Friday, 9 June 2017

Spinning and Knitting Space Dyed Wool Tops

"Of all the dyed tops you could have chosen, from all the stalls at Wonderwool Wales, tell me, what possessed you to pick that grey and brown?"
My companion, Elinor Gotland, was more partial to the hot pink stuff also dyed and sold by MandaCraftsWhile its colours may be subtler, my purchase was an exquisitely soft blend of fine merino wool with an added sheen of silk.

"I was thinking of making something for my nephew. Secure as he is in his own masculinity, I don't suppose he would get too much wear out of your selection. Plumbers can get away with fancy tattoos, but maybe not pink woolly scarves." Leaving Elinor among the daisies, I hastened away to start spinning. 
The quality of this fibre was not the only reason for my excitement. Last year, I bought a Schacht Reeves spinning wheel from a friend who had found it didn't suit a left handed spinner. Meeting up at Wonderwool, I had to confess the wheel had spent the winter decorating my hall, with me too nervous to use it. Returning home I felt shamed into plucking up the necessary courage.
After fiddling about a bit to find its sweet spot, the Schacht was spinning like a dream, gentle treadling putting in a huge amount of twist which enabled me to spin a far finer single than I usually manage on Roger, my Ashford Traveller. Spinning short forward draw, back and forth across the top of the opened braid, the bobbin filled with pure colour bands and gentle transitions.
The dyed sections of the braid were closely spaced and I noticed that as I drafted across each change, individual fibres had one part of their staple length in one colour and one part in the next. Fascinating to watch the gradual shift in tone along the single, I kept stopping to admire the bobbin. In order to make a yarn that preserved this flow, I set to Navajo plying. After washing the yarn, while loving the colours and proud of the fingering weight 3 ply spinning, the finished skein did not feel as luxuriously smoochy as I had imagined. In retrospect, spinning any fibre worsted with quite such high twist would be bound to reduce its softness.
While spinning, I had been wondering how best to show off my medium/short length colour changes. In stocking stitch, even the width of a small scarf would barely get one whole row in each colour and the transitions would not be long enough to separate the stripes. The mitred square knitting technique is clearly explained in the free pattern for The Coziest Memory blanket.
Very straightforward to knit, though time consuming in fingering weight yarn on number 11 needles. I could manage about two little squares while watching TV of an evening. "See, Elinor, how beautiful grey and brown can be. Look at the way each square holds its own colour transitions."
"Fair play, Beaut, nice square. Shame you won't have enough yarn to make that scarf."
Aaaagh, she was quite right, damn her. 
The garter stitch squares were also yarn consuming and one sixteen square block had used up more than half my fibre. I tore the remaining braid of fibre across its width into three equal lengths and spun them onto three bobbins, then plied all three together. No attempt to keep the colours together, the result of this experiment would show what blending random chance might bring.
Each of the little squares was 23 stitches across. I cast on 92 + 92 stitches and knitted one big square, carrying on with grey Shetland yarn when I ran out toward the top right corner. The outer edges of the square held quite distinct colours and rather lovely mottled transitions, while the colours had been variably blended in plying the yarn that knitted the inner part. The overall effect is more muted than that given by Navajo plying, with much longer, slower colour changes. 
"I do like the colours on this side, but I think the big square has something of an abstract pointilliste painting."
"Art, is it? Best ring the Royal Academy and tell them to hold a space in the Summer Exhibition."
"Don't be such a hardarse, Elinor. You can see very well that I've crocheted the pieces together and stuffed them to make a cushion."
"Just as well you spun that fibre into a death twist, Beaut. At least the yarn is tough enough to cope with a hard arse."


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks. I was delighted with the fibre.

    2. A friend at Guild showed me your cushion and pointed me at the blog. It is beautiful, and yes a perfect use for a high twist yarn, it will last for years!

  2. hm, that ewe.... but I have to admit that I'd prefer her choice of colour, too:) it's a pity that the yarn didn't turn out quite as soft as you had imagined, but of course Elinor is right with her pillow comment:) what are your plans for the pink?

    1. A friend showed me a pattern for a crocheted scarf of flowers and I was thinking of the pinks for that ... my smallest niece is in love with pink, so possibly something for her ... an impulse buy - again.