Fractal Spinning

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I finally got to spin some Hello Yarn fiber in Finn, and I thought I’d take advantage of the lovely colorway “Winter Storage” to play with fractal spinning. For this sample, I divided the combed top in half lengthwise. I took one of the halves and spun it directly across the top to preserve the color changes of the entire sequence. I took the other half and divided it lengthwise into four strips, and I spun each strip beginning at the same end.  I then plied to create a 2-ply yarn. The result is a simple combination of striping in which one of the plies moves through the color sequence of the combed top only once and the other ply cycles through the entire color sequence of the length of the combed top four times.

The first photo on the left is at the half-way point. I’ve already spun up one of the halves of my combed top. The other four mini bumps are the four sections that I created from the other half. I like to wrap them up this way so that I can be sure to start from the same end.

This is a simple description of fractal spinning, a method developed by Janel Laidman in Spin-Off (Summer 2007). Alexandra Tinsley also has a great description here in Knitty though I have to admit to being initially confused by its thoroughness.

I haven’t decided what I think about Finn. This is the first time I’ve spun it, and though it drafted fairly easily there was a bit of tension at times. I think it may be because Finn felts very easily and if the fiber gets compressed at all, it can resist that smooth glide between the fingers that some folks describe as “buttery.”  But, the knitted swatch was so lovely with a faint halo and spring in its texture. I think that I’m going to knit a hat like Cecily Glowik MacDonald’s “Brier Toque” to preserve the fun color variations.  Besides, I’m Canadian, and any chance I get to use the word “toque”– I’ll take.

First handspun shawl


I must lead a very dull life. This was my designated “simple” knit–something to work on while waiting in the various lines that mark my life. Given the speed with which this was finished, I think I need to re-evaluate things.

On the other hand, I am thrilled with how this LaLa’s Simple Shawl turned out. I didn’t modify it at all and it was easy to remember without use of the pattern.

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I am already thinking about my next shawl. I don’t have a specific project in mind, but this is what I will be spinning: Pigeonroof Studio’s “Tangerine Dream,” a 85/15 polworth/silk blend. I can’t wait. The colors just glow.



When we got ready to move from our three-bedroom house in Portland to our one-bedroom apartment in San Antonio, we must have donated about ten heavy duty garbage bags worth of clothing. Much of the stuff we never even wore. They were mainly mine–clothing that offered versions of me that I wanted to be:  clingy dresses I would wear if I had a ton of cocktail party invitations and were 20 lbs lighter; “adult” outfits so that I could appear more professional; and shirts and pants with funky prints that were more playful than I actually was. I rationalized these purchases because they were cheap even if they weren’t entirely me. But the real me won out and I wore the same things day in and day out while these more exciting possibilities got jammed in a plastic bag then left in the basement.

While we stuffed the garbage bags full of clothing, readying them for donation, news broke of the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, killing over 1000 people.

As I write this, I think about my daughter sleeping in her bed, and about how soon I will be joining her, snuggling beside her sweet sleeping form. For the hundreds of garment workers who were crushed in the collapse, they did not get to return home to their children. I can’t seem to stop thinking about how the huge pile of clothing that we donated is connected to the pile of rubble and concrete that crushed the workers. Their lives were deemed disposable too. Working for $38 a month barely kept food on the table, and they worked despite the warnings about the unsafe building for the fear of losing their jobs or a day’s wages.

I’m still trying to figure out how this culture of disposability translates into disposable lives. “Disposable” has become normalized in our lives–even a selling point. Disposable diapers, disposable mops, disposable razors, etc. Trendy clothing are meant to be worn for a few short seasons. The convenience of disposability means that we don’t have to wonder where the things we dispose of go nor do we have to wonder about the people who make these disposable items.

Today is the third day of a massive protest outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh against low garment factory wages. It has shut down over 100 factories. And it has also become violent. The collapse of the Rana Plaza made headlines, but the conditions for many remain the same: low wages and long hours making clothing that will then be shipped to enormous chain stores that offer them for a steal. Recently in Geneva, there was a meeting of the various retailers supplied by the workers of Rana Plaza to discuss how to compensate the victims of the building collapse. Only nine out of the 29 brands supplied showed up, and to this date, only one company has compensated the victims.

To suggest that knitting may be a kind of intervention seems somehow disrespectful and grandiose. If anything, knitting can be a “pause” button on over-consumption, a reminder that plentiful cheap, disposable clothing comes at someone else’s expense. Every knitter knows the time and effort that goes into knitting a project. It is usually cheaper to buy a sweater than to knit a sweater, and it is certainly more convenient and faster. I don’t really have an answer or a neat and tidy point here. All I know is that cheap, fast and disposable seem to be the antithesis of knitting, and there is oppositional value in that.

Everyone Needs One

Among all the works-in-progress (WIPs) that make up one’s project list, one must include an easy knit that can be done while waiting in your car to pick your daughter up from school, during the various after-school activities your daughter attends, in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, or even in the lull between ordering your food and its arrival. You bring this project with you wherever you go. It keeps you occupied so that you don’t have to constantly check your iphone in the hopes of a new email or text. This pattern’s main features should involve lots of stockinette or garter stitches and require little or no stitch counting. The boredom of the repetitive knitting is offset by the greater boredom of sitting around and pretending that you have important missives that necessitate you checking your iphone every five minutes.

But then, sometimes you get lucky. You stumble on a pattern like LaLa’s Simple Shawl by Laura Linneman that meets the above requirements but is still interesting enough to keep you going. And, of course, pairing it with yarn that has a lot of color changes is a big part of the appeal.

Below is my simple project using my handspun Pigeonroof Studio superwash merino, which I spun and noted briefly. This is a pattern that really allows handspun yarn to shine. A combination of garter and stockinette stitches and some YOs to give the shawl some texture and air, but not enough that it competes with the color. This is a two-ply yarn. I had divided the braid into two pieces and spun from the same end. The result is a fingering weight yarn with a subtle marled effect due to barber pole striping with some larger saturated sections where the colors lined up.


This is knitting up so beautifully that I can’t imagine knitting with anything other than handspun.


IMG_3355IMG_3347 The term for it is “second sock syndrome”–the paralyzing condition that strikes you as you confront the fact that you will need to knit another item identical to the one that you have just finished.  If adequate containment measures are not taken, this condition can spread to other small tubular items such as sleeves, pant legs and leg warmers. It was awkward working the dpns the first time around, and now you have to do it again. Second sock syndrome leaves in its wake amputated projects longing for their phantom twins, taunting you with their pathetic singularity.

This is probably why I will not be joining in on the sock addiction, the mitten club or the long-sleeved sweater collective any time soon.

Good thing we live in Texas.

Cheery Cherry Blossom


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This is Pigeonroof Studio’s superwash merino in “Cherry Blossom.” It is 4.4 oz, 2-ply and 459 meters. Little A picked this colorway out. I love the hint of blue here–an unexpected hue that reminds me of a spring sky peeking through the laced patterns of a cherry tree in bloom. This is not the first time I’ve spun SW merino, but somehow there is a particular bounce and volume to this that compels me to squeeze it. Constantly. As I put the yarn in the hot water bath to set it, I was amazed by how quickly and how much water it absorbed.

After its hot bath, however, the colors ran a quite bit, erasing the large sections of white and touches of blue that had been there. I still love the result though. Now the contrast between the colors is less dramatic and there is a peachy glow to the entire skein.

I don’t usually use the word “sumptuous” because it triggers bad flashbacks to the cheesy 80s show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but this yarn just might make me do it.