The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Skills development

I wound-off the 3rd of 3 merino singles last night.  Here’s how my spinning has changed this month… still consistent but:

Exhibits 1, 2, 3 Spun in that order.

… clearly I am spinning with more yarn on the spindle’s shaft before I call it quits.  Each ball is a single that I wound-off and rolled on itself… no other core but the single.  Just a little trick that I learned from Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont.

The downside to this nice illustration is that if I go ahead with ‘Plan A’, i.e. plying exhibits 1, 2 & 3 together for the January Spindlers’ group challenge, I’m left with silly remnant balls.  A ‘Plan B’ would be to forget the challenge & spin the rest of the wool for an even (I hope) match.  Things that make me go, “Hmmmm.”

I’m very excited because this afternoon is the meeting for the Handweavers & Spinners Guild.  I actually need to get a move on for said reason!

Have a great weekend!

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Worthwhile endeavours

One of my favourite fiber blogs is island sweet out of Newfoundland.  This Monday she wrote this post on her new fresh flowers.  I couldn’t agree more – fresh flowers keep me going this time of year, as island sweet notes this is when “nature sleeps.”  My kitchen orchids are the stars of the household in winter.  This year is the biggest display yet:

Pippi, over there on the left is working up her own spike.

I am torn between spinning this 3rd single for my merino yarn, and knitting the January Lady Sweater.  Singles 1 & 2:  “Are we there yet?”

That’s right, the January Lady Sweater is not gathering dust in a corner.  The gull lace’s row 1 kept tripping me up but I finally got the hang of it, and am going at a bit of a clip.  Just adding a single marker at mid-back is what helped me not knit way past what Finella calls, un petite boo boo.

If you follow the Yarn Harlot, you know that her anniversary post was poignant.  She worries that 6 years in her blog is less relevant in this age of Ravelry.  Followed by a mile-long comment roll from readers (yours truly included) who beg to differ.

Raising my hand to speak now.  Almost 4 years ago, I found the Harlot by hook or by crook.  How many times did I check the blog for respite from the daily big-city grind?  I was on a tight pivot between Knitty & Yarn Harlot.  Who knew there was a knitting scene… in Toronto?!  I was Clueless.  She gets that she grew into a Very Important Blog, and has the banners to prove it.

Now, I’m not raising my voice or anything when I type… It’s not a thing of the past, Ms. Pearl-McPhee!  Seriously.  Let’s fast-forward to September ’09.  There I was sucking-up Ravelry, and You Tube like you wouldn’t believe.  I was almost done cleaning Peter-Tosh-the-Fleece & was gearing-up for the Kundert spindle’s arrival.  Excited like crazy… but. Essentially. Clueless.

Clueless that is, until I caught sight of a post on a certain blog about a Field Trip dated September 2nd.  The one I speak of is  here.  What did I learn?  Why that the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is a very fiber-friendly place.  Now all good things in my life happen in chains & this is no different.  The Harlot-Induced Chain went like this:

  • Man, I have to get to this winter’s Royal!
  • And so I did (true story).  It wasn’t just about a day at a fair though.  I was bowled-over by the Guilds and the drop spindlers.  So much so that I dropped the shy act & actually spoke with any available person.  They told me amazing things (funny how that works, isn’t it?!).  Like how there’s actually an Oakville Handweavers & Spinners Guild.
  • Just last week I acted on that information & wrote to Guild President, Ixchel Suarez about attending a meeting.  Now I’ll be going on Friday.   They haven’t even met me yet but are already extending a welcoming, helping hand.

It all started because of a blog post.  Whatever she decides, I have the Harlot to thank for enriching my life like this.  She’s at the receiving end of brutal reactions but should also know about the good that comes of her blog.  Hey, she brought me out of my shell over and again.  That’s something!

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Slightly Slutty er Slouchy Socks

A pair of socks that are slightly slutty?  Blame it on the sale-bin yarn.  Cookie A.’s design for Angee is pretty tame but in hot pink Jitterbug?  Then it’s the Lady Saw of socks:

That alizarine 119 colourway is bright.  Better than light therapy for SAD!  Take 50%-off and everything looks cool in the LYS, right?

Remember how I added 4″ to the cuff, and shaped it out down the leg?  Next time I’ll only add 3″ in.  The top is slightly slouchy & the arches are on the baggy side if I’m being honest.  I think that a short-row heel may give a better balance for my school m’arm calf → heel issues.  This is my 2-pronged strategy for attaining the elusive fit:

  1. Work through my new books Socks from the Toe Up by Wendy Johnson & New Pathways for Insouciant Sock Knitters by Cat Bordhi; and
  2. Dust-off yonder treadmill.

As you can see, the toes don’t match.

That would be because my (diligent) notes that covered foot & toe shaping were lost on Air Jamaica flight JM078 in December.

There you have it – 1st Cookie A. pattern & 1st FO of 2010!

On Friday I found out that another baby gift needs to be queued.  My girlfriend is pregnant & due early May.  She doesn’t know the baby’s sex, so my first thought is a blanket… not sure what type yet but am working on it.

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Progress 2 ways and Kindness

This might look like I’m at a standstill but really this is a spanking new January Lady Sweater:

Version 1.o was sadly deluded.  It was kidding itself into thinking that it could ever fit me.  So, to mix metaphors, I bit the bullet & frogged.

Not pointing fingers or calling names but sometimes garter stitch knitting can go to one’s head.  Version 2.0 is not only knit according to the yarn’s gauge but also up a size to the 37½ bust.  It also boasts a slip-stitch edge and neater buttonholes.  Now for the yards of EZ’s gull lace pattern…

I also made good on the promise to sample the fruits of my hand-spinning.  Thanks to Amelia Ask the Bellweather‘s post for Beginning Spinners like me, I found 2 free & easy spinner’s control cards:  from a guild; & on flicker.

Armed thusly, I backed out the grey Romney/ mystery wool 2-ply for a test drive.  A mere slip of a thing at 46′ & 20 wraps per inch (wpi).  Meaning that it is a scrap of fingering weight.  Perfect for sampling.  On my US 2/ 2.75mm needles it became something:

From that wee swatch I am relieved to see that my counter-clockwise hand-spun (z twist) didn’t want to split much on knitting & has no bias.  Of course, it’s a wee thing, so we shall see.  I’ll be paying closer attention to swatching from here on in.  Really.

Why do I have z-twist yarn?  Yah.  I spin sitting down like a market woman – inner left thigh rolling to be exact.  [Mother did shudder]

As for kindness… a week ago First Susan from the Wool Bin’s knitting group gave me her super-bulky alpaca scarf.  It’s fantasically warm:

Second Susan originally bought this Misty Alpaca yarn, hated the colourway & destashed it over to First Susan.  At the meet-up I was alone in loving the FO’s bright colours.  That very week, First Susan presented it to me!  Here I am that day in my coat, hat & new scarfy:

How did I ever go this many years without a long, thick scarf of my own?  Duh!

This scarf isn’t only warm though.  It’s a splash against dreary winter days like this:

Thanks again to the 2 Susans!

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Fibre Garden’s Spin-In

Many thanks to my yarnie enabler, Joyja for the heads-up on the 1st spin-in at The Fibre Garden!  It is a still-very-new (4 months) store in Jordan Village just under an hour away.  Jordan is  in Niagara wine country & was bustling with people attending the “Not just Ice-Wine” festival.

I was excited to see a fiber-only store.  This place is ridiculous!  Not only have John & Alan stocked their store beautifully but the atmosphere is perfect.  It’s in an old home on the village’s Main Street.  If that didn’t charm the heck out of me then their shepherd-mix, Rusty did!  There are skeins upon skeins of hand-spun, hand-dyed yarns.  Then you see the shelves and baskets of rovings – not just commercial-prep!    I made off with this 120 g of cream Blue-faced Leichester (BFL):

Loved the selection of those breed-specific wools!  They have wheels, spindles and some prep tools.  It’s ridiculous!

The spin-in was such a great experience.  We had good lighting, and plus me there were 6 wheel spinners.  Everyone was warm, and there was a great range of skills in the room.  I wasn’t the only beginner but there were professionals too.  People were so generous – 1 gentleman actually presented me with a low-whorl spindle!  I have wanted to learn how to low-whorl & now I can!  Together with the Grafton Mala that I bought, I doubled my spindle collection in 1 fell swoop!

The Mala (in front) is tulipwood, and is in the same weight-range as my Kundert.  I started to spin the BFL on the Mala, yesterday.  It’s not as fast as the Kundert but has quite a smooth spin.  The low-whorl is the big one in the back.   Its whorl needs a little stabilizing, I think.  I have figured out a half-hitch & am experimenting with small bowls I have sitting around the house.

I also briefly helped StitchStud learn to use a top-whorl.  He’s a life-long low-whorler, and was getting the hang of it when I had to dash out again.  I would seriously love to teach spindling to folks, and am motivated to find a teacher myself.

To sum up… The Fibre Garden = an indoors fibre festival!

p.s. Knittyvankat may just be swaying me in the direction of a Kromski Sonata.  Hers was gorgeous.

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Spindling through

The unfolding crisis in Haiti has been more & more difficult to watch.  I stayed with CNN’s coverage.  There is the feed of raw images and stories.  That alone is tough to take but then the journalists have also become unhinged.

I get that it must be traumatizing to work in and report on this earthquake’s aftermath.  They are witness to extreme suffering, the stench of death in the hot sun, and every aspect of this whole-scale catastrophe.   It has to be worse than gut-wrenching.  Added to all of that are fears of riot and mob rule.  And still.  The foreign professionals cannot be the focus.  At the height of the emotional coverage, I complained to the network.

Haitian people are in my prayers.  They have all of the same trauma but may be maimed, starving or thirsting.  Largely helpless.  They have lost everything and must fight for dwindling resources.  Every class out of doors in the ruins of their nation’s capital.

At some point early on, I just had to put my knitting down.  I wanted to spin through what I was seeing on tv.  It was cathartic to do the same set of motions.  I am making something by simply guiding twist into the wool.  I started by plying on the Golding Tsunami:

First fruits with the merino finger roving.  I plied 2 singles in Jamaica to show my family how beautiful their gift was in action.  “Oh yes,” they nodded.  So, the yarn was on the Tsunami’s shaft already.  Rather than just finishing it off, I decided to try out this 3-ply thing with it.  Not the conventional way but I just over-plied a 3rd single.  Let’s call it an experiment!  It’s still quite twisty after finishing but I’m happy with its consistency.

This is a Romney skein that I plied before the holidays but had no time to brag on:

These are my new hand-combs – a present from DH.  See the fluffy mystery fibre that they came with?

I combed and spun it into a single.  It’s happily plied with some remnant of the last Romney single.

It’s earmarked for my first knitting with hand-spun.

Another small 2-ply skein from previously-spun Romney completes the pink & grey trio:

Now that every available single is plied, I went back to spinning the merino-that-Ribbons-chewed.  Puppies!  Since he’s otherwise a dear, I am spinning his stray fur in with the merino.  I only had 1.75 oz of the stuff to begin with.  There is a method to the madness though.  If I hurry this could be an entry in the Spindlers’ January challenge to spin a skein of “vitality” yarn.

I got a jolt to all this spinning on Sunday when I went out to Jordan Village for my very first spin-in… more about that in the next post!

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Haiti Earthquake

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Port au Prince, and Haitians everywhere.  I have been flipping between CNN & CBC since news of the earthquake broke Tuesday evening, and can not comprehend the devastation; the grief.

Jamaica is on the same fault line as the one that cuts through Hispañiola.  It is called the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault.  Earthquakes – even small tremors – are terrifying.  I experienced small earthquakes & after-shocks in Kingston during the ’90s.  I’ll never forget watching the road from our high school lab windows in one of those minor quakes.  It actually heaved up and rolled towards us.  Not breaking just moving like a terrible slinky.  Knowing just that little bit is what makes this tragedy in Haiti boggle my mind.  The people are in dire straits.  Stranded.  It’s impossible to just blog-as-usual.

In trying to make sense of this, I turned away from the tv and to my bookcase.  I found this account in Old Jamaica Memories edited by Al Campbell of Kingston’s great 1907 earthquake.  W. Ralph Hall Caine is speaking about what happened on today’s date in 1907:

At 3:32 Kingston was happy and well.  At 3:33 the city was seemingly a hopeless wreck, with the very sun itself obscured from our vision.  All man’s handiwork of a generation, nay, of a whole century or more, was instantly flouted.  A whole community lay in ruins and in tears, in suffering and in death…

I also found this in one of my favourite poems, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land by Aimé Césaire:

At the end of daybreak, this town sprawled-flat, toppled from its common sense, inert, winded under its geometric weight of an eternally renewed cross, indocile to its fate, mute, vexed no matter what, incapable of growing with the juice of the earth, self-conscious, clipped, reduced, in breach of fauna and flora.

At the end of daybreak, this town sprawled-flat…

Ay Ti.  I hope that the Caribbean plate will be quiet, and the fault line still.  I also pray that relief will reach the people as soon as possible.

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On the Bandwagon

This weekend I started the ubiquitous February Lady Sweater.  It’s up to 7,727 projects on Ravelry alone.  So, “Hi!” from the Bandwagon, folks.

In Teal

I love Pamela Wynn’s pattern description:

A swingy lace cardigan, made to fit a grown-ass woman, lovingly based on Elizabeth Zimmermann’s classic “Baby Sweater on Two Needles,” from Knitter’s Almanac.

The actual pattern is just as witty.  In the event that this is somehow news to anyone, it’s free here, subject to terms.

Apart from wanting a FLS, my big aim is to get a new knit knack:  raglan sweater from the top-down.  As EZ would say herself, it’s just knitting!  So said, so done.

Both the yarn & the lovely Addi turbos are Christmas gifts from DH – thanks again, Hon!  I was surprised to see that I may just be the 1st Ravelried FLS that uses this diamond Galway Heather yarn.  I really got the yarn to make a Notre Dame de Grace sweater but alas, swatching proved me wrong!

Gotta run… I’m late for a meet-up at the Wool Bin.

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Bright New Year

Happy New Year!

I am squarely back in Canada.  We flew back on Jan 1st, and walked right into an extreme cold weather alert.  Yay.

Did anyone else loose scissors to airport security?  Gets me every time.  Either coming or going, a pair will be confiscated.  So there I was, tired after partying the new year in hours before, leaving Jamaica.   As soon as the lady told me to open the Lexie Barnes, I knew it.

“Oh crap,” said I, remembering the v. pointy Fiskar’s scissors.  Eeerks – wrong thing to say!  I got off though.  The lady was perplexed by the spindles, yarn & corresponding pink fluff.  Then the sight of socks-in-progress gave her pause.  I wasn’t expecting what happened next.  She removed my tapestry needles.  They are blunt with big enough eyes to thread yarn.  It’s a good set I got years ago when I just started to knit.  You could say that I am attached to my needles.  I woke right the hell up.  It took some calm pleading but the lady and her (thankfully female) supervisor recognized I am fully eccentric & harmless.  Maybe just maybe they also recognized that in the big, bad world blunt needles are of no moment.

In the end, I conceded 1 sharp needle and my 4th pair of scissors.  I did sock knit the entire flight, and that was some consolation.

About the pink fluff & spinning.  I had both spindles with me on this trip, and loved spinning in the back-yard.  One night, I was on the computer & looked over to see the puppy at play.  Took me a second to realize what he was chewing, the fiend.  After photo:

He took the finger roving straight off the card-table & had a grand old time.  The culprit – can you tell he’s mouthy?


This is what Abby Franquemont means in Respect the Spindle when she says on p. 115 that to avoid “spindle disasters” she follows this basic rule:

Don’t leave spindles where they’ll be attractive to a pet.

Yeah, that goes for the fibre supply too, folks!

Speaking of that wonderful book, here it is with my other Christmas books chilling in the mango tree:

They are all excellent books.  I just pored over the Knitter’s Book of Wool & am planning to make the Hill Country Hat for DH this winter.  The free pattern is here.

My new Golding Tsunami plied the merino like a dream.  It likes the grass:

I have decided to add a 3rd ply to this so that the finished yarn will be rounder.  The Ribbons-affected mess is actually still spinnable.  I will, of course, be washing the yarn as usual before using.

As much as I miss family, friends, and the decently warm weather, it is nice to be back.  The orchids welcomed us with this display!

My other plants survived surprisingly well.  Toby was just a bundle of joy when we showed up at the kennel too 🙂

What are my knitting resolutions for 2010?  Here’s a cross-post of something I wrote on Ravelry, yesterday:

1. Learning new ways to knit socks.  I have stash & 2 new books in hand.
2. Spin up a storm.
3. Knit for DH this winter – casted on for his scarf; he now wants a hat as well.
4. Selfish sweater knitting.  The upside of weight-gain?
5. Not to forget who turned out to be knitworthy this Christmas, and who did not!
6. Keep on blogging.  With new patterns on offer.