Dye Camp 2014

Handspun sweater project

I have spent the better part of this week flitting from craft to craft – a wee bit of stitching, a wee bit of spinning, some knitting here and there. But I haven’t done a good spinning update in a while, so I thought I’d start there.

After I finished my handspun swatch hat, I decided I was ready to start in on the fiber I dyed for my handspun sweater project. (That hat, by the way, worked out really well! I managed a gauge of 4 to 4.5 stitches/inch, which is what I want for my final sweater.)

I spent about an hour pre-drafting half of the fiber, getting everything ready to spin. I’m starting with the two braids on the far right of the top photo – the dark blue and the brown-purple – and blending them together as Colourway 1. I don’t really want to spend time carding, so instead I split the fiber up into bits approximately one staple length long, and am combining the colours by picking up handfuls from each colour at random.

I’m spinning up 100g at a time, trying to match the yarn I spun for my swatch-hat. It looks a little thick-thin in the bobbin, but I’m trying not to get too precious about it. One of the things I have learned from this year of frequent spinning is that plying and knitting are very forgiving acts – a lot of the yarn that I thought looked uneven on the bobbin has knit up looking really beautiful and consistent.

Mysterious Halloween Town Sampler

I’ve also been working slowly through my Mysterious Halloween Town Sampler, which is absolutely destroying me with its tiny gothic cuteness. I am all finished the first two charts, and am starting in on the third. I think it’s helping me to have the chart released in parts – looking at it altogether it’s a pretty overwhelming size, but done in bits, it felt manageable.

(I must admit, I’m also eyeing some of their mini-patterns. I bought a cross-stitched pincushion at City of Craft last year and love it to bits, and like the idea of making my own.)

I want to try to keep up with this, so that I can have it framed. Because, whatever, if I am going to spend this many hours cross-stitching something, it is going on the wall.

So what have I been up to over August? Mostly, knitting. It started to cool off a couple of weeks back – just at night, but down to temperatures that usually feel like early fall, rather than summer. I started to smell sweater weather on the horizon, and it got me going on a couple of projects.

First off, I finished the yoke on my Walpole.

Walpole Blob

It’s kind of looked like an ungainly, sweater-ish blob for the better part of a month. I bound off a couple of nights ago, though, and I am fully determined to get finished-sweater photos to prove it.

I also started work on my handspun sweater project. Specifically, I started with this fluff.

Dye Camp 2014

And turned it into this yarn.

Sweater Test Handspun

Which then became this hat-in-progress.

Swatch Hat

Swatch hat

Handspun w cat

The idea behind this is to swatch – I have a sweater pattern I want to spin for that calls for worsted-weight yarn. This test spin looks like the worsted weight yarn I want, but the swatch will tell me if that’s actually the case, and if it’ll knit up into a nice fabric at the correct gauge. This way, there’s a smaller chance that I’ll spin a sweater quantity of the wrong sort of yarn.

It is also really, really fun to be playing with fibre that I dyed myself. I did run into one or two spots that were a little felted, but fewer than I worried, and none so bad that I couldn’t spin them.

I haven’t finished the hat or blocked it, but even while knitting, this feels like the yarn I wanted.

Some Nature

I have been back from Haliburton for a few weeks now, but I dove right into work when I got back and it’s taken me a little while to organize myself to talk about the experience I had learning to dye with Kim (of indigodragonfly).

In short: I had a lot of fun. Like, a lot of fun.

My lifestyle involves a lot of creative downtime (come over sometime, see my ‘craft corner.’ It’s under the stack of half-cut fat quarters and handspun), but the experience of going up and doing a four-day intensive class was very different.

I went up with a short-list of goals, but I didn’t want to get too precious or particular about being able to dye something specific, because I also wanted the experience to be fun and relaxing. I wanted to figure out how to dye a sweater quantity of sock yarn for myself, and I wanted to learn how to dye roving with an eye towards maybe dyeing for a handspun sweater.

I met an internet-famous chipmunk.

Internet Famous Chipmunk

I dyed some test yarn.

Dye Camp 2014

I dyed yarn for a sweater!!

Dye Camp 2014

And I dyed a LOT of roving. Some test bumps, to learn the process and figure out how I was going to do my colours.

Dye Camp 2014

And then 800g of ‘real’ stuff, Polwarth in four colours. We learned how to kettle-dye and handpaint roving and yarn, and I struggled for a while with how I wanted to dye my sweater roving. Eventually, I decided on the fluff below – four colourways of kettle-dyed fiber that I’ll spin together into my sweater yarn. Plus some extra purple, just in case. For those doing the math, I ended up dyeing a full kilogram of roving over the course of the week.

Dye Camp 2014

Dye Camp 2014

Dye Camp 2014

Dye Camp 2014

I did also handpaint a little bit of roving, just for fun. This is 100g of a merino/yak/silk blend that I’m super excited to play with sometime soon.

Dye Camp 2014

It ended up being a stupendous amount of really meditative, creative fun, and I’m so glad I had the chance to go. I don’t know that more yarn-dyeing is something that’s in my future, but I was really surprised at how much fun and satisfaction I got out of playing with unspun fiber and dye. I definitely want to find a way to play in that side of things more in the future (although how is another question altogether).

First, though, I’ll need to spin down all of this.

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