In Episode Seven of the Plutonium Muffins podcast I introduce you to the newest member of the family (it may be temporary!), teach you about the difference between woollen and worsted spinning, and discuss the Ouessant sheep. There’s a small update on resolutions, and an announcement about my latest crafting venture.
Episode Seven: Kiti
“kitten” in Shona
New podcast schedule announced: expect an episode every first and third Monday of the month.
Melanie taught me how to use a niddy-noddy properly after we recorded Episode Six of the podcast yesterday – listen to this here (did you know you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes?). Now, you would be forgiven for thinking the operation of a niddy-noddy is fairly simple, right?
Oh wait, if you don’t know what a niddy-noddy is…it’s a tool used to make skeins from yarn, and is used when spinning to measure your yardage, as well as get the yarn off the bobbins into the skein. There is more information on Wikipedia.
I had the whole ‘wrap the yarn around the prongs’ thing down to pat. It’s quite a nice rhythm when you get into wrapping a skein on the device – and the reason it is called a niddy-noddy is because it looks like it’s nodding away to itself as it rocks back and forth while yarn is wrapped onto it.
When I first got it, and spun my first yarns, I diligently wrapped it around and counted the number of wraps. I also measured the dimensions of my niddy-noddy so that I knew the yardage of each wrap. I decided that it was one yard.
Bear in mind that this was three years ago. I was enamoured with my new toy (and in the throes of the tail-end of a depression slump). OK, remembering that?
Melanie put a skein of freshly spun merino and silk singles onto the niddy-noddy – and quietly questioned my assertion that one wrap was one yard. It was at this point that I learned that a yard is in fact much less than 192 cm – which is the actual length of one wrap on my niddy-noddy. After explaining (very kindly) the error that I had made, Melanie probably went off laughing at me. Eek!
It took me a few hours to come to terms with this (in my brain, one yard was a completely unknown quantity!) and I then sat down to count my yardages of all my previously spun yarns. The new totals are below.
I can’t yet decide how I feel about this. Probably more accomplished – I had been feeling fairly low about my spinning output, and it turns out I have nearly double what I thought – but it also serves as a reminder that sometimes I can be a little proud, and next time should just ask about three years sooner!
Have you ever been in a similar situation to this?
Episode Six: Pamwe of the Plutonium Muffins Podcast is co-hosted by the now infamous Melanie! We talk about our current projects both knitting and spinning, recently finished items, give an extensive review of the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, recap on my resolutions for October and 2014, and finally a brief history of spinning.
There was a lot of laughter and some bits where we talked about cats, sheep that look like teddy bears and rambling in areas, so a fair amount has been edited out and it’s a bit clunky. I’m getting better at editing, but still working on it! Enjoy.
One of my October Resolutions was to get started on the rainbow fibre. I described this in more detail on the podcast – you can find the episode here. I am so, so excited to say that we have completed round one of the fibre.
Wait, who is ‘we’? Read on…!
My friend Melanie, an Aussie and found through Ravelry, is currently in London and came to hang out when we had the PicKnit at the PM headquarters. I showed off all of my spinning fibre (protoyarn!) and told her my plans for some of it. I also expressed some concern at spinning the nylon sparkly unicorn tail fibre – I had never used this before.
Melanie was a superstar, and got started with the fibre – within a couple of days I had overcome my fear and spun it all into a single.
I also had some merino tops in the seven colours of the rainbow, which I wanted to spin into a single as a gradient. Excited by this, I laid out all of the fibre last week and spun it up – with the assistance of Melanie, who did at least half of it! When we were halfway through the first red top, we decided to split it in half as there was a lot of it – so we ended up spinning only half of these colours.
Meanwhile, Melanie had been scheming, and had gone to Hobbycraft to pick up some beads. She had also watched tutorials on YouTube on how to spin with beads – you can guess what happened, right?? With all of these strung onto sparkly blue rayon thread, I nominated Melanie for plying first, and I was in charge of the beads while she did so. We ran out of nylon towards the end of the yellow – so we had to run back to the shop and get more. Melanie spun this up, plyed it with the rest of the beads and merino, and we ended up with three skeins of glory that will make a rainbow when used together!
As Melanie is leaving for Australia soon, I made her take these skeins – we had originally thought we would split it in half, but gradually realised that we would each only have half of the rainbow if we did this, and chopping each colour into sections was not an option. Luckily, because we had split the merino, I still have half of the fibre left and I can spin up more of this glorious yarn!
It is soft, sparkly, absolutely beautiful and such a wonderful project. We crammed as many techniques in as we could (a common utterance being “it’s art yarn, it doesn’t matter”) and I can’t wait to start on the next lot. I’m also really looking forward to seeing what Melanie knits out of it – we are not yet sure of the yardage, and will measure it next week sometime.
My friend Melanie and I have spinning together recently. We are having to pack our hang out time into a very short space of time as she is moving back to Australia in less than a month. Sad times for me (although she is super excited)!
I have been super adventurous since Melanie came into my life, as she has encouraged me to spin all sorts of things I would never have dared try before! We’ve had a wonderful few days of spinning, and she has been doing some interesting things too.
Spinning the Dartmoor Mix
After a visit to Spin a Yarn in Devon (which I have talked about before), Melanie came away with a load of fibre to try spinning. This was a mix of fibres from animals living on or around Dartmoor, a beautiful area of England near the place I grew up. The label on the bag says there are four fibres in there: alpaca, Shetland, Gotland and Ryeland.
After spinning the first few bits on her drop spindle, she came round and got started on the wheel. There was Much Progress at the Plutonium Muffins PicKnit (which ended up just being Melanie, Corrie and another friend hanging out), and after two days of spinning on the wheel and plying on the spindle at home, a substantial amount of yarn was produced.
The first project that Melanie cast on was the Vortex Shawl – it looked amazing when she brought it round, and I was super excited about seeing how it turned out (and queued this project for myself). However, when she got home she decided that there was something else that this yarn wanted to be – and has almost finished!
The pattern is Window Cat by Sara Elizabeth Kellner. There is just a bit more spinning to be done, and she will finish the fibre. The cat still needs a face and his base so that his stuffing doesn’t pop out. He’ll be done soon, I reckon!
I never thought that spinning could be a social craft – as it turns out, it can, and I’m loving it. We are off to the Handweavers Studio again to ooh and ahh at fibre, and buy some more of the sparkly unicorn tale so we can finish our rainbow fibre!
I had my friend Melanie come round and do some spinning with me – she had bought a pack of fibre from Spin a Yarn, and was experimenting with it. I found this incredibly inspiring, and it prompted me to get out some of the fibre that I have been…well, hoarding for a while, and play with it. For hours…until 1 am in fact.
I have finished spinning up the nylon roving and the sparkly unicorn tail has been spun! Now I am ready to ply it – as soon as I’ve spun up the rainbow tops. I may have to go to the Handweavers Studio and get more of the nylon – this will not be an issue, we went and check yesterday and they still have loads of it.
Melanie has been encouraging me to try new techniques – so I will be plying this as a three ply, with seed beads and thread too! I’m very excited to be trying this out, and have been watching YouTube tutorials with bated breath. Now I just need to get the beads and start the process off. I feel very Louisa Harding.
I bought some alpaca fibre at Unravel 2013 – this is from UK Alpaca and it is deepest darkest black combed roving. I adore it – soft, fluffy and like having an alpaca to pet in my home.
I also have some Bearhouse Alpaca fibre which I bought from a petrol garage in Honiton (I know, WHAT?). The fibre is ‘fawn’, and completely unprocessed fleece. It has a lot of alpaca dandruff and vegetable matter in it, so this may be the start of me wearing an apron while spinning…
I’m holding the two together and letting the single grab bits randomly. I’m aiming for a subtle striping, but it might just become a muddy yarn because I’m planning to spin three sets of singles and plying it all together. Whatever happens, I will be happy with it! I would like to knit a sampler shawl out of it, as Melanie has done this and I am now enamoured with the idea.
I’m very excited about the two new projects that I have on the needles and wheel – my Solomon’s Temple socks, and my rainbow fibre. I’ve talked about them on Episode 5 of the podcast – check it out here! Here follow the latest pictures for you!
When John and I went to Buxton in August, we visited Sew In. While here, I looked for yarn that would be a lovely symbol of our trip, and I found some West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply. A self-striping yarn, it has two shades of green and three brownish, reddish, earthy tones. There is also a stripe that separates each colour which has light and dark grey speckles in it.
This all serves as a reminder of a very cold and wet journey up a hill – nay, a mountain in Buxton as we headed to explore Solomon’s Temple, a fortified hill marker with views of the Peak District. Halfway up the mountain, a giant thunderstorm started. I was stubborn. I refused to go back down. We got to the top and took the obligatory ‘on top of a hill in a thunderstorm near a stone tower’ selfie, before pretty much running down to a cafe with hot chocolate and a warm place to change out of our wet clothes!
I absolutely adore the colours, although I was a bit unsure about exactly how it would knit up. I bit the bullet and chose my pattern from a book I got for my birthday. I am more than thrilled with how the yarn is turning out, and I cannot wait to wear them! It is wonderful and soft, and the self-striping is just brilliant.
My newest spinning project is some nylon yarn that is coloured like a rainbow! It is incredibly sparkly, soft, and is spinning up nicely! It drafts smoothly and the only downside is that I get covered in sparkles while I’m spinning. Is this really a downside, though?!
My plan is to spin some rainbow coloured solid tops into a gradient single, then ply that with the sparkly single. What will it become? No idea! We’ll see what yardage I get. I’ll have to do a careful swatch to see how it all knits and washes up before I do anything with it.
I’m heading out to the Handweavers Studio in a moment to ooh and ahh over their equipment. I’m hoping to pick up more bobbins so I can do more than one project at a time! I’ve been coveting an Ashford Joy they have for sale – but it’s not in budget at the moment, unfortunately.
Episode Five of the Plutonium Muffins Podcast kicks off with some talk about knitting, followed by excellent progress on the spinning side of things. We move on to mine and Shatki’s resolutions, all rounded off with a chat to Vicky of Hulu Crafts in Modbury! Enjoy.
I’m going to be coming down to Devon a lot in the future, and I decided I needed a stash down here…it shall be my secret stash, and I shall call it squishy. Being local, I had to stash local yarn, obviously…OK, so it’s not so local, the roving is from Uruguay and the sock yarn from Germany, but the shop, Hulu Crafts, was local!
Stash from Hulu
I blogged about Hulu last year when this was my local yarn shop – to read that post go HERE. I was absolutely delighted to be able to go back to a knit and natter last night. This will be a monthly event for me, and I will even be able to go to their Christmas dinner! I’m so excited.
I have been into Hulu twice in the last four days, and fell in love with two things that I decided I needed to stash. The first was an Opal sock yarn. I knitted my first ever socks from Opal yarn, and they are the best pair I have – I prefer them to Regia, Artesano, and all of the yarn from small yarn companies that I have bought over the last few years. I actually noticed it when Vicky posted about it on the 22nd of August and decided I must look when I was next home.
She still had it! So I bought it.
The roving caught my eye as I walked past it, and I’ve always wanted to try Manos del Uruguay fibre but never seen it in person. That was snapped up – the colours are fairly similar to the Opal yarn, but I’m loving it and started spinning straightaway. I fascinated everyone at Knit and Stitch at Hulu, and Vicky posted a photo of me doing it to the Facebook page! (I’m famous, heehee.)
Anyway, now that you’ve drooled over my secret stash, carry on!
PS Anyone recognise the quote in italics in my introductory paragraph?
As promised in the Plutonium Muffins Podcast Episode Four, here’s a bit of extra information on the Navajo-Churro sheep for you! I hope you enjoy it – if there’s anything extra that you would like, or you have any questions, do let me know.
The Navajo-Churro are the modern descendants of a cross-breed between Jacob Sheep and Churra, an ancient Iberian breed. They were brought to North America with the original settlers in the 16th Century and were adopted by the Navajo as an important element of economy and culture shortly after this.
The Navajo were extraordinarily good weavers, and the wool came in highly useful for the makers. Weaving reproduction rugs is a popular pastime at the moment, and a search for them comes up with a wonderful range of examples. The below is an example of a rug that was woven around 100 years ago.
The sheep are considered threatened in conservation terms, and are considered a sheep of the United States of America. They have been protected since the 1970’s, and there are a number of projects which I have managed to find in which the focus is preserving the breed.
Navajo-Churro rams have been blessed with the ability to have two, four or even six horns! This comes from their Jacob ancestry, and makes them one of very few breeds of sheep in the world that can have this number of horns. Females can be horned or have nubs of horn which are termed scurrs instead.
These sheep are primarily bred for their fleece. They are dual-coated, with a soft, short undercoat and a long, coarse outer coat. The yarns which can be spun from this fibre is different depending on what you spin; the undercoat makes soft, warm yarn and the outer coat produces a stronger and more coarse yarn.
The sheep come in a bewildering array of colours! They are seriously good-looking sheep, with anything from reds to browns, blacks to whites, in-between colours, mixtures of these, different colours on their points (legs and head) and hips…check out this flock!
I would love to try this fleece, and have found a few sources online:
bide a wee farm – online shop here. Unfortunately, there are no fleeces currently in stock, and I cannot see any information on when it will be available again – but if you are interested, keep an eye out!
Arriola Sunshine Farm – I suspect you have to contact them directly as they do not have an online shop, and I am not that dedicated (I dread to think how much it would cost to ship a whole fleece to the UK) so I haven’t enquired. Shop here.
Spin Dance Acres sells yarn, fleece and roving, and looks to be my personal best bet if I ever manage to get some of this fibre. You have to email for information on roving, which I have done and will let you know when I receive a reply. Check out the website.
Of course, our favourite marketplace Etsy, also has fibre available – try out a search and see what comes up. I added a few things to my favourite in this quest, I can tell you! The main shop that seems to come up is Liongate – here.
In case you would like some of the more technical information on the fleece, these details are:
Inner Coat: wool fibers ranging from 10-35 microns, comprising 80% of the fleece,
Outer Coat: hair fibers measuring 35+ microns, comprising 10-20% of the fleece,
Kemp: short opaque fibers of 65+ microns, not to exceed 5% of the fleece.
The fleece is open with no defined crimp and should be lustrous with a silky hand. It is high yielding with a low grease content.
The lambs are unbelievably cute (I suppose all baby sheep are!), and are often born in pairs.
Do you have any requests for another breed of sheep you would like to know more about? Do let me know!
Welcome to Plutonium Muffins; a blog about knitting, spinning, some general craft, and life as a twenty-something year old trying to figure out how vintage and traditional pursuits fit into the twenty-first century.