The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Vive le Tour!

By a miracle and a half, I stayed with the Tour de Fleece this year.  I posted with my teams each day.  Generous feedback from Friends of Abby’s Yarns & all of their projects kept me in the loop even when serial nights of posting progress seemed impossible.

Not since Brownies have I been this happy about a badge…  The No. 1 Project for Teresa is now at 4 plying balls and then some:

It’s been a happy project, and there’s also a goodly amount on the Ethan Jakobs at the finish line as well.

It wasn’t solidly spinning for her yarn either.  Cotton is a good example.  My Huari spindle & cotton came in the midst of the tour.  It’s circa 850 A.D., with faint paint markings and a black clay whorl.

Naturally it spoke to me of cotton.  One tour night became about sucking less on my coin takhli.  The white shell was the break-through here – it’s DRS for the takhli!

There was also the odd evening of wheel spinning.  My left thumb thanked me for the new motions.  Neither the fibre nor the tool is new on this spin.  It’s Shetland top on my CPW.  What’s new is that the wheel moved rooms.  She’s now here in my study/ craft room.

That foray was inspired by Jacey’s Shetland breed study in her Insubordiknit group on Ravelry.

And speaking of breeds.  On the almost hottest day of the year, I showed my stubborn genes & cleaned a whole lamb’s fleece.  But a portion of the fleece:

It’s my first Black Welsh Mountain sheep fleece – ewe lamb from Desert Weyr.  There are condition issues that I was told about frankly & fully ahead of finalizing the order.  The depth of black has to be seen to be believed, trust me.  It’s beautiful.

 There’s a break near the butt-end of the fleece, and some scurf.  So, I worried.  After flicking, and carding a lock or two, I was happy to find it perfectly spinnable!

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Super Secret’s Reveal!

Wherein I pause from wall-to-wall Tour de Fleecing to share a special gift.

The most adorable Murray the world has ever seen was born last Friday, July 15th in Oxford, England.  The happy parents are my artist-Cuz and her DH.  Apart from initial fatigue in her 1st trimester, Cuz was radiant throughout.  I am so, so happy for them.  This was the super secret baby gift, a Baby Shane blanket: 


As it was at our house while blocking:

The pattern is by Canadian indie-dyer, Tanis Lavallée, and came as a kit with the Yellow Label dk yarns by Tanis Fibre Arts.  Just to give the baby a taste of home!

Surprisingly, the pattern gave no suggested colour combos for this kit.  I spent many an hour shifting the skeins around and squinting hard.  Colour theory books were dusted off, and pored over in between shifts & squints.  The pattern for the border was easier to hit because I had a much better idea of how the yarns’ variegation played to the eye at that stage.

I added little starfish appliques.   The pattern for these is from Sue Flanders’ Sandcastle & Starfish Beach Tunic in America Knits.  Giving the kiddo some Caribbean flavour!

The ends were a bit of a chore.  As was picking-up stitches on the diagonal.

Cuz got the package, today.  They are thrilled & sent me the sweetest email ever!  Love knitting for the knit-worthy, I really do.

All of the day-lilies have been in full bloom this week.  Susie’s just round out the spread, beautifully.

[I edited for good reason – Cuz sent the pic of Murray with his blankie!]

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Sunday switch-up

Days 1 – 8 of the Tour de Fleece were all about spinning the lace project for my friend, Teresa.  The progress was starting to go to my head and I wanted to give my hand muscles a new set of movements.  Repetitive stress is not a syndrome that I want raining on my parade.  So, I set the spindles aside, temporarily and sat at my new (to me) wheel.

This is a Fibre Garden ‘sock blend’:  ¹⁄3 each of mohair, merino, alpaca.  I have 103 g, and have already spun half to 113 yds of 3-ply.  Today, I spun these 2 bobbins and ½ of the 3rd.

What is the wheel you ask?  A Watson Martha that I loved before I even had touched a single spinning wheel.  Her previous owner was ready to change to a more modern wheel, and in a great act of friendship offered to sell her to me.  I got her shortly before Stringtopia at the end of April.  There was a lot of pinching of self involved.  My dream wheel:

She is custom Butternut from a tree that Mr. Watson had on his property in Ontario.  My friend loved the colour, and the lighter weight of this white walnut wood.  I cleaned her with a solution of Murphy Oil, and then rubbed her down with a tung oil.

As my friend always said to me, “This is not a wheel for a beginner.”  It could be for ease of treadling, and stopping on a dime, and minimal oiling.  The drive wheels need to be carefully aligned with the bobbin & flyer array.  If anything’s off this wheel makes a noise.  If all is well, she sings.

I have the 4 original matching bobbins, and have now used both whorls.  The maker has taken a brilliant old design of using 2 smaller drive-wheels to be equivalent to having a single large, space-sucker-upper drive wheel.  He didn’t just reproduce that.  He made it as a beautifully-crafted modern wheel.  It has sealed ball bearings.

My last spin on this wheel was this 2-ply from a Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks silk/merino blended braid:

I have hopes it will make a good Helix Scarf.

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Breakaways on Le Tour

Yesterday was Day 8 of the Tour, and I am still spinning with the best of them!  In the evening, I broke-away from the home front and went for a walk.  We went down to a nearby trail that we love but haven’t visited in ages.  DH helped with the pics and Toby was beside himself about getting a real pack outing again.

I have now finished the section of predominant yellows, and am in a range of pink – wine reds (left Ethan Jakob).

The creek is low but still moving, and the valley was gloriously green.

All of a sudden my eyes focused and I saw the dragonflies!

Toby showed his gratitude when we sat down at the edge of a football (soccer) field.

And looking-up from our spot the sun was just starting to go down in the trees.

The heat was so deceptive – we enjoyed the walk comfortably but all felt so drained once we got back to the house.  Toby didn’t notice the cat all night for the happy lethargy.

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Still touring through that week 1 of the Tour de France!  We DVR the race, and I watch after work.  Cooking dinner is taking a beating but I’ve been posting my pictures on Ravelry, daily!

Day 3’s collage was an entry for Team Spindlers’ prize – you show date/ time proof of a day’s progress.  I used the Globe & Mail’s Life section.  The Go Outside & Play headline was sage advice.

Day 4 was the 1st work-day of the tour.  Had an intermediate sprint to catch some daylight for this picture:

At the end of the Mûr-de-Bretagne climb, I was nicely into the yellows in the skein, and took a second picture.

It’s been fun finding new poses to strike with the same project, and the weather has been co-operating.  On Day 5 my copy of Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook made its appearance.  There was some reading followed by catch-up spinning.

Day 6 was brilliant.  I had just enough time to finish the run of yellow spinning, and to wind-off into the plying ball.  All part of the plan to spin the cleared spindles last night at the LYS.

See the little 3 on the do-not-unravel-tape?  To signify the 3rd set of finished singles for my friend, Teresa!

Which brings me to yesterday, Day 7.  Not much on the spindles but I went straight to Spun after work for knit night.  Not long after I got there, a family came in with 2 little girls.  They were non-knitters buying a gift for Grandma.  The younger daughter was adorable – she fought through hiccups, and asked a ton of questions.  So, I got to show spinning to the youngest person yet.  Her eyes just lit up when she touched the fibre!

Shown with beebalm in the last seconds of the day.

Also making their garden début are the daylilies that my knitting friend, Susie, gave us last summer.  They had been out of the ground for a good week before I could collect them, so I’m sure Susie will be glad to see that they did well after planting that day.

The lighter orange plants are smart survivors.  They missed having a Darwin award by spreading through the fence to our side.  All originals were up-rooted by the new neighbours.  Who have been heard to crow that putting in the god-awful house-t0-fence concrete was the “best thing” they’ve done.  My reply was to dryly say, “To each their own,” without adding a single adjective.  The wild survivors now have company – yellow hybrids & Susie’s deep orange gifts.

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Le Tour, day 2

Happy 4th!  Never fails that I remember my Grandmother on the 4th of July.  A New Yorker, born & bred, she married into and loved Jamaican life.  Every year the little American flags came out on this one day, and she was the very soul of celebration.

Day 2’s progress in the Tour de Fleece!  I am in Team Spindlers & Team Suck Less (Friends of Abby’s Yarns or FOAY).  Have been posting in the team threads, and the daily threads like a good weekend warrior.

I could have spun more for those cops but was (happily) getting into the golds in the fibre.  My friend, Teresa, would like roughly even blocks of colour for her lace knitting.  Off it came…

I was super-happy that the spindles had almost equal amounts of singles on them.  The first wind-off had left a good deal over on the spindle to the right.  I eye-balled for evenness, and was right!

So far, this should be in the range of Teresa’s requirements.  I’ll ply them all in one go for consistency in the ply twist.  I would typically just enjoy the spinning process but it’s not for me.

My shoulder is a bit upset with me.  I promised to obey the cardinal rule of spinning – Be Kind to your Body.  Always.

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Le Tour de Fleece 2011

Happy Canada Day weekend to everyone celebrating.

Le Tour has begun!  The kick-off Stage 1 today was beautiful.  My project this year is for a friend, Teresa.  We shook hands on a trade a few months ago, and my part is to spin lace-weight yarn from my Corgi Hill Farm braid.

The braid is 4.3 oz of hand-dyed alpaca/ merino/ silk.  Teresa is a prolific lace knitter who test knits for some of the most exciting pattern designers.  Our friendship has grown, not diminished over these difficult months & it’s my pleasure to spin for her expert hands.

At the starting line:

The braid’s name is Bayberry Bush II, and I am going into the Tour with 1 ball of 2 singles (wound together), and the spindles in this state:

They are both Ethan Jakob spindles by Greensleeves.  I got the one to the back from Morgaine, Carolina Homespun at Stringtopia this year, i.e. snatched it up, shamelessly.

Teresa agreed that she would like long colour progressions that roughly match through the 2-plies.  I just alternate each spindle for each un-wrap of the braid.  It’s very simple, and means that I am walking around with 1 short length, the braid’s intact, and the lengths are roughly equal without measuring.

Spinning all morning long has been great.  I love Versus’ show for the Tour – they always crack me up.  The Peloton is as crazy as ever, and it’s good to see the sprinters are no less cocky this year.  There’s the new intrigue, complete with Contador’s I-am-innocent reel.  There’s the beautiful scenery.  Crashes.  That fool fan who toppled the middle of the Peloton – really?!?   2011 Arrivee!

In all of this, I am remembering family in Jamaica.  I almost flew down for a funeral that’s today.  Tragically, Bunny Francis, was murdered last Saturday, 10 a.m.   He was ambushed on his street by gunmen, and later died at the hospital.  It was a hit.  He, and other men in the family business received threats.  I cannot fathom their grief, and wanted to pay my respects.  It is hard living so far away, especially at times like these.

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I have been away for a long time.  Writing Part 2 for our February Jamaica trip was too difficult.  There are more pictures.  There is a beautiful painting by a dear cousin that I wanted to frame, and gush over.  There were stories, projects, a wonderful wheel I never expected to buy, and then there was the magic of Stringtopia at the end of April.  Still, I couldn’t write any of these things.  It felt like a cheap gloss over what’s really been the matter.  Before I can return to the happy posts, I guess I needed to say something real.  As Jamaican Revivalists would say, light a candle, sing a sankey (psalm) and find my way back home.

I am tired tonight.  It’s honestly been a long haul.  Before I say why, I’d like to say what brought me to the keyboard any at all tonight.  It’s two people:  Morgaine Wilder of Carolina Homespun, and my friend Mary.  I was too tired to keep lace knitting, and came up to dig in my yarn & patterns.  In this tired state that soon led to digging in magazines.  Somehow for the 1st time, I picked up the Summer 2008 Wild Fibers magazine that Mary handed to me with about 3 others.  I saw Morgaine’s name, and flipped right to the article on page 32, “Off the Cuff with Morgaine.”

Until Stringtopia, I had no glimmer of who she is.  Her set-up was sheer magic – the spindles alone were all I could concentrate on.  It was her presence, and later our conversation over dinner that left me with the very firm opinion that she is a kindred spirit.  Let me go snag what I know has to be a quintessential picture of her from after that Sunday night dinner:

The whole article took me back to our conversation, and then hearing her voice, I read about where I have been these past months.  She gave this answer about the healing power of working with fibers:

… there is also a process called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).  EMDR requires focusing on a specific task using both sides of our body along with both eyes in a way that subsequently helps to reprogram how our brains deal with trauma.  Our brain locks in traumatic experiences.  At the end of the day we usually process most things in our sleep – but trauma gets encapsulated.  It’s those “trauma capsules” that create flashbacks triggered by certain sights, sounds or smells.  EMDR helps push those events into a different area of the brain and allows them to be processed rather than encapsulated… – engaging our hearts and minds and memories all at the same time.

I have been processing some difficult family drama things.  I just needed time, and left that Part 1 post hanging.  Left the non-essential people hanging.  Worked (badly for a bit).  In this frame of mind, I decided to sign-up for Stringtopia.  That involved a drive of some 8.5 hours to Lebanon, Ohio!  Anything called planning scares the life out of me PLUS this crowd from Ravelry…  But I am no fool & I could plainly see that this is how badly I wanted to go:

I found exactly what Morgaine described 3 years ago in this interview – a fibre community that feels safe.  I found that, and friendships, and amazing instruction from Jacey Boggs, Insubordiknit herself.  So finally, with Morgaine’s help in putting all of this to words, I can post these.  Basically all about processing those encapsulated memories.

So, it all happened at The Golden Lamb Hotel in Lebanon.

The townspeople were very warm (if a little baffled by the people who make string…).  Just a bit of what charmed the life out of me – correct fibre tools on display!

And the Registration Table in a quiet moment.

Abby and Shelly put together amazing totes with a ton of goodies.  The ½oz Llama bag actually got me to squeal in front of the very strangers I was afraid of.  Brilliant!

Hugging Sandi because I actually won her door prize the hand-beaded tiara, North Star!  Sandi drove down with us (2 perfect strangers as she put it), and inside of an hour we were all getting along famously.  It was mostly all said under the Cone of Silence but suffice it to say that Ms. Wiseheart is no longer That Sandi but this friend:

After this, it only came off for bed!  There is nothing like a Wise Sparrow tiara for dealing with the encapsulated crap – seriously.  And me a tom boy!

Woolwine seriously impressed DH with her massive cop spinning…

… she had mad skillz with the Stout too!

Sandi bestowed another tiara on Knitwit for her birthday – see the smiles?

Jacey’s classes on Hard Core spinning were amazing.  I went in half-expecting major frustration, and shame (and tears) but it was so much fun it was ridiculous.  She managed not only this nervous ninny but also 2 completely new spinners.  Here’s Jacey in her element:

If you are like me & have doubts about (not art but…) textured yarn spinning, you should go to Jacey’s class.  It was challenging but all presented in the way we already think.  You are making sound yarn that makes the indie dyed fibres sing.  It’s not breaking rules, it’s using everything at your disposal & rocking the rules.

Jacey and Abby were kidding around at lunch (and in general).

And Abby.  She was amazing, and here she is showing us what I had been pestering her about all weekend – plying on the go.  She also showed me how to ply from the pinned ball, which was a huge A-HA! moment.

The person who put me instantly at ease was Shelly.  She made the whole signing-up process lovely, and worked extremely hard with Abby to make Stringtopia happen.  And when I walked up to the Registration table on the Friday?  Shelly jumped up & gave me a big hug as soon as I gave her my name.  I was so happy that she let me show her how to spin in the spare moments & she’s a natural!

But you definitely should not go to Stringtopia.  It was awful.