10 Reasons To Love Rolags

 

pink rolags

Rolags are small hand blended rolls of fiber ready to spin from either end. I love them a lot and here are some reasons why.

 1.  They are great for beginning spinners.  You don’t have a big bundle of fiber to manage.  Roving and batts can feel like a huge, unwieldy chunk in your hand.  Tearing them down sometimes feels a bit sacrilegious, or maybe you aren’t quite confident in your joining skills yet (although the answer to that is practice!).  At my January spinning retreat we were all laughing about the way I hold a bundle of fiber.  I admitted I hold my bundle “like an animal” and people laughed and denied it, but I was telling the truth.

2.  Rolags are easy to spin on a hand spindle or wheel.

3.  You can create a very unique yarn by spinning two different sets of rolags and plying them.  We all spin because we want to make something unique, right?  Rolags make that so easy.

4.   There don’t seem to be any ugly rolags.  As an experiment, I’ve purposely tried to make ghastly combinations.  I’ve blended colors that brought some very unpleasant images to mind, and they turn out fabulously.  I just don’t think is possible to make unsightly rolags.

5.  They spin up quickly and who doesn’t love instant gratification?  I know I do, and I’m certain that everyone can see a time and place for it.  Sometimes we want a big complex project that really grows our skills and sometimes we want candy – a project that is pretty and easy and gives us quick and beautiful results.  Rolags are for the times you want candy.

6.  They are unique combinations of fiber that are difficult to get in any other way.  You can get this if you work with batts, which brings you back to that big bundle of fiber to handle.  Rolags are different than batts in other ways, you can better see what is coming with rolags.  Don’t get me wrong, batts have their uses, and I love them.  But rolags are much easier to spin, and you get beautiful blends of gorgeous fibers in them, just like in a batt.

7.  You can buy or make ones that are sparkly.  Many of us love a little sparkle once in a while.  If you don’t, no problem, just buy or make yours tinsel-free.

 

brown rolags

I personally love it sparkly.

8.  You can experiment with expensive fibers without spending a lot of money.  Since rolags are made in small amounts you can play with things like camel, yak, and quiviut without breaking the bank.  That’s always nice.

9.  You can get color combinations that are impossible to achieve by dyeing roving.  Rolags are made from fibers dyed previously, so you get cool striping effects and can blend colors that would make a mud color if you painted them on the same roving.

10.  They expand your horizons as a fiber artist by introducing you to new fibers.  You’ll never know if you love camel, rose fiber or llama if you don’t work with it, right?  Rolags are one of the few ways you can play with unusual fibers.  One of the reasons we spin is to grow and learn, and trying new fibers feeds this.

11.  Bonus Reason – Wool rolags are wonderful for hand felting.  They can be torn apart to separate the colors, or unrolled and used as is for a more free form work.  And you thought rolags were just for spinners.

multicolored rolags

I hope I’ve convinced you to give rolags a try.  You can find them all over Etsy and, if you are lucky, at your local fiber festivals.  Here are the rolags currently available in my Etsy shop in case you are in the mood for a bit of fiber porn.

I’d love to hear about your experiences spinning rolags or about your plans to do so, please comment below to share them with me.

 

Friday Finds – February 19, 2016

We are all artists!  Resistance to doing our work can be paralyzing.  Melissa Dinwiddie is a creativity coach who published this great list of ways to overcome that stuck feeling.

10 Rules For Artists By Melissa Dinwiddie.
10 Rules For Artists By Melissa Dinwiddie.

Stephen Pressfield’s book Turning Pro is full of great ideas on overcoming resistance.  Here’s a very short YouTube video of him discussing some of the ideas from the book.   This book is definitely worth reading.  I enjoyed it more than his other books on this subject, which I found a bit too aggressive and even warlike.

Procrastination can be a form of resistance.  A common reason for it is perfectionism.  This article about Breaking the Perfectionism–Procrastination Infinite Loop is full of insight and techniques to get you moving forward.

I’d love to know your experiences and thoughts on this subject.  Do you know any great books or websites that might help others?  Comment below to share.

Here’s a fiber picture for the yarn lovers.

A New Handspun Yarn. I Named It Apricot Preserves.
A New Handspun Yarn. I Named It Apricot Preserves.

 

 

What Can I Do With Super Bulky Art Yarn?

I get a lot of questions about the small yardage super bulky art yarns I spin.  Typically  someone admires one my yarns like this one.

IMG_5683And then they ask me “But, what can I do with such a small amount of yarn?”

A great use for this type of yarn is a headband.  I have made headbands from super bulky yarns spun from 1.75 oz. of fiber.  This one is a 2 ply, but used a small amount of yarn.  Don’t be fooled by how little it looks, it stretches to fit a woman’s head perfectly.

Headband Knit From Super Bulky Hand Spun Yarn
Headband Knit From Super Bulky Hand Spun Yarn

Check out my Ravelry project page to see all the headbands I’ve knit.  As of today there are seventeen. Scope out my other projects while you are there too.  Friend me and say hi.

You can get my free headband pattern here.  It’s easy and fast, you’ll have a gorgeous headband in less than an hour.  Warning:  These are addictive knitting!  You’ll want to make another one immediately.

These yarns can be used in weaving projects, to stripe in a cowl or hat, or to create a face framing edging.

Combine with other super bulky yarns, handspun or commercially spun, to use in a larger project.  This is a great way to use up leftovers.  Make the colors coordinated or wildly contrasting.  Try it for a scarf or a larger project.

The Rogue Wave Wrap is perfect for this kind of yarn when combined with others.  There are a lot of patterns that would work.  Here’s one that’s free.  I am knitting this now.  watch for pictures soon.

Wrap a gift for a women in a pretty tea towel and tie with fabulous yarn.

There are a few ideas get you started.  Do you have others?  I’d love to hear them.  Comment below to share!

 

 

 

 

Six Things I Learned At My Spinning Retreat

As a beginning spinner I am always learning things that surprise me.  I attended a spinning retreat in Northern Indiana recently and some things I learned amazed me.

1.  Some spinners think it’s easier to spin a thin yarn than a bulky.  Along with this goes the belief that it’s difficult to control the thickness of the yarn.  I am NOT an expert spinner by any means, but I know the secret.  It’s nothing glamorous and your parents and grandparents knew it.  It’s practice!  Simply practice spinning different types of yarns to get better control.  Along with this goes acceptance of what you make.  Let go of the need for perfection.  Things made by humans cannot be perfect.  I think even DaVinci had days he felt that everything he made was junk!

Some Spinners Thought This Yarn Was Quite Remarkable.
Some Spinners Thought This Yarn Was Quite Remarkable.  I Just Thought It Was Yarn.

2.  Some spinners don’t like to knit.  They make yarn and save it or give it away.  That amazes me.  But see the next point to understand about giving away precious handspun yarn.

3.  Spinners are generous.  As a newbie (first time I attended), I received a gift that included two rovings and some llama fiber.  Someone else gave me a beautiful handmade shawl pin.  When I asked to buy a second one for a friend she would not accept payment and insisted on giving it to me.

The spinners donated an enormous pile of hand knit outerwear to a women’s shelter in Gary, Indiana.  Some of them knit all year long and fill shopping bags and totes full of hats, gloves, scarves, socks, children’s wear.  They’ll never meet the recipients or hear a thank you from them.

They also created a piece of art when they yarn bombed an old chair.  It was given to an art studio.

I love these people!

4.  Other spinners love to try new things too.  There were spinners teaching themselves to spin coils, to spin bulky yarns, to chain ply.  I sold many rolags to people who were excited to try them.  Here’s one that sold.

I Called This One Tokyo Nights.
I Called This One Tokyo Nights.

I will see the buyer regularly, can’t wait to see what she created.

5.  I can spin without hurting myself!  This is marvelous news.  For a long time I didn’t understand how to stay pain free when spinning.  I’ll blog about it soon.

6.  My yarns don’t have to look like everyone else’s.  They are still beautiful.  Most of the spinners were spinning, white, cream, gray or black wool into fingering or worsted weight yarn.  I was spinning bright batts and hand dyed rovings into colorful super bulky yarn.  And that’s ok!

IMG_5774
I Started With This Batt.

 

IMG_5889
I Ended Up With This Yarn.

One of the things I enjoy most about spinning is the endless opportunities for learning.  I plan to attend the retreat again next year.  I’m looking forward to seeing all my new friends again, and immersing myself in three days of spinning and learning.

Fun With Spinning Batts

I have been experimenting with creating  batts on my new drum carder.  I haven’t made an ugly one yet, I actually don’t think it’s possible.


IMG_5699 IMG_5704 IMG_5715  Here are some yarns I’ve recently spun from my batts.  The top and bottom were done on a hand spindle, the middle one on my wheel.

IMG_5678 IMG_5711 IMG_5740

A few tips to get started:

Let the batt be the yarn it wants to be.  Don’t get hung up on spinning a super thin, super smooth yarn.  This is the time for having fun with the chunky, highly textured art yarn you’ve been wanting to create.

My favorite easy and quick method for spinning a batt on a hand spindle is to tear it in strips, predraft the strips, roll them into balls, and then spin them one by one.  Depending on the batt you can break off where needed to blend a different color or fiber into the yarn.  If desired, you can pull out little sections while predrafting and put them aside to add at strategic points.

Check out this guest post from Carla Hansen, she’s an expert spinner with lots of in depth advice on different techniques.  Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.  Just begin!

If you’ve always wanted to play with spinning batts, but didn’t really know how to get started, or if you’ve tried them in the past and didn’t love the yarn you got, I urge you to try now.  Here’s a link to the batts in my etsy store, but there are many beautiful batts available all over Etsy.  Pick one and get started.  Have fun and be open to the beautiful, unique results!

Friday Finds, Jan. 22, 2016

This edition of Friday Finds focuses on YouTube videos for spinners.

First up is a video from Ashley Martineau at How To Spin Yarn on spinning paper yarn.

Grace Shalom Hopkins shows a method of spinning a miniature art yarn from a batt.  Sure to give you lots of ideas for all those batts you lust for!

Finally, we have a great episode from the Wool Wench on spinning cloud coils.

These three wonderful videos will definitely give you new ideas about how to use your stash.  Get spinning!

I’m going to produce some knitting and spinning videos in the spring.  I’d love your comment below to tell me which subjects you’d like to see covered.

Here’s a new handspun I recently finished.

IMG_5619

I will probably knit this fabulous yarn into a headband.

 

 

Spinning And Dyeing Yarn – A Book Review

I ran across this wonderful book by Ashley Martineau at my local library.

spinning and dyeing yarn

I love it and think it’s a must for all beginning spinners. My five top reasons are:

  1. Great instruction on building your own fiber equipment, including a spinning wheel, drying rack, kick spindle (must try!),  and a niddy noddy. She even shows how to build a sturdy lightbox that will store things waiting to be photographed. Lots of fun for the do it yourself crowd, and you won’t need to invest much money until you know you really enjoy spinning.
  2. Directions on spinning fabric.  I want to try that, I have lots of fat quarters and bits of quilting fabric piled up with no particular plan for their use.
  3. Information on core spinning, including on a hand spindle!  I highly recommend starting to spin on a hand spindle.  The portability is wonderful and its so inexpensive to get going.
  4. Clear directions on washing wool.  I want to buy a fleece (or two) this year and process it myself, just for the fun of it.  I’ve been hesitating because I was intimidated about washing it.  Will I felt it?  Will I get it clean enough? How do I even begin?  These clear instructions make it look pretty straight forward.
  5. The inspiration factor – there are dozens of pictures of gorgeous fibers.  Yarns, roving, batts, it’s all here.  If these colors and textures don’t make you want to immediately begin nuzzling your fiber, maybe you aren’t quite as crazy in love with fiber as I am.

Five stars for this book.  Its perfect for beginners and a great resource for those looking to up their game and try new techniques.  Clear instructions, excellent pictures and even a section on going pro make this a winner.  This one deserves a spot in your fiber library.

This post’s fiber picture is something new.  We’ve recently begun making spinning batts.  Here’s a lovely one, its now available in my Etsy shop.

IMG_5614

 

Speckled Yarn Tutorial

I’ve been in love with speckled yarns for a long time.

IMG_5452I was determined to create my own, but could not find a tutorial anywhere. I experimented for a while. I tried spraying dye, putting it on with tiny spoons and syringes. These techniques got beautiful, but not speckled, yarns. Finally, I found the trick!

The key is salt!  Yes, salt.  Strangely simple, freely available and inexpensive to boot.

IMG_5461

Here’s how I do it, step by step

  1. Soak the yarn in a combo of cool water and a bit of vinegar. You can use citric acid if you like, I prefer vinegar. It’s available everywhere and there’s no shipping charge to pay on it.
  2. Spin the yarn in the washer to get as much water out as possible. Speckles are smaller and more distinct the drier the fiber is. If you want bigger blobs of color, leave it a bit wetter.  Or spray it after you apply the dye.
  3. Lay out the yarn on some plastic wrap or in the pan you use to apply dye. I go both ways, but for this usually just go right to plastic wrap as there isn’t much liquid to contain.
  4. Here’s the fun part – Using acid dye mixed with salt in a salt shaker, sprinkle the desired colors over the yarn.  Move yarn around and turn over to spread color.
  5. Wrap up and heat as usual. I use a small microwave for 5 minutes, let cool at least 5 minutes, then 5 more minutes heating.
  6. Leave it alone until it is completely cool. This is key!  Messing with it while hot just leads to felted yarn and dye running down the drain.  I usually wait until the next morning. If I do it early in the day, I may unwrap late that same day.
  7. Rinse in cool water until it runs clear. Turquoise may never run completely clear, that’s just the nature of that particular dye molecule.
  8. Spin in the washer again to remove excess water and hang to dry. I always spin because I am impatient to see the final result.  Let dry completely.  I put in a small, warm bathroom on a drying rack.
  9. Twist up and pat yourself on the back at the beauty you’ve created.
I sprayed this yarn with water after applying dye,
I sprayed this yarn with a bit of water after applying dye.

More Tips

  • Buy sets of shakers at your local dollar store. Mine had plastic shakers that are perfect. Avoid metal topped shakers, they will corrode, plastic will last a long time!
  • Less is more with dye. Use plenty of salt and less dye in the beginning so you have good control of how much dye you apply.
  • Less is sometimes more with color. A lot of white showing makes the speckles stand out brilliantly.
  • Try a color that you don’t love. An “ugly” color can be just the thing to really add kick.
  • Try using creamy or even gray yarns to get softer effects.
  • Dye the skein, or just part of the skein first, then apply speckles.
  • Let yourself go. Don’t worry about the result. Try closing your eyes and picking out three shakers. Have fun!

You can see more speckled yarns in my Etsy store and on my Instagram page. I hope they inspire you to create something beautiful!

Your First Entrelac

Would you love to knit a beautiful entrelac project like this?

first entrelac
My first entrelac project, knit in Noro Kochoran.

After completing 20 entrelacs I consider myself quite experienced. Many knitters have told me they would love to try it, but thinks it’s too difficult.  It’s not!  Really.  Here are some tips to make your first entrelac a success.

Pattern Choice

I always use the same pattern, if I want a bigger or smaller entrelac I change the number of stitches I cast on. My go-to pattern is The Basic Entrelac Scarf by Lisa Shroyer.  Find it on Ravelry here.  You’ll notice the shawl pictured above is featured on this pattern page.

The stitches are cast on in groups of 8, sometimes I’ve cast on as few as 16. The usual number is 24.  Right now I’m working on a huge custom wrap for which I cast on 48 stitches.  This project is is using 6 balls of Noro Nadeshiko, which is discontinued.

IMG_5418
The Giant

Start with 16 or 24 stitches on your first project.

Just follow the pattern, it’s very clear and well written. If you have any trouble understanding it, here is a tutorial on YouTube.

Yarn Selection

I recommend using bulky yarn for your first entrelac. You’ll see quick progress and the heavy yarn will make your stitches easy to see if you need to tink (unknit) something. It also makes it much easier to see what you’re doing when you pick up stitches to create the new blocks.

To get an entrelac with solidly colored blocks you’ll need a yarn with a long color change. My favorites include a lot of Noro yarns. I’ve used Kochoran, Nideshiko and Transitions. These are all discontinued. Many Noro yarns would work.

entrelac_in_transitions_medium
Noro Transitions

Once you get comfortable with picking up stitches (or if you have some experience with this) try a worsted weight yarn.

taos entrelac
Crystal Palace Taos, worsted weight yarn

 

bright entrelac
Knit One, Crochet Too Paint Box, worsted

If you like striped blocks like this, try a hand dyed or commercial yarn with a short color repeat.

hand dyed yarn entrelac
Hand Dyed Yarn with short color repeats

Neutrals can be beautiful too!

entrelac latte ecoduo
Cascade Eco Duo (which is one of my very favorite yarns!)

Other Tips

When completing a row, spread out the project and make sure the edges are even. It’s easy to forget or add an extra a side triangle and once you continue there is no way to correct without ripping back to that point. Best to examine each row and avoid any anguish when you discover something awry rows later.

I like to use circular needles, it keeps the edges from slipping off best, but I use circulars for everything.

Picking up stitches intimidates a lot of knitters. I was nervous about it in the beginning. The important thing to remember – it’s easy to rip them out and begin again. Entrelac is the perfect way to get really good at picking up stitches, both knitwise and purlwise. You will be an expert after your first project and never hesitate again.

If you aren’t sure exactly how to pick up and knit, check out this YouTube video on picking up knitwise.  This is focused on socks, but the principle is the same, and the stitches are very visible in this video.

Picking up purlwise is shown in this short video.  This is going to feel very awkward at first!  Keep at it and it will become easy.  Remember, practice is the way to learn anything.

The little holes at some intersections of blocks are normal. Using a slightly fuzzy yarn will help hide them. This is a perfect excuse to use a yarn with a bit of angora, again Noro is a great choice for this.

View your first entrelac as practice. Focus on learning the skills you may not be comfortable with when you begin. Don’t worry about the result. The wonderful thing about knitting is that it’s easy to tear it all out and begin again. Entrelac’s block by block construction makes it especially easy to tear out a block and correct something you don’t like.

See all my entrelac projects (and everything else I’ve knit) on my Ravelry project page. Friend me!

Good luck with your first entrelac project. I’d love to see what you create.

Friday Finds, Jan. 1, 2016

Wow, it’s 2016 already!  That was a quick year.  Here are some things I want to learn more about or try for myself in the New Year.

crochet pillow cases

I am in love with these gorgeous pillowcases and finally found a great tutorial.  The series extends  over several weeks, and covers creating the pillowcase and adding the edging.  You could start with a purchased pillow case if you want to get right to the edging.

Here is the foundation for the edge.  The actual crochet edging is the next post.

I would love to put pretty edges on white pillow cases.  Perhaps my lovely sister will do it for me.  Linda, are you reading this?

I’ve been abusing my hands, wrists and elbows lately by knitting a big entrelac project and spinning yarn.  I tend to grip everything quite tightly in my quest for control, so I get very sore.  This is very common among knitters, crocheters, spinners, painters, anyone who does a lot of hand work.  Some of you will be happy to find this great site full of Finger Yoga. Click on poses and explore!  Very simple stuff and your hands and arms will thank you.

Would you like to live in a house like this?

shipping container house

Yes, please!  Can you believe it’s created from a used shipping container?  Apparently there are heaps of these just rusting away on the east coast.  Wouldn’t it be great if these could be repurposed into inexpensive housing for retirees, young people just starting out, or people who’ve been affected by natural disasters?

Here is a Buzzfeed blog post about shipping container homes that shows how fabulous they can be.  I dream of creating one for myself someday.

And a fiber picture to inspire your creativity.

yarns to willow mist aug 16 2013
Just a bunch of hand spun and hand dyed yarn I made.