Category: Reversed Ptarmigan



I never want to see this yarn again.

That’s not to say I’m not proud of it – to a point. It’s beautiful – smooth, incredibly consistent (well, it does have six plies, after all!), ridiculously strong. Visually, it does what I wanted it to do. It’s flecky with white and multi-dimensional, rich browns, and it does have a certain grace to it. But on the other hand, I’m really disappointed with how fine it turned out. I wanted a bulky-weight yarn – or at the very least aran-weight. Instead, I’ve got DK!!! It’s so fine! In a way this is a great achievement, but then again it wasn’t what I was going for. So in that sense it isn’t a successful expression of my vision. It’s 200g and approximately 200m, and it’s going at the very back of my stash until I have the wherewithal to face it again.

Without more ado, please welcome – Reversed Ptarmigan.

On the bobbin - bulky Ashford flier

Reversed Ptarmigan

Reversed Ptarmigan

Sorry to be a bit down on this one – it was a challenging yarn to spin, and I’m just a bit demoralised by the whole thing. I think I feel kind of like it beat me up! I still have to complete the final draft of the Hedgehog yarn, and then I am planning a beautiful, coloured single ply! But all that has to wait till my leg recovers, so bear with me!


I’ve been plying madly and spinning like a demon, to try and get some headway on the Ptarmigan yarn. I’ve done so many miles on my (single drive, single treadle) Traddy over the last few days that my right leg is injured! I’m so close to getting the second plying pass underway, but I’m afraid that I’ll have to wait a day or two until my leg isn’t so damn sore! I can’t even walk properly!

Adventures in Plying


Ladies and gentlemen, I am still here! Really, I promise. I’ve been working on the yarn, but it’s just slow going on this one. I hope the next one is a bit faster and a little less tedious. But this will be pretty, it really will.

The undyed wool I’m using to coordinate with the atomicblue batt is merino that I got as raw fleece. It was my first foray into scouring and it was really good – it came out so fluffy and white after going in all greasy, grey, dull and nasty. I was so encouraged! I then carded it all by hand because I’m strange and love hand-carding. My rolags leave a little to be desired mostly because the fibre was too fine for the cards I have; also, I packed too much onto them and came up with things that resembled German sausages more than fluffy confections of amazingly fine beautiful wool. But it’s still fine to spin and comes up beautifully. I’ve learnt a lot in this process; don’t be afraid to pick the short cuts out because they’ll only fall out when you spin anyway, don’t put too much on the cards, get fine-fibre cards . . . yep, the depths of my ignorance continue to astound even me. But it’s still yarn. Isn’t it great, how forgiving this is as a craft?

I bought a photo collage program today so I can post photos without annoying you all to pieces. Now, I know there’s a whole lotta brown and white here, and I’m sorry for that. I promise, the next yarn will have colour! Promise! But for now – feast your eyes on my first (brown and white) collage – there is one there of one of the plied strands that will go into the cable. See – I am making progress!

Reversed Ptarmigan plying update

It's been a LOT of work, but we're getting there!

Note To Self


Never spin cabled yarn again. Ever. You hear me, Kat? This is your inner wisdom speaking.

And if you really must (because I know you’re rebellious and will do exactly the opposite of whatever I tell you), then at least pick a decent weight for your singles. This simply Will Not Do.

Those are centimetres, by the way, not inches.

Dizzy Ptarmigans


Well, they would be, if you spun them, wouldn’t they?

I’ve started spinning the brown ply of the Reversed Ptarmigan yarn. I’m pretty confident on this yarn as it’s not as demanding artistically as the (ongoing) Hedgehog yarn, so I’m going all out. I’ve divided my brown mixed fibre into two equal halves by weight in order to come at the cabling from the right sort of angle. I wasn’t too fussy on how fine it was to be spun but I wanted the final result somewhere in the 8-ply (DK) to 12-ply (aran/bulky) weight range. Plenty of wiggle room. I’m toying with the idea of some funky plying in the first plying pass, but I’ll see when I get there. Long way to go yet, as once I started spinning the brown it kind of wanted to be spun pretty fine; I’ll probably end up on the finer end of my target range.

Sayra’s batts are really lovely and chunky; I admire her work so much because of the incredible texture she manages to maintain in her batts. However, for this yarn, I really needed something smoother, so I had to do something with the batt. This is what it looked like when I started:

Fieldmouse batt as received from Sayra (ignore the random bit of pink fluff)

Now, I prefer the results I get when I hand-card fibre, but my big hand cards are currently on loan to a friend and I was NOT going to use the little ones or I’d be there forever. So I got all brave and used the Ashford drum carder I’ve got on hire from the Perth Handweavers’, Spinners’ and Dyers’ Guild. Because this carder is quite small and I frankly suck at using it, I made sure and split the batt into small bits in order to get a smooth result. What came out was actually quite nice:

Re-carded batts

For the record, I felt a bit bad carding the batts again. I sort of felt like I was running roughshod over Sayra’s work, but I hope she understands my intention and the need for it.


One of the most ridiculous, hilarious, enjoyable and endlessly delightful aspects of the Discworld books, for me, is the naming system for the years. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many of them actually floating around, but the ones I have found have inspired visions of yarn, and inspired my own brain to think up ridiculous pairings of words in the same style.

So my next yarn, which I’m planning and prepping at the moment, is to be called Reversed Ptarmigan. I didn’t know exactly what kind of bird a ptarmigan was – I had a vision in my head of a fat, plump little speckled brown and white thing, that maybe didn’t fly all that much. So I had a loose idea of a fairly tame yarn, brown and white, probably a 2×2 cable. (For the non-spinners, that means taking your single ply that’s spun directly from the loose fibre, twisting it with another one for a 2-ply, and then putting that against itself and twisting again to make a 4-ply.) I wanted the brown to be rich and gorgeous, the white to be immaculate. I wanted the cabling to suggest the “Reversed” nature of this particular Ptarmigan. I wanted it to lofty and squishy and oh! so soft to evoke the plumpness and roundness, the low-to-the-ground sedentariness.

Turns out, I was kind of close in my assumptions about ptarmigans! They change colour with the seasons, white in the winter and brown in the summer, and transitioning in the in-between-times. Here’s a picture, supposedly of a Willow Ptarmigan (aka Willow Grouse):

I have the perfect batt for the brown; the most amazingly rich, shiny, treasure-filled treat from my lovely crack-dealer fibre-supplier, Sayra at AtomicBlue. She calls it “Fieldmouse” (because I think she didn’t like that I wanted a fully brown batt! sssssshhhh!) which kind of sells it short – it has loads of the most gorgeous rufous-brown silk, soft-soft-soft wool, incredibly fine and lustrous mohair (and I don’t even like mohair!) . . . It’s gorgeous, I tell ya. And I’ll post pics and continue the story in my next episode!