Archive for October, 2008

I had a query this week regarding fulling yarn, and more specifically, whether Navajo-plied yarn could be fulled. I thought I’d go into the topic in some more detail here.

As you probably know, fulling (or felting if your fibre is just fibre) happens under a number of different conditions in greater or lesser degree. Temperature stress (e.g. rapidly altered hot/cold conditions), friction, agititaion and moisture all contribute to the permanent tangling of fibres which we call felting. You don’t need all of these conditions to create felt or full yarn, but two or more makes the act go faster.

So how does this apply to our yarn? Imagine you’re spinning for a project you intend to full, or alternatively, something you hope will wear really well and hold up under such conditions of stress outlined above.

Fibre content is naturally important. Two things which contribute largely to feltability are fineness and scale structure. Therefore, a fine wool, which has overlapping scales which will open and close with temperature changes and lock together under friction, will felt very easily. A coarse wool will still felt, but will take more effort. Fibres with very smooth scale structure, like mohair, or no scales to speak of like silk or superwash fibre, will be much harder to felt (although not impossible, especially fine fibres, so be wary in washing!).

Let’s say you’ve chosen your fibre. Knitter A, making the felted bag, has chosen merino, Knitter B, who wants her cardigan to stand up well to wear, has chosen a Blue Faced Leicester/Mohair blend. Think about the conditions required for felting - what techniques of spinning and plying are going to affect the success of these yarns?

Knitter A needs maximum tangleability. She doesn’t want to have to put the bag through endless cycles in the washing machine to finally achieve a result, one cycle would be great since she’s in a hurry and needs to get this bag done and dry for the birthday party she’s going to tomorrow (she’s deluded - felt dries slowly and it’s raining, but she has a hair-dryer).

For maximum tangle the fibres in Knitter A’s yarn need room to move. Therefore spinning a lofty, woollen, low-twist yarn is the key here. With plenty of air in the yarn, the fibres have space. They can move across each other and the scales can open and close, locking together. Low-twist plying and finally a large needle size - leaving more air and room between the stitches - will finish the job.

Knitter B used a soft airy yarn for her last sweater and it felted under the arms the first time she wore it. She’s a bit more cluey now and this time she’s going to use a firm, worsted-style drafting technique and create a smooth 3-ply yarn. She’s also going to add a bit of extra twist when she plies and then treat the yarn rather roughly in the finishing process. This will do two things - it will take that extra plying twist and turn it into bounce, and it will encourage a little bit of shrinkage, making it less likely for the yarn to shrink later after it’s knitted. Knitter B also chooses a needle size which will give her a nice firm, but not stiff, gauge.

So what’s the answer to our original question? Can Navajo-plied yarn be fulled? The answer of course is, it depends. Is the single spun worsted or woollen? Is it lofty and undertwisted, or a tight firm twist? Have you knitted it at a big loose gauge or a firm gauge? As you can see, Navajo-plying by itself really doesn’t have much impact on feltability.

Practical exercise: (You can tell me later whether you want me to include these!)

Choose a fibre that will felt, e.g. merino, and spin a bunch of little samples. Try a singles yarn, a woollen 2-ply, a worsted tight-spun 3-ply, a soft 3-ply… whatever takes your fancy. Knit swatches at different needle sizes and label them with loops of coloured yarn, throw them all in the washer for one cycle. What do you observe? Shrinkage should vary a lot, even though the same fibre was used for each sample.

Do you have questions? Stories about shrinkage? Just want some company today in the rain? Come visit the spin|knit|design|write chatroom on, click the button below.


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According to my inner clock, Christmas is still a looooong way off. However, I have a little sneaking suspicion that it’s actually closer than I think, and therefore, I am going to make a list of Gifts I Plan to Make. Since Christmas is a long way off, I’m not actually going to cast on any yet, but it’s best to be prepared well in advance don’t you think.

Also, there’s every possibility that the List (previously only nebulously inside my head) may turn out to be longer than I suspected…


2 pairs handknit socks

1 handspun scarf (I have half the yarn done for this btw)

2 skeins handspun laceweight

4 skeins handspun sock

1 beaded lace Swallowtail.

See - It’s really not that long is it. And I have all the yarn except the other half of the scarf. And the stuff I haven’t spun yet…

I will keep you posted on the progress.

- - - - -

In other news, I am very happy to announce the return of the Sunday Spin-Along!

It will consist of a slightly different setup, and I’m re-christening it as you can see below. There will no longer be photo requirements, although if I do see a picture and I’m truly impressed by it I may send you a little something :-D The pdf format will also be scrapped, making it easier to publish, and therefore hopefully more frequent.

I am hoping to post Spin-Ins every week, with some gaps maybe if I happen to be away. Think of them as snippets, gossip, hints, tips that I’ve picked up or worked out and am keen to share. After all, the more I put the knowledge out there, the faster I can take over the world convert new spinners! Mark Sundays in your diary now as the time to catch up on news and maybe try a new technique - and comment along with all the other readers in stereo.


Save the button for your sidebar, and link it to the Spin-In category. See you Sundays!

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This is not really a proper post. Usually I put thought, photography and effort into blog posts. But today I have run out of effort and so I’m pitching an idea to you…

Allspunup merino/silk _1012497

Redstone silk/merino Redstone silk/cashmere

_1012763 Lambspun silk/wool

All of these are crying “Shawl!” at me. All (as you may have noticed) contain silk (just call me ‘life’s too short for scratchy’).

I just don’t know which one to do first…

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After SOAR last week, I may have been quoted as saying I’d never spin anything again that didn’t have cashmere or silk in it. Cashmere/silk blend - even better!

Yesterday, my loungeroom floor looked like this:

SIlk Class

All the goody bags for the Stunning Silk class this weekend are parcelled up and ready to go - it was enormous good fun I can tell you! Mohair Madness is also on this weekend so I’ve been dyeing up a load of silky curls for members of that class as well. Both classes still have a couple of spots left in them, so if you’d like to come along and roll in spin and sample glorious fibres all day long then check out the details here, or head over to Socktopus to book your place.

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Although formal classes are obviously an integral part of SOAR, I was amazed at how much I learnt incidentally, along the way, out of class. Even more amazing was the amount of shopping that the new learning led to. Hence the title of this post. Okay, you’re not really amazed are you. And you’re totally not falling for the ‘Really, Fibergal made me do it!’ line are you. Dang.

Totally predictable or not, I decided to combine the incidental learning post with the shopping stuff, because really it does all go together as you will see.

First up - in pure enablement - Kai and I had an enthusiastic reunion on Sunday evening (it’s been a year since we last saw each other). We both arrived latish, jet-lagged and exhausted after a full day’s travel. My fibre-hunting skills were still sharp though, and I spotted this in her luggage:

Allspunup merino/silk

Since Kai is awesome and sweet and generous, and possibly a bit fuddled by the journey, it ended up coming home with me. I owe her something fabby sometime.

Meeting up with Lucinda in the 201 class, I got chatting with her about Charkhas and she let me have a go on hers. Luckily, Journey Wheel was only a phone call away and Sheila (who is lovely, btw) happily agreed to ship the Book Charkha to me at Pocono Manor, and it arrived within a couple of days. See the neat little box:

Book Charkha

Spinning on the Charkha is an incredible experience. When I sit down with it, I feel that there is a connection with the thousands of spinners of the past in India and other parts of the world who have sat cross-legged in the sun and spun cotton, perhaps to clothe their family or make household goods.

Book Charkha

I spun cross-legged on the floor of the hotel lobby, with a glass of wine beside me, but the connection was still there - trust me!

Still on the cotton theme, I had lined up before SOAR with Fibergal to talk about spinning cotton. She is an accepted guru on the topic and (over evening swill of course) we sat down one night and she taught me how to spin cotton straight from the seed.

Tabachek spindle

None of my spindles ws small enough (I told you it was her fault) so I wandered through the market to find a little spindle less than 25g. This one is made by Edward Tabacheck and I got it in the Rovings booth where everyone was fighting over the Polwarth fleeces. The whorl is Tulip Rosewood and the shaft is Ummo, it weighs a teeny 22.5g.

This one I had no excuse for except that it was incredibly pretty. And square is cool.

Spindlewood ebony/tulipwood 1 1/4 oz

Tulipwood and Ebony whorl, Ebony shaft, from Spindlewood. 35g.

I also got a chance to hang out for a bit with Wormspit, the resident expert on sericulture and silk reeling. I picked up some cocoons to have a play with in the silk class this weekend, and learned loads about silk prep etc. Go check out his website - it’s fantastic.

While wandering around the hotel I chummed up with Chendra from Red Stone Yarns. Dangerous relationship. She happens to have extremely similar taste to me when it comes to fibres and colours, and it didn’t take me too long to fall for the gorgeous cashmere/silk tops she had, and the merino silk batts.

Redstone silk/cashmere

Redstone silk/merino

In fact, after taking Judith’s class on the Friday, I pretty much didn’t want to spin everything ever again that didn’t have silk in it. I look at some of my stash now and feel uninspired. Spare Cotswold anyone?

Speaking of silk:

Lambspun silk/wool

Well, they were two-for-one, so it would be criminal not to get some right? This is 80% silk and 20% merino from Lambspun.

What else… (sorry, the jetlag has me in its grip.)

Actually, that’s pretty much it for the SOAR market. I was running seriously low on suitcase space by the end of the week and I knew I wanted to do more shopping in New York when we got there. For clothes of course, not yarn or fibre, cause I have enough lots of those.

Here’s some of the clothing I bought:


Well, it will be socks eventually, so it counts right? And Macey’s had their 150 year sale - 40% off cashmere sweaters! * drool * I bought two. And in Washington, I didn’t buy anything! * is virtuous * But I did take lots of pictures of important-looking buildings.

I’m running out of stamina I’m afraid. I may think of things to add later that I’ve forgotten, and I will tell you all about NYC and DC in later posts.


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The second part of SOAR, after having a day off on Thursday, is the Retreat. This consists of two days of classes, two 3-hour classes a day. It is much more full on than the Workshop, as the Mentors always manage to squeeze a phenomenal amount of learning into the short session.

On Friday morning I took Mohair and More with Robin Russo - a class designed for sampling and exploring different goat fibres. We spun Mohair, Pygora, Cashgora and Cashmere, and Robin gave us masses of information about all the different animals, fibre qualities etc. This picture was taken when we were about half-way through.

Mohair and More retreat session

One thing you may not know about goats is that, unlike sheep, the fibre does not remain consistent for the life of the animal: it gets progressively coarser over the years. Mohair in particular starts out very fine in the first clip and changes in softness, lustre and crimp style over the next three or four years.

Friday afternoon I was with Judith McKenzine McCuin studying silk blends. This is WAY more my type of fibre than most of the wool we spun in 201 (although I’m a big fan of goat fibres too). You can keep your scratchy wools and man-made fibres - I’ll be the one in the corner with the cashmere and silk blend.

Silk Blends retreat session

Judith is absolutely amazing. A lot of the things I learnt from her were not necessarily to do with silk, or blending, but were immensely valuable in all areas of my spinning. Incidentally, we also discussed the attributes of poached eggs at breakfast yesterday morning.

Saturday was Knitting Estonian Lace with Nancy Bush, and Spinning Big and Lofty Yarns with Maggie Casey. I was getting pretty tired by this stage but no way was I missing out. Luckily the lace class was mostly sitting back, knitting and listening to Nancy’s fascinating stories and history about Estonian Lace. She had an amazing array of shawls with her too - you can see that the table behind her in this picture is covered with them and there was another whole table as well.

Estonian Lace retreat session

In this picture Nancy is demonstrating how to make a perfect Nupp (rhymes with ’soup’).

Nancy demonstrating nupps

By Maggie’s class I was a wreck, but I managed to spin big and lofty, (against my natural instinct) and although I didn’t take any photos in class I have my yarns and will eventually dig them out and show them to you for proof.

I have more to blog about - not least the post on What I Bought At The Market (thought I’d skipped that didn’t you! But I believe in full and truthful disclosure for the good of the community) - but I’m still pretty exhausted. The Last-night-of-SOAR party had me up until one this morning, and did I mention breakfast has been at seven all this week? SEVEN. That’s not even a time. I need to do some catching up.

More tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. I need to go on a NYC yarn crawl and buy cashmere…

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The first part of SOAR is a three day workshop class with one of the mentors. I took Spinning 201 - intermediate spinning - with Rudy Amann who you may have seen in Spin-Off a couple of times recently. The class was great - we worked with a bunch of different fibres, practising both worsted and woollen styles of spinning, and touched on techniques such as andean-plying, spinning from the fold and making cabled yarns.

Michele, Triste and Debbie

Rudy has an amazing store of knowledge and a lot of what I learned in the class was actually incidental to the program - someone would ask a question and Rudy would give us a long, detailed answer, often moving off onto tangents to give even more information. We talked about different wheel systems (Scotch, Irish, double drive) and how they all worked and why, and it was really interesting to watch him answer people’s questions about problems they were having with their wheels, and watch how he fixed them.

Cosy and Dana

The class was full of very cool people! I met Amy, Meghan, Dana, Cosy, Michele, Vanda, Triste, Jim, Debbie, and lots more people. It was a really fun group, and I feel like I have made some good friends.

Here’s a picture of most of the class - we’re wearing our homework on our heads…


That’s Rudy on the right. He happens to be an expert on Nalbinding, and since we had a bit of time left over at the end of the class, we were lucky enough to get a quick demonstration:


Nalbinding cretes a kind-of-knitted, kind-of-woven fabric, but really isn’t either at all. It went out of fashion when knitting was discovered, for various reasons, and the skill has almost died out - with just a few people like Rudy keeping it alive.

Last night, when classes were all over, we put on a display in the main conference room. We all had a chance to wander around and see what everyone else had done, I have pictures of some of the opther displays and will tell you more about that later.

In the evenings there has been just as much going on. People sit around in the hotel lobby (which has great couches) and knit or spin, and there has been a couple of demonstrations and talks.

A huge treat this year is to have Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez visiting, from the Centre for Traditional Textiles in Cuzco. She and her friend Aquilaina have been talking about the textile traditions in the Andes and demonstrating traditional spinning and weaving. It has been really fascinating and I’m gutted that I didn’t have the chance to take Nilda’s class this week.



Today we had a day off, with the spinners’ market open (I didn’t spend much I swear!) and we walked up to a local beauty spot. Tomorrow the retreat sessions start, two 3-hour classes per day.

More tomorrow, ciao!

P.S. On Tuesday night I had dinner with Nancy Bush, and this morning I was sat next to Maggie Casey at breakfast.

* swoon *

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SOAR is amazing. Absolutely awesomely fantastic! Meeting people in real life that I’ve known for ages on line is the best part, but the classes are fun, the food is good and the surroundings are beautiful.

To back pedal… The trip started on Sunday morning with cab booked for 6am. Heathrow to JFK was about 7 hours, then I caught a cab to Brooklyn to pick up Jimbob, and we went on to the Port Authority to get a bus to Mt Pocono. The ride was about 2 hours, and I finally landed up at SOAR at 5:20pm, 14 hours after leaving home. The jetlag is still lingering a little - I woke up at 5am today and couldn’t get back to sleep - but, by experience, I expect to be okay in a day or so.

This is where we’re staying:


And the view from our room:


I’m sharing with Kai, and after a rather hyperactive reunion on Sunday I’m pretty sure we haven’t stopped talking for a second. It’s a good thing we’re not in the same class as I’m pretty sure we’d be driving everybody nuts.

I left all my class stuff downstairs, so I’ll take pictures and write more about that tomorrow, but here’s the highlight of my day:


This is me, with Maggie Casey (THE Maggie Casey) learning her technique of making rolags. I kind of crashed her class to do it (not during classtime of course) but she is incredibly nice and was very happy to humour me.

More soon…

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All the details here.

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