The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Spinning on a blanket

Am I ever happy that I took the plunge on a made (by me)-in-Ontario wool blanket!  How could you not love having this to work with?

Hand-combing station for Ontario Romney lamb's wool

Value add: combing local Romney lamb’s wool

Love, however, gets you only so far with a project like this.  Fine-tuning my process has helped tremendously, and I am sharing the tweaks with you, today.  Simply adding denim under the comb’s clamps has been great.  It not only gives huge grip & protection but also gives me visual contrast.  That indigo is a welcome relief from white wool seen against the white ceramic floor tiles!  Getting a clean combing is so much easier now.

Another tweak is with the flick card sitting there on top of the waste bucket.  With clean & largely sound tips, I am just flicking the cut-end of  most locks before loading the comb.  It speeds things up.  As does flicking while standing – I hold locks tightly twisted, and flick into thin air.  No lap-cloth; just bouncing and slightly combing against the grip.

By using the flicker again on the waste from combs, I keep the seconds for the hand-cards (later, much later!) and compost the rest.

Hand-combed Romney wool dizzed top by irieknit

Resulting wool top for spinning

My focus is to do same-day spinning.  Two passes in the combs is good for this wool.  I use my lignum vitae Tabachek diz (see: the 1st picture, lower left) to pull the top.  It is 3/32″, and is so cool for this job.  Smooth, strong, and a pleasure to hold.

As gleaned from Robin Russo’s video, I am now using a clean sheet on top of my anti-fatigue mat as I diz the wool from the combs.  Catching it cleanly has helped the spinning too.

Spinning hand-combed Romney lamb's wool top on my Watson Martha

This Tuesday’s fibre prep

The main challenge is to keep moving forward.  This is intensive work – both in terms of time and labour.  My 6th bobbin has 7 lengths of top so far.  It is logged on a project sheet that I keep on the dining table.

Keeping it real is key here.  My Watson Martha wheel is the spinning tool, and it will be on this exclusively for the duration.  Although the bobbins are larger, I am spinning 18 lengths of top for each single using Scotch tension, and a cotton knitting yarn for the drive band.  There is a small sample from my first spinning that keeps me mindful not to draft the top too thin as is my wont.

The Spinner's Book of Fleece by Beth Smith autographed for irieknit

Motivation in book form: Beth Smith is helping

Nothing that I have described here is beyond my ability.  Everything is unless I stay the course.  This is why I am thrilled to have my friend Beth Smith’s new book, “The Spinner’s Book of Fleece” land just at the right moment.  Beth gets fleece to yarn, and then to the projects that she maps out methodically.  As a former workshop student with Beth, I knew that the technical side would be well and gently covered.  On my chosen breed, I learned at p. 135:

Romney wool is considered to have demi-luster, which means it has some shine but not as much as some of the Leicesters or Teeswater…

What leaps off the pages are the projects and samples.  They are light at the end of a tunnel.  Here I am working 5 days to get one of these 2-ply balls of yarn for my project.  It weighs 105g.

First plying balls of Romney lamb's wool for a blanket

Preparing for a family blanket of Romney wool

Having Beth’s voice reinforce truths like, “Spinning is not an end in itself,” on my coffee table is that special help.  Her handwoven images and notes are invaluable as I inch towards my goal of weaving with my handspun yarns.  This élan of working in unique but logical ways with fibre is egging me on.  Beth is the friend who asked why I had more fleece stash than projects.  I am glad that I could listen to quiet urging, and for the kind words in her autograph!


Before I go back to the combs – big thanks for all the support about Toby that poured in after my last post.  He seems to be doing better this week but occasionally has seizures now.


Our Toby Hopeful

First knitty appearance of Toby our Papillon-mix on the blog with socks for N

Toby’s 2009 debut on the Knit Knack’s blog

A week ago, I planned to next share my adventures in weaving.  Since then Toby’s condition has continued to decline.  He is stable and without pain, thankfully.  For those who do not know, Toby was diagnosed with brain stem damage over 8 months ago.

Now, the paralysis is advancing.  He is quickly loosing function of his legs.  He finds it so difficult to stand, and sleeps even more than in past months.  Eating and continence is what we are monitoring because no-one minds lifting his 10 lbs or making him comfortable.

Toby has always been a presence in this my only blog.  He is resting here at the foot of my office chair as I write this post.   On two levels this is how I would like to celebrate the Tobester:  in the present tense; and in the four walls of TKK where others may read as well.

Information kept, Toronto Animal Services receipt for Toby formerly called Ron

He so was not a Ron!

He came to us on April 25, 2005 as Ron.  The North York office of Toronto Animal Services chose the name because of his clear rage towards their tech, Ron.  It was an inside joke, so when Toby came right away to N and not only tolerated but enjoyed our visit the good people approved our adoption on the spot.  The clerk in charge spoke in dire tones:

Do you have children?

In unison, “No.”

Do you want children… ever?

Two surprised voices, “I guess?”

We assume that he may have neurological problems due to in-breeding, and may never be safe around children.

To N:  You are the first man that he has not tried to bite.

Other salient points were that he was estimated as 3 years, 9 months old, was brought in by an overwhelmed family who spoke little English, and had spent a month in rehabilitation.  A history of trauma was apparent, and they had never seen a dog who loved being dried off after baths more than this guy.

We named him Toby on our way home that day.  They were equally right about the abuse, and his drying-off glee.  Love, and structure took us so far.  Good, gentle vets and books on dog behaviour did as well.  We both grew up with dogs but none of them had survived cruelty.

A girl and her dog, Papillon-mix, Toby Hopeful

Toby the inveterate lap dog

It was a long time before anyone earned their way into this core truth – Toby is a big suck.  He loves the love in cuddle form.  In 9 years he has never bothered with a single toy but if you sit at his level then your lap will be occupied.

On-lead and happy, Toby the Papillon-mix

Toby in on the family walk

Before his eyesight started to fail, Toby loved his walks.  We all enjoyed going out on long walks in the neighbourhood, together.  Snapping his lead for a good run through an open field was as close to bliss as we ever have seen our little big dog.  It’s a close second to the drying-off fun times.

Carding CVM wool under Toby's supervision

Toby the fleece inspector

His middle name is Hopeful for a reason.  If cheese, chocolate or your glass of water can be nosed then this dog is hopeful.  If you rustle a plastic bag within ear-shot then this dog is hopeful for a walk.  When he met new people, and a cramped apartment this dog was hopeful.

We love him dearly.  That we even got a small breed dog through the city is marvellous.  His simple, uncomplaining way over the course of this tough year for him teaches me each day that I have with him.    Yesterday, I asked our vet’s office how they handle such things if we need to cross the road of putting him down or if he dies at home.  That was a hard call to make but I am better prepared come what may.

Your thoughts & kind comments, replies on Twitter have all helped.  Thank you, all.

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Wednesday finishing and nearly so!

Life and writing have not connected in a long time.  For many reasons but the best one is how many projects I have been successfully getting out of inertia.  This post is about giving the finished ones a warm Wednesday welcome!

At the top of last month, I had a lovely time over lunch with my friend, Sasha.  Her first Skein-a-Day April Sheepspot event was here on my needles. 

Knit shawl in progress with Sheepspot sustainable merino fingering yarn

I love this yarn!

The short dye repeats worked beautifully for Susan Santos’ Magical Side to Side Scarf design.  There was no flashing either in the fancy stitch bands or as the scarf sections changed dimension.

Handknit Magical Side to Side Scarf in Sheepspot sustainable Merino fingering yarn blocking

Pattern stripes in nice relief, blocking

Blocking really helped to shape the scarf, and organise the drop-stitch fringe.  It is 69″ x 9″ in this yarn.  I knit with 3.5mm needles.

Finished handknit Magical Side to Side Scarf in sustainable Merino yarn by Sheepspot

Not the intended recipient…

This one is going to a good friend, so I let the stuffed polar bear model it for you.

Detail of stitch pattern in knit Magical Side to Side Scarf using Sheepspot sustainable merino yarn

Love the yarn tones for this pattern!

The pattern stitch was simple to work, and easy to remember. This project took me longer because I ran out of yarn, frogged and needed to come back to reknit the end section.

Tabachek cedar drop spindle with Sheepspot organic dyed Polwarth fibre

A spindle deserves organic Polwarth wool!

Last month, Sasha introduced her dyed organic wool top.  It was such a nice surprise, and I wasted no time in starting a spin.  This is my Tabachek cedar compact deluxe spindle (22.5g).  Couldn’t be happier about this material + tool combination!

State of the socks

Finished handknit socks adapted from Cadence pattern in String Theory yarn

New pair as of this weekend

It’s a real sock début!  I gave these zero air time but they were started at the end of February this year.  The yarn is gorgeous String Theory Caper Sock in vert.

They are knit with 2.5 mm needles and using the Cadence Socks (part) pattern. It’s a good pattern –  I just needed to go mindless this winter, and changed to the 6 x 2 ribbing.

Handknit sock in Hummingbird pattern by Sandi Rosner and Araucania Ranco yarn

After months of neglect, a first sock

This next start date goes back an entire year to February 2013. The disgraceful pace is simply because I pushed through with 2.0 mm needles to get gauge with my Araucania yarn of choice.

Handknit Hummingbird sock leg in Araucania Ranco fingering yarn

Perfect pattern for variegated yarn

The pattern is Hummingbird by Sandi Rosner, and I am hoping to make a second sock soon.  Wanting a pair of socks in this colour has not exactly left the building.

handknit RPM socks by Irieknit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn

Loved but largely untold: the Revving socks

The first post for these RPM socks was last November, shortly before I finished the first sock.

Handknit RPM socks by Irieknit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock

Twisted stitch on the soles of these socks

Sometimes work just falls through the cracks.  There is nothing like a tough winter to precipitate the gaps as it were.

Finishing these helped me get my sock knitting mojo back in order.  The old pairs are wearing out, and I promised N that I will work on a new pair of stranded socks for him!

Kettle dyed Colinette Iona yarn skein in stash

New fodder for the needles: a baby gift in yarn form

This year has brought more babies to knit for than I have been able to share.  The youngest cousin (that we know of) is due in January.  WIP clearance has let me cast-on for this now (yay!).

It’s been ages since I have seen any Colinette yarns locally but this is luxury for me.  I also have accent yarn from another Iona colourway, and loved the first night’s work this week.

Saving the weaving news for a later post, and wishing everyone well!