Jobo Designs

Letting the crafty creative juices flow. Knitting, spinning, crafting, dyeing, rabbits, sheep and more!

9. December 2014 15:38
by Jobo
1 Comments

Yaksperiment... Experimenting with Yak Fiber

9. December 2014 15:38 by Jobo | 1 Comments

I have a good spinner friend who likes to challenge me...

She is always trying new techniques and new fibers, with the goal of creating different types of projects.

Well, the latest new fiber to try is quiviut! she is working on spinning a very fine lace weight from quiviut roving that she has... And it just so happens that I have a very small sample bag of both quiviut and yak fiber.  So I am going to play along with her.

there is definitely a learning curve with trying this yak fiber... The bag that I have is quite small, and I forgot to weigh it before I began. It's just a regular sized sandwich baggie with a few small poofs of fiber.  Some of it is a little bit compressed, so I thought it probably needed to be carded.

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How to card it is another important question... yak is a very short staple fiber at maybe an inch long in the bag that I have. That means worsted techniques an inchworm drafting are not going to work here at all. I carded my fiber into some tight Puni style rolags. 

The first one I carded I spread the fiber over the entire card but I think that was a mistake. I had to take the fiber off in three portions and I used small knitting needles to wrap the fiber around. I compressed it a little bit so it would hold on to itself during spinning.

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The next time I decided to just put the fiber on the first third of the the hand card and remove it in one single go with a larger knitting needle. This time I used 5 mm ones. And I did not compress nearly as much. I think that the diameter of the knitting needles better matched the staple length of the fiber and resulted in an easier to spin roll of fiber.  You could almost see the fiber spiralling out of the end of the rolags.

As for the feeling of spinning yak... I can only describe it as though it feels like I am spinning dryer lint... Lol. After hours of playing with this stuff I went and got a handful of lint from the laundry just to see how they compared.  The lint was really, really short, and I couldn't keep it together much past drafting.  I could draft maybe two inches, and then it fell apart before winding on :)  Yak really does feel a bit linty.

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I had to really adjust my usual spindling technique to make it work... I ended up using a kind of modified long draw technique. It seemed to work best when I drafted quite far from the spindle tip. I tried to keep my drafting triangle at least a foot or more from the spindle tip and held the fiber very very lightly. It felt almost like chewing gum stretching... But don't even think about stretching too far or this fiber breaks into little useless strings. The first roll I tried, I think I threw away as much as made it onto the spindle.

After a little experimenting and testing I decided I should try spinning some of the fiber directly from the bag to see what that was like too.  I fluffed up a piece and went for it - and shockingly, even though it had been a bit compressed, the fiber was clean and untangled and it drafted just as easy from this preparation as my pain-in-the-butt rolags had.  Lesson to self - simplicity.  Try it.

In the end, I just flew by the seat of my pants on this one, yielding a really soft, light two ply laceweight.  I thought it should spin finer, but this weight is what felt reasonable.  My yarn is very inconsistent, lots of slubs and thick or thin bits.  There are lots of fibers that I've tried, only to find them scratchy and unpleasant.  I'm surprised to say, that yak feels almost like cotton to me.  It's pretty limp and not very stretchy.  It's soft enough for close contact to skin... and I think I'm confident in saying I'd be cool with Yak fiber underpants in the case of a zombie apocalypse.  I'd probably sweat my derriere off, because this stuff is supposed to be mega warm though.

My friend is going to knit hers into a bookmark swatch... so I'm going to do the same... here is my unblocked progress:

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2. December 2011 15:07
by Jobo
0 Comments

Haapsalu Shawl? or at the very least, an attempt at one

2. December 2011 15:07 by Jobo | 0 Comments

I have been in love with Estonian Lace from the second I laid eyes on it.  It doesn?t matter which pattern? a leaf, vine, geometric, lily of the valley, paw prints? I love them all.  It?s been in the back of my mind for years now that I neeeeeed to spin the finest yarn I can and go ahead and just knit one of these.  As close to the authentic ones as possible.  I know it will never be 100% right, as I can?t get the right materials here, and I?ll likely not be visiting Estonia anytime soon? but a girl can dream, Right?

At the last Maritime Handspinners? Retreat in October 2011, I bought an 8 ounce bag of Romney washed locks.  I wanted to try spinning for lace directly from the lock (as do some of the other lace spinning geniuses? ahem Margaret Stove cough) and see how well I could do with it.  This wool isn?t the softest one I?ve ever worked with, but the locks are overall quite clean, fairly free of VM, and have a nice bouncy texture.  I?ve been just flicking them open to untangle the tips, and going at it with a Bosworth Mini. 

So far, I think I?ve spun maybe 200 yards of it (very fine 2 ply) and just decided to cast on and give it a try in pattern to see if it ?works? or not.  I didn?t wash to set the yarn either.  I figure blocking will even that part out for me.  I?m not sure how much of the wool I?ve used so far, but there does seem to be a fair bit of loss.  I?m honestly just hoping that I?ll get enough for the shawl out of 4 ish ounces (since I?m estimating I?m losing 30 ? 40 % of the wool? that should be possible out of the 8 ounces).  My plan (if you can actually call it one) is to knit up this small sample ball and then measure and weigh it and extrapolate from there whether I?ll have enough to carry out the rest of the shawl.  I figure if I do run out? I can just make a borderless plain center panel.  That would still be quite striking, even without a border.

I?m using my Woody Knitters Straights size 3 mm, and I?m following the Haapsalu Shawl Book for the number of stitches, cast on recommendations, motifs, and general encouragement.  I chose to use the ?Double Lily of the Valley? chart as my main center design, with a 4 stitch garter border all around.  Then I?ll knit a border lace separately and sew it on to the central rectangle.  This aspect scares me a little, but I tried a sample tiny shawl last year, and my sewn on border looked ok in the end.

double lily of the valley haapsalu 2

As you can see? The little ball is going quite far.  I think I have enough to do the chart completely and probably another half dozen rows.  The shawl is going to be 141 stitches across (you?re only seeing a small portion here, since my needles aren?t that long) and features 3.5 repeats of the Double Lily of the Valley chart across.  To give you an idea of scale? remember that the needles are 3 mm, and I?ve posed a piece of the lace with a Canadian Dime (which is 18 mm diameter) for scale.  I found knitting with the ?thread? was a little bit tedious in the beginning, but I?m getting used to it now.  I had planned to try and work 2 ? 3 rows every day on it, but sadly I?ve gotten behind with all of the other holiday hub-bub.  I hope to get back at it in the new year, and also back into spinning more of this up.  The spinning itself has been quite enjoyable as well!  I?ll post more when progress has actually been made :)

double lily of the valley haapsalu

19. August 2010 09:50
by Jobo
2 Comments

A little Bit Husky...

19. August 2010 09:50 by Jobo | 2 Comments

While out doing one of my spinning wheel demonstrations last week... I was approached by a gentleman and his wife about potentially spinning up some custom yarn for them - from the combings of undercoat from their dog - a beautiful Alaskan Malamute!  The eventual goal would be to have some mittens and a hat made from the coat of their furry friend.

I had been a bit skeptical at first... knowing that some breeds of dog that have lovely fur on the animal, but spinning the coat from clippings or combings in some cases can make a horrible itchy yarn.  In the case of this breed though, their undercoat is so soft and downy, it blends well with wools and actually makes a fuzzy yarn that is almost like an angora blend.  I had the opportunity to look at and touch some Husky Blend yarns knit up into hats up at Belfast Mini Mills the last few times I visited, so I had a feeling that this yarn would work out just fine.

After some internet searches, and a some helpful pointers from Straw (a lady who posts regularly on some of the Chiengora Boards over on Ravelry) I decided that the easiest to prep the fiber would be to blend it with some wool - to help it have more memory and elasticity than just dog fur alone.  I have a nice stash of both Merino and Shetland wools, but I decided on the Merino because I felt that it was a little closer in staple length to the 1-2 inch undercoat, so maybe it would blend better.

Straw had suggested that somewhere between a 70/30 dog/wool blend and a 50/50 one would be appropriate... so for simplicity's sake, I chose to make a 50/50 blend... and went rummaging through the packing boxes for my little wool scale.  The scale doesn't measure as small of increments as I would have liked for this job... the undercoat is very light and airy, and surprisingly free of guard hairs and dirt. These folks must really love their pup, I'd say he is very well cared for ;)

My Ashford Hand Carders seemed to hold 4g of fiber quite nicely! (2g of each creamy white merino and downy grey undercoat)  I alternated adding the fibers to the carders to ease the blending, and carded lightly to get a nice homogeneous mix.  The resulting Rolags were light, soft, and a lovely dove grey heathered shade. 

husky wool blend carded basket

husky wool blend carded - gratuitous closeup!

I carded up around 1.5 ounces as a starting sample which filled a good sized basket.  The fiber was so light I worried it would float out of the basket while I tried to capture a decent photo... it was windy!

I have heard that dog fur, actually pet fur of any kind, is a lot warmer than wool on it's own, so I decided that a dk or sport weight yarn would probably be the best weight to strive for... that way the finished mittens and hat would be thin and comfortable for the wearer.  (I'm guessing a bulky weight yarn would have been way too warm, and then the items wouldn't get as much wear)

I actually only spun up around 0.6 ounces... dk/sport 3-ply as a navajo 3 ply.  By that point I had a good feel for what the yarn would be like.

 

Husky yarn miniskein

This:  is the resulting miniskein.  I did not measure the yardage or WPI on this one... but I will before I choose the garment patterns.

Even after only a little "thwacking" the yarn had already begun to show a nice amount of fuzzing and halo.  When I was picking through the husky fiber, I was worried that I might not have picked out enough of the guard hairs.  Obviously I pulled out any of the long bristly obtrusive ones, but there had been some finer ones.  I tried to take most of them out, but I feared that the ones I missed would result in a scratchy sample.  I guess they weren't coarse enough to make any problems, because the skein is quite soft.

I would describe it as being a little bit thinner than Patons Classic Wool, but about the same bounciness and just a little softer.  I think the halo accounts for that part. I always found the classic wool to be a little bit itchy for close to the skin garments like hats. (make my forehead itch a bit)

 

husky yarn closeup Closeup!

After spinning, washing with a little shampoo to remove any traces of dogginess, and then fulling... I left the yarn to dry overnight.  It was hard to wait... this stuff takes a fair bit of time to dry!  Maybe that's the ambient humidity's fault though... not the yarns!

swatches all 3 

The next step of course... was to knit some swatches to see what the yarn will *feel* like in a knitted state.  The yarn fluffed up a pleasing amount during the knitting process and has just the right amount of halo I think - fuzzy but not completely obscuring the stitch definition.  I tried a swatch of plain stockinette, a slightly lacy diagonal pattern, and a little 2 stitch cable... just to see how it stands up to each style of knitting.  Sometime this weekend, I hope to visit with the customers again and see what they think of the yarn.  If they are happy (and I bet they will be !!)  we can start a design session to choose the details for the final garments :)

** I also have a bit of dark brown fiber saved from the undercoat too... it's a pretty darker brownish grey, and there were only a few bits in the odd clump of fur!  I've been picking it out and saving it to card with some natural black merino which is a similar color and hopefully will use it for some sort of accent on the finished product... maybe a little sewn paw print somewhere, or a cuff accent or something :) **

More to come on this one... and hopefully I'll be able to add a pic of the Dog too :)

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