Friday, January 27, 2006

General knitting and spinning and a cautionary tale

I've been tired this week. So so tired. *snore*. Didn't feel too hot on Wednesday and while I am OK again now my energy just seems to have evaporated. So strange, as I can't really complain about lack of sleep either. I've been crawling into bed before 10.30pm most evenings and I've been sleeping like a log. Must be the season - winter usually starts getting to me by the end of January.

Because I've been so tired and because we have been quite busy with lots of other things, I haven't done a lot of knitting or spinning recently. I still haven't started the handspun cardi, but I am planning on taking the yarn up to Yorkshire with me this weekend so I can start swatching for it. We've been quite busy renovating and decorating recently - it's pretty certain now that in 6 months to a year's time we'll move up north... I'm still in two minds how I feel about it. On the one hand I'm attached to the Midlands - I've never lived anywhere else in the UK for any length of time, and we both have a lot of friends in the area - but on the other hand it's exciting. The house is fabulous, even though it's quite run down and virtually uninhabitable right now. It has a big garden and some outbuildings! I am already fantasising about my own little workshop to dye wool and to set up a pottery work shop with my new wheel. D says he will build a kiln for me once we are up there. :-) But for now it's more about plastering and electrics and scraping wallpaper off the walls... I suspect that it's going to be all about that for quite some time yet!

The one thing I have been working on, knitting-wise, is a pair of Jaywalker socks. Yes, I have caved and have joined the phenomenon that is the Jaywalker, and you know what? I like the pattern. Really really like it. It's easy enough to remember (I seem to have a complete inability to remember lace patterns - I need to double-check every single row, sometimes even while I am working on it!), so I don't need to unfold my pattern whereever I happen to sit . At the same time it looks good, and much more immediately than lace does, which can look so bad until it is stretched out and blocked properly... I am using some of the yarn that my Holiday Secret Pal Sherrill gave me and I think it suits the pattern rather well:

I still have a long way to go, of course, and I'm not the fasted sock-knitter out there either... Foolish of me then, to join this year's Sockapaloooza, no? Still, I must have had a kind of rush to the head, because that is exactly what I have done! ;-)

I have also joined Lolly's new KAL, Project Spectrum. It starts in March, with the colours red and pink, so I figured I'd have lots of time to decide on a project and maybe even start knitting. At the moment I am contemplating combining it with another KAL project I really want to knit - the Tivoli tank for the Sexy Knitter's KAL. Tivoli in a sexy red? What to you think? :-)

Other than that, I have no knitting news to report. I have, however, almost finished spinning the Soy Silk fibre that I dyed about a week ago. This is such strange stuff. Spinning it is a lot like spinning silk, but the resulting yarn is so odd - it twists, and then seems to stay in the twist as if the twist was already set. Does that make any sense? What I mean is that it seems to be almost impossible to overspin the stuff. I may ply it anyway, though, to balance the colours, if not the yarn!

I am quite interested in how the colours have come out through the spinning. There seems to be a lot of green, not very much brown, and almost no blue, even though all three colours were quite evenly distributed over the roving. Maybe the green works particularly well with the cream/beige natural colour of the fibre? The single is very very soft and has a lot of lustre, so I am curious what it will look like when I ply it. It's spun very thinly and even plyed it shouldn't me much thicker than maybe fingering weight, so there is quite a lot of it, even from the tiny bit of roving I dyed. Maybe it will be enough for a small knitting project at least?

And last but not least, I want to leave you with a little cautionary tale:

A few months ago, I bought some Blue Faced Leicester fleece from a seller on ebay. The description initially didn't say anything about the type of fibre, but I emailed the seller and was assured that this was soft Blue Faced Leicester fibre, suitable for spinning and knitting. Reassured, I ordered about 1kg of fleece. The bag with the fibre was delivered quickly, but I didn't have time to check it properly because my workload was so bad at the time. It looked a little rough to me, but I thought that it was just dirty.

Well, a few days ago I finally had time to wash some of the fleece. Taking it out of the bag I was again struck by how rough the fibre felt to the touch. Also, the texture seemed kempy rather than woolly. Tough, wiry long hairs... I was starting to wonder, but still, I gave it a go and washed a batch of it, and let it dry.

It is dry now, and I can say for sure that no way this is Blue Faced Leicester. I would almost swear that it is Welsh Mountain or something of the sort - very rough , kempy and tough. There are bits of downy and soft fibre, though, which is a bit confusing and makes me wonder if the seller mixed Welsh Mountain with a bit of Blue Faced Leicester... This is what the washed fibre looks like, after I had picked out a lot of the rough bits - unfortunately I didn't think to take a picture of the fleece before I did that:

Still quite kempy, no?

I'm not sure what to do with this. I was so angry when I realised, that I thought about throwing the whole lot out, but then I started picking out the really kempy bits and discarding them. What is left is semi-soft, so I may try and spin it to see what I get... Still, this means discarding about half the fleece. At least now that I know I can do so before washing it and saving myself the effort! I have started carding it, and it does feel quite a bit softer when it comes off the drum carder, but still, I am not convinced... I guess I will have to spin some of it to get any real idea of how rough or soft it will eventually be and what the fibre can be used for.

In any case, this is the first and the last time I buy fleece on ebay. You just never know what you will get and although the fleece wasn't expensive as such, paying for the postage adds quite a substantial amount.


  1. Anonymous11:13 am

    Love the Jaywalkers. You won't regret joining Sockapalooza, it's a fun exchange. Sorry to hear about the fleece; I'm not a spinner so can't offer any opinions but it must be very annoying.

  2. Anonymous1:16 pm

    That's a pain about the fleece isn't it? Did you leave any feedback? Maybe now is the time to knit the person a scarf using the harsh stuff and see how they like it round their neck! The Jaywalkers look great in that colourway, it's working really well. The Soy silk looks so pretty spun up. Any ideas what little project you might use it for?

  3. The house sounds lovely - I'd love a workshop and am hoping to build a conservatory this year to use as a craft/playroom (I'd need to double up but my eldest son spends quite a lot of time with various craft activities too). I'm sure living somewhere apart from the Midlands will be fine, I'm from B'ham and always ended up back in the surrounding area, but moved to S. Yorks last year (and am hoping to stay here unless I have a nice big windfall that would enable me to buy somewhere with a orchard and outhouses - well, I can dream :0)

  4. The jaywalkers are looking quite lovely! That is the perfect yarn.

    I joined sockapaloooza and Project Spectrum too. It'll be fun to see what you do for both!

  5. I'm in two minds about you moving, too! On one hand I'm dead jealous of you having your own room* for crafts, and on the other hand I don't want you to go, 'cause I've only just met you!!!! Can I come visit?! ;) My stars said expect news of someone moving away too, weird or what?!

    We'd better reschedule the machine knitting / spinning training quick!!!

    Hope you're feeling better soon, G's been poorly, a few people seem to be poorly at work, etc, etc....

    *mine is also the second bedroom, so gets cleared every time someone wants to visit!

  6. Anonymous9:43 pm

    An interesting post Iris! I was intrigued about you not feeling well, understood your indecisions about moving, liked the J's and got cranky about your Nasty Wool Peddler....liked Tracey's idea about the scarf though....:)

  7. Anonymous10:15 pm

    The Jaywalkers look so nice in this pretty yarn. The house you're moving too seems like a dream one. Like everything else in life, moving have got its pros and cons. The workshop is what would make me run to it...

  8. Your moving plans sound exciting! Will you be able to teach up at a uni up there too?

    If you can't think of anything else to do with the fleece, you might want to try some felting experiments.

    The Jaywalkers look cute, but I vow I will not succumb and start a new pair of socks when I have two mateless ones here in my knitting basket...

  9. How annoying about the fleece! I have been tempted by fleece on ebay but would be very wary now. I didn't realise there was a zig zag craze but I have inadvertantly joined it too!

  10. Hey, you realise you'll have to change your blog name when you move?! :) I'm not sure yorkshire counts as the middle, although that depends if you're scottish or not! :)

    C U tonight!

  11. Iris

    BFL.... no way in hell. Ive got a raw fleece here thats BFL, check my blog in the next few days & ill have a pic up for you... the difference is ermm .. startling.. you'll see.

    Love the socks !

    Moving must be in the water Iris, touch wood, cross fingers, toes, and all else, we should be moving too come summer.

  12. can't wait to see pics of the house, such an exciting adventure

  13. Anonymous1:18 pm

    those jaywalkers are coming out a treat!

    I joined project spectrum too... that will be fun.

    Hope you are well.