The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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Woodstock Fleece Festival 2017

This past Saturday was the 9th annual Woodstock Fleece Festival, and I made it!  It is held an hour away by car, and is by faaar my favourite local event for fibre folks.

Last year was a definite miss.  It’s much improved but a school week is a school week – I can’t predict whether our nurturing reserves dip too low for a Saturday morning trip.  Plus, N had a 12:30 pm dental appointment in town.

handspun Diminishing Lines shawl by irieknit

Dashing through the festival – handspun Diminishing Lines shawl

It was a blur!  I see from the pamphlet that I totally missed some vendors (sorry, Peggy Sue Collection; The Gaynor Homestead!) but I feel completely rejuvenated by my trip out, and here is why.

Found! A Squirrel-cage Swift

You may know him as Wheelwright?  Reed Needles has repaired one of my antique wheels, and visiting his booth of many Canadian Production Wheels (CPWs) is always a must-do.  I was expecting to only say a few words when I had an, “Hey, is that functional, Reed?!?” moment.

irieknit's antique Squirrel-cage swift yarn unwinder

Demonstrably functional – a squirrel-cage swift

It has been totally mentioned by me to Reed a few times now:  he is an enabler par excellence.  With a twinkle in his eye he noted that yes it works, and that the circa 1860 fittings are hand-forged.

Hand forged spiral fixing screw on squirrel-cage swift hardware irieknit

A hand-wrought fixing screw – squirrel-cage swift hardware

The spirals are beautiful, and it fixes the upper roller cage easily/ properly.

A closer look at the flanged rollers shows yarn (I suspect linen of course) wear on the dowels.

Antique squirrel-cage swift upper roller cage detail by irieknit

Upper roller cage – wear marks

Reed was selling this swift on behalf of a local weaver’s estate.  It is sturdy enough for life with an active child + speedy unwinding of skeins.

Antique Squirrel-cage swift lower roller cage detail by irieknit

Lower roller cage – cantilevers out

The cut end of the base on the post-side has some deep cracks but this tool will let me unwind yarn gently, and round skeins if needed.

Antique squirrel-cage swift underside detail showing wood cracking

Other names for this tool are ‘roller-cage swift’ ‘barrel swift’ and ‘rice.’  According to The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning they are believed to have been developed in continental Europe (p. 270).

A similar swift with a wooden upper handle is shown in Keep me Warm One Night by the Burnhams (no. 38; see p. 42) as a gift to the Royal Ontario Museum and from Ontario.

Purchases from 2017 Woodstock Fleece Festival by irieknit

Woodstock 2017 haul (excuse messy trunk)

A swift – any swift – is used by the fibre artist to:

… unwind the skeins and is not suitable for making them.  When a skein is to be used, it is placed on a swift that is adjustible in size and wound off into a ball, or onto a spool or bobbin. (ibid, p. 22)

This swift adds choice because I do have a large umbrella one from Glimåkra that also works well.  They are both shorter than the skeins wound on my blue antique click reel (i.e. tool that winds skeins).  The squirrel-cage may be easier to handle the wider skeins, and I will go very slowly when checking that point out.

The squirrel-cages will hold more than one skein at a time without needing to collapse the tool as you do with the umbrella.  The cages also hold all courses in a skein with even tension across.  I am interested in how the squirrel-cages compare to the umbrella ‘v-shape’ on unwinding skeins to the warping board for weaving.

The Barn

Growth of this festival year-over-year shows most clearly in the barn marketplace.  Remembrances Pottery was a fun discovery – their stunning handmade mugs, buttons, etc warranted a quick stop.

Handmade clay buttons and ornaments by Remembrances Pottery

Clay items from Remembrances Pottery in Sarnia

This and other quick stops were accompanied by the bag of raw wool that you can see in my trunk up there.  It still needs cleaning!

Romney lamb's coloured raw wool

Lamb’s bounty! A Romney from Willow Farm’s flock

As you may guess from all the talk of rushing, and new time constraints, I probably shouldn’t have.  This is a 5 lb 4 oz lamb’s fleece from Willow Farm.

Locks of raw wool from Romney lamb fleece Willow Farm by irieknit

In my defense lots of Romney-strong lamb’s wool!

 

The shepherdess, Josslyn, explained that this may be the last year they attend but that farm direct sales are still possible.  I have missed cleaning fleece so much!

Llama at Woodstock Fleece Festival 2017 by irieknit

Baby llamas add to a festival

The llama pack and obstacle course was brought to us by the Norfolk 4H.  These babies were shy but the performing adults allowed for happy petting.

Norfolk 4H llama demonstration Woodstock Fleece Festival 2017

Your mood can’t go wrong with a llama or two

As always festival organisers also had some sheep in the barn for attendees.

Sheep at the 2017 Woodstock Fleece Festival

Hello, sheep!

This family friendly atmosphere is why the event is growing, and I hope to bring N & T next year.  This year, I was thrilled to see some spinning friends at long last, and hit all the high notes.

Sugar Maple fall leaves on grass by irieknit

Maple leaves still not raking themselves

There being much to be done in fall is not new.  What is new sits in my immediate family, and would include the words cancer patient & break-up.  Necessary but not easy stuff is ahead but we are well in the midst of that.

My next warp will be for a head-scarf – pushing the baby blankets behind because first things first.

 


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Spindle spinning with others

At the tail end of the last post, I very quickly mentioned the spindle project that I called ‘Pyrenees Delight Cheviot.’  The spin dates back to the night of the 12th stage of the Tour de Fleece when I needed a completely portable spin for summer days with T.

Cheviot wool top dyed by Sheepy Time Knits for irieknit's 2017 Tour de Fleece

Inspiration in green fibre form – STK Cheviot wool

The Tour falls nicely behind my birthday, and Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits had a well-timed spinning fibre promotion for the event.  Don’t you love when fibre barely even grazes your stash?!

Handspinning dyed Cheviot wool on Jenkins Turkish Delight drop spindle by irieknit

Jenkins Delight spindle to the rescue!

This Cheviot has been the single best pairing for my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle.  Before now, I had used this spindle for a BFL/silk that is now socks, Wensleydale & took a wrong turn to Merino finger roving.  It’s been reliable but only now have I really found the groove with this Cheviot wool.

Cheviot is an old breed developed in the south Cheviot Hills of the UK.  Mandie’s dye colour is so clear and saturated on this wool.

The feel of this ‘three-dimensional’ crimp is amazing as I use the Delight.  In the Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook the crimp is described as “unique” within this breed family (p. 55).   My hands agree, and I would love to spin Cheviot locks after this experience.

In Ravelry’s 2017 Tour de Fleece Feature!

Spinning dyed Cheviot wool on Jenkins Turkish Delight by irieknit

Community eye candy!

Each year, Ravelry.com supports the spinning community’s celebration that is the Tour de Fleece.  We know this, and in 7 years of spinning, I have always looked forward to the home page’s blog post.  It was FluffyK who let me know via tweet that my spinning was featured in the round-up.  Hers was too!

This is the beautiful post, Eye Candy: Tour de Fleece, written by onestitchshort that includes my project.

Plying balls, Cheviot fibre and Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle by irieknit

State of the Pyrenees Delight Cheviot spin

When I updated the project this week, I was stunned to see that it has 26 people who call it a favourite, and was viewed 1,458 times & counting.  That is a major leap from the peak of 5 favourites, 68 views on another Team Spindlers project, the CVM sweater spin.

The post lifted my spirits – I was trying to cope from here with difficult health news for my Mom who lives in Jamaica, and the non-stop adulting.  That uplift was important but I am also very happy that two spindles were shown as beautiful tools riding in the Tour.

Last word – project specs

The spindle weighs 28 g, and is in Carob wood.  Two-strand-ply balls shown in the calabash bowl are 37 g, 43 g, 37 g, respectively.  All singles are spun on the spindle, wound-off, and re-wound to a two-strand-ball that I will ply from when the fibre is all spun-up.

Start:  July 13, 2017 to morning of October 4th, today.

Last last word

Although I had to duck out at the very end of the Tour, I rode most of this year’s Tour de Fleece as a co-captain in Team Spindlers.  It was like riding a wave that floated all boats.  Spindlers is a mixed group of all skill levels, and the discussions are advertising-free.

I also joined a relaxed & fun Team Bosworth.  It was an all-spindles year for me!

Morning glory in bloom

Dappled morning glories

It has led me to hope that we can keep both big & small tent spindle-friendly spaces flourishing.  These spaces are:

  • how I & others learn about spinning in the first place;
  • a look at how modern folks with busy, stressed lives keep spindles in motion;
  • where I made friendships outside of my silo; and
  • a very good coping mechanism for staring, snide comments and worst of all deadpan reactions to spinning in daily life.  After all, your beloved spindles don’t make much yarn unless you are spinning with the spindles in daily life.

If any reader has thoughts to share about how we can either sustain the existing spaces or bring our tools to new spaces, I would love to hear from you.  It is something I have been speaking about with friends whose work I have seen but aren’t local and now prefer to step back a little from the fray.

Writing is more my speed than video/ audio but all thoughts are welcome.


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Reviving Ramie on the small saxony wheel

In the final days before welcoming T home last summer, I opened my 151 g of Ramie top, and started spinning on my painted East European saxony wheel.

Spinning Ramie on antique Eastern European flax wheel

For Twitter and my only record of the start (please excuse the mess!)

This is my first project with Ramie & was love at first spin.

Priorities soon made themselves known.  The night that I had given a Lecture on not touching Mom’s tools, I took this wheel and its Ramie up to my studio.  The fibre stayed downstairs but it was a pretty vain hope.  With everyone under strain family bonding was clearly more important.  What I didn’t know then was how long that takes when your child is aged 4, and circumstances are what they are.  Sitting at wheels took a back burner as we navigated our long, early parenting days.  Others came out but this easiest-to-knock-down wheel was up until just last month.

irieknit spinning Ramie fibre on antique painted East European saxony wheel

Dust-gathering no more!  Ramie stash spinning again.

Small note It is a crazy peg array.  Safety first, and I am not telling anyone to follow this particular flight of fancy.

While she was up & out of dear T’s reach, I saw quite a few questions in Facebook spinning groups about similar wheels.  The questions boil down to:

  • Should I buy this?  A: maybe – do you know what you are looking at; do you like to spin fine?
  • Did I make a mistake in buying this?  A:  it depends; I love mine.
  • something something ‘gypsy wheel’… A: no, seriously, all of Eastern Europe

Invariably, 1 or more voices on the thread cry down that these small wheels make you “treadle like a hamster even if it operates.”  Well, mine operates and that is not my experience.  At all.

The wheel has such a gentle action in terms of the draw-in of the yarn, and the old leather hinges on the treadle bar.  It is also an almost wheel-less feeling as I work since she stands below my torso.  With the band fitted and at the right angle with the mother-of-all, this is smooth and easy spinning now that my (yes, crazy; do not do) pegs are worn in a bit.

irieknit's antique East European saxony spinning wheel drive wheel detail

Small drive wheel = light drive wheel

Sometimes, I do need to fiddle with the mother-of-all screw tension.  Most times it is fine with my Hempathy yarn band going strong.  When running these wheels have a sweet spot of momentum.

We are at around the half-way mark to what experts call the family equilibrium.  Supports have come and gone; other supports are tremendous.  Not only is this & my Martha wheel now carrying spins-in-progress but I got myself an afternoon away this weekend as a real break.

irieknit's Kissing Cousins sock in progress and spinning Cheviot on Turkish Delight drop spindle

Mobile comforts – mindless sock and Cheviot spin

This top-down to toe-up piece is a March pattern release by Sarah Jordan called Kissing Cousins Socks.  It is in a Turtle Purl yarn, Tiberius.  The Cheviot wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits is my ‘Pyrenees Delight’ Tour de Fleece project.  It was such a thrill to have my spinning picture featured by Ravelry and this has stayed in my spinning rotation ever since.

Progress and respite.  I wish the same for you!