Tag Archives: Creativity

April Rolag Club: All Fools’ Day

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April Rolag Club: All Fools’ Day

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Welcome to Forgotten Festivals Rolag Club!

This month we are celebrating All Fools’ Day on the 1st April.

Now more commonly known as April Fools Day, the origin of All Fools’ Day and how it came to be celebrated by so many cultures remains a mystery.

One story dates the tradition to 16th century France. In 1582 France changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, meaning the new year was celebrated on the 1st of January. Those who persisted in celebrating the new year towards the end of march, up to April the first became the butt of jokes, including having a paper fish stuck to their backs and being called “poisson d’Avril” because the young, easily caught fish was a symbol of gullibility.

Other ideas tie this widely-celebrated festival to the start of spring, when nature frequently fools us with unpredictable weather. There may be links to the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, celebrated at the end of March, which involved dressing up in disguises.

This month is a double celebration because it’s Story Skeins’ birthday! Story Skeins officially launched on the first of April last year. It’s been an amazing year of unexpected surprises and exciting projects, including this rolag club. Thank you all for being a part of it!

This month’s rolags are inspired by the traditional costume of the fool. We have bright and bold primary and secondary colours, and equally colourful accessories. The bells are also inspired by the fool’s costume and in addition to your stitch markers you have 6 extra bells to add into your yarn, or use for your own creative project. There’s a selection of April fool’s pranks, tea and a handspun mini skein from our guest maker, Sarah at Setting The Twist.

Have all the fun!

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Self-striping “Fool” rolags in a merino/silk/corn fibre blend.

In this box you should find:

  • The story of All Fools Day
  • 30g of rolags in “Fool” – 60% Merino, 20% Silk, 20% Corn
  • A handspun mini skein in “Harlequin” by Setting The Twist
  • Tea in blends of “Three Tulsi” and “Heart-warming”
  • Stitch markers and split rings for you to store your stitch marker collection
  • 6 bell charms
  • A “poisson d’Avril” – use at your own discretion!
  • And you can find your final treat at tinyurl.com/RolagRevellers
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Bright, bold colours were the theme for this month, inspired by the fool’s, or jester’s, costume.

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These are self-sriping rolags with ordered colours provided by stripes of merino, while the uniqueness and interest comes from a randomly arranged layer of silk colours.

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This month’s mini skeins in “Harlequin” were spun by Sarah at Setting The Twist

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Fitting with the jester theme, the stitch markers were a pair of colouful bells and I included a split ring to help club members store their increasing stitch marker collection. Six extra bells were included. Maybe some will even make it into people’s yarn!

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A “poisson d’Avril”, ready to be coloured and deployed at the owner’s discretion!

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Every rolag made this month was unique.

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And here are my rolags, spun as irregular worsted-weight singles.

Dark Side of the Swoon

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Dark Side of the Swoon

Background:

I made this skein for a mystery Valentine’s Day swap. I tried to disguise it as best I could with an anonymous label but, needless to say, I was caught out straight away!

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Both the yarn design and the name were inspired by the iconic Pink Floyd album cover. This was a really fun yarn to spin and I loved the result.

Story:

Maybe dancing butterflies and bluebirds on your shoulder is not your thing.

Maybe it’s the hidden, the unknown, or the unwise that pulls you in.

The secret known to only two souls. The destructive pas de deux. The live fast, split young experience. The intensity of life ruled by wild impulse. The same basic instinct that drives many beings to seek out one who makes us realise we’re understood, and part of a greater whole. It’s just some like things to be … that little bit darker.

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Information:

Title: Dark Side of the Swoon

Composition: Black Welsh wool, commercial glitter thread and beads.

Weight: 100g fibre weight / 13 WPI / DK

Length: 210m / 230yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat. Hand Wind

Details:

Date: February 2016

Skein code: 0087

Fibre: 100% natural Black Welsh wool

Source: World of Wool

Status: Swapped

What’s my job?

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What’s my job?

It’s only three years since I was a new spinner. I’ve reached the point where I find myself mentoring other new spinners as they start exploring this fascinating craft.

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One of the most common complaints I hear (often offered as an apology for the perceived deficiencies of the new spinner’s own yarn) is about irregular yarn. It’s something I remember about my first efforts at the spinning wheel too. I thought my first yarn was quite ugly. But at the same time I was so proud of it because I made it all by myself!

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There seems to be a common journey for spinners, with early efforts being thick and irregular, and subsequent yarn gradually becoming thinner and more consistent. Then you reach a stage where you want to spin thicker yarn again, and almost have to re-learn how to do it. And you may want to spin irregular, or thick and thin, or even more exotic yarn and so you go about learning those techniques, continually refining your knowledge, your practice and your control over the process.

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What I’ve come to realise is that, as spinners, it’s not our job to replicate machine-spun yarn. When we judge our early efforts, that’s the yardstick most of us use for comparison.

But the thing is, if I wanted machine-spun yarn, I could just buy it! It has its place and I use plenty of commercially-spun yarn, but it is a different beast from handspun. There is a sense of satisfaction for the spinner to know that, if you choose to, you can replicate the fine consistency of machine-spun yarn. But my plea to spinners (new or otherwise!) is to see consistency as a design choice, rather than a value judgement.

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I often think of handspun yarn as being full of life. And I think that relates to this question of what is my job as a handspinner. I see my job as creating something unique every time I go through the process, from inspiration to yarn design, to the final skein.

What commercially-spun yarn can never replicate is that sense of the unique creation of every millimetre of yarn: the possibility of a story in every stitch.

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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.

Devon Memories

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Devon Memories

Background:

I ran a competition for one winner to receive a rolag set, with the offer to spin them if requested. The theme of the competition was food and drink. The entrants suggested their favourite teats as inspiration for their rolag sets. The lucky winner chose the theme of a traditional cream tea for her rolags, and asked me to spin them. I had such fun with this project.

Story:

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Long, lazy days in the precious summer break. Time to indulge: A famous cream tea.

Freshly baked scones, still soft and warm from the oven.

Made by hand as a labour of love, by hands that have worked the dough for a lifetime.

The same hands that took the time to pick, clean and boil the fruit into jam. To heat the cream, slowly and steadily until it gives up its richest, golden crust.

Exotic tea: not of this continent, but still picked by hands. Knowledgeable hands, searching out the tender leaves. Plucking, drying, roasting, packing.

To be brought back to life with freshly boiled Devon water.

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Information:

Title: Devon Memories

Composition: 50% Merino, 15% Milk protein fibre, 15% Soya bean fibre, 20% Ramie.

Weight: 100g / 17 WPI av. / irregular sports weight

Length: 224m / 245yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: October 2015

Skein code: 0073

Fibre: Merino, Milk Protein, Soya Bean, Ramie

Source: Wingham Wool Work

Status: Gifted/Won

Glorious Technicolor Part II

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Glorious Technicolor Part II

Background:

This was a repeat order of some beautiful thick and thin yarn. What I particularly love about this is the way my creations were sent out into the world and inspired more creativity.

Story:

Glorious celebrations of colour:

Lapis – an Afghan midnight

Onyx – dark and mysterious

Ruby – blood-red gem

Indigo – brought to life by the sun

Opal – beauty from scattering of light

Ultramarine – deep blues of the sea

Silver – pure, white elegance.

Teal – delicious blends of blue and green

Ecru – earthy white

Cyan – a colour primary! One of the ABCs of inks

Hazel – autumnal shades

Navy – uniform blue

Ivory – creamy white and musical

Coral – delicate pink of the sea creature

Ochre – ancient dye. A link to the past

Lilac – pale purple of the garden

Olive – deep, dark, savoury green

Rainbows – nature’s paint box

Video by Forest Valley Designs. Shared with permission.

Information:

Title: Glorious Technicolor part II

Composition: 100% merino

Weight: 200g / 9 WPI average / Worsted or Aran thick’n’thin

Length: 187m / 204yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: June 2015

Skein code: 0048

Fibre: 21 micron 70s merino

Source: Wingham Wool Work’s Yorkshire Range – Fangfoss

Status: Sold

Slow Making

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Slow Making

Stop.

Don’t read ahead yet.

Think.

What did you think when you read the title of this blog post? “Slow Making.”

Save your answer. Write it down if you like. I’d love to hear it.

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Was it a positive or a negative emotion? Or simply neutral?

Did you think ‘This is intriguing,” or

“That sounds depressing,” or

“Time to take pleasure in the process,” or

“Sounds like a long, slow grind,” or

“Boooooring!” Or

“That sounds tedious,” or

“That sounds exciting,” or did you think I was going to tell you about something I was struggling with?

The word “slow” often has negative associations in our culture. Speed, busyness, productivity at all costs is prized. What are the key words in that sentence? At. All. Costs. For me, that isn’t a high enough aspiration for life.

Story Skeins is primarily a vehicle for our shared creative journey, and to facilitate the coming together of our fibre community (something which happens in many ways, through the work of many people.) I also offer yarn and fibre for sale, but I always try to keep in mind that making things to sell is not my primary purpose.

Why not? Well, making purely to sell focuses on the end product and the success criterion becomes whether or not someone else chooses to hand over money for what you’ve made. Now, I’m not saying you can’t run a successful, profitable business from your creative work. But if your only aim is to sell, maybe you will be losing something.

I can make yarn that I absolutely love. But if I’ve not paid attention to the process, if I’ve not been present, if I’ve not engaged with the ‘doing’, but rather focussed on just getting to the end, then instead of a joy the work itself has become a chore. That’s not how I want to live.

So I will never be a production spinner. I will never aim to produce yarn at a fast pace. I won’t make things just because other people like them, if it comes at the expense of the processes I want to try out and the yarn I want to play with. I will stick with slow making. And if you are kind enough to buy from me, you may have to wait a little while, but you will know that my precious time, attention, love and care infuses the product you receive.

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My success criteria are more to do with the question “am I living the life I want?” It has little to do with end results. I’ve made yarn I love (great!). I’ve made yarn I don’t like (great!). I’ve made yarn that others love (great!). I imagine I’ve made yarn that others hate (great!), although so far you’ve all been too polite to tell me. I’ve made yarn that’s sold well (great!). I’ve made yarn that hasn’t sold (great! More for me to play with!).

Why are all these different outcomes great? Because none of them matter to me. By the time I’ve reached the point of having a finished yarn, or a sale, or a non-sale to judge, I’ve already met my success criteria. I’m doing what I want to do, in the way I want to do it. I’m living a creative life and getting the most out of the process. And I’m enjoying, slowly, every bit of it.

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The Story So Far …

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The Story So Far …

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[Quote by Lexi Boeger.]

It’s just over two months since Story Skeins officially launched. I’m feeling reflective tonight, so I thought I’d write a little blog about it.

This time last year I was working my way through The Artist’s Way as part of the training course I started in 2012. It was challenging in lots of ways. I was challenged to explore my creativity (after having been challenged to think of myself as someone capable of creativity in the first place…). I was challenged to identify my dreams. I was challenged to become more authentically, and wholly, myself. I was challenged to drop some of the artifice I thought I was using to protect myself, but was actually trapping me in the small space I had labelled ‘safe’.

How far I have come in just a year. One of the dreams I identified was to become a yarn maker. Why does it fascinate me so? I guess it’s always been how my creativity has snuck out, even whilst I was denying it and safely labelling myself as someone capable of learning practical skills. I still deeply appreciate the practical skill element of the work I do, but it’s not what fires the heart and soul. That fire is fed by the abundance of possibility. The freedom to play with shape and space, twist and angles and geometry, fibres and textures and wacky inclusions, colours and patterns and combinations, and ideas. Every creation is unique. Every moment is unique. As long as I don’t forget that, I have the excitement of a beginner every single day.

I’ve never liked attention. Making my work public has been one of the biggest challenges for me. Because my approach to my work is very experimental (not just in the spinning, but in the writing and the planning and the kind of projects I explore) I rarely have any sense for whether the work I’ve produced is any good or not. Old me finds that very difficult. I have about three decades behind me which are full of trying to be good and trying to get things right. New me thinks a little differently. New me is excited by the uncertainty. (Old me looks on from the sidelines, wondering WTF is going on.) New me has, to a large degree, given up rushing to judge myself as succeeding or failing. New me just wants to play. Old me just wants to play it safe.

So, I took a risk. I decided to show you all my creations. You may love them, you may not. So far I’ve loved most of what I’ve made. Sometimes right from the start. Sometimes a slow burn. Sometimes not until the moment of completion. Some stuff I’m still not sure about. Every bit of it has taught me something. Being brave enough to put it out there has taught me something. Why brave? Because maybe, if you really look at the things I make, and the way I do it … maybe you’ll see the real me.

Pick ‘n’ Mix

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Pick ‘n’ Mix

Background:

Experimental yarn made from a whole host of different natural and synthetic fibres. Full details in my previous post. Gifted as a competition prize on my facebook page.

Story:

A dash of this, a dab of that

Curious mixtures, strange concoctions.

Like playing ‘cooking’ as a kid when you could happily feel free enough to mix mud and rose petals and call it a triumph.

When do we lose that? Why do we become so hard on ourselves?

Let’s remember how to play.

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Information:

Title: Pick ‘n’ Mix

Composition: Mixed natural & synthetic fibres

Weight: 63g / variable (11-14) WPI / DK thick & thin

Length: 188m / 206yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: April 2015

Skein code: 0012

Fibre: Mixed natural & synthetic

Source: Wingham Wool Work sample day

Status: Gifted / Won

Odds and Ends

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Odds and Ends

As an experimental spinner, I often end up with little bits of spun singles here, there and everywhere. They may be left over after making a plied yarn from two or more singles. They may be from a yarn experiment that didn’t work out as planned, or one that was abandoned. Or they may just have been bits and pieces that I was trying out, such as this bobbin that was created during a Wingham Wool Work sample day:

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This is an eclectic bobbin containing the following fibres:

Soya bean

Cashmere

50/50 Cashmere & silk

Pure mulberry silk

Recycled plastic bottles

Milk protein fibre

Alpaca

Camel Down

Camel Hair

Herdwick wool

Carded sari silk

Yak

Acrylic

Cotton

Vicuna

… and possibly more that I’ve forgotten.

This week has been “Clear the Bobbins” week, which is a perfect opportunity for experimental yarn-making. I also had a couple of drop spindles full of Bluefaced Leicester:

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So, the obvious solution was to ply off the sampler bobbin with the bluefaced leicester.

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Here, in the middle, is the resulting skein called “Pick ‘n’ Mix”. It is joined by “Lapis”, made from remnants of a merino & silk mix 2-plied with itself from a centre-pull ball, and “Jovian Joy”, named by my daughter, which is 50% alpaca and 50% merino.

I think this trio demonstrates that you can make beautiful, useful yarn from virtually any combination of colour and fibre mixes. Freedom to experiment is vital to creativity and growth. The things I have learnt from this experiment, some of them very unexpected, take me further forward in my learning journey and will certainly be seen again in future yarn.