The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


2 Comments

Female Heroes, a club

The creative forces at Sheepy Time Knits have been keeping my spinning & knitting life very happy in one way or another since I first put together that Mandie is a dyer when we met at Stringtopia these many years ago.  You may have noticed that they come up a lot on TKK, and never in a bad way.

When sign-ups for their 2018 brand-new Female Heroes Club opened the happy experiences made it fairly easy to think through.  This time I swallowed the fear of over-stashing fibre and joined on that side of the club.

Turns out I made a swell decision there.  Not a single braid has come near the stash bin, and I have found inspiration for more than 4 ounces a couple of times already.  How it shakes out in features of a good fibre club in my humble opinion:

  • Highly reliable;
  • Colourways, oh the colourways!
  • Rocking the breed selection;
  • Generous braids; never underweight;
  • Reorders sing from the same songbook.

This can’t be easy to execute for an indie dye business but execute it they do.  This club round-up is my simple appreciation.

But wait, are there backroom happenings?  No.  I am sharing something that has been consistently good, period.

Minerva on Masham

One ply ball is 35 g, and I last wound-off the Jenkins Lark spindle on in mid-May, 2018.

Jenkins Lark turkish-style spindle and Masham wool Minerva dyed by Sheepy Time Knits spun by irieknit

A come-with-me project

The 2 Turkish-style spindles are grabbed alternately each time I head out the door.  It’s a slower but still steady way of spinning a project.

Bravest Girl in the World on Targhee

A quick 2-ply that I spun as a fractal on the Watson Martha spinning wheel over 10 days in April.

Handspun Targhee wool by irieknit dyed by Sheepy Time Knits

Seriously smooth spin

The yarn was spun and plied in double drive, and the second braid is a dead ringer for the first.

As a big fan of Targhee, I was impressed with this fibre in particular.  It was open, fluffy, and a joy to spin.  The 635 yards of 2-ply is lovely (2,540 yards per pound) and so soft.

Mother of Dragons on Blue Faced Leicester

Imagine my squeal when this came in the mail.

2018 Female Heroes Fiber Club yarns at irieknit

Good mail day this

One good BFL spin has deserved another.  Again this went on the Watson Martha in double drive but this time I wanted a 3-ply yarn.

Handspun 3-ply Blue Faced Leicester wool by irieknit dyed by Sheepy Time Knits

Stormborn as it were

They are in the DK-weight range, and with the re-order, I now have approximately 394 yards (787 yards per pound).  The second braid was my ah, we are home again 2-day blitz spin.

Furiosa on Shetland

It may have been a little Mad Max to start this while also plying the beautiful Mother of Dragons.

Spinning Shetland wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Lower ratio; light touch

This will be a conventional 3-ply yarn, and I am looking forward to seeing it off the wheels.  The Wee Peggy is in Scotch Tension spinning a light 5:1.  It’s been very, very relaxing with an audiobook after long days.

That happened quickly

Spinning is in-between other projects – I have finished T’s colourwork sweater & am spending other nights weaving a band in my backstrap loom.  There are loose ideas for how I will use the handspun but for now I make the yarn.

The trip was very good for my focus, and I am happy to be working again.


Leave a comment

August chase

It was a simple enough idea that came while pressing the handwoven blankets… what if I brought T out for a trip to Kingston?  Calls were made, very strong yeses were heard, and here we are!

My cousin had us over on our first day in the island, and we were thrilled to meet her 8-month old boys.  The great news is that the hem colours made them easy to assign – one has always been wearing/using greens, and the other blues.

Morning light in Kingston Jamaica by irieknit

Beautiful morning light

It is a short trip and we will head straight into T’s school year when we get back.

Jamaican sugar cane and guineps

Kindness and yum!

Arriving in guinep season is a decidedly good idea.  T now calls them, “You mean the juicy fruit that you can’t get the juice on you because it stains?”  He is a fan of both these guineps and the sugar cane in the plastic bag!

In lieu of a beach day, I opted in for the Jah-3s Hash exploring a beautiful old estate in East St. Andrew, Dallas Castle, on Sunday.

Cane River in Dallas Castle St Andrew Jamaica

Hiking down the Cane River, Dallas Castle

It was the best kind of challenge day, and T made it with the help of his walking stick!  “Mom, I am going in the river again!”  We got through the paper chase with no major slips or slides.

He was really brave!  As for me this was so much fun I could burst.  It was also T’s first trip into the Blue Mountain Range.

Estate ruins at Dallas Castle St Andrew Jamaica

Waterworks ruins at Dallas Castle, St Andrew, Jamaica

The property that became Dallas Castle was purchased in 1758 as a working estate by a Dr. Dallas.  After what sounds like a run through sugar cane, coffee plantation profit to high debts it was sold eventually to the father of George William Gordon, National Hero in the early 19th century.  This planning site for the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865 is now privately owned.

After hike cool-down

This first ever hike is being followed by more visits with family & friends.  We miss N but have been enjoying ourselves thoroughly.  Yesterday, T answered, “How are you liking Jamaica?” cheerfully:

It’s hot.

True but not as hot as August can get here, kiddo!  I am loving sleeping with just a fan on.

Travel sock

Another sock is already on needles but I cast this on for T when our tickets were booked.  The chief reason is that his foot has grown since the first pair.

Knitting a child sized sock in Sheepytime Knits yarn by irieknit

For the sockworthy T!

Seeing him struggle with a slipping heel convinced me to pause my own.  The yarn is from the Sheepytime Knits Middle Earth Yarn Club, November 2017.  Mandie dyed “The Great Sea” and it is a superwash merino/cashmere/nylon blend.  The pattern is a modified basic sock from “Tiny Treads” by Joeli Caparco.

Progress on handknit child sized sock by irieknit in Sheepytime Knits handdyed yarn

Good choices make for good knitting

For spinning, I am excited to visit my birthday gift, a Tyrolean spinning wheel right here in Jamaica!  I have my cotton project on the African clay bead whorl spindle (look up – it’s the one in the TKK header) as well.  It’s the best for downtime.

This is my first ever post from Jamaica!  The new light machine is making a huge difference – I am so glad that we were able to get it for many reasons but this is particularly sweet.

 


3 Comments

St. Andrew Tribute – twin handwoven blankets

These blankets are for my cousin’s twin boys – a tribute to her, and an extension of The Earl of St. Andrews district tartan to the parish of our birth in Jamaica.

The 1930 design is by A. A. Bottomley.  Having been created for the use of Prince George, it is a ‘royal’ district tartan.  The idea was not just what I thought Cat would like but also to weave a sett from “District Tartans” by Gordon Teall of Teallach & Philip D. Smith Jr.

mercerized cotton weaving yarn for plaid baby blankets by irieknit

Plaid in cone form

In January the Valley Yarns 5/2 mercerized cotton had arrived.  This is not an exact reproduction but I knew the shades would be key for the pattern to work.  The real work took several attempts – I needed to find a way to pivot the pattern, and fit my 36″ wide Schacht Mighty Wolf loom with the 3 lbs of cotton.

The sett that I chose is 18 epi, and I decided (wisely as it happens) to trust my colours without pre-sampling them.  In his “Handwoven Baby Blankets“, Tom Knisely gives a closer sett with this same yarn, so there was a clear choice.

Cotton baby blanket St Andrews Tartan warp on back beam by irieknit

Beaming at last! 

A summer day camp for T made this all possible but not easy.  I happily started winding the warp on Emancipation Day, August 1.  Hemming was completed last night, August 17.

Handweaving St Andrew District Tartan on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit cotton baby blankets

Good weaving

The initial impulse was frankly hard to live up to on this project.  It’s not for a lack of feeling but the opposite.

Weaving a wide project that is also exacting stretched me.  This is only my second wider warp, and was 31.75″ under tension (I used a temple/stretcher).  As you may have heard me at nights on Twitter that straight plaid line was only after a re-start.

Rosewood backstrap loom sticks separating warp beam cotton layers Schacht Mighty Wolf loom

Backstrap sticks to the rescue

The warp needed some help on the beam by around the half-way mark.  I added tension in spots, fine-tuning all the while.  The darker sticks are from an Indonesian backstrap loom.  They were long & smooth enough to prevent further trouble.

Cutting handwoven baby blanket pieces by irieknit

Cutting to hem the baby blankets

As I have said before, finishing the weaving often (heh, always until now) gets pushed-back.  This time I paced the weaving better & kept going although T was with me at home this week.

Matching but not quite

The blue-on-blue blocks are my favourite.  The half-tones coming together this well had me practically leaping to give them a hard press right out of the machine.

Tags and hems for handwoven cotton baby blankets by irieknit

More differences!

The twins are fraternal, and so are their blankets.  The 2nd woven on the right has a green hem instead of the pattern blue of the 1st woven.  It is also slightly longer.

Ready for delivery by hand

Dearest Cat,

You have been very patient, and I am happy to be coming to meet your bambinos with our gift.  It all came together.  August has always been your month after all!

Love, Me

Making gifts to celebrate new lives is something I have stuck with through ups & downs.  The blog stopped hearing of them for the most part but this one feels extra-special.  Plus, I learned a lot in the planning and execution.  It wasn’t just booties and a cardigan!


Leave a comment

August Challenge Spin with Spindlers

The August challenge theme in Spindlers group on Ravelry is “fantasy,” and I took the plunge!

Alpaca/merino/silk handdyed combed top with irieknit's Spanish Peacock top whorl drop spindle flame box elder

Not going with Outlander, read ahead!

This 5 oz braid of combed top from Corgi Hill Farm is in my favourite blend, alpaca/merino/silk.  The spindle choice is my 22 g Spanish Peacock spindle, Flame Box Elder.

The group challenge is to spin at least 1 or more oz (or ½ oz lace) during the month on spindles (of course!), posting a skein in the thread by EST end of August.

Inspiration hits!

Alan Lee illustration of Lord of the Eagles from Hobbit inspiration picture by irieknit

The Lord of the Eagles, Tolkien

The fibre brought to mind a single thought – Gandalf’s Eagle!  I went for our illustrated (Alan Lee) copy of “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, found page 108, and headed for the passage that took my breath away so many years ago.

Eagles are not kindly birds. Some are cowardly and cruel. But the ancient race of the northern mountains were the greatest of all birds; they were proud and strong and noble-hearted…

Letting the curious Lord of the Eagles of the Misty Mountains take me out of my tree perch sounds like a good way to crack through that oh-so-pragmatic decision to miss the Tour de Fleece this year.

So far, I am the only fantasy Eagle Lord entrant but the past 2 days have brought some wonderful interpretations into this month’s theme.  Join us or just lurk for the fun, will you?

Asiatic Lily July blooming irieknit garden

Rocking late blooming Lily!

This past camp week for T was also a treat for my fibre projects.  Wrinkles aside (I answered their survey this morning…), I used the daytime hours to have the coveted dye day, spin for the fun of it, share online, and best of all open the floor loom!

Yesterday brought a new tool into the kit – first pair of eye-glasses.  Slight correction later, and I am far more comfortable on-screen.  The 5/2 cotton threads on the loom are much easier to work with now, phew!

Another week of camp will start after our civic holiday weekend.  I am looking forward to sharing the pictures/project stories with you!


2 Comments

Spindle spinning along – in progress jar

This week, I answered a question about spindles – what if any pause is there between spinning singles (first elements) & plying.  It’s a great question!

Glass jar with handspun singles yarn by irieknit for spindle projects

Mostly function; part decor

The original Q&A is in the Ravelry group, Spindlers in the decade-old Stupid Questions thread (post no. 8,515 starts) if you want to check it out.

You can imagine my jar in its usual home of our fireplace mantle.  There are 5 singles balls of Targhee, the bright blue in this jar that are an example of a 2018 work-flow with a single spindle.

Blue Mahoe blue Targhee project arc

My last TKK post had this project’s 6th cop shown on a park bench.  Let’s go back to the beginning, a very happy mail day in January.

Bosworth skinny Midi in Blue Mahoe delivery

Two happy deliveries

A wonderful ending to a long & at times frustrating search was being quietly offered this good-as-new Bosworth skinny Midi 22 g spindle in Blue Mahoe.  Thank you, kind Raveler!

When I decided to add a second wood-whorl Bosworth it had to be one of their Blue Mahoes.  This tree, Hibiscus elatus is indigenous to Jamaica, is our national tree, and we planted one at our childhood home.

Spinning Targhee wool on Bosworth skinny Midi top-whorl spindle by irieknit

Impulsive thy name is new-to-me spindle

One short skip later, I was spinning from the 8 oz of Targhee dyed in “The Water” by Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits for the Hobbit Club.  The notes have my timeline, starting January 9, 2018 wind-off dates & weights are:

  1. February 9 – 24 g;
  2. February 19 – 26 g (prize for most spinning!);
  3. March 28 – 26 g (aquas showing);
  4. April 30 – 25 g
  5. June 13 – 27 g

No top is being weighed and parceled out.  I am just spinning by feel – when my hands feel a difference in the spin, I wind-off.  The how is by balancing the spindle in a shoe-box, pushing it away, and winding myself a ball.

Handspinning Targhee wool on Bosworth skinny Midi in Blue Mahoe by irieknit

Spinning the 5th cop this May; bag by Knit Spin Quilt

Using a single spindle for a longer-term project takes an important bundle of skills.  It means managing those singles tangle-free over time.  Developing different paths from a full spindle to re-filling the spindle to completion is a personal journey.  It boils down to achieving consistency.

Here, I kept my options fairly open with separate singles balls.  After lunging to start, I pretty much had to.  Besides, winter is not my best planning time.

The current idea is to move towards a 3-ply yarn when I am finished with singles.  The yarn is under tension, all in one spot, dust/pest-free, and encourages me to keep going.   The outside of each ball is the first-spun of that batch.  You can even change that if you please.

Late summer blooms by irieknit

Also in progress

One point in my answer this week was that it’s worth noting our whole process.  All of the singles in my jar have been “resting” – some all year.  When I get to the last of this fibre it will get some “rest” too, typically overnight.  When I get to the plying steps – there will be more than 1 skein for sure – is anybody’s guess.  I can pace that too as the boss of my own yarn!

 


2 Comments

Summer dye baths – avocado now; Queen Anne’s Lace then

Early Sunday morning, I took a knife to some of the stored avocado pits.  It was a way to think of my spinning friend Mary before her memorial service that day.

Extracting natural dye avocado stones by irieknit

Avocado dye, Day 1

The bowl includes 4 pits from Jamaican avocado pears brought by my Mother-in-law – they gave colour instantly!  It’s no rush, and is just a moveable feast around the backyard as I seek the sun.

Extracting natural dye from avocado stones by irieknit

Avocado dye, Day 3 (boiled)

This is after 1 boil, and cooling on Tuesday morning.  While it sits, I am debating using ammonia again to boost extraction.

Handspun BFLxShetland lamb's wool by irieknit

Meet the target – handspun BFLxShetland wool

Slated for the dye-pot is this approximately 285 yards from 100 g of roving from Hopeful Shetlands.

I carded the roving before spinning.  The rolags hit the CPW at a good clip in the month after our houseguests left.  It is spun supported long-draw, and plied on my Watson Martha also in double-drive.

Throwback to last August

We took a walk last Emancipation Day to gather Queen Anne’s Lace.  T was game, and now understands about dye-plants.

Ontario Queen Anne's Lace prepared by irieknit for dye extraction

Thrilling 2017 Queen Anne’s Lace

We gathered 204 g in a local ravine.  I might have been more into this than young T-ster.

Canadian Targhee wool preparing to mordant for natural dye by irieknit

First we soak the wool top

The target was 98 g of Saskatchewan Targhee wool top from Sheepspot.  Mordanting with alum & cream of tartar is where T lost a good deal of interest.  Luckily, Mom was on hand to keep him occupied.

Handdyed Targhee wool top with Queen Anne's Lace, carrot tops by irieknit

Dry, beautiful top, dry!

After a first boil, I got 145 g of carrot tops from the supermarket, and added them for a 30 min boil.  The wool cooled in the pot overnight.

Handspun natural dyed Targhee wool yarn and Watson Martha spinning wheel by irieknit

We quickly had yarn

By the notes taken, I had approximately 173 yards of 3-ply by the end of that week!  It was spun and plied in double-drive on my Watson Martha.  It is a 690 yards per pound yarn.  That would be in an aran-weight range but the wraps per inch is 12 or worsted-weight range.

A small facelift

There are subtle changes for the TKK blog appearance, and I also re-worked the About page.  The break that I have taken this year from the Tour de Fleece is as much for focusing at home as it is for this re-tooling.

Spinning Targhee wool dyed by Sheeptime Knits on Bosworth Blue Mahoe skinny Midi by irieknit

Another Targhee spin in the park, yesterday

The memorial for our friend, Mary, was small but very touching.  I went with our “not a teaching group” friend, Nancy, and other spinners were able to join as well.

On Sunday night, I started a new 3-ply project on the Martha spinning wheel.  It was Mary’s custom wheel before she surprised me with her offer to sell.  I hope that her family knows how much her spinning life’s work mattered in the community.


Leave a comment

Change is good, and then we craft

Guests have been hosted, and summer is finally well under way.  The time crunch was hellish but we were able to tackle all the tasks.  This gathering was all in T’s honour.  Two years in having this outpouring was simply wonderful.

Summer flowering planted by irieknit

Blooming in time for you, dear readers (not the guests as intended!).

As it happened, I also lucked into a birthday with favorite people all either in our space or about to arrive for the weekend.

It was as small as we needed it to be but included T’s teachers for the main (religious) event.  The integration of these threads was so tremendous for him.  We missed his grandfather on N’s side very keenly.  I also could not help but miss those who started the journey with us but are fallen away.

On the Olde English Babydoll Southdown fleece

Very recently, in the past week or so, I have started to prepare some of Olivia’s 2015 fleece from Laurie’s Little Lambs farm.  The link is to my post with the fleece pictures, background.

Preparing Olde English Babydoll Southdown wool on handcards by irieknit

Handcarding Babydoll Southdown locks

Making floor-space for guests meant moving wheels, which in turn meant that I very much missed spinning on those wheels.  This is my 2nd project started after our folks left.

Back in 2015, I had a very good plan to use the Meck paddle combs for the longer locks in this fleece.  Three years later here’s the hitch in that very good plan in 1 hyphenated word: set-up.  The kitchen table used to be such a good place for pointy steel wool combs!

Here we are.  Schacht cotton cards, the Louet flicker brush, an old bed sheet & mornings before the house wakes up are glorious.

Spinning handcarded rolags by irieknit on Antique Canadian saxony flax wheel

Pretty sweet tool for the job – antique (presumed Canadian) flax wheel

These rolags are a joy to spin fine.  There is something amazing about the twist meeting the spiral character of this wool’s crimp.  Plus, when spun clockwise this antique wheel has a very smooth draw-in/motion.

The surprise – for me at least – is how the strong colour-banded locks have lost that definition in blending.  I noticed this morning that it starts when I flick the blocky staples before loading on the still card.  Darker fibres are stretching out into what looked like strong white upper bands (butt-end) as soon as I flick.

Waste and handcarded rolags from preparing Ontario Babydoll Southdown wool by irieknit

Sneaky VM, waste, and primo rolags from Babydoll Southdown locks

All reports of Southdown locks holding an insane amount of VM are true.  I am currently trying to get over just how much VM lies within.

The clear container holds the waste as I sort for the cards & flick locks.  Out of the picture are short-but-useful locks.  It’s slow but very enjoyable carding work.

Handknitting wool yarns in Byneedleandthread bag for child size sweater

A sweater for young T

This “Little Pixels Pullover” is now close to the hem, and is a stranded design.  Another pullover that T was looking forward to had fit issues, and is going to a school friend’s little brother.

Since my thrilling April “Talland Tee” knit, kiddo was feeling a bit left out of the knits.

Handspun Romeldale/CVM dyed yarn in Talland Tee tunic by irieknit

Much needed knitting bliss – a handspun, dyed, Talland Tee

It’s not an indoorsy summer (or life, really)

As we got along with making summer plans later than is comfortable, I was looking for a spindle-type computing solution.  Spindle-type in that it can leave the relatively secluded desktop, and still be a working tool.

Spinning dyed Masham wool on Jenkins Lark spindle by irieknit and library book

Jenkins Lark spindle at the library this week (Sheepytime Knits Masham wool fibre)

We know, I still don’t have much in the way of coffeeshop (or business) time – not if I also want to keep crafting.  The 2 hours while T did a library program this week was such a rare type of quiet daytime moment.  Still, there are days when I could do some more keyboarding if it would be both with us + not hurting my wrists.

Local trail with Queen Anne's Lace by irieknit

Queen Anne’s Lace on a walk this week

Enjoying more full days together is splendid thing.  The compare & contrast with 2017 this time really shows how splendid when I find the quiet moments to reflect.

This post, written after T’s bedtime, is new.  The file transfer, software install work is still not complete but I like my new keyboard.  We hope it will pan out as more frequent TKK shares; perhaps less Twitter ephemera.

Cat on Byneedleandthread frog design knitting bag in sunbeam by irieknit

Melly cat in healthier days

Our Mel is now a week into treatment for diabetes.  Many thanks to all those who have liked, and replied to my tweets as we were finding out what had him so ravenous & thirsty.  We have tests ahead, of course, but he is feeling better.