Pencil spinning

Due to the virus situation the workshops have been closed at the University where I work, and we are ‘remote teaching’ from now on. That is quite a challenge for a practical subject like knitted textiles.

One thing I have enjoyed over the years of teaching first year knit design students is their excitement and enthusiasm when they realise that they can make their own yarns. Normally I would be running a hand spinning workshop for them next week, but obviously not anymore. We have two spinning wheels and I take in a box of drop spindles. Cartons of fibre are pulled out of cupboards and spill all over the floor, its a lovely day with some wild yarn developments taking place. I think its a great way to encourage them to explore the raw materials of textiles, and also to introduce them to yarn design.

But sadly this year its not to be! So I decided that before they left I would demonstrate ‘pencil spinning’ using two commercial yarns. Even this simple method was received with excitement, so I have made two short videos for the students, but have shared them on YouTube for everyone and put them on here as well. Bear in mind they were made for the students, following a demonstration so I refer to this, and the focus is on making small amounts of marl yarn for hand knit design sampling.

They have taken yarns away with them, so I hope to see that they have applied their wonderful creativity to making new and colourful yarns.

Knitting and Wellness

Today met James McIntosh and Dr Thomas Ernst, inventors of the term ‘knititation’ and authors of Knit and Nibble. They had been invited to speak at the University of Brighton School of Art’s Centre for Arts and Wellbeing event, Knitting and Wellness.

When we first met, James told me that he had found The Knitting Book really helpful when he was teaching himself to knit – which was truly gratifying feedback. It’s nice to find out how people use and value my contribution to sharing knowledge.

James was first to speak, and he described his personal journey through depression and how knitting mindfully enabled his recovery and brought colour back into his life. Thomas discussed the science behind mindfulness and it’s aptness to knitting.

Nina Dodds, author of Invisible Jumpers, and I provided yarn and needles so that everyone who wanted to could knit during the event. We were gratified that everyone took up the opportunity!

This was my piece of knitting.

It was a great talk, entertaining and interesting. James and Thomas kindly gave me a copy of their book which I am reading this weekend.

At the end Thomas led a short mindfulness session, which was a new expressive for some of the audience. Hopefully we all left feeling refreshed.

Like James, and so many others, I find hand knitting keeps me calm; it’s repetitive movements bringing my attention back in a rythmic cycle. So now I’ve written this it’s time to take up my needles for a soothing session.

Knit Step by Step – new edition

A new edition of Knit Step by Step has been published this month. With new content including step-by-step instructions (with lots of lovely photos) of how to work the exciting on-trend chunky ‘arm knitting’. All wrapped in a smart new cover it looks great!

step by step 2020
Cover of the 2020 editon of Knit Step by Step

Recent reviews of ‘Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting’

cropped-img_9164About ‘Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting’.

‘An outstanding read’

‘Here’s a new hardback book that’s packed with all the information a machine or hand knitter would wish to find.’

‘You’ll have no regrets, as this will be your best ever buy as a machine or hand knitter.’(Guild of Machine Knitters newsletter February 2019)

 


‘Vikki Haffenden outlines the necessary knowledge, especially of stitch construction – the basic necessity for knitting by all methods’.

‘Throughout the book the author uses very clear diagrams and photographs to explain stitch patterns, techniques and equipment’.
(Annec Cartwright in Slipknot, newsletter of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, June 2019)


 

I cannot tell you how much I adore this book’

‘Thanks to your work my eyes are open to the possibiliites of working on fresh and modern projects without having a background in fashion or textiles’
(Turtlemelon crafts, via Instagram)


 

 

Spinning wheel drive ratio – getting down to the nitty gritty, and learning to control my tendency to over-spin yarn

Spinning wheel drive ratio is the number of times the bobbin revolves whilst the drive wheel makes one revolution. It is governed by the size of the whorl that drives the bobbin. There is of course the effect of any brake to be considered as well, but this has to be adjusted to get the yarn to wind onto the bobbin and is not the same as the drive ratio.

Most modern wheels offer different ratios by providing several different sized whorls on the bobbin or flyer. Probably because my upright double drive is an old wheel, and I mean old, wobbly and fragile – one that would be termed ‘vintage’ on eBay, it only has one ratio (it only has one whorl on the bobbin). I tend to over-spin when using this wheel, so I wanted to teach myself to make softer yarn and thought understanding drive ratio might help me. Being a bit techie and liking to understand how things work, I decided as a first step to check out what the drive ratio is on my upright double drive wheel.

Using advice from ‘Spinning Wool – beyond the basics’ by Anne Field, I started the process. Firstly I removed any yarn from the orifice and bobbin and slackened the tension screw to the lowest setting. Next I tied a tag of yarn on one arm of the flyer as a marker, and aligned this arm with the rear maiden. Now, using my hand I turned the wheel one complete revolution, counting how many times the tag of yarn passed the rear maiden. This figure is the drive ratio of the wheel as it is set up (remember that a different sized whorl will give a different ratio). In this example, the bobbin revolved 6 times during one revolution of the drive wheel, which means that my old double drive upright wheel has a 6:1 ratio.

Next in my experiment to spin softer yarn I trawled further advice from Anne Field. She suggests that the fibre itself can give you information as to how to spin it, and that frequency of crimps along the staple length of fibre can give you a clue about how the twist frequency. In her opinion a fibre with 7 crimps in 2.5cm, for example, is best spun with 7 twists per 2.5cm of singles. OK, I thought, so I pulled a staple from the Shetland fleece I am working with, and counted the crimps per 2.5cm. I used a magnifying glass to help me, and came out with a figure of 5 crimps in 2.5cm, which meant that I needed to aim for 5 twists in every 2.5cm of singles as I spun the fibre.

Once again I referred to Field’s book, and from the suggested methods for establishing a visual reference for the distance in which the twists should lie, I chose to mark 2.5cm on a piece of paper. I then taped this my lap whilst spinning. Other methods included marking these lines in your spinning apron, or using points on your fingers, e.g. tip of thumb to knuckle. This last one is the one I plan to move to once I am a bit more confident.

To re-cap, my aim, based on the Shetland fibre’s crimp, was to have 5 twists in 2.5cm of yarn. This meant 2.5cm of twisted yarn had to be drawn onto the wheel during one revolution of the drive wheel (5 revolutions of the bobbin), thus 5 twists would be inserted into that set length of yarn.

Anne Field estimates that approximately 1 twist will be lost in each 2.5cm of singles once the yarn is plied (although I am a bit hazy about how that happens), and so it seemed to me that I could spin the yarn with 6 twists per 2.5cm and finish with the 5 twists I wanted. This fitted in really neatly with the wheel’s drive ratio of 6:1, (1 treadle, and therefore 1 revolution of the wheel, turns the bobbin 6 times). This made me wonder whether this wheel was designed and made for spinning this type of wool from the older British breeds.

So by treading SLOWLY, drafting 2.5cm of fibre and releasing 2.5cm of yarn into the bobbin for each revolution of the drive wheel (one pedal motion), I actually managed to make a start.

To check how I was doing I stopped after a few metres of singles, pulled some back off the bobbin and let the yarn twist back on itself to emulate the final plied yarn. After evaluating the twist, and adjusting my spinning accordingly, I eventually managed to achieve approximately 5 twists per 2.5cm! Yes….I was getting it – slowly.

The resulting yarn is so much softer and fuller than my normal attempts – and a small hank is now drying in the bathroom for me to evaluate tomorrow.

My next step is to lengthen the draft and feed 5cm of yarn onto the bobbin in 2 treadles (revolution s of the drive wheel). In theory I can increase the length of draft and feed depending on the length of fibre I am working with, providing it has 5 crimps per 2.5cm.

I’m not sure what happens if there is more or less crimp, and therefore more or less twist required in 2.5cm. That is my next learning curve.

I may I have made some mistakes and probably over generalised, so welcome comments and advice.


Beware pin pricks

Two weeks ago I poked a pin underneath my left index fingernail, painful, but a common occurrence. I thought nothing of it. Then a week later my finger had become progressively more painful to the touch. I was away from home and didn’t have any antiseptic with me so hoped it would calm down. However the side of the nail went black and the top of my finger – above the last knuckle – became red, swollen and began to throb. ‘Uh oh’, I thought, that looks, and feels, infected.

Once home I applied Magnesium Sulphate, but eventually needed antibiotics to bring it under control. Now my finger has drained and is on the mend, but it was a silly thing I could have avoided. I did the same into my thumb over the weekend, so I was straight to the TCP antiseptic this time.

So learn from my mistake, and remember that it was only a tiny pin prick that led to all that.

Don’t scroll down if you don’t want to see the repairing finger. The bandaged appendage severely hampered my hand knitting and sewing activities and it still catches fibres when knitting as it heals.

Annoyingly this catches on everything, but I am trying hard not to pick at it.

Today is beanie day …

OK, I know it’s now mid January and this is a post about a Christmas gift but I’ve only just got around to finishing it off and getting it online. This is the story of knitting the hat worn in this photo.

December 2018…

I’ve started a beanie hat as a Christmas gift. Its in yarn from my stash, a rather nice airforce blue tweed 90% wool 10% acrylic blend Aran weight yarn. I dithered about the acrylic content I have to say, as I believe one’s toil is best rewarded by natural fibres, but the the colour (and having the yarn to hand), won the day.

The brim should work out to be around 7cm (3″) deep, and I’m going to knit it in a 3 row 2×2 cabled rib, with the shaped crown in stocking stitch. The pattern has been designed for a 61cm (24′) head circumference.

Gosh that doesn’t look very blue, more grey, must be the light. The rib shows though.

The cabled rib is worked on a 3.5mm circular needle, and the crown on a 4.5mm circular needle.

I have a set of those lovely interchangeable KnitPro needles, which means the world is my oyster when using circulars, but because the yarn is quite dark I have decided to use a white Prym triangular pointed circular so its easy to see the stitches. These are also comfortable to work with, and have a strange knob on the point that I quite like.

So far I have cast on 80sts (has to be divisible by 4 for the 4 stitch rib repeat) worked 2 rows rib and 6 repeats of the cable, and then 6 rows straight rib. I used the 2×2 alternate rib cast on recommended by Woolly Wormhead. Its not as stretchy as I had hoped, but looks good. Any stretchy one will do though, don’t beat yourself up about it.

How to work the c2b cable on the rib: Either use a cable needle, or work them as follows: slip the two knit stitches one-by-one knitwise, then insert the left needle from the right into the front of these stitches and slip them back to the left needle. This twists the stitches. Knit them one by one.

How I knitted the hat:

Cast on 80sts, using a stretchy cast on.

Join the round securely in your favourite way; for example work the first stitch, and pull the yarn to tighten the join before working the next stitch, or before working the first round slip the first stitch of the cast-on onto the point of the right needle so that it will be knitted at the end of the first round.

Mark the end of the round with a stitch marker.

Round 1 and 2: (k2, p2) to end.

Round 3: (c2b, p2) to end.

Repeat round 1-3, 5 times.

Round 16-20: (k2, p2) to end.

Round 21: purl.

Move the marker up to the current row.

Now you have the option to work all the stocking stitch in purl, and replace the knit decreases with purl versions, or if like me you find knit faster than purl, this is what I did.

Slip the last stitch to the left needle, and take the yarn to the back between the stitches then slip the stitch back so that the yarn is caught around the stitch. Invert the knitting and working in the opposite direction to former rounds, work the rest of the crown as knit stitches.

Round 22: knit

Continue working as Round 22 until the work measures 20.5cm from edge of rib.

Now to do the shaping.

I worked the first and every fourth round as a decrease round as follows.

First round,: k7, k2tog (70)

Second and third round: k all.

Fourth round: k6, k2tog (60)

Fifth and sixth round: k all.

Continue in this sequence, knitting one less stitch between decreases until 50 stitches on needle. Then work decreases on every second round until 20 stitches remain, finishing with a knit round.

Break yarn leaving a 40cm tail. Thread yarn onto a darning needle and slip the open stitches onto the darning needle. Draw the stitches in and secure the yarn end.

What’s inside ‘Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting’?

Lace knitting – see more about this on my Translating Between Hand and Machine Knitting page, but in brief, yes this is explained in loads of detail, with helpful photos and diagrams, examples and step-by-step instructions.

The book does not include garment patterns, it explains how to knit different stitches by hand and machine, and why some stitches are more suitable for hand and others for machine knitting.