Tuesday, June 26, 2018

2 ply from one bobbin...two colors

In the world of fiber just about everything has been done before.  The "thing" may not have been posted on Facebook, had a blog written about it or published, but that does not mean it did not happen.  For instance, I figured out a way to spin two different colored yarns on one bobbin and ply them together from a center-pull-ball (CPB).  More on the CPB debate a bit later.  

And I am certain that this technique has been published somewhere I just have not read the book yet *wink*  So here it goes and kudos to the person who first discovered this technique.

I measured out my fiber...one ounce of a turquoise and one ounce of a blend of merino and tussah silk.  I spun the blend and then I joined the turquoise and finished the bobbin.

You can see on the bobbin the blend peeking through.

I then wound it on a ball winder.  You can see the turquoise is in the center and the blend is on the outside of the ball.

Now here comes the debate. I am a fairly technical spinner who loves to follow the guidelines of a super balanced yarn.  And I know the yarn coming out of the middle has more twist then the yarn coming off the outside of the ball and can cause the yarn to be a bit wonky. I absolutely love spinning from a CPB so I shall continue doing what I love  😉  So here I go.

When you ply pulling the yarn out of the middle and from the outside you are plying the two colors together.  AND (I should have taken a video) I was short TWO INCHES of the yarns being exactly the same length! How's that for consistency.

The only thing I would change next time is use an 18 micron merino or maybe a Polwarth to mirror the softeness of the blend.  But overall it turned out pretty cool.

Thursday, June 30, 2016


Mary Egbert
Camaj Fiber Arts
The Spinning Box

Annatto is beautiful on silk, wool and cotton fabrics and is used as a food/cheese dye.  Colors will vary on different types of fabrics.

How I did it, this is for a small 2 ounces skein of yarn.  Increase the proportions if you are going to dye more fiber or yarn.

  1. I put 8 cups of water in a stainless steel pot with ⅛ cup annatto seeds.  I covered the pot and simmered this for one hour.

  1. After the hour I wadded up a handful of aluminum foil because I had no alum on hand. I simmered again with the lid on for 10 minutes.  Thank you for the idea of using aluminum foil Julie Nutt!

  1. In the meantime I pre-soaked my fiber with a dash of Unicorn Soap.  Using a bit of a neutral pH soap breaks the water tension and helps the dye absorb better into the wool. NOTE:  Do not  use Dawn or Borax...the pH is too high and the alkaline will make your wool feel scratchy and dry.  In fact you should not use Dawn, Ivory, Borax or any other soaps made for dishes or laundry  to scour your fibers.  These soaps have a pH over 7 and the alkaline can cause permanent damage to your wool by opening up the scales making your wool feel scratchy and dry. This is an irreversible chemical reaction to the wool fiber and cannot be rectified no matter how much fabric softener you use.

  1. I put the yarn with the pre-soak water in a separate stainless steel pan and slowly brought it up to the same temperature as my dye pot. You can skip this step if you are dyeing silk.

  1. I strained the dye to get the seeds out of the pot and placed in my pre-soaked yarn. I kept the foil in the pot.

  1. I kept the fiber in the hot solution for about 40 minutes over a very low setting. The longer the time the deeper the color. I then let it cool.  If you are dyeing silk fabric you can skip the cooling step. You should let wool cool because if you handle hot fiber and rinse it in water cooler than the dye water you run of the risk of felting.

  1. I then gave it a gentle wash in Unicorn Scour soap and a final rinse with a shot of vinegar.

  1. Hang your yarn, un-weighted, to dry.

CAUTION: Annatto dye will stain objects like white plastic spoons or counter tops.  Take care to protect your work surface and have some Soft Scrub with bleach on hand for quick clean ups to hide the evidence from your significant other who hates when you dye in the kitchen :)

Happy dyeing!

2 x 4 SB card front.jpg

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Yarn Connection
 by: Mary Egbert
Sheep and wool have a long, steeped history all over the world.  Before 10,000 BC wool was spun into a crude yarn by twisting the fibers by hand.  This yarn was woven into a cloth that could be draped over the body for protection from the elements.  

As spinning yarn evolved so did the process;  a stick with a wooden ring were used as a drop spindle.  The spinning wheel was introduced in China during the 11th century,  which greatly sped up the process and allowed for more consistent and smoother yarns.  The spinning wheel made it’s way to Europe some 200 years later paving the way for the textile industry.

Raising sheep for wool and spinning yarn with a spinning wheel  became a necessity in many homes around the world.  The yarns produced were knit into sweaters, hats, socks, gloves or woven with looms into blankets or other necessary textiles.  

A system developed called the putting-out system or also called the cottage industry. Home-based spinners and weavers made products via a contract with a merchant seller, who supplied all the raw materials.

This system disappeared due to the industrial revolution in the 18th century. Large woolen mills churned out machine spun yarns and the introduction of the power loom produced textiles at a rapid pace to supply the demands of the times.  

As time went on people no longer had to spin their own yarn anymore out of necessity and spinning was reserved for the poor, who could not afford to buy finished textiles.   But countries like India, China and South America have continued this fine tradition of hand spinning yarns on a spinning wheel in their homes.  

In America, hand processing wool and hand spinning yarn is on a resurgence. What’s old is new again and people are interested.  No longer is it necessary to raise sheep, hand process wool, spin yarn on a spinning wheel, knit, crochet or weave it into a garment.  We can merely run to the store and most likely buy a wool garment at a very reasonable price.  So why do people still perform a process that is so labor intensive and takes great skill to master?  You will be surprised to hear that it’s not so much about the yarn, but the connection to the past of an ancient art form,  honing the skill required to spin a beautiful yarn, the calming effect it seems to have on some people or even the hands on raising of the sheep.

Miranda Alijah Howard who is a stay at home mom and raises rare Jacob sheep said of why she spins, “I'm old fashioned, I like odd things like raising jacob and leicester sheep, I do it to increase awareness of our past and roots. I find spinning yarn is relaxing and it’s exciting to see all the things you can do.   It shows the diversity of sheep too. Not only do you get  wool, you also get milk, meat, horns, and pets. It’s a business I can do at home, get passionate about and do with my kids.”

Jausonne Elizabeth Spencer adds “The biggest thing for me, is I can design my own clothing, from the texture, color and style. I can have exactly what I want, the way I want it from sheep we raised. Making it sentimental as well. Not to mention the fact that clothing lasts forever, so my grandchildren will have sweaters and coats I made one day. You can't buy that.”

Judith Kob feels a more zen approach to spinning, “ I love to spin and knit, it's therapy, I enjoy the process and creating something totally unique and beautiful. I also think it is inherent in us as a survival instinct. It soothes my nerves and keeps me sane.”

The repetitive rhythm of the spinning wheel and hand gestures when making yarn have a somewhat calming effect. It’s a quiet endeavor that lets us reflect on past cultures that have done the very thing thousands of years ago.  Jane Bentheimer Brown who is a long-time quilter and yarn spinner agrees,  “It is relaxing. Any kind of repetitive action, such as spinning, knitting, needle work is relaxing and a form of meditation . It is good for the body and mind.”

Spinning guilds are popping up all across the country allowing groups of like-minded crafters an outlet to learn and mingle.  There are more and more instructors that travel the world teaching everything from hand processing wool, dyeing, spinning, knitting and weaving.  In this day and age of electronics there is a yearning to create something with our own two hands and many are taking that giant step back to the past carrying it onto the future.

So if you want to improve your mental health, bond with the earth and nature, connect with our past ancestors or just have an outlet for creativity, color and texture, spinning yarn may be exactly what you need.

Mary Egbert
Avid spinner, dyer and fiber lover


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Card a Gradient Batt
By Mary Egbert


There are many ways to card a batt and it’s no different for a gradient technique.  I will show you one way that allows for some nice color blending. So get out your fiber and color wheel and join me.

Getting started

This particular batt was made from raw merino wool.  You don’t have to start from that point, in fact you can start with a commercially dyed combed top or dyed fiber you bought from a store.
It doesn’t matter where the fiber comes from, but what does matter in regards to a gradient batt is color choices.  Let’s take a closer look at color theory and the reasoning behind what colors we choose.
Color choices
Let’s think about color blending for a moment.  If you put yellow and red dye or paint together it makes orange.  It’s no different on a carder.  When you blend yellow and red fibers together the eye will perceive the color orange even though the fibers are still distinctly yellow and red.  And what’s pretty cool is if you start with three colors you may end with up to six at the end. For instance I used shades of yellow, red and blue. You can see hints of oranges and purples due to the blending of colors on the carder.  

  1. Primary Colors

Primary colors are the three colors that make up every color on earth.  
  1. Secondary Colors

When you combine two of  these colors, whether it’s dye or on a carder, the color changes to another color.  
Red + blue = violet
Red + yellow = orange
Yellow + blue = green.  

Tertiary colors

And when you combine secondary colors you get tertiary colors.
So the theory of color and blending is to put colors side by side that will turn into another desirable color.  Some colors side by side will produce brown, such as orange + blue, purple + yellow and and red + green.  These colors are complimentary to each other. Or if you mixed all the colors together you will also get a shade of brown.   
Here is a nifty little program where you can “pre-mix” colors before you put them on your carder and see if they will work for what you have in your mind’s eye.  http://www.goldenpaints.com/mixer.  If you are going to work with color I highly recommend you purchase a book on color theory to understand color basics a bit more.  Here is a nice little online explanation that can get you started http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-theory-intro.htm.  Here is a neato video also showing color theory.  Click here to view video

Let’s get started
For this particular batt I washed, dyed, ran the fiber through a triple picker and carded it. Here are the photos of the process just up until I started to card.  I ran this  merino through a picker because I feel that opening up the fiber produces  a smoother batt and that’s what I was going for.

Out of the dye pot.jpg

picked with triple picker.jpg

First Carding Run
To achieve the gradient effect I first carded each color one by one on top of the other. I ended up with layers of color.

Second Carding Run
I took off the batt and stripped it into four length-wise pieces.  I took each piece and turned it on it’s side with yellow on the left.  I then carded each piece one by one to create the gradient effect.  



Gradient carding can be loads of fun and the possibilities of colors and textures are endless.  You can spin this from one end to the other creating a gradient yarn or spin it  fractal for a colorful blended yarn.
Have fun and post a pic of your gradient batt on my FB page so I can “ooooh and ahhhh” it.

Mary Egbert

Sunday, April 10, 2016

by:  Mary Egbert PT, CLT, CKTP

Spinners sit...a lot….at times for hours on end and day after day.   We usually just plop down in our favorite chair not giving the type of chair we are sitting in a second thought.  Your favorite chair may be great for reading or lounging, but it may not be good to use when spinning.  If you are sitting in a chair that has not been correctly adjusted to allow for freedom of movement, correct body and joint alignment and optimum muscle use you may develop aches and pains or even injuries that can affect your ability and joy of spinning.  
Research has shown that prolonged sitting, especially in a slouched position,  may result in excessive loading and tissue deformation of the lumbar spine that can result in pain or even herniated discs. (1)   A poor fitting chair that causes ill-posture can flare up pre-existing conditions like sciatica or back pain caused by herniated discs.  You can also experience neck and shoulder pain, shin splints, leg pain or other ankle and foot issues.  If you have developed new  pains while spinning or your “old” pains are getting worse don’t blame your wheel,  it could be your chair and posture.   Let’s look at the chair you sit in most while spinning, you may find that you can do some minor adjustments that will do the trick.  
Seat Depth:     Compression issues common with spinners are at the back of the knee.  If the crook of your knees hit the edge of the chair you may be setting yourself up for a nerve  compression injury, also called a pinched nerve. Nerves work best when they are free to move. When the nerve is compressed by an external force this may damage or destroy the myelin sheath that protects and insulates the nerve. (4)  This damage reduces or prevents the movement of impulses through the nerve to the brain. This reduction of impulses or signals to the brain can cause symptoms that include numbness, "pins and needles" or burning sensations.   If the compression on a nerve persists you could end up with permanent nerve damage so it’s important to correct your seating now  to prevent damage.
The tibial nerve runs down the back of the knee  and can get compressed, or pinched,  from the edge of the chair. (2)   Compression of the tibial nerve can cause changes in the bottom of the foot and toes, including burning sensation, numbness, tingling, pain, weakness of the foot muscles or of the toes and ankle.   You can also experience compression of the popliteal artery that runs alongside the tibial nerve. Symptoms of arterial compression may be numbness, pain or cold feet, (3)    
To correct your seat depth place a pillow behind your back for support, scooting closer to the edge of the chair allowing about three to four inches of space from the crook of your knee to the edge of the chair. This decompresses the nerves and arteries giving the freedom they need to work at their best.
Walt Turpening, master chair maker for spinners and weavers, makes a chair that has a flexible seat edge that is curved to minimize pressure on the leg by the edge of the seat.
Armrests or no armrests:  If you love to long draw use a chair without armrests to give yourself room to move.  If you attempt to long draw in a chair that has armrests your elbows could hit the armrest as you long draw or you will be forced move in awkward positions.   If the body moves in awkward positions over and over again the stresses and strains on the soft tissue and joints will ultimately cause pain.
If you mostly spin short draw arm rests are ok, however, do not lean your elbows on the armrests when you spin.  This can cause compression to the ulnar nerve that runs along the back of your elbow, also called your “funny bone”.   Some symptoms of ulnar nerve compression are tingling or numbness in the ring and little finger, palm of the hand or pain in the forearm or elbow.
Seat height:  This may be different for every  body. If the seat height is too low it can cause pain in the shins or ankles over long periods of spinning due to the amount of muscle force it takes to treadle.   By raising the seat height allows for smoother treadling and less muscle force.  Give it a try, you will be surprised in the difference of treadling effort

How to measure for your correct seat height. (5)
  1. Measure from the floor to the top of the treadle, where your foot would rest.
  2. Put your foot on the floor and measure from your heel  to the back of your knee.  
Add those two numbers together. This is the optimum height your spinning chair should be.   If you don’t have an adjustable chair you could put leg risers under the legs of your chair to raise it up to the correct height.  Or get a piece of upholstery  foam and slip it into a pillowcase or make a pretty cover for it and sit on it to raise you up to the required height.
How close should my hands be to the orifice?
Let’s think about the mechanics of this for a second. If you were to spin with your hands close to the orifice, say about 2 to 3 inches away, you would essentially have to hold your arms up in the air.  This position would require a great deal of shoulder strength and stability to perform that task, especially if you spun for 30 minutes straight.  Try to hold your arms out in front of you for 30 minutes.  I don’t know about you, but my shoulders would quickly protest.  The ideal position would be to relax your elbows at your side with about a 90 degree angle at the elbows. Some even rest their hands in their lap when they spin.   Give this a try, your shoulders will thank you.
Sitting posture while spinning   Poor sitting posture, while doing any sitting activity, can cause a myriad of problems from neck, shoulder, back, leg pain, headaches or even muscle  fatigue and restlessness.  Poor sitting posture puts undue forces on joints, ligaments and spinal discs that can cause injury over a long period of time.
The most popular, but worst, sitting position is a slumped position putting the weight through the tail bone .  Note that the pelvis is rotated backwards.    In this position there is a great deal of compressive force  on the vertebrate and shearing force on the vertebral discs  that, over time, can cause pain and/or disc herniations. If you already have disc herniations  you should avoid this position all together.   The slumped posture  also causes a forward head position compressing the back of the vertebra in the neck and can ultimately cause pain or even tingling or numbness in the arms or hands.  
Conversely if the low back is hyper extended causing the pelvis to tilt too far forward can also cause issues in the upper and low back  and muscle fatigue.


The optimum sitting position would be with the pelvis in what’s called a neutral position, not too far forward (low back hyper extended)  and not to far back (slumped position).  Place a small  lumbar pillow at the small of your back to support your pelvis to maintain the neutral position.   This position allows the spine to maintain the normal curves without undue stress and strain on joints, ligaments, tendons and vertebral discs and will allow you to spin more comfortably for longer periods of time.

Old timey spinning chairs vs. new timey spinning chairs

The old timey spinning chairs usually have a solid, wooden seat, no arm rests and a back that is straight as a board, literally.  Now I don’t know about you, but sitting on a piece of wood for even 10 minutes would be highly uncomfortable, not to mention the wooden edge digging into my legs.   The straight, wooden backrests are also very uncomfortable when you lean up against them not to mention they provide no support  or comfort for your back.  In fact you might walk away with a bruise-like feeling due to the apex of the curve in your thoracic (or chest) vertebra resting on the wooden backrest.  The seats are also very narrow and if you are of the wider-hipped persuasion the edges on the sides of the seat might dig into your hips.
One of the very few new timey spinning chairs are made by Walter Turpening who has been making custom fitted chair for spinners and weavers for over 16 years.  He  feels that form follows function, in that “seating for whatever purpose must fit the customer and made to position them comfortably”.   All of Walter’s seating designs are made to order to fit each person individually by taking various body measurements.  The materials used are cotton cord that is both comfortable and makes a flexible fabric that moves and gives with the user.
If you choose to adjust your current chair or invest in a custom made spinning chair, either way it’s important to use the proper seating to prevent pain and possible permanent injury from doing something you love so much. Once you are sitting correctly and are aware of correct posture you will enjoy spinning even more.
1.  Wilder DG, Pope MH, Frymoyer JW.  The Biomechanics of lumbar disc herniation and the effect of overload and instability. J Spine
2.  www.netterimages.com/tibial-nerve
3.  Case report Popliteal artery entrapment syndrome
Ranjan Gupta, Nima Nassiri, Antony Hazel, Mary Bathen, Tahseen Mozaffar
Muscle Nerve. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 February 1.
Published in final edited form as: Muscle Nerve. 2012 February; 45(2): 231–241. doi: 10.1002/mus.22276
5.  Graciously shared by master spinning and weaving chair maker Walter Turpening