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Experimental Crazy Handmade Yarn Creation

scarf; shrug; accent piece: I am not sure exactly what I would call this but I am quite satisfied with how it turned out.
scarf; shrug; accent piece: I am not sure exactly what I would call this but I am quite satisfied with how it turned out.

I made this yarn out of…frustration? Boredom?

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I was really dissatisfied with the original yarn. So I decided to go for broke, and see what would happen if I boucléd it around some commercial cotton. This crazy handmade yarn is the result.

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The outcome is certainly interesting to say the least! So what to do with it? I now have a bulky, buckled spiral yarn made of wool, banana fibers and beads (now, cotton yarn added to that mix). What in the world to make with this hot mess & a half?

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When in doubt with a funky bulky handspun, I always turn to the elongated knit stitch. There are many different variations but one that I love to do is really simple. Cast on the number of stitches you want, insert needle to knit one, but bring yarn around both needles before looping around the inserted needle like a regular knit stitch. This extra bit of wrapping will elongate that stitch nicely.

Here is a video by Ashley Martineau of Neauveau Fiber Arts demonstrating the stitch. I love Ashley’s videos and her spinning style! I probably learned this stitch from her originally, a video tute on a pillow cover comes to mind. 🙂

So back to this funky creation I made with this yarn-I-was-so-fed-up-with and a simple knit stitch. I was shocked by the result. I didn’t expect much from this so I didn’t keep any notes. But I cast on approx. 80 stitches on large circular needles (17 comes to mind, possibly bigger). Then it was elongated knit stitch until I had just enough to bind off. That was it. Total TV watching knitting.

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My intention was to make a cowl or infinity scarf, but I guess you could call this what – like a shurg or a shawl too? And once I started to tug it out/form it it was screaming for this chain detail.

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These are the things I love to make. Happy accidents. Throw all the rules out the window and just go! I get so caught up in perfecting technique sometimes it’s nice to forget it all; not have a plan and see what comes. This may still be a total hot mess, but I know one thing. I throw this on with a nice jacket, and I have a conversation piece. And that is true artistry to me.

The moral of this story is: don’t be shy to go there and totally own the result. 🙂

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Upcycled Handspun Yarn – Vegan Friendly – and The Scarf it Made

core wrapped banana fiber yarn still on the bobbin
core wrapped banana fiber yarn still on the bobbin

I made this yarn this past winter & it occurred to me that this upcycled handspun yarn is vegan friendly. Most of the yarns I spin are with animal fibers, but this was made using sari silk remnants (banana fibers that are similar to rayon – so not exactly “natural” as the name would suggest). I can’t always get these from the company in Vermont but when I see them I nab them. They are colorful and silky & usually I add them to my batts. This is my first time making a complete yarn out of them. I love the idea of up-cycling a discarded product.

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big honkin’ spool of dacron

After thinking it over, I decided the best way to showcase these fibers as well as keep it an even diameter was to core wrap spin it. Core wrapping is a technique where you wrap fibers – usually from a batt – around a finished yarn, the core. Many people use commercial yarns for the core. The banana fibers come in a bag in one big mass, so I found it easy to tease out a bit at a time and let it wrap around the core. I used this dacron yarn (polyester) as the core. I found this huge cone of it at a second-hand store for only $3.50! Score!

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To add a little more glitz, I added a commercial sequined thread at the same time I was wrapping the fibers. Another bargain find from the clearance section of the craft store. I am a bit of a magpie (or squirrel? Mouse?) when it comes to shiny and cheap things. 🙂

I made a really cool scarf with this yarn, I really wish the pictures would capture the texture better. It’s very organic in feel yet glitzy all at the same time, and naturally 100% unique. I love rocking this!

upcycled sari silk banana fiber yarn made into a continuous scarf - doubled over
upcycled sari silk banana fiber yarn made into a continuous scarf – doubled over

This is a continuous scarf knitted in the round using an elongated stitch. I made it really long (it’s approximately 36″ from top to bottom) because I wanted to be able to fold it over more than once for different looks.

lopped once at same length
lopped once at same length

I used size 11 circular needles. As I harp and preach about handspun yarn: go big or go home! 😉 Always go with a larger needle to allow the fibers to open up and have room for any larger sections.

twice folded over and fanned out - cowl like
twice folded over and fanned out – cowl like

I love elongated stitches and use several methods when knitting my handspun. I love that airy, webby effect and I think it showcases the handspun so well. Not to mention it’s super simple and works up fast. I’ll have instructions for this stitch at the bottom of this post…

cowl-style not fanned out
cowl-style not fanned out

Because of the ease with these kind of stitches, I threw this project in my bag and worked on it when I had a passing minute while out on errands. You never have to remember where you left off because it’s all the same until binding off.

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Elongated Stitch for continuous scarf

CO desired number of stitches (I CO 110 with size 11 circular needles)
Be sure all stitches are facing the same way, and are not twisted then:
K1;
Insert your left needle into the front of the ST you just created and make a stitch within this stitch: just like a continental purl stitch only using your left needle instead of your right.

Insert left needle into the front of the knit stitch you just created, and essentially purl into this stitch
Insert left needle into the front of the knit stitch you just created, and essentially purl into this stitch
the elongated stitch
the elongated stitch

Continue until scarf is desired length & CO. It doesn’t get more easy than that!

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Finding Inspiration: What to Make With Handspun Yarn

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funky handspun becoming an infinity scarf in the wee hours (my fave time to knit)…

If you are like me, you like to comb the internet for inspiration. I consider myself a spinner, but not so much a knitter or crocheter. My knowledge of knitting and crochet is actually pretty basic. People tend to be quite surprised by this because the assumption is one starts spinning after mastering the needles.

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core-wrapped up-cycled banana fibers and sequins

I taught myself to spin just few months into teaching myself to knit and crochet (the beginning stages, anyway). The story as to how I got started would suit a post on its own, but the fact that I learned about making a textile from the ground up made me appreciate the basics of knit and crochet. Handspun yarn literally has a life of its own. Rather than you making it into what you want it to be, it tells you what it will be.  Thus, you gain a respect and appreciation for handspun that you realize is best left to speak for itself.

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jumbo colorful yarn chain (aka Navajo) plied from fleece seconds

Because of this, we are often left scratching our heads as to what to do with gorgeous artful textured handspun. I say “we” because I know I am not alone in this. Many of us have that stash of pretty yarns. Because of its unusualness (or its mind-blowing prettiness) it becomes a permanent fixture in the yarn bin like the wall-flower never picked to dance (and we know it really should be the belle of the ball!). Whether it is handspun or an artful commercial yarn, I know many knitters know exactly what I mean. When I started spinning the goal was to make the most even, symmetrical yarn possible. But soon I really wanted to push the boundaries of what yarn is. The problem was I wondered what I could make with such unusual and small amounts of it. I have a growing collection of yarn that I spun that I feel is “too pretty” to use.

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core-wrapped handspun with handmade flower inclusions

So even as a spinner, I find myself taking to the internet to find inspiration. Not patterns. Patterns are no good with such a unique medium. More of a reassurance that others truly are making items out of handspun and it’s not just a pretty yarn to be hung in the studio. I also have this bad habit of over critiquing my yarns and again, a post for another day… I found this wonderful article on craftsy that really sums up what to make with handspun yarn.

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crochet handspun jumbo yarn infinity scarf worn as a shrug with handmade flower and button detail

Since it is recommended to use larger needles with handspun and to keep the stitches simple, I believe handspun is a great textile for the novice knitter or crocheter, or, if you are like me – those who do not possess the time or patience for a long term project. I want to get back to the wheel, afterall. 😉  It may look intimidating at first. It can be comprised of many bumps, thick and thin sections and even over twisted sections, but when you realize a basic knit or crochet stitch will give you a stunning one of a kind scarf for example, one quickly realizes how how satisfying it is to use. The projects are not only simple, but since they are worked up with large needles, they make the perfect afternoon project.

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free form crochet left-over handspun neck warmer washing machine felted

Don’t be afraid to mix your handspun with commercial yarns. I love to make the ribbing of my hats with commercial yarn and then let the handspun be the personality of the rest of the hat. What about a scarf in elogated knit stitch switching back and forth between handspun and commercial? The possibilities can truly be endless, and it is freeing to not have to follow a pattern. Free form crochet is your friend with the leftovers! I’ll be starting a series here on the blog showcasing what I have knit with my handspun. Some will be hits, and some will be misses I am sure. Many of the examples posted here are from my spun seconds pile. I really need to have the courage to tackle that pretty yarn stash. My goal is to share the journey with you so that we can grow together. The yarn is piling up here and I need a butt kick to come up with some projects with it. I do not feel comfortable selling my handspun when I myself do not know what to do with it! With that, I am off to play with that jumbo rainbow yarn pictured above. signature

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Introducing: My New Mach III Spinning Wheel by SpinOlution

close up of the front of my new Mach III
close up of the front of my new Mach III

The best gift ever. DH got me a Mach III Spinning Wheel – by got me, I mean, he said “go ahead and order that spinning wheel you want”. Ha ha! So I ordered it in the New Year, and 3 weeks later, my Mach III by SpinOlution was shipped from California and on its way to my dealer in Vermont.

lendrum (left) and Mach III by SpinOlution (right)
lendrum (left) and Mach III by SpinOlution (right)

We drove down to Burlington to pick it up, and after arriving home and removing all the pieces from the box, the initial overwhelming feeling of “how am I going to put these pieces together?” was short lived. It was actually really easy to assemble! With the exception of attaching the strap to the front (which helps you move the 35lb studio wheel from one end of the room to another) – it was in a new, but totally obvious place. Thanks to Leah for helping me out with that! Putting it beside my Lendrum was almost comical – the difference in size. This Mach III is a beast and I mean that in the most affectionate way!

largest bobbin on the lendrum
largest bobbin on the lendrum

I got all the bells and whistles with my Mach III, including the largest bobbin/flyer – 32oz – you can make up to 2 lbs of yarn with it!

the largest bobbin on the Mach III
the largest bobbin on the Mach III

Take a peek at some of the other accessories:

Mach III lazy kate (left) vs. lendrum lazy kate (right)
Mach III lazy kate (left) vs. lendrum lazy kate (right)

The lazy kate is genius as it attaches to the wheel as well as free standing.

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skein winder attachment

This is a pretty nifty attachment. You simply treadle and the yarn winds. I need a lower chair though as I find it does brush my thighs while rotating. And, I really like my 2 yard skeins, so I still use my niddy noddy more than this. I do find with yarns with large inclusions this is a really handy tool to have.

and here's what approx. 2lbs of handspun yarn looks like!
and here’s what approx. 2lbs of handspun yarn looks like!

For the first few days I had the wheel I simply played around with it. Like buying a brand new car I really like to sit and get acquainted with a new piece of equipment. I tried out different tensions (settings) and fibers before settling on a kid mohair to make into my first skein of yarn (the orange you see above). The first skein took me only an evening to make – approx. 4 hours in total. The large 2lb skein took me 2 evenings – about 3 hours each night. I was determined to fill that large bobbin and I was surprised at just how quickly it took. This is an easy wheel to use and the biggest hurdle was to get used to the bigger rotation of such a large bobbin as well as treadling much slower. This wheel is very smooth and will get going quite fast much more quickly than I am used to.

I’m currently working on a core wrapped yarn with large flower inclusions. I put the flowers together with left over handspun, felted in place and tied with a pearl bead. Very fun and so easy to do with the hook attachment & open pegs SpinOlution is known for. I really want to try the many different techniques of textured art yarns I have grown to love so that I become comfortable with the Mach III. Thus far it has been an easy wheel to fall in love with.

If you are looking for a dealer for any of SpinOlution’s products on the east coast/New England, I highly recommend Leah Rosenthal!  She was on top of things giving me updates by mail and she really knows her stuff. You can find out her details on the SpinOlution website under Vermont, and be sure to checkout her blog.

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Handspun Bouclé: A Closer Look

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Mohair bouclĂ© on commercial cotton – hand dyed gracing the studio walls

Back in November I blogged about spinning bouclé yarn for the first time. I loved the technique so much it lead me to experiment with other fibers other than mohair to see what the end result would be. Here are some closeups of the finished products.

Mohair makes the most perfect loops
Mohair makes the most perfect loops

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The above photos are all mohair. I dyed these after the yarn was spun, and will do a post about the dyeing process soon. I am really growing to love dyeing both fleece and yarn.

handspun silk on alpaca
handspun silk on alpaca

So this was interesting. I spun some silk and then looped it as a bouclĂ© on some handspun alpaca. After it was finished, I washed and fulled it (a process of shocking the yarn with hot/cold water so that it felts a little bit) and regretted it! I loved how it looked straight off the wheel, but thought it really lost a lot of its character and looked rather clumpy after the fulling process. Now that it has been hanging up in the studio for awhile, I am intrigued with it. Hopefully over winter break I’ll have a chance to knit it up & see what it looks like.

alpaca bouclé
alpaca bouclé

Alpaca makes a really nice bouclĂ©, too – very similar to mohair. I finish plied this with handspun silk and it looks so yummy against the dark alpaca fiber. I just wish I could have gotten a better picture of the entire skein, it was hard to do since it is so dark. I’ll definitely share once I have it knitted up in something.

I’m definitely bouclĂ© hooked. So many ideas! I’m taking a break from that to do some core spun yarns which I will share more about in the New Year.

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Spinning Bouclé Textured Yarn

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I’ve dabbled in the past spinning bouclĂ©, but I never liked the results and I felt it was too time consuming. I realized after reading up on the technique that I was missing the most important element: mohair.

From my research, I found out that mohair (from the angora goat) gives the most perfect little loops. It cards to a straight slippery fiber and because of this texture the loops stay round and don’t collapse on itself like sheep’s wool would. Also my research stated it works best if you spin it in a fatter single and ply it on a thinner yarn.

So I got digging in my bins and found the perfect fiber to experiment with: some mohair roving I had bought from an individual at a wool show a couple of years ago as a destash. I couldn’t believe the price for the roving (cheap!). After spinning it, I wished I had bought more!

I ended up with 6 bobbins full of mohair singles. I had some commercial cotton that I picked up at a thrift store making it the perfect (and affordable) base for this yarn.

I ran the commercial cotton through the spinning wheel once in s-twist (spin to the left) to add more energy. This is so that after the final ply, spun in the opposite direction (known as z-twist), you end up with a balanced yarn. I know spinners are mixed on this practice. I don’t always do this but after examining the cotton it just felt like the best course of action.

So fairly soon I got a rhythm with making loops. You basically hold the 2 plies loosely with one on either side of you (2 lazy kates in other words on either side of your chair) and start pushing up the mohair onto the base yarn until they make loops. Once I got into it it was so much fun and I didn’t want to stop. 🙂

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The loops will still move around, until the final step of plying, where you take a thin thread and ply in the opposite direction so that the loops stay put. You can see in the photo above I used a purple cotton thread to do the final ply. The next step is to dye the skeins. I ended up with 6 skeins all together – and the dyeing stage will be discussed in an up-coming post.

UPDATE November 23rd, 2014: since spinning these I have also experimented with making bouclĂ© with alpaca handspun singles as well as handspun silk singles. The results are totally different but the lover of textured yarns I am, is totally digging it! I’m glad I got the technique down with mohair first, now the possibilities are endless…

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