Knit, purl, blog.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Flax, Thistle, and Copper

I've been spinning more than I've been knitting lately.


Handspun Linen from Tow Flax

I spun up 8 oz. of bleached Irish tow flax that I picked up at SAFF last year. Spinning this was interesting, to say the least. I have a little booklet on spinning flax, and it compares spinning the bleached tow to spinning Cream of Wheat. Well, it's not quite that bad. Sometimes the fibers were very long, then suddenly there'd be a bunch of short clumps. Sometimes the fiber would draft out pretty well, other times it was like the fibers were glued together. I kept a bowl of water on my lap to smooth the fiber as I spun it, and that seemed to help. Still, there were little bits of flax everywhere when I spun.

Since it's tow, not the long strick stuff, the linen is rougher than, say, Louet Euroflax. But I don't think it would be unwearble; it's sort of crunchy and cool to the touch. I need to make up a swatch and carry it in the bottom of my bag to see how it softens and wears.

Here's a closer view:

Handspun Linen from Tow Flax

The weight is actually very similar to the Euroflax sport weight. So I got some inspiration just by looking up Euroflax patterns. If it's wearable, I might make up a little lacey sleeveless top of some sort. Can you tell it's hot here in NC?


No, I haven't actually been spinning any thistle flowers. It's Adrian's latest colorway for the Hello Yarn fiber club. 18 micron merino. Wool doesn't get much finer than that.

Thistle on the bobbin:

Thistle on the Bobbin

Thistle on the dog:

Thistle on the Dog

And is it soft? Oh, yes...

This is 4 oz., and it was 398 yards before a somewhat abusive fulling wash (certainly shorter now). It measures approx. 12 wpi, somewhere around a DK weight.

I just split the top in half the short way, predrafted a bit to loosen it up, and spun it worsted with a short backward draw. While I was sorely tempted to spin for a single, I absolutely loathe pills. So I went for a 2-ply with enough twist to (hopefully) avoid them.

To set the yarn, I roughed it up in very hot water with some Dawn, plunged it into cold water, then back to hot with more abuse, then cold, then warm with some Lavender Eucalan. I wrung it cruely, thwacked it a few times on the bathroom floor, then hung it to try.

This was the first time I have ever abused a skein so much, but after the wet-finishing article in the current Spin-Off and the advice from Abby's Yarns, I gave it a go. It was really difficult to force myself to mistreat this poor, gentle fiber (if there were a yarn police, they certainly would have broken down my door). But I think it was a good move. The plies are well-integrated, and the yarn has bloomed well. Even so, I could have been rougher with it.

I'm thinking of using it in the yoke of a sweater, maybe paired with a light gray yarn.


This interesting textured wool/silk blend comes from a Crosspatch Creations blend called "Copper King." I decided to take the copper part a bit further by plying with metallic copper thread strung with metallic copper beads. It's really hard to get a picture of this stuff that shows you how it catches the light, but here you go:

Handspun beaded copper yarn

I Z-plied each of the two Z strands with the beaded thread, then S-plied them together. The thread is still sticking out a bit more than I would like, so I'm thinking of running the yarn through the wheel again to put in a bit more twist. I'm not quite sure I got enough plying twist in there anyway (it's very difficult to see the fiber itself once you have all this metallic stuff shining in your eyes.

Originally, I thought I'd make some sort of Faroese shawl with this (I have 8 oz. of the fiber), but now I'm wondering if a little top with a drapey neckline might be the thing to do. I should probably knit up a sample of this skein before I continue, as all the beads and thread aren't cheap. I've already used hundreds of beads. Fortunately, it takes a lot less time than you'd think to string beads, even ones as tiny as these. Unfortunately, it takes lots of beads and thread.

After a shipping delay (Knitpicks customer service was very helpful, by the way), I finally got my yarn to make my Venezia sweater. But at the moment, I'm working on some socks, so I might wait until I finish those first. And I've got some beautiful red hemp I want to use to design my own summer top. And then there are those mittens I should make my mother sometime before her birthday in October. Too many plans, as always.