Finished – The Biggest Entrelac In The World

It’s done!  Celebrate with me!

The early days.

In the beginning
In the beginning

Here is a picture before completion.  You see why it may be the biggest entrelac piece in the world.

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This is Noro Nadeshiko yarn.

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Shown on a large couch before blocking.  It got bigger after blocking.
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Nadeshiko is fuzzy even before blocking!

Blocking changes the texture completely.

Everything flattens out in blocking.

I am taping a guest spot about entrelac today for a TV show about fiber arts. Stay tuned for more details on how to watch my episode.

My favorite pattern and all the specifics about this project are on my Ravelry page.

In the meantime, please cast on your own entrelac piece.  It’s very easy, just follow the pattern.

Comment to let me know how you like this shawl.

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.

 

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!

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I Started With This Batt.

 

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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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!

My First Guest Post – Knitting With Hand Spun Yarns

Celebrate with me!  I recently wrote my first guest post for another blog.  This is a big milestone for me.  I hope you’ll read my post.  I wrote about using hand spun yarn.  Check it out here on the Purple Lamb blog.

Carla Hansen owns Purple Lamb.   Her Etsy store is full of beautiful spinning fiber and hand spun yarns to die for.  Here are a few pictures of her creations to lust over.

green batts
Beautiful Batts To Spin

 

bouquet yarn
Glorious Hand Spun Yarn

 

Let me know in the comments if you have questions about knitting with hand spun yarns.  I’d love to hear your tips too!