Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My New Toy...

I got an early Mother's Day present... or maybe a belated birthday present, since we're right in between the two.

I have been looking at alternatives to drop spindles that would let me crank out yarn a bit faster but still be fun and fit within my budget as well as my tiny living room. I looked into
charkhas and possibly making my own wheel or charkha.

Enter the
Mother Marion kick spindle. While I automatically fell in love with the idea, the original models, however, are still a bit out of my price range.

I decided to look for them on eBay and found someone whose engineer husband not only figured out how to make them but improve on them. He added ball bearings to reduce friction so the spindle can spin longer between kicks. I've included links to their YouTube videos on the left that demonstrate how these work.

After patiently answering my many questions (including a "yes" to whether I could buy one directly) I settled on a wooden model with a scalloped wheel. My total cost was about half of what I'd pay for an original Mother Marion, not to mention I'm plain impressed by innovative these are. I should be getting it pretty soon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

First Handspun and Hand Knit Project

Well it's not much but I've knit my first item out of yarn that I spun by hand - it's a hat for my daughter that I'm sending as part of her belated Easter package later this week. I used Bev's Stretchy Hat pattern in the adult size:

I've tried it on and it's comfortable, stretchy and kept my head very warm. It'll be good for times her Dad takes her up to the mountains.

Spinning Cotton

I've been playing around with cotton a little bit. I found a Web site called Cotton's Journey a couple weeks back (I have their site under my links as well), they sell educational material on growing cotton, supplies, even a spindle with a sliver of cotton for someone who wants to spin cotton thread.

So I ordered a bag of Pima cotton bolls (you get about 30), and a 4" cotton mini-bale that is enough to make a long-sleeved top if spun fine. I originally thought of buying the seeds as well to grow my own, but realized that there would probably be more than enough contained in the bolls... that is if I can get them to grow in the climate where I live, apparently I do not live within the cotton belt so I may not have much luck.

My order came in the mail just a few days after I placed it. Here you can see the process as I've prepared the fibers and then spun them. First I pulled the cotton locks out of the bur:

From there I extracted the seeds out of the locks:
I then did a process called hand carding, to straighten out the fibers and prepare them for spinning. Yes, that is a dog slicker brush I'm using - I bought two of them and find that it does the job just fine for an amateur. Not to mention it costs about half as much as it would to purchase a set of hand carders and, well, sorry but I'm cheap:

From here I gently shaped the rolags of cotton I carded into slivers:

Finally, I spun the cotton fibers into yarn:

As you can see it spins a little finer and tighter than wool. Like the wool, I also have had to get a feel for just how much I need to draft out while spinning so my efforts are uneven, but better than I expected for my first try. Unlike the wool however, I plan to make this a two-ply yarn since it is spinning so fine, at some points it's like thread though bulkier in others. But that's all right with me, it just makes for a more interesting yarn :-)

Once I'm done with the bolls I'll try to figure out how to bust open the mini-bale and spin that too. Though at the same time it just looks cool the way it is... then again, nah, I can always get another if I want a conversation piece.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Nephew's Hoodie - Finally Done!

Gee, I'm only, what, a month late on this? Oy...

So yes, I finally finished my oldest nephew's hoodie, a belated birthday present that more or less ended up being an Easter present. Again this is the one in which I used a free pattern from Lion Brand using Bernat's Soft Boucle yarn in Slate Shades.

He wasn't as thrilled about it as his Mom was. As with my friend's son, she will be able to hand it down to her youngest when it's outgrown, so it will get to see a lot of use.

In the meantime, I've continued with my handspinning. My ball of natural wool has continued to grow - it's up to four ounces now:

I also spun four ounces of multicolored yarn this week. Hobby Lobby has bags of wool roving that's for needle felting but I found it spins into a real nice yarn - this was six small balls of different bright rainbow colors:

It proved to be a lot of fun to spin. I've since set the twist on it and am using it to knit my first handspun project - a hat for my daughter, yet another belated gift that will go out with her Easter package when it's done.

I am also working on another project, a jacket for my mother-in-law as her Mother's Day present. It's a cute swing jacket pattern from Lion Brand and once again I'm using Bernat's Soft Boucle, this time in Richest Red.