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Friday, June 29, 2012

New toy

One of the things I love about yarny gatherings is that I usually learn something brand new, either a technique or a tool, or both. This time round I learnt how to wind yarn balls using a Nostepinne (or Nosty). Although I have a ball winder and swift which are fabulous for winding balls of yarn the ball winder is a bit brutal for winding singles (especially as fine as I like to spin them). The Nosty on the other hand is just perfect.

Nostepinne and egg


My first introduction to the Nostepinne egg (the little ball of yarn that you can wind with the Nosty) came at Cecilia's house early on in the week. Cecilia has the most delightful wool room at the back of the house with spinning equipment, fibre, skeins of yarn hanging up, and little Nostepinne balls lying everywhere like little Faberge Easter eggs.

Nostepinne and egg

[Nostepinne egg]

The really handy thing about winding singles on a Nostepinne as because it creates a centre pull ball, once you've wound your ball you can then rewind it as a double ply ball (i.e. taking the inside and outside ends of your first ball and holding them together to wind a second ball). This makes it much easier to use for plying as you don't then have to worry about the inside unravelling more quickly (or in lumps) than the outside.

It wasn't until I started Googling Nostepinne tutorials for this post that I realised that, should you want to, you can also use the Nosty to wind flatter yarn cakes, such as you get from a mechanical ball winder. There's a great article on "nosting" here and a good YouTube tutorial here. I may refine my technique in time but for now I'm happy with my eggs. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

This is the way we wash the fleece

I bought many exciting toys at Woolfest this weekend but the ones that I am most eager to play with are my new, highly lethal (at least in appearance) wool combs.

Wool combs

Although these look like a medieval instrument of torture they are in fact used to turn this:

Gotland locks

into this:

Combed Gotland

which can be spun into this:

Tiny Gotland skein

[world's tiniest skein of yarn]

Unfortunately before I can start playing with my combs I have to wash and dry at least one of my fleeces. When I emailed my husband to let him know that I would be coming home from Woolfest with not one but two fleeces he said that was fine, his only stipulations were that I should wash them on a fine day and when he wasn't around. Since the sun was out today and he was at work it seemed like an ideal day for prepping the Gotland fleece.

First I spread it out on the lawn to pick out the mucky bits:

Washing Gotland fleece

I'd usually refer to this as skirting but since it was impossible to see where the skirts of the fleece were it's not really appropriate in this case.

Washing Gotland fleece

It's a lovely fleece I think, mostly silver coloured locks with a few light brown and grey patches, and pretty clean. There were only a few locks that I had to discard.

Washing Gotland fleece

I put the fleece through four or five changes of hot water with a little bit of liquid detergent in the first bucket with long soaks in between then spread it out to dry.

Washing Gotland fleece

The rest of this half of the fleece should be dry by tomorrow and then I can start combing!

Whilst the fleece was soaking I was getting on with spinning and plying the Freyalyn's Fibres bfl from Woolfest. I wound the fibre from each spindle into a double ply Nostepinne ball and then plied it.

Handspun 4 ply

After plying I had just under 100 metres of a lovely 4 ply yarn and lots of fibre still to spin up. I should definitely have a decent amount of yarn for socks or mittens afterwards.

Handspun 4 ply

A present from Estonia

Just before Felix returned from her epic trip to Estonia I received a highly coloured card which cryptically indicated that a gift would follow. And follow it did. There will be no need for me to knit mittens this year as I am now the very proud owner of a pair of handknit Estonian mittens, dyed with natural colours.

Handknit Estonian mittens

These are so beautiful. I love the combination of colourwork and lace at the cuff and the butterfly motif, not to mention the fact that they are toasty warm.

Handknit Estonian mittens

Of course eventually they will wear out but when they do I can knit my own pair of Estonian mittens from this amazing book.

Turi mittens book

All the text is in Estonian but since the book doesn't actually contain any patterns, just photos and charts, that's not a problem.

Turi mittens book

I love the fact that Estonian mitten patterns just consist of the chart, it's assumed that everyone already knows how to knit a mitten.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Back with a bang

Yesterday at Woolfest I bought an IST Crafts drop spindle and a parcel of dyed BFL from Freyalyn's Fibres. Today my drop spindle looks like this.

Freyalyn's Fibres

I blame Felix for taking me to visit Cecelia Hewett (Woolclip member and handspinner extraordinaire) earlier in the week. The peer pressure of Felix, Mel and Cecelia all spinning away whilst I plodded on with my Woolsack cushion was just too much to bear and I immediately mentally added drop spindle and fibre to my Woolfest shopping list, just so that I wouldn't have to wait until I got back home before I could start spinning again.

I haven't really got on very well with drop spindling in the past as I've always worried about not being able to produce a decent quantity of a consistent lightweight yarn. However, now that I've been spinning on a wheel for a few years I'm more confident in my ability to draft the yarn consistently and to be able to judge the right amount of twist needed and, hopefully, reproduce it. My aim now is to spin up the whole of this fibre using the spindle, wind it into at least two little eggs using a Nostepinne (I very much hope that Felix will have been able to pick one up for me today) and create a 4 ply yarn that will be suitable for socks or mittens. If this is a success then I'll be spinning up more fibre in this way as the drop spindle is definitely more portable and more sociable (i.e. quieter) than the wheel for spinning out and about and in the evenings.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Swatching for Woolsack

It's not too late to start knitting a cushion for Woolsack. There are stuffing events at Woolfest in Cumbria the weekend after next and at Fibre East in Bedford on 14th and 15th July to which you can bring your cushion plus yarn and needle for finishing to be stuffed with pure British wool.

Woolsack swatch

I've just knitted the swatch for my cushion. It's going to be knitted from pure Shetland yarn from Black Yarns with honeycomb and simple braided cables. If you're travelling to either Woolfest or Fibre East then a Woolsack cushion would make the perfect in-car project.

Never heard of Woolsack? Read all about it It's a fascinating project undertaken by British knitters with the aim of giving a handmade cushion, made from British wool, to every Olympian and Paralympian who wants one. They're leaping over the hurdles presented by the stringent LOCOG restrictions and now are sprinting towards the finish line thanks to recent publicity on BBC Radio 4, BBC Breakfast Television, Look North, and in Private Eye.

If you'd like to make a cushion for an Olympic or Paralympic athlete the main things to remember are that it must be made from 100% British Wool, be 16"x16", and not feature any of LOCOG's list of restricted expressions or marks - the full details are here.