The Knit Knack's Blog

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Logwood Heart, an experiment

I am speaking about Haematoxylum campechianum.  Logwood is a natural dye that is typically sold as dried chips of the heartwood.  It was introduced for cultivation in Caribbean colonies, and continued to be exported even through the sugar hey-day.

 

Who do you think you are?  Logwood Heart?

It’s from my favourite poem, Omeros by Derek Walcott.  Hector, a St. Lucian “madman eaten with envy” rages after Achille.  His cutlass speaking as much as he did:

Moi j’a dire – ‘ous pas prêter un rien. ‘Ous ni shallope, ‘ous ni seine, ‘ous croire ‘ous ni choeur campêche?

I told you, borrow nothing of mine.  You have a canoe, and a net.  Who you think you are?  Logwood Heart?

Omeros, Chapter 3, I.

 My Dad got me this bag of Jamaican logwood about a year ago.  Having found this article I learned it was still exported from the island as dyestuff up until the early 1940s.

Round the First

At the end of May, 2011, I took my 53g of shaved and chipped Jamaican logwood and dove into the hand-spun stash.  This 464 yds of local organic Romney that I spun on my Spinolution Mach 2 a.k.a. Earl came out to play.

For this 278g of fibre, I decided to add in 50g of commercial Logwood chips that I had on hand.  The logic seems fuzzy now but I was aiming for purple, and wanted to “save” the precious stuff from home.

My method was to pre-mordant the yarn (25% alum; 6% cream of tartar).  I put all the logwood plus some Lignum Vitae – on advice from back home – in a stocking.  That went into the dyepot for a cold water soak overnight.  Then I simmered the yarn in the pot for 1 hour, and let the bath cool.  I didn’t remove the stocking.

It worked!  I was (and still am) so excited about this deep, dark purple of natural dyed wonder.

 

Round the Second

I know a good thing when I see it, so the dye pot went straight to the basement.  You know, for later use.  N had a few qualms along the way but he is a scientist and saw I was making An Experiment.  Scientists appreciate experiments.  Mold and all.

In late November, 2011, I got the urge to dye purple again.  This time it was my hand-spun sock yarn.

Mold was the least of my worries.  The blobs of inky gunk showed up as soon as the yarn went in.  I kept calm, and rinsed in the sink.  Thankfully, the blobs agreed to slide right off.  As soon as the colour got mauvey, I pulled the skeins out.  There’s no point in tempting fate now is there?

My first me-spun; me-dyed sock yarn looks a little like this:

Fibre:  154g of kid mohair/ merino/ alpaca sock yarn roving from The Fibre Garden.

Wheel:  Watson Martha in double drive, and spun on the smaller whorl.

Plied wraps per inch:  16 (sport-weight).

Yardage:  363.

Why tell you all of this now?

It’s a fair question.  The answer is that I have been knitting my first pair of me-spun; me-dyed socks.  And I love them very much.

The pattern is Clara Parkes’ Stepping Stones from The Knitter’s Book of Socks that N gave me last Christmas.  I missed the part where she gives a variation on the stitch pattern for the foot.

My little modification was to just twine knit the heel flap.  Her instructions have you almost there anyway, and I do love to twine.

 

More inspiration

This is my handspun, naturally dyed and backstrap loom woven bag from The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Peru.

A quiet reminder that I am a young grasshopper in this world rich with textile traditions.


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Stringtopia the Second!

Stringtopia 2012 was a blast!  It was April 27, 28, 29 at Ohio’s oldest hotel, The Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio.  The best view I have yet to see from a hotel parking lot…

 It was a wonderful weekend.  I took off my blogger hat shortly after arrival but not before I took pics of the Golden Stringtopia Welcome waiting in our room.

As you can tell Sandi was also pleased with hers…

… after 11 or so hours navigating with me from Ontario to Lebanon.

Look what was inside the mug!

We shared the John Quincy Adams room.  Our welcome letter says that he stayed at the hotel on November 7, 1846.  I bet our view was better than his!

My first class was All Spindles All Day with Abby.  I am more excited than ever about spinning with spindles for All the Things.  Abby masterfully took us from how an Andean child learns to spin to plying.  She gave us equal parts passion, instruction, and jokes.  It was amazing.

Proof of concept:  low whorl spindles do not need a hook, a knob or a notch in order to function perfectly well.  We won’t talk about Woolwine’s feats with cotton during this class.  Let’s just say she was giving trouble.

This year’s Kick-Off Bash was on Friday night, and little did I know what Feorlen aka Andrea (sitting) had in store for us.  She has a Certificate of Excellence in Handspinning from the HGA, and brought all of her materials for us to see.  It was astonishingly masterful work, and her presentation on Saturday was very interesting.

 The highlight of the Bash was when Janet won her maple Bossie!  This kicked-off epic spinning of an entire Abbybatt in a cool 48 or so hours.

Hands-down the best part of the weekend was the Friends of Abby’s Yarns super surprise presentation of Abby’s new hand-everything kimono.

Ellen filmed the entire presentation

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This is what I mean about the singular generosity of the spinning community.  Two years in the making, and Abby didn’t even suspect a thing!

All the remaining door prizes were thus handed out in style.

Angela received that one, and was seriously Over the Moon.

My prize was generously donated by Musewings aka Nicole the Hot Blonde, and I love it!

N, who is not known to gush over fibre, praised the colours on sight!

My other classes were with Beth Smith who was also the event’s vendor.  I took Spinning for Lace, Drafting, and also Long Wools with Beth, and am so happy that I did.  She not only helped me with my Martha spinning wheel but expertly took us through many breeds with different preparations.  And by many, I mean…

Uh-huh.  Yes, Qiviut came with the Spinning for Lace materials!  It was glorious.

I did have a cry-worthy time of it with the cashmere though.  This is how I know that Beth is a superb teacher.  She did not push.  She did not single out.  She let me into her already-full Drafting class to learn me some long-draw.  As she said, “Because of Love.”

She sold us some of her Horned Dorset so that we could keep practicing long-draw.  And seriously, in the Long Wools class, Beth Smith Pink got me to sample my yarn!

If that’s not one superb teacher, then I don’t know who is.

It was a totally awesome event.  I’ve met people who are, as Brooke put it, part of my tribe.  We learned.  We teased Josh.  We made Abby cry, and now she has her pockets.  And now, we are home again.