Fiber Review: Targhee

Thanks to a combination of schoolwork and holiday traveling, I haven’t written very many substantial posts for the past few weeks, but I’ve been eagerly awaiting a chance to sit and write some fiber reviews.

A while back I became very interested in spinning Targhee wool: Targhee is a breed of sheep developed in the U.S in the 20th century, with Rambouillet, Corriedale, and Lincoln ancestors. I had spun a sample earlier in my spinning career and loved the cushy quality this wool has.

So of course I ordered more from Corgi Hill Farm. I split the roving into quarters and spun two batches of end-to-end 2-ply. (Each quarter of the split roving spun as a single length of ply, then each pair plied together… mostly. But we’ll get to that)

Targhee

Here’s what I learned:

First, I was WAAAAY off when I split one half of this roving into two strips. My bobbins came out so uneven that I had to do some frantic fiber rearranging in order to make the two batches come out with similar color progression once plied and stitched. That doesn’t have anything to do with the specific fiber, but it’s good advice – if color length and progression matters to you, weigh your roving fractions so you can pair the most similar weights together to get the most closely matching lengths of singles for plying.

The fiber itself was just as soft and squishy as I remember. With a 21-25 micron count, Targhee wool has the friction and grabby nature that makes pure wool rovings fun to spin, but the Targhee I worked with was exceptionally dense and springy. One might say marshmallow-esque.

Targheefrap2.jpg

In fact, it was so dense and marshmallowy that I had trouble spinning at first, even though I split and fluffed (i.e- jerked it around like a whip to make the factory-and-storage compacted fibers open up and loosen). I don’t always predraft, but predrafting was a must with this fiber.

Knitty, my primary source for amazing spinning advice, has a good article about treating roving before spinning.

Once I predrafted, spinning this yarn was pretty easy. Not as easy as Merino, but easy enough that I sat through a shameful amount of Vikings episodes continuously spinning. Like you seriously don’t want to know how many episodes I watched in one go while doing this. Don’t ask.

As I mentioned the first time I spun Targhee, much of the pillowy nature of this fiber is lost in a one-ply, so plying was had, on a drop spindle for my larger skein and on the wheel for my two smaller skeins. Once plied, the Targhee’s true nature was revealed to me – soft, warm, with enough resistance to shout “I’m Wool!” but also fine enough for hats, gloves, and other next-to-skin garments.

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I think this will be a lovely pair of woodland style armwarmers, my all-time favorite (so far) thing to make with handspun yarns!

~*Mf*~

 

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Mango Punch Fractal Ply

Just some good old fashioned yarn peeping today! I just listed this fractal ply merino in my Etsy Shop.

It was glorious to spin. I need to dye some more of that merino! I have a braid, but it’s off limits because it’s also for sale. Good thing I just ordered some killer Targhee… but it will have to wait until after finals. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

-MF

Winter Updates!

I disappeared into an intense bout of spinning lately, trying out my new colorway with a fractal ply to test the harmony of the colors. It turned out GORGEOUS, and pictures will be shared as soon as I’m done setting the twist. The second run of the colorway, “Mango Punch” is officially available in my Etsy Shop, along with my second signature colorway, “Dyed Leather.”

Enough talk. Pictures now.

Mango Punch -Superfine Merino, 3.62 oz. I replaced the muted sage green of the first run of this colorway with a bright apple. I love both versions!

Dyed Leather – on Gray Gotland, 3.62 oz. The natural silver tone of this fiber took the dyes exactly as I was hoping they would, creating complexity and depth.

I also indulged in some doodling over Thanksgiving break, freehand with sharpies on a poster board. I do believe I will color it..

I guess you would call this a Zentangle, although I prefer less dense patterning in my mandalas.

And finally, I am stoked on my very first homebrewed batch of kombucha! I love this stuff, and I have wanted to brew some for years. I finally obtained a Mother, and now I am seeing the formation of the daughter! Woohoo!!!

Slowly, ever so slowly, I inch closer to my goal of being a weird, hippie art teacher who brews magic potions in the woods and wears sweaters made from her own goats. Because it’s important to have goals.

-MF

Doing All the Things!

So, the week before Thanksgiving Break was a little nutty, but I managed to still get theย Rhiannon Hooded Cowl pattern rolling AND conquer the papers and projects due before the mid-semester holiday.

 

Super-bulky knit headband! I confess I have been drooling over mega big knitting and wanting to make something rad and chunky, so that’s what I did, using this amazing free knitting patternย from Margo Knits.

BraidCrown4

I love the oversize style mixed with the simple, pretty cable lines. It sort of reminds me of Swedish Christmas bread or Challah bread, but for your head.

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I love this yarn so much I might never do anything with it except for pet it. Having the colors and texture pre-planned as opposed to experimentally cobbling whatever wool was at hand really worked out ๐Ÿ˜‰

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4 oz of solid color persimmon merino blend plied against 4 oz of variegated (blue,brown,yellow,orange) BFL blend from the LYS. These are the exact colors I saw all around IU and Bloomington during the long, mild October and early November we had here.

A mild autumn that’s come to an end! Freezing and snow are at hand for this weekend, and I’m planning a break that is crammed full of as much yarn and hearty vegetarian fare as I can manage. ย Off to spin all the wool and eat all the gourds!

-MF

Into the Mystic

Um…. so this happened.

Mystic

Meet Mystic, my gently used secondhand Ashford Traveler. She was sitting just so prettily on display near the front entrance of my LYS, Yarns Unlimited, at a price that I wasn’t going to be able to beat online or elsewhere.

The helpful woman behind the register told me this beauty was once the wheel of one of the spinning instructors that operated out of the store, given up because the owner couldn’t take all of her wheels with her in her recent move to assisted living. The story struck a chord with me. Not only was I getting a machine that had been kept up by someone who knew what they were doing, but I was getting a piece of someone’s life.

This connection with the past and with the shared experience of artistic expression through generations is one of the most meaningful insights into what makes fiber art so popular and moving for so many. Some may only practice stitching once a month, some may only work in the cheapest and scratchiest of acrylic yarns (more power to you!), some may insist on the most luxurious equipment (bamboo needles and teak yarn bowls galore!) some may only ever learn one or two techniques, some may be a techie fiber artist with a massive dictionary of stitches. It doesn’t matter, because we are connected by strands of a heritage, one that moves our hearts because it warms our families, and one that dictates through necessity our meditation on what it means to carry out work in the name of love.

…what it means to work in love, and to work on love.

PumpkinYarn

-MF

Fractal Plying on a Drop Spindle

BOJ7

Fractal plying seems to be everywhere I look in the spinning world. And for good reason- it’s an interesting way to work with color that adds a bit of spontaneity and surprise to the look of the finished product. I’ve been excitedly waiting for the right moment to spin up the 50/50 Merino Silk top from Corgi Hill Farm, and this seemed to be it.

The quintessential Noddy Shot

The quintessential Noddy Shot

Ben from Schacht Spindle Blog has a wonderful explanation of fractal spinning here. It’s really fairly straightforward for a 2-ply yarn: Take roving, split in half down the middle. Set aside one 1/2 portion, take the other 1/2 portion and split it into quarters.

The 1/2 portion gets spun from end to end into a single, creating long color changes. The quarter portions get spun end to end one after another into one long single with four repeats of shorter color changes. See? Barely any math at all!

The key to keeping things fractal is always spinning from the same direction. Say one end of your roving is red and one is blue. If you start to spin one portion of roving from the red end, you will also start every other portion of roving from the red end as well.

Lovely right? Except I’m working with a drop spindle, which presents unique problems. There’s simply no way I am going to fit 2 oz of laceweight single ply on a 5/8 oz drop spindle, which means that my two portions of fiber can’t be spun or plied as uninterrupted singles. Since most descriptions of fractal plying are on spinning wheels, this problem isn’t mentioned much – you load your 1/2 portion onto a bobbin and your 4 1/8 portions onto a different bobbin – easy. Not so with the spindle – 21 g of fiber loaded on was pushing it.

The only other reference to fractal plying with a drop spindle I have seen so far is the Spinning for Stripes series of posts from “Mom” at Simply Notable. After some comment-area sleuthing, I discovered that Mom using felted joining on her singles to get around this problem.

I am way too uptight and control-freaky for that, plus my attempts at felted joins never seem to hold up (especially not in this case, since my fiber is half silk!). I was going to have to spin separate skeins.

My solution? Spin one of my quarter portions from end to end – load onto a toilet paper roll, and weigh it out (subtracting the weight of the cardboard roll). This portion weighed out to 17 grams.

BOJSingles2

The short repeat ply is up front (labeled as 1/4 – 17 g) and the longer repeat is at the back.

Take the 1/2 portion (the roving that is half of the original) and weighย out the first 17 grams, taking care to start at the correct end, and separate the length (as you would to grab a piece – not down the middle). Spin up this 17 grams and load it onto a toilet paper roll. Once plied together with the 17 grams of 1/4 portion, this will be Skein #1.

The first 17 g of the 1/2 portion of roving

The first 17 g of the 1/2 portion of roving

This first part worked awesomely, producing a perfectly matched pair of plies to make into a yarn.

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The first two singles plied together to form the first skein of fractal yarn.

The moment I measured out 21 grams for the next skein, I knew there would be a problem: Due to my imprecise splitting of the roving, my main roving section was not going to measure up to all my 1/4 portions. I was going to have over 10 grams of leftover singles. Disappointing.

Well, next time I will weigh out my roving as I’m splitting it, and hopefully that will help. As for the leftover singles, I will just ply them differently. Carrying on!

The weighing strategy worked well, at least, for making sure my plies were nearly the same length – the yardage for #2 was not perfectly matched like for #1, but it was very close.

BOJ3

I couldn’t resist posting pictures, even though I am still currently working on producing skein #3. I did mess around with chain/Navajo plying some of the extra fiber, for comparing and contrasting and such.

The Navajo ply method keeps the colors tidily separated

The Navajo ply method keeps the colors tidily separated

Lastly I’d like to add that since my fiber was dyed in aย repeating colorway, it’s not really vital to the look of the future FO that I carefully number my skeins – because each skein has a very similar look. However, were I working with a fiber dyed in aย gradient colorwayย the order in which I worked up my skeins would matter a lot more because each skein would contain a long color repeat ply that was different than the other skeins. ย Now, more pictures.

BOJ6

BOJ4

I dubbed this yarn “Bag of Jewels” because of the gemstone colors and the rich sheen the silk adds to the finished product. I am excited to knit something with it, but the work involved with spinning it in the first place is definitely an accomplishment in its own right!

-MF

EDIT 9/8/15 – If you’d like a more in-depth look on how to choose rovings for fractal spinning, here’s a great article (as always) from Knitty.

EDIT 6/7/16 – I ended up crocheting with this fractal ply yarn, if you’re curious to see how fractal ply measures up to being crocheted, you can see the piece featuring this yarn here.ย ย As usual with variegated yarns, crocheted pieces muddle the colors more, but it did turn out lovely all the same. AND I was able to make a knit headband to match.

2-Ply or Not 2-Ply?

So far my spinning accomplishments have limited myself to singles (one-ply yarns) for multiple reasons.

One is that I adore singles for their neat, sleek appearance and the wonderful stitch definition you get from them, as well as the beautiful way colors pop on a single-ply strand. Witness!

Knit Picks Chroma Fingering

Knit Picks Chroma Fingering

Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable

Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable

Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball

Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball

Another reason I have remained single-ply is that within my current range of spinning equipment, plying any decent length of yarn is a really royal pain.

So why ply at all? F&%$ it, right?

Of course not. Art is about SMASHING YOUR LIMITATIONS!!!

Spinning a single requires allowing enough twist to enter the fiber so that it has some strength and doesn’t just fall apart. The twist increases the density of the fiber, making the strand firmer the more you twist it. This means that a really strong strand or ply is going to be pretty firm as well – and why would you want to stitch up clothing that feels like a bunch of rope rather than cushy, soft yarn?

Of course, as illustrated above, there are plenty of single ply yarns that are more than adequate for making cushy soft things. Plying is merely one way to balance strength and fluff – allowing 2 plies of fiber to unleash some of their twist energy by winding around each other fluffs them up while combining their strength.

I came to fully realize this concept when I began to spin a sample piece of Targhee roving. I’ll save my rave reviews of this breed’s fiber for another post – for now I’ll just say that I spun it fairly thin (which was easy because this stuff is AWESOME.. ahem). But, damn, the spongy wonderfulness of this wool didn’t seem to translate into my spun single. It was just too dense.

The Targhee single in the completed Andean wrap

The Targhee single in the completed Andean wrap “bracelet”

Since this was just a sample yarn I was doing for fun, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out Andean plying, a method of producing 2-ply yarn using only one strand of 1-ply, using (as far as I can tell) some sort of weird mountain shaman yarn magic.

Just kidding. The Andean ply wrap is really not as complicated as it looks, once you try it out.

This special way of wrapping allows you to feed the two opposite ends of the single strand onto your spindle at once, plying them together.

WARNING: Wrap loosely, for the sake of your digits. My tension was not relaxed enough and by the end my middle finger was purple and felt like it was going to fall off, which would suck, because that is my favorite finger.

TargheePly2

Once I had that conquered, I plied my yarn, making sure to spin my spindle in the opposite direction (clockwise) that my single ply was spun (counterclockwise). Spinning clockwise produces what is referred to as an “z” twist, while counterclockwise is referred to as “s” twist.

Do you see an

Do you see an “z” in there? I don’t.

Success! What was once a very firm single that would have made a terrible hat was transformed into a soft 2-ply, retaining the bouncy charm of the Targhee fiber but with the strength of a single. It would make a great hat, if I had more than 40 yards of it. Maybe that will soon be remedied.

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-MF

P.S – I knitted up a tiny swatch just to see what it was like. As this great articleย from Knitty Spin attests, handspun does indeed have an energy unique and different than machine made. Mine was practically leaping off of my needles! Interesting.