan to knit B a dress scarf with this and will knit in one or two narrow stripes of the blue silk and charcoal Shetland ply at each end of the scarf, probably an inch from the end. After plying, I suspect that the finished yarn will be between a sport and DK weight yarn. [Edited 11/7/16: change of plans – the Shetland is too ‘scratchy’ for a scarf for B, so will use it to knit a vest para mi.]

I really like spinning with this Shetland top – it drafts so easily that it practically spins itself. Easier than the merino and Blue-Faced Leicester that I’ve been working with, although I haven’t had trouble with them, either.

14 September 2016

More fun with dye pots:


Here’s what you’re seeing above:

  1. Merino, alum mordant, English walnut shell dye
  2. Merino,¬†alum mordant, Queen Anne’s Lace flower tops
  3. Merino, alum mordant, mature curly dock tops (hey! I found a use for these weeds!)
  4. Merino,¬†alum mordant, Queen Anne’s Lace flower tops
  5. Merino, alum mordant, wild mint tops with flowers, baking soda finish
  6. Merino, no mordant, dandelion root
  7. Blue Face Leicester, alum mordant, horsetail tops, baking soda finish
  8. Blue Face Leicester, alum mordant, Queen Anne’s Lace tops
  9. Merino, alum mordant, horsetail tops
  10. Merino singles, bare
  11. Merino, no mordant, Queen Anne’s Lace tops

I’m not terribly excited about the horsetail dye, although it’s certainly easier to come by for me than the walnut shell dye is. And, for us, the walnuts aren’t a native dye plant. I am, however, really happy with the Queen Anne’s Lace and the wild mint. Kinda “meh” on the dandelion, but it was worth experimenting with.

It will be fun to do some spinning with these guys.

9 September 2016

This summer I’ve spent most of my time out in the garden, but since the end of July I’ve also been learning to spin yarn using a drop spindle, and now, with an antique wheel.

I’m also playing with dyeing fibers with native plant dyes.

Drying rack

Here’s what’s on the drying rack this morning (l to r): Blue Face Leicester (BFL) top and merino top, both mordanted with alum; the next four strands¬†are both BFL and merino alum-mordanted and dyed with Queen Anne’s Lace flowers; the short one in the middle is non-mordanted merino dyed with Queen Anne’s Lace flowers; the last four are mordanted BFL and merino dyed with dandelion root. I really like the yellow on the mordanted wool, and kind of like the light tan of the dandelion. I think they might be lovely spun together. Down below are a couple of mordanted singles dyed with Queen Anne’s Lace, and a mordanted 2-ply skein, also dyed with Queen Anne’s Lace.

Walnut dye is “cooking” right now:

When I took this picture, it was only about 30 minutes into the soak. I’ve got 2 mordanted merino singles, about 20 grams of mordanted BFL top, and about 20 grams of mordanted merino top (all with alum at 10% WOG) in the pot. I’m holding the temp between 150 and 165 degrees and will let this “cook” for two to three hours, then let the fiber cool in the pot. (This is, by the way, a stainless steel pot.)

I want to mordant the rest of my roving (some BFL and some merino), even though I had originally thought that I’d test the colors I use with non-mordanted and mordanted fibers. I’m really preferring the colors of the mordanted fibers more so far.

Next up are wild mint tops, dry mature curly dock tops, and fresh horsetail (which is soaking in plain water now). I’m not getting much spinning done, but I’m having a lot of fun playing with dyes!


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