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I have registered for a spinning course as part of my efforts to become part of the community here, which has inspired me to finish the following skein which I have been “working”* on for several months:

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After the course started, I immediately had to start travelling for my job, which is impinging on my spinning time dreadfully.

I need to wash/set it first, but I think I will count the yardage.  Maybe I have enough for an eccentric hat.  The knitting of said hat will be simple, it will only be eccentric because anything made out of this yarn, when worn on one’s head, must be considered eccentric — it’s the nature of the beast.

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*Had sitting idle on my wheel

Here I am sitting here in my living room knitting away after my breakfast of oatmeal and tea (yes, I have granny tenancies), listening to an older podcast from Craftsanity, and knitting up a storm.

In the interview with Lexi Boeger she mentions her spinning wheels (see the podcast about 43 minutes in).  I confess I want a wheel like her bulky antique one, but what really caught me was when she was talking about her Ashford Traveller, she says she uses a quill attachment, which allows her to spin more bulky yarns.  I didn’t know about this at all, so I Googled it and came up with this:

quill-lg

(From the Ashford website, here)

I have to say that I am quite unsure about what is happening with that and how it gets on the bobbin.  It looks like the yarn winds around that part that sticks out, but how you would ever ply it, without having to rewind it onto something else first, I really couldn’t say.

I have ordered a jumbo flier for mine, which I am looking forward to getting because I like the bulky yarns and regularly get them stuck in the orifice (how often do you get to use that word?).

If anyone can enlighten me on how the quill works, I would greatly appreciate it.  If not I think I may need to dig deeper.

I have invited Shawn O’Hagan of Island Sweet (blog, Etsy shop) to tell us about her fibre art.  I enjoy her yarns and knitting so much, and I thought that it would be great to ask her a little abut her process:

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Can you please tell me a bit about yourself?

I was a painter for 30 years. I have a Masters Degree in Painting. 10 years ago I decided I didn’t want to paint anymore. I no longer enjoyed the “art scene”. I felt I had nothing left that I wanted to paint. In the summer of 2000 I did an artist residency in Terra Nova National Park in Newfoundland, Canada (where I live), and took only fabric and thread and needles. I began making “fabric collages” – just playing with colour and texture. I wanted to make things that people could use – not just hang on their walls, so my collages became pillow covers and quilts. A few years later I picked up a rug hooking kit and began rug hooking with a passion.

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How long have you been working with fibre, what induced you to start and what craft did you start with?

I have always been a knitter. I was selling my knitwear (mostly hats and baby clothes) in shops and through the Craft Council. 2 years ago I was in New York City, and at PurlSoho, I picked up a skein of yarn from “Ozark Handspun“. I didn’t know that this kind of yarn existed! I knew immediately that I wanted to knit with that kind of yarn but couldn’t afford to buy it, knit it, then sell the product for a profit. So I needed to learn how to spin.

I am especially inspired by your spinning: can you give me some idea of your creative process?

I began spinning with a drop spindle in January 2008. I used this (along with hand carders) for 6 months. I used this early spun yarn for accent in my handknit scarves. In May I purchased a wheel (the Ashford Kiwi). In June I went to the Spinner’s Loft in Nova Scotia and took a wonderful 5 day workshop on the basics of spinning (I wanted to learn how to do it right, and then make it my own…) and in Oct I got a second hand Louet drum carder. By then was I confident enough about my yarn, and spinning in large enough quantity, to begin selling it.

Do you work from the fibre to your idea or from your idea to the fibre?

Sometimes I start a skein of yarn with an external inspiration – for example – a flower in my garden. Or a work of art (I still draw on my art background). Or a colour combination I see in a dress in a fashion magazine. I keep a sketchbook for ideas – colour combinations, titles etc.

Sometimes I just choose colours almost randomly and after the skein is finished I decide what it reminds me of. Often one skein of yarn leads right into another with just a slight variation.

Where do you find your fibre and how much of the processing do you do yourself (dying, carding, etc.)? What do you look for in fibre for your work?

I buy most of my fibre undyed from Louet in Ontario. I use it in its natural state – white, grey, cream, brown, black. For colour I use natural plant dyes. I use what is around me – dandelions, lily of the valley leaves, goldenrod. Or I buy natural plant dyes in powder form from Maiwa in Vancouver. I have just purchased their Cipa dyes (they are acid dyes but with fewer chemicals in them) in order to get brighter colours. I buy colourful roving from other etsy spinners. I use all types of fibre – wool – shetland and blue faced leicester are my favourite. Mohair fibre locks for texture. Plant fibres such as bamboo and hemp. Soysilk is my all time favourite. I add angelina or firestar often for a little glitter.

Can you give me more information about your spinning technique? Do you spin from batts or roving? Do you bring in locks and other materials as you spin or do you incorporate everything you will include in the yarn when you process your fibre in preparation for spinning?

I lay down a “base” colour (usually with shetland or blue faced leicester). Then I start adding more fibres for colour and texture. I then run it all through the carder one or two times depending on how much blending I want at the end. I may add more fibre locks to the batt as I am spinning so the locks will stand out even more.

What kind of spinning equipment do you use? Is there anything you want, but don’t have yet or that you have, but feel wasn’t worth the money?

I’m happy with my wheel and equipment. I’d love to have another wheel that is more portable (like the ashford “joy”). I take my wheel to craft shows and markets, and to the cabin, so more portability would be great. But a second wheel will have to wait…

I always want to make wonderful singles like some of your yarns like this one:

islandsweet-1

But I always end up with the single being too over spun to use that way — do you have any advice on how to fix that problem?

I almost only spin singles. Plying is too regular for me. It somehow feels that it encases the yarn, binds it up, and doesn’t allow it to breathe. To avoid over spinning I think just play with the tension.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start spinning and is inspired by your yarns?

If you want to start spinning – start with a spindle. It’s easy and cheap (I bought mine on etsy for $12.00). You learn the “feel” of the yarn. You get used to drafting. You’ll know soon enough if you want to get deeper into it. And don’t aim for perfection if that’s not the look that you want.

Your knitting is also lovely.  I enjoy your style of knitting, but I have trouble taking the full plunge into being as freeform as your work is:

islandsweet-2

Do you have any advice on how to overcome timidity in relation to colour and how to loosen up?

I sell my knitwear. Because of this, the pattern can’t be too complicated because it would take too long to knit and I wouldn’t be able to make any money. I’ve simplified all my patterns to very basic shapes (for example, my baby pullover is basically 4 rectangles – 2 large and 2 small). The interest lies in the yarn. Be brave with your colour choices. Keep an eye out for what colour combinations are exciting to you and make note of them.

Finally I have a mundane question that always fascinates: do you make a living from your fibre art? How close are you to it? Is it a goal for you?

And yes – I basically make a living from my fibre. I teach 1 art course in the winter term at the local university but aside from that, it’s all fibre. I live in Newfoundland where it’s easier to live simply and cheaply. I sell my yarn and knitwear on etsy ( I sell in craft shops and at craft fairs [such as the Toronto One of a Kind]). I work hard. Being self-employed, and working with fibre, it’s rare for me not to have fibre in my hands from 8:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night. I’m trying this summer to cut back…

Here is the next step towards my yarn from these batts I made:

curlybits

I haven’t done any yarn with curls before. I am very excited about how it will turn out, but not ironically excited enough to ply it yet. Perhaps today will be the day.

Sorry to be incommunicado for the last few days. I have been traveling again. Here is a bit of carding I did before I left:

Until now I haven’t done any carding with different colours and fibres which makes the glorious batts I really admire – perhaps I was lazy and perhaps I was scared and perhaps I just liked doing one thing for a while. This is the time I decided to take the plunge; here is the fibre I used:

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Here is some carding in process:

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And here is a bit of a close up of the batt and locks (I haven’t spun with locks yet either):

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Pictures of what I did with them tomorrow.

I pulled these two batts from my stash yesterday and spun them up. I am so pleased with the results. It still kind of feels like magic to make yarn.

Here is the batt I started with:

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Here is the single I had in the middle:

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The colours on the real yarn are not quite that warm, I was playing with the colour settings on my camera, and that is what the camera thought they would look like because I told it it was a cloudy day.

Here is the bit of yarn I had when I tried to Navajo ply said single:

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It was just too twisty and wrong, so I went with plying it with thread:

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The colours on that picture are closer to the original.  I am very excited to knit it up, but I really shouldn’t start knitting anything new until I finish something.

I feel a great fibrous weight has lifted since yesterday. I pulled out the alpaca I had lying around and spun in up in the way I like:

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It is thick and thin plied with thread, and it has revived my interest in spinning, even if the fibre is a little too soft to make this kind of yarn in its most perfect incarnation.

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What can you do?

I am carting out the wheel right now and spinning up that fibre that has been sitting there for months. I never want to spin regular thin yarn again — I have decided it is not my thing.

Instead I want to do something time this, this, this, or this.

Or for that matter this:

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(Which I am pretty sure I know how to do as I did that one.)

I am in a bit of a rut with my spinning (and knitting and crochet).

I also remember why my pictures on my blog were not so hot last winter — it was because it is dark until after I leave in the morning and before I am back at night. This was the sky and my trees when I got home:

I dragged my spinning wheel outside to show you what I am working on as the house was too dark. This yarn was been on the wheel for a few weeks — the fine plain spinning is not what excites me about the craft.

I was thinking that I would Navaho ply it, but I am a little stuck as it is taking a long time.

It is spun from the same kind of fibre as this blue and brown yarn I spun earlier this year, but I didn’t enjoy spinning that yarn as much because the fibre was too stuck together, and I had to really tug on it to draw it, so I ran it through my drumcarder:

I have been sick for a couple weeks now and nothing much has been getting done, except things that can be done from the couch. This skein has taken me several days to complete, but I am very happy with the results.

I bought this mohair roving from Inger Maaike’s Etsy store a few weeks ago:

I wasn’t sure what to do with it, as it was so dense I think I could probably have beaten someone with it. There was no way I could have drafted it as I spun. I did have it suggested to me that I could predraft it, but that is singularly unappealing to me.

This makes my drum carder perfect:

Isn’t it pretty, like mermaids tresses:

I would like to say that the sign that says to keep hands clear means it:

I don’t think I would trust a motorized one of these, and I really wouldn’t recommend one to anyone with problems with depth perception.

Finally the batts were done:

I have never spun mohair before. I thought I would attempt my first lace weight with it, but mohair is slippery and this was not going to happen, so I just started spinning a single.

It’s so shiny.

I thought back to Diane Varney’s Spinning Designer Yarns and decided this would be the perfect time to try boucle. I did the tricky plying as directed and came up with this:

It is a little odd, but I think it will be fine when knit — curly.

March 2017
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