The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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Celebrating Canada – a new spinning project

Bosworth Moosie spindle with tulipwood shaft and Shetland wool

Happy birthday, Canada!

While spinning on my uber-patriotic Bosworth Moosie this morning, I had a thought.  Why not share the spinning project that I am so close to starting?  It is as Canadian as those colours, and is special besides.  Who cares if we spoke only yesterday, right?

Ontario produces superb wool

Two months ago, I wrote something.  It is long-hand, on a sheet of yellow legal paper.  It came after an on-line discussion with Canadian knitters who asserted that Ontario does not produce high-grade fibre on a commercial scale.  As I sorted my thoughts on the topic, I wrote:

Recently, I turned to N, and asked what does he think my favourite fibre might be?  He answered, “Wool.  It is still wool.”  We smiled, and he is correct.

This fibreshed is precisely where my passion is rooted.  As TKK readers know, it all began in 2009 with a raw local Romney ram’s fleece.  I still work and find good value close to home.  Leading spinners whose work I respect, Deb Robson, Clara Parkes, and Sue Blacker all focus on the importance of using local fibre from specific breeds.

We now even have Canadian knitting yarn dyed in-house by my friend, Sasha.  These single breed yarns are available here.

Skein of handdyed merino fingering weight Sheepspot yarn

Sheepspot yarn of loveliness

It is fast becoming a Magical Side to Side scarf designed by Susan Santos.  Knitters, do help support a new breed-specific grassroots label!

Sheepspot merino yarn for Santos designed knitted shawl by irieknit

Such a rich Sheepspot colourway!

As an aside, Sasha’s newsletters are also very good.  What does a knitter need to know?  Well, this as Sue Blacker says in “Pure Wool” (2012, Oceana, p. 7):

Finding the right yarn for a project is vital.  The sheer versatility of wool and the possibilities of creating specific yarns for specific purposes are, perhaps, not fully appreciated.

Your success lies in thinking about the breed’s strengths/uses.

A made-in-Ontario blanket…

… or putting a project where my mouth is!

Ontario Romney cleaned ewe lamb fleece in Jamaican handwoven basket

Also known as a blanket?

My celebration is to use the remaining 1.876 lbs/ 851 g of local Romney ewe lamb’s wool, and make a family blanket.

It has Most Favoured Fleece status in the stash.  Buttercup’s farmer is Julie Hartford of  Engleheart, Ontario.  You can see its 3lbs 5oz beginnings here from July 2010 as raw fleece.

Romney lamb's wool and preparing with Forsyth fine hand combs by irieknit

Combing heaven – Ontario Romney lamb’s wool

In formulating these thoughts, I did use my gradient of hand-prepared local wools.  It’s now a useful fibre basket in my spinning room – for wool, of course!

Hand prepared handspun wool knitted bag by irieknit

An after-market wool basket

Everything about this was freeing.  How many stitches did I cast on?  Well, an even number.  The yarns range from well-spun to those that I was hiding under a rug but they all work together in this mesh stitch.

Lower section detail of hand prepared and handspun wool knitted mesh bag by irieknit

Neither a silk purse nor a sow’s ear

That middle grey?  Oh, it came from the Romney ram’s nether regions, I am sure!  The marled is from a mohair blending experiment (also local) with a free meat fleece.

Handle for hand prepared handspun wool knitted bag by irieknit

Reining lateral spread in, 101

My longwools came into their own for the i-cord effort at taming the too-large opening.  The top white wool, and mauve (logwood dyed!) are both Border Leicester from Lambsquarters farm in Holstein, Ontario.

Mid-section detail of hand prepared handspun wool knitted bag by irieknit

All local wools great & small

My parting thought was that if I could use such disparate yarns then I am actually ready for this effort.  We could use a blanket.  A little knowledge has led me to suspect that our childhood blankets are both of acrylic extraction!

Melvin the cat in old vertical blinds

Mels appreciates change

The home improvements are enriching Melvin’s life considerably in the meantime.

 

 


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10 years building a life

Today, I am celebrating 10 years in Canada.  Double-digits!

We will batch-style various & sundry experiences as pitfalls, and just skip them.  They all helped me get to the tag-line of this TKK blog anyway:  Better living through fibre.

Pot with red tulips and Melvin the cat

I know what spring is

Melvin must love you now.  He only shows his tuxedo bib to special folks.

Toby Papillon-mix dog

Mr. Toby Hopeful

Our Canadian doggie is older.  Here he is still keeping me company as I write this post.  He does have a few less teeth than he did when we adopted him from the Toronto Animal Services north shelter, years ago.

Jamaica’s rabies laws have no wiggle-room.  None whatsoever.  The up-shot is that a pet would be more difficult to move back home than anyone else family-wise.  This makes Melvin & Toby my deepest roots here, period.

 

Moosie drop spindle with tulipwood shaft and Shetland wool top

Spinning dyed Shetland wool top

The Moosie is a spindle that helped me start today as I listened to 2 podcasts over coffee.  Ten years ago, I had never even heard the term “drop spindle” and had trouble finding 100% wool garments in the stores.  Today, I made yarn from hand-dyed (the Painted Tiger) breed-specific yarn using this beautifully crafted spindle!

Looking back to look ahead

By taking a flier on a Romney ram’s fleece in August, 2009, I found a true passion for Ontario-grown wool.  All of this spinning education started with learning from some of you on the internet, the Romney, and a Kundert red cedar over cherry drop spindle.

Kundert drop spindle with Romney wool handspun yarn

My first spindle with my first ever yarn: Ontario Romney ram’s wool

Each year since then, I have bought & cleaned at least 1 local fleece.  This gradient is a series of sample skeins.  Some were more successful than others but I am knitting them in this left → right order.  The catalyst is Sarah Swett who taught me about changes in value last spring.

Ontario wool handspun yarns

All yarn made from Ontario-produced fleeces

The simple act of knitting this yarn is sparking ideas for returning to my favourite Ontario-produced fleece with prep tools & purpose.  It’s so exciting that I may let the spindle-spun-sweater project percolate while I start this.

Handspun dyed Polwarth wool yarn

This one’s for you, N

For N, as we say in Jamaica, “Let us build a life together.”  He sponsored, and saw me through the pitfalls.  He likes this yarn a lot.  We think that it should be a handwoven scarf with another handspun yarn.

You last saw me spinning this Polwarth on my Wee Peggy spinning wheel at the Fibre Garden and/or here this January.  The 8oz of top yielded 689 yards of 2-ply yarn.

Romney lamb's wool hand-combed top fibre

Romney lamb, hand-combed top

This hand-combed top from a Romney lamb at Sunday Creek Farm in Engleheart, Ontario is beautiful fibre.  At this ten-year mark of life in Canada, I am fortunate to have this to even think about working with.


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An ounce of (Moosie) win, and shawl surgery

Moosie! (1)

It’s been weeks, and I still can’t believe this statement is true:  I have a Moosie!  The whorl is 1.75″ of handcrafted moose antler on a tulipwood shaft.  All together with a balancing pin she weighs 28g or one ounce.

Moosie drop spindle

Moosie wearing dyed Shetland top single

Jonathan & Sheila Bosworth offered a group of 10 with 5 different special shaft woods.  They were all lovely but the sole tulipwood #7 was my first choice.  Sheila helped me to decide on a 9″ length. Its spin is even more beautiful than I dreamed.  First there is the smooth but softly grained wood as I set the spindle in motion with a thigh roll.  The spin is fast without being aggressive.

The fibre is “Cherry Fudge” Shetland top from The Painted Tiger.

Re-purposing for a Gift

Mom celebrated her 60th birthday in September.  With a deep list of in-progress items, I still had enough time to dig out my first large shawl and its glaring corner problem.

Lace stole hand knit in spider pattern

One of these corners is not like the others

What glaring corner problem?  I was honest and brave about it all in this September 2011 TKK post.  Eventually, the (ahem) swatch turned up, so I had a little extra matching yarn on hand.

Lord Varys Shawl FO fixed two (2)

Eek that corner out

Fuchsia is Mom’s new favorite colour.  It was perfect for her, and she can use it this coming year in Europe on her sabbatical.  That was the theory.  In practice, I had to un-graft and not loose any stitches.  That was a big, scary pain and a half.

Lord Varys Shawl FO fixed (3)

Live stitches caught, pattern rendered, and Lo!  I ran out of yarn again.  This was my Bloody Hell moment, and I thank those of you who saw my tweets and offered words of encouragement.

Sleep always helps, and I came up with this flaw of a 3-needle lace bind-off.  I am happy to report that the flaw has use – it’s Mom’s way of knowing which side is up!

Good kitty and blocking shawl

Melvin was risking life & limb by interfering with the shawl at this point.  He knew better than to push that particular item completely off the table, I think.

Also in progress

In and among more Super Secret projects, I started an RPM sock in my Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock yarn, “Lakeview.”

Revving socks in Lorna's Laces (2)
The spiral pattern is easy to work on the two circulars, and I love how it is breaking up the pools of colour in the variegated yarn.  The only thing that I don’t like is the join on these particular needles – they are Knit Picks Options nickel-plated fixed circulars.  I knit tightly for socks, and moving the stitches across the metal/plastic join is not seamless.

Cotton merc 5 over 2 warp on board

Week before last, I did beam this narrow warp on the Mighty Wolf loom.  It was very useful to take what I am learning in the BAC classes, and apply it to my home loom.  It’s taking me awhile to get started on threading because life has taken over.  When sunny  weather returns, I will take pictures of my class sampler.

Muga Silk plying (3)

Working with this muga silk that I bought from Morgaine this Spring has been a sheer joy.  The scientific name of this species of wild silkworm from Assam, India is Antheraea assamensis.  It is far more delicate than the Bombyx mori silk that I have spun, and the gold colour was entrancing.

Muga silk on niddy (4)

The singles were spun on my Wee Peggy wheel in double drive using a crochet cotton (plied on itself) band.  I plied on my Watson Martha wheel also in double drive, and with a linen (10/2) band using the small whorl, 1st ratio.  This is approximately 604 yards from 1.6 ounces of muga silk in batt form.

(edit only to italicize a term)


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Been there, Spun that

… got the coffee cup

Have you been waiting for this year’s Stringtopia class line-up to drop?  It’s now called the Spring String Thing and is set for April 26 – 29, 2013.

I’m not sure whether a hat-trick will be possible for me but each of the announcements has my Full Attention!

It’s no secret that I have fallen in love with Peruvian pushka spindles.  This North American cousin is made in Dayton, Ohio and is sold by Abby & Shelly as the “Andina.”

Andina’s maple shaft is just slightly shorter than the Andean pushka.  I do love the angles of a pushka’s shaft but the Andina is very responsive.  The overall weight is a pleasure – even with a pretty cherry-wood whorl.

All told, this spindle is just right for spinning Lulu’s llama locks.  Says she who is too on a spindle diet!

Fruit of the Wheel

Remember last week’s Yarn Hollow spin?  It’s finished!

I came out with approximately 656 yds from 4.6 oz.  It is more of a light fingering than lace.  The colours really even each other out, and it’s far less bright than I expected when spinning the fibre.

Off the Combs

This Sunday, I watched Robin Russo’s Combing Fiber video.  And did a fair bit of wool combing at the same time.  As one does.

I have been itching to work with these Shetland locks that Mom brought back from her trip to the UK this past summer.  My earlier Knit Knack post with the story is here:

Right: washed Sheltand locks from Garthenor in Wales

Project discipline is grand.  However, as a rule hand-combed top trumps everything else in the queue.

So, I have already spun the work of my Forsyth Fine (4-pitch) combs on  this lovely Shetland.

Left: Bosworth mini (purpleheart); Right: Spanish Peacock (flame box elder)

The spindles are closely matched in weight terms: mini Bossie = 0.74 oz or 21 g; and Spanish Peacock = 0.78 oz or 22 g.

They also both hail from 2010, and were bought new.  It was a heady time – I had yet to touch a wheel.  Herein lies a lesson:  they were both under-utilized.  The Bossie instantly became a standard travel spindle.  It was easier that way.  For its part the Spanish Peacock was used but mostly not.  The why is simple – adjusting for the notchless round whorl & some wobble was hard.

I have learned that spindles will wait for you.  Just acquire merit, and remember that the fault may lie with you not them.  Never blame the spindle for your hair-brained plans either.

Spare a thought

Please spare a thought for our Toby.  He`s having trouble after a tumble down the staircase last month.  He lost a canine tooth straight after the fall – root and all.  We watched but no infection developed.

He`s now had related muscle loss in his face, and left side.  Blood & other tests are normal.  It looks like he just has trouble holding his head up, blinking the left eye, and with his balance on that side.  We are relieved it`s not worse but the poor little guy could truly use everyone`s good thoughts.


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New knits with handspun

Last year’s push to work with my handspun yarns has really started to bear fruit.  I’m excited because there’s now plenty more to share as brand new knits in my life.

Fall Colours, my way

Back in September, I told you about my Seriously Fun Spin.  Weeks later the dyer, Brooke of The Painted Tiger, announced her Fractal Fiber spin-along/ knit-along in the Ravelry group.

This is Susan Ashcroft’s “very easy but effective” No-Fuss Shade-Loving Shawl.

As I quipped on my project page – it’s a fractal-loving shawl!

Avatar-worthy!

The form (i.e. modifications) followed function.  The solid colour bands were on the verge of shifting when I was making the seed stitch lower edge.  I sped up the increases (every row), and made Meg Swansen’s edge.  It’s charted on page 114 of Knitting Around.

Heart Warmers

Around the same time, I was spinning grey Jacob wool top.  This project was all geared towards making purple & grey stranded mittens for this winter.

This spin on my Wee Peggy helped me weather more of the medical stuff.  Soon, I was wondering why not try to design these mittens myself?

The cuff is based on the Estonian Peacock’s Tail pattern set out in the Knitter’s Book of Wool Risti Mittens by Nancy Bush.  I threw caution to the wind adding sundries:

  • Red:  fibre came with my Jenkins delight from a B.C. Raveler.  Traditionally, red cuffs are for good luck;
  • Avocado:  natural dye sample of woolen-spun PolwarthxPort fibre; and
  • Purple:  leftover SW Corriedale from my Redhook sweater.

My gauge on 2.5mm needles was 15 stitches = 2″.

This book taught me both the elements of mitten knitting & the stitch repeats (Swedish & Faorese):

Sheila McGregor, “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting.”

Not many knitting books sit by my beside.  “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting” did for ages.  It’s full of useful information that doesn’t leap off the page on a 1st reading.

Sure, DH was within his rights to declare the cuffs “ghetto” but I am super-proud of this project.  One simple idea that grew into its own:  I have a pair of warm Jacob mitts!

Out of Hiding – Shetland 

As far back as 2010 this spin shot Shetland to the top of my personal wool list.

Moral:  spinning triumphs sometimes become an end in themselves.  Keep creating.

The spark for taking the skeins out of the box was another spin-along/ knit-along on Ravelry.  It’s in A Spinner’s Study, and I joined Team Lace – cowl knitting.

Aah, my friend, Logwood!  This time, I threw some copper liquor into the dye pot.  Made from this humble copper scrubbie.

Copper teaching me electrolysis in action

I am showing you the cowl first before the group.  I gave it diamond lace to match my new mittens.

There’s a lot out here about the ‘hows’ and ‘wherefores’ of spinning.  What I wanted to show today is why I really spin.  Handspun is yarn that gives back to you.  Large.


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Proof of fit, and other updates

Every now and again, I get a blog photo shoot.  Just to keep you on your toes.

The buttonholes may need reinforcing in time.  For now, I am good with checking up on them.

What you couldn’t see when it was flat on the table in the last post.

I was running too late to push my luck for pics of the now completed Laar Cardigan (yep, finally).

The Seriously fun spin

In the crunch that was my lead-up to the Tour de Fleece this year, I didn’t write about this super spin.  It’s The Painted Tiger‘s 40z braid of corriedale, Koi Pond.

We met Brooke at Stringtopia this year.  These colours inspired me to try my first fractal spinning.

I used my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.  Remarkable because just days before Martha was not in spinning condition:

When the bobbin/ flyer array of your dream wheel jumps off, hits the wheel frame and falls broken you might want to cry.  One frantic call later, Mrs. Watson assured me that her son Andrew would help.  Andrew did more than help, and I thank him.

Andrew said that it looked like an older partial break.  He took a week to repair the flyer, and make Miss 1988 like new.  Andrew also graciously showed me his personal wheels, and spoke with me about the business’ history as well as how to care for Martha.

Approx 392 yards all in!  If you are looking for a new indie-dyer then definitely give Brooke a try.  The fiber was not compacted at all, and the dye caught every last corner.

What Moms are For

My brother’s yeoman service did not end with delivering the backstrap loom to me.  He also brought this up from Mom.

It’s crunchy handspun from her trip to Scotland this summer.  Unique selling point for a card:  Real Sheep’s Wool!

She also got me 100g each of organic Hebridean & Shetland wool from Garthenor.  She might actually listen when I ramble on about “breed-specific” this and “breed-specific” that…

A weekend Happy

Finished my Jacob spin on Wee Peggy.  No breaks were taken for cooking or dishes.

Approx 197 yds of 3-ply.  I picked out kemp, spun it using scotch tension, and plied on my Martha.  Grey Jacob is already on the bobbin.  The idea is to make the Horatio & Oren mitts from this fall’s Twist Collective.

A little housekeeping

The blog’s “About” page was pretty dated, so I gave it a little edit over the weekend.  I love writing posts, and may be making some small changes to the blog in the next little while.

Where I’ll be:

  • The Spinning Loft, September 22, 23 for workshops with Deb Robson.  Beth promises that my Martha will meet her Martha!
  • The Woodstock Fleece Festival, October 13.

I’d love to know if you’ll be there too!


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Vive le Tour!

By a miracle and a half, I stayed with the Tour de Fleece this year.  I posted with my teams each day.  Generous feedback from Friends of Abby’s Yarns & all of their projects kept me in the loop even when serial nights of posting progress seemed impossible.

Not since Brownies have I been this happy about a badge…  The No. 1 Project for Teresa is now at 4 plying balls and then some:

It’s been a happy project, and there’s also a goodly amount on the Ethan Jakobs at the finish line as well.

It wasn’t solidly spinning for her yarn either.  Cotton is a good example.  My Huari spindle & cotton came in the midst of the tour.  It’s circa 850 A.D., with faint paint markings and a black clay whorl.

Naturally it spoke to me of cotton.  One tour night became about sucking less on my coin takhli.  The white shell was the break-through here – it’s DRS for the takhli!

There was also the odd evening of wheel spinning.  My left thumb thanked me for the new motions.  Neither the fibre nor the tool is new on this spin.  It’s Shetland top on my CPW.  What’s new is that the wheel moved rooms.  She’s now here in my study/ craft room.

That foray was inspired by Jacey’s Shetland breed study in her Insubordiknit group on Ravelry.

And speaking of breeds.  On the almost hottest day of the year, I showed my stubborn genes & cleaned a whole lamb’s fleece.  But a portion of the fleece:

It’s my first Black Welsh Mountain sheep fleece – ewe lamb from Desert Weyr.  There are condition issues that I was told about frankly & fully ahead of finalizing the order.  The depth of black has to be seen to be believed, trust me.  It’s beautiful.

 There’s a break near the butt-end of the fleece, and some scurf.  So, I worried.  After flicking, and carding a lock or two, I was happy to find it perfectly spinnable!

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