Fiber Review: Tussah Silk

Drop Spinning Tussah Silk

Being a big fan of taking dramatic, bipolar shifts in whatever projects I am working on (apparently), I took a break from my scratchy, wild Icelandic wool roving pile to work on spinning something else. While I am still enjoying the tangly, tugworthy, charms of the wild pile I featured in my last spinning post, I wanted to test out some fiber I’ve had in my basket for a long time: Tussah Silk.

240 yards, 19-22 WPI, 1.9 oz.

Drop-spun Icelandic wool: 240 yards, 19-22 WPI, 1.9 oz.

So different from the Icelandic! First, a word on Tussah:

Tussah silk is the “wild” type of silk, collected from worms “not specifically bred for silk production” according to this great post at Craftsy Blog. The cultivated type of silk is called Bombyx silk. The natural length of silk filament is about a kilometer long, produced from the worm all in one go to make a cocoon which is later boiled down and unwound to make the fiber. Yep, silk is made by boiling little worms to death, at least in traditional sericulture (silk production). I was a little traumatized about this, but then went on to read that there are silks made from cocoons that the worms have been allowed to leave. Still a pretty big bummer for the worms, though.

Corgi Hill Tussah

I purchased this fiber from Corgi Hill Farm on Etsy, one of my favorite homegrown dye operations.  This 2.1 oz silk top roving came in a simple but lovely dual-tone, chocolate brown with patches of the natural silk color, a very pretty cream with a golden sheen.  I couldn’t wait to see how it would spin.

Silk feels so delicate that I was handling this light, thin roving like it was a relic from the lost city of Atlantis… until I pulled out a piece to test the staple length. It was long. The staple length of my silk top wasn’t a kilometer (thank goodness) – but it was about 5-6 inches, making for a much easier drafting length than I expected.

Flash forward to me spinning. What a smooth, dreamy quality this fiber has, allowing me to release the twist into the roving and just steadily draw the fibers out, with relatively little stopping and starting – OH CRAP the continuity just broke. And that is how it happens – in the blink of an eye, the gorgeous smooth silk just POOF falls away, giving almost no signals that the fiber is losing its grip. Usually when drop spinning I rely on the sight of my drafting fiber beginning to thin combined with the feel of the twist moving into my drafted fiber to tell me when I need to adjust.

Because while I have spun silk, I have never spun 100% silk, and the difference between silk and wool is amazing. Wool fibers are rough, scaly things that like to grab each other – so much that if you have owned a significant amount of wool clothing in your life, you know that it can be very hard to stop them from grabbing each other – and connecting and NEVER LETTING GO. It’s almost cute, if you are insane and like to personify fibers. I am and I do.

fibers

Image originally from National Geographic (I think).

Silk doesn’t have those scales like wool, and so I like to think of silk fibers as the cool kids. Yeah, they will go along with the spinning or whatever, but like.. don’t expect them to try. Perhaps, as the Craftsy article I mentioned earlier suggested, I should have started out with silk hankies instead of combed silk top.

The end result is that I have to pay closer attention to my staple length in order to get that sweet, smooth draw without the silk fibers slipping out back to have a smoke (a.k.a- completely falling apart without notice).

But I really love working with this fiber, not only because it was a fun learning experience, but because it exemplifies those things I love about working with fiber in general – the surprising characters that can be coaxed from the simplest materials, the unending combinations of texture and color and stitch, the meditative level of concentration needed to transform a raw material, and most of all the constant reminder that we are linked by unbreakable fibers to the rest of our world… that our conveniences don’t come just from the store but are ultimately sourced from the complex living web of creatures of which we will always be a part.

Also it’s fun to pet.

-MF

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Yarn Yantra Color Meditation

YARN!

It was by special request from my friends that I came to design a yarn mandala coverup pattern. My first attempt was moderately successful, but with each attempt I further refined my pattern and method, and found that I had become addicted to making these things! Playing with color is one of the best parts of working with fiber in my opinion – and working with the parameters of color suggested by my friends, I had even more fun because I was pushed to do palettes that were outside those to which I normally gravitate.

Speaking of color, have you ever tried Colour Lovers? I’m addicted. Every artist should know about this website! I have stayed hypnotized playing with color there for hours.

The next “Yarn Yantra” as I called them was a custom piece for the friend who originally requested them:

Crochet Mandala Tunic 2

 

I am blessed to have so many talented friends, as my next one was done for a lovely woman named Lisa, an inspiring artist who excels in tie-dye, mosaics, painting, and sewing. This color combination was influenced by her tie-dye work:

Lisa Tie Dye

Crochet Mandala Tunic 5

Crochet Mandala Tunic 4

And the next for Heather, a bad-ass homesteading woman. She suggested this palette, and the colors reminded me of a Yellowstone sulfur pool.

yellowstone

Crochet Mandala Tunic 6

Crochet Mandala Tunic 7

Lastly one I did strictly for the fun of combining the colors, from this palette I worked with on Colour Lovers:

Crochet Mandala Tunic 9

Crochet Mandala Tunic 8

Too. Much. Fun!

EDIT: I eventually worked out all the kinks in the design and released the pattern for this – the Mandala Top, available in 4 sizes 🙂  Check the link for the latest info on that!

-MF

Pattern Gallery: Crocheted Baskets

Are you being crowded out of your own life by piles of junk? I know I was.

That point was driven home, in fact, when my closet shelf collapsed under the weight of my junk, spreading books and clothes and fabric aaaaaaaall over the bedroom floor. I knew it was time to cut down.

Messages of “simple living” and “de-clutter your closet” have been all the rage lately, with people living in garden sheds and owning three items with ninety-five different purposes.  To which I usually say “No goddamn thank you.”

I like complicated living, and piles of junk that I can make stuff out of, and clutter that I can just generally roll around in with an ecstasy of creative potential. But with the closet nearly caving in, I had to take at least one leaf out of the Simple Life Evangelists’ book.

I said goodbye to several garbage bags full of junk that day.

So the things that were left after this devastation of simplification got organized, inspiring the following gallery of patterns for things to put other things in.

Crochet Baskets

MiniBasket

Simple Crochet Mini Basket Pattern from Just Be Crafty – Anything smaller than usual is automatically adorable. FREE!

Stashbasket

Stash Basket from Yarnspirations – Free! Because putting your yarn in a container made of yarn is so meta.

Hemp Basket

Hemp Basket from Craft Passion – I love the natural look of this hemp basket, plus the pattern is free!

diamond-trellis-basket-022

Diamond Trellis Basket from Make My Day Creative – Crochet basket with some definite flair!  Also free.

Plant Hanger 1

Partial Shades Plant Hanger from Morale Fiber – Organize your plants too!  Free from me.

These free patterns should get you started on making some sweet, sweet sense out of your clutter.

-MF

Partial Shades T-Shirt Yarn Plant Hanger

Crochet Plant Hanger 2Planting time has finally arrived for us poor apartment-dwelling folk, so last weekend my roommate and I got to work potting lettuce and herb starts. With limited sun access and temperatures stubbornly remaining at lows of 35-40 for the past few weeks, we have to wait to plant things like tomatoes and cukes.

But we don’t have to wait to plant spider plants. Do you know what a spider plant is? It’s a virtually useless decorative plant that sends out about a zillion long, spindly appendages that end in little white flowers that turn into more spider plants. And it’s really hard to kill them. So what you end up with is way more spider plants than anyone wants. So you frantically try to give them to other people so that THEY can have more spider plants than THEY want, essentially furthering the cause of this insidious, but sort of pretty, species.

They're plotting.

Potting? More like PLOTTING.

Anyway, the front porch railing currently has five spider plants sitting on it. Clearly something has to be done.

Plant hangers, of course!

Plant Hanger 1

“Partial Shades” T-Shirt Yarn Plant Hangers

A great mother’s day gift, especially if made from the grandkids’ old outgrown t-shirts! The color block or ombre look gives interest while the simple stitch pattern makes this a sturdy, uncomplicated project that you can finish in one relaxing weekend morning.

Some brief notes about T-shirt yarn + rambling:
See here for a guide to making t-shirt yarn.

T-Shirt Yarn 1

I used T-shirt yarn cut to 1” strips and stretched tightly – your yarn may differ slightly in gauge if you cut it thicker or do not stretch it as tight. Just size it to your pot as best you can, and if you need a reference for building flat circles for the bottom, see here.

If you haven’t already, try modifying your hold on the hook when working with T-shirt yarn – hold it like a dagger and not like a pencil. (Some of you may do this already. I personally am a pencil holder*, but switch to dagger when I have to deal forcefully with something.)

* I mean that I hold the hook like a pencil, not that I myself am a device for holding pencils.

Materials:

Size “K” hook

Different shades of T-shirt yarn – I used 2-3 balls of T-shirt yarn (2-3 Adult large t-shirts) per plant hanger. Results may vary.

A smallish planter – I used a 17” circumference  pot, and wrote the pattern for that size, but it’s easy to customize the size by adding or subtracting rounds to the bottom circle.

Large-eyed yarn or tapestry needle.

Make Magic Ring.

Rnd 1: 6 Sc into the ring. Join with a slip stitch in the first sc of the round.

Rnd 2: Ch 1 (does not count as first sc in this round or in any subsequent rounds) 2 sc in each sc around. Join with a sl st in the first sc of the round. – 12 sc

Rnd 3. Ch 1, sc in the same stitch, 2 sc in the next stitch. (1 sc in the next stitch, 2 sc in the next st) 5 times. Join with a sl stitch to the first sc of the round.- 18 sc.

T-Shirt Yarn 2

Rnd 4: Ch 1, sc in the same stitch, sc in the next stitch, 2 sc in the next stitch. (1 sc in each of the next 2 stitch, 2 sc in the next stitch) 5 times. Join with a sl st in the first sc of the round. – 24 sts

Rnd 5: Ch 1, sc in the same stitch, sc in each of the next 2 sts, 2 sc in the next st. (1 sc in each of the next 3 sts, 2 sc in the next st) 5 times. Join with a sl st in the first sc of the round – 30 sts.

Rnd 6: Ch 1, sc in the same stitch, sc in each of the next 3 sts, 2 sc in the next st. (1 sc in each of the next 4 sts, 2 sc in the next st) 5 times. Join with a sl st in the Back Loop Only of the first sc of the round – 36 sts.

T-Shirt Yarn 3

Continue working 6 increase stitches per round until your bottom circle can cover the bottom of your pot. The next round will be worked in the BACK LOOPS ONLY. This gives a nice, clean edge to the shape of your holder. If you like a rounder look, you can work both loops.

Rnd 7: In BLO. Ch 1, sc in the same stitch. 1 sc in each stitch around. join with a sl st to both loops of the first sc of the round.

T-Shirt Yarn 4

Rnd 8: Ch 1, sc in the same stitch. Sc in each st of the round. Join with a sl stitch.

Rnds 9-17: Rpt Rnd 8. You can change colors at any point during these repeats, depending on how many color changes you desire or how much of each color of t-shirt yarn you have.

Rnd 18: Sl st in ea st around. This cleans up the rim and makes a neat looking edge. Cut yarn and tie off. Weave in the yarn ends.

Cut 4 lengths of t-shirt yarn a little more than TWICE as long as you want your hanging length (I measured one armspan per, making half that length equal to the distance between my fingertips to my chest).

T-Shirt Yarn 5

Double each length up, looping them under stitches of round 17 (NOT row 18, the slip stitch row) at four equal intervals.

Shown with wrong side facing

Shown with wrong side facing

Hook the loose ends and bring them through the loop, tightening them into a knot. Grab two adjacent yarn lengths, as show here…

T-Shirt Yarn 7

and knot them less than halfway up. Do this for each point so that each yarn length is knotted to at length from an adjacent knot. Gather all the lengths together at the top and make one large knot, pulling tightly to secure (you can even slip a dab of glue in there if you plant on hanging a heavy pot).

Crochet Plant Hanger 2

Enjoy your airborn greenery!

-MF

Pinstructional:
Tshirt Yarn Plant Hanger

Tunisian Crochet Fantasy Hood

Crochet Pixie Hat / Hood

Folk tales and children’s stories seem to have stayed with us, at least here in the USA, long past our breaking into adulthood. Fantasy and Sci-Fi especially draw from narratives we learned when we were still in short pants, even shows that blur the line between speculative fiction and realistic fiction, like the popular Once Upon A Time, or the many many YA / adult books and shows featuring vampires or werewolves. It seems contradictory, our obsession with stories meant for children, and yet these stories were probably originally told for the adults the children were going to grow up to be. And with their themes of threatening darkness and treacherous paths into the woods, maybe we need them more now than ever… if only to help us realize that the scariest thing in the woods is probably us.

One of my favorites themes from folk tales is Little Red Riding Hood, particularly more modern versions where Miss Hood is less innocent than originally portrayed. There’s tons of awesome art to be found in this vein, like on this page and this one.

I promise there’s a yarn-related payoff to punctuate my mytho-philosophical rambling.

Elf and Pixie hats from 2012 -

Elf and Pixie hats from 2012 – “Snowy Owl,” “Skittle Puke,” and “Hunter.”

I became slightly obsessed with “elf hats,” as I called them (usually called a stocking cap, I think), back in 2011 and 2012, those long pointy caps capturing my imagination and bringing to mind all those faerie stories I love so much. I crocheted at least ten of them, selling most of them and gifting a few (and making one for myself) before moving on to the next obsession. Now I’ve come back around to them again with the “pixie hood” style that can be seen all over the crochet and knit world at the moment – though I favor the longer, more dramatic point that’s akin to the elf hats of yore.

So with my new refiguring of the elfy, pixie, faerie-y hat I bring you the Tunisian Crochet Fantasy Hood, Little Red style.

Update: There is now a newer, longer, more deluxe version of this pattern for available for purchase. It uses a 6.5 tunisian hook and worsted weight yarn (with art yarn or faux fur yarn trim) and includes detailed phototutorials and written instructions – see my post on the Trickster Hood for more details!

Pixie Hood - Tunisian Crochet Fantasy Hood

Tunisian Fantasy Hood

Size “H” Tunisian Hook

3 skeins Patons Classic Wool Roving (120 yds, 100g/3.5 oz, #5 Bulky weight, color shown is Cherry)

1 1” button

Tapestry or Yarn Needle

Stitch Markers

Gauge: Make gauge swatch 10 sts and 10 rows in Tunisian simple stitch. 1” = 4 sts

For help with increasing in Tunisian Simple Stitch, please refer to my tutorial post on increasing and decreasing in this stitch pattern.

To start, Ch 3, leaving a long tail for stitching later.

Increase Rows:

Row 1: Insert hk in the 2nd ch from the hk, draw up a loop. Insert hk in the next ch, draw up a lp.
Row 2: Yo, draw through 1 lp. *yo, draw through 2 lps* rpt to end.
Row 3: Ch 1, insert hk in between first two vertical loops/bars, draw up a loop (1 inc made). *insert hk under next vertical lp, draw up a lp* rpt until 1 stitch remains. Insert hk between last vertical bar worked and last remaining vertical bar, draw up a lp (1 inc made). Insert hk into last remaining vertical bar, draw up a lp.
Row 4: Rpt Row 2.

Repeat rows three and four 45 more times, or until the working row (the top) of your triangle measures about 28 inches in width.
Place a marker on either end of the working row.

Straight Rows:
Row 1: Ch 1, *insert hk into next vertical loop and draw up a lp* repeat to end.
Row 2: Yo, draw through 1 lp *yo, draw through 2 lps* rpt to end.

Repeat rows one and two 26 more times, or until the section from your working row to your markers measures 8 inches in height. Do not cut yarn.

Ch 1. With RS facing, insert hook in the last bar worked and draw up a loop. Yarn over and draw through both loops on the hook (first Double Chain stitch made). Work 8 more double chain stitches, attach with a sl st to the base of your double chain, forming a loop. Cut yarn and finish off.

On the opposite end of the hood edge, cut a length of yarn or thread and fasten on the 1” button.

Thread the long tail from your beginning chain through a yarn or tapestry needle. Folding the hood in half lengthwise, sew the edges of the point together using a whip stitch. Stop stitching and weave in your ends once you reach the point where the increase rows end.

Weave in all ends.

This pattern is intellectual property of me, Morale Fiber. Please don’t reproduce it in any way without permission of the author. Feel free to sell items made from this pattern, just please link back to me if you do!

This hood would be lovely in any yarn really, not just the yarn shown here! That’s why I gave the pattern measurements as well as the row counts, in case you want to try it with a different weight of yarn. I myself am likely to make some more. If you have any questions or thoughts about this pattern, please don’t hesitate to comment here.

Pixie Hood / Crochet hat

Safe journeys through the woods, friends.
-MF