Learning A New Skill

I have to admit that I have an addiction to Pinterest.  I could easily spend hours looking over posts, reading articles and then like a hoarding chipmunk, carefully pinning the selections I like best to my own boards.  It was on one such foray into the wonderful world of Pinterest that I chanced across the picture before you.


and immediately fell in love.  I posted this picture on ravelry, thus starting my quest for knowledge.  How do I spin and ply in order to create this look.  I was told that the yarn was spiral spun. A technique I had never tried. So I spun a slightly thick and thin single from an art batt I created with a fibery friend (Rhonda, who manages to create the loveliest color combination batts and knit them into beautiful shawls you could immagine. But when I question her as to how she choses what goes into her batts says “Oh just anything, whatever catches my eye”  Personnally I’m thinking its some sort of magic!) and a fine single with which to ply it.  Here is my first attempt. 


I called the batt “Sundown” because the play of colors reminded me of the color progression of a sunset in full glory.  To be honest, I thought the yarn was pretty, but certainly not what I was hoping for.  Because what I ended up with was a very pretty barberpole yarn. If you hold the yarn you would find it soft and squooshy, but the plys are balanced. Not what I was hoping for.  The reason for this had nothing to do with my spinning, and everything to do with my plying.  You see, in this first attempt, even though the singles were fine, I didn’t achieve a spiral because I held both plys with the same tension and direction. So they plied evenly and balanced as they always do. 

It was back to the drawing board for me.  Several people suggested that rather than spinning 2 singles I concentrate on the one primary single and use commercial thread for the 2nd ply.  So its off to JoAnns Fabrics I go to buy a spool of shiney thread.  Again, I’m spinning some of Rhonda`s batts.  This time actually made by her rather than made by me and guided by her.  I’m spinning a true Thick and Thin yarn for my next attempt.  If I get it right it will be lovely, if not, it will still be lovely but more of an art yarn.  This time I’m trying a technique suggested by one of my Ravelry friends.  I plan on rewatching the YouTube video at least one more time before I start plying.  I’ll provide you with the link so you can watch with me.  In the video, the demonstrater tells you to hold the plying thread wrapped over the finger like you would if you were knitting.  The single is held beside the thread in the same hand, but held loosely. The idea is that the difference in tensions allows a spiral to form that is secure and won’t slide around the thread (the way it would if you were making beehive art yarn). 


So, this is the 2nd trial.  Definitely getting closer.  Its down to the tension on  the held thread. Insufficient tension and the thread wraps the thick and thin single.  Hold the thread to tight and you end up with core wrapped yarn. if you look closely you can find both errors. BUT, and its a big one, most of the skein was successfully spiraled.  Thre last lession was that if you make the thick parts to thick then it doesnt hold it’s spiral as well or as easily as it might otherwise. Trial 3 is on the on the wheel as we speak.

More to come later, and as always Spin and Dye Happy!


Posted in General | Leave a comment

Navajo Plying and when you should use it


In my last post I mentioned that I had been spinning and knitting like a mad woman. Today I want to discuss the plying method I used to create this scarf.  The method is called Navajo Plying.  There are several wonderful YouTube videos that show you how to do this wonderful method, so I won’t be replicating their work.  Here’s one that I particularly like.   The demonstrator gives a very clear step-by-step demonstration of the technique.

The Navajo plying method, also known as Chain plying produces a 3 strand plied yarn from one spun single.  Perhaps the greatest reason for using it is to maintain the color changes in hand painted roving. If you look at my son’s scarf above, you see that the color changes blend nicely into one another, but remain intact so you get the true color effect created when the roving was dyed.  The finished ply is strong, and because you are plying a single back on itself, it eliminates the kinking problems that occur when spinning several singles that may have different amounts of twist. Another advantage is that you don’t have to spin separate singles. Just one long single on one bobbin, which I find a faster way to spin.

Imagine, if you will, that you have your spinning wheel all ready to go in front of you, and your single (which you have left on the bobbin) is on a lazy kate and all ready to go.  The start of the ply is the only place where my method differs from the video.  I have a long looped leader.  When I place my leader on the bobbin, I make a long loop by tying the ends of my leader together when I put it on.  So instead of tying my single in a knot, I slip it through the loop, fold it over on itself, and tie it leaving a little room, which creates the starting loop for my Navajo ply.

As you see in the video, the ply is started by drawing the single through the loop (which creates a loop, forming 2 of the 3 strands).  The length of the draw through is a matter of personal preference.  With a shorter draw through, the color changes are a bit sharper (or harder)  while with a longer draw through the color changes are more blended (or softer).  The 3rd strand comes from the end of the single closest to the starting loop.  Then you gently slide the empty hand up the 3 strands as you treadle, plying them together and allowing them to draw up onto your bobbin.  Once you near the top of the draw through you will discover that a new loop has been formed, allowing you to repeat the process.

While most spinners tend to use a fine single for this method, it can be used with thick and thin singles and heavier singles.  It all depends on what you want for your finished yarn. The one time I don’t recommend this method is when the yarn being made is going to receive heavy use, such as sock yarn.  In the case of sock yarn, because the ply is all one thread, if one of the 3 strands break, then it can result in a weak spot in your sock as the broken thread affects the integrity of the entire ply.

So, I hope you enjoyed this posting.  Be sure to give it a try. Comments and questions are always welcome.

As always, Spin and Dye Happy,


Posted in Fiber Fun, General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Spinnin’ Like a Crazy Holiday Fool

I always have very good intentions about getting fiber scoured, combed and either made into batts or roving.  But once again I seem to have fallen behind.  I bought (for a song) fiber online from a woman who was destashing.  For $10 per fleece I got 3 lovely soft boxes of lovely fiber.  One a pale gold, one a soft white and one a deep black.  I also got 3 pounds of some amazing Uber-low micron count Merino fiber  The finest I have ever seen for $15 a pound.  The woman had bought 7 merino fleeces, and it turned out one of them was so fine she couldn’t spin it no matter how hard she tried.  She was selling it in her Etsy store for quite a bit more, but gave me a price break because I couldn’t afford full price.  I can’t wait to wash some and take it for a spin.

But, that isn’t going to happen any time soon because I am also behind in spinning for my gifts.  I finally finished my first comissioned yarn.  I need to wash it, photograph it and get it into the mail when I get home from thanksgiving.  I still have spinning for the gifts I’m making for family and friends.  All but 2 are Ravelry patterns *free*.  My daughters scarf (Ewe Ewe) is 1/3 done.  I need to spin one of the colors, and I have to buy dyed roving and spin the second color.  Jon is finally going to get the socks he’s wanted for ages,  I have roving for Ben which I plan on spinning fine and then Navajo plying to an Aran or Worsted weight yarn.  From there it will be knit with the linen stitch into one of the Bow Ties he loves.  It was interesting to find that the patterns creator’s name is also Ben.  We had a lovely chat and he wants to see the finished tie so he can show it on his website.  (Cool!!!!)

Because the linen stitch yields a moderately stiff fabric, I wanted the yarn to be super cushy. So I have been practicing spinning a lofty single. This is an especially good skill to learn because I tend to overspin and over ply my yarns.  The yarns look good, but they aren’t as soft as I would like them to be.  Between the tutalage of the wonderful folks at the Champlain Valley Spinners Guild and the demos on YouTube I think I may have finally gotten it down.  We’ll see when its time to knit!

Until then, Happy Thanksgiving,
and Spin and Dye Happy!


Posted in General | Leave a comment

Contemplation and lessons learned

I’m sitting in a comfortable chair in my livingroom and looking out at the season’s first snow (if you’re a quibbler, yes its really the 2nd snow, but that one only lasted about 2 minutes so in my book it didn’t count) and thinking about the season.  I really didn’t get as much dyeing done as I wanted to, but since a bit of the remaining dyes can be done inside I’m not overly concerned.  I did try a number of new dyes such as Mullein, Black Eyed Susan leaves and Madder. 

*I discovered that you can’t save onion skins indefinitely because they seem to lose a good bit of their dye color.  Yellow skins much more so than red skins. They do make a lovely rust when combined, so all was not lost. 
*I discovered that making pigment extracts is far to much work for far to little gain and I would rather just use the fresh stuff anyway.  There are so many different options to use.  I was really happy with the oranges I got off the jewelweed.  There was SO much of it around because it was such a wet summer. 
*I discovered our rain water was a little acidic and needs to be adjusted for pH sensitive dyes.
*I planted my first Madder bed with seeds given to me by a fellow member of ravelry.  I did this in a huge plastic pot and brought it inside to safely overwinter.  The idea being that I will plant the 1 year olds innto the ground next spring and plant more seed in the huge pot.  I am told that 2nd year plants flower and seed so I’m hoping I will have seed to plant and seed to barter. By year 3, the first bed should be ready to harvest. By replanting each year from that point out I should have a ready supply of fresh madder to use.
*I discovered that the “all-in-one” method of dying doesn’t work well for me.  My results were never as bright or clear as when I mordant first, dry, and then dye.
*The blues from indigo and the blues from Japanese indigo are completely different, so one is not a good substitute for the other (which I learned because for the first time in a bit I didn’t plant JI and lived to regret it.  The full spectrum requires both.

I always read the natural dye boards, and when I see a color I like I contact the person to find out how they achieved it.  I also save tidbits from books, magazines, and blogs.  Here are some of the things I plan on trying next. Mind that the color results expected are anecdotal at this point
*Birch leaves plus copper = Dark green
*Rhodadendron leaves + green twigs = a color range from greenish brown all the way to red!
*Fresh Hopi blackdye sunflower heads (fresh) + copper = dark purple
*Burdock (dock) leaves + iron = bottle green
*Dark rose mallow flowers = lilacs through maroons, but how wasn’t explained.
*Staghorn Sumac Bark = rusts, orange (with alum) and green
*Staghorn Sumac Leaves = chartruce, lilac (?)
*Fall Leaves (Red), twigs and berries from Virginia Creeper +Alum = peach
*Chokecherries + Alum + COT = periwinkle blue (very excited about this)
*Acorns (Whole, no caps) + a tiny bit of iron water = dark purple, exhaust is purple gray. (Note: to get the purple soak the acorns for 1-2 days then crack open.  Soak for a week or “cook” at steaming (no boiling) till a rich dark brown dye bath developes.  Then add the iron water and hopefully, Voila!!!)

Well, its time to stop rhuminating and start doing the dishes.  More to come later, but until then…

Spin and Dye Happy!

Posted in General | Leave a comment

My First Special Order Yarn

I have been working on completing my set of spin off maagazines for some time when I met a woman on line named Laura who had a stack of issues to trade.  She wanted sock yarn in reds, oranges, and yellows.  We agreed on the barter and I discovered I didnt have the colors she needed.  So, I agreed to plan on dying her roving this summer and then spinning it out for her.  The final roving was lovely.  I used Madder and Cochineal for the reds, madder,  jewelweed and sulfur cosmos for oranges, and osage orange and milkweed for yellows. I also added in some white for contrast.  The cleaned fiber was carded on my drum carder and then dizzed off to make roving.  I was really surprised to see that despite how slowly I added my fibers there were a lot of neps and noils in the finished product.

Then came the spinning.  Planning on sock yarn, I thought to spin a fine single and navaho ply.  I did a length to try it, and found that the colors all blended together, oddly.  Then I tried to spin a fingering weight single and found I had difficulty with the twist.  The different types of fibers used weren’t cooperating and I was ending up with an over
spun, somewhat stiff single. 

So, what I ended up with was a somewhat thicker fine single that I will ply with more of the white undyed sock roving.  That step is complete,  and the colors are distinct and bright.  Now I’m spinning the single.  I started it yesterday, and plan on finishing it today. Plying today too if possible. Since noone is home but the dog and I, it should be do-able

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Sustainable Gardening Tour

Yesterday I participated in a sustainable garden tour.  Five home gardeners (myself included) as well as the local community garden all offered tours of their set-up.  What I noticed most of all was how different we all were.  The longest standing gardener has a asparagus patch that is still actively productive after 20 years.  (My patch is in its first season and has yet to give us anything edible).  Some gardens were formally laid out, the oldest garden incorporated a variety of structures including a pole teepee for his pole beans.  Most of the gardens had fencing around them to keep out pests like rabbits and deer.  Some were spacious, others were very small and made great use of every inch. Several had raised beds, mine included, but those were made of wood while mine was made of repurposed used cinder-blocks.  We all were having problems with pests (especially snails, slugs, and caterpillars), although my slug problems were by far the worst.

The biggest difference between my garden and the others were the weeds and the crop selection.  I’m not allowed “livestock” according to the neighborhood associations bylaws so sheep, goats and/or chickens were out.  So I was incorporating fruit trees into the gardens.  Also, as a natural dyer, I had a lot of dye bearing weeds represented in my gardens.  Jewelweed abounded, beloved for its healing sap and peachy-pink dye, so did Queen Anne’s Lace (bright yellow).  Sulfur cosmos (orange) was mixed into the asparagus beds, and tiny Black Eyed Susan plants (bright olivine green) were mixed in with the tomatoes.

Rhubarb (tans, light maroon, and a tannin mordant) and red currants played among the  Joe Pye Weed (greens) and perennial sunflower (yellow) and fluffy pink topped sedum.  Golden Rod (yellows and golds) is just coming into season now.

Perhaps in one last way,  something we all had in common was our love for our land and soil.  Each of us had created an oasis in our own unique way.

Posted in In The Garden | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Shall I begin?

Well, this is the start.  I’ve been tossing the idea of blogging around for some time.  How do I share the things that interest me with people who share those particular interests.  It may be that I will have to refine my approach somewhere down the line.  The idea of blogging came from a friend.  So, I’m going to give it a try.

I’m dealing with a trident of interests.  The first prong is the fiber.  Cleaning and processing it, spinning it, experimenting with it, dyeing it and ultimately making something with it.  I like the whole process even better if I can meet the animals whose fiber I am using!

The second prong is my garden.  You see I grow a lot of different things.  I’m very into sustainable gardening, using plants that have more than one purpose, and finding new ways to incorporate plants into the garden so they can be both beautiful and productive.  I yanked a slew of “pretty plants” and “space fillers” and replaced them with plants that give dye, yield food either for my family or for local birds, butterflies, insects (especially pollinators) or are good for the soil/environment.

The third prong is fun.  Fun for me and fun for you.  Especially if your idea of fun includes garden fun, fiber fun, making things, and kid related projects.  I have a lot of ideas to share.  Did you know that you could naturally color play dough that you make yourself?  Ah, that caught your attention, I was hoping it would.  I will try to include some fun projects in every post if I possibly can.

But for now, I have to figure out how to build my blogsite.  This is the IT techie stuff that gives me brain cramps.  But, to enjoy my “trident” the techie stuff will have to be done.

Live well and dye happy,

Momma Leah

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment