Sometimes I feel like life pulls me in many different directions and staying focused is a challenge. How good it feels when all the stars line up and I actually accomplish just what I wanted. This project has that feel. It is very loose, open and full of love. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.
I started with 4 ounces of washed fleece, but you can use roving if that’s what you have. Submerge the 4 ounces of fiber in a large kettle and sprinkle a package or two of Kool-Aid (in this case Lemonade and Strawberry) over the fiber. The more Kool-Aid you use the more intense the color will be. Kool-Aid contains so much acid that it works as the dye and mordant (stuff that makes the color bond to the fiber). Bring the water up in temperature until you see steam rising off the top. Do not let the water boil; the bubbles agitating the fiber will felt it. Maintain the temperature for about 20-30 minutes or until the water is clear. Remove from heat and let the water cool to room temperature. Pour off the water and rinse with room temperature water.
Gently squeeze the fiber to remove excess water. Lay it flat on a dark towel and roll it up, give it a hard press, and unroll. Drape the fiber over a drying rack until completely dry. You have just successfully dyed your own fiber. Pick the fibers apart to fluff and separate them.
Stephanie’s handspun, handwoven heart
Next you will need what you already have, thrums. If you haven’t been saving them for this “rainy day” then you can use some of your small left over balls. A self-healing cutting mat and a rotary cutter make this step go quickly.
Lay out a pile of your thrums and roll the cutter back and forth until you have a handful of tiny little pieces of yarn.
Get out your hand carders. For this project I used the Schacht Mini Carders. These are always at the ready in my spinning basket. The Mini Carders have a 72 psi (points per square inch) carding cloth. This is an all-purpose little carder, able to handle a variety of different fibers and additives and is ready to card a little sample at a moment’s notice. Charge the card with a light layer of fiber. This means you hold a wad of the dyed, fluffed fiber in your hand and rub them down the carder from handle to tip, letting some of the fiber get caught on the points using much the same motion as you would to grate a potato for hash browns. Sprinkle your diced thrums over the charged card and now we’re cooking. Sandwich the thrums onto the carder by charging another layer of fiber over the thrums. Use the empty card to gently brush the points together in a rolling motion to move and mix the fiber from one card to another. You can repeat the last step once more or until you feel the thrums are mixed evenly throughout the fiber. Remove the fiber from the card and set aside in a pile. Card the rest of your fiber and thrums. (Click here for a video.)
Spinning this concoction of love is exactly what it should be: Fun. First you should set up your wheel. Make sure that the screws are tight, the moving parts well lubricated, and your favorite beverage is at hand. For this project I used the Schacht Ladybug and not just because it has a red wheel and matches the project. The slow whorl combined with the 16” drive wheel gives you a 5:1 and 6:1 ratio. If you have it, use your Bulky Flyer. Why do I care? The yarn you are spinning is fat and irregular. The slow ratio allows you time to futz around with the thrums without the twist trying to race up into your fiber. The Bulky Flyer is also a nice addition to the perfect spinning trifecta because it doesn’t have hooks allowing your fat and irregular yarn to wind on, easy-peasy.
Let’s get spinning. Attach your spinning fiber to the leader by holding the opened up fiber at a 45 to 90 degree angle to your leader. Start spinning and as the twist builds up it will act like glue for the loose fibers in the vicinity. When the loose fibers begin to twist around the leader pull the fibers toward you while releasing the leader and voilà, a simple join.
The spinning goes quickly since it is big and bulky. Open the fibers between your hands so it creates a web. Pull the fiber toward you and use your forward hand to smooth the twist over the fibers down the yarn. Then let the yarn wind on. All the diced thrums get caught in the web and become entrapped by the twist. Open the fibers and draft them back and smooth the yarn again.
Continue spinning in this manner until you have spun a full bobbin using about 2 ounces of the fiber, spinning at 7 ½ wpi (wraps per inch). (Click here for a video.)
There is no need to finish the yarn for weaving this project. I used the Schacht Mini Loom and warped it directly from the bobbin. It required just over 9 yards per warp of 39 ends. Using the weaving needle thread a 36 inch length onto the needle and weave the full weaving width and length for this loom. You will need about 8 yard for the weft for a total of less than 40 yards for this entire project.
You will need to weave two little rectangles approximately 7” x 6 ½”. Remove them from the loom and hold them together. Using sewing thread and backstitching, sew them together in a heart shape. When sewing the pieces together start the bottom point of the heart in the middle of the selvedge. This will allow for a big fat heart when stuffed. Before you complete sewing the heart together, stuff with some of the remaining dyed fiber until you reach the desired density. Finish sewing closed and trim ¼ inch from the stitching. Add a ribbon to hang or just box and give your heart away.