sock porn for knitting voyeurs.

Friday, June 27, 2008

etsy friday (and what to do with a diz)

Etsy has brought back Alchemy, a place where buyers can go to make requests for custom handmade items and get back several 'bids' with different possibilities. After my combs were on their way to me, I looked for a handmade diz to use with them-- even putting my own alchemy request out there. I didn't get the response I was looking for, probably because it isn't as popular as it should be (it's not searchable or sorted by item category). I went my normal route of looking at artists' shops on etsy and found a perfect match for me (Greg was already making nostepindes) who happily made me a diz I dreamed about.

Curly maple diz by

I really liked the ones I saw on Jenny's blog in her post about wool combing, but liked the idea of having more than one hole in the diz. She was kind enough to share the sizes of her diz with me, and I went from there... Specifically, I wanted a 2" diz with 3 different hole sizes (2mm, 3mm and 5mm), made from wood that was smooth and had a nice concave shape to guide fibers thru.


It's funny since I was being so specific about the shape and etc with GVPencheff and he was like, yeah that's easy-- it's just a tiny bowl with holes, right? :) He has two more in his shop that are the same spec and wood as mine, but he's able to take requests if you want a different number of holes, different size across, different woods... ("fine grained woods like Maple and Cherry would make the nicest ones but Oak and Walnut would work too"), just drop him a line with what you have in mind.

eta-- several more dizes in Greg's shop today, new woods too. i've specialordered my bigger-holed one for a plying guide slash color blender, too :)

Even if you're not looking for a diz, he is a shop for spinners and knitters to keep their eyes on-- he has nostepinnes in stock, and is working on a new wooden spinning tool I can't wait to see. He's really great to work with, so if you've got an idea for wood (fiber related or not) he's definitely one to check out.

I love my diz though. It seems limited, maybe an AB one trick wonder? Not really-really, but sorta-really :) Of course, I pull combed sliver off of my English combs with it...

variegated black and white Jacob locks from Jester at Little Meadows Farm

But you can use it to pull layered colors off of a hackle (or combs like here, I don't have a hackle ;))


superwash merino dyed for

No combs or hackle? You can use it to pull roving off of a drumcarder (or I'd imagine, handcards...) Regularly blended batts...


...or thin layer batts pulled to roving...

superwash merino

You could also use it to tear compacted roving into even strips...

superwash BFL from -- "delight"

...or for z-stripping batts...

merino-cashmere batts from -- "wildfire"

(I prefer to do the former two with my hands, but if you're looking to get even sizes the diz will help.)

You could even use it as a plying guide...


naturally dyed polwarth 3-ply by A Verb for Keeping Warm -- "blackberry"

I think I may ask GVPencheff to make me another diz with larger holes that I can swap between using it as a plying guide and for color blending fibers-- I like using a plying guide much more than I thought I would. I also have to finish plying the polwarth before I can break out my combs again! :)

Til then, miss you y gl!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

combing corriedale from whitefish bay farm

Combing you say? Oh goodness yes.

Craftsmith 4-pitch fine English combs

As with apparently all of my fiber tools, purchased used and in excellent condition. Craftsmith no longer makes these combs, a shame since they are really nice and don't have super dangerous sharp tips. The tines and rows (pitch) are closely spaced for finer fibers*, which is perfect for me and my bias for them... like the superfine Corriedale from Whitefish Bay Farm.

I heard about Whitefish Bay Farm on Ravelry-- just in time to snag one of their covered, colored fleeces the minute they were put up for sale. (No joke, they sold out nearon immediately.) A week or so later, Umpqua arrived...



"Umpqua"-- corriedale lamb fleece from Whitefish Bay Farm

Gorgeous silver to pewter grey tipped with taupe. So neat-- the brown tips? Not lanolin or sun bleaching... it was like she started life a light brown and then decided to change color midway :)

The WFB fleeces are all covered, so this was super clean for the most part. Being a lamb meant she wasn't covered right away, so there was probably more gunk and farm refuse embedded in the tips of her fleece than an older sheep would have, but I was able to pull apart and remove matting with my hands (and later my flick carder) prior to washing with no problem.

Also being a lamb, she still had her "milk tips"...


...the little curls she was born with that are different than the fleece she grew later on. Again on Ravelry I was warned that these lamb tips may snap and break when carding since they were fragile (true), but I had every intention of carding the fleece anyway. Even so, I separated the locks and kept their structure thru scouring, something I find really soothing to do.


I had been washing this fleece up half a pound to a pound at a time, leisurely since I was really getting steam on carding the cormo at the same time. By the time my new-to-me combs arrived, I had a big bag of washed locks just perfect for the task. (even though I promised myself to wait and get more carding done instead!) A really, really big bag.


I was really curious to see how this half-taupe, half-grey fleece would look all blended up-- a surprise. The taupe was much more dominant than expected, but the color shifts depending on the time of day (a good thing in my book).


I do love combs, and combing though. How much?

This much.


It doesn't look like a lot (and it's not! only about 6 oz)... but each nest makes me feel more confident with the process and result. It is hard to come to terms with the amount of waste fiber generated though.


(hard to see, but just short fibers and neps)

One reason my combs may have been particularly suited to this fleece were the milk tips-- combing helped separate the tips that would be prone to breakage when spinning (and becoming pills). Even so, it's almost hard to look at the "waste" knowing if I had carded it all together, and spun a heavier weight yarn, almost all of the fiber would ahve been useable. Maybe the thing is I don't know what to do with the waste... mulch has been suggested but I don't garden, toy stuffing but I have enough polyfil to last me a thousand toy-making lifetimes.

I really, really like the result of the handcombed top, though :) It does make me nervous about the total fiber I'll end up with... Umpqua started as 4.13lbs and clean she washed up to 2.62, a loss of about 35% (same percentage loss I had for the Cormo). Combing though is going to knock that 2 and just over a half pounds down though-- how much? Hopefully not too much so that I can't get a sweater's worth out of it... a true-worsted spun, cable-y sweater from A Fine Fleece :) We'll see!

Til then, counting the days!

*looking for mini combs for fine fibers/small batches? i was going to buy a set of st. blaise combs from Carolina Homespun, and I still may. they aren't listed on CH's site but you can see them here-- they are really, really nice (i was thisclose to buying them at retzlaff, so much in love with them i was.) they're made in the usa, come with handle clamps so you can freehand use them or attach them to a base on a table and almost use them as a hackle, are comparable to the alvin ramer super minis except not *quite* as fine (so they should have more range for more fleece types), are less expensive and in stock at carolina homespun (last time i checked) if you drop them a line.

gregory shared the exact differences she found btw the SB and AR combs with me...

"ARs are 3.5 inches wide and have 19 tines and a tad more than 3 inches long (I am talking about the front row only. Both have two rows of course). The St Bs have 13 tines and are 3 inches wide, but they are almost 3.75 inches long. I have not measured the actual spacing, but the ARs has sixteen tines in three inches to the thirteen in the same distance on the St. Bs. So to summarize, the ARs are slightly finer, shorter and wider than the St. Bs. They would probably hold about the same amount of fiber if you load them about half way."

their name is roxx0r, too. :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

fulling cormo, october frost and a fine fleece

Last time when I was wrestling about the cormo, Sherry W said to do what I needed to (but didn't really want cos I'm lazy)... test out fulling and not-fulling samples of Cormo to get a feel for how the yarn would react. So I did-- I pulled off two samples from my plied skein and fulled one (alternated from hot-hot with kookaburra to cold-cold and back again a few times, agitated under water and then slapped it against the wall) and then treated the second sample to my normal finishing for handspun (submerged in warm-hot water with kookaburra, let sit for fifteen minutes).

The skeins looked the same once hung to dry, the abused yarn was a little more "sticky" in clinging to adjacent strands of yarn... but honestly I couldn't tell a difference. Even knit up into swatches I couldn't tell (I tied a knot at the beginning of the miniskein to tell which was which). I didn't even take a picture since they looked so similar! Same sts/inch, same dimensions.

I figured it wouldn't matter either way how I set the handspun yarn-- til I finished the swatches in warm water and laid flat to dry.

left-- fulled yarn, right-- unfulled yarn
cormo from Hester

The width of the swatches was the same starting (the height I didn't measure). It is hard to tell, but the fulled swatch didn't grow when it was finished like the unfulled yarn did.

top-- fulled, bottom-- not

So what did I do with the plied skein?

spun spinning for softness and speed style

Nothing yet :) Except be pleased it was balanced off the bobbin!

Doesn't mean I don't have plans for it, and its future-sisters though...

October Frost from A Fine Fleece

I've alluded to this, but I am planning to spin a sweater's worth of yarn for a sweater from A Fine Fleece. Actually, untrue-- I am planning on spinning several sweaters' worth of yarn for sweaters from A Fine Fleece. I am In Love with this book.

I know, you've probably heard the Stash and Burn ladies gush over it, read Miss Violet's take on it over at the Daily Chum, saw the Fine Fleece Ravelry forum... but I'm going to just keep going on my review of A Fine Fleece :) I don't really get fired up over new knitting books (Intertwined and Knitter's Book of Yarn notable exceptions)... but A Fine Fleece?! A must-own for me.

The concept of the book is rooted in sweater (and accessory, but mainly sweater) patterns that are knit up in handspun and commercial yarns. It sounds so simple, but when you put a texture maven like Lisa Lloyd behind the idea, and you find out that not only is she an excellent designer but spinner as well-- I can't help but get fired up when she talks about blends of wool and the her reasoning behind each fiber choice for her handspun samples.

It's not to say this book is just for spinners (really)... and not in that Intertwined way. This is truly a book for handknitters who enjoy textured knitting, handspinners or not. A few of my favorites:

Kearsarge from A Fine Fleece

Amanda from A Fine Fleece

Two Hearts from A Fine Fleece

There are so many more, and I want to knit 90% of them. I also find the book super appealing because many of the patterns skew unisex AND are shown on male/female models so you don't have to wonder if it'd work across a man's frame. There are some very feminine choices as well, not usually my bag but Amanda (above)? Not me but will be mine.

Now to the gripe portion of our program :) From a handspinner's perspective, it would have been *immensely* helpful for Lloyd to have included WPI information with the patterns, for both the handspun yarn and the commercial ones. Spinning to spec is going to be hard enough for me, but if I had the WPI to spotcheck as I went, I'd be more confident. The craft yarn council's "standard" weight system leaves too much wiggle room when you're spinning the yarn yourself.

From a knitter's point of view, I found some of the photography confusing. The photographer chose to let one sample remain in focus while the other was set in fuzzy relief, beautiful effect but not cool when you're trying to see all angles of a pattern. I found myself studying the few pictures very closely to try and grasp details like collars and backs, the way a sock would actually look when worn. I wish that knitting book publishers would take a cue from Interweave Knits and offer additional photos and angles of garments online-- hosting these wouldn't be free, but think of the raves from LEGIONS of knitters who are reticent to invest months in a sweater without knowing what it truly looks like.

Another styling/photography complaint...

Halcyon from A Fine Fleece

Gorgeous, right? What FIT.

No. The pattern's schematics tell you that there is no waist shaping in the pattern, that the background grey/male sample is the same, just a different size. The California Red handspun sample worn by the female has been pinched artificially at the waist.

*This* is the one that bums me out the most, and is not the only example in the book. There are just a few, but it bothers me they're there at all. I think that publishers need to be more specific with the stylists and photographers they hire when photographing books of PATTERNS-- we rely so much on the way knitting patterns are presented in photos, and it feels like a cheat when they're staged. It may look more appealing to an editor sorting thru photos, but they're not for them. Photos are for the knitters who buy these books and actually want to make what we see. I love the pattern! Love it without waist shaping.

It's easy to spot which patterns have been treated with photographic and styling license, especially because the patterns are accompanied by schematics (yay). It's also easy to see that if they had chosen models with a body size closer to the samples' sizing, it probably wouldn't have been as much of an issue in fit.

None of these are deal breakers, and nothing can be perfect. A Fine Fleece comes really close, though!

Off to card more Cormo. Not even close to being done :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

etsy friday

feels like fleece week around here, eh? at the very least an anticlimactic one ;)

(doesn't fleece week sound rad?)

Babydoll southdown, 8 oz washed by

Even on etsy I troll for fleece :) I found this listing by North Star Alpacas-- I hadn't heard of babydoll southdown before but my handydandy copy of In Sheep's Clothing said it had little propensity to felt, and then read that it had more microscopic scales than any other wool-- making it good for blending with slippery fibers like angora.

Sounds like a perfect sock blend, eh? :) So again, off to etsy and I found...

Handplucked angora, black french from

Handplucked angora, agouti french from

Yes Virginia, it *is* as soft as it looks. PunkJordane/Fluffington Farms handplucks her angora rabbits, so the staple length is the same across all fibers and has no second cuts. These are two different types of rabbits but I can't tell the difference by feel-- it's just lots and lots of soft.

And long. Babydoll southdown is a SUPER short stapled wool, like 1.5", and the angora? Like six or seven (!!) Possible to blend with the drumcarder, and I've been making batts-- but the southdown has lanolin left in it (which I knew, the seller said in her listing) and it makes spinning the blend... weird. Very very fine and springy with lanolin tack, but too fine even for a 2-ply sock yarn. I've put that project aside for now... may scour the babydoll southdown again on my own and use it separately with something else. Not sure what to do with the batts I already made... The angora is SO nice, I think I'll take the rest and spin it on its own. Yarnspinner's Tales (a super excellent podcast) has a great epi on spinning angora that has me believing I can do it :) What I'll make with 100% angora is beyond me, but it will be a fun spin.

Happy weekend!

ps! Kristine from A Verb for Keeping Warm wants to know what you're doing for World Wide Knit in Public Day-- leave her a comment and you could win some baby camel/silk fiber (SO nice!) me?! i'll be at robogames 2008. :)

ps ii! for those who have a soft spot for 80s music, amazon has a free download of "if you leave (live)" by OMD today.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

happiness is...

20 pounds of superwash merino...


...and that the very.carefully.washed™ cormo didn't felt AND looks like gorgeously grey shelf mushrooms.


...oh, and one day.


Monday, June 09, 2008

carding cormo

I've been pawing the Cormo fleece I kept to process at home for days now-- I am just enamored of the process from raw wool to finished yarn, and the soft cormo makes it even more delightful.

You may remember I started with this fleece...

Hester, colored Cormo. 3.75" staple length, 3.75# (half fleece)

One of the fun things about this cormo (all cormo?) is the tendency to fall apart by locks really easily--



--overall, they just peel apart like fish flesh. Not all locks, but most and it's just way fun. Is it because it was coated? Dunno.

I am separating the locks and layering them between sheets of tuille like the Jacob before. I am putting more fleece in the bag though-- by eye, but I'm ending up with about 6-8 oz of clean dry locks when done per bag.


Before scouring, I had the idea (and told anyone who would listen at Retzlaff) that I was going to keep lock formation and try to spin the clean locks over the fold, picking random bits of color over the fleece for a variegated yarn. However... after all was said and done with about the 8 oz of cleaned wool, I had managed to mat the cut ends of the locks when washing.


Unlike the Corriedale I washed at the same time (a post for another day!), the cormo's butt ends stuck together once scoured-- not really felted since I could bodily pull them apart with my fingers, but doing so meant I couldn't keep the neat lock formation and spin from the fold like I had hoped.

I had read that Cormo was too fine to drum card, that the superfine staples popped and broke and nepped into an ugly mess. Well, since I'd already nearon felted the stuff, I went ahead and broke out the drumcarder, opened up the locks by hand (pita with the matted ends) and ran them thru SUPER SLOWLY.


And it worked! :)

Now, I did have some neps in the batts, but honestly I think it was from when I was pulling the butt ends apart with my fingers and leaving in short, broken fibers when carding. I pulled out my new Strauch flick carder (love), and brushed out the ends (and broken bits from pulling them out) instead for later runs-- I haven't carded those locks yet, but think this will help greatly.

The color of this fleece is crazy-- taking these batt pics, that day they looked more cinnamon white. Later spun up into singles for a worsted weight (again, later!) they look silver with hints of taupe. I had nearly forgotten the variation in color in this fleece, and need to add in darker bits when carding for a more homogeneous look... if I finish what I've hopefully started for a sweater's worth of yarn :)

PS! I am going to post this and ply the singles-- do you guys think I should full the yarn? It felts SO easily I'm a bit afraid, but love the feel of the Crosspatch Creations yarn I fulled before... and it is for a sweater.

Til then and thanks for today :)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

spinning at retzlaff winery 2008

...and a bit of a new obsession :)

Last weekend I went to Spinning at the Winery thanks to the mad driving skilz of Helen and her husbandwhoneedstolearntospin (hi!)-- I posted on Ravelry and Twitter about trying to find a ride and one found me :) I was a girl on a mission though, because it is already June and I was almost out of raw fleece to wash and play in! (Next shows for Bay Area that are under my skin? Lambtown in Dixon - July, California Wool Festival in Booneville - September... no more farm fresh local fleece after that til Spring!)

And Cormo Sheep and Wool Farm was going to be there...


...and yes, she would bring her very last two colored Cormo fleeces and hold them for me til I got there. (Thank goodness, later I had a laugh with a woman who wanted them and was hoping I wouldn't show up ;)) They are spectacular though, and they were the last ones! Can't imagine the firsts.

Hester, half fleece. 3.5#, 3.75" staple length. Variegated silver to taupe to steel grey

I have washed up a mesh bag of Hester and had to start carding right away... more on that later (you know me, so many pics so little space!)

Carla, 4.5# and 2.75" staple length

The color on Carla is fantastic, but her staple length was a little short. (I have been toying with the idea of washing fleece and spinning it over the fold from locks, so that wouldn't work.) I had heard SO many good things about Morro Fleece Works and their pindrafted roving, and many of the vendors at the Retzlaff spin-in had some of their own Morro-processed fleeces for sale and were beautiful, so I walked Carla over to Morro across the way...


...she'll come back to me as a sweater+ worth of pindrafted roving around July. (Morro's on colors now, if you were looking for a processor. I know Tikabelle sent some Lincoln-Corrie crosses out to Morro and I can't wait to compare.)

Sue from Cormo was really nice, even though I've bugged her no less than four times since Retzlaff asking for more colored Cormo knowing she has no more for 2008 :) (She does have whites though... one less cos SOME PEOPLE split the cottonballiest fleece I've ever touched!) Her 2008 white page is here, though she told me it wasn't up to the minute updated and to email/call about particular fleece availability. They really are fantastic, covered year round with no VM and wash up beautifully. (Word of caution-- felts easily!) She also does something new to me-- lays the cut side down on butcher paper when bagging. Makes finding where the fleece starts and ends SO much easier.


Nebo Rock Textiles was there with some showstopping merino fleeces as well-- if I hadn't lightened my wallet at Cormo one of those "old ewe, no tag" charcoal fleeces would have been mine.


RenCon Ranch had awesome shetland roving, and had spinning stories to tell that had Helen and me laughing for a good five minutes :)


Oh and Carolina Homespun... lord. I visited this booth no less than four times (being good, buying only a strauch flicker) but save me. I fell HARD for a pair of beautiful combs they had tucked away-- I'm making myself wait til at least Lambtown though. Don't want my carder to get jealous :)

Even with all this, and the reason for me going to buy a fleece (or two)... the best part of the day? So.Many.Spinners.





I remember telling Kristine* that (as much as I go onandonandon here on my blog about it) spinning for me is a thing done on my own-- I love it, don't get me wrong, but there is something just absolutely right about SO many spinners just sitting outside in the sun, spinning. Like nothing.

And not like evil chickens.


(the one on the left growled at me. no joke.)

* Speaking of Kristine, she and her better half are hosting an open studio for A Verb for Keeping Warm this weekend! My kid and I will be making it down there; look for the little blur with a curly head-- I'll be the one chasing him :)

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