Goth spindle

Over the last few months, I’ve managed to convert my friend Choni (of Choni’s slouch hat) to spinning… mostly by ‘lending’ her spindles that I was willing to part with. Actually it wasn’t hard at all, she took to it straight away and have really been enjoying the meditative aspects of the craft… not to mention making some lovely yarn!

It was recently Choni’s birthday, and with Christmas coming up I decided that I wanted her to have a very special birthday/christmas/love you present. Now Choni quite a ‘goth’ style and I’d noticed that my favourite of spindle makers Malcolm Fielding had available black and red Dymondwood, perfectly goth (plus black and red are her favourite colours)!

Dymondwood is a composite material made from wood veneers which are layered together and then infused with resin under massive pressure and heat. The resin fills all of the air pockets that are left after wood has been dried for woodworking. It makes the wood extremely hard and inert, and resilient to any warping that would normally be cause by time and changes in humidity. Hence it’s perfect for spindle shafts, or in this case, the entire spindle. An added advantage is that the wood veneers can be dyed different colours before they’re layered together, resulting in beautiful pieces of engineered wood, in which the natural looking grain is composed of wonderful bright colours (it can also be left undyed for a more natural look).

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And here’s the spindle Malcolm custom made for me. A rose Dymondwood shaft, black and red Dymondwood whorl with a charcoal Dymondwood trim. And to top it all off, a titanium tip!

Malcolm was amazing about making this spindle for me… and I think may have been rather amused by my request for a ‘goth spindle’. Dyavol show up quite regularly in his Etsy store. Custom makes can be requested on his Ravelry group, which is where my goth spindle came from. (There’s also his website, although it isn’t updated with all current designs.)

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(Left to right: A Purse Tibetan, with a Dymondwood shaft, lace sheoak whorl, and charcoal Dymondwood trim. The Dyavol. A Dervish, with a Dymondwood shaft and lace sheoak whorl. A Pu Yok, also with a Dymondwood shaft and lace sheoak whorl. All on some of Malcolm’s amazing Tasmanian Corriedale fibre)

And here’s the goth spindle with my little family of MF spindles, before it goes off to its new home. I chose the Dyavol design for Choni for two main reasons. First, I thought that the unique angles of the whorl would complement the overall ‘goth’ look nicely. And second, Choni has so far been spinning on Russian style spindles (in which the whorl isn’t a separate piece of the spindle, but instead a widened section of the shaft towards the spindles base).

Russian spindles spin fast, they’re great for spinning very fine singles with short staple length fibres. But without a pronounced whorl, they tend to lack the stability of something like a Tibetan spindle (of which the first and last spindles in the photo above are varieties), so while they spin fast, they don’t spin as long (these two factors tend to be a trade off). Choni has been getting wonderfully consistent yarn through the predrafting technique, in which she drafts the fibre almost to the weight she wants her single to be, before adding the twist with the spindle… I wouldn’t have the patience for it! But I wanted to gift her a spindle that would have more stability than her Russians, making it easier for her to experiment with drafting as she works (or baring that, getting more of her predrafted fibre spun before the spindle gives up the spin).

However, she loves the Russians, and I wouldn’t want to gift something that isn’t going to be loved. Hence the Dyavol (Russian for devil), a spindle design that is intermediate between Russian and Tibetan, but leaning towards the Russian end of the spectrum. Malcolm has done a lot of work experimenting with the different traits of these two spindle types, creating designs that express the advantages of both (fast but steady). My Dervish spindle is another example of this, though it leans more towards the Tibetan end. (He also has a ‘Tasmanian Devil’, that looks to me like it might be between the Dyavol and the Dervish. It has a similar shape to the Dervish by the whorl is considerably narrower. Like the Dervish the whorl is hollowed, making it lighter and faster.)

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And finally, after I’ve probably bored you with all my talk of spindle technicalities. Here’s the important thing, goth spindle finds its spinner and goes off to its new home. Much happy spinning is ahead of it xxx

Falling for the spindle

So I finally did it, I gave in to temptation and bought myself a drop spindle. So far I’ve focused on supported spinning, and for plenty of reasons I do think it’s the style of spindling that suits me best. But there’s nothing wrong with branching out and trying new things. And for months now, lovely little Turkish spindles from Sistermaide on Etsy have been calling out to me.

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Here it is, spindle #229, it’s tiny and adorable, only 16.6 grams, with bands of pink inked onto the base.

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One thing that drew me to these spindles was the heavy tip to the shaft, which looks something like a Russian spindle. I suspected that I’d be able to use it supported as well as suspended. And I was right. Here you can see my using it suspended, but at the end of drafting out the tip has reached the table and the spindles continues to spin happily supported.

I’m spinning some sari silk fibre here, different to what I’ve used before. This was from Raxor, and has an overall greyish colour, as well as the rainbow of course. It made for a strange kind of yarn, but fun to try out. I put the rest away to use in a blend sometime.

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This is a Turkish spindle, a type of suspended spindle in which the whorl is composed of interlocking cross pieces. The cop is built up by winding the yarn over and under the cross pieces (over two, under one).

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When you’re finished building the cop, the shaft is pulled out,

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One cross piece is removed,

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And then the other. Leaving a neat centre pull ball, ready to ply from.

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Having such a little ball of single, I made a quick Andean bracelet of ply.

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And here’s my finished yarn, very very strange yarn that it is. With the components of my little spindle, and my Royale Hare spindle which I used for plying.

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Once I finished playing around with the sari silk, I started spinning this lovely Eri silk fibre from ecoyarns, another of the different varieties of silk available. This is a very rough preparation of Eri silk. Perfect for the short draw you use in suspended spindling. And my #229 is so small and light, it makes a lovely, fine, high twist single, ideal for silk.

hats hats hats

You might think that I’d get over hats, but if that’s the case, it hasn’t happened yet. I have two hats today, one made for my friend James, Flick’s partner, and one for my boyfriends father.

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Here they are unblocked. They both made from patterns by Aaron Matthew Asmussen. The black beanie, for my boyfriends father is from the Open Weave pattern. And the blue beanie for James from the Zig (aka Charlie Brown) pattern.

The first hat I made from Aaron’s patterns used the Open Weave pattern, this one was for my boyfriend, it’s interesting going back to the pattern now that I have much more experience with these cable hats. The Open Weave remains the most complicated of Aaron’s patterns that I’ve tried. I think it’s because his other pattern use only front-post and normal stitches, where as Open weave also uses back-post stitches as well. And the number of pattern repeats changes between rounds, which adds another level of complication. As with any pattern like this, it’s a matter of following the pattern carefully and having patience, particularly with the changing repeats, because it’s easy to make incorrect assumptions about rounds.

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Here are the two hats, blocking over balloons, which have been blown to the circumference of a larger man’s head. You might remember that when I blocked Flick’s hat this way, I ended up having to rip back the last round, because the brim was still curling up. This is because front-post stitches tend to curl outward, and the balloon curves inwards, so while the rest of the hat is blocked nicely the brim needs a bit more attention.

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To address this problem, I took some yarn (actually crochet cotton) and threaded it through the last round, so that I could pull it in to the base of the balloon. I made sure that the round was sitting flat, without any curl. Since the balloon is narrower at the bottom, I obviously wasn’t introducing any stretch in the brim, but I wasn’t worried about that, I just wanted to straighten it out, in fact a snug brim is nice, it will stretch to the prefect size with wear.

(I didn’t have to worry about this with the black hat, because I ended it with a few rounds of alternating front-post and back-post stitches. Front-post stitches curl out, back-post stitches curl in, so the brim ended up straight :) )

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Here’s the blue hat, ready to go to it’s new home. But the way, I used Morris empire, worsted weight (10-ply) for this hat, and a 5.5 mm hook, half a size bigger than the pattern suggests to make the hat a bit bigger.

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And the black hat, this one from Grignasco Loden, again with the 5.5 mm hook

But shhh, don’t tell, they’re both surprises :)

Spinning Tasmanian Corriedale

Yesterday I showed you my new pu yok spindle from Malcolm Fielding, on which I’d already the sample of Tasmanian Corriedale fibre Malcolm packs all his spindles with.

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This fibre is amazing to spin. It drafts like butter… if butter drafted, and makes for the perfect long-draw. Just flowing out of the fibre supply and into the yarn as the twist catches it. It would make the ideal beginner fibre, as well as being great for more experienced spinners who want a really peaceful, relaxing spinning experience :)

It’s available for Malcolm’s etsy store, and it’s amazingly well priced!

Today I have the finished mini-skein of Corriedale yarn to share with you.

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And it’s truly a pleasure to share, this is such a soft, lovely, lustrous yarn, it feels like a cloud, like it might float away :)

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Because I only had a small sample of fibre spun, I used the Andean plying technique to create my two-ply yarn. Here you wind an ‘Andean bracelet’ around your wrist and hand, which allows you to ply from both ends of a single, without tangles (I know it looks scary and messy, but trust me, it really does flow of your hand). I will do a tutorial on this technique at some point, but for now there are lots of resources available, particularly on youtube.

And look… naked nails, oh my!!! (That’s the staining that comes with always wearing nail polish, I could buff it out, but that would weaken the nails, and there’s no point when I’m just going to put more polish on.)

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Here’s a more realistic image of Andean plying in motion… this kind of thing is very hard to take photos of yourself. With my Royale Hare spindle, and it’s heavy brass base, I don’t have to worry about supporting the spindle myself as a I ply.

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And the finished yarn, in the sun, showing it’s lovely creamy colour, and beautiful lustre.

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And in the shade, where you can see how much loft this fibre imparts in the yarn.

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I have a new spindle to share with you today, because… spindle!!!

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This is a pu yok spindles by Malcolm Fielding, and it’s simply gorgeous. According to Malcolm, via Fleegle Spins Supported (the book on supported spinning), and this thread on Ravelry (starting comment 67), the Malcolm Fielding pu yok started with photos taken by Malcolm’s friend, of nomadic Tibetan women spinning on larger supported spindles with high-set disk-shaped whorls (you can see the photos on the Ravelry thread). Malcolm decided to base a spindle loosely on this style, and from here the pu yok was developed.

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My pu yok has a relatively large whorl for a Tibetan style spindle. It’s made of beautiful lace sheoak. Malcolm Fielding spindles are always carefully tested for balance, and, if necessary, small sections of the whorl are drilled out and weighted so that the spin will be perfect. You can see this in the two gold dots on my spindle, and there’s another on the other side. I really love the look of these little gold points, so I was very glad when my spindle had them.

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The shaft is made of Dymondwood, a composite material made from wood veneers which are pressed together with a resin under massive pressure and heat. This results in a material that is extremely hard and inert, perfect for spindle shafts as it resists wear and warping. The pu yok shaft curves to a fine point, so that a small flick inserts a lot of twist.

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Looking at my new pu yok next to my dervish spindle (also lace sheoak and Dymondwood), also from Malcolm Fielding, you can see that the pu yok is larger, longer and with a much wider whorl. The whorl is slightly concave, so that it’s rim weighted, which makes for a longer spin. And similarly the whorl of the dervish is hollowed inside. Spinning the two, the pu yok feels heavier, but I think that in reality any difference in weight is minimal, it’s just that I’m setting a larger spindle spinning, from a smaller tip. Because of basic spindle physics, my pu yok will be spinning a bit slower than the smaller, narrower dervish, but it spins for longer, and as a result I naturally spin slightly thicker spindles on it. (An experienced spinner could spin almost any weight on any spindle, but there’s a difference between that and the weight that just comes naturally.)

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Speaking of spinning, the pu yok came packed with a sample of Tasmanian Corriedale fibre, which I’ve already spun. (You might notice that the more loved a spindle is, the less likely you’re ever going to see photos of it without fibre on it, because that requires remembering to take the photo in the short time it ever spends naked.) This is a slightly coarser fibre than I’m use to spinning supported, but still soft, and with wonderful loft. Plus it drafts beautifully… I really can’t express how well it spins, it’s just amazing.

Malcolm’s spindles (and Corriedale fibre, and Fleegle’s ebook) are available from his etsy store, and website. Spindles on his website are made to order and take up to twelve weeks, there are also new designs which aren’t listed there but can be requested from on his Ravelry group (you can have a look at the sold items on etsy to see all of the amazing designs). His etsy store is updated often, but spindles do sell quick, and his loyal fans are very good at grabbing them up. However, recently he’s started making listing for ‘new customers preferred’, so if you’ve wanted to get your hands on a Malcolm Fielding spindle, the chances are now better than ever. And they’re very very worth it!

Leaves of silk and gold

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It’s finished, it’s lovely, and it’s precious, my Muga silk shawl made from the Leaflines pattern by Aparna Rolfe.

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It makes liberal use of post stitches to create this beautiful branching pattern. I continued the boarder pattern for several more repeats, increasing the overall size of the shawl and extending the size of the feathery sections that make up the points at the edge of the shawl.

You can find my post on the making of this shawl, and the wonders of Muga silk here.

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When I finished crocheting the shawl, the post stitches resulted in curling and puckering.

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But blocking took care of that.

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Silk is unusual among animal fibres in that it’s weakened when wet. Normally to block a shawl I would wash it, pin it out while wet, and let it dry in shape. However, I knew how heavy this spun silk would be when wet, and I didn’t want to be pulling at it and potentially damaging the yarn with pins. So instead I pinned it out dry and used a mister to wet it.

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Here’s my lovely golden shawl with a view :)

It’s wonderfully soft, and the quality of the silk gives it a truly precious feel, just like gold.

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Normally I’m not a huge fan of gold on myself, I have cool colouring and prefer silver. But this isn’t your typical silk, and I realised that it’s an good match for my ash blonde hair :)

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Here’s the silk, shimmering in the sun.

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And another photo, because I couldn’t stop taking them.

Pink diamond beanie for Flick

Today is a two hat day, earlier I shared the granny stitch beret that I made for my friend Sam, and now I have a pink diamond beanie for another friend of mine, Flick. This hat will be a surprise present, because Flick’s been having a tough time lately and last time I saw her she was wearing a knitted beanie that was sadly stretched out and in need of retirement. She also loves pink.

When I’m making a beanie the first place I turn for patterns is Aaron Matthew Asmussen’s Ravely page, because I simply adore he’s patterns, all of which make great use of post stitches to create lovely cable designs, you can find other hats that I made from Aaron’s patterns here.

This time I chose a new pattern, the Nested Diamond Beanie, and paired it with a worsted weight (10-ply) yarn from the Morris Empire range in the colourway ‘Cha-Cha’ – beautiful soft Australian Merino, as pink as pink can be.

This is the fourth hat that I’ve made using Aaron’s patterns and, while I would definitely maintain that these aren’t beginner patterns, I’ve found that with each one they become easier. Part of this is that I’m getting use to the more complex post stitches these patterns use. But I think that I’m also gaining a better understand of how these stitches actually work together for form the pattern, so that once I get started, I don’t have to refer back to the pattern often, because what comes next is clear to me.

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To that end, that this hat was finished in just a few hours! Although at first I was worried that I might have made it too small. The pattern is for a medium hat, I assume that this is a uni sex or mans medium, which would mean a women large. You change the size of these patterns by changing the hook you use, since I have a largish head, and Flick does too I stuck with the 5 mm hook suggested by the pattern.

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The beanie stretched to fit my head, but it felt a bit snug. However, with al of the cable stitches that formed the diamond pattern, I knew that there was a lot of pressure pulling the stitches in, and a lot of potential to block the hat.

How do you block a hat? You might ask. (Well unless it’s a beret, because I covered that in my last post.) Normally I block an item by wetting it and pinning it out to dry. However, we don’t want to flatten out our lovely round hat to pin it. So we need something head shaped and head sized, ideally sized to the head we want to hat to fit.

The answer… a balloon!

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I simply blow up the ballon so that at its widest point it matches the circumference of the head I want the hat on. Then I wash the hat, stretch it over the ballon, and prop the balloon up in a mug.

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And there we have it, and blocked beanie, what a difference it makes! Now it fits perfectly, not to mention that the fabric has much more drape to it, and the pattern stands out wonderfully.

I did find that the last row of the beanie was still curling up, so I simply ripped that row back and the next sat flat. This was fine because I’d made the beanie on the long side, since I can rip back after blocking, but if I had to crocheted more rows, those would need to be blocked as well.

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