Tag Archives: Art yarn

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.

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The Single Skein

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The Single Skein

As a handspinner, my creative path has led me to specialise in unique single skeins. Often the indie dyers I follow also have single, sometimes one-of-a-kind, skeins available. Or sometimes, the budget will only stretch to one luxury skein from a spinner or dyer.

I often see knitters and crocheters searching for that perfect one-skein project for their special yarn. This post explores ways of using small amounts of special yarn. (I will confine myself to knitting and crochet for now. Weaving is a whole other topic!) We will look at one-skein projects suitable for different yarn weights, but also think about more imaginative ways to show off that extra-special yarn.

The one-skein project

The key here is knowing what the essential information is, and knowing where to look for patterns.

If you have received a skein from me, or have read about my skeins on this blog, you will see that every skein is categorised according to its WPI (wraps per inch) – from which we calculate the yarn gauge – and the total length of the yarn. Knowing these measurements allows you to search for a project to suit your yarn.

Undoubtedly, the best place to find patterns is Ravelry. It is free to sign up, and as a member you can use the excellent pattern search facility. Simply go to the advanced pattern search, select the appropriate options for meterage or yardage and yarn gauge, and see what comes back. It’s likely you’ll have dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of options to choose from.

Now let’s think about typical yarn lengths for different gauges. Approximate values are given below:

Aran weight: ~160m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: Fingerless mitts or ear warmers.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Truly Hooked. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn handdyed by Story Skeins. Pattern.

DK: ~220m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: Scarf or cowl.

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Photo by Heather Young. Yarn by Devon Sun Yarns. Pattern.

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Photos by Laura-Jo Webster. Yarn by Story Skeins. Pattern.

Sock weight: ~400m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: socks or shawls.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Excelsior Yarns. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Lang Yarns. Pattern.

Laceweight: 800-1200+m per 100g

Ideal one-skein projects: Large shawl or wrap, for example this Wrapped in Lace Shawl.

Please note that these measurements are a rule of thumb, and most appropriate for yarns which are predominantly wool. Fibres with higher density, such as many plant fibres, may give less length per 100g for an equivalent yarn gauge.

Feature Yarn

Another option is to use your special yarn as an accent in a larger, plainer piece. My favourite example of this is my Nordic Shawl, which makes me smile every time I see it. The rainbow stripe is “Six Colour Rainbow” from Unbelieva-wool. The oatmeal yarn is Stylecraft Life:

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Further examples:

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Photo by Clare Davidson. Accent yarn handdyed by Clare.

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Photo by Becky Shay Pollard.

Patchwork

This option uses small amounts of a variety of yarn to build up a project. It’s a great option for mini skeins, or ends of yarn. Try to keep the yarn gauge consistent, and choose to do your project entirely in animal fibres (or predominantly animal fibre mixes), or entirely in plant fibres (cotton, bamboo, etc), or entirely in synthetics.

My increasingly large collection of mini skeins (again from Unbelieva-wool. I’m quite a fan!) are destined for a Beekeeper’s Quilt. I am using my 30g of rolags from my monthy rolag club to make a wrap based on the When Alice Fell motif pattern. And one day I will make myself a Log Cabin Scrap Blanket.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn handspun by Story Skeins. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn and pattern from The Art of Crochet.

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Photo by Sonia Bowmar-Scothern.

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Photo by Stacey Galbraith.

Scrap projects

For even smaller amounts of yarn there are many options for scrap projects, made of tiny lengths of yarn. My favourite is the linen stitch scarf.

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Photo by Rox Driver. Hook by Hooklicious! Pattern.

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Photo by Shadow Gilboa-Way.

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Photo by Alison Horne.

Using textured and “art” yarn

Hanspun yarn has so many delicious possibilities. It can be smooth and balanced and regular, and mimic machine-spun yarn. But can also be so much more.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Weird and Twisted. Pattern.

The only limit to using these yarns is your own imagination. A small amount of textured yarn can make a great trim, or a pair of cuffs, transforming an otherwise plain garment into something really special.

For her Road Trip Scarf, Kirsty has combined the irregular button yarn I spun for her with a second skein of handspun to create a bulky yarn for a quick project.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Handspun yarn by Story Skeins.

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Photo by Kirsty Rodger. Yarn by Story Skeins. Pattern.

Close-up:

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I have an inspiration board on pinterest called “Great for Handspun” which includes all sorts of projects, using yarns from the conventional to the wacky. This is my particular favourite.

My general advice to my customers is: the more that’s going on in the yarn, the less there should be going on in the pattern. Just as complex lace or cable patterns are shown to their best advantage with a plain yarn, so complex yarn is at its best advantage when used with a simple pattern. When the yarn is creating the intetest for you, the pattern should stand back and allow the yarn to show off!

Freeform

Finally, don’t feel the need to be constrained to a pattern. You are making art and have the freedom to explore as you please. If you don’t like it, just pull it back and try something else.

The world of freeform crochet has really taken off over the last few years, and this article explains how hanspun yarn is a perfect match for this art form. Here is an example of a stunning freeform crochet blanket.

I hope you have found inspiration for your beautiful, unique skeins here. I also have a gallery on my facebook page of fantastic creations made from handspun yarn. Please feel free to send me pictures of your work if you would like to futher inspire your fellow crafters.

Abstract Expression

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Abstract Expression

Background:

I was given these rolags to spin for a swap. There was so much interesting texture hidden within, it was invariably expressed as an irregular textured single in the spinning. The commercial glitter thread sets it off perfectly.

Story:

Ideas, thoughts, concepts come or arrive or happen or were always there. Sometimes they are fleeting, sometimes more persistent. Some demand to be made. They care not that there is no vocabulary, no construction that can express them. They demand innovation to bring them to life. And the concept that revealed itself to you, which cannot be contrained by conventional lines, may appear differently to each observer. You brought it into being. Now it grows and changes with each interaction. Abstract expression is never static.

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Information:

Title: Abstract expression

Composition: Merino, Alpaca, Silk and Angelina

Weight: 100g / 10 WPI av. / Worsted thick and thin.

Length: 219m / 240yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: November 2015

Skein code: 0080

Fibre: Puni rolags of merino, mulberry silk, alpaca and angelina.

Source: Bits and Hobs

Status: Swapped

Helluva Helix

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Helluva Helix

Background:

A first experiment in spiral plying.

Story:

Have you ever had one of those problems, that no matter how hard you try to solve, just keeps coming round again?

“Here I am again,” you think, as your previously-vanquished foe returns yet again.

“It’s a vicious circle,” you think. You think of going round and round and round, never escaping.

But what if that circle were actually a helix? And you’re not returning to the same spot, but climbing up, learning something new each time, gradually working your way to the surface.

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Information:

Title: Helluva Helix

Composition: Merino plied with polyamide thread.

Weight: 100g / 10 WPI / worsted or aran weight

Length: 233m / 255yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: July 2015

Skein code: 0054

Fibre: 100% merino

Source: Habetrot Fibres

Status: For Sale

Adventures in Space & Time

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Adventures in Space & Time

Background:

This was such a fun commission! By the time the yarn was made I could just imagine a little tardis whizzing through the scene.

Story:

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Space.

The vast, empty void. The vacuum of space.

Empty.

Apart from the stars.

But the rest of space is empty.

Except for the planets and moons and comets and asteroids.

But there’s nothing else.

Apart from the nebulae, showing off, all blues, pinks, reds and greens.

And apart from the galaxies, some spiral-armed and twisting together with the inky blackness.

But aside from all that … empty.

If you don’t count the neutrinos and photons and muons and …

But otherwise, nothing there.

(Except, maybe, dark matter?)

Even black holes are thought to emit radiation.

So really, what is there to explore?

What adventures could you possibly have?

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Information:

Title: Adventures in Space & Time

Composition: Merino, silk, sequins and seed beads

Weight: 120g (fibre weight) / 14 WPI / DK to sports weight.

Length: 360m / 394 yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: July 2015

Skein code: 0049

Fibre: 21 micron dyed merino, 70/30 merino silk blend

Source: Supplied by Wingham Wool Work. Blended by Story Skeins

Status: Sold

Cherry Blossom

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Cherry Blossom

Background:

This gorgeous, soft, squishy yarn was inspired by the May cherry blossom in the local park. It is a 3-ply yarn and each single has a different composition. Two singles were spun thickly and with lots of texture to reflect the ragged blossom and stamen seen in the cherry flowers. One is white organic Falkland with highlights of pale pink merino. The second is pink merino with highlights of cherry-coloured mulberry silk. The thinner, worsted spun single representing the dark cherry bark is made from 70/30 merino/silk blended tops in shades of brown.

Story:

Spring’s signature sight: the pinky-white clouds of the cherry tree. Delicate pastels cluster around the dark, twisting bark support. Get close up and the petals reveal all the deep colour and ragged texture of cherries-in-the-making. It won’t be long until they shed their coats, celebrating with nature’s own confetti the progression to summer.

Cherry Blossom
Information:

Title: Cherry Blossom

Composition:

Weight: 135g / 9 WPI average / Worsted to Bulky

Length: 135m / 148yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: May 2015

Skein code: 0025

Fibre: Organic Falkland, 21 micron pale pink merino, strawberry mulberry silk, 70/30 merino/silk in browns.

Source: Wingham Wool Work

Status: For Sale

Buttons Be Good!

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Buttons Be Good!

Background:

Spun for a friend, Kirsty of Buttons Be Good, this was another experimental art yarn. I had thought for a while that tiny, colourful buttons scattered through a yarn would be fun. I wanted to make the base a slightly thick’n’thin singles yarn and I had some beautiful falkland fibre to work with. This yarn became an experiment in how little I could do to the fibre in the creation of the finished yarn. It is very lightly spun in order to retain its softness, and lightly wrapped in a highlight thread which carries the buttons.

Story:

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When I was little, my granny’s button box was a treasure trove of adventure. I could dive my hand right into the well of shiny trinkets and feel the smoothness of them slipping past my fingers, making space for me. I could count them, sort them, arrange them according to colours and textures and sizes. I could build landscapes of imagination, and lose all time, lost in play.

I grew older. I bought my own button box! Excavated from a jumble sale, filled with another family’s memories.

Now it helps to create new stories, so maybe one day someone will look back and remember my button box, and all the places that it took them to.

Buttons Be Good!

Information:

Title: Buttons Be Good

Composition: Superwash Falkland, Polyamide Thread, Buttons

Weight: 138g / 9-10 WPI / Worsted thick’n’thin

Length: 133m / 146yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: July 2015

Skein code: 0058

Fibre: superwash falkland

Source: Wingham Wool Work

Status: Gifted