Category Archives: Tutorial

Using Art Yarn. Part 1: The Easter Chicks

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Using Art Yarn. Part 1: The Easter Chicks

The possibilities for art yarn, both creating it and using it, are limitless. However sometimes people struggle to know what to do with this yarn that may be bulky, irregular, highly textured, short of yardage and, above all, fun.

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“Easter Chick” art yarn by Taylor Made Yarns. Photo courtesy of Taylor Made Yarns.

I bought this amazing art yarn from Taylor Made Yarns, one of my favourite fibre artists, at Fibre East. It is an irregular bulky spiral-plied yarn with little chick charms plied into it. Like many special skeins, I needed to wait for the right project to emerge. As it happened, I won a skein from Cuddlebums: beautiful, subtly-speckled handdyed skinny singles. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had found the companion yarn for the Easter Chicks.

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I set about making a hyperbolic spiral scarf. I planned for gentle spiral ruffles, edged in wild art yarn. I used a 4mm hook to crochet a chain to my desired length, made a dc in each chain to form the foundation of my scarf and then started my increase rows. To create the spiral effect you need to increase stitches on each row in the following way:

  • 1st increase row: work 2 tr into each dc.
  • 2nd increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 1. Repeat from *.
  • 3rd increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 2. Repeat from *.
  • 4th increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 3. Repeat from *.
  • Etc.

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The two yarns I used in this project were very different and I needed to find a way to integrate them. In order to work the thick art yarn into the edge I created an eyelet row using the finer yarn. My final increase row would have been a pattern of *2tr into first tr, tr 5, repeat from *. I altered this to *2tr into first tr, ch2, sk 2 tr, tr 1, ch2, sk 2 tr, repeat from *.

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These eyelets made an attractive edge and provided holes big enough to work a crocheted art yarn edging.

I was not sure that I would have enough of the art yarn to cover the whole edge of the scarf. I decided to split the art yarn into two equal parts and work from each end. I reskeined the yarn and counted 24 wraps of my niddy noddy. I wound off 12 wraps, cut the yarn and then wound off the 2nd half.

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I switched to a 10mm hook and started adding a border in a pattern of *dc into eyelet, ch 1, repeat from *. Here is the scarf with half of the edging worked:

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And here is the finished piece:

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There is so much glorious variety in this yarn, each ruffle is like its own vignette:

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And I couldn’t end this post without a close-up of the chicks!

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This was such a fun project to work on. I hope it’s given you some art-yarn inspiration.

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Tutorial: Hand-winding a Centre-pull Ball

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Tutorial: Hand-winding a Centre-pull Ball

With all the fancy yarn winders available these days, why would you want to wind a centre-pull yarn ball by hand?

Well, the simple answer is that in my experience hand-wound balls work much better. I don’t mind working from a cake of yarn made with a winder if I’m working from the outside-in. But I find that working from the centre of a yarn cake is ok until enough of the centre has gone for the cake to lose its structural integrity, and collapse in a heap of unruly yarn.

When I make socks, I make them two-at-a-time from one ball of yarn. I work one sock from the centre of the yarn ball, and one from the outside. The yarn starts as a rugby ball shape, and as the centre yarn is removed it becomes a discus shape, retaining its integrity and function right to the last inch.

The tool used for this is called a nostepinne. There are many beautiful, hand-turned wooden nostepinnes available. But it really is the simplest of tools and any smooth cylinder with a diameter of 2-3 cm will work. My favourite ‘nostepinne’ is an old vanilla pod tube. I like it because I can secure the centre-pull end of the yarn underneath the screwtop whilst I’m winding:

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Secure the yarn around the centre of the cylinder with a few turns. Once secure, start wrapping the yarn such that it goes from one edge of the nosteppine, diagonally across the ball that is being wound, down to the opposite edge of the nosteppine, like this:

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Turn the nostepinne regularly so that the diagonal stripes created by wrapping in this way are distributed around the ball evenly.

You will end up with a beautiful, olive-shaped ball:

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Slide the yarn ball off the nostepinne. Release the centre-pull yarn-end first, if necessary. You will have a cylindrical hole through the cente of the ball:

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To increase the stability of the ball, and ensure it doesn’t collapse when it’s used, gently squash the ball evenly in all directions to close up that hole:

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Ta dah! A hand-wound, perfectly functioning centre-pull ball.

Edit: 28th April

Here’s what happened to my rugby-ball shaped yarn after I had used two thirds of it (half of the yarn taken from the outside and half from the inside). It has flattened to a discus and is still well wound and doing its job of keeping my yarn in order:

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Tutorial: Spinning Seed Beads into a Single

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Tutorial: Spinning Seed Beads into a Single

December’s rolag club, seen here, featured ‘Evergreen’ rolags and ‘Holly Berry’ beads. I have done quite a few beaded yarns in the past and there are several ways to add these kind of inclusions into yarn. In a plied yarn it is easy enough to thread your beads or sequins onto a thread and ply that thread along with the singles, as in this yarn, or you may be able to thread your beads directly onto one or more of your singles, but sometimes you want to spin your beads directly into the yarn. Here’s how:

Assumed knowledge

  • Staple length of fibre: refresher available here.
  • Basic Spinning: refresher available here.
  • Park and Draft for the Wheel: refresher available here.

Materials

  • Fibre
  • Beads
  • A beading (or very fine) hook if you have one, and
  • Cotton thread if you don’t.
  • Something to spin on! A wheel or spindle.

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Method

I don’t have a hook fine enough for seed beads, so I am going to show you a method for threading beads onto fibre using ordinary sewing thread.

  1. Cut a length of cotton, around 20cm long.
  2. Thread the bead onto the cotton, just as if you were threading a needle.
  3. Pull a reasonable length of thread through the bead, so that the bead sits roughly in the middle of the thread.
  4. Now take the end of the cotton once more and, leaving a large loop, thread it back through the bead. Take it slowly at first, and leave yourself plenty of length on either side of the bead.
  5. Now you should have a seed bead threaded such that you have a large loop on one side, and two ends of the thread on the other side.

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Now let’s consider the fibre:

  1. Take the fibre you wish to spin and draft out a few fibres from one end.
  2. Pull out a few fibres. Just pinch at the very top as you pull gently, so that the fibres removed are a single staple length. Your bead will sit in the centre of this staple length.
  3. Twist them with your fingers, just as if you were spinning them, to make them easier to handle.

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  1. Carefully thread your twisted fibres through the loop of your cotton thread.
  2. Move your bead along the thread, towards your fibre.
  3. Pinch your fibre back on itself, such that your bead can slide from the thread to the fibre.
  4. Move your bead along and then gently pinch one end of the fibre, so that the bead cannot come off, and ease the other end of the fibre right through the bead so that the bead ends up placed in the middle of your staple length of fibre.

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Here is a close-up showing the bead being threaded into the fibre. You can see that, having twisted the fibres, they show a clear distinction between each end of the fibre, as if it were a thread. The loop which has just passed through the bead has distinct ‘legs’. As you hold one end of the fibre, pull gently on one of these legs. If you feel a firm tug on the fibres you’re holding, try the other leg. It should connect to the free end of the fibre and allow you to pull that free end right through the bead.

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Follow this procedure for each of the beads you want to spin into your yarn:

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Now put the beads aside and start spinning your fibre. Here I am attaching my fibre to my leader:

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I like to get the spun single established first before I think about spinning in the beads. Here I am checking the gauge of the singles yarn against the commercial yarn (a worsted weight single spun yarn) that I am using in my project.

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Now it’s time to start adding the beads into the yarn:

  1. In order to control the spin, I will stop the wheel when I get to the point of attaching the first bead, just as in the Park and Draft for Wheels video, seen here.
  2. When I want to attach a bead, I stop spinning the wheel and draft some fibre out to my desired thickness, just behind the pinched off twist.
  3. I take a pre-threaded bead. (It is easier to handle these by picking the beads up, rather than by picking the fibre up.)
  4. I hold the end of the fibre that passes through the bead with the thumb and fingers that are holding the twist in place, and lay the beaded fibre parallel to the section just drafted.
  5. I restart the wheel and allow the twist to run up the drafted fibres, capturing the bead and the fibre onto which it was threaded in the process.

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  1. Repeat as often as desired, and the result is a beautifully beaded singles yarn:

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Adding beads whilst spindle spinning

This is slightly trickier as you have to control the spin, as well as the beads, with your hands. Review the technique of Park and Draft on the Spindle, shown here. I would spin this sitting down so I could hold the spindle between my knees to keep it still when needed.

Follow the steps as above, to the point you want to add your first bead into your yarn.

  1. Stop the spindle and hold it still.
  2. Make sure you have your pre-threaded beads to hand.
  3. draft out a length of fibre to your desired thickness.
  4. Pick up a bead and lay the threaded bead alongside the freshly drafted fibre.
  5. Position your hands such that the finger and thumb that are pinching off the twist can hold one end of the threaded fibre in place, and you have other fingers available to stabilise the other end of the threaded fibre.
  6. Use your free hand to restart the spindle spinning and let the twist travel into the drafted fibres, capturing the bead as you go.

A video tutorial will follow as soon as possible and I will add it to this post.