Monday, May 30, 2016

Flagstaff Wool Festival

It's almost time! For the first time I will be participating in the Flagstaff Wool Festival this year. I've been wanting to do it for a few years now, and each time I have gone to it, I have just loved fondling fiber and finding some new and wonderful fibers to add to my inventory from local alpaca and sheep farmers.

The absolutely crazy thing is that I am 8 months pregnant, but I thought it would be easier this year than next. I couldn't do it without a lot of help from my wonderful husband and several of our children who are wonderful at making batts and will be helping at the festival. The 2-year-old may or may not be a lot of help, but he's sure to be cute. :-)

I will be selling my handspun yarn, hand-dyed yarn, premade art batts, and I'll be giving visitors a chance to design their own art batts as well. Figuring out all the little details has been a bit challenging, but I think I have most of it worked out at this point anyway.

If you are in the area, the wool festival info can be found at I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dimension Yarn - A Photo Tutorial

In my last post, I showed you the finished product from my first skein of the new type of art yarn I just came up with, which I'm naming Dimensional Yarn. The thing that makes this yarn unique is that it goes from thin at one end to super bulky at the other end, which makes it possible to make something that's warm where it needs to be warm and lacy where it can be lacy. There's more about this in my last post here:

I thought I'd walk you through how to make the yarn, so below you can find a photo tutorial on that.

First, here's one more photo of the poncho with my daughter modeling it:

It's not that this is a complicated yarn to make. It just requires a bit of planning. Here's how I did it:

I started by making batts from mostly merino with some bamboo and mulberry silk as well as a bit of firestar. In the photo below, I'm removing the batt from the drum carder.

I made two batts totaling 4 ounces together. I divided the first batt into 5 sections and the second batt into just 2 sections. The idea was to have approximately the same length of each weight of yarn. I planned to use the first batt for the finer weights of yarn and the second batt for the bulky and super bulky parts of the skein. Here are some of the sections.

Here I was just starting to spin the finest weight of yarn, which was a sport weight at 16 wraps per inch:
And here I am near the end of the first section:

As I got near the end of each section, I gradually increased the weight of yarn to the join of the next section.

Though I had intended to wait on the bulky yarn until I got to the second batt, in the end, I had increased the diameter a little more quickly than I planned, so sections 4 and 5 were in the bulky range at 8 and 7 wraps per inch respectively.

That meant that by the time I got to the second batt, I would be spinning super bulky yarn. The 6th section was 5-6 wraps per inch, and the final section was really super bulky at 4-5 wraps per inch. Each of those was a whole ounce.

And here is the yarn spread out on my skein winder:

If you're wondering what the funky-looking stuff at the bottom is, it's my teenage son's creation. He took my skein winder and added a Mindstorm robot too it so it spins on its own. Pretty cool, huh?

Later this week, you can expect to find some new Dimensional Yarn in my Etsy shop here:

and on my website here:

Thanks for looking. Happy fiber artistry!

And now for something completely different...Dimensional Yarn

Over the course of the last few weeks, I came up with what I think is a completely new type of art yarn. I am calling it dimensional yarn. There's thick yarn and thin yarn and thick-and-thin yarn but this is more like thin-to-thick yarn. The idea was to make yarn that went from very fine all the way up to bulky or super bulky all in one skein. This particular skein went from sport weight to super bulky. It was a total of 126 yards long and 3.9 ounces.

I tried it, and I liked it. Then I knit it up into a poncho for my daughter, and I loved it!

Here's a photo of the poncho I made for my daughter:

The thing I love is that it goes from tight stitches at the top (the super bulky part) all the way to open and lacy at the bottom. Here's a closeup:

As you can see, there's definitely some thick and thin going on inside each thickness of yarn, especially at the bulky end.

I think the possibilities for this new kind of art yarn are nearly endless, but I mostly envision using it for knitting things like this poncho that I knit in the round or for triangle shawls--items that have a top and a bottom to show off the different sizes of yarn.

I used 24-inch size-19 circular needles to knit this, but next time I might even go up to size 25 or beyond. FYI, I used a free pattern from Nine Rubies for this project. Here's a link to her pattern:

If you wanted something that showed off the variation in yarn but wanted to keep the same stitch tightness, you could also change needle sizes as you went.

In my next post, I'll be making a tutorial showing how you can make this yarn yourself if you like. If you'd prefer to purchase it, I expect to be making several skeins for my shop in the next few weeks, starting with some from these lovely spring rainbow batts that I plan to start spinning today.

P.S. If you decide to make some of your own, I would just ask that you mention Purple Lamb as the original creator of this type of yarn.
Happy fiber artistry!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Rainbow of Colors

I couldn't wait to share the beautiful rainbow of colors that is my first order from Ashland Bay. I was delighted to see that all their wool is sourced from the UK, including the organic polwarth that came from the Falkland Islands.

I got right to work on my new Purple Iris batts here: They look like this:
 ...and were inspired by this:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Ashland Bay!

I have a bit of news I'd like to share. I've been using Ashland Bay fibers for years. I keep coming back to their fibers because they have unparalleled quality and consistent dye colors for their fibers.

I just got approved as a retailer for their wonderful merino and other fibers. I just placed my first order today. Now I just have to figure out exactly where I'm going to put about 45 pounds of fiber!

Friday, February 19, 2016

New website &15% Off Sale

I am really excited to announce the creation of my new website at It includes everything I have in my Etsy shop ( as well as a feed of this blog and lots of other great information.

My Etsy shop isn't going anywhere, but now you can choose to visit Purple Lamb in either locale.

In celebration of the new website, I'm offering 15% off everything in both places when you purchase at least $15, so come take a look!

The coupon code is NEWSITE15, and it can be used through Sunday, February 21st, at either or

Happy fiber artistry!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Knitting with Handspun Yarn - A Guest Post from Sandy of Indigo Kitty Knits

Many thanks to Sandy of IndigoKittyKnits for agreeing be a guest blogger here at Purple Lamb. She's talking about knitting with handspun yarn and has lots of great ideas to share.

Here's Sandy:

I’d like to thank Carla for very kindly inviting me to write a guest post on her blog.  She asked me to discuss knitting with handspun yarns.

We knitters love them, don’t we?  There are so many gorgeous kinds to choose from or spin yourself.  Have you ever looked at a beautiful handspun and wondered how to use it?  Or knit up a project and been disappointed with the result?  It’s maddening to start with a beautiful and perhaps expensive hand spun yarn and end up with something that looks terrible.

The most important factor in working with handspun yarn is pattern choice.  The right pattern will show off the yarn. Choose the wrong one, and your finished product may look like a dishcloth.

Chunky Headband, Hand Knit Headband, Headband, Wool Headband, Blue Headband, Blue Wool Headband, Blue Knit Headband, Hand Spun Headband
Handspun and Hand Knit Headband from Indigo Kitty Knits
In a project using handspun, the yarn is the star.  The perfect pattern lets it shine.  Chose the simplest pattern you can find.  Think garter stich, seed stitch and drop stitch to let the yarn take center stage.

Single Ply Yarns/Art Yarns
Your first yarns will probably be fairly lumpy – those pretty thick and thin types.  Smooth bulky and super bulky single ply yarns are included in this group too. I am absolutely in love with these. They show the colors in big glorious chunks and are very eye catching.  They knit up quickly, and we all love instant gratification.  The most important thing with these is to make something that will not get much wear or rubbing.  They will pill or even break if they get too much contact because they are not very strong yarns.  They are best in small projects like headbands or small cowls.  Be sure to experiment with needle size. These look their best on bigger needles!  Here is a nice headband pattern for handspun:

You can hold these yarns with another lightweight yarn to increase their strength without having to ply them.  Try a fingering weight yarn for strength without a lot of bulk.

Handspun Yarn - BIRD OF PARADISE - Extreme Squishy Bulky Thick and Thin Soft Handspun Yarn - 3.8 ounces and 108 yards - Merino and Silk
An Example of a Single-Ply Thick and Thin Handspun Yarn from Purple Lamb
Plied Yarns
These are a lot more versatile.  They can take much more wear, and are great for things like fingerless mitts and scarves.  If you have enough you can even use them for a large project like a sweater.

Soft Handspun Yarn - PEACH BLOSSOM - Silk, Alpaca, Merino Yarn - 3.5 ounces and 100 yards - made to order
Peach Blossom: An Example of a Two-Ply Yarn from Purple Lamb

Color is a critical factor.  You may have a barber pole, a gradient or a tonal yarn, or even a solid color yarn.
Barber pole yarns are so much fun.  You can knit them on their own or hold them with another yarn.  Try a contrasting yarn to make them really sing or pick a color you want to emphasize and make the second yarn the same or a coordinating color.

Gradient yarns are harder to find and spin – they take a lot of fiber prep, but if you have one look for a shawl or scarf pattern that will emphasize the color progression.  Hats that gradually change color as they move to the top of the head are gorgeous.  Mitts done in gradient yarns are striking, and I like them to coordinate rather than match.  For example, make the color change go the opposite ways on each hand.
Here is a quick and easy mitt pattern perfect for bulky plied handspun yarns.  If you don’t have a bulky yarn, hold your handspun together with itself or another yarn. 

One-color and tonal yarns are the most versatile. You can do just about anything with them.If you have a yarn that you are simply not in love with, don’t throw it out.  Try holding it with another yarn, or more than one.  A second yarn can smooth out color effects that you don’t love, hide uneven  textures, or enhance certain colors you want to emphasize.  To get an idea of how it will look, simply twist the two yarns together.  If you like the look, knit a small sample or begin the project.  You can always rip it out if you don’t like it.  Black, white, gray and brown can be good choices for this second yarn.  Try using a related color, like purple with a pink hand spun yarn. 

I’m a big believer in holding handspun with other yarns.  I often split a skein of handspun in two and hold the two yarns together to get a thicker yarn.  It’s easier for me to bulk up a yarn to suit a pattern than to do the math to change the pattern.  I also often hold two commercial yarns together, it adds interest with plain yarns and I hate doing boring math to make patterns work, when I can just pick up another pretty ball of yarn!  You can see lots of examples of these projects in my Etsy shop.
Brown Infinity Scarf, Brown Wool Cowl, Pink Wool Cowl, Hand Knit Infinity Scarf, Hand Knit Pink Cowl, Pink Infinity Scarf, Pink Wool Scarf
An example of a gorgeous cowl made with multiple yarns from Indigo Kitty Knits

There are almost always leftovers aren’t there?  There are lots of ways they can be used.
They can be combined with other yarns (handspun or not) in a striped project.  Use coordinated colors to keep things from getting too crazy, or go wild!  I prefer wild myself.  A cowl knit sideways and finished with a 3 needle bind off is a great idea for these yarns.  Vertical stripes are always flattering!

Another idea is to ply them or simply hold them together with another yarn (or two) to bulk them up and make them go farther.  You can use commercial or hand dyed yarn, or another handspun yarn.  Keep these projects small so you’ll have plenty of yarn. You can use them to tie on gift tags or care labels.
Wrap gifts with them.  Try wrapping a gift for a woman in a pretty dish towel and tie it all together with some handspun yarn.  It’s very eye catching!

I hope you’ve got a few new ideas about using handspun after reading this post.  I’d love to hear about other ways you knit handspun or use up leftover bits.  

Sandy Kemp is a fiber artist living in the Midwest with three daughters, one husband and a large clowder of cats.

Find her on Ravelry as IndigoKittyKnits.