The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


2 Comments

Submitted with fingers crossed – first Juried Show

Triangle shawl in handspun Muga silk and Japanese seed beads original design

Just a glimpse, Muga silk lace

This week was the take-in of pieces for the Burlington Handweavers & Spinners Guild‘s bi-annual juried show, “Plumage.”  I have submitted this original design beaded triangle shawl, knitted in my handspun 2-ply Muga silk.  It is lightly beaded with Japanese Miyuki 8/0 seed beads.

Without a doubt this was my most challenging design work to date.  After submitting on Wednesday afternoon, I realized that I really would be happy to publish this as a pattern.  My charting and notes are long-hand at the moment but I sense that this piece is not finished stretching my abilities just yet.  What grounds this idea is the fact that months ago I signed-up to take Kate Atherley’s class on pattern writing at the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic, which is tomorrow morning!

In holding back while I work through the impulse let me just share the first part of my write-up for the shawl’s submission:

The gold-brown natural Muga colour evokes the Golden Eagle.  Muga silkworms are semi-domesticated in Assam, N.E. India.  The spinning fibre is rarely available, and is prepared after the cocoons are reeled for weaving from the waste and breeder cocoons.  The fibre is finer than Tussah silk, and I spun it for a balanced laceweight yarn with the organic texture.  It is highly durable silk, spun to enhance its shine…

Learning more about Muga silk culture for this entry form writing exercise was so exciting.  Several sites stated that woven Muga textiles increase in shine with each wash, and that the fibre is also traditionally used for embroidery.  I also learned that Muga silk saris are handwoven in the home by women of all backgrounds, and are passed down as heirlooms in Assamese families.  Guess who is totally intrigued?!

Muga silk handspun lace yarn on antique Canadian niddy noddy

As it then was, Muga silk on my antique niddy noddy

I also submitted my Tibetan Clouds handspun stole that was completed in the fall.  The large (i.e. huge on me) size and Sivia Harding’s design for Tibetan Buddhist art elements both evoked the mythic bird, Garuda.  He is the king of birds, and represents widsom and openness.  See how it works in this context?

Handspun Tibetan Clouds beaded stole for 2014 juried show, Plumage

Tibetan Clouds stole as the king of the birds

The show’s Juror may not get the demonstration but it’s lurking here in my blog out-takes!

Handspun Tibetan Clouds beaded stole wrap

This stole has a wider wingspan than I do.  Like Garuda who can stretch his wings and soar into space.

Tibetan Clouds handspun beaded lace stole, submitted for 2014 juried show Plumage

Wearing Tibetan Clouds stole

This kind of enveloping warmth in 100% handspun yarn is reminiscent of a bird’s plumage.  Granted, it may be hard to hang and display.

On tenterhooks

For a fairly quiet spinner like me the suspense between now and the Juror’s review on May 5th will be uhm, difficult.  The push to complete the Muga silk shawl has left me in between projects, and with sore wrists.

Alpaca handspun yarn on vintage Andean low whorl drop spindle

Sweet respite spinning

In this state, yesterday I reached for a spindle that I have not yet shared with you.  It is a vintage low-whorl carved wood spindle from the Andean highlands.  It’s perfect for this rustic Alpaca roving that I had in my stash.

Vintage Andean low whorl drop spindle with Alpaca handspun yarn

Andean spindle, patina in spades

This was a Christmas present.  It has taken me awhile to both respectfully clear the spindle of the handspun yarn that came with it, and get accustomed to spinning with a notched shaft.

Handspun plying ball of alpaca with vintage Andean carved low-whorl drop spindle

Vintage Andean spindle as it came to me – with handspun alpaca

The other exciting item that came with the spindle was this tool for backstrap weaving, a Ruki.  It is the traditional llama bone beater of the weavers in the Andean highlands.

Ruki llama bone weaving beater, Andean highlands artifact

A ruki beater for weaving

The spindle and ruki are both smoothed after years of use.  It’s just the sort of thing you reach for when the tenterhooks they bite.


Leave a comment

10 years building a life

Today, I am celebrating 10 years in Canada.  Double-digits!

We will batch-style various & sundry experiences as pitfalls, and just skip them.  They all helped me get to the tag-line of this TKK blog anyway:  Better living through fibre.

Pot with red tulips and Melvin the cat

I know what spring is

Melvin must love you now.  He only shows his tuxedo bib to special folks.

Toby Papillon-mix dog

Mr. Toby Hopeful

Our Canadian doggie is older.  Here he is still keeping me company as I write this post.  He does have a few less teeth than he did when we adopted him from the Toronto Animal Services north shelter, years ago.

Jamaica’s rabies laws have no wiggle-room.  None whatsoever.  The up-shot is that a pet would be more difficult to move back home than anyone else family-wise.  This makes Melvin & Toby my deepest roots here, period.

 

Moosie drop spindle with tulipwood shaft and Shetland wool top

Spinning dyed Shetland wool top

The Moosie is a spindle that helped me start today as I listened to 2 podcasts over coffee.  Ten years ago, I had never even heard the term “drop spindle” and had trouble finding 100% wool garments in the stores.  Today, I made yarn from hand-dyed (the Painted Tiger) breed-specific yarn using this beautifully crafted spindle!

Looking back to look ahead

By taking a flier on a Romney ram’s fleece in August, 2009, I found a true passion for Ontario-grown wool.  All of this spinning education started with learning from some of you on the internet, the Romney, and a Kundert red cedar over cherry drop spindle.

Kundert drop spindle with Romney wool handspun yarn

My first spindle with my first ever yarn: Ontario Romney ram’s wool

Each year since then, I have bought & cleaned at least 1 local fleece.  This gradient is a series of sample skeins.  Some were more successful than others but I am knitting them in this left → right order.  The catalyst is Sarah Swett who taught me about changes in value last spring.

Ontario wool handspun yarns

All yarn made from Ontario-produced fleeces

The simple act of knitting this yarn is sparking ideas for returning to my favourite Ontario-produced fleece with prep tools & purpose.  It’s so exciting that I may let the spindle-spun-sweater project percolate while I start this.

Handspun dyed Polwarth wool yarn

This one’s for you, N

For N, as we say in Jamaica, “Let us build a life together.”  He sponsored, and saw me through the pitfalls.  He likes this yarn a lot.  We think that it should be a handwoven scarf with another handspun yarn.

You last saw me spinning this Polwarth on my Wee Peggy spinning wheel at the Fibre Garden and/or here this January.  The 8oz of top yielded 689 yards of 2-ply yarn.

Romney lamb's wool hand-combed top fibre

Romney lamb, hand-combed top

This hand-combed top from a Romney lamb at Sunday Creek Farm in Engleheart, Ontario is beautiful fibre.  At this ten-year mark of life in Canada, I am fortunate to have this to even think about working with.


Leave a comment

Cottoning on to cotton

The recent trouble with my hands brought me back to cotton in a big way.  Of everything else only my cotton spin had a gentle enough action for longer stints.

Takhli cotton supported spindle with shell

My friend the takhli

This composition says almost everything about what got me over a Learn to Spin Cotton phase.  Three of four things, in fact:

  1. A low stool:  sits in front of my couch, and under my lap level.  It is comfortable, and with pillows at the base of my back, I do not need to lean forward.  The new ergonomics awareness means that I don’t want to raise my drawing arm (left) above shoulder-level.  This set-up helps a lot.
  2. A big shell:  it’s from Michael’s.  I love the haptic feedback from shell ridges when the metal takhli tip moves, slows, stops.  It breaks through the concentration I have with drawing cotton back into each make of yarn.
  3. That cotton:  super-easy to spin.  It’s from the Cotton Clouds kit.  Please leave us a comment if you recognize which cotton it is exactly!  We wants more…

Number 4 of 4 arguably saves my wrist the most.  It’s my waist distaff that I got in last year’s Barbara Reid Auction:

Turkish waist distaff with cotton sliver

Distaff does the cotton lifting

The lower half is a carved blade designed to be tucked at the waist.  Slid to my left-side in between the couch cushion & arm it angles perfectly towards the stool set-up.  I first did this in another bid to focus on the twist, and fine-tuning with a second draw.  It’s also perfect for taking all weight off the injured left wrist.

One thing led to another

As I started to prepare 2-strand plying balls, I remembered some other incomplete cotton spins.  So much was just waiting for me to wake up!

Cotton yarn on Forrester Akha spindle

Plied cotton on the Akha spindle

By sheer co-incidence my copy of “Exotic Fiber Spindling” by Amelia Garripoli had just arrived in the mail.  To my delight, Amelia bases her discussion on the Akha spindle.  It is the style used by the northern hill tribes of Thailand, traditionally for cotton, and other short fibres.

Out came my empty Tom Forrester Akha spindle.  She came from Carolina Homespun last spring and is 20g with a lovely Sapele Mahogany whorl, and a Birch shaft.  Light enough for achy hands & fine cotton!

Handspun cotton yarn finishing boil

Five cotton skeins boiling!

By mid-March, I had 5 skeins of 2-ply cotton in a finishing boil.  The recipe is from Stephanie Gaustad’s “Spinning Cotton” Interweave video but is a 40-minute boil in an alkaline bath to clean & set the cotton.

Handspun cotton yarns

Quintet of handspun cotton yarn

The green yarn is the most special of the lot.  It came from Phreadde’s gift of home-grown seed cottons, and I have shown/thanked her in FOAY already.

It’s largely in the support

The metal tip of takhlis move at an amazing speed.  One light flick is all it takes.  Getting feel, noise, and skating all within good parameters has sent me searching out different surfaces.  I love the shells but dislike ceramic & wood.

 

Cotton takhli spindle in gourd bowl

All things bright & beautiful – takhli support bowl

This painted gourd is from Ten Thousand Villages, and seems to work fairly well with both takhli & African clay bead spindles.  It reminds me of calabash from home but is not made in Jamaica.

My next experiment will be a condensed milk tin.  It leaped off the page of the Spring 2014 issue of Wild Fibers Magazine.  The phang spinners of Pangong, India seem at-one with my people when it comes to loving ‘tin milk’!