First Anniversary Blog Sale

Hey, it’s been a year for Morale Fiber Blog! I will definitely get to the part where I talk about how much I’ve learned and how grateful I am, but first – the sale info!

To celebrate this blog existing for a whole year, I am offering 15% off ANYTHING in my Etsy shop, patterns included! This sale is exclusively for you blog readers as a thank you for all the kind comments and support I’ve received – just use the code MFBLOG1 to get 15% off until January 30th!

For those of you interested in spinning, this is a great opportunity to snag one of my hand-dyed rovings, including my two new braids, Bramble and Nebula:

I’ve also got my brand new pattern, the Boho Fringe Poncho, available for UNDER 5 BUCKS using the coupon code…

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… or save $12 on the finished product!

I couldn’t be more grateful for all the great feedback and support I’ve received through this blog, including but not limited to those who have followed me from the very beginning, everyone who has clicked and commented on the patterns and tutorials I’ve entered into the link parties, and all the crafty individuals who have purchased patterns & supplies from me – providing me with the monetary resources to continue funding my little business.

Back in 2011, when I set up my first vendor stand at a local festival, I knew making and sharing my art was going to be my passion – because I saw the things I had made people happy – in small ways, maybe, but those count too. Through the next 4 years I continued crafting and crocheting, occasionally selling my pieces within my friend group and festival family who went out of their way to share their kindness and enthusiasm with me.

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A picture of me in 2011…. back when all of my stuff fit in one tiny vintage suitcase.

Selling my designs as patterns had been my goal for years, and I will never forget the excitement I felt when I sold my first pattern. I guess the point of all this schmaltzy rambling is that everyone involved – friends, family, readers, customers – has made me keep believing in myself.

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Morale Fiber, 2011

Truly it is my morale that has been lifted. But fear not! The crocheting will continue.

-MF

 

 

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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.

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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*~

 

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 theΒ 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 patternΒ from Margo Knits.

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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 πŸ˜‰

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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. Β Off to spin all the wool and eat all the gourds!

-MF

Into the Mystic

Um…. so this happened.

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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.

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-MF

Fractal Plying on a Drop Spindle

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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.

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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 weighΒ 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.

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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 aΒ 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 aΒ gradient colorwayΒ 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. Β Now, more pictures.

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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.Β Β 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.