Tiffany Clematis hand-painted spinning wheel

I've been commissioned to make another of my Clematis decorated spinning wheels. It's a real pleasure to spend a day doing this.

Postcard from Fibre East 2015

What a very good day. We arrived shortly after the show opened but hadn't quite seen all of the exhibitors before some were finishing for the day.

There was a great selection of exhibitors, a wonderful atmosphere and many people demonstrating various things (not to mention the 'have a go' tent or James' workshop, both of which we had to pass on for reasons of time).

Mike's Sheer Sheep Experience is always something to look forward to, an entertaining talk along with his demonstration. We didn't get a reasonable explanation for the fascinator?!

  And after the show had finished for the day, the sun was still shining and we didn't want to go home, so what better than some coffee and some spinning?

The new KnitPro Zings have arrived - first impressions

Knitpro have been creating new ranges with some frequency, but I've been especially looking forward  to these  - They're called Zing, a lightweight metal needle with metallic colouring. Yes, they look like Signatures but these are reasonably-priced - somewhere between Knitpro's Nova and Symfonie ranges.

My first impressions were that the colours look great. But are the points more rounded than the Knitpro's we're used to?

A visual comparison says yes, slightly. Here's a comparison of the same diameter needle, arranged by sharpness from L-R - Addi's regular (Turbo or Premium), KnitPro Zing, Knitpro Nova and Addi lace.

But sharper doesn't mean better, it's a personal preference.

So the big question (because this is what you'll be doing with them) is how do they feel to knit with?

The points are perfectly fine, I do like a sharp point but had no trouble with these at all. The finish is more of a satin finish than the slippy polished finish of the Novas which again is down to preference and the material you're knitting. They felt nice and friendly in the hands.
 Lightness? It's difficult to tell just from holding them, but here are the results according to the sensitive scales. L-R, lightest first, Symfonie, Karbonz, Zing and Nova surprisingly out on the heavy end. Being hollow, I didn't expect them to outweigh the others.

Circulars, double-points and single-points are now in stock:

Testing different drafting methods against the clock

I've got my eye on Rowan's Meredith (right) as a project to spin for during Spinzilla 2015 (more about that in the previous post)

It requires Aran weight yarn which is chunkier than I'm used to. Bearing in mind that Spinzilla is about spinning as much yarn as possible in a week, what better than to try some different draws and see how they work out in a 'time trial'?

With a timer running to see how much yarn goes onto the bobbin in 10 minutes, I first tried simply spinning off the end of the sliver (top pic). I tried splitting it into pencil-width lengths but it was actually easier to simply let it run off the end as pictured.

The second picture shows 'from the fold', a favourite method of mine. You pull off a chunk of wool, fold it over your index finger and spin from the end of that. I guess it's similar to spinning from a rolag. This proved to be not only the faster method, but the most consistent too. I 3-plied each. (Spinzilla gives you credit for singles and for plying, so making a 3-ply doesn't count against you.)

Once soaked and set, there's a marked difference. I'm not sure if it's so obvious in this picture but it's clear in real life, the skein on the left (from the fold) has not only more yarn but it's bigger, bouncier and also more consistent. This is as you'd expect - 'from the fold' will make a more woollen yarn.
Do you ever get the feeling that something was meant to be? My pattern asked for an aran weight yarn, 8wpi and the left-hand skein is dead on.

Not only that but the gauge is 17st x 20 rows on 5mm needles making 4". Spot on again:
 The spookiness doesn't stop there, after knitting the prescribed stitches and rows, this is genuinely the end of that sample skein.
This is the sample of the 'from the end' yarn. It's a little more 'open' (slightly thinner yarn on the same size needles). The fabric feels flimsy, not as full and luxurious as the other sample. I know which one I want to wear! This swatch is also a few rows shorter than the first one (ie I didn't spin as much in the same time) so another plus as far as Spinzilla is concerned.

UK Team for Spinzilla 2015

I've made this announcement on Ravelry and in Hand Spinning News but I realise that I've not put the news here - how remiss of me!

I'm proud to say that Hand Spinning News is a 'Merino' sponsor for Spinzilla 2015. In a nutshell (" more like..." as Basil Fawlty would say) it's a 'spin as much as you can in a week' competition for teams and individuals with loads of prizes, not just for yardage but also photography and random draws too. The wider aims are to raise awareness of spinning and education (providing craft materials for young people).

Running a team is a separate matter from sponsorship. Last year I spun 'rogue' (not part of a team) because there wasn't a UK team and I resolved to put that right this year if no-one else stepped forward. A couple of weeks ago I registered 'Team Hand Spinning News UK'.

If you're interested, please show your interest on the UK Spinners Rav group, though spinner registration doesn't open until Sept 1.

That's all happening Oct 5-11 so it's early days yet, but I've been speaking to Curtis Wool Direct who has very generously offered to supply prepared wool for the team. And with samples here I've not been able to resist looking for a suitable project and spinning samples.... More in the next post.

Tour de Fleece Day 12

Is it day 12? I've lost count.

But I have made my first goal, to finish this 100g. I'd already started it before the Tour started but with daily spinning it seemed like a good opportunity to finish it.

This first picture was taken with a macro lens, so it looks much bulkier than it really is, so here's a shot with the spindle for scale:

I spun with team Drop Spindle Addicts and spun & plied the yarn using that spindle. I make this 290 yds and (by eye) it's somewhere between lace and sock.

The fibre is silk / mohair / wool from picperfic's fibre club, colour 'Monet's Pond'. A perfect mix for socks, I'm thinking and I have a pattern in mind.

fleece to finished - Check Slouch Hat

I've blogged about this yarn and this hat as I made it but for completeness here are pictures and my thoughts.
I used my new wool combs to process a couple of bags of fleece I had stored - some zwartbles fleece and  some from Smiler, a sheep belonging to a family friend whose breed I can't recall. The grey is a mix of the two (note much more white than black) and all of the yarn is rather neat and incredibly squashy.
I love the Check Slouch pattern. It's my first 'slip stitch' colourwork pattern. Each round only involves a single colour, this may mean that the knitting takes a bit longer but I preferred this to carrying two strands around the work. The check effect is great and works really well with natural colours. 

I've not blocked a hat before, here I used a balloon which worked well, although I probably put a little too much air into it and stretched the brim a little larger than needed.

Blocking a handspun hand-knitted hat

I finished my Check Slouch hat yesterday (see the yarn and pattern here) It looked great on but arguably should be blocked in order to look its best.

1. a soak with a delicate wash such as Eucalan
2. The pattern says "block over a dinner plate or balloon". I've never done this before but it works remarkably well. It costs just a few pence for a balloon, plus I've sealed it with a food sealer here so I can re-use it!
The top of the hat is a little more puckered than it looks on the pattern, this could be because when I switched to dpns for the final decreases, I went down a size thinking this would be ok.
I'll post "start-finish" pictures when this has dried and I can model it.

Tour de Fleece 2015 - start as you mean to go on

I've started my Tour as I mean to go on.

I joined Team Drop Spindle Addicts because that seemed appropriate. I have this gorgeous silk/mohair/polwarth from picperfic's luxury fibre club already started.

I plan to finish that and then finish off some pure 'straight from the bunny' angora I'm halfway through on a little Turkish spindle.