Hand Spinning News
We've all survived Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year, so it's downhill all the way now. Thank you to Ewespecial for that one. While on the blue theme she also writes about Indigo, a historic and slightly mysterious natural dye.
Who'd have thought that in the middle of winter there would be so much natural plant dyeing going on? As well as the indigo there are items this month about two different types of lichen, onion skins (red and brown) and bark, plus some finished projects using naturally-dyed yarn. Going further back in time than indigo plantations, archaeologist Christina Pappas is taking her first steps to recreate a 2,000 year-old knitted slipper.
And as we've just passed Valentine's day there's a special romantic episode of Yvonne.
This is the free, edited issue for February 2017. Scroll to the bottom to find out how to receive a longer version of HSN a couple of weeks earlier.
Photo right: Indigo plant, via ewespecial. Cover photo by Acabashi (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
In the news
Charkha - the spinning wheel of life
There has been a flurry of news reports about a controversy around India's PM appearing on the Khadi cloth commission's calendar rather than a more traditional picture of Gandhi spinning. (As previously mentioned here, PM Modi supplied 500 charkhas to villagers for their self-sufficiency.)
One of these news reports goes on to tell the story of Gandhi's call for everyone to spend time spinning each day as a non-violent protest against British textile imports (India was part of the empire at the time). The story of charkhas arriving and daily spinning is told by the author of this article who was a child at the time.
Spinning was in part protest but also a means to a living for many people.
In the light of recent protests which have involved knitting pink hats, It's very encouraging to read about a peaceful protest which made a real difference, at a time before social media!
The article includes this photo from the author's collection taken in 1956.
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From the Blogosphere
Printing on sock blanks
Indie dyer Nic (@frostyarn) has documented her first attempts at printing a design onto a sock blank with sharp edges.
She's been unable to find information about how to thicken dye for this purpose or how to stencil onto the knitted fabric.
I'm not sure how practical this is, I imagine that this would produce a random pattern of black flecks once unravelled and knitted into a sock.
It would be fun to re-knit the blank and try to make this design reappear. I have read somewhere about secret messages being sent as unravelled yarn and reknitted to reveal the message!
But it looks great and thank you to Nic for sharing.
Indie dyer babylonglegs has recently found a UK supplier for Rambouillet tops, and is bursting with enthusiasm for the fibre.
She's done the research and brings some information about the breed as well as some pictures of her dyeing and spinning using the stuff.
Following in the steps of a 2,000 year old spinner
In the first of what promises to be a fascinating series of articles, archaeologist and fibre fanatic Christina Pappas takes a look at some ancient textile artefacts held at the University of Kentucky. Shown here is a slipper which was found in a cave. It is made from plant fibres and appears to be knitted.
She knows a little about the objects, but hopes to find out more by replicating the slipper and a bag. We'll be able to follow her progress on Ply magazine's blog.
Dyes from red onion skins on wool, cotton and silk
This picture has lost much of its impact after being reduced to the size you see it here. It contains two onions (red and brown) and the myriad of harmonious colours that Fran has achieved by using their skins.
Onion skin dyeing is the first project suggested by Fran's Dyes for all Seasons calendar. She was already aware of the range of colours available from the regular brown onions, but here she plays with the red variety.
Her post certainly shows the unpredictability of natural dyeing and experimentation required.
Please do explore Fran's blog, she seems to be busier than ever and supplementing her calendar with regular related posts. Since the onion skin dyeing she has posted about crab-apple bark and silver birch bark, relating to February's pages on the calendar.
Following on nicely from Fran's own post, Goldilox is one of the many who've been inspired by Fran's calendar to try natural dyeing.
She's spinning some lovely Cotswold lamb's fleece and has dyed a skein of that - click through to see the result.
The creating space blend
Hazel has called this Creating Space, and it certainly looks like a celestial nebula.
The fibre is a custom blend by World of Wool - Hazel's choice was polwarth, camel and seacell. For the colour she used black food colouring, which has split into its constituent colours.
I'm linking to a Google-translated version of Agnes' page, so if the wording seems a little odd, that's not necessarily the way it's supposed to sound.
She says that the knitting has been fun; simple but not boring. The colours in this look lovely and I'm always awestruck at large circular shawls.
But Agnes isn't happy and may pull it out. She says that she used a needle size too small for her handspun hand-dyed yarn and the shawl isn't as large as she'd hoped.
The pattern is Vortex Shawl, it reminded her of Dr Who's time vortex.
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Tips and tutorials
Steeking a handspun sweater
If this term is new to you, you may be horrified at the thought of taking scissors to a newly-knitted garment.
But cutting the opening in a cardy means that you can knit it in the round and all of your stitches will be knit stitches. An advantage if you're doing colourwork and possibly faster than alternating with purl rows.
This is Pamela's almost-finished handspun sweater. She has already cut the steek and discusses the technique in some detail.
Crottle lichen dyeing
Sarah of Colours of Northern Ireland has made this absorbing video in which she collects Crottle and dyes various fibres.
Lichen can give a range of colours and here we see amber and gold. If you're interested in collecting plants to dye with (and live somewhere damp) this may be a good place to start.
Lazy spinner's guide to wpi and twist
Jillian calls herself a lazy spinner, but I think we all are - tips are often designed to help us do something more quickly, easily or cheaply.
Here's her tip for maintaining a consistent twist and wpi as you spin. It's nothing radical but if you don't already do this, it's a very simple way to improve your consistency.
Shade cards for color sampling
You wait for ages for a tip that involve wrapping yarn around a card and then two different ones come along at once.
This time Fiber Sprite suggests a way of choosing colours for colourwork. It allows you to see them in the right proportions and without crinkling up the yarn as knitting a sample would do.
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A special Valentine's episode. This one first appeared last July, now re-drawn with the new-style faces.
If you like Yvonne, click the image to find her page, you can use next and previous to explore more cartoons, and join the mailing list for a regular digest email.
Keeping this wheel spinning
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Sometimes just a picture is enough
Handspun and handwoven purse
Sandandskycreations has fallen "head-over-heels-in-love with weaving".
She says that the weft for this project is handspun BFL/silk. It may be entirely handspun because she has been warping with handspun yarn too.
This is one of a number of these woven purses that she's made recently (explore her blog for more). I particularly liked this photograph.
Another from sandandskycreations. She has been experimenting recently with art yarn, although nothing too bulky or outrageous.
This is her experiment with plied supercoils. The colours in this are lovely.
This is a smashing picture but there's also a story behind it. A bobbin only shows the most recently-spun yarn and hides many of the colours within, and there are many colours in this bobbin.
Alisa (mamato8, mommato8) is taking part in a combined spin & knit-a-long. She began with 8 different braids, split each one and made it into 16 nests. She's pulling random nests from her basket as she spins. This produces a colourway that she appropriately calls "Mish Mosh".
Farming Couple Spinning, 1925-30
This photograph is part of a large collection in a Scottish archive taken by August Sander, documenting the life and work of farmers in 20's Germany.
This one is called Farming Couple Spinning. It looks like flax or similar on the distaff. The man-spreading husband doesn't appear to be helping very much, but I'm assuming it's a heavily-posed photo.
A fascinating window to another time and place. There's a lot of detail; the website allows you to zoom in really closely. The very busy wallpaper looks a little Arts and Crafts.
After learning a little about lichen dyeing (see 'Crottle lichen dyeing' under Tips and Tutorials above) I was surprised to see this Wensleydale yarn taking a deep pink colour from another type of lichen, umbilicaria.
I don't have word on whether puffintoad collected the lichen or whether you can buy it.
5 day toe-up sock challenge
Almost a thousand people signed up with Katalin Beth for the 5 Day Toe-Up Sock Challenge.
The event was a free mini-course which ran for five days from 8 February with instructions for each of the five days, On the fifth day the first sock is finished and the second started. It included Judy's magic cast-on, afterthought heel, stretchy bind-off and jogless finish.
I have to confess that I only cottoned on to the event when I saw this finished pair of socks by porchpegasus. She's used Shetland wool dyed by @fiberistafiles and adapted the leg construction from the cuff of the mitten pattern Snug by Robin Melanson.
I've linked to porchpegasus' photo but if you're interested in sock knitting, or in trying it for the first time, there are more great handspun examples under the hashtag #5daytoeupsockchallenge.
The vestiges of summer
The fibre used here had an amazing sequence of colours from near white through yellow, green, orange and red.
somebody-else found herself plying two singles together on Christmas day! She seems to have kept the colours together well.
The pattern looks very Summery, somebody-else says, "these aren't my usual colours. Oh shucks, I might have to buy some more fibre to knit something that will blend with it".
As far as I can see the project has only been shared on Ravelry to members.
The Faust family at work
A particularly fascinating archive picture from Library of Congress, shared by spin_fusion and The Pioneer Way Facebook group. This photo from 1910 shows settlers spinning wool in front of a cabin.
An elderly man stands at a walking wheel, Mary Faust is seated on porch with a spinning wheel, another woman stands on porch holding a rifle for reasons unknown and has hand carders nearby. Skeins of wool hang off the roof of the porch.
There's another item that I can't identify beside the hand carders. It's hand-cranked and appears to have small rollers. Does anyone know what it is?
(Use the 'TIFF' link to see quite a large version of the picture.)
Handspun sweater - Filé main
This fascinating jumper has many interesting details including saddle shoulders and a textured stitch pattern. It's based on an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern.
petite.filature made a low-twist single containing six colours.
I'm linking to her Instagram post, her Ravelry project here contains more pictures of the finished project.
This is a slightly shaky picture, maybe the photographer was as excited as I am about the finished shawl.
sockadia is also deservedly very happy with it. It's very large, as you can see in one of the other pictures. She spent two years from fibre to bind-off and spun the polwarth/cashmere/baby camel by spindle.
Alpaca on spindle
This month's Sexy Spindle Shot is from knitafrolic, although I nearly didn't notice the spindle because of the amazing teabag sketches of her alpaca, Petunia.
I recognise the spindle, I'm sure I have one exactly the same!
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A selection of free seasonal patterns which will work well with handspun yarn.
Dr. G's Memory Vest by Kirsten Kapur
When I saw this pattern I noticed that it was generally made for chaps but I do have my eye on it for myself. I've seen one made with a bigger neckline which appeals to me.
This one is made in handspun yarn by bysarah in a 3-ply handspun yarn. You'll want a yarn that gives good stitch definition, which I think means more plies, a firmer yarn or worsted prep/spin rather than woollen.
The title comes from the fact that Kirsten's father suffered from Alzheimer's and she's asking for donations to a specific research foundation.
Falling Leaves Cowl by Phil Saul
This isn't necessarily designed for handspun yarn, and it's quite a while since autumn, but the pattern hasn't long been published and I think it looks beautiful.
It calls for a background colour and smaller amounts of five other autumnal colours.
The designer admits that some of the floats will be "crazy long" which puts me off a little, but in the pattern she suggests a method of fastening the floats that I've not heard before and will try sometime.
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Breakers by Holli Yeoh
I'm captivated by this very chunky cowl (which could also be modified to be a scarf). It looks simple enough (double garter stitch) but the pattern contains written and charted instructions and includes 10 pages of tips and techniques.
It calls for 630 - 690 yards of bulky (7wpi) yarn in two colours.
Yarn Optimiser by Susan Ashcroft
The picture links to KnittingSarah's handspun Yarn Optimiser and she in turn links to the pattern, which is here in case you want to go straight to it.
A feature of the pattern is that (as the name suggests) it uses every bit of your yarn, which is useful when skeins of handspun yarn vary in length.
I'm not sure how the trick is done with this particular pattern (maybe you have to buy it to find out) but Sarah did comment that she was "not excited about the weighing involved" so maybe there's a clue there.
The yarn for this one was her chain-plied handspun, a BFL / Tussah silk blend.
Mary Jane by Sarah Moore
Looking ahead to the Spring, this top has puffy sleeves and an interesting neckline. You can't see it in this picture but it also has an interesting stitch pattern.
The one in this picture is by Sheilajersey, she's very happy with it and says that it's the first first sweater made from her own handspun yarn, DK weight merino.
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Edinburgh Yarn Festival
10 / 11 March 2017, Edinburgh Corn Exchange
(classes 9 - 12 March)
A celebration of all things related to yarn, wool, knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving and felting. A fantastic market place with around 100 selected vendors, great workshops and a host of other attractions
22 & 23 April 2017, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells
Promoting wool and natural fibre production and its use.
Exhibitors and trade stands covering all aspects of felting, knitting, weaving, spinning, crochet and textile art with raw materials, equipment, books and finished products for sale. Competitions and a range of hands-on workshops.
A list of accommodation and camping in the surrounding area is available on the Wonderwool website.
Fri 23 and Sat 24 June June 2017, Cockermouth, Cumbria
Woolfest was founded to provide a showcase and a celebration of the best of wool and wool crafts.
The event is all about creativity and design with beautiful quality, amazing colours and skilled craftsmanship.
British Wool Show (formerly British Wool Weekend Show)
Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 July, Thirsk Rural Business Centre, Blakey Lane, Thirsk
Supporting the Campaign for Wool.
Exciting treasures to discover; wool from fleece to finished items and other items you will need to spin, weave, knit, crochet, hand dye, cross stitch, embroider or make felt.
23 and 24 September 2017, Skipton Auction Mart, North Yorkshire
For you if you love yarn and are passionate about all things woolly. It aims to celebrate the beauty and diversity of wool, cotton, linen and silk fibres in all their forms
Happy spinning and don't be a stranger!
Shiela Dixon - Editor / curator
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