Spring+Summer Knittyspin - Wool and Flax


My living room is filled with bags, boxes and piles of fiber and samples for my classes at Ply Away and Dallas Fort Worth Fiber Festival. I am ready and nervously excited to go teach!

Spring+Summer Knitty went live yesterday, and that means a new Knittyspin column.



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In this issue I explore the curious and yes, wonderful, world of wool mixed with flax or ramie. These blends have been around for a bit, but they became irresistible to me only recently. In my column I talk about spinning these interesting blends. Since I am a rookie at flax spinning, I asked two dyers who sell these blends, Jill of Hipstrings and Katie of Hilltop Cloud for help. I included their very  helpful answers in the column.

One of the things I do for Knitty every issue is review books. I do short and to the point reviews that someone once described as dim sum reviews. Here's my review of a  book that just floored me, creative, smart, and such pretty and wearable designs. I don't want you to miss it.


This Thing of Paper: Eleven Knitting Patterns Inspired by Books
by Karie Westermann

Every issue I fall a little in love with a book. I want to knit everything in it, I want to live where it was photographed, I want to befriend the author. I am not a stalker; I am a fan. This time it’s This Thing of Paper.

The eleven designs in this book are inspired in the point in book history when manuscripts became type. Every pattern is accompanied by a thought-provoking essay that either had me scurrying to do further research or nodding along with Karie’s personal stories. I wish more knitting books were filled with this type of excellent and insightful writing.

The Incunabula Cardigan is the first pattern I want to make, it’s a vintage inspired cabled cardigan, with beautiful cables floating on enough stockinette that I can adjust the shape to fit me how I like. I loved the Rubrication shawl (the cover design) even before I read that the stitch patterns were to evoke nibs and ink. The Letterpress cowl is a cozy, textured knit that I want to spin the yarn for.

The whole book package is gorgeously done, the size the paper selection, the photography and setting and the font, I’m swoony for the font.

This book is a beautiful marriage of books and knitting, of paper and yarn, I sincerely hope Karie has another book in the works.


I hope to see some of you over the next few weeks!

If you have tips for spinning wool and flax or wool and ramie let me know, my exploration is just getting started.

WEBS' Spinning Summit Is Happening Again!


I am so happy to announce that WEBS is having another Spinning Summit this year and Amy King, Beth Smith and I will be teaching.

The dates are October 5th-7th.

We had so much fun last year. There was chocolate, swag bags, a scavenger hunt, and shopping at WEBS after hours.

There are fantastic classes too.  The brochure for this year is here.

I'm teaching Fractal Frolic and two new classes for this year, Match Game: Spinning for Knitting and Pretty Maids All in a Row: Successive Color Plying.

Registration opens March 21st on the WEBS website.

Why Plying with Center Pull Ball Doesn't Work for Me

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I have always struggled to ply from a center pull ball. I am in awe of the folks that can do it effortlessly. I have trouble getting the same amount of tension on both plies, I even have trouble holding the ball because I have small hands.

The thing that makes my eye twitch about center-pull-ball-plying is the uneven twist. The ply that comes from the center gathers more twist as it unspools than the ply that comes from the outside of the ball. To my eye this leads to an inconsistent yarn. Even if I do get the tension even on the two plies, one is a little tighter twisted than the other. 

The photo shows the phenomenon exaggerated because the tape is flat and was wound tightly, but it's a good illustration.

I don't knit my handspun from the center strand either, unless I want a little more twist in it. I do knit quite frequently from the center when I knit with commercial yarn. I think most commercial yarn is a little underplied, so I am happy to add a little more ply when I knit from the center of a cake.

This is just another one of those personal preference things, but the more you know about your yarn the happier you'll be.

Two Color Games That Are Teaching Me About Color

I'm still not feeling too great. I've hit that portion of a big cold where there is little sleeping due to coughing. NyQuil has been a dear, dear friend.

As part of my study of (obsession with) color, I'm trying to become more fluent in recognizing colors and what makes up colors. Does this particular color have a lot of white in it? Is that a grey or brown undertone? I have two games on my iPhone that are helping me practice. Best of all? They are both free.

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Color Match  

This game is about recognizing and memorizing colors. You look at a color for three seconds, then try to match it on the next screen.

I can't break 800. My friend Erica who's been an artist for her whole life kills at this game. This is my favorite waiting game.



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This game has you place colors how they sit in relation to each other on a color wheel.

I just started this one and I'm struggling a little with shades. It's a much more fun way to learn about color relationships than studying  color wheel.

Do you know of any other color games?


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Crafting with the Crud


I have the the crud, not the flu, but the big old supercalifragilistic cold that's going around.

I need to keep working and want to keep crafting. After years of raising kids and having them generously share their ills with me I've devised a plan to keep moving forward craft-wise with the crud. Here are my three top strategies to keep crafting while I'm cruddy.

I take the barbeque approach, low and slow. I work on something that is low in effort and brain power. I want a project where it won't be a tragedy if I forget to record how I set up my wheel or how many rows I knit or wove. I spin my default yarn if I feel like sitting all the way up. I knit hats and cowls or miles of stockinette on a sweater. I'll weave, but I'll never thread my loom when I'm sick.

I dream and research. This is the perfect time to figure out what my next project or craft is going to be. I take the time to drift and follow all of the rabbit holes; I pile up books and open 50 tabs on my computer.

I tune all the way out. I never love my headphone more than when I'm sick. (Nope, that's I lie, I love them most during preschool storytime when I'm writing at the library.) I crawl into bed or curl on a corner of the couch with a little spinning or knitting and someone talking directly into my ear, an audio book or a movie on my iPad. The whole world goes away and I rest.

Here's hoping you don't get any of the ills that are floating around and that mine is short lived.

New Pattern for Handspun: Bluemoon Cowl

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I have a new pattern out in the Winter Knitty Surprise, Bluemoon Cowl. A simple cowl designed to use every bit of a 4 ounce braid of fiber, spun into thick and thin spiral-ply yarn.

I used Hipstrings [75% 23 micron Merino. 25% Mulberry Silk]; color: Supernatural, a great combination of matte Merino and shiny silk. I emphasized the fibers' attributes by spinning the core ply worsted, bringing up the shine of the silk, and the Merino takes over in the thick and thin ply with it's pillowy puff.

For those of you curious, that model is doing great in college. She has good friends, great grades and her team is undefeated for the season.


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I knew I wanted the stitch pattern to be simple, drapey, and to show off the yarn. I used a combination of stockinette and reverse stockinette in alternating blocks. The reverse stockinette really shows off the thick puffs and the stockinette sets of the textured blocks. I knit it at a very open gauge, more in line with the chubbiest bits of the yarn.

This pattern is one of those instant gratification handspun patterns. The yarn and knitting can both be finished in a weekend, and maybe quicker if life outside of spinning doesn't get in the way.


I saw the trailer for Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society movie this morning and I have to share for my friends who love a good British costume drama. It's one of those rare instances where the movie looks to be better than the book. I thought the book was just ok. The costumes are spectacular, lots of knitwear, all draped on beautiful people. 

Spin with Me at the A2 Library on Saturday

I'm hosting a spin in at the Ann Arbor District Library (downtown) this Saturday, I'll do a little show and tell about spinning color, and then I'll be available to answer question or demo techniques for you. Come with questions or just come to hang out and spin!

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Spinning Lab with Jillian Moreno


Saturday February 10, 2018: 12:00pm to 3:00pm


Downtown Library: Secret Lab

The Secret Lab is in the basement.





Spend time with our Spin Doctor, local expert Jillian Moreno! She'll answer your spinning and fiber questions, solve your spinning problems, help you plan yarn and projects, or show you how to get started! Jillian will demonstrate two different ways to handle your painted fiber and you’ll learn how to combine them with naturals, solid colors and other painted braids. Bring your own fiber to spin, too!  If you don't have a burning question, you're more than welcome to come and hang out as we spin away the day.

Spinning for a Cowl - Wolkig Knitted Swatches

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I spun six yarns for the Wolkig cowl and this past week I knitted them in to little swatches. Yes, even the singles I didn't like, and guess what, I still don't like them. The swatch pair on the left were drafted woolen, the swatches on the right were drafted worsted. In each set of swatches the swatch on the left was drafted from the fold and the one on the right was drafted from the end. The woolen drafted yarns are pretty fragile seeming to me, they will fuzz and pill pretty instantly. The worsted yarns were firmer than I liked and they swallowed the sparkle. I do need to practice a low-twist worsted single, I usually have more twist than I think is ideal in my worsted drafted singles.

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I had more fun with my 2-ply yarns. Do you want to guess which is which? Both are drafted woolen. One is drafted from the end and one is drafted from the fold.

Without touching them, the giveaway is the playout of the colors. Remember the fiber is striped in blues and whites (and sparkle!) in the direction of the top. 

Spinning from the end blends the colors together and spinning them from the fold stripes them when knit. So the swatch spun form the fold is the swatch on the left. See the subtle striping of the white silk? That tells me it was spun from the side of the fiber. Geeky, I know, but I love it!

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Facts and figures-wise they were close. Spun from the fold 2-ply,  knit to 5.25 stitches to the inch on a US 2 (I'm a loose knitter), the top part of the left swatch, with a WPI of 14-16 and 1750 YPP. Our next contestant knit to 5.5 stitches to the inch (the bottom part of the right swatch) on a US 2, with a WPI of 16-18 and  1675 YPP. 

Both would work. The YPP gets me more than 600 yards with the 6 ounces of fiber I have, the pattern calls for 490. If I only had a single 4 ounce braid, I would have sampled again for a finer yarn, my yardage at this YPP would have been a little more than 400 yards.  The pattern calls for a gauge of 5.5 stitches to the inch, I've got that covered. 

The swatch on the right is my winner. Woolen spun form the end. I like the depth of color and I like the feel. With all of this sampling done I can spin for this project knowing that my yarn will work with my chosen pattern and that I'm making a yarn I like.