Happy Yarn is Happy

I’ve spun up most of the sad rovings at this point. The only ones I made into batts were the red, orange, and yellow ones. The rest I just infinitely pre-drafted. Here are some pictures.

February Princess:

Anger Management Rainbow (yes, I actually named it that):

Harlequin Circus:

Not on Fire (this is the one from the batt in my last post):

I have one more bag of pre-drafted sad roving to get through, and then I’m done. Though right now I’m taking a break to spin alpaca.

Overall, it wasn’t as bad an experience as I thought it would be. The pre-drafting was annoying, but it spun up just fine. But I’m happy to be moving back to nice fiber.

Sad roving becomes happy batt

(xposted from my blog, slightly modified for redundancy’s sake.)

So an update. I found out two things since my previous post on the sad roving:

1. The felting wasn’t really my fault. Our house has 2 washing machines, and apparently they leak heat from one to the other. Someone was washing a load of laundry while I was spin-cycling my roving. The heat is what did it, and not my stupidity.

2. There’s a better solution for dealing with the wool. At least for me. I have a drum carder! It can deal with stuff like this. So last night I tried feeding the wool to the drum carder. I learned the hard way that you still need to pre-draft it a bit before the carder will accept the wool. However, once you do, it works really well.

So here’s what you do.

1. Do some predrafting. Yeah, it still has to happen.

2. Feed the stuff into the carder. Be sure to adhere to the safety warnings it comes with. Like keeping your hands clear. Look at me, choosing wisely!

3. Once you feed it in, start cranking. The small drum will take up the stuff and put it onto the big drum.

Whee, your carder is starting to fill up. Yay!

4. Take it off the carder. You could end here, and have a batt that looks like this:

Or you could

5. put it through again for more blended colors and get this:

So I have one of each now so I can compare how they spin. I think I like the less carded one better, but if the other spins dramatically better, I’ll have more blended batts in the future. Also, my batts go really well with Dominion Seaside:

So the reason why this is so exciting is that now I can sell them as batts instead of having to spin them all. They probably won’t all be done in time for the show (where I should focus on getting as much yarn spun as I can) but could later go on Etsy. And if I do spin them, they’ll be much easier to deal with than just a big bag of pre-drafted roving. Plus, I can draft from the fold, which I like a lot better.

Sad roving is sad, but fixable

For once, I’m posting about something I made that is less than awesome.

As you may or may not know, I’m selling my wool and yarn at a craft fair on June 27. (If you’re in the Boston area, you should totally come!) As such, I’ve been spinning up a storm. My 3 boxes of alpaca fleece finally arrived mid-May, and since I returned from Europe, I’ve been doing a bunch of carding. I also have been dyeing a bunch of merino rovings, most of which are up on my Etsy store.

I also bought 16 drop spindles, so I could sell them to people interested in spinning:

Last night I went on a dyeing spree. The first batch came out lovely. The second batch not so much. It was my own fault. Usually I’ll send the wool through the spin cycle of my washing machine to get out the excess water, and it works just fine. But I did it a second time for these rovings, and they felted:

There were 8 total that suffered this fate. I was pretty upset. They’re salvageable as yarn, but I can’t sell them as roving, unless it was to someone who knew what they were getting into and at a heavily discounted price; just enough to recoup my losses. Better to have it be yarn, where no one will know I messed up.

How does one salvage sad, sad wool?

By pre-drafting!

Drafting is the process of drawing out fibers in order to spin them. Usually I’ll do this as I’m spinning. But when wool is felted or otherwise uncooperative, I’ll pre-draft. It’s also useful if you want to keep the repeats of colors.

I pull off strips of the felted wool, separating it until I have strips that are small enough to spin and are no longer felted. Here is me splitting some wool

(As you can sorta see, my fingers are still discolored from the dyeing spree.)

In the end, you get a pile of small strips, and you can no longer tell that they were originally felted:


And it helps to have housemates who like pulling things apart. This way I don’t need to do all the pre-drafting myself.


I realized at Vericon that although my collection of roving is shiny, it could stand to have a little more purple in it. Everyone’s favorite color is purple. (That’s not 100% true; my favorite color is green). Or at least, lots of people like purple roving.

So I know next year I will have lots of purple at Vericon.

In the meantime, I dyed some purple roving last week (as well as roving of other colors). This was the first time I had been able to dye in several weeks. It was quite fun, even though I should have been working on the paper that was due the following Monday (I ended up getting an extension on it…).

So here are some of the rovings I dyed:

I like how the batch turned out. And I’ve finally got it down so that the roving doesn’t felt at all. (The roving that I’ve made that was slightly felted was still spinable, but I had to use a lot of pre-drafting.) My technique for dyeing has been steadily improving. The key is for the water to be just below boiling, and to make sure you are only boiling it for 45 minutes and no longer. And you have to check the water every so often so you can turn the heat up or down as necessary. Not such a hard thing to do, but it means you can’t go off for an hour while your dye sets.

Theoretically I could write a tutorial for dyeing wool, but they already exist on the internet. I like this one:
Hand Painting Roving

These rovings are destined for the Etsy shop, save for one of the 3 purples, which is destined to be spun by me first. Though maybe I’ll keep one. I haven’t done much dyeing for myself.


There’s this shawl that I was working on since November. I finished it last weekend.
And then I blocked it.

Shawl, soaking in water:

Shawl, out for blocking, next to my housemate’s shawl, which was the same pattern as mine:

Close up:

I also have a very empty yarn desk right now. Instead, there’s a laundry rack full of wool, which is currently living in the Vericon art show. Which is nice, since it means I get to show it off to everyone, and it looks very pretty there. And I’m coming home with less yarn & wool than I came with, which means less carrying. (Which is definitely a good thing when you are a hobbit.)
Though the yarn desk is sad in its emptiness.

Laundry rack of shiny:

Also, I finally ran out of undyed wool, so I went ahead and ordered the 27 lbs of wool on the internets, and it came on Thursday (while I was out doing stuff for aforementioned Vericon). 27lbs! This is a LOT of wool. I had to unwind some of it and wind it into smaller balls in order to be able to fit the darn thing in the craft cabinet, but it’s there now. I’ll post a picture of that after I take it.

And I’m also getting a bunch of alpaca fleece next weekend when I go and visit my friend’s alpaca farm.

Yay, wool!

Yarn Desk

I have a yarn desk. Or perhaps I should call it a yarn/roving desk:

(More pictures here.)

It started out innocently enough. I have a very small bedroom with no space for a desk. The people who lived in this unit before me had a big desk that they left. It was intended to be my workspace for desk-y things.

And then I started leaving yarn on it. First a few skeins, then more. Then I started dyeing the rovings, and I started keeping them there, too. It created a really nice rainbow effect, so I decided that this desk is meant to be a yarn desk and not a work desk, unless you consider my dyeing “work.”

Also, I dyed a few more rovings a few weeks ago. The pictures are big so I’ll just link them (this is just a selection):
Treasure Map
Sunshine and Lollipops
Cotton Candy

Now that I’ve started school again, I have less time for dyeing. But even if I did have time, I’d probably hold off on another dyeing spree until I sold/used some of the roving I currently have.

And I’m almost out of wool to dye! I’ve used up more than 6 of the 7lbs I had ordered in August/September/a long time ago and I forget exactly when. 7lbs of wool is a lot of wool. Though it’s not as much as 27lbs (which is the amount I’d need to order if I wanted free shipping).

Scarf run amok, also blackwork

Circumstance the first:  Over the winter break I sadly neglected to bring along the pattern for my present needlework project. As my knitting and spinning tools no longer live in Michigan, this left me at a bit of a (cough) loose end.

Circumstance the second: While I was muttering over circumstance the first,  my family home was the site of a lively dialogue of the subject of steampunk and related fashions.

As a result, I lit on the vague notion of putting together an offbeat patchwork scarf.  Here is what finally tumbled off the sewing table:

My original idea was for the scarf to showcase various different fiber arts techniques. This didn’t quite pan out in the long run, but it meant that my first step was to prepare several pieces of needlework to serve as focal points for the scarf.  I had a manual on blackwork that I’d been meaning to look at for some time, so I decided to open it up and have blackwork decorations. (Remember, I was awfully bored.) The manual turned out to be chiefly useful as a source of patterns – it failed to give any explanation of how to do the embroidery, so I fell back on the theory as elucidated to me once by my cousin. The idea of blackwork (or, in this case, redwork) is that the embroidery should be the same on both sides, except for tying off threads on the back. Toward this end, one uses running stitch to work one’s through each branch of the pattern stitching one stich on top of the fabric and the next below, then returning to the central point using the opposite stitches to make the branch on both sides of the fabric.  This is much easier to demonstrate than describe. I started with something simple and linear to get the hang of it:

Here, for example,  I stitched every other stich on the main line moving rightward, pausing when I reached an acorn to sew that as a branch of the main design, and then finally returned leftward along the line filling in the missing stitches. Seeing as that hadn’t been a catastrophic failure, I attempted something more complicated next.

With these elements complete, I gathered up red and black fabric scraps (available to me through the kind auspices of my aunt) and went to work on the scarf. I started by framing the larger piece of embroidery in heavy black satin, exercising a certain paranoia concerning the seams because of the fragility of the linen. From there, the left side of the scarf (cream semi-upholstery fabric, gold brocaded ribbon with small beads at the centers of the roses, red velveteen) fell together quickly.

The right side, conversely, proved difficult. I despaired of getting the transparent fabric to take a seam without unravelling entirely – I suspect this to be the fault of my lack of technical expertise – and ended up using a selvedge on one side to reduce this issue. However, there were two small rows of holes near the selvedge, as is often the case, which looked odd; I resolved this by using yet more of the red thread to make a row of half-stitches through said holes, which helped considerably. So as to not have too much unrelieved black, the velveteen patch that followed acquired a scattering of red seed beads as well.

Then came the white lace. I’d cut a large piece with the idea of folding it over for a hem, but this made the fabric look heavy, so I encased the edges in a bit of black ribbon  instead. Hence the lace patch was wider than intended.  My band of blackwork acorns, however, was narrow, and I’d meant for it (and the black lace with which I’d framed it) to cross the scarf slantwise. Therefore I thought I would have to narrow the scarf with the next patch of fabric, but all attempts at this produced utterly ungraceful results. All seemed lost; I cursed my lack of proper planning. However, in one of those mercies reserved for those with more enthusiasm than sense, I discovered that the blackwork band with its stiff black lace was not displeasing when laid across the looser white lace. Relieved, I sewed down the edges of the acorn band (leaving the center free to move independently of the background), declared myself done, and gave it to a friend by way of holiday gift.