Summer Projects

Here it is August already, and I’m recovering from Tour de Fleece. Because of the traveling we did during July and life in general, I didn’t manage to spin much during July, although I did spin every day – whether on the wheel or on one or more spindles.

This summer, I’ve managed to knit two sweaters and at least one toque. Colorwork seems to be what I’m knitting this summer – both the sweaters (Birkin and Navelli) and the hat are all done using a two-handed stranded colorwork technique that nearly eliminates floats. (Want a copy of the hat pattern? Just let me know & I’ll email it to you. I’d love to have you test knit it for me.)

The Birkin was designed to be a pullover, but I steeked it, added a button band and added colorwork embellishment on the 3/4-length sleeves. I knit it in 100% handspun wools: Gulf Coast Native (main color), Cormo, Shetland, Romney, and Merino. Some of the fiber is natural-colored; some is dyed. The Merino has silk blended into it. The original pattern called for bobbles to be worked in the yoke – I substituted clear glass beads. Rather than buttons, I finished the sweater with wooden toggle closures with a macrame yarn-loop closure. The steek/button band pickup seam is finished with woven ribbon hand-sewn in place. (I purchased ribbon for this – I didn’t weave my own.)

The Navelli top is worked in 100% handspun cotton / linen yarns. I didn’t make a lot of changes to the basic pattern, but I did do a little colorwork in the upper body color change. In a sequence that spanned four rows, I transitioned from the lower body color to the upper body color by using a sequential stitch pattern to shift the color from one yarn to the other without introducing a solid line. I’m pleased with the effect. (You can see the shift up close if you follow the link above to my Ravelry project page and then zoom in on the first project image.)

Part of my Tour de Fleece spinning was cotton. Before TDF began, I took two 2-ounce braids of Hipstrings‘ dyed upland cotton in the 2019 TDF colorway “Macarons” and stripped the braids into two separate color groups, making little nests to spin up. I weighed each color group and divided the nests into three approximately equal batches so that could spin a 3-ply yarn from each color group. I’ve completed the brown/green group (affectionately known as Chocolate-Chip Mint) and it’s now awaiting a final washing and yardage calculation. I’m anticipating that the yardage will be close to 375 yards for about 2 ounces of fiber. This is fine gauge yarn – between a lace weight and a light fingering. At this point, I don’t have a project in mind for it. I haven’t spun the blue/purple group yet.

More TDF spinning: I spun a 2-oz. of Heavenly Wools‘ New Zealand Half Bred Haunui in the “Mango Tango” colorway into a chain-plied skein of 334 yards of lovely, soft squish. I’ve got a braid of “Sea Anemone” waiting to spin up when I need a break from solid color fibers.

At Black Sheep Gathering in early July, I took a color theory for drum carding class from Henry Clemes, of Clemes & Clemes It was a really great class and I learned a lot about blending primary colors of fiber to get various secondary and tertiary colors. This bit of red orange fiber above will eventually find its way into knitting and weaving projects, and was a delightful conversation starter at a few recent gatherings I attended. Folks are getting quite used to seeing me with knitting needles and spindles when I’m out & around – and I love talking with people about fiber arts.

For B and I, going to a fiber festival almost always means that we’ll bring home fleece. When we booked lodging for Black Sheep Gathering, I mentioned that I really don’t “need” any fleece, but that I’d love to at least go look at the sheep. I knew I was going to take a class – I had booked it while we were in Scotland at Edinburgh Yarn Festival – but I’ve seriously got a lot of fleece all washed and ready to spin. He knows me well enough by now to know that I will be overcome by fleece fumes and have to buy at least one fleece, if not prepped top and/or roving also. And tools – I really like my fiber tools. (He knows me pretty well.)

B needed something to do while I was in my day-long class, and he enjoys looking at all the animals and watching the sheep dog demonstrations. So, as I went off to my class, I filled him in on the top few tips for selecting raw fleece.

  • Look closely at the tips. Look for breakage and weak spots in the staple. Give a bit of a lock the “ping test”.
  • Look closely at the overall condition of the fleece. Is it matted? Stained?
  • Is there an excessive amount of VM (vegetable matter)?

I toddled off to my class, and he did a great job picking out a roo’ed Shetland ram fleece that was about 3 pounds raw. (That’s Julius up there, admiring it.) Right away after we got home, I hand-washed a small sample of it & I’ve got it on the spindle now – loving it!! I’m looking forward to spinning it in the grease, from the lock, and eventually knitting or weaving something amazing from this lovely fiber.

The other fleece you see on the drying rack is a Corriedale lamb fleece that we bought the same weekend. It will be a little more work to clean – I’ve skirted it & begun processing from the head-end where the bulk of the VM is. It’s holding a fair amount of dirt, so the rest of the fleece will be cold-soaked overnight before I spend good soap and hot water getting it clean. It’s only got a bit of lanolin in it, so I want to use just a little soap and hopefully leave a good bit of the lanolin where it is, while getting the dirt out. It’s going to be a fun spin: all 6+ pounds of it!