March Retreat with Judith, Part Two


OK, so that was the location. Now for the spinning.

The theme for this class was colour, and boy was it. I'd already decided I prefer spinning undyed fiber and dyeing it as yarn (and Judith agreed with me!), but it's always good to challenge yourself. It was clear there was going to be some good fun on the very first night, when we found this table stacked with goodies:

Class materials stacked up and ready to go

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OK, so let's start on day one (Saturday). We got up bright and early, had breakfast (they had pancakes, but I don't eat pancakes when the only syrup option is not actually maple syrup, because I am a SNOB, so I had eggs and pineapple chunks), and made our way to the classroom. We were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Sharon and her wheel

Judith started us out by laying out several large dyed tops.

Morgaine and Judith lay out materials

We divided them in half, so everybody had a spinning twin who did the other half of the same top.

Dyed top, stripped down for spinning

Then we stripped off some equal-width strips lengthwise, putting a knot at the same end on each one so we could align them.

Two bobbins spun from the same end

Then singles, taking care to try to be consistent. These are two bobbins spun starting from the same end of the top, ready to be plied.

Two skeins: matched and reversed

We made two skeins from those tops: one with the two singles plied starting at the same end, so the colour changes should match up (left), and one with the singles plied starting at opposite ends, so the colour changes were not deliberately matched (right).

Two skeins: matched and reversed

From that I knitted up two quick swatches to see how the different methods of blending colour gave different results in the fabric. My top had very regular colour changes, so it wasn't too dramatic, but there is a definite difference.

At the same time, Judith would pause and show us techniques, like when she showed us how to hold the singles for making a 3-ply.

Judith demonstrates the hand position for making a 3-ply

I admit, I tried her way and my way, and my way still feels more natural to me. And gives me better results.

The other interesting work we did involved blending dyed tops.

Big circle of coloured tops

We chose a few colours of dyed top and tore off forearm-lenths to use. Then we arranged them in our hands and spun across the fiber back and forth, arranging the colours as we wished, to make a variegated single.

Three bobbins of marled singles

I used orange/yellow/red with a dark blue accent colour. Then I spun the singles into a marled 3-ply (I guess I didn't take a picture of the skein).

Marled 3-ply swatched

And swatched it up. Apart from the awkward place where the colours aligned perfectly and I got those two solid stripes, I like how the blending worked on this.

(It's biasing pretty heavily because it's knitted at a tight gauge and because the yarn was not finished before I knitted it up.)

By this time the class was all insane, and we were working like mad. But it was all fun.

Heather spinning

Then Judith showed us how to use various tools to blend the fibers.

Using a hackle for blending

She showed us how to pull a sliver off hackles to make one kind of blend.

Using combs to blend

And how to comb different colours together to make another kind of blend.

Pulling off a sliver

The sliver of colour that she pulled off the combs was outstandingly different from what she pulled off the hackle. A really interesting effect.

Drum carding table

We also got to use the drum carder, which was loads and loads of fun.

A few of us stayed up very very very late on Sunday, making art batts.

Late night batt-tossing

At one point, I'm not sure why, we spent a few minutes tossing the batts in the air and chanting at them.

This is my late-night batt. Not very arty, but I don't have anything to prove.

My fun batt, first pass

The first time through the carder, the colours aren't very well blended, but you start to see how it will come together.

Fun batt, second pass

The second time is when the final colour emerges. I put this batt through four times.

Fun batt, the next morning

This is what it looked like the next morning, when I dragged myself out of bed against all physical need.

Fun batt, spun as a heavy single

I spun it up as a heavy single, practising the methods Judith showed us for spinning a thicker single.

First batt knitted up (crown of a hat)

And knitted it up into the crown of a hat.

Another batt

Then, at the last minute, I made another batt really quick, so I could make some more yarn and finish the hat. It won't quite match (we'd run out of some of the fiber I used on the first batt), but good enough.

By midmorning on Monday, I was, well, pretty tired.


I'm usually pretty good at pacing myself, and by this point I had exactly enough energy left to finish the weekend and nothing else.

On Sunday afternoon I started work on the dyeing. There wasn't enough room in the dyeing setup for the entire class to do it, so we dyed in batches of five people.

Dyeing table

We used crock pots and vinegar, a very low-tech low-stress way of dyeing.


Judith had a very scientific method for applying dye: wet the end of a wooden spoon, dip it in the dye powder, and then dunk it in the pot. Not something you can do with just any dye powder (many are reactive with water), but it works with the dyes we were using.

Copper penny dyed fiber

I wanted fiber dyed to match a copper penny.

Copper penny all nice and dry

I think it came out pretty nicely. I didn't have time to spin it up, but it's in the box of stuff to work on.

On Monday, Judith showed us how to use very very bright colours to make a boucle yarn that knitted up into a nice fabric.

Boucle yarn knitted up

At one point we overdyed that little swatch, but I didn't photograph it. The colours muted down into something really beautiful.

Another thing Judith showed us was how to spin yarn for velvet (or other knotted pile).

A perfect 2-ply worsted yarn for pile

Basically: a worsted yarn, 2-ply. You see that shine there? That is because all the fibers are aligned in the same direction, which makes sense as what you would want for pile.

Oh, right, more dyeing.

We also dyed mohair locks, which was really easy.

Dyeing mohair locks

In the crock pot, with dabs of dye powder.

Lifting locks from the dyepot

Lifted out some time later when the dye had exhausted.

Dyed mohair locks drying

Laid to dry on the metal rack.

Dyed mohair locks

And my little handful of them, ready to be used in a project.

And we dyed yarn in balls, which was interesting.

Ball dyeing prep

You start with a bunch of small balls of yarn.

Ball dyeing

They get stuffed in the pot, with dye added on the outside and into the center of each ball so there are no white bits.

Dyed balls

Which ends up looking pretty interesting. I still need to swatch these to see what it looks like in the end.

At the end of Monday, we were exhausted (and some of the class stayed on for the weaving retreat that is still in progress!), we had piles of samples and bits of fiber to spin that we may or may not have gotten to, we had swatches coming out our ears.

When I got home, I was done. It was a great weekend, I learned a lot, and there's a lot to practise and try out. But what I really needed was to sleep for a few days. Which I have not been doing (more on that later).

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ayse published on March 19, 2010 10:15 AM.

March Retreat with Judith, Part One was the previous entry in this blog.

Hey, Healthcare is the next entry in this blog.

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