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.



Schacht Flatiron - Moving from a Castle Wheel to a Saxony

Schacht Matchless photo by Schacht Spindle Company

Schacht Matchless photo by Schacht Spindle Company

Spinning wheel-wise I'm a castle wheel woman. Ever since the first time I saw a Schacht Matchless I've been smitten with castle wheels.

Castle wheels are spinning wheels that are pretty compact and vertical, saxony wheels are the Sleeping Beauty style wheel, more horizontal. To me they look like the difference between a dog sitting up and a one laying on her side.

I'd never been much tempted by saxony wheels. In my greedy mind, I always thought I could fit two castle wheels in the same footprint as a single saxony. Greed-y. I have a Schacht Matchless and Sidekick, a Majacraft Suzie Pro, a Lendrum DT, and a Hansen minispinner which has the smallest footprint of all. I think a Louet is next.

Schacht Flatiron photo by Schacht Spindle Company

Schacht Flatiron photo by Schacht Spindle Company

I wasn't tempted by a saxony wheel until I met the Schacht Flatiron. I really liked the way it looked. Yes, I call it the Schacht-Ikea, but as a compliment.  It's a flat pack wheel that can be built with the orifice on the left or right side, and all of the parts are US made. I was also attracted to getting a wheel with a big drive wheel at an affordable price. I first spun on it at PLY Away and it was incredibly smooth.

The build took me forever! I have never built a wheel before and it took me almost four hours to put it together. Many spinners who have built wheels before report a time of 90 minutes or less. The instructions were great and easy to follow, I just kept double checking going very methodically - rare for me.

Then came the spinning. I knew it would be awkward, that I would have to rethink a few things, but I didn't anticipate how long it take me to get into a saxony groove.

I spun on it a little, with hesitancy. I couldn't find a chair the right height, I couldn't figure how to sit in front of it or how to comfortably draft. I loved how it spun, smooth and speedy, fine yarns are what this wheel wants to churn out with ease. I kept trying to force it to work like a castle wheel. 

Spinning at a castle wheel, I sit straight in front of it, and draft backwards (with my left hand). I tried straight on with my Flatiron and it only worked in the most awkward way possible. Treadling came in starts and stops. I couldn't really get a good long draft with my fiber; I knew I was supposed to draft across by body, but my body was in the way.  I could spin and make yarn, but I knew I wasn't doing something right. My Flatiron was never crabby about it, she was just waiting for me to figure it out.

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I looked at pictures and videos of spinners at saxony wheels, I paid attention to my students in classes. They all had their wheels a little angled with the orifice away and the drive wheel closer to their bodies. I tried it. I also looked at the Flation's treadles, they are angled. If I sat straight in line(ish) with the treadles, the wheel would be angled drive wheel close/ orifice away to my body.

It was much easier to treadle, to stop and start and just cruise, when I was sitting the way the wheel maker intended, all of the treadling weirdness  I experienced was gone. The other thing that orienting did was to completely open up my drafting. I could draft all the way across my body, more side to side than back. I could get a loooong draft and it made my tired shoulder much happier. Right now I'm spinning with a sprained ankle and it is easy to treadle using one foot; it's still silky smooth.

I've been moving toward finer yarns, fixating on fine woolen yarns or woolen drafted top, so the ratios of this wheel (a bigger drive wheel allows more flyer rotations even with a medium sized whorl, which means more twist with each treadle and easier fine yarn spinning) make me so happy. Like my other Schacht wheels before her the Flatiron can be set up in all three drive systems and adjustments to the brake and drive wheel are set so minute adjustments are possible.


Since this is a Schacht wheel, all of my other Schacht wheel components fit on the Flatiron, whorls, Schacht bobbins and Akerworks bobbins, and yes, my WooLee Winder. Imagine the smile on my face.

Castle wheels are still my first love, but now that I've figured out saxony wheels, thanks to the patient and easy to use Flatiron, I'm looking for spots in my house to fit another saxony or two.

Spinning for a Project- the Yarn for Wolkig

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I spun six samples of yarn for the Wolkig Cowl, and each time I was wrong about what I wanted.

First I spun four singles, I was sure the yarn I wanted would be one of these. I spun two with a worsted draft and two with a woolen draft. For each set I spun the top in two directions vertically from the end and from the fold. 

In the first photo, the singles top to bottom are worsted drafted from the end, worsted drafted from the fold, woolen drafted from the end, and woolen drafted from the fold.

The singles did what I thought they would, the worsted was sleek and dark and the woolen was lighter and showed more fluctuation in color. The yarns spun from the end looked marled and those spun from the fold, speckled and had variation in where the colors landed. They were fine, albeit a little overspun for a stand-alone single, but I just didn't like them.

The worsted drafted yarns swallowed up a lot of the subtleness of colors, and the woolens just didn't do it for me. I really thought the worsted from the fold was going to be my yarn, smooth yet with a air and a speckled color due to spinning from the fold. It does that, but I don't much like it. I will knit a wee sample to be sure. 

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Here's where being a spinning is the best. Those four singles yarns are what the pattern calls for, they are the most like the commercial yarn the designer used, but I don't want to use them. I don't much like how they look, they don't show off the  fiber enough - I can't even see the sparkle! I'm also concerned about instant pilling with the woolen singles. Since I spin, I can take the parts I like about those four yarns, as well as match the gauge of the project and come up with a yarn that I do want to use, something that highlights the fiber and might protect the yarn a little from pilling.

Based on the singles above I knew I wanted a woolen drafted yarn, with an additional ply. I spun two, one from the end (woolen draft on worsted prep) and one from the fold (woolen draft on woolen prep). Yes, this is much more of what I wanted! I couldn't catch the sparkle in the photos, but it's there. Again I was surprised, I thought the yarn spun from the fold was going to be my yarn, I almost didn't sample the yarn spun from the end.

In the second photo, the top yarn is drafted woolen from the end and the bottom yarn is drafted woolen from the fold.

It's the 2-ply yarn, drafted woolen from the end that I like the most.

Next, I'm going to knit small samples to check gauge and measure all of the bits of my yarn before I start spinning for the project.

This amount of sampling took an afternoon and used just over an ounce of fiber, not much time or fiber.


Spinning for a Project - Wolkig Cowl

Wolkig Cowl photos by Martina Behm

Wolkig Cowl photos by Martina Behm

The Wolkig Cowl by Martina Behm has been in the back of my mind as a project I want to spin yarn for since it came out in Knitty's First Fall 2017 issue.

When I came home with some Hipstrings merino/silk fiber that my daughter oohed and ahhhed over, I knew I had a fiber match.

To help me get it done I'm going to track my process here. Let me know what tips and tricks you have for spinning for a project.

The first thing I do when I spin for a project that calls for a commercial yarn is to dissect the yarn the pattern was designed with.

Wolkig was knit from Manos Del Uruguay Silk Blend Fino, a fingering weight yarn. Here is the yarn info I can find.

  • 70% merino/30% silk
  • singles
  • 6-7 stitches to the inch knit in stockinette
  • 1550 YPP
  • 16-18 WPI - this is a guess, since I don't have the yarn in hand. I based it on a combination of YPP and knit stitches to the inch. That makes it in the range of Sock/Fingering/Sport


Hipstrings Lapis Lazuli 

Hipstrings Lapis Lazuli 

Having those yarn facts, lets me know that I can spin a yarn to match the Fino. But my next question is, do I want to? What changes would I want to make to the yarn? 

The fiber I have is a blend of Merino/bamboo/ silk/sparkle. It's going to be gorgeous, but not very durable, pilling-wise. The streaky-ness of the fiber is something to consider for yarn making too. I like not fully blended fiber blends, but I also like yarns that aren't altogether consistent.

When I spin a lightly blended fiber mix with a worsted draft, the occasional bumps caused by the fiber being not wholly blended makes me a little nuts. If I am drafting woolen it doesn't bother me.

I'd like a little more durability in my yarn for this cowl and fiber, does that mean a worsted draft or adding plies?

There is also color to consider. Not fully blending the fibers causes striping, lengthwise. If I spin it from the end it will marl. If I spin it from the fold, it will speckle more than stripe (marls look like stripes to me), and it will be woolier, adding to the durability question.

What's a spinner to do? Sample until the cows come home, or at least 3 or 4 yarns. 

You know what I'll be doing this weekend!

Holidays and a Sign from the Cosmos about 2018


Our Christmas was very low key and relaxing. We had Isobel for just a week before she was back to school to keep training for diving, so we purposefully didn't schedule much extra beyond piling on the couch. We had food, friends, and family with a bonus pile of snow.

We saw The Last Jedi and Isobel took 100 baths (no bathtub at college). I thoroughly enjoyed the spinning nest I built myself and may never vacate it. I really don't remember a more leisurely Christmas. And Henry, the lucky duck, gets another week off before he goes back to school.

I thought leisurely about 2018, trying to not be frantic about planning, goals and resolutions. That is hard for me.

I've had a very busy couple of years work-wise and would like to be more intentional with this one. But I always struggle with doing more. I have lots of ideas and want to chase them all. For 2018 I was on the mental teeter-totter of doing more online, classes, special groups, videos, something. My intuition was telling, me nope, but I kept mentally gnawing on it.


I'm teaching a lot this this year, and it's what I really love to do (along with writing and plotting things) which is what the sensible part of my brain kept saying. The truth of it is, online things are what a lot of smart people in the fiber industry are doing right now, and I felt like I should too. Or at least it's what I felt I should want to do.

These ideas didn't feel right, but I kept teetering and tottering, until New Year's Day. That was the deadline I gave myself to commit to anything new in the first half of the year. I was distracted and grumpy thinking and arguing with myself about it all, until I got quite a message about slowing down.

There's probably no bigger red flag to slow down and pay attention than to trip and fall in your own family room. It's just a bad sprain, and quite annoying, but it helped me make a bunch of decisions very quickly. No online reindeer games for me this year. I have classes to teach, articles to write and new books to hatch. That's not saying that I won't do anything new, but I'm approaching 2018 with intention, listening to my intuition, and wearing an industrial strength ankle brace.

My Key to Enjoying the Holidays - I Treat Myself Like a Preschooler

We almost always host Christmas, which for us lasts two to three days. One day relatives, one day our little family, and one day our love family.


The part that is rough is my own clashing expectations of doing all the things and simultaneously lounging in my jammies relaxing. Plus, people all the time. That is the part of being an introvert that is 100% for me, being around people is exhausting, even when I very much want to hangout with all of my people.

I have devised a way to make those in-house Christmas days fabulous for me. I treat myself like a preschooler. I think back to when my kids were little and how I'd get ready to spend a long day anywhere with them. I'd make sure they had the things that kept them relaxed and happy and I do that for myself.

I have a spot that is mine. I claim a spot that will be mine for three days. I'm lucky being a spinner because my spot is dead obvious - it's the one with the spinning wheel in front of it. My wheel also blocks anyone from going near my spot. Note that my spot has excellent light, extra pillows, an optional heating pad and a plug to charge my phone.



I have a basket of toys. Spinning, knitting, stitching, even a little weaving is all at hand in my basket. Every project is an easy one, suitable for chatting or movie watching. I make sure to have all of the tools, fiber and yarn that I need in the basket - no hunting for bobbins, the next ball of yarn or snips.

I have my favorite snacks. Notice the peppermint Joe-Joes in the middle of the basket, there might be chocolate hidden in there too.




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I keep go-bags in case I have to relocate. These three bags hold a different craft, knitting, spindle spinning and stitching. In case the socializing takes me to a different room or someone takes my spot (the nerve!), I can grab one and be happy.

I have a story. An audiobook is critical to my peace over the holidays. I can cook, clean, craft, be a little bit in my own world in the midst of it all. 

I only wear comfortable clothes and I nap when I need it. I love all of my families enough to know when I need a nap.

I do a lot of cooking, cleaning and socializing over Christmas and knowing I have my spot and stuff at hand makes me a happier Christmas elf.

I wish you all Happy Holidays!