Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Vegan Yarn Club - the making of

I thought my vegan yarn club peeps might like to see a bit of the "behind-the-scenes" of me making their yarns, so last month I took pictures of the yarns in-progress. I think it's safe to post them now, since everyone received their yarns. I chose a theme of bright, multicolored gypsy-inspired yarns for August's yarn club, and this was the first month that everyone's yarns all came from the same dyelot (before this, I dyed up custom colorways for each person). I started out by sitting down and making up a list of 14 different colors that I wanted to include, and then I dyed up a storm...this is about 2.5 lbs of organic cotton, plus another 8oz or so of loose bamboo:

august vegan yarn club

august vegan yarn club

(you can click on any of the pictures in this post to see a larger, more detailed version on flickr)

I separated the fiber out into piles for each individual yarn. I spun two different types of yarns, according to each person's preference - organic cotton patchwork 2-ply and organic cotton/bamboo chunky thick-and-thin thread-plied novelty yarn. So for the patchwork yarns, I had to prep the organic cotton roving into a more easily spinnable form, and for the thread-plied yarns I carded up batts of organic cotton and bamboo. Organic cotton takes forever to prep or card, so this was the most tedious part of making the yarns.

august vegan yarn club

Once all the prepping was done with, I starting spinning! And spinning, and spinning... Each skein was a hefty 5-6oz, so for the patchwork yarns that meant spinning 400 yds of singles (and then plying them together for a total of 600 yds of spinning, but only 200 yds of finished yarn). The thread-plied yarns spun up faster, since I only had to spin one ply and they were pretty chunky. My regular bobbins were packed full of fiber. This was the second most tiring part - and I got pretty sick of spinning the same colors over and over.

august vegan yarn club

Luckily, I have a short memory, and so by the time it came to ply the yarns I was back to liking the way the colors were turning out. I'm especially proud of the dark teal color, which was a new invention for me! I mix all my own colors, so every once in a while I discover a "new" one. It's impossible to see the teal in the yarn pictures (I think the color is a bit off, since I took them late in the day), but if you look at the first picture of the organic cotton fiber you can see it tangled in with the pinks.

august vegan yarn club

Once the yarns were plied, next came the boiling. Yes, boiling. It's my preferred method for setting the twist on my cotton yarns. I put a big pot of water on to boil, and when it's hot enough I plunk the skeins in, turn the heat down to a simmer, and leave it for a few minutes. I like watching the yarns plump up and relax into their new shape while they bathe. I didn't take pictures of this part since I usually do it late at night. After their hot bath, the skeins get hung up to dry, which can take quite a while for cotton, depending on the weather. If it's sunny, I stick the skeins in a window where they will be completely dry in 1-2 days, but if it's damp, cold, or rainy, they can take several days to dry all the way.

When the skeins are dry, I weigh them and write out the labels and make them look pretty before packing them up. Here are a few of the finished skeins from August:

august vegan yarn club

Some of the lovely patchwork skeins.

august vegan yarn club

One of the thread-plied yarns - this one was plied with a nylon novelty thread that was black with bits of red, yellow, and blue popping out. Most of the other thread-plied skeins were plied with metallic threads.

I'm working on September's yarns right now, in the midst of my craft show spinning - this is the last month of my vegan yarn club! It's been fun, but I'm also relieved that it's over. I will probably do another club in the future, but when I have more time & less craft shows!


tara said...

So beautiful! How do you prep the cotton? I tend to just strip it down the length to as thin as I want it and then spin (as opposed to pre-drafting by fluffing it apart), but I feel like there's GOT to be a better way!

woolarina said...

pretty! hey - let's trade some yarn if you have time pre-show at crafty bastards!! I also was wondering if you'd be interested in helping out with a quick how-to session with craft mutiny that day, but imagine you might be crazy busy too!

cloudlover said...

I am kicking myself in the booty for not joining this club. These look so amazing, I could stare at them all day! I need to get over my fear of cotton.

folktale fibers said...

Tara - I strip mine down too...although now I've gotten way better at drafting it as I spin.

woolarina - Yay! My partner will be with me at the show, so I might actually be able to leave my booth this time. Email me at folktalefibers (at) gmail.com...I might be too busy to help out, but I'd love to if I can!

cloudlover - Thanks!! Cotton isn't scary, just mildly annoying at times.

Stefania said...

All this work seems huge indeed... but hope you plan to make another club sometimes, I'll join for sure!!!