Saturday, September 11, 2010

Making spindles with chopsticks & fimo.

I've previously posted about making my own spindles during the Tour de Fleece this year, & wanted to make some more, experimenting with whorl size and shape. The spindles are so simple to make, using fimo clay, chopsticks, a pencil parer, a craft knife and some sandpaper (or in this case a sanding pad).I'm using the chopsticks because their slight taper allows me to slip the whorl over the shaft of the spindle, and wedge it into place at the thick part of the shaft. First I shaped the chopsticks; tidying up the thick end using the pencil parer. (untouched chopstick on the left for comparison)
I marked around the shaft about 4 or 5 cm from the thick end of the chopstick. I then whittled away the chopstick corners along the length of the stick, stopping at the mark at the thick end of the stick.
See the square edge on the left, the unchanged chopstick? I lightly sanded along the stick to make it smooth & get rid of potential splinters & anything that could snag fibre.
I've been experimenting with notches on some spindles, cut into the stick about 2cm from the thin end of the stick - and sanded.

Then came the really fun part; playing with fimo. In theory, you want a balanced whorl, that will have an even weight distribution while spinning. I made a few different shapes in the fimo clay; experimenting with thickness, circumference and weight distribution. I pierced the centre of the whorls with the spindle shafts to try get a perfect fit.

After oven-baking I fitted the whorls onto the chopsticks, slipping them on to the sticks from the thinner end of the stick.

So, a test-run. (please excuse the dirt under my nails - it's fimo clay) To spin a bottom-whorl spindle, attach the leader just over the whorl, on the long portion of the shaft (to the left here) - wrap it over the whorl, around the shaft, and back over the whorl.
Attach the leader at the top of the shaft (narrow end) using a half-hitch...
... and spin.

I find it difficult to spin bottom whorl spindles - I cannot get as much momentum spinning with a spindle in this position.
I realised I could easily make a top-whorl spindle by cutting a notch into the thick (short) end of the spindle shaft.
It started to get dark at this point so the photos are not great, apologies.
I intend to test-spin all spindles over the coming days to see how the whorl shape affects my spinning. I'm also wracking my brains to think of other useful objects I could make from fimo clay. A new addiction, perhaps.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Baby's first book

I recently became a first-time honorary aunt to little Baby Katie. Katie is 2 months old today and is the loveliest most quiet & content little baby I have ever met; she was smiling at 2 days old! At a whole 2 months old it is time that her Honorary Auntiebought her first book... so I took a little wander into Hodges Figgis in Dublin city centre last weekend in search of a suitable publication.
I wanted something that little Katie could enjoy when she's a little older, sitting on her Granny's lap having stories read to her, and when she's a little bigger she can read to herself. I wanted something classic, that I enjoyed as I child. And then I got distracted by this...

'The Surprise' by Silvia van Ommen ; this picture book tells the story of a lovely sheep who decides to surprise his friend.

There is much tootling along on a scooter; there is dyeing; there is shearing...

There is a spinning pink poodle with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth;

There is winding the yarn from the back of a chair into a wee knittable ball; there is knitting and there is a very appreciative gift recipient. I suspect that Silvia is one of us; a knitter and a spinner, and a sheep lover! I wandered into a Sunday Spin in meeting after getting the book and all those present loved it.

Baby Katie loved her first book so much that she promptly fell asleep in my arms... after dribbling on me a bit. I look forward to teaching her to knit and spin. Baby Katie's new mum loved her second book; a volume of Hans Christian Anderson tales. I don't think Mum will wait until Katie is old enough to sit on her lap to read to her from the book.

Of course, there will be obligatory baby photos when I get around to knitting her more baby things :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Spinning artefacts at the National Museum

Summer; a time for holidays, for not being in work & for doing things for the fun of it. During some recent time off work I visited the National Museum on Kildare Street. I had noticed a couple of spindle whorls in the medieval section on a previous visit and wanted to take a closer look.
Of course, you can't take photos in the museum so I was restricted to making a few sketches.
I was delighted to find more spindles & related artefacts in the Viking section too. Considering my recent attempts to make my own drop spindle I was fascinated by the variety of whorl shapes & materials.

There were whorls made of bone and steatite

A variety of spindle shafts made from copper alloy, wood & bone. Based on appearance alone there were both top-whorl and bottom-whorl spindles in the collection.

In the medieval section there were spindle whorls made of antler, stone & bone. Both were about 1 1/2 - 2 inches in diameter.

Also in the medieval section, there was a wooden object listed as a 'possible yarn winder'. It looks quite like part of a Turkish spindle to my eyes.

Of course there were also samples of fibres, textile fragments & other related bits in the museum but capturing these accurately in a 2 minute sketch would have been very difficult. I really enjoy the museum; I love seeing the artefacts and imagining people making & using these objects many years ago; I also wonder what they would think of their everyday tools ending up in a display case, stared at and admired by visitors hundreds and even thousands of years later. I enjoyed seeing objects that are hundreds of years old and recognising what they were and how they were used; I know that I have very similar tools in my possession; I know that my spinning is contributing to something that is thousands of years old and that makes me feel connected to the people who lived so long ago. I find it comforting that in an age of internet, computers and smartphones that there are quite a number of us still practising these ancient skills, that we're not completely removed from our past.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tour de Fleece; final tally

Due to various family commitments over the last couple of days I have completely missed out on keeping up with the Tour de Fleece deadlines, and regular blog posts. I have finished spinning sport-weight 2 ply yarn, from a LHogan batt.My total Tour de Fleece spinning; 4 substantial amounts of yarns I am very happy to use & some hand-made spindling experiments.
I've also had the chance to take a workshop with Louisa Harding; the workshop provided a chance to experiment with combining different colours & textures to make a wee purse. I chose a combination of oranges & pinks, and I can safely say that this is the most girlie sparkley thing I have ever knit.
I'm also very inspired to experiment with more colours; more experimental yarn combinations.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Knitters' day out - WWKIP 2010

The Dublin-based knitters celebrated World Wide Knit in Public Day on a lovely Saturday afternoon, in St Stephen's Green.

There was yummy icecream..... Park Attendants (it's okay - we had a permission slip)

...yummy apple cake... monster!...Super French (we are never the biggest spectacle there)

I showed off my Swallowtail Shawl, and others obliged by looking impressed..Cookies!
Crochet lessons
Best napkins ev-ah!
And even some cross-stitching.
It was a very pleasant day with many familiar faces, and a few strangers too. I am thoroughly convinced that the Irish Weather Gods are knitters as we had very pleasant weather too.
Next year I will plan ahead & bake something too!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Handspun Yoke Cardigan

I have practically finished my handspun yoke cardigan, after much spinning, knitting, tinkering with the pattern, and more knitting. I still have to weave in ends and find buttons, but it's the weather is too warm for such a cosy cardigan right now - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
I made several modifications to the pattern; to suit my tastes & chosen yarns;

Sleeves; the sleeves in the pattern are straight. This would mean that the sleeve would be very loose around the wrist, which I like the look of, but find impratical. The pattern called for 54 stitches to be cast-on; I cast on 46 stitches, then knit for 2 1/2 inches and increased by 2 stitches x 4 times. This meant that I increased to the recommended 54 stitches when the sleeve was 10 inches long. I then continued to knit straight, as recommended, and added an extra half inch length.

The pattern suggests knitting the main, commercial yarn at a slightly loose tension, and knitting very slightly thicker handspun yarn, in 3 contrast colours to the same tension. The commerical yarn I choose - Drops Nepal - was slightly thicker than the recommended yarn, and makes a nice full fabric at the pattern's recommended tension.
My handspun yarns were very obviously variegated, and a little too bright together. I decided to leave out the textured yoke section in favour of stocking and garter stitch rows, and to use just 2 contrasting colours in handspun yarn.

The handspun yarn also proved to be a little too bulky knit on the same needles as the commercial yarn; my first attempt at the yoke looked puckering, lumpy and uneven, especially along decrease rows. I ripped out the first yoke attempt (and was amused by the other half's horrified reaction) and got out the graph paper & colouring pencils for better planning.

For a better fit I started knitting with the contrast colour about an inch higher than directed in the pattern and I decreased over 6 rows instead of 3.
I knit the handspun yarn using smaller needles, giving a stiffer, less lumpy fabric.
I am happy with the results. It's a thick, cosy cardigan that will be loved when the weather next turns cold (which could be the entire summer season here in Ireland).

Pattern; King of Confidence, by Weaverknits
Yarn; Drops Nepal in charcoal grey, from the Constant Knitter
Fibre; Mixed batts from Laura Hogan, bluefaced leicester from Craftspun, Humbug Jacob from the World of Wool, Merino roving from The Yarn Room, Ashford wool Dyes from The Yarn Room
Needles; 4.5 mm for commercial yarn, 3.5 mm for handspun.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hurrah for the Marlay Park Hoodie

I am thoroughly thrilled to have finished my version of the Central Park Hoodie within the Ravelympics time limit. See my smug grin? See my smiling eyes?
I've realised that I do a great little teapot pose, and that the balcony containers need a bit of tidying.

Yarn; Debbie Bliss Donegal Tweed Aran (approx 1200 meters)
Pattern; Central Park Hoodie
Needles; 4mm & 3.5 mm for ribbing
Buttons; handmade, by Incomparable Buttons, bought at This is Knit.

Named for my local park, this is my first ''proper garment'' ever; I am happily surprised by the fact that it fits, that the individual pieces fit together, that button bands are not that difficult and that the hood is rather pointed and more than a little 'elfin' looking.

So in one fell swoop, I have won a Ravelympics medal for 'WIP Dancing', completed item number one in my 'Ten for '10' list and used a chunk of yarn stash.