Pretty cashmere yarn

Cashmere, one of the most approachable of the luxury fibres, has been my focus lately. I have been spinning the cashmere fibre that I purchased from Belisa Cashmere at the Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair, using my little supported spindles from Hipstings.

Being such a fine, short staple length fibre, I decided to spin my cashmere from the cloud. A cloud simply a disorganised pile of fibre with lots of air and space incorporated.

handspun cashmere yarn_20140810_152043

To create the cloud I took my fibre bundle and held it in one hand, pinching a small number of fibres with the other.

handspun cashmere yarn_20140810_152047

And pulled those away from the bundle.

handspun cashmere yarn_20140811_234521

Repeating this, I ended up with a lovely soft pile of fibre, my cloud, ready to spin from.

A cloud is the perfect preparation for employing the long draw spinning technique, in which I keep my dominant hand on my spindle, and use my other hand to draw the fibre bundle away from the forming yarn. Here it’s the twist alone that draws new fibre into the yarn, there’s no pinching and drawing out as in the short draw.

handspun cashmere yarn_20140812_174448

I spun my cashmere to both of my Hipstrings spindles. My singles were fine, and not entirely regular, which was partly by design and partly because I was new to this fibre. I like embracing the irregularities, as I get better at spinning I’ll probably never be able to make this kind of yarn again.

handspun cashmere yarn_20140812_174431

I plied directly from my Hipstrings spindles onto my Royale Hare spindle. This is why I purchased two identical spindles, so that I could spin until they were both full then move straight only plying.

And I love my Royale Hare for plying. It’s heavy brass base supports the spindle so that once I set it spinning I can use both my hands however I want. It can also hold a lot of fibre, which is what you want when you’re plying two spindles full of singles together.

handspun cashmere yarn_20140814_123304

Here’s my finished yarn, so soft and lovely. It certainly has that handspun feel, but there’s nothing wrong with that :)

handspun cashmere yarn_20140814_123347

And it’s pretty fine, (as tends to be the result of spinning with a long draw on a small spindle,) somewhere between lace-weight (2-ply) and figuring-weight (4-ply).

I’ve noticed that spinners often to show give yarn next to coins, to give a sense of scale. The trouble is the only coins that mean anything to me are Australian, and that probably wont mean anything to most of you… which got me thinking, I need something that’s universal, that’s same size where ever in the world you are. A universal serial bus! Or USB. So there you have it, my yarn, against a USB, all fluffy and fine. I have no idea what I’ll do with it, but I’ll work something out

How to make an ouroboros

As promised, today I have the pattern for my eternal serpent scarf. I’m calling is an ouroboros pattern, because ouroboros is a serpent eating its own tail, an ancient symbol for infinity.

eternal serpent crochet scarf_20140722_144405

Although pattern isn’t quite the right word… I think it’s more of a recipe. Because I don’t want to tell you just how to make a scarf like mine, but rather how to make a range of different items that share the same interesting concept and techniques. This will becomes clearer as we go along.

My eternal serpent scarf was made using worsted-weight (10-ply yarn) and a 6 mm hook. I used approximately 180 m of two different colours: my handspun lime sorbet yarn and Manos del Uruguay Maxima in the colourway Agua.

Obviously if you make a different items you’ll need different supplies. And even if you’re making a scarf like mine, you might feel like using a smaller hook for a denser fabric, or a larger hook for more drape, it’s up to you.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_143329

1. We start the ouroboros by creating a row of foundation stitches. I used double crochet (treble crochet in the UK terminology) for my scarf. If you wanted an item that was lacier you could use triple crochet, and for a more compact project you could use half-double crochet. Single crochet is too short (in my opinion) for use with post stitches.

The length of your foundation row will determine the circumference of your finished project. There’s really no need to count stitches in this project. My scarf is 165 cm around, which allows me to wrap it around my neck twice with a fair bit of room left over. But you could use this pattern to make a longer or shorter scarf, a cowl, or something else entirely, like the little sample project I’m making here, which is around wrist length.

Remember that there will be a twist in the project, which will add bulk. You might want to add a few more stitches to the foundation row to account for that.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_143410

2. Now we create the Möbius strip that is central to this pattern. This is achieved by adding one half-turn to the foundation row. Try holding each end in a hand and then turning one hand towards your body.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_143507

3. To finish the process we need to join the ends of the Möbius strip together. I start by using an invisible join. Remembering that here you’re joining the top of one end to the bottom of another, not that this is an issue, because the use of foundation stitches means that both edges are the same.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_144321

4. Now that we’ve secured one edge of the strip, we use our yarn needle to join the other edge, running the cut end of the yarn down the last foundation stitches and up the first. Don’t pull these stitches too tightly together, because we’ll need to work around them separately in the next round, we want them to resemble the rest of the round.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_144351

5. And now we have our first round finished, and a Möbius strip created.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_144538

6. We start the next round with a standing stitch, working around the post, rather than into the top of the stitch below. From now on the body of the project will be worked in front-post stitches. I like to offset the point at which I start each round, to minimise any visible seam in the work.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_144835

7. Continue the round in front-post stitches. When we reach the stitch we first worked into, we’ll be on the opposite side from where we started. This is because a Möbius strip only has one side and one edge, and we’re only halfway around.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_145656

8. Thus, we continue working around the Möbius strip, working into the other side of our foundation row, until we come back to the start.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_145818

9. And we can join our second round using an invisible join.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_145941

10. The third round starts like the second, with an offset standing stitch. 

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_150637

11. And ends with an invisible join. The only difference here is that we’re no longer working into the foundation row, and so we work into each stitch of the round below only once.

From here you can repeat steps 10 and 11 as many times as you wish, until your project is the width you want. In my eternal serpent scarf I worked 7 rounds as well as the original foundation round.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_151420

12. I finished my scarf with a round of reverse single crochet. You could use a different edging, or skip edging altogether, but I do think that reverse single crochet complements this project nicely.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_151500

Now it’s time weave our ends. I also like to wash my work, although because I’m embracing the natural curl and movement of the post stitches, I wouldn’t block. When the project is dry I would work my way around, holding onto either side and pulling outward, to make sure that all the post stitches are sitting evenly.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_152412

And here’s my finished mini ouroboros.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_152505

Which doubles as a cute bracelet.

ouroboros crochet scarf_20140810_164356

Or kitty necklace.

eternal serpent crochet scarf_20140722_144653

But of course, you can make the bigger version and have a lovely soft scarf. You can see how the post stitches cause the scarf to curl, adding to the ‘serpent’ quality.

eternal serpent crochet scarf_20140722_144437

And because we must work the Möbius strip ‘twice’ to get back to the start (technically it’s only once, because that’s how Möbius strips work, but you know what I mean), we end up seeing front-post stitches on one side (here the right) and back-post stitches on the other side. In what I think is a very cool effect :)

A few things to keep in mind as you work this project. If you want you could work it all in one colour, although I will make it a little harder, at least at first, to keep track of where in the round you are. And you may choose to avoid cutting your yarn by joining with a slipstitch and skipping the standing stitches at the start of the round. When I’m starting a new round of post stitches I like to skip any chains and simply move from the slipstitches into the first post stitch, but experiment and see what works for you.

However, because the back of our front-post stitches will be visible in this project, the unworked tops of the stitches will be visible as well. This means that the inconsistencies introduced by slipstitches, chains, etc will be easier to spot. Thus, you might want to consider cutting your yarn even if you’re only using one colour. And remember, being a Möbius strip, each round takes you around the project ‘twice’, so you’d be cutting the yarn half as often as you would otherwise have to.

You can find the Ravelry page for this pattern here.

Leaves of silk

If you’re a regular here at foreverinfibre you might have noticed that I’ve been posting a less often lately. I have less then three months left on my thesis so I’m really having to focus on that at the moment, once it’s done I’ll be back into blogging with a vengeance though :) I’m still trying to post several times a week, and keeping up with my crafts, because they’re what keep my sane! But I’m mostly crocheting, because I find that spinning can become too all consuming once I start.

Today I thought I’d share with you a crochet project I’m working on, one that’s taking a fair bit of my crafting time, but which is becoming something really special.

muga silk crochet shawl_20140808_132226

It’s a shawl made from beautiful Muga silk, using the wonderful Leaflines pattern by Aparna Rolfe. This pattern makes great use of front-post stitches, and I do love post stitches!

muga silk crochet shawl_20140808_132159

Muga silk is a naturally gold silk that comes from the Assam region of India, where it is considered among the most highly valued of silks. It’s prized for it’s lustre, resilience and of course colour, which is more of a cool beige gold.

I purchased this Muga silk from Raxor on Etsy. Despite the high value of Muga silk, it was very reasonably priced. This is probably because I’m working with spun silk.

When silk is processed the cocoons are first unwound to produce long, unbroken filaments of silk known as ‘reeled silk’, this is what’s used to make amazingly fine silk fabrics. The shorter lengths that are left over are then spun to produce ‘spun silk’. Then the very short, leftover pieces are collected as ‘silk noil’ which can be spun into highly textured yarns.

My spun silk has a very low twist and is composed of a single ply. This makes it a little ‘flyaway’, but amazingly soft, and lends it to a pattern such as this, where a nice dense fabric is produced. And cables, singles love cables.

I really enjoy exploring different fibres, and in particularly the different varieties of silk available, you might remember that I made use of them in my wild silk tote.

Mulberry Silk

Mulberry silkworm

Cultivated mulberry silk comes from the mulberry silkworm, Bombyx mori (photo by Jose Delgar), which feeds, not unsurprisingly, on mulberry leaves.

Mulberry silk moth

And turns into this cute fluffy moth (photo by David Hurt).

Vanya Silks

Mulberry silk is probably the silk you’re most familiar with. However, there’s a number of ‘wild’ or silks, many of which come from India, where they’re collectively known as Vanya silk.

Muga Silk

Muga_Silkworm

I’ve been working with golden Muga silk, fine, glossy and durable, which is produced by Muga silkworms, Antheraea assamensis (photo by Satyakamd)

Antheraea_assamensis

They make quite a handsome moth I think (photo by Alexey Yakovlev).

Tussah Silk

Tussah silkworm

Tropical Tussah (or Tasar) silk, another Indian silk, is coarser then both Muga and mulberry silk, and a natural copperish colour. It’s produced by one type of Tussah silkworm, Antheraea mylitta (photo by Herman Rhoids).

Tussah silk moth

Which becomes this gorgeous moth (photo by Dean Morley).

The other type of Tussah silk is Oak Tussah, which is finer then Tropical Tussah. In India Oak Tussah is produced by Antheraea proyeli, Antheraea frithi, Antheraea compta. In China, were most Oak Tussah is from, it’s produced by Antheraea pernyi. And in Japan it’s produced by Antheraea yamamaiAll of these species come from the same genus (the level of classification above species), Antheraea, making them ‘sister’ species, so they look pretty much the same to us! You might notice that the Muga silkworms also look similar to the Tussah silkworms, being another sister species.

Eri Silk

Eri silk worm

Finally, not to be forgotten, is Eri silk (also Endi or Errandi), produced by the Eri silkworm, Philosamia ricini (photo by Dean Morley). Eri silkworms feed mainly on castor leaves and are largely cultured for food. But the worms produce a lovely naturally white silk. Eri cocoons are ‘open ended’ meaning that the silk can’t be unreeled in long unbroken strands like that of other species. Thus all Eri silk is spun, producing a courseer, dense silk, known for its strength and elasticity. Eri and mulberry silkworms are the only species that have been entirely domesticated.

Eri silk moth

Eri silkworms grows into a very pretty moth :) (photo by Jürgen Mangelsdorf).

Notes on nails – Mana Ruby

mana rube femme fatale_20140808_112849

My nails are short at the moment, so I’ve pulled out this gorgeous polish by Femme Fatale. It’s a bright red jelly polish, with masses of iridescent blue flakes and glitter, and scattered red hexes.

mana rube femme fatale_20140808_113144

The red jelly of this polish is on the sheer side, after three generous coats you can still see visible nail line. But on short nails I don’t mind that at all, particularly with such a bright colour and so much shimmer going on.

mana rube femme fatale_20140808_115152

I’ve tried this with a solid base colour on longer nails, but it really take away from the delicious, juicy, ‘squishiness’ of this polish. So lovely!!!

Reverse single crochet

Reverse single crochet is one of my favourite crochet stitches, it makes a solid border that isn’t too fussy, but which adds a nice piece of interest to an item. I use it a lot when I don’t want my crochet to look too feminine and frilly. You can see it on the ‘man scarf‘ I made for my boyfriend.

crochet mixed basket_20140724_122722

This cute little basket.

eternal serpent crochet scarf_20140722_144405

And of course my eternal serpent scarf.

The reverse single crochet isn’t a difficult stitch, though some people do find it a bit tricky to get their head (and hands) around. It’s self-explanatory really, it’s a single crochet, but reversed, worked in the opposite direction to how you normally would.

Reverse single crochet

Don’t get confused, as always I have the right-handed photos first and the left-handed photos second, but this time right-handed people work left to right, while left-handed people work right to left.

reverse single crochet 1_RH

reverse single crochet 1

1. I like to start my reverse single crochet by joining my yarn in a new position, using a standing stitch. But if you were continuing from the round below, just chain one and single crochet in the first stitch. The first stitch is no different to a normal single crochet, so I wont go into detail about it.

You can see the green loop at the end of the first single crochet. The pink stitch is the one we’ll work into to make our second stitch, and first proper reverse single crochet.

Remember that this stitch is worked backwards, so if you’re not working in the round, you need to join your yarn on the opposite end to where you normally would (the right if you’re left-handed, the left if you’re right-handed).

reverse single crochet 2_RH

reverse single crochet 2

2. To start the second stitch, we need to take our hook behind the first stitch, so that we can insert our hook under the pink loops of the stitch in the row before, and yarn over (blue).

reverse single crochet 4_RH

reverse single crochet 4

3. Pull up the the blue loop, and yarn over again (yellow). The loop you just pulled through will have further to travel in a reverse single crochet then it would in a normal crochet (this will be clearer below), so try not to crochet too tight.

reverse single crochet 5_RH

reverse single crochet 5

4. Pull through both loops on the hook, and we’ve finished our second stitch, and our first proper reverse single crochet stitch.

reverse single crochet 6_RH

reverse single crochet 6

You can start seeing the structure of the reverse single crochet emerge as we make the next stitch. It’s really defined by the way the first, blue, loop that was pulled through the stitch below wraps around the top of the stitch.

Joining rounds

reverse single crochet 8_RH

reverse single crochet 8

1. If we’re working in the round, then we’ll need to join our reverse single crochet stitches. Here the pink is now indicating the first stitch in the round, and the green is the cut end of our yarn. I like to insert my hook under the first stitch, from back to front, and pick up the cut end.

reverse single crochet 9_RH

reverse single crochet 9

2. Now I pull the cut end through, the flip it back over the front, and pick it up with the hook again.

reverse single crochet 10_RH

reverse single crochet 10

3. And I pull it through a second time.

This part is optional. I find that because the first stitch of the round wasn’t a proper reverse single crochet, it can look a bit less bulky than the other stitches, which is why I like to wrap the yarn end around it once. But it’s entirely up to you.

Reverse single crochet anatomy

reverse single crochet 11

reverse single crochet 12

Here I have reverse single crochet above, and normal single crochet below, with the corresponding components of the stitches identified by colour. You can see that in the normal single crochet, the blue loop (which is the one pulled through first) is at the bottom of the stitch, under the green loop (the one originally on the hook) and the yellow loop (the one pulled through second). In contrast, in the reverse single crochet, the blue loop wraps around the green, while the yellow loop will be wrapped by the first loop pulled up in the next stitch.

In this way the reverse single crochet becomes a bulkier stitch, with no loops left to work into. It has a nice ‘finished’ feel to it, like your work has been bound. Although it doesn’t have the most flex to it, and it can be a bit heavy, it’s not a stitch to use if you want a light flowing edge.

Used in the right circumstance, this is a fantastic stitch.

Invisible joins (& slipstitch joins)

crochet invisible join_1_RH

crochet invisible join_1

You’ve finished your round, and it’s time to join! Normally in crochet we join rounds using a slipstitch. The slipstitch is a great join, it’s the one I use the most often, so before I go into the invisible join, I’ll quickly cover slipstitches.

Slipstitch join

crochet invisible join_2_RH

crochet invisible join_2

1. To start the slipstitch join, we insert our hook under the pink loops (I like to call them the ‘v’) of the second stitch of the round. This is the part that where it’s easy to go wrong, because it can be difficult to work out exactly which loop to insert the hook into.

It’s tempting to insert our hook into the top of the first stitch in the round, here I’ve coloured the top of this stitch (the third chain of three, because this is double crochet) in blue. We’re going to create a v for this stitch while we join, so we skip it now and insert our hook under the v of the next stitch.

crochet invisible join_3_RH

crochet invisible join_3

2. Now we pull a loop (purple) through the pink v and the green loop that we already had on the hook i.e. we make a slip stitch.

Remember that the green loop is now playing the role of the top v for the first stitch of the round, so don’t pull it too tight. On the other hand, we’re not going to work back into it in the next round, so don’t leave it too loose either. (I’m not sounding that helpful am I? But you’ll know when it looks right.)

crochet invisible join_4_RH

crochet invisible join_4

3. From here we chain up to start the next round. You can see how this chain sits on top of the chains which started the row below, marked in blue.

crochet invisible join_5_RH

crochet invisible join_5

4. We start the next round by working into the pink stitch. We’ll finish by working into the yellow stitch, not the green one, our starting chain is the stitch for that v.

crochet invisible join_6_RH

crochet invisible join_6

5. Where is that join again you might ask? Good question, because this join is looking pretty good and it’s hard to work out where the last stitch is.

crochet invisible join_6.2_RH

crochet invisible join_6.2

This might help, here’s our original green slipstitch. So the slipstitch is a good join, why would we need an ‘invisible’ join?

I use the invisible join when I’m finishing off work, notice how the slipstitch pokes up at the top of the work? For the same reason, I’ll sometimes use it with post stitches, when the top of the stitches are going to be visible because they’re not worked into (and aren’t at the back of the work). I also use it in when making stripes; ending with a slipstitch in one colour and starting with chains in another will result in a more visible join then what you see here. The drawback of the invisible join is that you do have to cut the yarn.

Invisible join

crochet invisible join_x_RH

crochet invisible join_x

1. To start the invisible join, pull the loop at the end of your work out to 10 cm or so.

crochet invisible join_7_RH

crochet invisible join_7

2. Cut the yarn and pull the rest out of the stitch.

crochet invisible join_8_RH

crochet invisible join_8

3. Now we insert our hook under the pink v of the second stitch. I’ve coloured the third chain of the starting chain blue here as well, remember that we don’t work into that (see above for more details), it’s the pink v that we want.

crochet invisible join_9_RH

crochet invisible join_9

4. And we pull the yarn end (purple) under the stitch.

crochet invisible join_10_RH

crochet invisible join_10

5. Now we go to the other side of the join, where our cut end emerged from originally. We insert our hook into the green stitch, from back to front, under the back loop only. This means that our hook will emerge in the centre of the last stitch.

crochet invisible join_11_RH

crochet invisible join_11

6. We pull the cut end of the yarn through the green stitch.

crochet invisible join_12_RH

crochet invisible join_12

7. And tug on the end so that the newly formed purple stitch is the same size as all the other vs. As with the slipstitch join, we’ve created the v for the top of the first stitch, but this time it’s a much closer match because we actually followed the path a crochet stitch would take.

crochet invisible join_13_RH

crochet invisible join_13

Often if I’ve been particular enough to use an invisible join, I’ve also started my rounds with standing stitches. The process is the same, you just need to remember which part of the stitch is which.

crochet invisible join_14_RH

crochet invisible join_14

Here the blue represents the slip knot at the top of the standing stitch… where we don’t want to insert our hook. As before it’s the pink v of the second stitch under which we insert our hook. Make sure that the slip knot sits under the newly formed loop.

crochet invisible join_15_RH

crochet invisible join_15

After pulling the end under the pink stitch, we go to the green stitch at the end of our round and insert our hook under the back loop only.

crochet invisible join_16_RH

crochet invisible join_16

Pulling the end through, and tightening it to match the other vs in the work, we’ve finished an invisible join. Made all the more invisible because the round didn’t start with a row of chains.

crochet invisible join_17_RH

crochet invisible join_17

When I work like this, I like to take advantage of the cut end to stager where I start my rounds. This further reduces any visible join; though you must take the pattern into account, and alter it is necessary to account for the new starting point.

crochet invisible join_18_RH

crochet invisible join_18

Once I finish the new round, you can see that the joins really do look invisible.

crochet invisible join_18.2_RH

crochet invisible join_18.2

There they are. The only thing that really gives them away is the lack of a ‘leg’ or middle loop in the stitch.

post stitches 1_RH

post stitches 1

Here you can see the middle loops in blue. If I’m being super duper especially fussy, I’ll make sure to replicate the middle loop when I weave in my ends, by passing the end along the path that loop would have taken.

In reality I can’t imagine anyone would ever look close enough to notice something like that, but sometimes it amuses me to do it anyway.

The main place I use the invisible join is when I’m finishing work and I know that the edge will be visible. Here I’m going to cut the yarn anyway, and an invisible join takes no longer then a slipstitch, so I don’t see any reason not to add that extra little touch.