June 8, 2015

I have just released my first paid pattern, Guna, on Ravelry. I'm very excited about it and it is a design of many "firsts": first knitting design, first shawl, first pattern that I had tested, first pattern that I'm trying to sell. Here I'll try to explain a little about the designing process of that shawl.

I really like the idea of shawls you can just knit and knit until you run out of yarn (1). Especially now that I am spindle spinning my own yarn, I really want to use it all up. I also learned that the shawl shape I like to wear is a crescent (2). And I like an open lacy fabric (3). So I wanted to design a shawl incorporating all these three elements.

I also decided I wanted to spread out the increases over the rows of the shawl, instead of for example only increasing at the edges. This gave me a shawl shape with 6 wedges. Some thinking and sketching in InkScape later I came up with the Guna design:

After converting this into knitting I ended up with this shawl:

A lovely bat wing shaped shawl. I'm currently making another one in hand spun yarn. You can find the Guna pattern here.

Will there be more shawl patterns in the future? I have some things in mind, so watch this space.

April 12, 2015

DIY polymer clay Turkish spindle

DIY polymer clay Turkish spindle: Tutorial

After spinning on a top whorl drop spindle for a while, I got really curious about Turkish drop spindles. I ordered a very cool TurtleMade 3D printed spindle from Etsy. But it may take a while to be produced and then get here from the U.S. and I'm impatient and want to try out a Turkish spindle now :-)

The solution was making one myself. I created this one and it works really well:

I thought other people might also want to try making a spindle, so I made another one and took pictures of the process. It is really simple to do, and you only need two things for the spindle. A piece of polymer clay for the arms and a paint brush for the shaft. What type of brush and how much clay will depend on how large a spindle you are planning to make. Also remember that the (upside down) brush handle will be your shaft so you need to like its shape and diameter. I prefer to spin thin yarn so like my spindles light. I started with a small cheap brush and half a pack of Fimo (28 grams). Not all of this clay will end up in the arms, so my final spindle will be lighter than 28 grams.

Making the shaft is easy. Remove the brush from the handle. You only want the wood to remain. How easy or difficult this really is will depend on your brush.

The arms are a bit more work. First divide the amount of clay you want to use in half. Then make two rolls out of this.

Flatten the rolls to create the base shape of the arms.

And cut them to size and make them nice and even. At this point you might want to check with a kitchen scale that your arms are the same weight. If not, modify until they are roughly the same weight and size. For this tutorial I did not make them very even, but you can perfect their shape as much as you like.

Now make the hole for the shaft. One in the center of each arm. I started with making a hole using a drinking straw and then made it a bit larger. Carefully check the size on the shaft. Make sure the hole is not too large, if it is too small after baking you can easily make it larger using the tip of a sharp knife (or craft knife).

If you want to decorate your arms with engravings do it now. Or if you like your spindle light like me, cut out some more holes in the arms. Do a final weighing to make sure they are still similar in weight. You can try to make them as even and pretty as you like. My quite uneven versions still work well enough, so don't worry too much about perfection.

You can simply bake the arms flat, but most Turkish spindles seem to have curved arms. You do want the central part of each arm, where the two arms will touch each other, to be flat. If you can find a small flat bottom (oven safe) bowl, you can drape your arms over that. If not, like me, you can make a  support yourself. Determine the width the flat part needs to be and cut out a few rectangles of this width from cardboard. Stack these rectangles and cover them in aluminum foil. Now you can drape the arms over the block you created before they go into the oven. If you want you can make a more elaborate support with curved sides.

Now bake according to the instructions of your clay. I baked 25 minutes at 110°C.

After baking allow the arms to cool. When cool check the fit on the shaft. If the hole it to small or uneven, use a knife to enlarge it carefully and check often, you don't want it too large.

Slide the arms on the shaft and you are done. Now you can take it for a spin. Or you can decorate the arms and shaft. Decoration possibilities during and after the creation of this spindle are endless. 

There you have it, a quickly made Turkish spindle using cheap materials. Happy spinning!

UPDATE: LEGO mold to make more even arms

Because I'm not very experienced with polymer clay, I was having a hard time making the arms even. To solve this problem, I decided to make a mold out of LEGO blocks. After removing the arms from the mold, you can still flatten them, shape them, etc. But at least you are starting with two arms that are the same shape and I found it much easier to start from there. Here are some pictures of my mold in action:

February 23, 2015

Nifty n-ply tool

I started drop spindle spinning about a month ago and I love it. Then I discovered chain plying on the fly and now I can't stop spinning. I like alternating spinning and plying and in the end I have an  plied yarn, no more steps to take (apart maybe from joining smaller balls to create one larger skein). There are a lot of videos on the internet showing ply on the fly with a spindle.

The drawback of chain plying on the fly is how to keep the yarn loop of the last made chain open. For this I came up with the "nifty n-ply tool" (chain plying is also known as n-plying, where the n stands for Navajo, I think "nifty n-ply tool" has a nice ring to it).

How to make the tool

To make the tool all you need is a juice box or milk carton. You could use some other sturdy paper too, but I like the juice box carton because of the smooth surface. It keeps the yarn from catching on it. Also it is sturdy and cheap, it is easy to make a new tool.

The size of the tool will depend on the yarn you want to make, a thicker yarn will require a larger tool. There is no need to be super precise when making the tool, I just cut it out without using a template, but here I will give you a template of the overall shape:

The gray part should be cut out, I make it tapered so the yarn does not slip out easily. Fold over the dotted line.

How to use the tool

Make your first chain ply loop as usual, but before plying hook the tool into the chain like this:

Then hold the tool and the yarn and ply (I find the tool also helps keeping an even tension on the three strands). After you are done plying the first chain, wind the yarn onto your spindle and in the end you can wind the remaining single at least one time around the tool to secure the tool in place while you spin the next length of single:

After every length of singles I keep winding one time around the tool so it helps me count how many lengths I have done, but that is just a personal trick and not necessary.

When you made a single long enough for the next chain plying step, unwind the single from the spindle until you come to the tool, then unwind a little more and secure the yarn. I personally wind the single around my index and middle fingers because I find it easy to feed the yarn into the new loop this way. Now you can use the tool to make the next chain. I could try to explain this in words, but that is quite hard and I think this picture shows it (although making a good picture was also hard, I've tried to draw in the missing hand feeding the single and holding the fiber). The tool keeps the loop open and the folded over piece makes sure you can make your new loop smoothly:

Once your loop is as long as you want it to be, unhook the tool from the old chain loop and insert it again at the top of the new loop as before. Continue chain plying in this way.

UPDATE: Alternative tool from plastic floss bobbin

In most craft store you can find cheap plastic bobbins for embroidery floss. I made a tool out of these as well, which is sturdier than the tool above. Just cut the tool out according to the template below. You won't have the "fold over" part, but instead you can use the hole to assist you with threading the single through the loop. I actually prefer this plastic tool to the tool above.