Sky Scapes in Wool

It has taken me a whole month, but I have finally organized, photographed, edited and listed all the of the fiber I dyed in January and February. (I didn’t do a whole helluva lot in March, I’m not going to lie. I was in a late winter funk. Most of this work has been done in the past week.)

I dyed a whole set of wool in an interpretation of different sky scenes I’ve witnessed in the past few months. I was really proud of them, and I think they turned out just how I imagined. I was happily adding the braids of Falkland wool to etsy when I realized that all of the first names that popped into my head happened to also be the titles of all of the books in the Twilight series! I wrote a paper (for myself, which has never seen the light of day) that was pretty damning of Twilight on a literary level. (I was working on Tess of the d’Urbervilles for school at the time, the contrast was night and day, I tell you. Night and bloody day.) I thought to myself, while those names are succinct, you can be more specific. You can do better. So, yes, I changed the names of what I was going to call my braids of hand-painted fiber because I didn’t want them called the same thing as Twilight books. I kept one (New Moon) because there was nothing else I wanted to call it, that I felt fit. Everything else went.

Why?

Because I like to bash on teen vampire angst-drama? No. I mean, I think it’s an horrific series of books for all numbers of reasons, but you can blame that on the high-falutin Creative Writing degree if you like. No. I changed the names, because once the thought occurred to me that I could do better, I had to try.

Telling myself that I can do better has been a great motivating factor for me these past few weeks. I have been scheming and planning on how I can once again work for myself for a year. Since the day I went back to being employed by someone else, I have been thinking about how I could get back to working from home, and actually making money at it this time. Knowing that the second time around I won’t be so completely zonked from the marathon that was finishing my degree and working a pre-dawn, low-wage job for years, so I won’t need so long to recover is in itself a huge leap forward from before. Building a confidence in myself through my current place of employment has certainly helped. It has reinforced that I am good at what I do–which is a much better feeling than not being able to find a non-pre-dawn, non-low-wage job after busting my ass to get my diploma. It’s easy to caught in the security of the steady paycheck and just give up trying to do what I want. But you know when you leave for work in the morning and you know you could easily fill the next 10 hours with your own creative work that the job is just a temporary solution. And here’s the thing, I really flippin like my job. It’s exactly the perfect fit for me if I am not going to be working for myself. I feel blessed–ineffably lucky–to have this job. But at the end of the day, I know I can do better.

I have had it in my head for so long that I need a three-year plan to be back to working from home again, but even with the best intentions, I don’t sit down and try to outline this plan. I keep putting it off month-by-month so that my three years has already nearly become four. I would like it to not become five. So I am endeavoring to start putting as many hours in on the work I would like to make money from as I do on the work I do make money from.

You came here to look at pictures of pretty hand-dyed fiber and I tricked you into to reading an hour’s worth of belly-gazing. Aren’t I sneaky?

Here’s the wool:

foggy morning falkland
Foggy Morning

newmoonfalkland
New Moon

summer skies 3
Summer Skies

starry night falkland2
Starry Night

Sunset Falkland
Sunset

dawn
Dawn

Thunderclouds Falkland
Thunderclouds

And no, I’m not telling you which ones I changed, but I’d love to hear your guesses in the comments!

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How to Spin Thick n Thin Yarn

Lately, I have been spinning a lot of thick n thin yarn for commissions or just for fun. I thought it would be fun to share how I do it.

First, choosing a top is always rough. There are so many good colors and good dyers out there. Lucky for me, I found this little bundle of forgotten Corriedale Cross at the bottom of my spinning fiber bin.

The first thing I like to look for when spinning thick n thin is a top that’s been dyed to have short color repeats.

This isn’t exactly necessary, but I find it more aesthetically pleasing, plus it’s more fun for me to spin.

Then, like with any spinning project, I pull out a little tuft of fiber and measure the staple length.

About five inches. For this sort of project this is particularly important if you don’t want to be fighting while you draft out your thick parts.

Now, for this next step, some folks may call this cheating, but I just call it good sense. I separate the top into 1 ounce bumps and then split each bump lengthwise until I have a pile of skinny strings of roving.

Which I then roll into little nests for the sake of keeping neat and not having a pile of fiber fall into my lap every time I need to choose a new strand.

The point of doing this is to peel the fiber down to size you want the “thick” parts of your yarn to be. I find that a good rule for fitting the the orifice on my Lendrum is to keep things about as thick as a sharpie.

Another advantage to drafting this way: you get a lot of practice joining. By the time you spin 4 oz. of fiber, you’ll be a pro!

Wheel Settings: I turn my wheel to my slowest ratio and have my take up set fairly low. It’s important to get enough twist into the yarn while keeping the thick parts lofty. My best advice is to play around with your wheel to find the best settings for you.

Spinning Thin: When you start spinning, draft as you would normally, choosing a comfortable weight for your “thin” sections. (It’s important not to go too thin, otherwise it’s difficult to get enough twist into it.)

Spinning Thick: Remember your staple length? Jump your drafting hand back that many inches, leaving a thick section, and start drafting for “thin” again behind it. Then just keep going, drafting and jumping as often as you feel you need to. Don’t worry about making it even, because the whole point of this yarn is that it is uneven.

I definitely think this sort of thing works better on fibers with longer staple length, Corriedale, BFL for instance. I’m not saying it can’t be done with merino, I’m just saying you’ll have to work a little bit harder to get enough twist in so that it doesn’t fall apart when you take it off your bobbins. (Yes, this has happened to me.)

I am in love with this Corriedale Cross wool (Crossed with Lincoln I believe, which is also SO FUN to spin.)

I always let my bobbins set overnight before I skein this up. Since it’s a singles, it just makes me feel better about the strength and integrity of the yarn.

After your yarn is skeined and tied up so it won’t tangle set the yarn by soaking it in your favorite wool wash. I do agitate it just a little bit to slightly full the thick parts. Fulling lends some extra integrity to the thick parts, they are less likely to pill or break. After the yarn is done soaking, I also sometime thwack it again the (round) towel bar in my bathroom for a little bit of extra fulling. Then set out to dry and you’re done!


My favorite application for this kind of yarn is a funky cowl or beret.

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A Special Sunday Preview

Just a peak at what at the new stuff I will be offering at next weekend Bazaar. (What doesn’t sell will be up in the Tiny Dino Studios etsy shop sometime after next Saturday.

snake falkland top2

superstition merino top 2

spooky falkland handspun

heartsick falkland top2

grapevine falkland top3

big top merino top
This has become a big skein of thick n thin yarn which is out drying on the balcony right this very instant. It will be my donation to the silent auction.

autumn cheer merino top
I am working on spinning this gorgeous piece of merino right now. I have it in my head that I am going to navajo-ply it, even though I have never navajo-plied anything before ever–not that that’s ever stopped me.

My week is going to be filled with more fiber, a little trick or treating with the kiddo, and tolerating my last few days at the day job. What are you doing this week?

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