The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Sunny outlook

Random bits of goodness have been coming my way.  As they have happened:

  • The Wee Peggy spinning wheel is now mine – extra bobbins & all.  I might have put it this way in a former life:  title passed yesterday!  I also came home with a scale from another spinning friend.
  • The new issue of Spin-Off came in the mail – finally!
  • Delivered to our front door this afternoon from MIL for a Happy Easter:

So many buds are there to bloom!

MIL always sends us a potted plant at Eastertime – just so lovely.  We actually are having company on Good Friday, so it’s much appreciated from that point of view too!

  • The weather is beautiful today, and will get better towards the weekend.
  • Gratification how I like it… instant or nearly so.  I ordered this Mini Bossie spindle in purpleheart on Saturday.  Sheila & Johnathan had her tested & shipped that afternoon.  Voilà! She’s in my mailbox this afternoon!  Opening the Bossie Box:

The tissue paper had my name on it!  And under the layers, I find:


Guess who’s a happy customer?!  See more about Minis here.  This will be great for my Shetland wool (it’s top), and spinning-in-public, generally.  Lastly…

  • It’s Pub Night!  I’m a good ways into knitting fingerless glove no. 1 in my handspun.  I tried taking a picture of it on my right hand… didn’t quite work out today.  Zero patience is what it is.  I mean, I do have my first Bossie!

Excuse me while I go & spin for a spell.

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Wool bounces back

Saturday’s mission was to ‘treat’ my handspun yarns, and fiber for moths.  ‘Treat’ is euphemistic – really, I was on a rampage.

Let me back-track a bit.  You see, on Saturday morning I just wanted to knit with my handspun.  I decided it would be the 3-ply pink merino.  One skein is not that hot but I had 2 good ones to play with.  Or so I thought…

I wind my yarn by hand, and I had it on the Rapala fishing line counter for good measure.  All very exciting until I see that long lengths are under-plied, i.e. loose.  Followed by a break in 1 ply.  And another break.  And so on… Odd.  But I soon got the picture.  The pride & joy merino fingering yarn is hurt –  not by my spinning but by a clothes moth.   I went on a heat-treatment rampage.

Many thanks go to John Valleau of The Fibre Garden for his instructions on heat-treating wool.  Whereas the retailer of this Coopworth roving + moth had nothing to say to me, John is giving tons of support & concrete advice.

Over the course of the day, I steamed some & had some sitting in almost-boiling water.  Steam + combed top =

Yes, steam + combed top = reconstituted wool.  The crimp is back.  Back again…  I knew it would happen but I was determined to kill any moth eggs there & then.  This is my BFL.  I have been spinning it laceweight & had big plans for a shawl.  All plans are now under review.  Perhaps the straight combed single & post-steaming single could get along magnificently.  I don’t know.  It could be a design feature, right?  TBD…

Setting aside the hurt merino yarn, and the stalled BFL lace for the moment, there is some good news.  I finished spinning the Polwarth roving!  It’s now a bouncy, soft & self-respecting 3-ply yarn:

This is what I was working on last week while planning a trip up to Milk River Bath in Jamaica.  As of today’s sit & knit, it’s now my 1st handspun knitting project!

The very beginnings of a pair of fingerless gloves.  The pattern is Clara Parkes’ Sweet Fern Mitts from The Knitter’s Book of Wool.  It is true that cream mitts will show dirt.  They might also be my first stab at dyeing.

My own sweet fern made it through the winter!  The other one’s not looking so green…

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Pitfalls happen

I had a change of heart on the sock front.  Last time I posted, there was a cuff+ of the Sandalwood Socks by Caitlin Stevens.  Well, that idea got scrapped when I realized how much chart-squinting was involved.

Then I went from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.  By deciding to knit from the toe up.  It’s a new-to-me knit knack.  From its good angle here’s the partial sock:

I followed Cat Bordhi’s instructions from her New Pathways for Insouciant Sock Knitters book for the toe.  The  rest is/will be Wendy Johnson’s Lacy Ribs Socks design in her Socks from the Toe Up.  So what’s dicey about that?  I give you the heel:

Bad heel!  Resulting from me trying to fudge a toe-up short row heel for my yarn’s gauge.  Toe = win!  Heel = fail 😦  Story of my life, I tell you…

And do you know what the bad part is?  I’m not sure how to fix it.  A search for online tutorials is in my future.  For now, the sock waits while I go for long walks with the Tobster.

It is spring, after all.

There are also highs & lows in the spinning department.  The narrative, chronologically:

  1. On Sunday, I drove out to Jordan Village for the Fibre Garden’s spin-in.  Bad weather cleared for an easy drive with Miss Peggy on my backseat.  It was great to see John, Alan & Rusty (super-friendly dog) again, partake of their cookies & coffee, and meet new spinners.  BTW – Joy, I saw your old Louet IRL!  Good day of spinning on the Peggy & also getting brave enough to try out the store’s Majacraft Rose.  All with the same Coopworth roving.  After spinning, I also got some cream Polwarth roving.
  2. Monday was even better because that’s when I spoke with Miss Peggy’s owner, and we agreed that I could buy her wheel.
  3. Naturally, what with the mishapen sock heel & the “new” wheel, I had to spin.  About 15 mins into this happy state, I pulled a piece of the Coopworth fibre & saw the pest – a clothes moth.  Just chilling.  Cripes!
  4. I won’t get into the freak-out phase.  Wool is in my freezer.  I am seriously worried because I’ve had it for a whole month.  Result = an up-tick in the house-cleaning, and emails sent to all relevant parties – Fiber Garden, the wool’s retailer, and today the big-name distributor. John at FG immediately gave me tons of advice how to handle this & the distributor was responsive.  The retailer?  Silence.  (wow, right?)
  5. My BFL spindling is affected but I am spinning the new Polwarth.  Polwarth, mmmmm.

I have been busy with weekday spinning meet-ups as well.  It’s amazing how generous each spinner is with me.  They give of their time, offer their equipment, and are helping to connect me with others.  Coming from teaching myself into the community has been a great experience.  Lots of encouragement & feedback.  Yesterday, I not only got to try a Lendrum DT & a Majacraft Little Gem but I left with tips, and even a copy of Fibre Focus.  Just seeing other, more advanced spinning styles is eye-opening.

The thought of fighting a moth infestation is scaring me silly.  How do I deal?  Well, the Polwarth is helping.  Just started on Tuesday & now I have this much:

First Polwarth single, Wee Peggy

Reminds me of the Jamaican place name for a mineral spring – Milk River Bath.  Here’s a newspaper article if you want to know more:  (newspaper linky).

Currently spinning 2nd Polwarth single

Which, in turn reminds me that I want to go there someday soon!

Tomorrow, is the Spinning/ Weaving Guild meeting, so the inspiration won’t stop!  I am willing the moth & its kin to die.  The frozen Coopworth roving will go out in the garbage.  It’s not worth the risk.


Wild Whirl

This is my horns-of-a-dilemma post.  This ISO status for a first-wheel has its twists & turns.  Getting a spindle was easy by comparison.  For example, my Grafton Mala practically fell into my lap at $35 & look what she’s made on the first go:

That’s a honking ball when you consider that it’s all BFL laceweight.  I started the second single last night.

Getting a wheel – not so easy.  It’s no secret that I love the loaner Wee Peggy wheel.  All anticipated problems have seemed to melt away but new ones are cropping up, such as:

  1. It’s wee & sturdy but not an airplane traveler.  Great on the backseat of my car.  This all begs the aching question:  but will I even fly with a wheel?!
  2. She might just be the new gateway drug.  This is the will-I-outgrow-Peggy issue.  My birthday is in 4 months.  A former Wee Peggy owner told me that she outgrew hers pretty quickly.  Which leads me to the other issue…
  3. Am I thinking like a collector here?  Can I afford to?

My first guide in all of this was Abby Franquemont’s oft-linked article Choosing your First Spinning Wheel.   The title alone is so reassuring.  She explores the modern starter wheel options & comes down in favour of the Majacraft Pioneer.  Well, I’m lucky enough to know of one that’s for sale.  In the spirit of being sensible, I have borrowed that Pioneer.

Toby fights back for his morning sun.

It spins very smoothly, and treadling is a breeze.  That’s my Coopworth on the bobbin.  I was swallowing the basic looks/ mdf construction when DH waltzes in & pans it straightaway.  Which really was the only excuse I needed to seriously wonder if I liked the delta orifice, etc.  On the other hand, the used-to-me price is reasonable, and Abby made v. good points.  But.  I have to say:  it lacks a back maiden.  Where would I put my spinning angel?

To be honest, the Pioneer is not a strong contender right now.

My other idea is to keep Miss Peggy & get a Lendrum in the near-term.  Lendrums are Canadian made, maple, good all-round wheels.  A guild member has offered to let me try hers out next week.  I will be looking to see if the angle on the drive wheel bothers me.  If you don’t know, Lendrums tip forward.  That could be an issue because I’m on the shorter side of life.

If I have to give Miss Peggy back then I would want to go in above entry level.  I think that a Schacht Matchless DT + accessories would be a good trade-off.  There’s one in Ohio with a sale pending.  Do I think it’s worth a drive there & back?  Yes, I do.

It’s been a wild whirl to quote this BF-posted poster.

In the meantime, I really need to step away from Ravelry marketplaces!   Today may just be the day for sock knitting.  The baby blanket is all done:)

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Spring, I like

People often ask me if I like living with changing seasons.  Well, I say that we have 2 seasons in the Caribbean – rainy & dry.  Then I go onto explain about Christmas breeze.  They smile back at me weakly.  Uh, I need a little more time before I’ll get excited about wardrobe rotation… but spring?  Spring, I like.

For one thing, the back garden is coming back to life.  I moved the maple leaf to give tulip some room to grow:

Sedum’s just hanging out.  I said a few kind words of encouragement.

The maple’s out to be massive again this year.  Buds on every branch!

Indoors, I got some oregano to sprout.  It was high time I admitted that crooning over dead herb plants won’t bring them back to life.  3 months into this experiment, even I had to accept that our 2 weeks away over Christmas did them in.

These were just sprigs from the supermarket herb packet.  I think they are happier not getting chopped-up for dinner.  Trust me, you don’t have to buy the potted plants.  Ever.

In my next post, I’ll write about how I am on the horns of a dilemma.  It’s like gerbils in my brain.  Argh!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

It’s a gloriously sunny, warm one in our neck of the woods!  Blankie Love + mass-produced Hallmark pin:

Blankie Love waves hello to the parade

My Dad’s people were part of the Irish who arrived in Jamaica in the mid-1800s at the time of the abolition of slavery.  They came under the Jamaican Assembly’s policy of attracting Europeans to counter-balance the newly freed slaves in society.  The policy worked since they settled in the mountains and worked as small cattle farmers.  Did they go forth & tip the island’s racial make-up?  Nope!

Still with celebrations… Cuz’s engagement party was last Saturday!  My baking attempt was a fail.  Cakes should rise, right?  Carrot cakes?  Yah, so when that all dawned on me, DH rushed out to get the massive chocolate cake:

To the top right, is Little Cuz’s Skor Cheesecake.  Let me tell you – it was goood!

It was great meeting all of her fiancé’s family, and seeing my family too.  Everything but desert was catered by the Cajun Bajan Cafe.  It was all fantastic!

Will she mind if I show you the shoe pic?  Nah!

I’ve had an explosion of things to do & people to meet recently.  Apart from the sad state of the housework, it’s all been great!  The latest is our town’s Knitting Association.  I visited a meeting last night & was surprised by the numbers.  30 or so knitters.  Just based on the show & tell, the group seems to have a range of knitting styles & skills.  There was fun fur (ack!) but another lady was knitting fair isle sans pattern (props!).  They had a vendor/ presenter, and I left with these DPN protectors:

I break sock DPNs regularly & had just misplaced one yesterday afternoon.  It still hadn’t turned up, so I went for this.  It’s purple, so that was a plus.  The minus?  Cost – it was $11.29!

I started this sock on Monday.  It’s the Sandalwood pattern by Caitlin Stevens  from Interweave Knits Winter ’08.  One repeat into the leg, I am having doubts that it will ever come naturally.  The fact that the chart is sideways does not help.  IK has the pattern here (for a cost).  The yarn is a tweedy Zitron Trekking XXL.

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Handspun in the house

My first wheel-spun yarn:

Four whole plies!!!  It varies from worsted to aran weight at 10 – 12 wraps per inch (WPI), and is a conventional S-twist, i.e. left-slanted.

Plying on a wheel was awkward at first but I soon caught on.  I was drafting from 2 outer-pull balls that I put under small flowerpots, and that was familiar.  For gauging twist, I kept my eye on the plied yarn as it passed over my index finger.  That gave me a good read on matching the twist.

What really surprised me was how quickly the Wee Peggy’s bobbins got filled.  They are small but the yarn wound-on very loosely as well.  Here I am, a dedicated cop-building spindler, having to take scissors to lengths of singles not once but twice!  I don’t really need the never-ending skeins but it still stung to cut them.

With 3 skeins to my credit, I can happily repeat the process with the rest of the Coopworth roving.

This 2-ply Romney had been sitting on the Tsunami for awhile, so I skeined & finished it together with the 3 Coopworth sisters:

I love the shading from dark to light greys in this skein but it does look under-plied.  As you can see from the tag, it’s a nice fingering-weight.

If anyone is taking Megster’s Top-Down Sweater class at Spun this afternoon, they will see my February Lady Sweater, IRL.  Meg borrowed it to give the students a real FO example of an adult-sized sweater knitted from the top.  Judging from how quickly she tried it on last night, I suspect that a FLS might be in her future too!

The up-side of handing the sweater off was to hang out with the Friday night knitters at Spun.  I brought my BFL combed top, and had great conversations about spindling.  I think interest is growing but that spinning seems a little far-out to a lot of knitters.

Off to have lunch & get baking for Cuz’s engagement party tonight!  Have a great weekend ~ rain or no rain!

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Reality bites – I’ll spin to that

Honest truth – I nearly made my baby gift deadline.  As my Mother loves to say, “Close but no cigar.”  Friends, this is how the saga unfolded…  By Friday night, I was almost finished knitting on a garter border.  It was a beast of a job but I’d have more than enough time on Saturday to finish her up.  I went to my bed, and had sweet dreams.

At some point of some sweet dream my thoughts got real with me.  I woke up just knowing that the border was a spoiler.  It had to go.  Why?  Three reasons:

  • The garter stitch was boxing in the rest of the blanket, in a bad way;
  • My short colour changes were way too busy for the vision in white main body; and
  • I had botched the upper left corner with misplaced colour changes.

So, I ran downstairs, put the coffee on, and had at it.  Furious, furious knitting.  Does border no. 2 look better?  Sure does!   Did I have a prayer for finishing?  Nope.

At around say 1:30 p.m., I knew this would be wrapped on the needles.   It was seriously humbling.  She is quite possibly the most urban non-knitter friend that I have.  There was enough time to unfurl half the stitches onto waste yarn but it probably looked v. strange to her.  Especially since she was looking at the wrong side.  Good grief!

On the bright side, my friends at the Wool Bin have all assured me the design is a win.  The knitters hath spake!  Also on the bright side, the baby should be en ventre sa mere until early May 🙂

Leaving the sad story with bright sides, I have my 1st wheel-spun yarn to show you!  It is 4-ply Coopworth that is in a DK-weight range before finishing:

It is springy, and very yarn-like!  And I have another full bobbin here:

There’s yet more waiting for room to be plied as well!

On Monday, I found this tiny nest while walking Toby.  It was up-side down by my neighbour’s tree:

The white fluff is from fine, silky seeds.  It forms the base of the nest:

How I think us humans caught onto the idea of spinning in the first place:  nature.

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Spin, knit, spin

With my friend’s baby shower looming, I’ve had to tear myself away from the Wee Peggy wheel, and back into knitting mode.  It was a wrench.  Only accomplished by shunting the wheel & all of her paraphernalia into another room.

Still hush-hush on this gift but I can let the working title slip, right?  Blankie Love.  I wet blocked the last piece of the body – 3 0f 3 –  last night, and have a morning to post to my heart’s content.  Then there will be seaming, a lot of stitches to pick up, and a border to be made.  By Saturday… it’s tight but doable.

This is my friend’s first pregnancy after a long period of trying.  I wanted this blanket to just be a real celebration.  It’s my idea of how a baby should be welcomed into the world.  There are notes, and charts that I’ll be writing into a pattern.

About the wheel.  It was genius to go for an Ashford maintenance kit out at Spun.  For while I was there, I picked up this Louet medium Coopworth wool roving:

Heart not included

This is the now-refreshed Wee Peggy.  Polished, oiled, and scotch tensioned.

She may not look terribly different but trust me, she sure feels different.  From clunking along to purring different.  The Coopworth turned out to be great for getting the hang of this wheel.  Having ½ pound to play with has been fun!  Believe it or not, I am on my 3rd bobbin of singles!

If you’ve noticed, I only have 2 bobbins to play with.  The wheel’s owner doubted that I would get this far on my own!  Just as I do for spindle plying, the 2 cops became 1:

Do you see the size of that ball?  It’s just an outer-feed ball of 2 singles.  DH is in awe at this output – he just sat there, staring at me spin!

For all of this excitement, my spindles are not languishing.  This is my Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) that I am spinning with the Knitter’s Book of Wool Ravelry group for a March woolalong:

The spindle is my Grafton tulipwood Mala.  Please forgive the heavy shadow in this pic – we are having a gloriously sunny March morning over here!

What’s up next in knitting?  I want to use my handspun, of course!

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Guild shout-out

It’s been a slow Monday morning & I’m late for a knitting meet-up but just want to quickly point over here.  It’s a post on my Handweaving & Spinning Guild’s blog about member Stella Tang’s wonderful presentation on her handwoven necklaces last Friday.

Stella explained her technique to the Guild, and as you can see from the pictures,  she also brought beautiful examples of her work at various stages of completion.  She prepares a hand-held loom with galvanized pins, and warp threads.  Once the design and loom are in place, Stella then weaves with a tapestry needle and stunning threads, incorporating beads.  Joining the beads within the body of the necklace is the main complicating factor.

She has experimented with many interesting materials, and her compositions range from (relatively) simple to complex.  So interesting!

And if I don’t get a move on, I’ll be really late for this meet-up!