Spinning for a project – Use of colour

I am quite keen on making the most of both the time I spend spinning and the fibre I use, to that end I spin most of my yarns with a project in mind.
Hand dyed spinning fibre is a big temptation, but so many spinners are disappointed with how their yarns knit up. Due to; muddied colours, barber pole effects, length of colour repeats, strong striping, dye lot changes, etc. The list is endless.
So I thought I would write some blog posts addressing these issues.

The first issue I thought I would address is the effect on the length of colour stripes when the width of the knitting fabric changes.
Eg. You spin some beautiful yarn from hand dyed top or graduated batts, and proceed to knit a triangular shawl which starts with a few stitches per row and increases to several hundred per row.
The closer you get to the edge the thinner the bands of colour become, to the extent that the edge doesn’t even have stripes.
The effect may be pleasing, or it might not.

To keep the bands of colour more equal make a simple change to the way you prepare your fibre before you start spinning.

Here is an example:
I have 100grams of hand painted top which has repeats of colour along its length and 100grams of hand dyed top which has very little variation in colour.
I plan to spin both lots of fibre and ply them together to form a 2ply.
I then want to use it to knit a large circular shawl, If I work from the top as I received it, without any splitting the resulting shawl with have a large circular of colour in the middle with the bands of colour getting smaller and smaller towards the edge and even mottled at the far edge.
If I want the bands of colour to have a similar width across the diameter of shawl I can strategicly divide the fibre before I start spinning.
For this example I will just divide the fibre for 1 ply and leave the second more solid fibre as is.

Undivided Top
fig1: Undivided Top

I split the fibre in half length ways as my fibre is a silk brick which is much wider than regular top, so for regular top skip this step or your fibre may be too thin to split further.

Split in half lengthwise
fig2: Split in half lengthwise
fig2 diagram
fig2 diagram

Next comes the strategic dividing of fibre. I broke the top into 5 fairly equal pieces, you can do this based on the colour repeats in your fibre for best results.
The first piece is not split at all (1). The next piece is split in half lengthways to make 2 thinner strips (1/2). The next piece is split into 3 lengthwise for even thinner strips (1/3). The next piece is split into 4 lengthwise (1/4). The last piece is split into 6 lengthwise (1/6) (I can’t manage to get 5 equal strips so I do 6, I do this by spliting in half, then spliting each into 3.) You can see in the photo the piles of fibre getting thinner from left to right.

fig3: Strategic dividing
fig3: Strategic dividing

fig3 diagram
fig3 diagram

I then crochet chain the strips of top in order so that they don’t get mixed up before spinning, if you want the colours to follow in sequence make sure you take note of the ‘start end’ and the ‘end end’.
You can see in this picture that the chain goes from fat, to thin and then thinner, the thinnest I rolled into a ball as it would be messy to chain.

fig4: final chained top
fig4: final chained top

When you have spun and plied your yarn you want to use the end with the short colour changes at the small part of your shawl (centre for round shawls) and the slow colour change end will be for the longer edge of your shawl.
For this fibre I will straight 2 ply with the 2nd solid ply, but you could navajo ply for great colour alignment. Or if you are really confident in your dividing skills divide in the same way for both plies for a matched 2ply.
I’ll update this post with a photo of the shawl when its finished.

Spinning Journal

I have been keeping a spinning journal for a while, and I consider selling these hand bound spinning journals in my shop, but that’s now unlikely to happen, as I don’t think their potential sale price covers my time to make them.

So I’m going to write a tutorial to share what I have learnt in the process of making mine, and what I finally came up with.

To start with, here is the pdf of my page template. Its an A4 template, the pages are folded in half for hand binding, giving an A5 journal.

Spinning Journal Template

Old Ashford Elizabeth

I am now the proud owner of an old Ashford Elizabeth.  These wheels are the same design as the newer Elizabeth II, but has a smaller 22″ fly wheel instead of the 24″.

I bought it second hand on Ebay, and it arrived very quickly. Turns out it was being sold through The Threshing Barn, customer service was great and the item well packed despite being a very difficult item to pack and ship.

She came with 3 bobbins (2 old, 1 new), original lazy kate and a new threading hook and drive band.  She has recently had new bushes for the bobbins and new front and rear bearings.

Schacht Ladybug Tutorial: Adjusting the flyer

How to adjust the flyer to reduce noise.

After a few months of using my Ladybug Spinning Wheel I found that it had started to make a ‘chattering’ noise as I spun.   This tutorial describes an adjustment that can be made to reduce this noise.  If you are in any doubt about something related to your Schacht wheel I recommend you contact your Schacht dealer, or Schacht directly for support.

There are many things that can cause your spinning wheel to make unexpected noises while spinning, this tutorial is for noise caused by the flyer moving backwards and forwards between the Maidens only.

Before trying this I suggest you remove your flyer, clean off all oil and grease, re oil as the Schacht Ladybug Manual instructs and try applying some white grease to reduce any noise caused by the bobbin.

Will this help me?

With your flyer assembly in place and the Front Maiden pushed back as far as it allows and the Front Maiden Knob tightened.  Using your hand try to move the Flyer backwards and forwards.

If the flyer moves more than a few mms you may have a reduction in noise by adjusting the Front Maiden.  If there is little or no movement this tutorial will probably not help and you should look for other causes of unexpected noise.

You will need:

  • Schacht Ladybug Spinning wheel with Flyer
  • Small Screw Driver

Have a look at the Ladybug Labeled Parts diagram on the Schacht Website to familiarise yourself with the part names.

Ladybug Maiden fig1
Ladybug Maiden fig1

Loosen the Front Maiden Knob and remove the Flyer. (fig1)

Ladybug Maiden fig2
Ladybug Maiden fig2

Unscrew the Front Maiden Knob Fully and remove it. Remove the Front Maiden from the Ladybug. (fig2)

Be careful not to loose the Front Maiden Knob and its white washer or the Front Maiden Glide Stop (fig2) or the Barrel Nut (fig5).

Ladybug Maiden fig3
Ladybug Maiden fig3

Locate the screw driver slot on the Front Maiden Glide Stop.  (fig3)

This is the part which stops you being able to move the Front Maiden back too far.  It is an important part of your spinning wheel, enabling you to glide the Front Maiden to the correct position every time without worrying it is too tight against the flyer.

Ladybug Maiden fig4
Ladybug Maiden fig4

Use the Screw Driver to turn the white threaded piece of Front Maiden Glide Stop. (fig4) You only need to turn the screw driver a small amount, approximately 1/4 turn.

If the Glide Stop is orientated the same way (as in fig4), with the screw slot towards the front  of the wheel (this is the flat part of the Maiden, the part closest to the flyer is curved). Turning the screw anti clockwise will allow the Maiden to move further back reducing the amount of flyer movement.   Only make tiny changes before trying the flyer again to check the movement.

After making a small adjustment place the Front Maiden and Flyer back on the wheel and check the movement in the Flyer while holding the Front Maiden as far back as the Glide Stop allows.

You can now replace the Front Maiden and the Front Maiden Knob to secure it. Ensure that you fit the Front Maiden facing the right way (as in fig1). When the Front Maiden is slid back as far as the Glide Stop allows the flyer should only move forwards and backwards the smallest amount.

However you do NOT want the Glide position of the Front Maiden too far back otherwise it will cause too much friction on the flyer, making treadling harder and may cause unnecessary wear. As well as making it harder to get the Front Maiden in the correct position. If it is too tight, remove the Maiden and re-adjust the Glide Stop (clockwise to give the flyer a little more space).

Ladybug Maiden fig5
Ladybug Maiden fig5

While doing this you may find a metal component falls out (Barrel Nut) (fig5).  This nut goes inside the Front Maiden and the Front Maiden Knob is secured into it.

Ladybug Maiden fig6
Ladybug Maiden fig6

If the Barrel Nut falls out, or you have difficulty screwing the Front Maiden Knob back in,  Push the Barrel Nut into the hole in the side of the Front Maiden (fig6). You may need to use a Screw Driver to align the Nut with the slot upright and in the centre of the Maiden, to enable the Front Maiden Knob to screw in.

Schacht Ladybug Glide Stop + Barrel Nut
Schacht Ladybug Glide Stop + Barrel Nut

If the Front Maiden Glide Stop falls out it can be held in place with a small amount of white grease.  Some spinners have reported finding this part has fallen out of their wheel during changes in temperature etc, if this happens slot it back in (as in fig4) and hold with white grease if necessary.  There is some information about this on the Schacht Website here.

I hope you find this information useful, but if you are in any doubt I recommend you contact local Schacht dealer or Schacht for support.

Handspun Swallowtail Shawl

From 200grams of Organic Merino ‘Tea and Roses’ Club fibre to 600m of handspun yarn to 4ft6 Swallowtail shawl.

2ply yarn, spun worsted on my Ladybug, final yarn between 4ply and sport weight.

I only got my first wheel in January this year, and I managed to spin, ply, knit and block this shawl in just 13days, as part of my Tour de Fleece spinning challenge.

Pictures 🙂








Fractal Spinning

I’ve been playing with fractal spinning the last few days.
This is a draft tutorial and needs more information and images.
What is fractal spinning?
Well it is method of spinning, it works best with tops which have been painted with stripes (there are alternatives, but I will ignore them here for simplicity).
The principal is to create a yarn where the plies have different lengths of colour repeat.  This is achieved by dividing the top lengthways.
This method shows how to create a 2ply yarn, though the theory can be applied for 3plies.
It works best with tops that have a regular colour repeat, 3 colours works well.  This example has only 2 colours.
Starting off with 1 length of continuous top (this  is Superwash Merino from ColourflDesigns.com), we want to spin all the tops in the same direction, so we need to make a note of the end.  I will be spinning from the end with the longer yellow stripe (top of  photo).
Fractal Step 1
Fractal Step 1 - Undivided Top

Split the top along its length being carefuly to keep both peices equally, providing you with 2 lengths of top that are half the width of the original.

You now have 2 lengths of top that are thinner, remember the end to spin from (bottom left of both peices in this picture).

Fractal Step 2
Fractal Step 2 - First Divide

1 of these will become the first ply for your yarn.  The 2nd needs to be split again length ways, making 2 equal thinner strips.  Remember which end you are spinning from.  In the image below: Left; Top for first ply (spinning end is bottom left),  Right; Top for second ply, 2 thinner lengths (spinning end is bottom length of both peices).

Fractal Step 3
Fractal Step 3 - Final Divide

You may want to roll these into a ball, or pre draft by attenuating them if you wish, but this may cause the colours to blend together, disrupting the striping.

When you spin each of the plies, the first ply will have long colour repeats, (in the image above the 1st ply will have 9  long colours repeats of yellow, purple), the 2nd ply will have shorter colour repeats (in the image above the 2nd ply will have 18 shorter colour repeats of yellow, purple).

Making sure you spin the tops from the right end will meake sure you get matching colour repeats aong the length, and when you ply you should ply from the same end of each single.

The effect will be a yarn with slow colour changes over laid with faster colour changes, making a really interesting colour blend effect.  Where both plies are the same colour you will get a solid section, but other sections will be blended.  If you are using more than 1 length of top for a larger garment follow the same steps and identify the same starting end if possible (this is easier when 3 or more colours are present).

I will post more pictures of the finished yarn and a knitted item when its finished.  It works well for socks!

Dyeing day

I did some dyeing today, here are some pictures. I’m going to use the Pansy colourway to try some fractal spinning.

Superwash Merino, still wrapped in clingfilm sausage after dying in Moss colours.
Spiral dying
Shetland and BFL humbug next to each, spiral dyed Red -> Yellow, still wrapped in clingfilm.
Moss + Spiral Fire
The moss and Spiral dyed fibre hanging up to dye.
Pansy Superwash Merino
Superwash Merino in Pansy colourway. I ran out of blue dye (and thus Purple) so the second lot is paler purple.

For those of you who may be interested this is where I do my dyeing.



Spinning Madness

Sorry I have been so lax about updating, I will try and update more!  It is mainly because my camera has given up the ghost, but after 9yrs of good service I can’t complain too much.  I haven’t settled on a new one, so my picture taking is abit dis-joined at the moment, and I like to include photos in my posts.

So I thought I would update and add the photos in later.

I ordered myself a loom this week, so have tried that out today, its fun and eats yarn quickly! I want to use it to make a blanket and use up all the novelty yarns that have accumulated in my stash box.

I have been spinning lots recently and enjoying new fibres, dfferent sheep wools, alpaca, tencel, silk, etc..

I am really enjoying hand dyed colour ways, the way the colours play across the knitted fabric.

This a shetland Capelet made with handspun yarn (fibre from Wildcraft), Nahajo plying always the colours to slowly stripe.

Shetland Seascape From Wildcraft
Shetland Seascape Fibre From Wildcraft
Shetland Seascape Yarn
Shetland Seascape Yarn
335Shetland Seascape Capelet
Shetland Seascape Capelet

Superwash English Wool Blend from Wildcraft, Navaja plied for striping yarn, this will be a tank top for Em.

Skein1 of Superwash English wool Blend
Superwash English Wool Blend 'Pinks' from Wildcraft

Sheep Yoke Cardi – Keep going

Well I had hoped to post a lovely picture of the yoke which I have finished and am now working on the main colour. But my faithful camera of 8 or 9 yrs has given up, every memory card I put in it just says card error. So a new camera is on the cards, wouldn’t have minded if I had wanted a new one, but the old one worked perfectly and despite being dated I really liked it.

Here is the picture of the work so far.  The sheep need faces and legs! You can see the stitches held on spare yarn at each side.

Sheep Yoke

I have now started on the sleeves, even though I haven’t finished the body, as I haven’t decided if I want to add any colour work to the  bottom of the body, so I thought I would do the sleeves then assess how much yarn I have left when they are done.

Sleeves: Using main colour Pick up 3 sts from Cast on in arm pit and knit 44sts on holding yarn.

Work 1.5inches in Main colour, decrease 2 st at sleeve ‘seam’, and every 3inches, until 41sts remain.

Work straight until sleeve measures 8.5inches from arm pit.

Work colour and ribbing, then cast off.

Repeat for second sleeve.

I have got back to knitting some squares for my sock yarn blanket this weeek too, so its growing again, I think it might be ready for next winter.  The more I do of it, the more I love it and the more I want to give it to Emily, I feel its something she could grow up with and keep for the rest of her life.  But I still really want it for myself, as it fels so nice over my lap, light and warm.

Sheep Yoke Cardi – Step 8

Yay dry wool!

The pictures I took mid process seem to have disapeared off my mem card (that’s what you get for using a camera with memory card thats 8yrs old and has probably exceeded its max write cycles!).

So here are the pictures of the finished yarn cakes.

Sheep Yoke Cardi Yarn Cakes

In the next picture hopefully you can see the 2tone 2ply for the main colour, and the variagation in the grass green and sky blue.

Sheep Yoke Cardi Yarn Cakes Detail

At last I can cast on!

Sheep Yoke Cadi – Steps 5-7

I died all the fibre earlier in the week.

I spun the singles, have of each colour first, then the second colour, to help improve consistency. Then plied and skeined it all. I have washed and finished it all, but now have to wait for it to dry before I can wind it into balls.

I haven’t measured the yardage so fingers crossed.

I choose lilac solid and mauve/purple with some variation, for the main colour, I have made a 2 tone 2 ply yarn with it, and am really pleased with how its come out. As long as there is enough, as I doubt I would be able to make a good dye repeat of this.

In other news I have been preparing some batts for the shop, as well as  some orifice hooks and some stitch/row markers.  I had planned to do an update this afternoon, but have run out of steam, so it will either be mid week, or next weekend.  Sorry.

As a spoiler…

There are some Sock Batts Merino/Nylon in colourway ‘Fire’, Ladybug orifice hooks, and simple stitch/row markers in various colours.

Sheep Yoke Cardi Step 2-4

I knitted a small swatch with the 2ply sample I had spun and washed. I didn”t bother to knit a sample with the 3ply as I preferred the 2ply and think it will offer a lighter drape in the finished fabric, also will require less spun singles.
I measured the wpi of the finished sample at about 11wpi, which is Double Knitting (US Light Worsted). This is great news as thats what I was aiming for.
On 4mm the gauge is …sts x …rows per 4inches.

My sample only weighed 4grams and gave 8meters, I didn’t think this was a large enough sample to use to calculate yardage per gram. But using it as a guide (2meters/gram) I spun 50grams of the undyed fibre, which was 105meters.  2.1meters/gram. (2.3yrds/gram)

I haven’t rewritten the pattern as I tend to work the pattern out as I go, but I can still estimate the yardage based on the yardage for the original sizing and the final measures of the new garment.

I’m going to work the pattern to fit 3-4yrs.
Chest: 28inches (71cm)
Length: 15inches (38cm)
Sleeve: 10inches (26cm) x 8inches

I could just make a generous guess about how much bigger this is than the original size, however a bit of simple maths will give me a pretty realistic value to use to calculate yardage.  (28×15 + 10×8)x2 = 1000. Technically this is the number of square inches of knitted fabric (it doesn’t take into account the fact the top is narrower than the bottom). For the original size : (22×14 + 7×8)x2 = 728.

To work out the new yardage : ( new size / original size ) x original yardage.  (1000/728) = 1.37

Main Colour (250 yards);
blue (90 yards);
green (90 yards);
cream (90 yards);
black (less than 20 yards);
pink (less than 60 yards).

New yardage / weight
Main Colour 343yrds / 150grams
blue 124yrds / 54grams
green 124yrs / 54grams
cream 124yrds / 54grams
black 26yrds / 11.5grams
pink 83yrds / 36grams.

Total weight = 360grams

So todays job is dying each of the colours.  Cream is undyed, and I’ve already spun 50grams of this.

I still haven’t decided on a colour for the main colour, I don’t want to do tan or any shade of brown, I’m thinking a pink or lilac or purple. Suggestions?