First shop update featuring yarn!

My etsy shop

Image depicts 4 piece of paper with watercolour illustrations on them (fantasy themed portraits, 2 of which are characters from anime/video games). Below, there are 6 skeins of handspun yarn.
This month’s shop update

I give a lot of my extra handspun yarn to my mum, and occasionally send sample skeins out for my friends to play with! I’ve wanted to actually maybe try selling some yarn though (I have done in the past, but very little) and I suppose the time has come to give it a go.

I have an etsy shop for my art adventures but this evening I’m branching out to sharing my yarny adventures too. I have a handful of small handspun yarns available.

Note: updates are once every month on the last Friday of the month.

A photo of a skein of yarn, untwisted and positioned in a spiral shape.
A skein of hand dyed merino handspun which I’m particularly happy with…

I’m nervous about selling my handspun to people I don’t know, but the first step is just to try, I think. I’ll try to make sure I have as much detail included in the listings as possible… I would be happy to hear any feedback anyone has, by the way!

A colourful twisted skein of yarn
A zero waste skein, featuring many different types of singles plied together to make a colourful yarn.

I am not sure what else to write right now, as I’m feeling a bit preoccupied with unnecessary nervousness! I just wanted to say, I appreciate your reading of this post and I hope you have a good weekend!

More about wool

Hi all,

Remember how I tried to contain a bunch of facts about wool in one of my blog posts?

I am not a well practiced writer (see? Practised or practiced? Does that sentence even make sense). So I know that post wasn’t exactly laid out perfectly or written well.

Luckily, I also came across this post by Raincloud & Sage, an online woollen mill/yarn peddler. They outline some of the very attractive qualities of wool fibre in an easy to read post!

Just wanted to share that with you all.

As an aside, lots of crafting is happening here and I need to make an update post sharing it with you all. It’ll get done 🙂

Thanks!

Elysia

I got a blending board~

If you’re not sure what a blending board is or how to use one, Mina Phillip of the Knitting Expat has a great video on actually making your own DIY blending board (I was too lazy/impatient/myriad reasons) and after that she shows you how to use it. There’s also one on making mini batts on a blending board.

Yep, I now have an Ashford blending board… I think that all this staying at home has made me antsy, looking around on the internet for new hobbies, tools, etc. I was looking at batts, and thinking about getting a drum carder eventually – until I thought more about getting a blending board as a kind of step before a drum carder… then at least it would give me a bit more of an idea about whether I liked making and working with woollen prepped fibre.

(Woollen prepped fibre: batts, rolags, roving, etc. These fibres have been prepared in a way where the fibres are pointing in all directions, as opposed to a worsted prep like top where all the fibres have been combed to go in the same direction.)

There is of course the idea in the back of my head that if I enjoy and become decent at making batts and rolags, I might want to think about selling the fibre I prep. A weird thing has happened lately where I’ve been more of a spinner than a knitter – resulting in more yarn than I need – and a happy mother who willingly receives the surplus! But… I will not pressure myself and just allow myself to enjoy experimenting.

First off, I carded up 3 mini batts and in all 3 situations I believe that the blending board could have held more fibre than I put on – but that’s something to note for next time.

The first mini batt – dyed merino (by me) + eri silk + white corriedale.
The first mini batt, curled up the way you see most mini batts displayed in online shops etc.
Mini batt 2 shown in the front: same hand dyed merino + black welsh mountain + eri silk and possibly a bit of white corriedale

I also did a 3rd batt but for some reason didn’t think to photograph it. I have however spun them all up into singles and you can see the photo below.

Note: The yarn spun from the red mini batt includes red/pink Malabrigo Nube merino fibre (colourway called English Rose), eri silk & a bit of the hand dyed merino from me.

For the third batt I used some fibre from a failed spinning project – I had been trying to spin Malabrigo Nube merino fibre in its original ‘top’ preparation, however I was having issues drafting it and so I decided to scrap that project and just use the nube for future blending board projects.

All of these spun singles as you can see are a bit thick and thin in their diameters, as I was just going for fast spinning at a heavier weight than my regular spins. I’m trying to get used to spinning thicker again after I gradually trained myself to spin a fairly consistent thin-ish default style yarn.

I’m thinking of plying these with a black yarn, perhaps handspun or I could save my time and buy a black laceweight wool yarn. I thought about spinning with gold thread but for now I want to avoid bringing new petroleum based yarns into the world!

(Yes, I know they will still be produced, but at least I can avoid adding to the demand so much.)

My goal is to create lots of nice batts and rolags from natural fibres, making use of things like soy silk in addition to the usual suspects, in order to get a bit of shine and different texture without reaching for the sparkle of stellina, etc. But, I won’t absolutely ban myself from these things as I don’t think my brain responds well to outright bans!

As for silk, I am going to continue to use it fairly sparingly. I bought eri silk, recycled sari silk and tussah silk noil – I believe that the eri silk is harvested without killing the silk worms, and the sari silk is recycled, so that gives me peace of mind… and the silk noil, I think that might be a kind of ‘waste’ or byproduct so again to me that’s not something I am super worried about.

That’s it for now friends! Thanks for stopping by.

Knitting up some handspun socks!

Hi all, thought I would share some photos of my recent handspun sock project. These will be my 2nd pair of handspun socks I believe, as I made a dk weight pair of bed socks for my mum using some handspun from Hilltop Cloud.

Today’s fibre comes from one of my favourites, Rusty Ferret! They had a fairly recent fibre update from which I got 2 braids of Cheviot hand dyed fibre. I’ll admit, I keep going back to their shop and eyeing up some more fibre, but I know that I really have way too much right now and need to spin and knit up what I have before I can justify buying any more…

Anyway, on to the fibre!

A photo of a braid of British Cheviot fibre, hand dyed in different shades of purple.

Apologies for the not so aesthetically pleasing photo, I think I was just too eager to get spinning on it! It was enjoyable to spin, and drafted easily. I believe I spun all the singles in 4 batches of 25g on my drop spindle, and then plied it on my wheel. I tend to prefer plying on the wheel as the spindle ends up getting a bit overloaded with ~50g of fibre on it.

Image showing 3 items on a mattress; 1) a hank of yarn with a band of paper around it. The paper features branding for Rusty Ferret, a yarn and fibre online shop. 2) a hand knitted sock made from the yarn. 3) a small ball of the yarn left over.
Handspun British Cheviot yarn dyed by Rusty Ferret (link to shop above).

Here we go, the fibre was spun up pretty quickly and I cast on my sock soon after. It’s definitely heavier than a fingering weight yarn. I need to get my hands on a WPI tool (I know I can measure it myself too…) so that I know weights for sure. I believe it’s sport to DK weight. I cast on 52 stitches for this sock, and just followed my default sock making technique, and googled heel flap instructions for a 26 stitch heel.

I want to add a bit more detail here to say that I hope to spin up more of these non-nylon fibres, in order to make my own collection of socks/accessories/garments that can return to the earth (be composted!) once they have been worn to oblivion!

A close up image of the hand knit sock, showing the cuff, leg, heel and part of the foot. The toe is not showing. You can see the knitted stitches in detail.
More of a close up of the sock so you can see the yarn a bit more clearly. It’s not super even but it’s pretty good for my spinning!

So there you have it! One sock done and one more to go. I just finished casting on about 5 minutes ago and will work a bit on the cuff now while catching up with fibre arts podcasts!

Fibre Basics: Wool

A large white hank of yarn made from Ryeland fleece.
Handspun yarn using Ryeland fleece gifted to me from a friend. Once this is fully spun up and knitted into a garment, I will have a completely compostable piece of clothing ready to return to the earth once it has been out.

When I’m browsing environmental issues type sites, or encountering veganism related posts on social media etc. I often see people suggest alternatives to using wool – for example – an overly simplistic response to ‘wool’ -‘bamboo yarn’. It’s doled out in a well meant way. I’m still a layperson in terms of learning about textiles, but when I see those kinds of suggestions I feel a bit frustrated.

So I want to provide some basic, easy-to-understand information to everyone about the different types of fibres and their properties. I don’t intend for this to be all encompassing or super detailed. People can expand their research if they wish and come to their own conclusions about the sustainability of each type.

Note: I’m not going to cover leather since I don’t know enough about it and also am focusing on fibres (generally meaning things that can be spun into yarn or felted into fabric).

I’m writing this with a view mostly towards ‘clothing the people’ rather than more individual pursuits such as my own garment knitting. I also want to add that I welcome any corrections (I am an amateur after all), feedback, discussion and expansion on the topic! Please do let me know if you have any extra information you’d like me to add.

To start with, I’m just going to provide the facts about wool. Since I work with this fibre the most, I know more about it. I will probably need to do some extra research on the other fibre types first 🙂

Factsheet

Fibre: Wool – I’m going to be discussing sheep’s wool specifically here.
Type: Protein fibre – meaning it comes from animals and the fibre itself is made from protein.

Characteristics

  • Grown by sheep
  • Sheep are usually sheared once or twice a year
  • More primitive breeds of sheep such as Soay can self-shed the fleece
  • Great insulator
  • Water resistant
  • Breathable
  • Antimicrobial
  • Compostable/biodegradable
  • Stretchy/springy – remembers its original shape
  • Varies from super soft to coarse – this is measured in microns (the thickness of the wool fibres)
  • There are many different sheep breeds with different properties to their fleeces

Production Information

  • Can be sourced, spun, dyed, etc. within the UK
  • Often a by-product of the meat industry
  • It is possible to get fibre from no-kill fibre farms and animal sanctuaries if this is a concern.
    E.g. Hooligan Yarns
  • Mulesing is the process of removing some skin around the tail area of the sheep in order to prevent flystrike. This is a common practice in some countries however you can buy yarn/clothing etc. from companies that work with mulesing-free farms.
    E.g. Hedgehog Fibres sell mulesing free yarn
    E.g. 2 Companies such as Finisterre use mulesing-free merino for their products
  • Fibre from more popular sheep breeds such as merino is often processed and made ‘superwash’ (machine washable). This usually involves coating the fibre in a plastic based resin – which somewhat damages the ‘biodegradable’ aspect. Some superwash treatments are non-plastic however.
  • Suitable for most types of garments, accessories, homeware, also used for footwear.
  • Contrary to some animal rights organisation claims, shearing does not kill the sheep. Also with a skilled shearer the sheep will not be stressed or injured.
  • In recent years many farmers have ended up composting, binning or burning their fleeces. This is because they cannot get a good price selling their fleeces, and there is lower demand for the fleeces of meat breed sheep.

Further Research

The Vanishing Fleece by Clara Parkes
Mrs M’s Curiosity Cabinet – a blog and podcast delving in-depth into materials and sustainability
Woolly Mammoth Fibres Podcast – a podcast by a natural dyer, she has a focus on obtaining sheep fleeces from local farmers, having them spun into yarns without any plastic content
Knitting Monk – a podcast by a knitter with a focus on sustainability
Ethics & Sustainability of Wool – Tortoise & Lady Grey – a blog post, actually the whole blog is an interesting read
Fiber Conscious: Superwash Wool – Woolful – blog post with info about superwash process
Garthenor – a UK fibre company based in Wales which produces climate positive, organic wool
Fibershed Podcast

All grown up

Hi all! I had a few more photos so I thought I’d make another short post update on the quail. They’re now over 6 weeks old, pretty much adults. I’m hoping for eggs soon from the females, perhaps in 2 more weeks if I’m lucky. It depends a lot also on how they are feeling – if they’re feeling stressed then they aren’t going to lay. So I need to keep them happy and calm. About that…

Ok. This extremely beautiful and friendly mini panther has decided it wants to eat the quail… After seeing him that day I haven’t seen him prowling around the hutch in a while so fingers crossed the neighbourhood cats have realised they can’t get inside the hutch…

Aside from that…

We found out that this little one is a male! That makes 2 males out of 5 birds. 2 males to 3 females is not a good ratio – it could end up with bald, stressed females (male birds pull the feathers around the females’ head/neck area when mating) and/or potentially fighting between the 2 male birds to establish dominance.

I noticed that this male was also being picked on by the other birds. I separated out the main aggressor, a hen who has been christened grumpy/mardy girl. She was separated for the day. Upon reintroduction, things were ok. But again the next day I saw that both males were trying to mate with the females (who didn’t seem too happy about it) and I decided that now would be a good time to separate the flock and establish a bachelor pad.

I decided that rather than keep 1 lonely boy upstairs on his own, the 2 boys could live together in harmony (or thereabouts), and the 3 ladies could live downstairs and hopefully have a chilled existence, giving me eggs when they felt more relaxed!

So for now we have 2 boys upstairs and 3 girls downstairs. The roos (I will refer to the male quail as roos from now on) seem ok. While not alone, they don’t have a 100% harmonious existence together. I will try to improve their surroundings and keep them as happy as possible. This may involve me trying to build a 2nd hutch to give them a much larger amount of space. Currently they have over the minimum recommended square footage per bird but I want to see how they get on.

The hens are doing fine downstairs, with some conflict between them occasionally – it’s fairly benign so for now I will just keep an eye on them to make sure no one gets too aggressive. It seems like they’re just establishing (or maintaining) the ‘pecking order’. They’re mostly just chilling out though. I do worry that they might need more stimulation but they do have a bunch of stuff in their run for them to explore etc. One thing I do need to create is a new feeding area as I was using a tray for the girls but they just knock it over and the food goes all over the floor! This is fine if they want to forage on the ground for it but I feel like it’s probably at least somewhat wasteful.

That’s my little quail update for everyone 🙂

Spinning the aqua

Hi all, just a mini update of the aqua fibre I dyed up recently.

(A side note; I’m actually enjoying writing short blog posts on here since the pandemic…)

So, I thought that I don’t like spinning merino – after some struggle spinning malabrigo nube. No fault of the malabrigo nube fibre though, it’s lovely, and super soft, however at my current spinning stage it’s not enjoyable or easy for me to spin… Lately I’ve been preferring the more coarse, higher micron fibres. This is great because it means I can enjoy a lot of British breeds (I’m trying to buy more close to home where possible for environmental reasons).

However, after dyeing and drying this fibre, and after finishing my recent spins, I wanted to get something new on the spindle. I picked up this fibre as I love the colours (you can see them on the previous blog post) and it turns out that I also enjoy spinning the merino after all! It’s not as super soft as the malabrigo nube which could be why I find it easier.

I’ll post another few photos once I’ve plied and soaked it! Thanks for looking today!

Hand holding a spindle, on which there is some handspun yarn. It is a very pale green/mint/aqua colour, spun from merino fibre.

More Fibre Dyeing

I dyed this in order to use up some leftover dye that I had mixed up… thought I would share it here. It’s merino, probably superwash, originally gifted to me for arm knitting, however I would prefer to spin it as I heard that arm knitted blankets don’t hold up to much wear at all!

Image description: 100g of slightly minty, aqua coloured merino fibre resting on a wooden chair outdoors.
Image description: The same merino fibre, this time with a bit more green and a tinge of yellow showing, being held in the palm of a hand, also outdoors.

Spinning fibre from Rusty Ferret

So, I cant remember if I mentioned that I was doing a ‘yarn diet’ for a while. I was trying to focus on appreciating what I already have in my stash. And I did, and I managed to shift a bunch of older stash out into the world either for myself or as presents for other people.

I allowed myself to buy some new things 🙂 One of my recent favourite fibre dyers is Rusty Ferret. LJ is a dyer of yarn and fibre based in Scotland. She dyes such beautiful and vibrant colours. She did an update recently for fibre with Shetland, Rambouillet and Cheviot fibre available. I’ve never spun Cheviot before so I thought I’d give it a go… and I love it. I also love LJ’s colours. I thought I’d share with you some pictures of my spinning project!

I know I probably could have done better colour management in order to do the fibre better justice, or I could have chain plied it. But spinning this fibre was just a sort of relaxation for myself, so I just spun my default yarn, bit by bit, and enjoyed watching the colours change. And I’m happy with the result 🙂

Next, I’d love to try out one of LJ’s Rambouillet braids! Thanks for reading 🙂

More Hand Dyeing!

Hi all, I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but I have added a couple extra headers to the randomised headers above! I did have 2 anime headers, one still from Spirited Away (knitting related) and one from Mary and the Witch’s Flower (not knitting related but calm and pretty). I decided to remove those since they’re not my work and have replaced the 2 images with a photo of some hand dyed yarn and then some handspun yarn, both by me.

I thought I’d post the handful of photos I took of my last dye experiment here too. I had 4 skeins of superwash (yes, I’m still working with superwash about 50% of the time!) BFL fingering weight yarn so decided to dye them up for a top for my mum. I just experimented with the colours and had fun 🙂 If I have any left over from making her a top I will make some socks or something else too.

I still have the goal to one day sell my skeins, potentially my handspun and/or my hand dyed yarns. But I’m still at the experimenting stage of both dyeing and spinning and I’m taking it super slow due to being slow to knit up all that I have! Also, I focus on keeping up with art-making and am studying Japanese, so that eats up a bunch of my free time.

Maybe someday I’ll just take the plunge and buy a bunch of undyed fibre and yarn? I am edging towards that a bit. Right now with the pandemic, C is in the vulnerable category so we are isolating as much as we can – so selling online (and therefore needing to go to the post office) wouldn’t be ideal. Unless I buy a printer and can print postage labels myself that way (another big investment!).

Anyway, thanks for looking 🙂