Why I Still Knit with Mill Spun Yarns

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I just started knitting Waiting for Rain by Sylvia McFadden using the Fibre Co.'s Arranmore Light (80% Merino/10% cashmere/10%silk) and Woolfolk's Tynd(100% Orvis XXI Ultimate Merino Wool). Yes, I'm using mill spun yarn to knit.

Even though I seem to be spinning to knit most of the time, I still use mill spun yarn quite a bit.

The yarn is done. Sometimes I just want to knit and don't want to think about building a yarn to my specs, or locate the exact right skeins in my already spun stash. I want to support yarn shops, dyers and the yarn industry. I never want yarn shops or yarn people to disappear.

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Mill spun yarns are sexy, really irrisistable. Mill spun yarns have become way more interesting over the past years. It helps that the smaller batch yarns are availible online and in shops, not just at fiber festivals. Medium and bigger companies are paying much more attention to the fibers they source and how their yarns are spun and dyed. There are fewer labels in shops now that just say, "100% wool".

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Using mill spun yarns makes me a better spinner. They allow me to study how yarn behaves when knit. I pick apart the structure and content of a yarn while I knit with it and I knit with blends I may not think to use.

Every project that I knit with a mill spun yarn leaves me with a list of new spinning samples I want to make. I always have questions and what-ifs based on the results of my projects and the content and struct of the yarns I used.

The two yarns I'm using for this project are not only soft and beautiful. One is an exceptional grade of Merino (the Tynd), spun and plied perfectly evenly, it also has a halo. One (the Arranmore) is a merino blended with cashmere and silk, mixed with colorful flecks and spun with variations that look a lot like handspun. I'm curious to see how each yarn knits and how they work and look together in the finished shawl.

Spinning for Someone Else

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I've sold my handspun and given it away to people, but I've never spun yarn specifically for someone else. It was the most relaxed spinning I've done in a long time. Part of it was my friend, Carol, had no expectations beyond a wonderfully sheepy yarn, close to worsted that she could knit into a hat. No deadline.

She had some Coopworth sliver that the wonderful people at DM Fibers, dropped off at her shop in case she wants to add spinning fiber to her mix. Carol and her husband Pete own Spun, my LYS in Ann Arbor.

And no, don't get excited, there is no room for spinning fiber at Spun.

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The other component that made it so easy was the fiber.  DMFibers has recently purchased the spinning fiber business from Louet, wholesaling it to shops. All the wonderfully, mostly British sourced fiber, now is in the capable hands of Sasha and David.

The Coopworth that David and Sasha dropped off was dreamy, just look at it! It smells sheepy and it is the least scratchy Coopworth I've spun. I couldn't wear it next to my neck or as a sweater without a shirt under it, but mittens, hats, shawls, and crazy fabulous outer sweaters, like a gansey would do just fine.

Sliver is a woolen prep and Carol picked the woolen drafted sample from the two I showed her. Puff, it is. With almost no expectations and no deadline, of course this yarn shot to the top of my spinning list.

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I had a new mystery series (The Five on Netflix - thank you, Kate) and a woolen draft on a woolen prep. I set up my Hansen e-spinner and spun. It was 100% blissed-out spinning, so relaxing and I made some pretty yarn, that I'm giving to Carol today. She won't even care that it turned out more chunky than worsted.

I may jut spin for other people more often! Do you spin for your friends?

Bubble Crepe

Caracol by Malbrigo

Caracol by Malbrigo

The past few times I've been into my local yarn shop I've noticed and lusted after a yarn called Caracol by Malabrigo. The last time I was in, I sat down and looked at it closely - it's bubble crepe! I can make that!

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I grabbed some Cjkoho BFL  and sewing thread.

I spun a woolen single Z, about worsted weight.




I plied it S with the sewing thread.






I ran my yarn back through my wheel again S, doubling the ply twist.





Then plied it again with the thread Z. And presto chango, bubble crepe!





It's so easy and fun, I made a whole pile of it.

Now to knit something......




Wisconsin Sheep and Wool

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This year I taught at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival for the first time. It was marvelous! It'sa smaller show (7,500 people) than the gargantuan shows like Maryland and Rhinebeck, and that's great.

It's one of those shows that people talk about being great, but I've never been quite sure.

This show moves at a slower pace giving everyone time to talk and shop and learn. This show really is what I think about when I think about a state sheep and wool festival.

Andrea Mielke Schroerwrote a great recap of the show itself for the Craft Industry Alliance blog.

I had an excellent time. My friend Erica rode along with me. We stopped at a Tandy leather store on our way from Michigan to Wisconsin.

The fairgrounds are presided over by a giant cow, the Michigan fairground has a huge chicken. There were so many sheep and educational booth here and I had time to actually see them.

There are two barns for shopping, and they are packed with handpicked vendors. I shopped at Snyder Spindles, Fiber Optic, Jennie the Potter, Green Mountain Spinnery. I am regretting a few things. One is not buying a sweater's worth of yarn at Green Mountain! Another involves some incredible Jacob roving, but I may remedy that one.

My classes were fantastic, they were full and the space was a little tight, but everyone was happy to accommodate and move furniture. My students spun like the wind and had the best questions! Everyone was just happy and friendly at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool. The classroom photo up there is from Emily Wohlscheid's Tweed Batt class, I forgot (again) to take pictures in my classes.

There was excellent food too, several food trucks came over from Madison and I would like to eat the Shepherd's Pie (with lamb) dumplings I had, every single day. Ann Krieg took us to a supperclub for dinner - it's a Wisconsin thing and it was retro-cool.

On the way home Erica and I had to stop at the Mars Cheese Castle and I donned the hat.

Now I know what everyone meant when they said the Wisconsin show is great; I'll be applying to teach at Wisconsin again next year!




In case you were wondering, my cart came and it holds a tired teenage boy.

And yes, I gave him a ride in it.



New Knittyspin and I Bought a Cart


Deep Fall Knitty is live and you know what that means, a new Knittyspin!

It's the 15th anniversary issue of Knitty and my 5th year of doing Knittyspin.

This issue I talk about the difference between heather and tweed and make some batts to illustrate my points.

I could make and spin only tweed. I've had a many decades love of tweed yarn. Take a look at my column and let me know if you want and points clarified or any further experiments done.




And yes, after all of the enthusiastic response to my question about collapsible carts, I bought one. Did you doubt that I would?

I got a purple one and it's winging it's way to me now. Dick's Sporting Goods has them on sale right now, if you need one or another one. Thanks to all of you cart lovers for your input!


I Am Curious About These Carts



I'm still unpacking from Wisconsin Sheep and Wool (which was so much fun!) and I can't stop thinking about the carts a lot of the spinners were using to tote their wheels and spinning stuff.

They hold a ton -  a wheel, folding chair, tool bag, shopping, a lunch cooler and collapse into the back of a car. I've never seen so many spinners using them as I did at this show.



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They aren't cheap, but could make my shelping life easier. Do spinners use them outside of a fairground setting? They're kind of big to get in an elevator and roll around a hotel retreat. On the other hand, I usually take up half of the elevator with all of my Ikea bags.

If you have one, will you tell me how much you love it, if you use it at hotel and shop based classes and where you got yours. Many thanks!

I'm already thinking of ways to decorate my cart. I'm sunk aren't it?

Hipstrings Striped Top Part Two

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Remember this top from Hipstrings? I was going to spin it into a fine cable yarn. But several people suggested things that had to do with color, so of course I had to go down that road instead.

I wasn't making the connection between this striped top and a striped batt. It's the same thing just on a smaller scale. If I spin in the direction of the fiber's grain the colors combine into a sexy heathery yarn. If I spin against the direction of the grain in the fiber the color plays out in brighter chunks of color, less blended.


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You can see it in these bobbins, one is blended and one is chunkier. I plied them on themselves, fraternal not identical yarns.

Left, yarn spun with the grain of the fiber, blending all of the colors. Right, yarn spun against the grain, one color at a time.

Left, yarn spun with the grain of the fiber, blending all of the colors. Right, yarn spun against the grain, one color at a time.

Here are the yarns with a chunk of top indicating the direction that the yarn were spun.

Why didn't I buy more of this fiber? I have so many ideas now!

She's Landed; I Still Need Tissues

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Before and after dorm room photos prove Isobel is comfortably settled at Buffalo.

There was a lot of crying, mostly me. And there's been lots of texting, both of us.

She's already made new friends and is getting ready to start training for D1 level diving.

The house is a little quiet. Her stuff was still everywhere when we got home.  I will admit to raiding her art supplies as I put them away in her room.

It's a big change for everyone. I'm still carrying tissues with me.

I already have her first care package started - it's mostly stuff she forgot, and we're all planning to visit during family weekend in October.

It's going to take a bit for everyone to find our feet, but in a few weeks I suspect I won't need my tissues anymore.