Thursday, 8 August 2013

Dyed Fibre Should be WYSIWYG - Part 2

And sometimes, it is.  When I designed my "Fractal Rovings" I wanted something that was more WYSIWYG and could be spun into a predictable yarn.  Self-striping yarns were just coming in and I wanted to spin some.  I had also read a really neat article in Spin-Off on Fractal Spinning.  But the Corriedale roving I had was narrow, which made splitting more challenging, you can split it in quarters but then you pretty much have to spin fingering weight.  I had a think, and did some sampling.  In the end I began making pairs of rovings, one with long stripes and one with short stripes.

Lets look at how these are different from the commercial roving I sampled in the last post.  This is "Old Country".  At the top of the picture is the "long stripe" roving.  Each stripe is about 2 feet long.  At the bottom is a sample of the fibre, it's about 4" long.  In the middle is the short stripe.  Each short stripe is about 6" long.

Here's what they look like lightly twisted together:

 So what might this roving look like as yarn?  Looking closely at both rovings we notice that the colour isn't perfectly even in any of the stripes, so we know that within each section the colour is going to be heathered.  The short stripes are about 1-1/2 times the fibre length so we know we will get sections of yarn that look pretty much like each stripe.  The stripes blend into each other so we know there will be sections where the yarn does that too.  If you spin both and then ply them together there should be long stripes of one colour with shorter stripes of all the colours moving along it's length much like the roving:


And there are definite stripes.  And it looks a lot like the original roving.  Each long stripe of colour has 8 short stripes of colour along it's length.  At some points the colours match up to nearly a solid, at others the contrast is more striking.  The value range is fairly narrow so that even the colours that are farthest apart don't clash.  And the colours themselves are all closely related so they play nicely together.  The yarn appears a bit darker than the roving as is usually the case.  I think it's because spinning compresses the fibres together creating a smaller surface area which allows less light to reflect back.  The yarn is also a bit more muted as should be expected with the colours blending together.

Because I have sampled and played with Fractal Rovings a lot, and so have many of my fibre friends, I can tell you that if you split the short stripe into quarters lengthwise and the long stripe in half then spin a mid fingering weight 2 ply yarn when you knit an average sock each of those short stripes will last for 1 to 2 rounds and each long stripe lasts about 12-16 rounds.  But you don't have to split it that way and you don't have to make fingering weight.  There are lots of ways to split and combine the plies to make different stripe lengths.  The heavier the yarn the shorter the stripes will be.  But this roving will stripe pretty much no matter what you do.

In part 3 we will sum up what the two rovings have taught us about looking at handpainted fibre so we can make more informed choices.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Dyed Fibre Should be WYSIWYG Too - Part 1

Except that it very often isn't.  And I often have beginning spinners come to me saying "What did I do wrong?  It doesn't look anything like the roving."  Truth is they did nothing wrong.  Some dyed fibre can't be made into yarn that looks anything like the original fibre.  My friend, OVFA, gave me a very good example of this for Christmas one year.  It's from a large, well known commercial supplier.  It's labelled 100% wool top.

The top is narrow, which is perfectly fine, but look at the length of the stripes compared to the length of the fibre.  The fibre is nearly 5" long.  Many of the stripes are less than 2".  The sample of fibres I pulled out to measure length actually has 3 colours on it.

What this means is, no matter what I do, short of twisting without drafting at all, is that the colours are going to blend.  A lot.  When you draft the fibres don't stay lined up, they move around.  And that pink and green that look striking on the roving?  They are going to go grey and possibly muddy.  Here's some samples spun up to about fingering weight:

1.  The roving spun as is and plied back on itself.  Pretty muddy and blended.  Overall the effect is much darker than the original roving, though there are some flashes of the original colours

2.  The roving split in half and the halves matched, more or less, in plying.  Better but doesn't look like the roving. Over the whole roving it would be very difficult to keep things matched up, even over the small amount I did I was off by a nearly a foot.

3.  A chain ply from a singles spun from the full width of the roving.   Usually makes for clearer stripes, but not when the stripes are so short.  Much of this one blended in the plying with all 3 colours even when I chained really short (2-3") sections.  There are some sections with 2 plies of one colour and even the odd one with more or less one colour but not many.

4.  The singles.  Pretty blended, but some clear stripes.  You can see barberpolling even in the singles.

In fact, there is nothing wrong with any of these, they just don't look anything like the roving.  When I look at the roving the overall impression I get is "green with stripes", but the yarns say "dark blue with spots".  As yarn this fibre becomes an interesting heather with occasional flashes of fairly pure colour from the occasional spots that are at least as long as the fibre length.  The colour and value choices are such that there is nothing clashing about them.  Rovings like this do make it quite a bit more difficult to judge what the finished yarn could look like.  Even with experience it's a bit of guess until you sample.  When the colour and value choices are less careful they can end up as what I (not so fondly) refer to as "clown vomit".  "Rainbow" rovings that have shortish stripes of colours from across the rainbow with wide variation in value have a tendency towards this.  They don't end up looking like rainbows at all.  When values are very similar in these rainbows you can end up with muddy greys.

So how do you know what that marvelous handpaint you are holding is likely to look like when you stop admiring it and actually spin it?  Next post we will look at a hand-dyed roving that is meant to be WYSIWYG.  Then we will consider what we can learn from both rovings that will help us make more informed choices at the next fibre festival.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Rest Well Little Princess

Two weeks ago we lost our Ginny to acute kidney failure.  We still don't know why, cats have notoriously fragile kidneys and any number of things could have done it; having ruled out toxins like anti-freeze and Easter Lilies it was likely something in her make-up that we didn't know about.  The vet and all our more experienced cat owning friends insist that we couldn't have done any better for her, cats often do not let on they need help until it is too late.  I told the vet tech she should work on a "check engine" light for cats.  Himself is especially missing her as she was often his companion when he worked at home.  When he started working at home more often she would miss him on days he wasn't at home and complain she had been stood up for her lunch date.

Ginny was one of the helpy helpers, wanting to be in the middle of anything that was going on.  She was also a nurse cat whenever someone was ill.  If one of us was stuck in bed she stayed with us until we were better, snuggling, purring, patting our faces to check our temperatures, administering "catupuncture" and generally trying to be comforting.  She loved potato chips and popcorn and could hear the crunch a mile away.  She was podgy but could she ever run if need be.  She was assertive and didn't let the boys push her around, especially her brother, Hobbes, who would try to wrestle her.  He usually lost.  He seems to be missing her, too.

My friend Jan had given us a gooseberry bush that had outgrown her yard a few weeks before.  It seemed a fitting marker, no one will disturb her rest while she is protected by a bush with 1/2" thorns.  I will make "Ginny Jam" when the berries are ripe.

"Her Highness Princess Ginger Touloulah, The Pear Shaped" (Ginny) June 10, 2010 - June 26, 2013

Friday, 8 March 2013

Dye the Colour Wheel

Last Saturday 6 students and I set out to dye 92 different 10g samples of yarn using just 6 primary dye colours.  We were looking at all the different possible combinations of magenta, red, tartrazine, yellow, royal blue and cyan done as secondary and tertiary colours.  I had already done 28 samples testing out procedures.  I also wound nearly all the 10g skeins we needed.  But don't worry, I had help!

Hobbes, being a Helpy Helper!

I had set out spreadsheets with the calculations all taken care of.  Everyone took a sheet and after a quick demonstration started measuring and stirring.

 As the samples were mixed they set them on the counter to be run in the dye microwave.  The Guild has a big, powerful old microwave that I found being offered to a good home at work one day.  It does a 10g sample in 2 minutes.  We actually ran them in batches of up to 6 at a time once we had them stacked up.

They almost all exhausted nicely, except for some of the ones that had cyan which rarely behaves well.  We shot those with extra acid and heat and they did all finally exhaust.  We let them sit for a bit on top of the microwave to stay warm and finish exhausting then transferred them to the open window to cool.

We spun the rinsed skeins out really well in a salad spinner, but getting them dry was a challenge until a student realized we have fans in the Resource Centre.  We had already started hanging them on the coat rack, but when we added the fan they dried really quickly.

Here is what we should have ended up with:

6 different values for each of the primaries ranging from 0.01% DOS to 2% DOS = 36 samples

75/25, 50/50 and 25/75 samples of all the possible combinations of 2 primaries (e.g. cyan and tartrazine, cyan and yellow, royal and tartrazine and royal and yellow) to show the range of oranges, purples and greens = 36 samples

6 possible tertiary colours from each of the combinations of 3 primaries in about a 60/30/10 ratio = 48 samples.

It looked like this when we were all done:  The sets of secondaries are on the left, the tertiaries in the middle and the primaries on the right.  It's amazing how different they all are.  Even in this little picture you can see the variation in the oranges especially.

We did it.  We think.  There may be a few missing.  I have mine roughly sorted but I haven't checked for missing ones.  All told it took 7 of us about 9 hours to run the samples, tag and divide them.  Now I just have to mount the samples for myself and for the guild to have a copy.  They will be an excellent reference and starting point for anyone looking to mix colours.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Fibre DOne


Twisted Socks:  a fun, straightforward knit once I got the magic loop set up right after the heel.  The cuff is a little tight, but that might be because I apparently do not know how to read a pattern.  The sizing was XXS, XS, S, M, L...  I wanted M.  I counted 3 numbers in and cast on.  Medium was 4 numbers in.  Oops.  Actually, the foot fits well, so if I were to do these again I would add stitches to the cuff somehow and then get down to the S numbers for the heel and foot.

Petunia Fractal fingering weight yarn:  Just needs a warm bath:

Baby Surprise the first:  begun, about 20% done. 

The beads on yellow string are a row counting abacus I made specifically for this pattern.  The BSJ depends on keeping track of your rows.  I still count ridges every once in a while, but if I'm good about moving the beads I don't have to count so often.

Peach Fractal yarn:  Found.  I knew I had spun a skein of this.  I just couldn't find it.  I did what I always do when I can't find something fibre related.  I called DaisyLady.  She always knows.  Like when I couldn't find my 2mm Addi Turbo.  "You broke it, remember?"  No, actually, I didn't.  That's why I called her, she remembers these things.  This time, it was "I think you sold it".  Really?  When?  At the Guild Sale?  Neither of us could remember.  At the February Guild meeting, however, all was revealed.  I had left it with Kelly at Just Knitting on consignment with several fractal rovings.  She brought it back as she has closed her bricks and mortar shop and switched to on-line only.

Sweet Tomato Heel Socks:  Wool-Tyme's annual sale is on.  I mostly bought Briggs and Little for workshops, but I did buy a tiny bit for myself.  Another skein of Bamboo/Cotton for the baby surprise jackets and a ball of Fortissma sock yarn in a neat purple.  And a variety of cottons for Thing Small who has discovered Kumihimo (more about that another time).

Most of my fibre time this week will be spent getting ready to teach a new workshop "Dye the Colour Wheel" on Saturday.  We (6 students and I) are going to try to make all the possible secondary combinations of my 6 primary dye colours.  And a value scale for each primary.  And 6 tertiary colours for each of the 8 combinations.  120 samples altogether, though I will have some of them done ahead as I'm testing procedures.  And we may be are in way over our heads.  I may be gibbering by Saturday evening.  The dyeing part is easy, getting them cooked and then labelled is going to be the sticky bit I think.  I still have no idea how I'm going to mount mine.  That will be an exercise left to the student...

Friday, 1 February 2013

Fibre DOing

I am usually a project monogamous knitter and spinner.  But not so much at the moment.  I just entered my current WIPs into Ravelry:

 1.  Swing Knitting Workshop 3 Blanket.  90% done - I just need to add another garter stitch band and sew in ends.  It's too big to drag around anymore.  Also, I didn't think ahead so I'm having to pick out a long tail cast-on to add the other band.  Note Ginny "helping" me with photo set up.

 2.  Swing Knitting Workshop 4 - Playground Wrap.  About 20% done.  This is the first panel.  I'm using 6 colourways of Fractal Roving going around the colour wheel.  This one starts with Peach (yellow-orange), then Forest (yellow-green), Ocean (blue-green), Periwinkle (blue-purple), Petunia (red-purple) and Pink Grapefruit (red-orange).  There are 24 short row "stanzas" per panel so I'm doing 4 in each colour.

It would be moving faster if I hadn't lost the freshly spun ball of Periwinkle somewhere in Kingston (probably the Invicta Centre, but maybe in the Napanee Arena) as I was knitting during Thing Small's last hockey tournament.  I have Petunia on the wheel now, so I'll have to finish that and then re-do Periwinkle before I can continue.  These are the yarns thus far.

Petunia on the wheel.

 3.  Current carry along knitting "Twisted" from Knitty in a skein of Apple Laine Apple Butter that had been languishing as a pair of toes for a very long time.  I've made it to the heel turn.

This does not include a few projects in hibernation or time out...

and updated my Rav queue with what I actually intend to do in the next while. 

3 Baby Surprise Jackets for 2 babies coming in June and August.  (I couldn't decide so I bought yarn for 3, either 1 baby will get two, or I'll go get more for the other one).
Longitudinal which I need to spin Peach Fractal for and I want to do in Portuguese style knitting, just to try it out.  It'll be a KAL with Jan, who is (still) learning to knit, this time we are trying Portuguese style and it seems to be working better for her hands and her (lack of) sense of direction.
Pull me Over which I need to choose a Fractal colourway for, dye enough for a sweater, and spin
Cat's Sweet Tomato Heel Socks.  Christine got me this e-book for my birthday.  It'll need a fractal colourway chosen and spun and to decide which pattern...
Swingy Hitchhiker in, you guessed it, more Fractal that I need to spin.  I want to use China Rose.  I'll dye some more or less solid of the grey from China Rose as the pause yarn.
Winter Waves  I thought I had the yarn spun for this, but I'm not sure I have enough, and something is up with the twist in the yarn, it isn't quite right.  So this one will wait a bit.

Oh.  Wow.  That's a bit.  I want to do a lot more in my Fractals, first, because I like them, and second, because samples are good for marketing and I need to do more of that.   More DOing required, less thinking.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

My Word is "Do"

New Year, new beginnings.  Or so they say, I don't put so much stock in New Year's resolutions and other rituals.  Still, it's good to have a regular time to reflect and think ahead.  My friend, Ann, posted a very good suggestion on Facebook last week.  Instead of making a list of New Year's resolutions, she said, choose a word that will guide you for the year, one that will lead you to the actions that would have been your resolutions.  It appealed to the cognitive/behaviourist (the theory that what you think affects your behaviour) in me.  I know what I need to do to make the things I want happen.  But I've been having trouble sorting myself out to do them.  I find the tasks overwhelming and I don't know where or how to start so I don't do anything.  So, for my word, I chose "DO".  It's the attitude shift that I need.  To "DO" something rather than nothing even if it is only a teeny tiny baby step toward what I want to accomplish.  Washing 2 dishes is better than no dishes at all.  Tidying one shelf is better than giving up entirely on a closet full of clutter.  Planning one meal is better than giving up in frustration while trying to plan 5.  Giving away one small box of no longer needed items is better than waiting to pile up a carload.  Drops in the bucket, but many drops make an ocean, and I don't need a whole ocean, just enough to fill my bucket.

So, some of my doings for today:

1.  Write that little report for Mandy.  Really, it took all of 10min, why did I push it off for so long?  And it made her so happy.  Doing is good.

2.  Rescue the kitchen from the nightmare that was Thing Small granting her friend's Christmas wish of gingerbread house making.  Note to self:  DO NOT go off to New Year's Eve gathering and leave Thing Small unattended with such intentions unless you are braced for the consequences...

There was royal icing "cement" in my poor mixer and crushed candy cane all over Ash's favourite stool.

The gingerbread house itself experienced some kind of natural disaster:

But they had fun, and thought the "hurricane" explanation for the flat house a good one.

And, again, it took longer to mobilize the girls to help clean up than to actually get back to some semblance of normal.  Even a little doing actually gets things DONE.  Imagine that.  Who woulda thunk it?

3.  Make bread.  I restarted my sourdough starter and there is a batch of dough on the counter.  I'll tell you more about it later.

4.  Write a blog post.  Okay, this one is taking a bit longer, but at least once I started I'm finishing it.  And I will get the hang of this process faster if I (you guessed it) DO it.  To that end I also corralled Himself briefly to show me again how to work the fancy camera.  Honestly, I used to be a decent photographer with an excellent grasp of my old (completely manual) Pentax K1000 35mm camera.  Digital is nice for being instant, but the Nikon D200 is heavy, bulky and fiddly.  But again if I DO I will figure it out.  I also learned that the iPhone does perfectly well for blog pictures that won't need editing!

There are more things to DO today but somehow they seem just a little less overwhelming.

What's your word for this year?