making little fulled knitting bags

20180115_130623[1]

I have been spinning a lot lately (whenever there is time), mostly from a coloured merino fleece I picked up  somewhere. The yarn is lovely and fine, but what to do with it all? So I decided to make some little knitting bags; the kind you can hang over your wrist and knit from, or stick your needles into and shove in your handbag when you realise the bus is pulling over at your stop (or is that just me?). I will spin the yarn, knit and full the bags then pop a ball of my yarn and some knitting needles into it and sell my ‘knitting starter kits’ at the markets (offering a free knitting lesson at point of purchase). I don’t know if anyone will take me up on it given the heat at the moment, but we will see.

My little bags don’t really have a pattern, it’s more of a knit-by-feel affair, but I will try to explain the process (with photos of course). First I find some spare homespun wool that I have been wanting to use for something and turn it into a neat little ball by putting it on my yarn swift and winding it off with the ball maker thing.

 

 

I then cast on some stitches, enough to make a decent square. For this bag I used 20 stitches and knitted a square base using garter stitch (knit every row). The square has to be big enough to fit a ball of wool on plus about 40% (to allow for shrinkage when fulling).

20180111_175740[1]

A knitted square. I just love this yarn; caramel alpaca plied with gold thread

I pick up stitches around the sides of the square, trying to pick up the same number as my cast on side. The number of stitches on each side is not really crucial to success, but it does make things neater and easier to finish.

20180111_181530[1]

I knit in rounds to make the sides until the bag is deep enough to hold a ball of wool, bearing in mind that fulling (or felting) makes the piece shrink, so adding about 40% to all measurements.

20180112_140008[1]

My bag is coming together

20180112_140011[1]

Now comes the tricky bit; handles. I have just discovered the Japanese knot bag design, and it suits the knitting bag design I have in mind. All I need to do is knit handles with one being shorter than the other…right?

This photo from the internet shows the design I mean

My little bag is a mini version of the one in the photo (knitted rather than cloth too), so the longer handle only needs to be long enough to loop around the wrist. I knit the handles by casting off until I reach a corner, knit some handle stitches (in this one I made them six stitches wide) then slip those stitches onto a stitch holder. Now I continue casting off until I reach the next corner. I do this all the way around until there are four sets of handle stitches (on stitch holders). Then I knit back and forward on one set of stitches using garter stitch until it is long enough to loop over to the handle stitch set beside it (that is the next set along tracing around the perimeter). I graft the handle onto the handle stitches using the three needle cast off. The other two handle stitch sets are done the same way but this handle is long enough to go over a wrist (plus 40%).

20180112_150151[1]20180112_204759[1]

Now the knitted part of the bag is finished, it is time to full or felt it.

 

 

Fulling is easy; just throw the bag in the washing machine with some detergent (I use shampoo actually) and let it wash for a few minutes. Fibre felts at different rates, so the fulling process may be really fast (if I used Icelandic wool yarn), or it may be very slow (if I used Suffolk wool yarn), but it will felt (as long as the fibre is wool and is not super wash treated). Alpaca is a medium speed felter, so it took about 15 minutes.

20180113_161639[1]

The bags I have made so far in the washing machine ready to felt

20180115_130623[1]

The finished bbag with a ball of wool and needles inside, ready to go. As you can see the bag shrunk quite a bit.

So now it’s back to spinning more wool from that merino fleece.

20180113_173825[1]

Spinning and Plying cotton – part two

Now for the fun bit…
Spinning cotton requires patience and practice. The method is different to wool and the settings on your wheel are different too.

First, the wheel. My wheel has a double band drive, which is not recommended for spinning using the long draw method (commonly used for cotton) as it is hard to adjust the wheel to take up the yarn slowly enough. I have found it is possible to use the long draw method with a double band wheel, you just need to be patient and keep a close eye on the yarn.

 I use what I would call a medium draw method that works efficiently for me. Instead of drawing the fibre back past my hip, as you do with the long draw, I draw back about 30 cm at a time before letting the yarn wind onto the bobbin. I also ‘bend’ the yarn a bit so I can control the twist in the yarn I am drafting. For non- spinners; drafting is pulling the fibre out into a thin line before the spinning wheel puts twist into it.

The clip below shows how an expert spins cotton using the long draw method.

This clip shows how I spin using my medium draw method.

It takes a long time for me to spin a bobbin of cotton, but I enjoy the challenge of getting the single (the un-plyed strand of yarn) smooth and even.

The singles are getting fairly even.

Almost filled a bobbin, just a few more nests.

When the bobbin is full it is time to ply the yarn….see you then.

From fleece to tote bag and all stops in between – part two

I have carded up a 100g batch of washed wool into cute little rolag ‘nests.
Now for the spinning…..

Spinning can be seen as a science, an art or a craft. I like to think of it as a craft; I don’t get too scientific or precise about it, I just spin.
So..I sit in my crafting nest in the lounge room and spin while I watch a DVD or just sit and enjoy the quiet. It takes me about four hours of spinning (broken up into movie length lots) to fill a bobbin. Then it needs to be plyed into a strong yarn.

All ready to spin…coffee; check….rolags; check…..spinning wheel……

Spinning wheel; check
A half spun bobbin of singles.

A full bobbin

There are so many ways to ply yarn, it would take me all day to explain them. I usually use a Navajo ply method which uses a single bobbin rather than two or three bobbins.

Once the yarn is plyed, I wind it onto a niddy noddy to make a skein which is then tied together and washed again to set the twist. This part is fun as I take the yarn out of the bath (as described in part one), squeeze the water out of it somewhat and then whack it against a post with some vigour. This gets my dogs all excited (maybe they think I’ve gone mad) and they all start barking like loons and jumping around.

A bad photo of me plying

Half a bobbin of plyed yarn
My niddy noddy
The finished skein (badly over exposed, but you get that with the flash)

Once the excitement dies down, I hang the skein on a contrived rack (on my wool cupboard) to dry, or I may decide to dye it first.

Part three is the yarn dying process…. see you then.

Glossary
Ply- Twisting two or more strands of yarn together to produce a stronger, thicker yarn.
Single – A single length of yarn, spun onto a bobbin, prior to plying.
Niddy noddy – A tool used by spinners to wrap wool around when making a skein.
Skein – A neat parcel of yarn, made by looping yarn in equal rounds.

Spinning dog hair

A few days ago a friend of mine gave me a little bag of hair from her Meremma dog to try on my spinning wheel (Thanks Lynn). Today I tried it out.
Using dog hair to make yarn is not a new fashion; ancient people made good use of the hair shed by pets and working dogs to make yarn for knitting and weaving cloth.

Amerind history
European history

This little bag of hair was a joy to work with, easy to comb, easy to spin and so soft.

This one tiny bag of hair made many meters of yarn.

The hair out of it’s bag. It is so soft I could fondle it all day.

I spread it on the comb

After several combings (from one carder to the other), the roving is ready to go.

When you take the hair off the comb it becomes a fluffy batt.

The batt is then rolled into a roving ready for spinning.

It spins a smooth, strong yarn.

The resulting yarn (or single ply) looks like mohair but is much softer.

I have enjoyed this little bit of spinning. Now I will be asking my friend for more hair from her dog when she combs  her so I can finish the rest of this reel and ply the single with wool to make a skein to knit a hat.

Glossary
reel; the piece of the wheel which stores the finished spinning.
single; a single strand of spun fibre. Several singles are combined to make a yarn.
ply; twisting/spinning several singles together to make a yarn. Two ply is made with two singles, three ply is three singles and so on.

Wool spinning advice

If you read this blog regularly, you will have noticed that I am somewhat hyperactive (adult ADHD) and so Like to skip from one thing to another constantly. I have many hobbies that I keep returning to after long breaks. One of the things I like to do is spin…..sheep and alpaca wool, cotton and hopefully one day silk. I just found a great post about how to spin sock yarn that I thought I would share with you.

Knit Better socks Blog

If you are interested in spinning at all, please have a read.

Some of my home spun wool; from left to right- Suffolk cross, natural – merino, chemical dyed – merino, natural.

My old Scotch tension Ashford Traditional spinning wheel.
The start of a reel of cotton; very slow preparing and spinning.

What I like to make from my wool. I didn’t spin the red and green wool for these socks; unfortunately.