Thursday, June 28, 2012

An Ode to Plying

O Plying! How wonderful you are in the process of spinning!
To at last see the wonderful colors blend together as they endlessly wrap around each other in fibrous union.
To feel the wooly thickness of the two strands of yarn as they are drawn through your fingers and onto the spindle.
How simple this is and yet, it is the most enjoyable, for...

...okay, so I definitely didn't win first place in the poetry contest, but you get the idea that I love plying! The process of taking multiple strands and twisting them together is my favorite part because this is where you decide how your yarn will turn out! Especially with multicolored roving, you decide whether you want to ply it on itself in sections so each color is separate (such as with self striping yarn) (see left) or whether you want to have it all blended together (my more favorite option) (see right): 

* Note: Both of these were made from the same roving

Now one often hears how many ply a yarn is. The one on the left is 3 ply and was plied in the Navajo method in order to keep all the colors together where as the one on the right is 2 ply and was was plied just on itself in a random color order. I personally like how the colors are all blended together in the second one and that's why I most often choose this way of plying when plying yarn on itself.

You can also ply yarn with other threads such as my fairy pond yarn I made a few weeks ago. For that one (in case you haven't read it) I plied the spun strand with a metallic thread that I had also strung beads on:

 This is also a great way to play, however it does take longer and is a little more tedious than the carefree plying mentioned in my ode.

And now after my short plying tangent, I have some pictures of the little project I was working on this past week. When I visited the fiber shop last, I got a batt to spin. Normally these are sheets of fiber that have been mixed with different colors, fiber types, and sometimes sparkly extras and are often used in felting, but can make great yarns when spun too! The batt I had was blue, white, purple, a little green, with some sparkly strings carded in.

(Okay, for another tangent to distract from my work this week, The device that creates these wonderfully mixed batts are known as drum carders and are totally awesome):

*Photo from the Ashford companies website

(Anyway, back to the featured project of the week...) ;)

The first step after you spin the fiber is taking it off the bobbin and winding it into a ball so you can have access to both ends, thus the genius of a ball winder: 

**See the end for notes on the cat!

This awesome contraption winds a ball very quickly and then the whole thing slides off the top so there is a ball that has a center and outside string open (much like the skeins at the store, only the inside one is much easier to find!!)

And now, a picture to illustrate the fun of plying!

I love watching the different color combinations wrap around each other as I ply like the dark blue and light blue... Something so visually pleasing about all the colors! Maybe that is why I have such a fascination with spinning... that or its just really awesome to take a pile of fluff and turn it into string you can knit into a scarf!

Anyway, here is the finished yarn!

I have not yet come up with a name, but if you have any suggestions feel free to comment below! What is your favorite part of your craft? Is there a certain step that is more enjoyable than the others? Tell me your story in the comments! :)

**The cat seen in the picture above is one of my four rescue cats that we have! This one, Biscuit, is the first and he is the most friendly and sociable cat I have ever had! He loves to watch any of us knit, crochet, or spin and has incredible self control when around yarn and wool compared to the other cats... Since he is so friendly, he is often the recipient of little knitted or crochet items such as this fez:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Doctor Who?!

I have been posting mostly spinning projects so far and I think now is a good time to admit to my inner geek and how much I enjoy the British Sci-Fi show Doctor Who with some knitting projects! The graphics may not be the best (as my younger sister points out every time I mention it) but it mixes time travel, outer space, science/technology, and an eccentric superhero type figure known simply as the Doctor which calls to me! I don't watch a lot of television, but this is one show that is perfect to knit-a-long to! A lot of our kitchen old dishcloths have holes in them from overuse, so my mom asked me to knit some up and I came across these great Doctor Who themed patters on Ravelry:

The first one: "I <3 <3 D W" (Doctor Who of course) There are two hearts because the Doctor (an humanoid alien) is a Time Lord and their kind have two hearts!

And the second: In the shape of a Dalek, the sworn enemy of the Time Lord after they defeated all of the Time Lords in the Time War (except for the Doctor!)

I think the dishcloths are Dalek-table and I am so psyched that Ravelry has patterns for truly EVERYTHING! I have several other Doctor Who related knitting patterns in my queue now waiting to be knitted up including socks and a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) Kindle cozy. 

And thank you for bearing with me to anyone who is not into Doctor Who, I have a project that everyone can relate to! I wanted to start making some fun little things and there are also a lot of educational/ scientfic type patterns on Ravelry. Behold, the knitted Solar System:

I found the pattern for the earth on Ravelry and decided to make the whole solar system and suspend it from  my bedroom ceiling! I am trying to keep the sizes of the planets mildly proportional (the real proportions would be having the earth be the size of a pebble and Jupiter taking up my entire room). Since Earth is more detailed than the others, I will include some close up shots of the Eastern and Western Hemisphere!

Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and  Asia!

North America and South America!

Only the inner planets done as of now, but I have some more yarn in my stash I can use for some of the larger gaseous planets. Unfortunately, the outer planets are going to have to wait until I can figure out how to hang them off of the ceiling because they will be larger and significantly heavier... If you have any ideas, let me know! (I am currently using metal hooks that screw directly into the ceiling and are just held in the drywall.) Let me know what kind of projects you have been working on lately too! (especially the geeky ones!)


(All the other planets were knitted from a generic sphere pattern)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bulky, The Amazing Technicolor Dream Yarn

So I have been very busy lately and did not want to commit to a big project like the two braids of Corridale fiber I have stashed away and I had been looking for a small project to do to satisfy my hunger for spinning. Awhile ago, I bought a kit of felting materials and some bags of scrap wool to felt with. Felting is fun, but it isn't really my thing; so until now, I have had a big bag of wool gathering dust in my closet. It is here I found my answer to not having a lot of time to start a large project! I decided to spin all of the scraps together to make a funky, Technicolor yarn and ply it with some black Cheviot wool roving my mom had hiding in her closet. (Maybe our closets are portals to an alternative universe where wool multiplies itself? No, that's my imagination running away again...) After all that spinning, the final product looked pretty groovy!

Here is a close up of the skein untwisted to see the array of colors more easily:

The colors include: "red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and grey and purple and white and pink and orange and blue!"* Okay maybe there aren't THAT many colors and they probably aren't exactly the ones that Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat had, but you get the idea! (Hey maybe his coat was knitted with similar yarn after all, I mean  evidence of knitting has been traced all the way back to ancient Egypt!**)

The only downfall to this particular yarn was that when I was plying the colors with the black cheviot, the two together were too think for my orifice hole. This is getting to be quite a problem for me. Even though it is pretty pricey, I really need to look into obtaining a bulky flier, especially since bulky art yarns are my favorite variety of yarns... Anyway, soon I hope to be spinning more, but until then, enjoy this post and happy crafting!

*These lyrics belong to Tim Rice who wrote them and Andrew Lloyd Webber who composed the music. I claim no ownership of them at all. But it is a fun musical, check it out sometime! 

** From this article about knitting found on ancient Egyptian mummies, published in the New York Times in 1883: 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Messenger Bag

So I was digging around in my fiber/yarn pile and I came across some very nice Corridale turquoise wool that I had been saving for a few months (either really good self discipline there, or I just forgot about it... definitely the latter!!) and feverishly spun it up and plied it on itself. I really enjoyed the colors of this wool because some of it is darker and some is ligher and when they were plied together it made quite a nice effect. The yarn ended up being medium weight and there was 100 yards or so, and I decided to knit a messenger bag one weekend!*  Here is the result:

The final product is a little different than the pattern because I shortened the flap so I wouldn't run out of yarn to make the handle and it ended up being a little wider than the picture on the pattern, but it suits me just fine! I also added a little plastic gold heart button as a closure just to have a little more security. I have used this bag A LOT already this summer! Living in the suburbs without a driver's license = bike everywhere or rot in your house all summer, so this little shoulder bag is perfect; it doesn't get in the way of pedaling and is just the right size to fit a pair of sunglasses, a phone, a house key, and/ or a wallet!

As a little side story, I decided to ride 1000 miles on my bicycle this summer. I am the kind of person who likes to get things done as soon as possible and find long term goals and activities kind of annoying (As time goes on, you will see many of my knitting projects are ones that can be completed in 1-3 days, if that). To ride 1000 miles will take me all summer and I have to keep at it each day (around 11 miles per day) so it will be a great way to get myself used to setting and achieving goals that cannot be completed in a week or less. 

* Here is the link to the pattern I used for the bag; found it on**

** You can find me on Ravelry too! Feel free to friend me: Grace-B (I will work on getting all my pictures and projects updated for you guys!)