Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Coupon

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I have so many pictures waiting on my camera to share from all the fiber fun, but for now I will limit myself to one short comment:

For the 12 Days of Christmas, I'm offering free shipping for any purchases over $15 on my shop that are shipped within the United States.  The coupon code is "12DAYS" for the 12 Days of Christmas.  The coupon is good through the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Revamped Etsy Shop

This is just a quick post to let everyone know that I have revamped my Etsy shop.  I'm now sorting all my yarns by weight rather than handspun versus hand-dyed millspun yarn.  My goal is to make it easy for knitters, crocheters, and weavers to easily find the kind of yarn they need for a project they are planning.

I also just took several favorite yarns off Etsy.  I'm going to be weaving a nursing poncho for myself as I have a baby due in a few months.  I'm still in the planning stages, which always takes me awhile, but here's what I'm thinking.  I want it to be very lightweight so it can be worn year around.  I'll definitely be using some solid purple laceweight lamb's wool yarn.  I'm also going to use this laceweight bamboo and superwash wool blend that I dyed:

Monet's Waterlilies
It's called Monet's Waterlilies, and the yarn is an incredibly light laceweight at about 32 wraps per inch.  The purple laceweight is close at 28 wraps.  I don't have a picture of it handy, but when we were in Maine a couple years ago, I bought a whole bunch of mill ends of this same yarn.  It's very soft, and I've used it as the warp for several scarves, and it has behaves very nicely.

Here's my dilemma:  I'm a little concerned that I won't have quite enough of Monet's Waterlilies to complete the project.  I calculate that I need 954 yards of warp, and since I'll be doing plain weave on my rigid heddle, I should need very close to that amount in weft.  However, I have 962 yards of Monet's Waterlilies, which is a little close for comfort, especially with this fine laceweight yarn.  Therefore I have decided to add a third yarn to both the warp and weft that's I'll be using somewhere between every 12th and 24th warp and every 12th and 24th weft, thus making squares of a thicker yarn.  I'm trying to decide between these 2 yarns for those squares:



I like the Primavera better.  It's a soft mohair boucle that is DK weight, and Monet's Waterlilies has all those colors in it.  However, I'm afraid the boucle might take over the whole piece, and since the colors are a little deeper it might all be a little too much.  The Sapphires yarn, which is a very soft alpaca, would be a safer choice for sure and less likely to be too prominent within the entire woven piece.  However, well, it's not like me to go with the safer choice.  Still, I want this to be a piece I can wear for years, and I've had a few occasions when I've added one too many elements to something I'm weaving and regretted it.

Oh--in case you're wondering the reason I want to use this yarn in both the warp and the weft is that this particular poncho is made with two 38" long pieces that are put together side to side, so the vertical axis on one will be the horizontal axis on the other when I'm all done.

What do you think?  Which one should I go with? 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Making Gelato

I decided that for once I would take photos of all the steps of spinning while I was working on "Gelato," my latest yarn.  Because I'm expecting a baby, I decided that it would be better safe than sorry and I'd take a 9-month hiatus from dyeing.  I know that lots of people do dye yarn while pregnant, and I'm probably just being overly protective, but better safe than sorry.  That means I'm not really starting at the beginning.  I'm not starting with a fleece that I wash and clean and dye.  I'm really starting in the middle.

I bought a variety of mostly autumn-colored merino top made by Ashland Bay.  Next, my 11-year-old daughter and I spent a long time deciding which luscious colors to spin first.  We decided on a combination that looked like all the wonderful fruit-colored gelato from a gelateria here:

One of the things I've always noticed is that the colors look brighter before being spun, and the colors look softer after spinning them together.

Next, we took some time to weigh out the colors so that the finished skein would be a standard 3.5 ounce/100 gram skein.  In addition to the merino top, I added some gorgeous soft white silk.

Does the adage about neat desks and empty minds apply to fiber art studios as well?  I hope so!

After that, we took the drum carder to the kitchen so we could be in the midst of everyone.  That's something I love about spinning and weaving--I can do it right in the midst of my big family and all the activity that goes on.

My drum carder makes batts of about 1 ounce each, so I knew I would have to make 4 batts to spin 3.5 ounces.  My daughter and I took each color and divided it into equal lengths and then started lining them up in order on the counter--spice, begonia, yellow, chartreuse, silk, spice, begonia, yellow, chartreuse, silk, etc.  Then we took turns loading the carder, turning the crank, and using a handy dog brush to smooth down the fiber.  Here's the drum carder with 1 layer of each color:

And here it is after we took off the skein:

I didn't think to take a picture of this, but my favorite method for taking batts off the drum carder is to use a long nail to separate the circle of the batt and then use 2 chop sticks, one on each side of the batt.  I roll them together to take it off.  That seems to get more of the batt of the carder than other methods I've tried.You can see here how the colors still look quite bright but not as bright as they did before they were blended together.  I just carded each batt once, by the way.

After carding everything, I got to start my favorite part--spinning:

From the picture, it looks like I use a long draw, but in fact I just held my hand out so the yarn would be more visible.  I actually use a short backward draw most of the time.  You can just see my Lendrum wheel a little bit in the picture and lots of feet.  I think we were all watching a movie while I was spinning.  Much of my yarn is bulky and thick and thin and, well, artsy.  With this one, I decided to spin it fine to see if I still remembered how and even so that the colors rather than the texture would be the focus.

After I finished spinning, I couldn't decide whether to ply it or not, so I used my umbrella skeiner to skein it so I could decide.  I had originally planned to ply it, so I added extra twist to untwist while plying, but once it was done I liked it as a single ply.  Here it is on the umbrella skeiner:

After I took it off the umbrella skeiner, I saw that it did in fact have too much twist to make a good single.  You can never have a completely balanced single-ply yarn, but it's possible to come close.  This wasn't it, so I went back to the original plan of plying it.  I used my ball winder to take unskein it here:

And then I plied it:

I'm glad I did, though the single was nice too.  Since I know exactly how much of each color I used, I may recreate it as a single someday.  To ply from a center-pull ball, you just take both ends of the ball.  The advantage compared to using 2 different bobbins is that you always end up using all the yarn.

Here it is back on the umbrella skeiner again.  I make a square knot where the 2 ends meet, and then I break off the excess beyond that to make a couple loose ties around the yarn.  I used to use acrylic yarn for this instead of "wasting" any of my handspun, but the pictures look a lot nicer when the ties are made of the same yarn.

Last but not least, I wash the yarn using Dawn detergent.  Since it's merino and can felt, I am careful not to agitate the yarn too much, but it's not that easy to felt.  I use hot water for this--as hot as I can stand, and let it sit for about 30 minutes to really soak it.  After that, I use clean water of the same temperature to rinse it until the water is clear.

After that, I hang it out to dry.  I have a long nail into each post of our back porch to hang yarn from to dry outside.  Since we live in Arizona and rainy days are pretty rare, this is easy to do.  Following the thoughts of Jaycee Boggs of Spin Art, I do not weight my yarn.  That way, it doesn't change twist after it's been knit or crocheted.  What you see is truly what you get, and the yarn was nicely balanced after I plied it.

Here are our chickens and ducks who came to see if I had brought them a treat.  They were disappointed when it was a skein of yarn and not a banana or zucchini.  :-)

And here is the finished yarn:

I just listed it in my Etsy shop along with some more pictures here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/253647883/

If you have any questions about the process or comments, I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Free shipping!

This is just a quick little note to let you know that I'm offering free shipping to anyone in the U.S. between now and the end of June when you purchase something for $20 or more at my etsy shop at www.PurpleLamb.Etsy.com.

If you're looking for something special that you don't see there, I do custom work too. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spinning from Batts

I love spinning from batts.  They're fluffy and light and full of color and texture, but when I received my very first art batt, I wasn't quite sure how to proceed.  In case I'm not the only one, I thought I would go through a few different ways to spin from art batts:

1.  If the batt is basically the same throughout, the easiest way I have found to spin from it is simply to tear it into strips and spin one strip after another just as though it were roving.  This method also works well for striped batts where you want the yarn to follow the same pattern as the batt.  For example, here's a striped batt that I made and named Rhasberry Truffle:

I actually made several striped batts, tore them into strips, and then I spun this yarn from them, spinning each colored stripe separately and then plying it back to itself:

If you're wondering why I didn't just card the colors separately and then spin a handful of each, it's because I had planned to sell the batts, but they just kept calling to me to spin them :-) and I couldn't resist!  The yarn is for sale at my Etsy shop here:

2.  If you prefer not to have to start and stop to combine pieces, one way of turning an art batt into what is basically a long roving is to make it into a "W."  In this case, you would tear a strip most of the way, but about an inch or 2 from the end, turn the batt around and begin tearing the other direction.  Fellow Etsian, AtomicBlue, shows this method in a Youtube video here:

Both the strip method and the "W" method are good for batts that are either the same color variations throughout or for batts where you want the colors to change as they did in the batt.

3.  If you have a multicolored batt where you want to maintain all the colors throughout the whole batt, my favorite method is the one that Deb Manz demonstrates in her video here:
Basically, the method is to lay the batt out on a flat surface and pull gently until you see the fibers move.  If you pull too hard, the whole things comes apart.  Then you do the same thing again with a small section of the batt by placing your hands about 6 inches apart.  Keep doing this along different sections of the batt until the whole thing is the width of roving you like to spin from, which varies depending on how bulky or fine you want the yarn to be.  It's rather time consuming, so I only do this if I want fine color variations rather than broader ones.  If it does break while you're doing this, it isn't a big deal.  Then you just have 2 rovings to work from in the end instead of just 1 roving.  I highly recommend her video by the way.  She's an excellent teacher.

I know there are other ways that people use to spin from batts such as treating the batt as a giant rolag or spinning from the fold.  It's amazing how different the effects can be depending on the method you use, and I think when you get or make a new batt, the first step is to think about how you want the yarn to look and choose the method that gets you there.

Happy spinning!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Seven Things Acrylic Yarn is Good For

I don't mean to sound snarky--at least not while this blog is so young--and I don't mean to sound like a yarn snob (okay fine, guilty as charged), but here's what I'm wondering:

Why would anybody use acrylic (aka petroleum or coal-based) yarn? I get that it's cheap, strong, and easily available in every color under the sun, but it's, well, a lot like plastic.

Given the number of hours of love and labor it takes to make even a small item out of yarn, why would anybody use material that is made from something similar to what you put in your gas tank?  Here are a couple links showing what acrylic yarn is made of:


With that in mind, here's what I think acrylic yarn is good for:
  1. Acrylic yarn is great for the yarn mazes my husband and I make every year on Easter morning, leading our children to their Easter baskets.
  2. Acrylic yarn is great for learning to knit or crochet so you don't mess up that gorgeous handspun merino yarn trying to figure it out.
  3. Acrylic yarn is great for trying out a complicated pattern so you don't mess up your cotton, wool, alpaca, mohair, silk, or angora yarn. .
  4. Acrylic yarn could be good for a core for a corespun yarn, but so far I haven't gone there.
  5. Acrylic yarn is great for making warp ties for weaving.
  6. Acrylic yarn is great for making knots around wool yarn you're about to dye because it won't take up the dye.  
  7. Acrylic yarn is great for filling up landfills because I'm pretty sure it lasts as long as Twinkies. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

In celebration of my new name, my new blog, and the coming of spring, I'm offering a 20% discount on all scarves for the month of March. Just use the coupon code "springfling" when you check out at www.purplelamb.etsy.com. I'm only posting this coupon code here on my blog.

The Budget Weaver

I love pretty much the whole gammut of fiber arts, but my first love was weaving, and then you might say I worked my way backwards from yarn to spinning to raising angora rabbits. Contrary to what the name suggests, I don't actually own a purple lamb--not yet anyway. As you probably already know if you made your way here, becoming a fiber artist is not an inexpensive hobby. I refuse to skimp on the tools that work well, but I certainly do "skimp" where I can. Here are a couple tiny tools that work well for me and cost, well, pretty much nothing: As you can see, the one on the left is a twisty tie, and the one on the right is an old credit card that has been cut into the shape of a hook. I use these for warping my rigid heddle loom instead of a threading tool. I use the twisty tie for the holes and the credit card for the slot. They are far from glamorous, but they do work. The only downside is that I need 2 tools instead of one. The credit card is too big to fit in the holes of the heddle, and the twisty tie is a little more bother to use because it's so flexible. The good thing about both is that, if you are like me and tend to mislay little things, they are quite easy to replace! Here they are in action:

A Look at PurpleLamb.Etsy.com

Here are a few of the items in my shop.  I'll be posting more as I add new items:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Fresh Start

Today, I changed the name of my Etsy shop from MonetsGardenArtYarns to www.PurpleLamb.Etsy.com.  This small change has been quite a while in coming.  I love Monet.  I love all the images of his garden, and I find inspiration in both for my handspun yarns. 

Nonetheless, it was too long, too hard to remember, and it didn't reflect the whimsy in my work, so PurpleLamb it is!  Purple because that is my favorite color and the color I use more than any other.  Lamb because I work in merino wool most of all, and everyone knows lambies are soft.  If it isn't soft, I don't use it.

I'll be using this blog to post ideas and realities in my work as a fiber artist.  I hope it will become a place for conversation with other fiber artists and fellow Etsians.  Enjoy!