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my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Dream yarn spun via spindles

Within 3 days of my last post, I finished this long-term dream yarn.  The project started back in February 2017 when I called the merino/silk spin Favourite Places.

Handspun merino/silk yarn by irieknit on drop spindles lace yarn

An island girl’s favourite places (merino silk)

Soaked, and dried flat on a towel the stash is enriched by around 1,209 yards of laceweight handspun zephyr (merino/silk) yarn.

Handspun merino silk zephyr by irieknit on spindles gradient dyed by Sheepy Time Knits

Each skein has a tie-tag (I wrap in clear tape; nothing fancy) that notes the first end.  Place-keeping helps with a gentle gradient!

This was my initial Knit Knack blog post on the spin with its backstory.  Then Team Spindlers saw a lot of the project in our 2017 Tour de Fleece.

Handspun merino/silk yarn with Bosworth Moosie and Tabachek Lacewood drop spindles in progress by irieknit

The 5th month progressing the spin

With the uplift of shared spinning, I had 850 yards spun by the end of that TdF.  The sweep of Tour spins is in this Flickr album where I parked a set of images.

Time & Measurements in the spin

Spinning merino silk yarn on Tabachek Lacewood and Bosworth Moosie drop spindles by irieknit

Before winding-off, the last spun singles

Last night in thinking about what to make, I re-read the Gallery in Meg Swansen’s “A Gathering of Lace“.  The essay on p. 159 by Dallas Cahill spoke about the process over knitting multiple six-foot-square Shetland shawls (11!).  It is so true of a large spindle-spun project too:

You will probably knit like crazy for a while, get tired, put the project away for awhile and then pick it back up.  Your memory will not be enough.  Notes help you remember where you were.

The project notes say that it was a year post-TdF to get the 4th, final 32 g 2-ply ball.  Other fibre work including spindle spins took up the time & I basically did not like running out of this fibre!

The last spun cops combined for a 32 g plying ball just this big.

Merino silk lace handspun 2 strand outer pull plying ball by irieknit

Yarn is longer than it appears, 2-strand plying ball

Often I hear questions about joining for larger skeins when using spindles.  Well, I don’t.  What you see here is the 2nd largest skein of this particular project:  it is 359 yards strong.

Here’s the overview of my 2-ply zephyr adventure.  Dates are for winding-off to each plying ball:

  • February 16, 2017 – 27 g = 279 yards;
  • July 15, 2017 = 382 yards;
  • July 16, 2017 = 189 yards; and
  • September 30, 2018 – 32 g = 359 yards.
  • All plying done on Peruvian medium turned pushka (see the last TKK post for a plying pic).

The yarn is around 4,836 yards per pound.  Millspun zephyr (18/2 wool/silk) is 5,040 yards per pound.  Knitters can get 56 g/ 630 yards of zephyr millspun.  My handspun skeins here are lower yardage-wise but it is no bother for me knitting lace.

Yarn check!  What to make now?

It’s a good question.  Ever since the braid hit my hands, I have seen a new knitted lace shawl.  Not wanting to get lost in hubris here, I am taking deep breaths for clarity.

The current idea is to place green at the top of a semi-circle.  The Sarah Don spider pattern shawl is beautiful, and a version is in Jane Sowerby’s “Victorian Lace Today” that I know & trust.  Ravelry project knitters are both thrilled with their FOs and flag the difficult start.

It means flipping the spinning order backwards for the purpose of knitting.  Can I? Yes (take that brain plasticity)!  Should I?  Decision pending!

As for my yarn’s backstory, Mandie of Sheepy Time Knits has seen my skein pictures.  She has all the gratitude – I did the thing we talked about!  After 3 years, 10 months of working my way up to the spindles it’s finished dream yarn.


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Shopping the stash – fall handspun knits

We’re fresh-off our Canadian Thanksgiving, which started a little early with my impulse to bake a cranberry/ blueberry crisp and finished with our first turkey dinner at home.

Yellow tulips on handwoven cotton silk table runner by irieknit

T-kiddo made a good choice on the supermarket cut tulips… they are still fresh & brightening the table runner that I wove in spring 2014, sari silk on 5/2 mercerized cotton warp.

Weaving sari silk cotton table runner by irieknit

The weft is Himalaya Tibet recycled silk, a long-ago gift that could keep giving – the 14″ x 42″ runner used only approx 80 yards.

As weavers can tell from the I Wove This pic a lot of learning was going on at the time.  Up to & including confusion when tying up my treadles for plain weave that worked in my favour.

Our front hall has its 2 handwoven table runners now, and this is the cheery one of the pair.

Cranberry crisp in baking tin by irieknit

Not a long-lasting crisp

Thanksgiving being just this past Monday is hard to believe.  We ran right into an energy audit + furnace replacement job, and handspun yarn has been heavily on my mind!

Handspun happenings

We are at a 4th handspun knit casted-on since mid-September.  That is more than usual & 3 are ready for sharing on TKK.  The quartet has 2 things in common – smaller-scale projects; and all existing stash.  They are a slice of how leaps in spinning can & do become finished objects.

At the centre is this truth – my handspun was not always flowing into queued projects.  This is an almost constant concern in spinning spaces:  how do you use your handspun yarns?  In these 3 projects today the work is a lattice & not linear.

What is not shown here is that I also will design from scratch for my yarns & work from sampling in a straighter course both for knits and handwoven items.  This slice is to show that creativity isn’t always caught in a web of control.  Patience, skill and circling back all can be fruitful.  In order of last to first the 3 new knits are:

Overall lace shawl

This Lacymmetry by Naomi Parkhurst is 1-day into its progress.  It is making me very happy.

Unblocked knitted lace shawl in progress Lacymmetry by irieknit in handspun handdyed BFL/Silk

This BFL/silk yarn is another 2014 story.  In mid-July that year, I used my 127 g of fibre to spin with the newly acquired William MacDonald antique spinning wheel.

Sugar maple tree fall colours in Ontario

Sugar maple cues the shawl this morning

It is 646 yards that I used in a first madder dye experiment later that year.  The burnt orange colour was an improvement but what to use it for?

Until Naomi’s release this week I was fairly stumped.  The suggested yarn is one I know well, Valley Yarns 2/14 alpaca/silk.  My BFL/silk is a pretty good fit, and with that plugged I had to start right away!

Takeaway – you will see curated pattern lists for spinners but keeping eyes forward on new releases lets you find your own gems.  This designer also spins, and that right fit for handspun is an excitement she knows well.

Hold the front page – spindle-spun socks!

Before the shawl answer fell into my lap, I started a new pair of socks this month.  It is with my most viewed spinning project the Pyrenees Delight Cheviot yarn.  The 1,529 views; 26 favorites came after being featured in Ravelry after the 2017 Tour de Fleece.

The 650 yards of 2-ply is not that old at a January 2018 finish.  It was a puzzle though… would I split to get the socks I had dreamed about while spinning or should I use all in a weaving project?  Here’s my current answer & sock knitting guide.

Starting to knit handspun Strie sock in Pyrenees Delight Cheviot by irieknit

When I dive into the handspun stash it is a mess of pulling yarns & looking back at the records.  This month I was weighing sock, colourwork mittens or sweater.  Measurements help but as a starting point.  This is part of the note I made when looking at possible mittens:

Thicker than idea in Drachunas (The Art of Lithuanian Knitting, 2015 with June Hall)

Will they look good?

When swatching the Cheviot, I knitted lots and measured twice.  The 2.25 mm needle gave a good fabric, 9 stitches per 1″ in stockinette around.  The guide is Lara Neel’s excellent “Sock Architecture, 2014.  I chose her Strie for its garter rib pattern with my lighter 2-ply.

Strie sock in progress by irieknit in handspun 2-ply Cheviot yarn

It is going well up to the heel now.  This z-plied yarn is untwisting a bit as I work & I may cross the foot stitches for firmness.

Takeaway – As one who has more socks than she needs, I will just quote Jan Viren (Handspun Treasures from Rare Wools, ed Deborah Robson, 2000, p. 77):

If you want boring, predictable socks, there are plenty available through standard outlets. These [California Variegated Mutant] have character…

The Handspun Treasures book has a highly entertaining & inspiring juried group of handspun projects.  I snagged my copy on a trip to the Strand bookstore in NYC.

Headwarming in fall

This Calorimetry headband in Targhee was a 2-day knit of joy.

Handspun Targhee Calorimetry headband by irieknit

In this second selfie view you can see the hint of its Corgi Hill Farm gradient, Inverness, properly.

Handspun Targhee Calorimetry headband by irieknit top

Using a single clay button, I have a 21″ long Calorimetry.  It is my 2nd version in handspun.  Working 1×1 ribbing helped cinching in areas with thinner yarn.

Spinning handdyed Targhee on Rappard Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

2015 Wee Peggy spin-along

This was from a 2015 fall spinalong in the Wee Peggy spinners group on Ravelry that went fairly quickly.  The blues went to N as a pair of plain mittens this winter.

Handspun Targhee men's mittens by irieknit

Made, used but not blogged – N’s mittens

The pattern guide was Knit Mitts by Kate Atherley, 2017 & used approx 170 yards of the blue.

Handspun Targhee wool yarn by irieknit from Inverness colourway dyed by Corgi Hill Farm

This is what I kept around since February waiting for inspiration.  It wanted to be a headband!  The orange is still on the couch waiting for the hat-trick.

Takeaway – gradients are not set in stone.  The 390 yards has made 2 people happy so far, and I am not sore about giving half to N for mittens.

Plying merino/silk lace yarn on an Andean low-whorl pushka spindle by irieknit

Last plying of a long merino/silk spin

As I am this close to finishing my 4 ounces of merino/silk with this medium Andean pushka, I have thought of a lace shawl.  Which lace shawl will depend on my bandwidth & how much yarn we have here.

There surely are spinners who in Beverley Horne’s words never ever sit with fibre to spin (Fleece in Your Hands – spinning with a purpose: notes and projects, 1979 U.S revised edition, p v):

… without having planned beforehand what you are going to do with the yarn.

Knowing how to do forward planning is important, I agree.  If like me ‘what ifs’, new tools, techniques beckon & good yarn results then you can still move forward.  Sometimes frustration kicks in, of course.  More often you go in a latticework of time spent on the project instead of the good old bossy line.

A side benefit has been letting new skills like weaving catch-up to those good yarns that I still love to spin.

Just think of it as a long run up to the crease (cricket term & to mix metaphors oops)!