The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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Woodstock Fleece Festival 2017

This past Saturday was the 9th annual Woodstock Fleece Festival, and I made it!  It is held an hour away by car, and is by faaar my favourite local event for fibre folks.

Last year was a definite miss.  It’s much improved but a school week is a school week – I can’t predict whether our nurturing reserves dip too low for a Saturday morning trip.  Plus, N had a 12:30 pm dental appointment in town.

handspun Diminishing Lines shawl by irieknit

Dashing through the festival – handspun Diminishing Lines shawl

It was a blur!  I see from the pamphlet that I totally missed some vendors (sorry, Peggy Sue Collection; The Gaynor Homestead!) but I feel completely rejuvenated by my trip out, and here is why.

Found! A Squirrel-cage Swift

You may know him as Wheelwright?  Reed Needles has repaired one of my antique wheels, and visiting his booth of many Canadian Production Wheels (CPWs) is always a must-do.  I was expecting to only say a few words when I had an, “Hey, is that functional, Reed?!?” moment.

irieknit's antique Squirrel-cage swift yarn unwinder

Demonstrably functional – a squirrel-cage swift

It has been totally mentioned by me to Reed a few times now:  he is an enabler par excellence.  With a twinkle in his eye he noted that yes it works, and that the circa 1860 fittings are hand-forged.

Hand forged spiral fixing screw on squirrel-cage swift hardware irieknit

A hand-wrought fixing screw – squirrel-cage swift hardware

The spirals are beautiful, and it fixes the upper roller cage easily/ properly.

A closer look at the flanged rollers shows yarn (I suspect linen of course) wear on the dowels.

Antique squirrel-cage swift upper roller cage detail by irieknit

Upper roller cage – wear marks

Reed was selling this swift on behalf of a local weaver’s estate.  It is sturdy enough for life with an active child + speedy unwinding of skeins.

Antique Squirrel-cage swift lower roller cage detail by irieknit

Lower roller cage – cantilevers out

The cut end of the base on the post-side has some deep cracks but this tool will let me unwind yarn gently, and round skeins if needed.

Antique squirrel-cage swift underside detail showing wood cracking

Other names for this tool are ‘roller-cage swift’ ‘barrel swift’ and ‘rice.’  According to The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning they are believed to have been developed in continental Europe (p. 270).

A similar swift with a wooden upper handle is shown in Keep me Warm One Night by the Burnhams (no. 38; see p. 42) as a gift to the Royal Ontario Museum and from Ontario.

Purchases from 2017 Woodstock Fleece Festival by irieknit

Woodstock 2017 haul (excuse messy trunk)

A swift – any swift – is used by the fibre artist to:

… unwind the skeins and is not suitable for making them.  When a skein is to be used, it is placed on a swift that is adjustible in size and wound off into a ball, or onto a spool or bobbin. (ibid, p. 22)

This swift adds choice because I do have a large umbrella one from Glimåkra that also works well.  They are both shorter than the skeins wound on my blue antique click reel (i.e. tool that winds skeins).  The squirrel-cage may be easier to handle the wider skeins, and I will go very slowly when checking that point out.

The squirrel-cages will hold more than one skein at a time without needing to collapse the tool as you do with the umbrella.  The cages also hold all courses in a skein with even tension across.  I am interested in how the squirrel-cages compare to the umbrella ‘v-shape’ on unwinding skeins to the warping board for weaving.

The Barn

Growth of this festival year-over-year shows most clearly in the barn marketplace.  Remembrances Pottery was a fun discovery – their stunning handmade mugs, buttons, etc warranted a quick stop.

Handmade clay buttons and ornaments by Remembrances Pottery

Clay items from Remembrances Pottery in Sarnia

This and other quick stops were accompanied by the bag of raw wool that you can see in my trunk up there.  It still needs cleaning!

Romney lamb's coloured raw wool

Lamb’s bounty! A Romney from Willow Farm’s flock

As you may guess from all the talk of rushing, and new time constraints, I probably shouldn’t have.  This is a 5 lb 4 oz lamb’s fleece from Willow Farm.

Locks of raw wool from Romney lamb fleece Willow Farm by irieknit

In my defense lots of Romney-strong lamb’s wool!

 

The shepherdess, Josslyn, explained that this may be the last year they attend but that farm direct sales are still possible.  I have missed cleaning fleece so much!

Llama at Woodstock Fleece Festival 2017 by irieknit

Baby llamas add to a festival

The llama pack and obstacle course was brought to us by the Norfolk 4H.  These babies were shy but the performing adults allowed for happy petting.

Norfolk 4H llama demonstration Woodstock Fleece Festival 2017

Your mood can’t go wrong with a llama or two

As always festival organisers also had some sheep in the barn for attendees.

Sheep at the 2017 Woodstock Fleece Festival

Hello, sheep!

This family friendly atmosphere is why the event is growing, and I hope to bring N & T next year.  This year, I was thrilled to see some spinning friends at long last, and hit all the high notes.

Sugar Maple fall leaves on grass by irieknit

Maple leaves still not raking themselves

There being much to be done in fall is not new.  What is new sits in my immediate family, and would include the words cancer patient & break-up.  Necessary but not easy stuff is ahead but we are well in the midst of that.

My next warp will be for a head-scarf – pushing the baby blankets behind because first things first.

 


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Spindle spinning with others

At the tail end of the last post, I very quickly mentioned the spindle project that I called ‘Pyrenees Delight Cheviot.’  The spin dates back to the night of the 12th stage of the Tour de Fleece when I needed a completely portable spin for summer days with T.

Cheviot wool top dyed by Sheepy Time Knits for irieknit's 2017 Tour de Fleece

Inspiration in green fibre form – STK Cheviot wool

The Tour falls nicely behind my birthday, and Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits had a well-timed spinning fibre promotion for the event.  Don’t you love when fibre barely even grazes your stash?!

Handspinning dyed Cheviot wool on Jenkins Turkish Delight drop spindle by irieknit

Jenkins Delight spindle to the rescue!

This Cheviot has been the single best pairing for my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle.  Before now, I had used this spindle for a BFL/silk that is now socks, Wensleydale & took a wrong turn to Merino finger roving.  It’s been reliable but only now have I really found the groove with this Cheviot wool.

Cheviot is an old breed developed in the south Cheviot Hills of the UK.  Mandie’s dye colour is so clear and saturated on this wool.

The feel of this ‘three-dimensional’ crimp is amazing as I use the Delight.  In the Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook the crimp is described as “unique” within this breed family (p. 55).   My hands agree, and I would love to spin Cheviot locks after this experience.

In Ravelry’s 2017 Tour de Fleece Feature!

Spinning dyed Cheviot wool on Jenkins Turkish Delight by irieknit

Community eye candy!

Each year, Ravelry.com supports the spinning community’s celebration that is the Tour de Fleece.  We know this, and in 7 years of spinning, I have always looked forward to the home page’s blog post.  It was FluffyK who let me know via tweet that my spinning was featured in the round-up.  Hers was too!

This is the beautiful post, Eye Candy: Tour de Fleece, written by onestitchshort that includes my project.

Plying balls, Cheviot fibre and Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle by irieknit

State of the Pyrenees Delight Cheviot spin

When I updated the project this week, I was stunned to see that it has 26 people who call it a favourite, and was viewed 1,458 times & counting.  That is a major leap from the peak of 5 favourites, 68 views on another Team Spindlers project, the CVM sweater spin.

The post lifted my spirits – I was trying to cope from here with difficult health news for my Mom who lives in Jamaica, and the non-stop adulting.  That uplift was important but I am also very happy that two spindles were shown as beautiful tools riding in the Tour.

Last word – project specs

The spindle weighs 28 g, and is in Carob wood.  Two-strand-ply balls shown in the calabash bowl are 37 g, 43 g, 37 g, respectively.  All singles are spun on the spindle, wound-off, and re-wound to a two-strand-ball that I will ply from when the fibre is all spun-up.

Start:  July 13, 2017 to morning of October 4th, today.

Last last word

Although I had to duck out at the very end of the Tour, I rode most of this year’s Tour de Fleece as a co-captain in Team Spindlers.  It was like riding a wave that floated all boats.  Spindlers is a mixed group of all skill levels, and the discussions are advertising-free.

I also joined a relaxed & fun Team Bosworth.  It was an all-spindles year for me!

Morning glory in bloom

Dappled morning glories

It has led me to hope that we can keep both big & small tent spindle-friendly spaces flourishing.  These spaces are:

  • how I & others learn about spinning in the first place;
  • a look at how modern folks with busy, stressed lives keep spindles in motion;
  • where I made friendships outside of my silo; and
  • a very good coping mechanism for staring, snide comments and worst of all deadpan reactions to spinning in daily life.  After all, your beloved spindles don’t make much yarn unless you are spinning with the spindles in daily life.

If any reader has thoughts to share about how we can either sustain the existing spaces or bring our tools to new spaces, I would love to hear from you.  It is something I have been speaking about with friends whose work I have seen but aren’t local and now prefer to step back a little from the fray.

Writing is more my speed than video/ audio but all thoughts are welcome.


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Reviving Ramie on the small saxony wheel

In the final days before welcoming T home last summer, I opened my 151 g of Ramie top, and started spinning on my painted East European saxony wheel.

Spinning Ramie on antique Eastern European flax wheel

For Twitter and my only record of the start (please excuse the mess!)

This is my first project with Ramie & was love at first spin.

Priorities soon made themselves known.  The night that I had given a Lecture on not touching Mom’s tools, I took this wheel and its Ramie up to my studio.  The fibre stayed downstairs but it was a pretty vain hope.  With everyone under strain family bonding was clearly more important.  What I didn’t know then was how long that takes when your child is aged 4, and circumstances are what they are.  Sitting at wheels took a back burner as we navigated our long, early parenting days.  Others came out but this easiest-to-knock-down wheel was up until just last month.

irieknit spinning Ramie fibre on antique painted East European saxony wheel

Dust-gathering no more!  Ramie stash spinning again.

Small note It is a crazy peg array.  Safety first, and I am not telling anyone to follow this particular flight of fancy.

While she was up & out of dear T’s reach, I saw quite a few questions in Facebook spinning groups about similar wheels.  The questions boil down to:

  • Should I buy this?  A: maybe – do you know what you are looking at; do you like to spin fine?
  • Did I make a mistake in buying this?  A:  it depends; I love mine.
  • something something ‘gypsy wheel’… A: no, seriously, all of Eastern Europe

Invariably, 1 or more voices on the thread cry down that these small wheels make you “treadle like a hamster even if it operates.”  Well, mine operates and that is not my experience.  At all.

The wheel has such a gentle action in terms of the draw-in of the yarn, and the old leather hinges on the treadle bar.  It is also an almost wheel-less feeling as I work since she stands below my torso.  With the band fitted and at the right angle with the mother-of-all, this is smooth and easy spinning now that my (yes, crazy; do not do) pegs are worn in a bit.

irieknit's antique East European saxony spinning wheel drive wheel detail

Small drive wheel = light drive wheel

Sometimes, I do need to fiddle with the mother-of-all screw tension.  Most times it is fine with my Hempathy yarn band going strong.  When running these wheels have a sweet spot of momentum.

We are at around the half-way mark to what experts call the family equilibrium.  Supports have come and gone; other supports are tremendous.  Not only is this & my Martha wheel now carrying spins-in-progress but I got myself an afternoon away this weekend as a real break.

irieknit's Kissing Cousins sock in progress and spinning Cheviot on Turkish Delight drop spindle

Mobile comforts – mindless sock and Cheviot spin

This top-down to toe-up piece is a March pattern release by Sarah Jordan called Kissing Cousins Socks.  It is in a Turtle Purl yarn, Tiberius.  The Cheviot wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits is my ‘Pyrenees Delight’ Tour de Fleece project.  It was such a thrill to have my spinning picture featured by Ravelry and this has stayed in my spinning rotation ever since.

Progress and respite.  I wish the same for you!


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Getting more patient: up-noting my weaving, and cotton

The Elin towels from my last post were fully finished by the start of June.  This was the last daylight they have seen!

Handwoven cottolin kitchen towels Elin kit from the loom of irieknit

Four handwoven Elin towels – cottolin; 8-shaft broken twill

The gaps in attending to weaving, writing, and the old craft approaches have been wearing on me.  This cliché assumption all spinners hear now has hit a new chord:

You must be very patient!

My stock response of no and pivoting to the true family trait of stubbornness no longer sounds even technically correct.  There is a new need to cultivate patience.  Life is catching me behind my natural pace for new skills and challenge projects.

Sewing hem for cottolin Elin kitchen towels from the loom of irieknit

Hemmed 2 months after weaving

In between cutting this warp from the loom, and finishing steps, I learned that a good acquaintance who lives near to us was seriously ill.  We were high school friends, and she had moved to Canada before we did.  Even with overlaps in circles at home, I only realized at the end of April that she had been in hospital for most of winter.  This arc of being able to rise to the occasion has been fulfilling in many ways.  It has also shown the upper-limit of my time and energy is not that far from resting state.

With the new awareness of how slim my margins truly are (as opposed to wishful thinking), I will focus on sustaining my home practice.  This meant answering with a no thank you for a teaching opportunity.  It’s a new and frankly unexpected patience.

Andean low-whorl drop spindle with Corriedale wool

Teaching T to spin with an Andean Pushka!

It has meant that I could participate in the Tour de Fleece even as it crossed both of our mothers visiting this summer.  The guest bed does close my loom… Patience is a virtue, right?  That too passed, and the Mighty Wolf breathes again.  This dug into my brain a little – spring sampling and all – and is a set of 2 rosepath combination twill baby blankets from a 5 yard warp.

Weaving cotton rosepath 2-colour blankets by irieknit

Colour and weave (and treadling mistake) rosepath plus in 8/4 cotton

This is the first with the entered colours reversed as weft.  It is a 14-thread repeat, and was a joy to weave.  I used a new Leclerc temple, and have Beam me Up Scotties finally on the cloth beam.  Black lacing is banished forever!

As patience has its limits, I also bought an electric bobbin winder that I used in weaving the 2nd blanket on this warp.

Time for this post is slipping away, and I best get to the cotton spins.  They are the very soul of a patience I never had.  Good thing that I am both stubborn and thrilled to have something meditative for these nights after navigating the unseen special needs of our home life.

Handspinning cotton three ways Atoni rosewood spindle with brown cotton; Takhli with Egyptian cotton slyver; African bead whorl with Egyptian cotton puni

Atoni rosewood spindle with brown cotton; Takhli with Egyptian cotton slyver; African bead whorl with Egyptian cotton puni

The state of these 3 cotton spins has moved since this June 21st picture albeit slowly.  The Rosewood spindle of the Atoni people, East Timor has not changed much & should be wound-off.  The takhli has a 2-year spin of Egyptian cotton top that sits as singles today:

Handspun singles balls by irieknit Egyptian cotton

Hard won 50g of Egyptian cotton top in singles balls

The loose goal is to perhaps use these as weft singles.

Handspun cottons Pima seed, brown cotton seed on Atoni Rosewood spindle from East Timor and African bead whorl spun by irieknit

Pima seeds and singles ball, brown cotton on Atoni spindle, Egyptian cotton puni on African bead whorl

The goals are even more loose with these.  It starts as ideas to spin with new tools, and I let it lead me.  These are closer to my new pace but also to hearing our friend’s advice to parent for the long haul.  None is overblown – we are going to do well if we can.  This summer it meant 1 short day-camp, 2 house guests, no break from the home, and hitting our prime family outings.  Much like blog posting was left undone.  I am trying to embrace both WIPs and the progress that lives in them.

As tiring as this phase has been on different levels it is helping so much.  We can see new things are possible, and add them as we can.  It’s not just short, silly projects as I feared.  It’s also not going at my own way and pace.

Hibiscus flowering by irieknit

End of summer blooms!

 

 


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Stepping up to 8-shaft patterns

Very quickly because I am in prime weaving time… this is happening!

Weaving two block broken twill Elin kitchen towels by irieknit

All 8 shafts are in use!

A first Elin Towel in the two block broken twill was yesterday’s weaving.  After much care for warping and tying-up to the kit’s instructions, I chose to weave 6 repeats of the first block, and 2 repeats of the second.

The shine on my cloth beam was a happy surprise, and you can see why in this next threading image.

Threading for Elin Towels on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit

Deep breathing for the threading part

The kit yarn is Bockens Nialin 22/2, which is 60% cotton, 40% flax.  At this point, I saw neither the shine nor the flipping of threads in this section of the warp coming.

Apart from needing to take extra care with threading back to symmetry, I enjoyed having all 8 shafts with these two straight threading blocks.  Having more room to see the pattern take shape on the shafts was very interesting.

Beaming on cottolin Elin Towels on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit

Laced-on! Twist kept all behind the heddles.

The adjustments after this point were fairly minor.  No part of this has been speedy but the eight treadle weave has made sense quickly enough.

This kit by Joanne Hall was from my friend Margaret’s stash a couple of years ago.  Finding things like a 3-thread cross, and different warp ties perked me up.  After three months with my loom folded behind a big guest bed, I was itching to weave.  Following the kit let me do that, and then I decided why not go for this new step to using the back shafts of the loom.

In the past a lot of my weaving has gone to others; these may stay in a tighter circle.  The colours are so crisp, and I want at least a matching pair for our home.  Nesting does new things, and it’s good self-worth!

Snow day in March break Oh Canada

An Oh Canada March break helped this weaving happen

It’s cold out but I can hear birds singing & a rabbit crossed our path on the way to T’s school this morning.  For now, I’ll be at the loom!

 


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Mittens matter

The past couple of weeks have pressed all of T’s mittens into use.  In addition to the 3 pairs of plain stockinette knit mittens he has a store-bought pair that withstands the snow play longer.

It’s a strategy that left me with wiggle-room for the inevitable… a lost mitten.  It happened!  Not quite 2 months into his school career, I looked down at pick-up time with an instant, “Hey!  Where’s your other mitten, hon?”

Yarn bowl of irieknit's Peace Fleece yarn for mittens

Peace Fleece – reserved for mittens apparently

We asked, and looked but a Peace Fleece mitten is lost to the environment.  He regrets the loss.

Maybe someone stole it, Mom.

No, I don’t think so but understand what you mean.  It’s a pretty nice mitten except just one won’t help anyone.

Since it really is a pretty nice mitten, and I do have more yarn, last night I cast-on & off again for a third one of these.

The Peace Fleece yarn has all of my love & admiration as a kindergarten-mitten-grade wonder.  It comes with some VM and stiff fibres for your picking-out but really does better than standing-up to this level of play.  This morning, T regretted that the replacement is not as soft as the other.  I was sure that he could break it in very soon.

Oak leaf hydrangea early buds

Hydrandgea!

Early buds is my signal for there also being a lot of grit and mud left behind.  The school yard is making itself known with the accessories.  We are at 15°C today, and may break a February record if the radio forecast is correct.  It is downright delightful.

Handknit Cormo wool child's mittens by irieknit new and used

Well loved, and broken-in Cormo wool mittens

Remember the backup pair of Cormo mittens from Sheepspot yarn?  They came in quite handy while I took my time working up to knitting the pattern a 7th time!

Of the 3 pairs, it is the superwash Rowan wool mittens that has fared the worst under T’s outdoors fun conditions.  Where the Cormo pair is this picture of fuzzed-out happiness, the superwash wool mittens have pilled, lost shape, and are close to getting rejected by T.

It’s all very well & good considering that I have some stranded mitten ambitions that could start with the child’s size!  The Christmas stocking for T was a wonderful glimpse into Latvian motifs.

Handknit Latvian motif stranded Christmas stocking decoration by irieknit

A first stocking for T

The pattern is “Irma’s Christmas Stocking” from the Fall 2011 issue of Knitting Traditions.  After lots of delving, I replaced the 5th chart with a motif given as from Kurzeme in “Latvian Mittens” by Lizbeth Upitis. Specifically, chart 122, plate 13C in the book.

Handknitting Latvian motif Christmas stocking by irieknit

Latvian stocking-in-progress

 

This was my first time knitting with these now-discontinued yarns.  They are simply stunning for stranded knitting:  Valley Yarns Northhampton sport.

The other day, T got my warmest yes answer.  He asked if we couldn’t just keep the stocking out a little longer.  Why, I asked?

Because I just like looking at it sometimes.

Now if this is not a good reason to make warm mittens for growing hands then I do not know what is!

Plying ball and spin-in-progress of Sheepy Time Knits merino/silk blend for Spindlers monthly challenge by irieknit


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Luck of the draw for my spindles

A new spinning project was inspired by this month’s challenge theme in the Spindlers group on Ravelry:  favourite places.

Favourite places spinning project with merino silk dyed top, Moosie and Tabachek spindles by irieknit

So much good in this

This special 50% merino/ 50% silk braid is hand-dyed by Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits, and was a door prize that I amazingly won at the 2013 String Thing event.  With some more discipline to keep equally special spindles clear, I was able to leap to a plan of action!

The Plan

It was actually a half-plan.  Off, I ran with the fibre & my 28 g Moosie to a spinning morning visit with my good friend, Margaret.  We last saw each other sometime last year with one thing & another.

Even with every confidence in what my eyes can see of this braid plus Mandie’s known skills as a dyer, I was floored.  It’s that open &  fabulous to spin almost 4 years later.

Simply put, this is the best of its kind that I have been fortunate enough to spin.  The spindle was hard to put down at Margaret’s – sorry if you were behind on your day!

For such a gentle gradient, I am tearing fairly fat strips of fibre consistently across the top.  When that length of top was spun, I arrived at the second half of planning.  Out came this 26 g Tabachek with a Lacewood whorl.  The rhythm is to alternate spindles at the end of each width of top.

Spinning project with handdyed merino silk fibre, plying ball, Moosie and Tabachek spindles by irieknit

Current situation: favourite place deeply imagined

The inspiration place is again, Frenchman’s Cove in Portland, Jamaica.  Specifically, where the river meets the white sand beach.

Marcel Holyoak Frenchman's Cove, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Credit: Marcel Holyoak under Creative Commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

This image shows the rope swing.  It was the best fun to swing off into the confluence of river and Caribbean Sea as children.

The plying ball is of the two singles wound together by hand.  It is 27 g.  So far, the plan is a good one.  I go by feel for the lengths that I spin in each round.  There was only a small amount left on one spindle after winding this plying ball.  It is kept with the project, and off I went with clear spindles again.

With pauses for knitting, I am happily spinning along.  Other Spindlers members have shared beautiful places with just lovely projects.  It all adds up to a very lucky thing to be doing this month.

Play doh design at irieknit's

New family creating

Happy Family Day weekend, Ontario readers.  Unless T returns from school with the missing Peace Fleece mitten, I may be back to the remnants with a purpose!

We have coughs due to colds, and our own outings may take a hit – be well!