Ah, June. Here in Spokane, it is finally warm and sunny. Dare I say, “A bit too warm for Spring?” The solution? A trip to the beach! We may be a tad bit far from the Pacific coast of the United States, but perhaps we can take a trip there now, with you! This June, in our Fiber Club Box, members received 2 exclusive blends; Peter Iredale and Cassiopeia! Our June box was inspired by a trip to the ocean! Members also received a sailor themed sheep sticker, a generous pinch of Angelina Glitz, a salt water taffy, and a message in a bottle containing secret treasures! We are going to tell you the story of these two blends, take a closer look at cellulose spinning fibers, and dive into a summer inspired spinning recipe. First Let’s take a look at the unboxing video courtesy of Lofty Loops Yarn
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Reuniting a Lost Love
On the very edge of Washington, in a little corner of a rocky outcropping, there is a harried purple octopus named Mrs. Coleoidea, who is trying to start her art class at the Tide Pool School for Sea Creatures. This is not going well, as the starfish are doing cartwheels, the crabs are playing “don’t touch the seafloor” with the new puffer fish that just transferred (who is happy to be part of the chaos), and the sea urchins are poking each other. Despite being a school in the ocean, there is only one regular fish, a shy tide pool sculpin named Olig.
“Class! Please pay attention!” Poor Mrs. Coleoidea says, to no avail. The noise continues.
“Class! Please! Don’t make me ink the tide pool up today,” she says in a warning tone.
This gets everyone’s attention. Ink is hard to clean off of fins and spines. Everyone settles down in a circle around Mrs. Coleoidea.
“Thank you. Now, today we are going to do something new. We are going to spin some yarn.”
“Spin yarn?” Says Aster, a pink starfish. “How do we do that?”
“With fiber! Uni Jr, stop poking your sister. This is Peter Iredale,” she pulls a blue blend with neutral tones from behind the rock. “He is made from flax – like a ship’s sail – merino wool, and mulberry silk. A 25/50/25 blend. Flax is a cellulose fiber that is obtained from the stalk of the Linen plant. Flax was one of the first crops domesticated by humankind. Linen cloth made from flax was used to wrap mummies in the early Egyptian Tombs! Commercial production of flax fiber began in the United States in the year 1753! It wasn’t until the invention of cotton gin in 1793 that flax production declined. However, flax production is still common in the Soviet Union, Poland and France. Flax has incredible properties; it cannot provoke allergies, it absorbs humidity and allows the skin to breath making it perfect for summer garments, It is very resistant, it can be washed many times without alteration and becomes softer, It is thermo regulating, anti-static, and anti-bacterial!
And this,” she pulls a pink, seafoam green, and brown fiber out, “Is Cassiopeia. She is made from seacell, mulberry silk, and superfine merino wool. Seacell is a new sustainable cellulose fiber that protects the skin and allows it to absorb nutrients! Made from brown algae seaweed called Ascophyllum Nodossum, also known as Knotted Wrack, which is found in the Fjords of Iceland! Manufactured in the same way as lyocell. Through a process of non toxic solvent-spinning, cellulose is dissolved directly in a solvent containing water. After washing and retting, the solution is filtered and spun through spinnerets to yield filaments! The resulting fiber is lightweight and breathable, incredibly soft against the skin, nutrient rich , moisture repellent, and naturally transfers nutrients through your body moisture. Seacell is more absorbent than cotton making it suitable for summer garments!
I am going to tell you their story today.”
“Is it a love story?” asks the starry eyed Aster.
“Yes it is, Aster. AJ stop eating Cassiopeia,” Mrs. Coleoidea interrupts her storytelling to prevent a wayward crab from eating the tail end of her fiber.
Augustus Julius slowly lowers his claw from his mouth. “But crabs are omnivores, Mrs. C. We eat seaweed,” he complains.
“Yes, seacell is made from seaweed, but it isn’t just seacell. It’s got Merino Wool in it too. If you eat it a surgeonfish will have to do surgery on you to get the other stuff out of your tummy. Now, back to the story. Peter Iredale sailed the seas, voyaging near and far. His love, Cassiopeia, guided him in his travels. Once, while Peter Iredale was coming to Portland, Oregon, from Mexico, he encountered a deep and powerful fog.”
“Oregon is just south of us,” pipes up Uni Jr.
“That’s right, Uni Jr. Portland is on the Oregon side of the border between Oregon and Washington. Peter Iredale was trying to sail up the Columbia River when he encountered the fog. It was so thick, he lost sight of Cassiopeia! Without her to guide him, he hit the shore!”
“How does a person hit a shore?” Augustus Julius asks. “They have legs; they can just walk up the beach.”
“Because Peter Iredale wasn’t a human. He was a ship named after a human. And Cassiopeia is a constellation of stars in the sky. Sailors used to steer their ships by watching the stars. Her light shined down on Peter Iredale with love. But when he hit the shore, he became stuck. And Cassiopeia was stuck in the sky, so she couldn’t help him!”
“Why would you tell us such a sad story?” Aster asks with scorn.
“Because we are going to bring them together!” Mrs. Coleoidea replies. “It’s been over 100 years since the accident! And you can still visit the wreckage today! I found the blue blend of fiber in the shipwreck. As I was standing there wondering what it was, the pink fiber fell from the sky on a glittering cloud of Angelina! If we join these two magical fibers together using a blending board, or ply the two fibers together we can reunite Peter Iredale with his love, Cassiopeia!”
“Ugh, do we HAVE to!?” grumbles Augustus Julius.
“Yes, you do. Now pay attention.”
Summer Spinning Tutorial
“How are we going to bring Cassiopeia and Peter Iredale together?” asks a watery eyed Olig.
“We are going to spin yarn that represents Peter Iredale and yarn that represents Cassiopeia and then ply them together and set them with warm water so they can be together forever,” Mrs. Coleoidea explains. “We are also going to take a little bit of the Peter Iredale and a little bit of the Cassiopeia and blend them together. Finally, we will practice core spinning with the fibers.”
“How are we going to blend them together?” Uni Jr asks.
“And what’s core spinning?” Aj shouts.
“Well, your father, Mr. Uni, has volunteered to work as a blending board for us today, since he is a sea urchin. But above water, you would buy a blending board and use that. Core spinning is a technique used to make art yarn. We will use a strand of Mohair Yarn and spin the fibers at a 90 degree angle onto the yarn.”
“How do you use a blending board?” Uni Jr asks.
“You tear strips of fiber, and drag them down across the board from top to bottom. If you alternate the colors in layers, you will get a yarn that is striped like a candy cane! Then you start at the edge and roll it up into a rolag! Then you spin it,” Mrs. Coleoidea demonstrates as she explains. Click to see how to use a blending board.
“But now, we are going to spin them separately and ply them together so they can be together forever.”
“How romantic!” Aster sighs. “Please teach us how to spin so we can help them!”
“Yes! Yes! Show us!” Aster’s classmates cheer. Except Augustus Julius, who is too hungry to pay attention.
“First, you attach a leader yarn to your bobbin. Then, you set the wheel spinning and start to treadle. Make sure if you leave your yarn and come back to it that you always spin in the same direction. Then you spin a bit of your fiber onto the leader yarn.” Mrs. Coleoidea demonstrates as she goes through every step.
“Wow!” says Augustus Julius.
“You draft your fiber by pulling the fibers until you have something that is thinner. Then, you allow the twist to move up the fiber. Be sure to control your twist from entering your fiber supply as you draft. Draft and twist. Draft and twist. Now, Aster, you try. We’ll all take turns.”
One by one, the students slowly start to pedal, draft, and twist. They aren’t all coordinated or smooth, and Uni Jr gets some of Cassiopeia stuck in his spines and needs to be rescued, but for beginners they are doing very well. Soon, everyone has had a turn spinning both Peter Iredale and Cassiopeia.
“Now do we put them together?” Olig asks.
“Yes, Olig. We are going to ply them, which means twisting them together. To do this, you put the bobbins on a lazy kate, and attach both of them to the bobbin. Then, when you start your wheel spinning, do it in the opposite direction that you spun them. This creates balance in your yarn. Now you try, Olig.”
Olig slowly gets the hang of managing two yarns, and soon the bobbins are getting smaller and smaller as the yarn is plied together. Again the students take turns, doing better as they are more used to pedaling and they do not have to draft. The wonkiness of their differences in drafting skills creates a beautiful art yarn as it is plied. After a little while longer, the yarn is completely plied.
“Is it done now?” Uni Jr asks. “Are they together forever?”
“Not quite yet,” Mrs. Coleoidea replies. “Now we have to set the yarn with some warm water.”
“But the pacific ocean is cold in the Pacific Northwest! Our tide pool is freezing.” Augustus Julius points out.
“That’s why I have brought some water from a hydrothermal vent, which is a place where the heat in the center of the earth has warmed water up to be very hot. Because it has been sitting for a while, it is cool enough to touch but still hot. Now, we put a no-rinse wool wash into the water. You can use a wool wash like SOAK or Unicorn Fibre Rinse for this. Yes, Aster?”
“Will they REALLY be together forever?”
“Yes, once the yarn has been sitting in the water for about 15 minutes, take it out and squeeze the water out of the yarn. But be careful not to wring the yarn. Then, the most fun part, you thwack the yarn onto something, such as the ground,” Mrs. Coleoidea demonstrates with gusto, startling Uni Jr. “This shocks the fibers into place and sets the twist together just enough to keep the yarn from disintegrating when you use it! Thwack it, grab it from a different spot, and thwack it again. Do it a few times, and then hang your yarn to dry. Once it is dry, your yarn is ready to go! And Peter Iredale and Cassiopeia are together for life.”
“Wow!” Aster says. “Thank you Mrs. Coleoidea for teaching us!”
“It was my pleasure, class,” Mrs. Coleoidea says. “OH! I almost forgot, In order to core spin the yarn we use the same technique of drafting the fibers but this time we are going to use a sturdy base yarn to spin the fibers onto.”
“YAY MORE SPINNING!” The class exclaims!
“We will use a skein of dark purple/blue Mohair yarn. Once we attach the mohair yarn to our bobbin, we will set the cake of yarn at our side and grab a strand of fiber to spin onto the mohair yarn. While we treadle we will hold the fiber supply at a 90 degree angle, feeding it onto the mohair yarn. The mohair yarn is ideal to use because the fibers will easily latch onto the yarn. The fibers will swirl around the yarn making thick and thin spots as you draft it outward! Air will become trapped between the mohair yarn and the fiber you’re drafting onto it, making a very soft and textured yarn! This is a fun way to show off the colors in a blend and to create a unique yarn to weave, knit, or crochet with! Now class, let’s have fun with your these new techniques!” Watch Core spinning in action here.
Did you receive our June Fiber Club Box? Share what you did with the fibers in the comment section below. Curious to see how others are spinning the fibers in our club boxes? Head over to our Ravelry Group to see what members are doing. Thanks for stopping by and we will see you next month! 😀