Monday, May 25, 2015

Attempting to Create a Panda PomPom

I was looking through Chiyo915's PomPom All Stars and I saw a cute little panda bear.  What is crazy is that the ears of this panda are longer than the rest of the pompom.  I wanted to try to recreate this myself, which would be a bit of a challenge since there was no diagram.  Let's see if I can make my own type of diagram.  I was successful with the pompom watermelon, after all.  How hard could this be?

I sketched something out, and well, I'll give it a shot.  I wrapped around 9-12 wraps for each color section.


And then it was time to cut open the pompom:

So there is definitely a face here, but I don't think that the density of the fibers is enough to create the image that I wanted to make.  Maybe I should have also started the nose lower on the face.

after some trimming the pompom is complete.  So what do you think?  Do you see a panda bear here?


I attempted to make another panda, lowering the nose and adding more yarn in general.  I'm not sure if I made the pompom denser.  With this low level of detail maybe I should have used the smaller pompommaker that I have, or have used thicker  yarn.  The shapes I tried to make aren't super obvious, but you can sort of manipulate the ears and nose into the shape you want.

In the end, they're pretty cute but I'm not sure if I would see a panda if I weren't the creator.  Let's see what Keith has to say on the matter.

I posted the picture of the pompoms on the ChemKnits Facebook Page to see what my followers felt they could be.  Enough people guessed Panda that I'm feeling much more confident.  Now I will just have to think about what I could possibly use these pompoms for.  I don't want to have them on the top of a hat because in addition to being upside down some of the details might get lost.  How would you use these fun pompoms?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Arm Knit Cowl

Brrrrr!  It has been so cold in Evanston this winter (January) that I wanted to make myself a wonderful chunky cowl.  And I wanted it fast.  Time to make another arm knit cowl in under an hour!

I purchased some really cool chunky yarn when I was in Chile a few years ago.  The yarn is Rueca Reginella and is 100% Chilean wool.  It is a thick and thin yarn that almost looks like it is handspun.  Of course, I have not been able to achieve anything this chunky from my own spinning endeavors!  There is no yardage information, probably because of the variable thickness of the yarn, but I decided to give the arm knit cowl a shot and see how big it ends up.  I can always unravel and make something else, right?

There should be enough for this project, since wrapping the skeins around my neck looked super cute, right?

I approximated a yardage by counting how the wraps of yarn.  Each 4 ft skein has 22 wraps, 88 feet = ~29 yards of yarn.  They weigh 97 and 96 g.  Since the ends are tied together on the skeins, I think that the yardage is actually more consistent than the weight.

Rather than wind these into balls first, I decided to just knit directly from my yarn swift.

I cast on 10 sts and started knitting.  I knit a few rows and realized that while stunning, there was NO WAY this was going to be long enough for a cowl.  10 stitches was WAY over 12" wide, and it didn't stretch lengthwise too much.  I was under 50% done with the yarn, but I decided to stop and start over with 5 sts to get something I could wrap around my neck more than once.

I knit until I ran out of yarn.  Well, Along with taking some funny pictures along the way.  Seriously, there was only like 3 - 1" sections left over.  Now this is a stash busting project!

The whole cowl is maybe 6 feet long, but ti depends on how it stretches.  It EASILY fits around my neck 3 times, but also looks cute at 2x.

I love this cowl because it keeps the integrity of the yarn.  It is so warm and chunky and so easy to toss on as I'm running out the door.  

Have you tried arm knitting yet?  What are you waiting for?!?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spinning "Butterfly Effect"; a 4-ply cabled yarn

Into the Whirled's October 2014 colorway "Butterfly Effect" is Superwash Merino in oranges and blues.  It is making me think of my BIL's wedding, although the colors are a bit more muted.


I decided to pull out my copy of The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs: Techniques for Creating 80 Yarns for this spinning project.  I want to try something new, but what should I try?  It would be fun to spin beads into my project, and I also really like the look of wrapped singles, but I don't have any silk thread (yet... I'll have to order some once we move!)  I think I'm going to go for a simpler "advanced" spin and try a cabled yarn.  This is essentially a 4 ply yarn created from two 2-plies.

This project will start with me spinning in the S direction, counterclockwise, and plying for the first time in the Z direction. This is the opposite of how I normally do this.  I'm working on my smallest whirl (8:1) to get a thin single.  I just ordered smaller whorls but I'm going to have to wait for those to arrive and I want to finish one more yarn before February ends.

Smaller whorls will give the wheel a higher ratio.  On the smallest whorl the wheel came with (8:1), I get 8 twist in the yarn per revolution of the wheel.  This is great for beginners because the twist travels into the yarn slowly, but it can be harder to spin thinner yarns without treadling your feet much faster.  

I could start out by dividing the yarn into 4 equal parts and making singles etc... but instead I'm going to divide the yarn in half and make one bobbins of Z 2-ply yarn.  I'm then going to create a center pull ball and make the cabled yarn from this.

This project involves over-twisting the 2ply yarn.  One recommendation is to ply normally and then run this yarn back through the wheel in the same direction to add more twist.  We'll see how I do the first time around.  My yarns usually have a little more twist in them than I need.

Am I crazy?  This is MERINO!  Merino is hard to spin sometimes!!  Wish me luck.

Bundle 1 is 56 g, bundle 2 is 59 g.

I tried to start spinning a really thin single (thinner than my last one) but the staple length of merino is shorter than the Falkland, and I couldn't get enough twist into it for the yarn to be stable.  I'm therefore doing a slightly thicker single.  It is spinning and drafting SO FAST that I'm afraid I'm no putting enough twist into it... wish me luck.  (How many times am I going to ask for luck in this project?)

I am learning a lot from being part of the Into the Whirled fiber club.  I haven't spun merino for a while, but spinning it immediately after the Falkland I am amazed at how smooth the fibers are.  I tfeels so silky going through my fingers.  Even with too much twist in parts of the singles, they feel smooth and wonderful, not hard or rough.

This yarn isn't exactly balanced.  I think I'm spinning the second spindle much thinner than the first one.  I've also noticed that I have a lot less tension in the breakband to get uptake of the yarn onto the bobbin.  Maybe this is because of the counterclockwise spinning?  I have no idea, I've never spun singles this way before.  Of course, it is possible that the old break band was worn out enough to break,m so when I replaced it there is more friction.

My tiny whorls arrived!  I now have 1:10, 1:14, 1:18 and 1:20 ratios in addition to my 1:5 and 1:8.  Since I want to over ply my singles the first time around, I'm going to ply them with the 1:14 whorl.  his way I should have an easier time getting too much twist.  In the worst I'll have to spin slower where I was spinning as fast as I could on the reverse end.

With the first round of plying the colors matched well at the first, but as the plying went on I got more and more barber-poling.  This doesn't bother me, because since I am going to ply a second time from a center pull ball this should even itself out a ton.  Wahoo!  So far so good, right?  (On an aside, I broke my tailbone a bit ago so that is making the spinning much harder to do.  Oy am I in pain!  I sit forward when I spin so it is somewhat manageable, but I have to take lots of breaks.  Therefore I am giving myself a bit of leeway if I take longer to get through my Into the Whirled backlog.)

A preview of the 4 ply cabled yarn from the overtwisted 2ply
For plying step 1, I wound my 2 ply yarn into a center pull ball.  Then using the 1:8 whorl (to not overtwist the cable) I spun these Z 2plies in the S direction for my 4 ply cable yarn.  While I was at it, I also wound the left over S singles into a center pull ball.  There are a ton of pictures from this spinning project because I thought that each step was lovely.

Z 2-ply yarn
1 ply and 2 ply on bobbins
1 ply and 2 ply in center pull balls.  Each are ready for the next plying step.  
When creating the 4 ply chain, I quickly swapped to my slowest whorl (1:5).  This would allow me to ply slowly and make sure I was happy with my twist ratios.  You can really see that the fiber looks like a chain!  It is less pronounced when you're getting a barber pole of 2 plies, but when you are twisting two barber poles it looks like there is some woven fiber going on.  Pretty fun!

Spinning the 4 ply yarn
A close up of the cabled yarn.  Doesn't it almost look like a chain in some parts?

I think I may have lost some twist while winding into the center pull, but I like how the yarn is coming out, even if it really isn't a perfect cabled yarn.

I really am enjoying spinning with the faster whorls.  I think that it makes my 2 ply much more balanced and I'm really excited to try to spin lace weight and maybe even fingering weight 2 ply yarns.

1 ply - 21 dpi (fingering weight)
2 ply - 12 wpi (DK weight)
4 ply - 8-9 wpi (Worsted/Heavy worsted)

4-ply (left) and 1-ply (right)
2-ply (left) and 4-ply (right)
Two bobbins of 4-ply yarn

Large Skein - 54 wraps * 4 ft/wrap = 216 feet = 72 yards, 90 g; 8 wpi
Small Skein - 33 wraps * 2 ft/wrap = 66 feet = 22 yards, 23 g; 9 wpi

So I ended up with 94 yards total of my 4 ply cable yarn.  This means that I had 386 yards of singles!  This might just be a record for me.  I'm so excited for the improvement that I cannot wait to try out spinning thinner singles.  Yippee!

Did I already mention how I had no breaks while spinning or plying?  This is a miracle!!

  Spinning begun 2/24/15
bobbin 1 finished 2/25/15
bobbin 2 finished 2/27/15
Plying round 1 - 3/3/15
All plying finished 3/5/15

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Snow Dyeing 100% Wool Yarn

Spring is here for most of the country, but if you are in Colorado then you got some snow last weekend.  What better time to share one of my favorite new dyeing videos, Snow Dyeing Yarn with KoolAid!  Last February we got a LOT of snow. I decided to take advantage of the snow and use it for some snow dyeing experiments. What will happen if you use melting snow as a method to apply dye from KoolAid to 100% wool yarn?

I knew this dyeing would take a long time so I started it while watching the Superbowl.  This was the first time I've ever tried dyeing with snow.  I'd seen some really fun pictures of ice dyeing (where you sprinkle the dye on top of ice cubes), and I know parents who will help their kids paint snow with food coloring so I thought it would be fun to use this as a technique to apply dye to yarn.  

I wanted to do this experiment with unspun fiber, but I didn't have any white roving in my stash that I could use.  I had some pale grey roving that would have worked, however I don't know how pale the colors will be after the dyeing is complete, and I didn't want to NOT see them at all if I end up with pastels.  I used 100 g of Bare KnitPicks Palette yarn and 6 packets of KoolAid.

An hour into the dyeing (and the Patriots are winning, wahoo!) and there has shockingly been only a tiny about of melting.  I have a feeling that this will take all night.

My bathroom smelled AMAZING as I was waiting for the snow to melt.  I'd like to do an experiment sometime where I snow dye two miniskeins of wool.  One I set with heat in the micrwoave and the other I just rinse out.  I wonder how much of this binds to the yarn without heat.

Before I went to bed there were a few specks of snow left so I decided to leave it until morning.  I filled my bucked up with more snow and left it in the back hall (below freezing).  What do you think I'm going to try next?  I am feeling so inspired and this (clean) snow will only be around for so long.

I hope that you enjoy my latest dyeing experiment!  To see details and the final reveal of the washed yarn check out the following video.  With these longer videos I try to include contents to make it easier to skip directly to the part of the video you want to see.

Video Contents (Skip ahead to the part you need!)  Apparently the links only work to take you to the correct spot if you are watching from YouTube's website but at least you have the time marks so you can skip around as needed.  
[0:00] Introduction & Setup of the Dyeing Experiment
[1:20] Putting Snow on the Yarn
[3:23] Sprinkling the KoolAid Dye on the snow
[6:21] T = 20 min
[6:52] T = 1 hour
[8:30] T = 1.5 hrs
[10:40] T = 2.5 hrs
[11:23] T = 4 hrs
[12:38] All the snow is melted! T = 5+ hrs
[12:48] The next morning, preparing the fiber for microwaving
[17:26] In the microwave
[18:02] Cooling down
[18:39] Washing the fiber 
[20:15] Final reveal of the yarn and conclusions