The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Unexpected spinning joys

A few years ago my poet cousin gave me a quotable card that lives on my bulletin board.  One simple line from H. Jackson Brown Jr.:

May your life be crowded with unexpected joys.

That’s exactly how my spinning feels now-a-days.  The plan this winter was simple – I wanted to meet other handspinners.  Based on a niggling feeling that I needed some good direction.  I was (and am) at this point of consistently making lace-weight on my spindles but that’s not all there is to spinning (to say the least).

Overcoming my shyness this early on has been a very, very good idea!  The people that I am meeting are spinning gurus in their own right, and to my surprise they are giving me all sorts of positive feedback.  Here I was all braced for hearing that I strayed down some strange paths.  Instead I am getting kudos for making yarn solo with just the internet & books.  What can I say?  I am nothing if not stubborn!

Several weeks ago I posted about ordering my very own copy of the Bellwether’s new book on spindling.  It came in the mailbox just on the edge of our house becoming flu central.  Autographed by the Bellwether herself with a message if you please!

To paraphrase her sub-title:  it an [affordable] 21st century look at spindle methods that has boosted my confidence!  Apparently I have been spindling rather productively thanks to the excellent folks answering stupid questions over in Ravelry fora!   The book is available on the Bellwether’s website here.  Which is to say that it’s not in mass-distribution.

Remember my the-dog-ate-my-skein merino?  It’s all spun to 3-ply yarn now.  Here’s the last of the lot:

I am still working out what I could make but here’s what I have to hand:

Three sister skeins of pink merino with artfully placed strands of dog fur… hmmm…

The biggest unexpected joy?  This week out of the clear blue this baby was offered on loan to me:

I shouldn’t say baby – it’s a 1980s era Wee Peggy wheel made by the late John Rappard in New Zealand.  She’s very light but sturdy, and is very much charming the socks off of me.  But:

  • She lacks a drive band (important) and a brake spring for scotch tension (also important to my way of thinking);
  • My wheel spinning experience is basically nil and;
  • I am not mechanically inclined.  Sewing machines kinda scare me.

Having a wheel in the house was just way too sweet to make such minor things bother me!  Armed with Maggie Casey’s Start Spinning, I improvised my way to using Miss Peggy.  It was like comparing apples with oranges – Maggie Casey’s pics are all of modern wheels & I’m working with vintage.   DH is highly amused at the efforts by the way.

Around dinnertime, I had tied a DK weight cotton yarn on for a drive band, and another bit was with a rubber band hoping to serve as scotch tension.  Yah, not!  It made yarn fine enough but I soon realized it wasn’t winding onto yonder bobbin for love or money.

A short foray on the internet got me going again though.  Praise be to Abby Franquemont’s article Choosing your first Spinning Wheel here. I read it some time ago but then only skimmed through the spin tech.  Well, last night those passages made all the difference in figuring out Miss Peggy.  Resulting in a new scotch tension rigging:

Sheer stubbornness paid off!  This configuration actually worked.   Accolades for Abby.  Seriously!

Connecting the knob for scotch tension - aha!

The wheel was sitting unused in the owner’s basement, so she needs a proper oiling.  I’ll be out getting a maintenance kit later today, and Miss Peggy will have her TLC.  The yarn on the bobbin is some of my BFL combed wool, and the gray Romney.

I thought that I wanted an all-purpose modern first wheel.  Was I wrong?  Maybe I want a light upright from the hey day of a production line that ended 10 years ago on the death of the maker…  Here I am naming the thing, fixing it up, and walking around giddy-headed…  Stranger things have happened & I certainly have lots to think about.  She would come with 4 bobbins (only 2 are shown in the pics).

Anyhow, for now I’m just enjoying all of these unexpected spinning joys – in February of all months!

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Jumping off the Bandwagon

While my take on the February Lady Sweater chilled (incomplete) in sundry bags around the house its Ravelry bandwagon got a little more crowded… insane heights of popularity @ 8,250 projects & counting.  It’s cute, free, and in 7 languages.

My original plan was to get going on the baby gift this weekend.  Well, that went straight out the window… I came down with a cold & my hands weren’t down with the superwash wool experience.  I switched over to the very forgiving Diamond Galway in my FLS.  It saw me through hours of Olympics coverage, and was simply lovely to work with.

Just a note – no photos of my poor, sick face, okay?  Believe me you, I am grinning & very happy with this baby!

Teal Jan-Feb Lady Sweater

I had to stretch out the project name for accuracy.  And from the back:

Usually big old swaths of garter stitch in clothes look hopelessly 1970s to me.  What I found in knitting the Aestlight shawl last summer is that garter is also amazingly cushy.  The yoke on this sweater is a hand-knit hug.  It really is that nice.

In terms of new skills this was a gentle step-up.  I learned new things like raglan construction from the top, and 1 row buttonholes but it was all within reach.

The only thing that I didn’t like was the sleeves.  You are going from the armpit down, so every 14 or so stitches the whole sweater needs to be turned.  That was a slog and I really never got a good way to knit them in the round.  The whole time it seemed like I was adjusting the circulars &/or DPN combos.  Since the pattern gives zip in the way of sleeve length, I was also trying it on for size.  I did want ¾-length sleeves & decided on 11 ½” plus a 2″ garter cuff.  The cuffs are 12 rounds of garter casted-off purlwise.

It was easier to decide on the body’s length.  I just worked off a favourite cardi & went with 18″ long for 5’2″ me.  The body has a sewn cast-off to keep things elastic.  I haven’t finished the neck edge but may do a single crochet around.

Wish me luck with the baby gift!

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St. Valentine’s

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Tomorrow is the still-new Family Day here in Ontario, so it’s a long weekend for us.  I can’t resist dropping some Emily Dickinson on a day like today…


The thought beneath so slight a film –

Is more distinctly seen –

As laces just reveal the surge –

Or Mists – the Apennine

Here’s how events are unfolding chez nous.  I thought my Friday night would only be about the Olympics… wrong!  Look what DH waltzed in with that evening:

He got full marks for the surprise!

On my end, after getting fed-up with cables & deadline knitting the other night, I punched some wool with a sharp needle for a bit…

This dish was part of SIL’s bridesmaid gift.  It’s by Paloma’s Nest, and usually holds my small knit knacks.

That’s the end of my needle-felting love but I’m also throwing in a couple of Jamaican seashells & rose quartz for good measure.  Since they’re both great for affairs of the heart.

Also on my end, I cracked open the Joy of Cooking & whipped up a batch of blueberry muffins this a.m.:

The 1½ cups of blueberries are just wicked!  I add grated cinnamon to mine.

Of course, it’s still winter here but I decided to reach for the backyard shots anyway:

I don’t want to bury the pic of my new book in this post, so that’s coming soon!

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Love in the air

Cupid came early this year to Cuz!  Congrats on her engagement!  My girl was packing for a weekend trip down to Jamaica when she stumbled upon a box in with her jewelry.  So in the space of 2 sleeps she gets the ring, hops on a plane, soaks up some rays & family loving, and is back by her fiancé’s side… sweet!

Lately my knitting feels like it’s headed for a bunch of UFOs.  The new baby gift has jumped the line & is giving trouble.  I’m getting a little posh with the design & the shower is in 3 weeks….  Please send me your good vibez!  I wanted a change from baby clothes, so am going with a classic blankie.  It’s white with green accents in superwash wool.  I will admit to buying some hand-wash at first but realized the error of my ways v. quickly.  White + baby!

Since cables & twisted stitches are involved, I have a worry about blocking.  Which is to say that my conscience is vocal.  I should stop knitting & swatch this yarn.  Since I’m almost through the first ball, now would be the time!

Did I mention that the shower is in 3 weeks? It’s not the worst deadline ever but blankets are not small things.  Plus DK-weight blankets with cables just gobble-up those stitches.

While I sweat the small stuff, 2 projects are on hold (not UFOs yet!).  First there’s the teal sweater.  The one I was rather hopefully referring to as the January Lady Sweater.  Yeah – that needs a name change.  It’s almost done… just ignore my heavy sighs, okay?

Second is DH’s merino Baktus-style scarf.  I never did match my (woefully short) stash yarn.  What I did find was this solid red sister up at Main Street Yarns.  I know the line’s been discontinued, so I went for it.  You should have seen Carolyn & me tearing through her bin hunting down those reds!  Carolyn is the v. friendly LYSO of Main Street Yarns fame.

Plays hard to get

As you can see, it wasn’t cheap but double the yardage = double the fun.  Re-imagined it’s a 9″ wide scarf with 2 row carries.  The first push after frogging:

A full week later it’s really not much longer.  Mind you, DH has another hand-knit scarf that works just fine.  The difference here shows how much I did  at Pub Night with a Corona last week:

Not much!

So, no extra knitting but I am still spinning.  The merino finger roving is all done!  The last bit was almost intact & yielded enough for another 3-ply skein.  Here it is sitting on the Tsunami:

Marcus Garvey J$20 coin shows scale

I’m also back to the Romney & the BFL commercial-prep combed top.  It’s a nice way to break up the careful knitting.

It may be in the air but I bet’cha Adam Giambrone isn’t feeling the love this Valentines Day…

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Where did January go?

January, over in 2 seconds flat.  Faster than Usain Bolt.  It went out with a spin bang though…

There was my visit to the Oakville Handweavers & Spinners Guild meeting last Friday afternoon.  Their blog is here.  It was a Very Cool Experience!  First off, after emailing back & forth, it was great to finally meet the president, Ixchel.  Not only is her work as a weaver amazing but she is also really passionate about the Guild.  The members were also all so welcoming!  I never felt out-of-place & don’t you know that another lady has generously invited me over to try out her own wheels?!

Sitting in the meeting truly felt like someone had flipped a switch.  Here I’ve been fumbling along, and all of a sudden I am finding out about 4 local events, looking at fiber magazines, and listening to a presentation about design trends.  It was such a pleasure that I had to join!

Then over the weekend, I pushed ahead with plying & finishing the merino skein for the Spindlers group’s January challenge to spin about “Vitality.”

What me worry?  The fingering-weight yarn was was all done with time to spare on Sunday… so, I played with Picassa.  You can think of this as the “My Dog Ate my Wool” entry:

If you haven’t been following this, basically, while we were in Jamaica my Mom’s 1 year-old puppy took a shine to my wool.  He’s a bit mouthy that Ribbons (to wit, the picture above).  He mauled some vitality into the pink pastel merino before I caught him in the act.  I gave him some assertive (not so calm) dog whispering & we came to an understanding about my wool.

To honour his contribution, I spun his stray fur in with the wool.  It’s called The Itality Skein in my Rav stash.  As in Ital – for more on that see:  this Wiki.  This was my very first Spindling challenge, & I’m happy for all the love-clicks.

Still on spinning… I have ordered a copy of Amelia Garripoli’s Productive Spindling thanks to the excellent review in Spin-Off’s winter ’09 issue!

In the silence of our guest bedroom the miniature rosebush has been busy this January:

A bit leggy but blooming!

Man, is that a sight for sore eyes!