Spinning a balanced yarn

The fleece I am working with is not brilliant, but I am using it to practise making a balanced, soft spun woollen yarn for knitting. To do this I read up on Mabel Ross’ method, and with a little tweaking to suit my preferred yarn handle, it worked!

Mabel Ross worked it out for us and it is quite logical really. You do need to know your wheel’s ratios, work consistently with your draft and count your treadling to start with, so if thats not your style, don’t go there.

I was aiming for around 2tpi in the finished yarn, but actually increased this a little after the first samples.

The equation is to do with spinning the singles at the tpi you want and then plying them to get the final tpi you want. Its really helpful to remember that if you spin your singles Z, when you ply them S you will be unwinding some of the single’s twist. (update- I have subsequently spun some yarn at a much higher tpi using a 1:10 whorl that has come out soft after a similarly balancing plying method. Maybe I’m getting it…)

I worked backwards from my 2tpi goal.

For example: I was working with a 1:6 whorl, therefore one revolution of my wheel would turn the bobbin 6 times. I was spinning ‘Z’ twist with a long draw of 12″.

First of all I needed to know how many treadles to the 12″ draft would give me the tpi I required. Yes I know I’ve muddled metric and imperial, but it still works.

Number of treadles = (required tpi x planned draft length)/ divided by wheel ratio (which i know will be 6)

tpi of my singles = tpi of my plied yarn divided by number of plies

II reckoned that if I want 2tpi in the plied yarn, I needed to spin the singles at around 4tpi.

The equation I worked with using MR method to find out how many treadles I needed to a set draft length was:

tpi = (wheel ratio x treadles)/divided by draft length.

Go back to the earlier question of how many treadles?

Number of treadles = (required tpi x planned draft length)/ divided by wheel ratio (which i know will be 6)

which came out as

tpi (4) x draft (12″) = 48/6 = 8.

So 8 treadles using the 1:6 whorl to a 12′ draft should give me 4tpi. in my singles…

Well I wrote this post a while ago, and since then have done some spinning. It was not successful, way to soft and loose spun for my taste, but a balanced yarn – no twisting and it knits without bias.

I upped singles tpi a little and also the ply by a smaller amount and the yarn improved. and stayed balanced! A lesson learned.

Plein-aire spinning

A bit like outdoor anything – providing its not raining or freezing – spinning is enhanced by the open-air. I took my little Louet wheel with me whilst on holiday on the Pembroke coast recently. We were being careful and avoiding towns etc in our caravan sitting on a farm, so there was plenty of opportunity to spin in the lovely sunshine. It seems ages ago now, but was so refreshing.

Victoria beside the caravan, enjoying the view.

I took a bag full of mixed colour Jacob’s fleece and sorted it into dark and light before hand carding it. Ifirst of all spun a skein of cream to test the tpi and grist I was aiming at and on a rainy day decided to dye it with the onion skins from our soup.

All very earthy!

I can’t resist a marl yarn, so plied the colours into variations on this.

From left: knot or knop marl, slubby marl, onion dyed 2 ply, chain plied random carded colours

Sourdough bake-fest

I’m going to a small garden-gathering, and taking some food along. Sourdough bread was the obvious choice, so I checked out some new recipes as I wanted to make baguettes and a rustic style Rye loaf.

I chose the baguette and Rye recipes from baking sense.com. These use a ‘levain’ to start the dough which I like to do if I have time

Sourdough Rye Bread

Years ago I bought 4 baguette trays at great expense, so these were going to come in useful. After discovering I’d run out of Rye flour, a quick dash to the local shop was needed. Breathless but successful I started to prep my starters.

I had already halved my 100% hydrated starter and increased my normal feeding schedule to make a starter that would allow 250g for the baguettes, and 100g left to carry on with. I used Rye to feed the other half to a total of 300g.

The baguette starter was ready before the Rye one, so I kneaded the dough but then left it in the fridge for 2 days. The Rye starter was ready the next day, but was ‘held’ in the fridge so that I could work the two doughs concurrently. On the third day – which was very warm, I made the Rye dough early in the morning, and left it to prove until the late afternoon. Meanwhile I removed the baguette dough from the fridge and let it warm to room temperature.

The four baguettes were shaped first, and set to prove whilst I shaped the Rye into two rustic cobs with caraway seeds on top.

The baguettes were ready to bake at 10pm and the Rye went into the oven directly after.

We ate one baguette because the smell was irresistible and it is deliciously tasty with a great chewy texture.

The the remaining baguettes and a Rye cob loaf

First ‘in person’ TAG meeting of 2021

Our local Textile Arts Group (TAG), finally managed to meet today. Eight of us met up with Covid secure arrangements and as the weather was sunny we were in fact able to sit outside the hall to spin, knit and talk.

It was lovely, and everyone has been busy learning new things and perfecting their skills during lockdown.

Wheels all going madly
Natural dyed fibre

I took my Louet Victoria folding wheel and spun up a bag of Suffolk fibre that will be used as the core for a fancy yarn.

New members are always welcomed. If you live near Brighton and like to know more, or would like to come for a taster session, do get in touch.

With good weather, fleece washing starts…

Although I promised myself not to get any more fleece until I had emptied my cupboard, I’ve cheated . Well only a bit. Over the winter I have used a lot up, but not all of it!

Having been to Herefordshire and seen the Ryeland sheep sculpture in Leominster I read up about the Ryeland breed and wanted to try a fleece. From what I understand the Ryeland was one of the breeds that can from the Romans crossing their imported Merino sheep with local British breeds. This is probably why they look like Teddy Bears with dense fleece. This breed was instrumental in the success of the British wool trade in the Middle Ages and after, which laid the foundations for wealth in Britain, especially in Herefordshire. Fascinating stuff!

The Old Market hall. Tenbury Wells.
Sculpture of a Ryeland sheep in Leominster.

The long and the short of it is that I now have a Ryeland fleece to play with. I sorted out today and have started to wash it with promising results. Not to much VM, but a bit yellowed – the name for this escapes me right now, is it ‘yoked’? I’m guessing its last years crop.

You can see a staple in the photo, and i’ll post once I start spinning. I plan to spin Long Draw, ply and then to dye it.

Washed Ryeland staple. Its about 3.5 inches when straight, but is quite crimpy. Yummy.

Singer 401g

A while ago I posted about this new acquisition. I’ve not been able to use it much recently as I have two knitting machines up. I’m busy writing my latest book on machine knitting which has to take priority.

Before going any further I must point out that the machine now had been rewired and has a new for pedal, so is not as precariously wired as in the photo any longer.

However, I need to plant out my tomato plants and have to make grow bags for them, so it out came! I’d forgotten how great it is to sew with. It went through six layers of hessian without batting an eyelid. The big ‘but’ was that I had forgotten it’s little foibles.

When start a seam on my Bernina I go forward, back and then sew the seam. Singer-babe is different, she needs special measures. To prevent that worrying sounds of jammed threads in the bobbin and a jammed feed, I’ve learned to drop the foot 1cm or so into the seam, sew backwards and then go forward. The manual clearly explains this point, but who reads manuals? Once I remembered this, all went well.

I’m still annoyed that I can’t get her to use metal bobbins. Plastic ones were in the box when I got the machine, and I really dislike these. So I invested in several metal ones to fit, but they don’t work well at all. I’ve adjusted bottom and top tensions to try to get a good stitch, not nothing works. So it’s back to the plastic ones before they all go out the window.

Anyone else have this problem, or have any advice to offer?

UPDATE. May 2021


I the problem I was having with the bobbin was that the thread was not looking over the bobbin, but catching around it instead. I found a video by Andy Tube on You Tube which explained how to check the thread gap on the bobbin case, which prompted me to check mine. Oh yes, it was way out.

I can see how this happens; the black spring that holds the bobbin case in place has a tempting little finger that looks as if it should be used to lift the spring up. BUT DON’T. That is clearly one of the ways it can get out of line. So with the help of a feeler gauge and Andy’s helpful video I think I have largely fixed the problem.

Andy suggested that the bobbin case might be worn, and that also might be contributing to the thread dropping underneath. So I have ordered a new one. After all, it is probably 50 years old, ( this machine was made in the late 1950 early 60s. Maybe it’s had a new bobbin case in that time, but maybe it hasn’t!

I still haven’t solved why the zig zag stitch missed sometimes, that is my next challenge.

UPDATE July 2021


Ok another update.

I think the zig zag daily is because the needle arm is slightly out of line. Another Andy Tube video shows how to fix this, so that my next challenge.

Old photo finds and what we learn and remember

My brother sent me photo of a photo he found of our Dad. It is such a lovely photo of him I felt it was worth spending a bit of time editing the rather hasty phone photo into a more attractive format.

I guess Dad was about 20 in this photo, and was wearing his signature tweed jacket even at that age. He fought in the Second World War, and was stationed in Hong Kong and captured when the Japanese overran it on Christmas day 1941. After being kept prisoner in Shamshuipo Camp he was sent to Shanghai in the following Autumn on the Lisbon Maru along with 1816 other prisoners.

Major ‘Pip’ Bucke

The Lisbon Maru was torpedoed by U.S.S. Grouper on 30th September 1942. This mistaken was apparently because the ship did not display any indication of carrying POWs – it would have been normal practise to displayed some sign to prevent such disasters. Of these men, only 973 survived the sinking of the ship – 46% (843) of the prisoners died by some means or other.

Eventually the Japanese soldiers were transferred to another ship (taking all the lifeboats with them) and the prisoners battened down into the holds, and effectively left to drown. It was only their own resourcefulness that enabled some to escape, but a skeleton crew of guards shot those who tried to leave the hold until enough emerged to overpower them. Those prisoners who entered the water were not picked up by the Japanese naval boats until much, much later. This was after many had drowned, some pushed back into the water even if they managed to get on to a military boat, and some seemed to have been shot at.

Meanwhile local fishermen realised that the men in the water were POWs and set out to help them. Japanese fishermen’s families apparently treated those they rescued (around 200) with kindness and even arranged for three to escape.

Even after the Japanese navy reluctantly rescued the remaining POWs, they did not give them succour, but left the wet, exhausted and sick men on the deck so that some died of exposure. Luckily my Dad survived, and was shipped to Shanghai, and then to a prison camp where he spent the remainder of the war in the East. He kept some records, and wrote about his ordeal from memory, and it is a harrowing read. He did not talk to us about it, and it is only since his death that we have learned much of his story.

Like most survivors of such horrors, he was physically and emotionally scarred for the rest of his life.

References:

http://www.theroyalscots.co.uk/lisbon-maru/

https://www.cofepow.org.uk/hell-ships-casualties-list/lisbon-maru-full-list

The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru, Tony Baham

bbc lison maru

Prepping for online natural dye workshop on Friday

I’m practising my red cabbage dye recipes for Friday because if anything can go wrong it will. At least if I test the recipes it’s only likely to be the technology that glitches.

Red cabbage dye bath
Red cabbage with vinegar
A weak madder bath for a pale peach

Ha ha!


Friday p.m. update
Wow, I think that went well! My camera man was brilliant, he cued me to face one of the 3 cameras he was using according to the best view, and even made me a coffee!

We started with onion skins because as a substantive dye everyone could use these even if they had not mordanted their wool yarn. Some people used red skins only and got an olivey green whilst I used mixed and got a dark gold. Interestingly I popped a 50/50 acrylic wool skein in and got a brilliant yellow.

Second dye was another substantive material – avocado skins and pits. Some people mixed them, but I kept then separate. I soaked both overnight, in fact the pits were so hard I had to cook them overnight on a slow cooker in order to soften then enough to be able to chop them up and release more colour as they continued to cook this morning.

I added ammonia to the avocado skins as they soaked. I read somewhere that this develops the colour well – but maybe that was pits? The colour from the skins was a yellowy mid peach, and from the pits was a pinky deep peach.

Dyes four, five and six were red cabbage. But itself as for, but five had ammonia added to make it green whilst six had citric acid added to make it lilacy pink.

I have never had such great colours from cabbage before! Stunning, if fugitive as they will fade over time. I chopped half a large cabbage very small, layered it with 4 tablespoons of salt and covered it with water. Then cooked it to the boil and left it to soak overnight. Fab results!

The dark blues are amazing! See below…

Left to right: avocado pits, red cabbage X3, red cabbage and ammonia, red cabbage and vinegar, dip dyed blue red cabbage, onionskin and turmeric X2, onionskin 50/50 wool/acrylic, onion skins, avocado skins.,

I’m now soaking some fleece in mordant to use up the red cabbage baths tomorrow. Plus have dyed 4 hanks of handspun wool/alpaca in the onionskin and avocado baths.