7 Sep 2013

Corespun Yarn with Ribbon Rose Inclusions

One thing I like about corespun yarn is how easy it is to include small items like beads or flowers.

Today it's about flowers.  How decadent, to have these little beauties interspersed throughout your work, whatever your fibre art of choice happens to be.  Being in the mood for reds lately, I combed out a selection of red fleeces into some lovely top.  

So what's the story on this selection of top?  This past summer when I was down home in Nova Scotia I bought a lovely Romney x Lincoln Longwool fleece at Aspen Grove Farm outside Bridgewater. Very lustrous and curly.  I dyed it mostly in different reds and one fuchsia because, hey, how can you not dye something fuchsia?  It took the dye beautifully.  This skein includes all those reds and pinks from the Romney/Lincoln fleece, plus a bit of Corriedale.  So it won't be a soft and fluffy yarn, but it will be lustrous and textured.

Because I didn't want to blend all those lovely reds together (although in these photos they seem to look more pink than red - you'll just have to trust me on this) but wanted each colour to speak its own voice in some random fashion, I prepared my top for spinning by laying out a strip of each colour on my lap ... 

... and drafting it out into a long cord (strip? I'm not so great at the proper vocabulary, here) of top.  So there is some colour intermingling, and some striping of one colour after another.  

Next for the flowers to include in the yarn:

I buy these ribbon roses from Laurl on Etsy.  This small size fits easily through the orifice on my wheel and doesn't get caught in the hooks.  There are larger ribbon flowers available that can be fed through the orifice with lots of care and patience, and although I have at times in my life had sufficient emotional wherewithal to calmly, gently, and successfully ease large ribbon flowers through my wheel workings, this is not something I reliably have in vast quantities, nor do I want to spend it all on my yarn in case that means I'm going to have a complete meltdown later in the day when I burn supper or break my favourite mug.  We live our lives and do what works best, right?  For me, sticking to smaller, more easily dealt-with flowers is the road I have chosen.  My advice is, before starting a project like this, make sure whatever it is you're spinning into your yarn will fit through your orifice and hooks, and consider how willing you're going to be to nurse the yarn along if it's a close fit.

I spun a small sample skein just to see how the colours would play out with the whole hand-drafting the top together method, and also to help me pick what colour flowers I wanted to use.  I think any of these would be nice, but I wanted the flowers to stand out.

Here's my practice skein still on the wheel -- you can see drafting the top as I did worked just fine, and I have random sections of different reds all throughout my yarn ...

... and here are my rose colour choices.  Sadly, the light pink one didn't focus very well, but I think it will stand out best against the reds, and that's what I'm going with.

First step is to thread the roses onto a spool of strong nylon beading thread.  This thread will be strung alongside my strong cotton core in the yarn.

The roses are sewn together across the back, making an ideal spot to run the needle to thread the roses onto the nylon, i.e., between the "leaf" ribbon and the "blossom" ribbon, within the bounds of that stitch.  I took some fabulous shots of the pink flowers being strung onto the nylon.  What in the world happened to them?  I have no idea.  But they've completely disappeared so you're just going to have to use your imagination here.

Now I'm set up for spinning.  Next to me I have a bin with my cotton core (embroidery cotton #10), and another bin with my nylon beading thread.  My comments on this set-up are as follows:

1. You don't need to use two cores.  You can thread all the flowers onto the cotton core.  However, it's a thicker thread and not as slippery, so you have to take more care putting your roses on and sliding them along as you're spinning -- which is okay, I've done it successfully and it's not a terrible drag. It's just easier and smoother with nylon.

2. I thread all the flowers on at once, sliding them a few metres down the thread.  Then I spread out the first five or so flowers where I want them along the nylon.  They tend to stay where I want them, so it's a convenient way to keep track of how far apart they are in the yarn.  I've tried spacing all the flowers out at once, and wound up with a gigantic tangle of nylon in the bin, so just doing a half-dozen or so at a time seems to be the answer for me.  You can see in the photo above, one pink rose hanging on the nylon thread, making its way up towards the wheel to be spun into the yarn.

3. One of the best online tutorials for corespinning yarn that I have seen is by Esther Rodgers of Jazz Turtle.  This is a good video for showing how to start your corespun yarn and introduce the core threads to get going.

4.  Why do I use these ugly plastic bins?  I know.  They're not at all handmade or attractive or anything inspiring creativity.  Here's the thing.  Handmade baskets are tremendously beautiful.  I love them.  But they catch and pick at my materials as I'm spinning, which is not only frustrating but can cause damage.  There are lovely felted baskets which wouldn't do that, but the reality of my life is that I use almost exclusively handprocessed fleece in my yarns.  That means I'm doing a lot of combing and carding, and no matter how much vacuuming and sweeping I do in my craft room, there's always a film of VM (dried crumbs of plant matter) on my floor.  I don't want to even think about what that would do to a lovely felted basket.  Plus I need bins for tons of reasons, including holding uncombed (VM-laden) fleece.  And the ugly plastic ones wipe out easily, are stackable, and sturdy enough that they can hold that huge cone of embroidery cotton in the same place as it's rolling around.  So I forego the aesthetic qualities of more attractive baskets as worktools in this particular situation.

So here we are, corespinning along.  I've just lifted my thumb back to show how I keep the core threads stable in my hand by running them under my ring finger.  My pointer finger smooths the wool around the core as I'm spinning along.

When I get within a few inches of a rose, I stop spinning and slide the flower up the thread to meet the end point of my yarn.  Here I'm holding the two core threads (cotton and nylon) separate, just for the sake of the picture.  When I'm actually spinning, I hold them together.

Fit the rose right up against the wool, treadle once ... 

... which wraps the wool around the back of the flower ... 

... and spin on down the core.  Keep an eye on the rose as you continue to spin.  Hopefully it should feed easily through your orifice and onto your wheel, but depending on your wheel it may need a hand -- you'll know right away, because the yarn will stop feeding onto the bobbin.  Just stop spinning, ease the flower through, handwinding it onto the bobbin if necessary, and continue on your way.

Here's a photo of the final yarn, which, taken in my homemade lightbox, shows something much more RED than the pinkish colours above.  It really is these reds, and not those pinks, which teaches us all something about how unreliable cameras are for showing us what anything actually looks like.  Now that's deep.

See this yarn in my ETSY SHOP

Here are some other ribbon rose yarns I've spun - this first one corespun with uncarded locks dyed green, so there's lots of texture and curl.

Available in my ETSY SHOP



This was the last skein I spun using larger flowers.  They do look marvellous, and maybe someday when I get my dream larger-orificed Country Spinner, I'll go back to including these flagrant beauties...