Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Update

Things are hopping at work and at home these days, so the blog has rather fallen by the wayside. Life has a way of interfering from time to time, I’ve noticed. I always make time for some sort of fiber project, though.

I’ve been spinning for and knitting lots of socks lately. It’s my usual summer project, for a variety of reasons, and rather comforting to spin for something so familiar after several months of experimentation with exotic fibers.

Pictures will have to follow later, but I’ve been working on several sock yarns. Medium fleeces of about a 54-56 Bradford count, either generic 56’s from Woodland Woolworks ( or some Romney/Shetland cross fleece from a local shearing earlier this spring. Also in the works is a pair of socks from some Romney I spun up and dyed deep burgundy last year.

You know me – I can’t resist tinkering a bit! One of the yarns of 56’s was spun roughly mixed with some silk roving I bought awhile back. How do you rough-mix? Well, you lay out a long length of wool roving on the floor and spread it out. Then you take a strip of silk roving, split it lengthwise into quarters, and spread those quarters out over the length of wool. Pre-draft both fibers together and spin into a thin yarn, then 2-ply and cable for a wonderful sock yarn. Shiny sections will be mostly silk, and since the singles are quite thin (about 36 wpi) those shiny sections get spread throughout the finished yarn. The finished cabled yarn is lovely – cushy and with just a bit of crunch from the silk, and about 18 wpi. It worked up into a nice sturdy sock fabric on size 0 bamboo needles at a gauge of 7 stitches per inch. And the variegated pink dye is perfect – I’ll love these on cold, dreary January days this winter!

The Romney/Shetland cross is being combed on my Viking double-pitch combs. This is a really nice fleece, medium gray in color with a staple length of about 3-4 inches. I deliberately left just a little grease in the fleece when washing, because I knew I wanted to spin it quite thin and cable. And I love the way the yarn fulls when I spin it this way! The singles are done after a weekend-long public demonstration two weeks ago, and are patiently awaiting plying and cabling. They’ll have to continue to wait, I’m afraid, for at least another week – I stepped down off some stairs the wrong way and slightly tore my Achilles tendon last week. So now spinning is going to have to await healing!

This will be something of a whine, so if you want to skip this paragraph, feel free. I am the lucky owner of three spinning wheels – a Majacraft Rose, a Kromski Symphony, and an Ashford Traveler. All of those wheels are double-treadle, because that’s much easier for a back that I did in years ago. I’ve heard so many times (and even said myself!) that any DT wheel can be used as a single-treadle if necessary. And they can - for a short time, and very carefully. But they aren’t designed to work as ST’s, and they don’t like to be used as ST wheels. Now I’m upset because I can’t spin for at least two entire weeks UNLESS I can manage to do so in a ST fashion. Since I’m currently concerned with plying thin yarns (about 45 wpi), a lot of control is needed. And I cannot manage that kind of control in ST mode! I’ve tried – oh how I’ve tried – but I cannot do it. After just a couple of minutes, the wheel starts to reverse direction, my back begins to throb, and I feel like I really need a glass of something! I really do need just one more wheel, thank you very much, and that one needs to be a single-treadle! Maybe if I’m a very good girl Santa will bring me one? Probably not, but I can still wish!

The burgundy socks are an UFO. I started them last summer, in fact, in a feather-and-fan lace pattern very similar to the one in “Socks, Socks, Socks.” But I quickly grew weary of the pattern, and put them aside for the Christmas, winter and spring knitting. Now I need to finish the second sock (I’m almost at the heel), and am making myself do at least two pattern repeats a day. Peculiarly, I’m not finding the pattern quite as much of a slog this time around. I started these socks just after finishing up the Buegler Feather and Fan Shawl from GOL; perhaps I was just bored with F&F?

I gave myself a treat for the cooler September spinning season, and I like the look of the roving so much that I may take it along on vacation in August as a spindle project! I ran across some absolutely beautiful fine black alpaca that was mixed with silk in a 60/40 ratio. Both fibers are naturally-colored, and I have decided on a Christmas project for the yarn. Spinning this should be pure pleasure! But not the type of pleasure I want during an East Tennessee summer of 90-degree-plus days with 90 percent humidity levels! Vacation will be the earliest I’ll touch this, and only then if the ocean breezes cool things off enough to make it pleasurable.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't you get a single treadle conversion kit? The traveller has a dt conversion, does it not work in reverse?

Persian Pen Name said...

By a cabled yarn, do you mean two 2-ply yarns plied together? And if so, how much singles yarn would you spin for that, in weight or yards? Does it make it more durable for socks?

TNWevr said...

Thanks, Beth! I could get a ST conversion kit for the Ashford, but it doesn't seem worth it for only 3-4 weeks of use. Much easier to move to spindles and get caught up with the knitting projects.

And, persian pen name, I do indeed mean two 2-ply yarns plied together. Singles spun clockwise, 2-ply spun counter-clockwise, cabling done clockwise. I've discovered that if I spin 110 grams of yarn I always have enough for socks. It doesn't matter what grist of yarn I choose - 110 grams will do a pair of socks. (125 grams if they're for my sons or DH - their feet are bigger.) As for sock yarns...there is general agreement that the more plies the better for socks. It distributes the wear better, the socks themselves wear longer and with less darning, you get a 'rounder' yarn with more plies, contributing to increased comfort...lots of reasons for it. Including the 'reason' that I'm a total fine-spinning nut and prefer to spin very fine and ply up to the weight yarn I want!

Anonymous said...

Well for 3 or 4 weeks I'd go to a spindle also. And have you done any posts on using the combs? I'd be all eyes.

Hope you foot is feeling better.

Anonymous said...

Hello Pam, I have enjoyed reading your blog for the last few days...extremely informative. I have a question regarding sock yarn. I recently purchased 8 ounces of superwash merino from Crown Mountain Farms. It is a dream to spin and the colors are gorgeous. I bought it for the express purpose of spinning it for socks. I have never spun sock yarn before. It occured to me that merino would probably not be the wisest choice for sock yarn. I am spinning it with more twist than I would usually use and plan to use a size 1 needle for a firmer fabric. Is this yarn doomed to produce holes relatively quickly in your opinion? or have you ever used superwash merino for socks with some success? I thank you for any reply and hope your foot is feeling better. Wendy

TNWevr said...

Superwash merino can be so seductive - the painted colorways are wonderful, and it does indeed spin like a dream. And it WILL work for socks, Wendy, as long as you take proper precautions. Will it wear as well as a long- or medium-wool? Probably not, but you should still get at least a couple of years from it.

My own preference after several years and multiple seductions is to use a superwash/silk blend. But superwash alone will work. As you've begun, spin with a bit extra twist, ply with extra twist, and definitely consider cabling (see persian pen name, above). The more plies over which to distribute wear the better.

As for knitting, definitely a firm fabric. Most of my superwash socks were knitted on either size 0 Pony Pearl or size 000 metal needles. No, I'm not crazy. It was just that those needles gave me the fabric I thought would wear best. And knitting wasn't nearly the chore you'd think it would be, possibly because socks just aren't a very large project.

So have fun, Wendy - with the spinning, knitting and wearing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your reply and advice. I am so glad to hear that it will work. The more I spin this lovely fiber, the more it is crying out to be a lace shawl. Perhaps I will choose a sturdier fiber for the socks and give in to the Siren's call of lace knitting. I haven't really tried a difficult lace pattern yet...just one with simple yarn overs and decreases that I made up myself. I may be writing to you again for help. Thank you again for your reply and all of the wonderful information on your blog. Wendy