The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Sneak Peeks

I haven’t been able to post lately because my computer is on a rampage.  It’s slower than ever & crashes whenever it wants to.  It might just be hung up on a major MS update like DH says but we bought it 5 years ago to the month.  The 1st hard drive crashed months ago & this just seems like the last throwes of a tired Dell.

This weekend was all about organizing my many WIPs.  Then I put everything else away & had at my baby gift.  I love the border motif & hope (really hope) that it will even out on blocking.

Sweetie Pie to date

Sweetie Pie to date

Still very much in the development phase, and that’s all I have to say about that – for now!

After a long engagement, my brother’s wedding is really almost here.  This has official Wedding of the Year status.  I am even more excited because both DH & I are in the bridal party.  It’s all happening one October evening in San Francisco.  Do you see where I am going with this?  Sleeveless bridesmaid dress; night chill.

I kept ignoring the thought that I will need a cover-up for this wedding too.  The issue is that just this past May, I flaunted my silk Wedding Guest Shrug before a lot of the same people.  I know that a reprise might just make me that gimmicky knitter… Anyhow, I was being a dolt & am big enough to admit it.  Solution is the Wisp by Cheryl Niamath.  It’s a free Knitty pattern here.  The designer blogs as Fetching Knits.

The bridesmaid dress is all black & here’s what I am doing with the pattern:

Wisp of Necessity

Wisp of Necessity

I am using the recommended Rowan mohair & silk blend yarn in black on larger needles (size 10).  The blue yarn is not just an accent.  It’s 100 yards left of a skein of Alchemy mohair that the happy couple gave me for Christmas 2006.  Not enough for the full pattern.  I would love feedback on this one – DH’s nods are just not very convincing at this point…  Thanks!

By the way – mohair is a beast to work with.  The pattern is easy cheesy but the mohair is already giving trouble!

I have to run.  Toby has a vet appointment this morning & I am faaar from ready – happy knitting!

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WIP in the Vault

I really have rolled up my sleeves this week for baby Sierra’s real gift.  It’s another knitted piece of clothing for the nugget, and I am going for an original design.  Not as easy as I thought!  Having 2 diametrically opposite colour schemes to choose from?  Yea… scrapped the turquoise Rowan Calmer ideas.  New scheme looks like:

The working title is “Sweetie Pie for Sierra”.  I’ll keep dropping hints but have to keep the details out of TKK for now…

In terms of designing, this is my 1st garment; & sketched-up pattern.  My techniques books are all out, and all sorts of good stuff.  If all goes well there will be a pattern to be had out of this effort!

Speaking of baby gifts, Sammy’s Mom sent the sweetest note about his vest.  It totally brightened my day.  She wrote that I should keep up with my knitting, “even if you bring smelly wool into the house to do it!”  Gotta love the knitworthy, man!

Our weather seems to be clearing up a bit, so I can get those last few plants in the ground & also get back to the fleece prep work.  Cannot believe it but Brother Man’s wedding is around the corner!!!  Destination wedding for us:  San Fran or bust!

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Ring the Alarm…

… another summer is dying!  Wyoy, yea!  [With apologies to Tenor Saw & dancehall fans everywhere].

I made haste this weekend true to my word.  It was all about prepping the wool.  A good armful of the raw stuff hit the compost bin… yucky I can deal with but mildew?  The last of the summer wool (out on my 3rd world drying racks):

L-R: bamboo shoerack, baby crib springs on pails, & dog crate

Hey, it may be an eyesore but it’s a functional eyesore.

When not washing the wool, I sat in the sun like a real hippie and flick carded the wool into submission.  I should note that I didn’t leap into the handwashing/ drying rack operation out of sheer enthusiasm.  Many people just use top-load washing machines & driers.  I actually had no choice thanks to our front-load beauties.  Not entirely a bad thing.  I had the time, and:

  • Like working with my hands (obviously) & with step-by-step systems;
  • The weather co-operated for once;
  • The 1st – 2nd wash is/are pretty groady – the sheep eats, prays & yes, loves in his fleece for real; and
  • Better to pick out all the hay, seeds, and other stuff gradually as the wool dries.

The last point dawned on me as I sat & carded the wool that Joyja had washed in her machine.  It’s v. soft but there’s so much of the hay, etc. worked in deep.  In my set-up, I can tease the seed pods out without bursting them.  Well, the wash/ dry cycle sets the little pesky seeds free & all the brushing in the world won’t make them budge!  Easy does it with raw fleece, IMHO.

Naturally, I was preoccupied & wasn’t cooking.  DH isn’t one to miss meals… His famous Veggiegetti:

Saturday Lunch

Pretend that it also has mushrooms & onion… He was in a bit of a rush to get back to the gaming.  Food was delicious though!

I realize the wool prep really looks like a ridiculous mess.  It kind-of is.  The end product is worth it.  Maggie Casey’s book really helped me here:  wind the single yarn over balls (tennis & spare sock yarn, respectively):

Singles - getting thinner as I learn

Singles - getting thinner as I learn

It’s all there – from the wonky first efforts to my current thin & (almost) consistent singles.  I wound them together & got this rustic badge of pride!

The new thought is that maybe some of this wool wants to tame the silk sari yarn:  it needs some balancing & softness.  Just an idea…  It’s great to have the spinning facet to my knitting now!

The next project is going back to Sierra’s gifts.  I am working out a design idea.  I have yarn & am at the proverbial drawing board.  The up-take on the Per Contra Handtowel has been very encouraging.  Over 11 Ravelers have favourited the design & some have queued it!  I can’t wait to see some FOs!

This is a special baby.  Just in case an original design doesn’t work out so well, I need the time to knit up a book pattern for her.  Wish me luck!

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Day Tripping

It may be chilly but the sun is still shining in these parts!  The whole plan to use every second of summery weather for my wool prep. hasn’t taken off – yet.  What happened is that I went into Toronto yesterday for a v. important document.   The ulterior motive was to hit up Romni Wools for a book on spinning.

The day started with a leetle shock – someone swooped my parking spot at the train station!  Unbelievable.  We are new to having a reserved (i.e., paid) spot.  These lots are more than overcrowded.  Even paid spots are scarce the waiting list is 1 year long.   The someone who swooped my spot drives a luxury sedan.  A fact that was not lost on me as I had to deal with their case…  Good thing I had time to spare.  My ankle does not do running anymore/ yet…

It was a good day away from the cares of house guests.  In the cool morning my Aestlight shawl kept the chill off beautifully.  I got my document first, and then went into a Starbucks.  It’s a tony part of town that Rosedale.  Starbucks was busy but I got a table.  Man, the conversations around me & my sock knitting were something else!  Overheard without trying:

  1. An older man related a touching story about his family split during WW2 after fleeing Ukraine for Canada.  After a lifetime apart, the long-lost cousins recently make contact.  He really had me going.  Yeah, cousins all named after them for their charmed existence  here in Canada.  I nearly gave him an, “Awww.”  Except the story changes, and dude is edgy about the relatives.  They are maybe too needy.  It was all I could do to keep from dropping a DPN.  He out & out says that yes, they bear the family resemblance but it’s time to detach.   His Dad always said they left for a reason & must live the good life now.  In the same voice as before, dude muses that he lived his whole life without knowing them.  In the next breath, he went into his Christian denomination. Nice, eh?
  2. The 2 women right beside me gossiped about their ministry jobs.  Seriously, ladies, it isn’t code if you use names!

I left the people-watching, packed in the sock & went on an epic walk.  Epic enough to give me a blister.  I did make it over to Romni’s pre-blister.  There I found the book to ground me in the spinning – Maggie Casey’s  “Start Spinning – Everything you need to Know to Make Great Yarn:”

Already I can tell we won’t have a repeat of my first winding off disaster… And now I can fix the disaster too!  The internet has been great for showing me the basics but I needed a hard copy with pictures to go any farther.

While there, I had to get some Rowan Calmer.  I have a library copy of Amy R. Singer’s “No Sheep for You,” and am intrigued.  The idea is to see if this will be a better choice for Sierra’s care package.  I do realize that it’s not machine washable.  That’s a big draw-back.  On the other hand, some babies are allergic to wool…  I will swatch carefully & get back to you.

I didn’t make it to Pub Night this week.  It was right after I took FIL to the airport.  Let’s just say that the heroic amounts of cooking, cleaning, golf watching & general companionship took their toll.  In the last few days, DH was sliding to his cozy basement like all the time!  So my tired & headachey self took an executive decision and stayed in.  I was aiming to go to tonight’s Sit ‘n Knit at Spun but DH makes a good point… rush hour is still on & the traffic is heading thataways!

Happy World Wide Spin in Public Day when it comes!

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Socks as Beacons and wool puffs

I am well & into my first Cookie A sock, Angee.  I swallowed the apprehension & used the ½-off-sale, very bright Colinette Jitterbug yarn.  Which makes this a project with 2 firsts:  the designer & the yarn.  In the knitting up, Jitterbug is quality stuff.  However, about ½ way into winding it into a ball, it just ended.  A clean break.  Never had that happen with my Colinette Iona.  It has me wondering if I was shorted on yardage…  The colours are amazing though:

If the top looks wide that’s because it is… apparently my calves are rather large.  Ms. Cookie A only gives her patterns with an 8″ circumference.  My school marm legs need an extra cough4″.  Adding a few stitches here & there was not going to cut it, so I had a night of arithmetic.  I needed to add 30 or so stitches.  So, I cut the pattern down to 12 stitches from 13.  With the mod, I have 8 repeats around.  This even number of repeats should simplify my heel→turn into→foot knitting.  The pattern was written with 5 repeats.

You know, I would feel better about all of this if it was due to exercise & not a certain great-grandmother’s fat leg genes.

The week with FIL is almost over.  There was talk of being treated to dinner at the Keg for his last night.  I had designs on wearing the red Hottie Hottie tank for the 1st time, and eating a steak…  Yeah, not.  DH managed to nix all eating-out plans.  He wants to bar-b-que.  I was silently sputtering, “How?  What?” at him when he pulled that one off.  Nice, dear.

We are having a beautiful run of weather.  I’ve lived in Canada long enough to know that smart people make hay while the sun shines.  This means I am racing to both get some planting done, and prep the fiber.  It’s a dusty business this wool carding.  Yesterday was all about the flick carding.  It was Toby, me and the wool.  I am sure FIL thinks that I am the oddest creature alive but so be it!

This is still the dirty & uneven last batch.  I’m guessing that it came from the ram’s flank or even his belly.  I’m slowly getting the hang of where the locks lie, and how to hold them.  Check out how the colour varies:

light, medium, dark

light, medium, dark

I really should iron the tablecloth for picture-taking!  That’s cleaned, carded & ready for spinning.

Unfortunately, I am on DIL duty today & then tomorrow will be the airport run.  What are the chances that this weather will hold out & I can get more wool cleaned & dried?

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Knack for Spinning? Soon come!

Regards to Mr. Stephen Kundert – his red cedar over cherry whorl drop spindle came in yesterday’s mail.  This baby is pure tactile livity.  Form definitely meets function, so I have some first fruits on her.

I totally love the whorl colours, and it feels balanced to even a newbie like me.  The turned shaft is pretty but also helped me to park the operation for dinner.  Then there’s the faint cedar scent.  I could wax poetic about all of this!  The early research let me dive right in with the 5th batch of Peter Tosh the Fleece.  I had some beginner’s luck but then stopped for more online research, and had at it again.

Rustic enough for ya?!

My Pretty

And the wee cob of yarn:

Rustic enough for ya?!

Rustic enough for ya?!

I am spinning off my right thigh, which gives an ‘s’ twist single yarn.  In the heady first drafts, I was able to suspend it down but soon had a hard time pulling enough wool out of my roving (i.e. the fleece after cleaning & brushing out).  The yarn was getting more uneven & tough by the minute, so I sat down & went for the “Stupid Questions” thread in the Ravelry Spindlers group.  Bless them!  I kicked out the earlier idea of ‘pre-drafting’, & went straight to the stop & go method they call “park & draft.”

There’s plenty more ghosting of threads, websites, etc. in my future.  For all its simplicity this spindle is a technical beast.  Even some of the answers in that Stupid Questions thread were glazing my eyes over.  So after last night I basically know what I don’t know!

As for the other people in the house?   DH is stoked; his Dad is politely perplexed; and Toby is still v. taken with wool.  I am following Abbysyarns’ advice from here:

Praise yourself. Lots of people around you aren’t going to have any idea what you’re doing. They aren’t going to have any helpful feedback. They’re possibly even going to be downright weird about it. Ignore them. You are doing a difficult, amazing thing. It will come.

If you want to start down this spinning path, check out her article.  It’s now my roadmap 🙂

FIL’s visit is going surprisingly well.  He’s easygoing & dead-set on being independent.  Fine by me!  Baby Sierra’s gift no. 1 is almost done.  You can check it out in Ravelry (username:  Irieknit) but am keeping it a TKK secret for now.

I still love the feel of its worsted 100% cotton yarn, SRK Coolspun Cotton.  The flashes of blue & green gave lots of trouble though.  I had to alternate the 2 balls to finally get something less harsh/ dishclothesque.  Then I used the white for the arms on up.  So many ends to weave for such a small project!  Other issues came because I was either tired or distracted by hostess duties when knitting this.  Silly, silly, silly mistakes!  I do have left-over yarn, & an idea of what else  Sierra may get out of this!

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Laborious Labour Day

It was as if we caught the Labour Day bug… big preparations for FIL’s visit.  He comes today & there’s been some serious graft – everything from pruning bushes to cleaning the fridge.  This weekend on top of regular inside jobs, windows got washed, the garage got tidied/ purged, the snowblower got fixed, etc.  So, we are almost ready for the Force of Nature’s arrival!  Almost.

Of course, wool processing took a back seat.  Nearly all evidence of Peter Tosh the Fleece has been sent to the basement.  I got that it would be nuts to leave bags of wool (clean & unclean) in one’s dining room but have a Stepford-clean garage…  See, I’m not that far gone!  Instead, I whipped up a wee bunny with some clean wool & my felting needle.  Who says Romney wool doesn’t full?

We have a mascot!

We have a mascot!

The blue eyes & the nose are from some extra wool I kept.  The white bits came from the fleece.  Plan B is to needle felt my wool if all attempts at spinning fail!

I also found time to finally finish the Hottie Hottie tank top.  It fits very nicely & isn’t tight at all.  Even if Canadian weather turns decidedly autumnal, I can wear this in Jamaica when we go this Christmas…

The side view is my favourite:

And here’s a slightly blurry back view pic:

With that off the needles, I turned my attention back to the secret baby gift.  I decided against alternating yarns & ripped it back to the ribbed edge.  I’m still not too sure about the flashes of colour in the variegated yarn.  It may just want to be a dishcloth but for now I am giving it the benefit of the doubt.  The working plan is to use this as the main colour & change back to the white yarn at the other end.  Here it is on probation:

Shh - still a secret

Shh - still a secret

I’m off to finish the last of the chores!  Happy knitting if you can get some!

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Livity, a year in

This week had its bright spots but was essentially tough.  Yea – TGIF.  Tuesday was the 1st anniversary of my bestest friend’s passing, and the memories of that time came flooding back.  Lerone’s death was sudden – she died in her sleep – and unexpected.  At the time I was working like a maniac but dropped everything, and flew home.

Lerone used to sit behind me in law lectures.  I was the new kid joining their year because I was back to finish my training after spending a year working at the downtown Kingston Legal Aid Clinic.  Shy but full of that experience you know.  Our friendship took off like wildfire just because we traded witticisms during lectures.  She wasn’t just my best friend though – I’d say at least 4 others have felt her loss just as much as I have.  She loved orchids & Pippi is obliging with this full bloom:

A very bright spot was how well Sammy’s Vest was received!  His Mom, my cousin, didn’t even know that I knit & was astonished!  She says that it fits him & pictures are to come.  Gift giving to the knitworthy is the best thing about knitting.

Last week I broke the yarn diet thanks to sales real & imagined around town.  I need to be cryptic about this one:

This SR Kertzer cotton yarn is a soft worsted-weight that I am loving to knit:

This pattern has Danish roots.  Robin Orm Hansen has reverse engineered the pattern.  It’s in the Fall 2009 Interweave Knits mag. but more than that I dare not say!  I casted on for this on the Go-train.  When the circle was just a few rows long, an older man paused in front of me.  He proudly proclaimed, “You’re making a sock!”  Good guess but that ain’t it!  He made me laugh – Canadians are the best:)

Next, I got Colinette Iona Jitterbug sock yarn @ 2 for 1.  And later this book, which gets rave reviews everywhere:

Cookie As Sock Innovation, Interweave Press

Cookie A's Sock Innovation, Interweave Press

I did know that Sock Innovation has a ton of great sock patterns.  What I didn’t know is that it also teaches you how to innovate aka design!  I was a bundle of quiet glee in the bookstore this Tuesday 🙂  My knitting group sees no reason that a body would not wear hot pink socks in winter.  I have lingering doubts but am willing to give it a go!

As for Peter Tosh The Fleece…  I’ve dried 5 batches in the backyard sunny spots & they are in old pillowcases.  My (tennis partner) neighbour asked what on earth I was up to.  She could only guess that I was working with pillow stuffing & was blown away when I gave her the story!  She’s all excited for me to make a sweater.  Uh huh – she who has yet to learn how to spin the yarn!!

It’s all been sweetness & light so far… until I realized that my blue Dawn has enzymes.  Thanks P&G for putting that factoid on the back label under “First Aid Treatment.”  What’s wrong with the enzymes you ask?  They work to dissolve proteins like blood/stains & just as easily – wool.  Oh yes they do.  Before spiraling out of control, I tried very hard to remember high school biology.  I had this vague idea that heat could ‘kill’ the enzymes & set out on a Google quest.

To cut a long story short, I am reasonably certain that if the 3 boiling water washes didn’t denature the enzymes, then the 2 rinses got them outta there.  My wool is the guinea pig for this.   Now on the brighter side – Stephen Kundert wrote to say that my spindle is on its way to me!