Interested in Mohair or Wool roving? Well we have you covered. Find it in our online store.
It’s summertime. It’s hot. It’s sticky. The last thing you want to do is knit. And when it is so hot outside, you may not be thinking about doing anything with your yarn.
I know that I don’t want to spend anytime outside in the humid hot air. My hair doesn’t act right, I am sweating. My clothes are sticking to me. Instead I want to be inside. I want to be in the air conditioned house.
So what could be better than using my knitting time to fall in love with my yarn collection all over again. How about you? If you’ve been following this blog or subscribing to this newsletter over a few months, you probably know that I’m banishing the word STASH from my vocabulary and I’m trying to persuade you to do the same. I want to think of my yarn as a collection that I’ve curated over some time.
I’ve developed a series of 7 lessons to help you banish the shame of stash and relish all the gems that you have collected over the years. This free e-course will lead you from exploring what you have, to clearing out what you have outgrown, and rehoming those items that no longer bring you joy.
Summer is a perfect time of year for you to go through this work. You will be ready for the fall fiber festivals. You will receive a lesson each week with instructions and ideas for organizing your collection of yarn, patterns, needles and notions.
I’ve included downloadable documents as well. You can join our Ravelry group, where we will be talking about our collections and sharing ideas and photos with the hashtag #collectioncurator. I hope you will join me on this journey by clicking here to start falling in love with your yarn all over again.
“I’m just learning, so I’m going to use cheap yarn/roving until I know what I’m doing. I don’t want to waste it.”
I hear those words all the time in my spinning and knitting classes. I even said it myself when I was learning how to knit socks. Before I had the yarn business, I wanted to knit socks, everyone was doing it. So I went to a craft store and bought yarn and needles and the book “My first socks” or something like that. I knit and knit and knit. I was just about to the heel, when I met Ellen. We roomed together at a SOAR retreat in 2007. She saw my sock and said, “You need to get good sock yarn. That yarn will just not do.” So at the vendor booths the next day I bought a skein of really teeny sock yarn. I was totally scared. I had to buy smaller (#1) double pointed needles, too. Ellen shepherded me through the casting on of 62 stitches and making the K2P1 ribbing. But that was as far as I got that weekend. At home I again reached the heel. Ellen coached me online and I was able to get through the instructions for the short rows of the heel. I could pick up the stitches easily and finish up that first sock. I cast on the other sock and soon completed that sock. What I learned was that Ellen was right. The socks turned out so well. I was kept engaged because the hand dyed colors kept changing through the socks. Yes, making those socks was more enjoyable. The colors were better. The end product was actually wearable, not 6 sizes too big.
Since that time, I tell my students to use the “good stuff”. It is like taking out that silver and china and using it! Don’t save it for “later” and never, ever use it. Enjoy what you have! Don’t deprive yourself until you are a better knitter or crocheter or spinner. Use it today! Because if you don’t and continue use the wrong yarn or roving, you may just give up before you get to be a better knitter (spinner or crocheter). It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. And you will think to yourself, thank god I didn’t use the good stuff when I had no business even trying to learn to ____ (fill in the blank with spin, knit, crochet). So pull out that beautiful yarn, buy that gorgeous roving and USE IT!!
P.S. I love those socks and wear them every year.
The theme of FGF blog this year is a celebration of your stash. I want you to get to know what is in your stash. I want you to be able to make good decisions about which yarn should be used for which project. So I will be writing about the types of fibers and what kinds of patterns and projects will match the yarn you have. You will find information about animal fibers, plant fibers, and fiber blends of all kinds. I also want you to know how to most effectively use your hand dyes and semi-solids.
So this month WOOL is the topic. It is a fascinating, diverse fiber that can be used for so many different kinds of projects.
So let’s start at the beginning. Even if you know a lot about wool, I hope you will learn something new! I learn new things about wool all the time.
Wool is the fiber from a sheep. Duh, right? Well, there are people who call any animal fiber wool. But that isn’t accurate. There are over a thousand breeds of sheep and each breed has wool that is characteristic for that breed. Then there are crosses of those purebreds and their wool is a combination of the breeds that they come from.
Wool characteristics are classified by the variables of crimp, staple length, fiber diameter and the mix of fibers within the wool. Crimp is the zig-zaggy nature of the wool. Fleeces with a lot of crimp tend to be softer next to the skin. This is because when the fiber touches a barrier, like your skin, the fiber will bend and not feel prickly on your skin. Crimpy yarns are also more elastic yarns, so they are great to use for items where elasticity is important like hats or socks. Crimpy yarns also tend to be from fine wool sheep.
Staple length is the typical length of each fiber. It usually represents one year’s growth for sheep. Shorter staple lengths can give a yarn that will pill, since it may not be twisted well enough in the yarn. However, longer staple lengths can at times yield a coarser yarn. Fleeces that are in the range of 4-6 inches are usually the easiest to make into a nice soft yarn.
Fiber diameter is measured in microns. A micron is one millionth of a meter. Some producers measure micron counts for their fleeces. Micron counts are done on a 2 inch sample of the best fiber (shoulder area) of the animal. The report shows a graph of all the different fibers in that sample and what most people talk about it the AVERAGE micron count. What you need to know is that 2 fleeces could have the same average micron count and yet FEEL different. One could still feel softer than the other even though the average fiber diameter is the same. This is because the blend of fibers within those samples is different.
The last variable for wool is the mix of fibers within that fleece. Every fleece is made up of diverse fibers. However there are many breeds that are called double coated, where there are 2 very distinct fibers within that fleece. One maybe more hair like and the other a soft downy undercoat. Some breeds also have kemp fibers in their wool. These are hollow fibers that are shorter, coarser and more brittle. They take dye differently so can give the wool a heathery, tweedy look.
When buying a fleece, roving or yarn, you can use these variables to make your purchasing decisions. You can pull out a small sample or just look at the ends of the roving or yarn. You can “eyeball” the fiber. Does it look fine? Can you see any crimp in the individual fibers? Can you see some fibers that are significantly different? And finally, how does it feel? Put it next to your neck. Is it soft enough to wear next to your skin? If not, is it the kind of yarn that you would want to make a sweater or other outerwear item? Or is it something that you would want to spin and weave into a rug, pillow or other home decor item.
What do you have in your stash? Is there yarn there that you bought because you loved the color but now you think is just too coarse? I have a few skeins in this category that I purchased over the years. If so pull these out, look at them and put them into a separate boxes marked wool–outerwear or wool-home decor.
Tell me what you found in your stash. What have you been collecting?
Here are some of the wonderful gifts that would be perfect for the spinner in your life.
1. Spanish Peacock spindle–This craftsman makes the most beautiful spindles in many different styles: top whorl, bottom whorl and supported. Check out his gallery to find a great gift for the spinner you love.
2. Sarah Anderson’s book– Have you always wanted to spin cocoons and boucle? This book is informative and stunningly beautiful.
3. A cup holder for a spinning wheel–This is definitely for the spinner who has everything! I found it at The Woolery.
4. Gradient dyed roving–One of my guilty pleasures is buying wonderful roving to spin, even though I can dye it myself. Melissa at Wild Hare Fiber Studio dyes wonderful gradients that are so fun to spin. Check out her latest offerings here.
5. A blending board by Clemes and Clemes is a really fun tool to have. The spinner you love can use it to make unique color and fiber blends.
6. Spinner’s Control Card–This tool is great for the spinner who is working to make different weights of yarn. With it, a spinner can check the weight of their yarn. It will make a good stocking stuffer! You can find it here.
7. An art batt or two! You can make unique and beautiful yarns with an art batt. There are lots of ETSY makers. One of my favorites is JazzTurtle. You can find her shop here.
8. A McMorran balance–This is another great tool for a handspinner. With it you can measure how many yards per pound your yarn is. This measure will let you calculate the yardage you have made as well as help you to translate your handmade yarn into commercial yarn lingo, such as sport or worsted weights. I found it at The Woolery.
9. Subscription to Ply Magazine–This magazine is merely 2 years old. I love the photos and the information presented. The articles are written by a wide array of spinners. A gift subscription will be enjoyed all year!
10. A gift certificate to FGF–We have wonderful natural colored and dyed rovings for the spinner you love. If you don’t know which one might be most loved, give him or her a gift certificate and let them pick.
What’s on your wish list? Please share your favorite gift idea for a spinner in the comments!