Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Having blended together some fibres (usually alpaca with wool) I decided that, with proper hand-carders to work with now, I should try my hand at blending different fibres.  There are a few braids of wool roving in my stash that I considered playing with, but since I'd clearly not started any of them it seemed what I needed to do was buy some wool with the intention of blending. Additionally, the wool I was thinking of is 8oz (which I'd rather keep for a single project) and is already brown/neutral - which would hide the additional fibres.  I want to be able to see my blending and have visual evidence in the yarn.

So, some of my Christmas yarn shopping included a braid of green BFL from Sweet Georgia.  I have silk noil (top) and yak down (bottom) in my stash from a destash purchase long ago that have been waiting for me to blend. I also thought it was time to blend in some angora (left).

(Yes, my home is dry. The angora tells you so.)

I experimented a little with how I wanted to layer, whether I wanted to use some or all of the fibres, and if I liked the spinning.  I settled on a thin layer of BFL followed by very thin amounts of the other 3, with a little more of the angora, and then another thin layer of BFL on top before carding into rolags.

The resulting singles are tweedy with the noil; I like the texture.  The yak down is blending in quite well and the luster of the BFL is complimented by the other fibres.  The natural, light colour of the other fibres is enhancing the lovely Botanical (colourway) green of the BFL.

I started spinning on my homemade top-whorl, but I found the speed was too fast and I didn't have the sort-of-long-draw control I wanted for this blend of short and long fibres. I wound on to a medium sized Turkish spindle and this is working well. I prefer my spindles for experimenting with smaller amounts of fibre, especially when my wheel bobbins are occupied with large lace projects (as usual). So far I have prepared 12 rolags. For the sake of testing I'll spin 6+6 and ply to see what yarn I achieve.
I also timed how long it took me to prepare 8 rolags. Or, more accurately, I tested to see how many rolags I could make while watching Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (a 55min episode, but only about 50min of rolag-making).  I made 8. That's roughly 6 minutes each (6 and a quarter, but my measurements of time in this case are all approximate so I'll stick with 6 min), which is 4 minutes faster than combing and carding fleece (from my previous post).  It takes a lot more carding to blend to my satisfaction whereas it's usually the combing that takes the most time with the fleece.

Final Yarn Update:
The remaining BFL, blended, yielded another 29 rolags. With all the fibre spun up I have about 250m of squishy worsted-aran weight yarn.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Time Investments

When *someone* asked if I could whip up a golden, bulky, knit skirt from All The Fleeces just before Christmas, I laughed.  I'd just finished spinning up some of the Fleece blended with alpaca to make mitten liners, so I was distinctly aware of spending a lot of time combing and carding before spinning, let alone knitting.  Actually, the spinning and knitting were perhaps the least of the time. Fibre prep for a bulky yarn would take even more time.

Recently, I decided to actually time the processes and here is what I found:

Time to comb and card fleece into a rolag: 10 minutes.
(I prepared 20 rolags = 200min)
This does not account for the previous time spent skirting, washing, scouring, and drying the fleece. Why comb AND card? Because I'm still working with dirty, VM-y, dusty fleece. "All The Fleeces" are from meat sheep and have been stored for I don't know how long. They are a down breed common to Manitoba, Canada.  Once cleaned, combed and carded they spin into a lovely yarn I have discovered, but it is a lot of work. OTOH, I have a huge sack of free fleeces and it turns out they're not garbage.

Time to spin 20 rolags onto one very full bobbin: 50min
(I learned that 16 rolags is probably ideal for my wheel/bobbins or 8+8 if I want to ply onto one of my bobbins. Maybe 18.)

Time to make an "Andean armwarmer" because I only have 1 bobbin available and I needed to ply: 12min

Time to ply onto my wheel quill because I knew I'd never get the 2ply onto one bobbin: 30min (plying onto a bobbin may have been a bit faster; plying from 2 bobbins certainly would have been faster that working from an Andean bracelet as I did have a few snags)

Time to skein: 4 min

Total time to create 67.5m/74yds of medium weight 2-ply: 296 min or about 5 hours.

If I imagine using 2 bobbins and spinning on to 1 bobbin rather than the quill, I could eliminate the 12min of Andean bracelet wrapping and probably cut 5 min from plying (to half the spinning -singles time or 25min) 296min-17min = 279min or 4hours 40min.
That's about 4min per meter of yarn.
(If I were to imagine needing about 600m of yarn for a skirt, that's about 40hrs of yarn-making. Yikes.)

Then I dyed the yarn using food colouring, vinegar, and the microwave since it's the fastest & easiest method and I'd have to wash to set the yarn anyhow. Microwave does most of the work, but of course there is some more time required here.

I made two skeins of yarn with 20 rolags each, so they took about the same amount of time. 10 hours or so of yarn.  I quickly whipped up some knit legwarmers (a few more hours), and gifted them immediately to said someone.  All that remains for me to photograph today is some yarn leftovers.  The colour is just what she was looking for. Eventually I'll prep more rolags and spin more and maybe next Yule there will be a skirt. (Uh, right after I finish that blanket...)