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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!


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Season’s greetings!

Best wishes for a happy & safe season to all!

Our Peace and Quiet plans got thrown last Friday when N woke-up with a bad rash.  It’s shingles, and this quickly became a painful week for him.  The treatment is working but his skin continues to be very tender.

Christmas arrangement on handspun woven runner by irieknit

While making do without a tree for Christmas time, the new woven runner & a special delivery are both giving much needed cheer at our place.

A beautiful potted Poinsettia has also been doing a very good job in the living room.  We have traditional ham, etc. looking forward to as well.

Handspun woven Christmas overshot table runner by irieknit

Festive colour splash, thanks to handspun

The winding of my handspun for weft created a regular break for showing the yarn’s colour gradient.  The repeat is enough to bring the break together, and I love seeing the bands as I walk through the hall.

In planning, I allowed 15% extra Harrisville Shetland warp each for shrinkage and take-up after weaving.  This weaving of 55″ with 3″ hems on the ends has washed as a 46″ long runner for our vintage Singer sewing machine.  The width is 13″ (i.e. down 2″ from the reed width after washing).

When not posing for pictures, the table sees good use holding keys, spare change & so much paper.

Reverse woven fabric overshot handspun table runner by irieknit

Reverse – festive bubbles!

The fulling process did wonders for the reverse of the fabric as well.  I love the handspun pops.  The plain weave hems are hand-sewn with some of my late Grandmother’s thread.

The hems’ weft is also handspun that I dyed this spring – the rejected ‘soft’ sand weft in my Colour of Water guild show scarves.  It is 50% silk/25% buffalo/ 25% white cashmere from Sericin Silkworks.  With under 200 yards, I am having fun with it.

Knitting stranded gloves Little Lithuania by irieknit in fingering weight wool

Little Lithuania gloves

Knitting for the sick one is going to be today’s big task.  The incredibly mild weather – hello, 16°C in our town on Christmas Eve – takes some of the pressure off but I would like to finish 3 fingers, and 2 thumbs.

detail of knitting in progress for stranded gloves Little Lithuania by irieknit

Stranded, and his choice of pattern

The design is Little Lithuania, and N chose the Rhichard Devrieze fingering weight yarns in Prato & Cold Pressed.  I have added rounds to the top of the pattern’s chart to get the length it calls for.

Needing to size for N, and correcting an unforced knitting error in the second glove (thumb placement matters!) have made this a race to the deadline but that’s okay.  It is not like he is headed outside or like outside is very cold.

Wishing joy, and kindness

Please be kind to yourself, and to others.  This season can be so full of expectations, loss, strife.  Via Irwin Elman on Twitter, If the holidays are hard for you, doing these 4 things really could help.

Whatever your observance or none, wishing you joy!


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August of hitting a stride

This is not typically a fabulous month but the past 4 or so weeks have exceeded all August expectations.

Central park reservoir panoramic view New York skyline

Attribution & laurels: N

We celebrated Emancipation Day, August 1st with family.  There were a lot of new nephew cuddles, and good times with his parents.  We stayed with wonderful friends.  Their windowsill shows all of my travel spinning of Wensleydale.

The people of New York were rather taken-in by my carob Turkish Delight spindle by Jenkins Woodworking.

Spinning dyed Wensleydale top on Jenkins Delight Turkish spindle carob wood

Sweetening the travel pot

There was also quality time aka aeroplane knitting with a baby gift for our this-week born new cousin in Toronto.

Handknit baby gift Gidday Baby Cardigan and beanie in Sirdar Baby Bamboo

Gidday cardigan set for baby G!

This cardigan is Gidday Baby pattern by Georgie Hallam.  Can I just whisper, “Gidday pattern!”  This was a July 29 – August 9th pleasure of knitting with stashed Sirdar Baby Bamboo yarn.

Yoke and buttons on handknit Gidday Baby cardigan by irieknit

This is an awfully sweet yoke.  My main colour is #122 with the contrast in cream.  The hat was just as fun to knit and is Louisa Harding’s striped beanie hat. My copy of her Natural Knits for Babies and Moms is much loved & heavily used.

But I digress.

Lox on a bagel with cream cheese

Attribution: N

We were well-fed, and soon got over for baby’s first museum visit.  The crowds!  It’s hard meeting an infant’s needs in those crowds but our new parents did a fine job, and he was pretty cheerful.

American Museum of Natural History Pleistocene Colossochelys prehistoric turtle

At my special request, attribution: N

Search engine diving shows this dinosaur as Colossochelys the Pleistocene turtle but I am not sure in retrospect.  We were at the American Museum of Natural History.

Sunset at Riverside Park Manhattan NY

Riverside Park, Manhattan Attribution: N

It was such a short but packed trip.  I came home with craft books from the Strand Bookstore, a new-to-me set of Meck Russian paddle combs, and wheels that are now on my Mighty Wolf loom.  The best part was having such a blast welcoming nephew, F.  I think he likes me.

The Learning Curve – bead embellishment

Before & after our trip, I participated in a 4-part guild workshop on bead embroidery with William Hodge of Armure Studios.

Bead embroidery workshop samplers by irieknit

Carried away? Bead embroidery

It felt like jumping back into the childhood sandbox of embroidery with crazy bling.  Fun but also greedy for time to do even these small amounts.  I will never begrudge a handmade bead embroidery work its price again.  It’s joyous but where does the time go?

Detail of bead embroidery sampler by irieknit

Well, I did hear, “Start simply,” but couldn’t stop.

Each participant had her own approach.  Mine was to follow the instruction about total bead cover and the ’80s patterned fabric.

The faux pearl bead to the right has special comedic value.  It, ahem, moves of its own volition.

William shared many pieces in his personal collection from different cultures as well as his own work.  It was fabulous, and I was glad for the breaks between workshop parts.

It was just perfect having the Naked Craft exhibition on at the AGB while taking this workshop.  The bead embroidery pieces by contemporary artists are astonishingly beautiful but I also saw the raw commitment – eye-strain, materials, design, time.

Finishing my thoughts

With thanks to PAKnitWit who ran the aptly named ‘Shawl for All’ knitalong, I used all 756 yards of my superwash merino dyed by Southern Cross Fibres.

Handknit Diminishing Returns shawl in handspun superwash merino yarn by irieknit

Diminishing Returns Shawl in my handspun yarn

This was 8 of 9 designed sections in Sarah’s Diminishing Returns triangle shawl.  I used 3.5 mm needles, and loved each second of this relaxed me-knit.

Stockinette and garter stitch knitting with gradient handspun yarn

It’s an elegant & simple concept.  You move through stockinette & garter stitch blocks that reverse roles.  Just right for a strong gradient like my Sugar & Spice 2-ply yarn but the design is very versatile.  I hope that others will use handspun yarn to make this pattern too.

The knitter gets to keep a lid on the purl stitches as the triangle grows, which I appreciate.  The top-down triangle adds 4 stitches every other row, and that grows quickly!

Wearing Diminishing Returns triangle shawl in handspun yarn by irieknit

Treating myself to the handspun goodness

Also appreciated? The length on my arm as the shawl crosses.  It’s just how I like a shawl.

Hug of handspun Diminishing Returns triangle shawl by irieknit

Squooshy is also good

The home for this knit along is the Knit Wit group on Ravelry.  We had a good lead time for blocking & also taking these pics.  As I told the group, this one will see lots of wear in the cooler weather.

Sock knitting by irieknit and Turtlepurl Live Long and Prosper yarn

Spock sock!

New socks of unusual size (9″ circumference) are off the needles!  As soon as I saw Turtlepurl’s post for her Live Long & Prosper in this self-striping pattern, I had to get it for N.  It is a 75% superwash merino/ 25% nylon blend, and I used 2.25 mm double-pointed needles.

Handknit men's socks by irieknit in Turtlepurl Live Long and Prosper yarn

Spock socks in the wild

He is smiling in this picture, and approves of the finished socks.

Back view of handknit men's socks with Turtlepurl Live Long & Prosper yarn

The columns of stitches are just paired slip stitches passed over knit front & backs.  Easy to work, and perfect for other plane trips this spring.

Knitted baby gift Telemark pullover in Sirdar Baby Bamboo

Belated baby gift!

The last finished thought is this version of a Telemark 2.0 pullover that I made for our baby cousin in Montreal.  It was a nail-biting use of more from my Sirdar Baby Bamboo yarn stash.

Handknit baby Telemark pullover by irieknit

Is the placket reading as weird to you as it is to me?  It might be a comprehension problem on my part but I did try to follow the instructions as written there.  It has been on its way this week, and I hope they like it.

Lark Turkish-style spindle by Jenkins Woodworking spinning by irieknit

A Jenkins Lark!

Spindles are on the front burner again.  Next month I will lead a guild workshop, and I am preparing the materials.  It’s a full 4-part introductory workshop, and we will go from first steps to plied yarn.  It’s my first formal teaching, and I am so excited.

In my down-time, I can play with this tulipwood Lark spindle by Jenkins Woodworking.  Luckily, I missed 2 others for sale last week because this was offered in Ontario.  Quick flight, no foreign exchange issues, and I love the tulipwood!

The Delight in the travel collage above is 5g heavier at 28 g.  Its arms sit low on the shaft (the Lark is mid-shaft), and are approximately 2 cm wide x 8.75 cm long.  The Lark’s arms are a slim 1.25 cm wide x 9.5 cm long.  The slighter profile is great for winding-on, and will hold that much more of a cop is my guess.


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The absorbing Colour of Water, part 2: from the drawing board

In my last post, I told you about the technical slip & fall of my first attempt in weaving for the Art Gallery of Burlington All Guilds Show.  The show is on through May 24, 2015.

Handwoven original design scarf with handspun yarns by irieknit in crackle weave

The first iteration representing the waters’ confluence at Frenchman’s Cove, Jamaica

It was a fully-formed piece, and I would like to share how the ideas developed.  They are what really motivated me to tie-on for a renewed attempt.

Some are clear rookie mistakes.  I will never forget how it felt to realize where my 3″ of width on the loom had disappeared.  A bolt of understanding, and I checked the reed chart.  Yes!  Right sley (2-2-2-3); wrong reed!  At 15 and not 12 to the inch, I was in maximum twill sett territory.  With heavier wefts it makes for a slightly harsh fabric.

First River by the Sea Scarf crackle weave with handspun yarn

From sandy bank to deeper waters

This first section cued the do-over as soon as I cut the scarf from the loom.  It brought Susan Wilson’s words to life.  In “Weave Classic Crackle & More” she says:

Ground weft color order can make a big difference in the appearance of your design…

The “soft sand” ground weft leaps forward against the other yarns that are darker in colour.  It moves differently in the crackle structure, and the softly spun character also makes it stand out.  It is 50% silk, and the remaining down fibres have a soft halo – 25% buffalo; 25% white cashmere.

River by the Sea Scarf crackle weave with handspun yarnsWith one shore popping from the water, and the other subsumed, I wanted another shot at this representation.  The dye step already gave me the matching sand.  With a better understanding of my colours in the structure, I also set out to shift the grounds to blend the transition areas better.

The up-sides were that my treadle, shuttle & new temple dance was also finally down pat after the 72″ of weaving!

Handspun yarns by irieknit used in the River by the Sea Scarf crackle weave design

Handspun yarns to tell a colour story

The “soft sand” yarn on the right was out, replaced by the skein yarn in front for the 2nd and last attempt.  This now means that all handspun threads were made using spindles.

Even with later challenges, I am happy that I persevered to modify for the design that I wanted.

Our Guild’s Colour of Water Section

In his statement for this show, Chief Curator, Denis Longchamps, says in part:

… the members of the Burlington Handweavers and Spinners explore the multi-faceted aspect of water colour – at first what seems to be transparent and translucent – becomes the turquoise of the Caribbean seas, the muddy brown of some rivers, dark with golden and red reflections at the sunset… while blue seems to be a natural choice for artists…

2015 BHS Colour of Water Juried show crackle weave scarf submission by irieknit

In the exhibit! River by the Sea Scarf – Colours at Frenchman’s Cove

TKK apologies – published prematurely, and have reverted to draft status!

Handwoven and felted pieces in Burlington Handweavers & Spinners Guild 2015 Juried Show The Colour of Water

(l-r) Susan Stasiuk: “Frozen Shores” & “Lagoon”; “Diane Woods: “Harbour Lights;” Saira Jan: “Reflections into the Deep”

Sue’s beaded jacket, “Frozen Shores” is breath-taking.  This was the first grouping that I saw at the show’s opening event, and I am still amazed by the beauty of her piece.  Her two awards by the Juror were well-deserved!

Handwoven scarf installation by Jennifer Earle and woven scarf by Victoria Lynch 2015 All Guilds Show Art Gallery of Burlington

Jennifer Earle: “Mother Ganges”; Victoria Lynch: “Caribbean Sea”

This ceiling-to-floor installation by Jennifer Earle won the Best in Show award.  It represents the river’s flow from source to sea.

Needle felted installation by Jim Thomas in 2015 Art Gallery of Burlington All Guilds Show

Jim Thomas: “Falling Water”, needle felting

The installation of a new “Falling Water” is at the entrance to our guild’s section of the show.  Jim’s placement of colour and sheer exuberance for his work made me smile on the spot.

Still Water handwoven scarf by Marsha Stewart-Walters in 2015 Art Gallery of Burlington All Guilds Show

Show neighbours – Marsha Stewart-Walters: “Still Water.”

Representing the struggle for water sustainability, and her experiences in Africa, Marsha’s scarf has a beautiful mix of fibres, including linen.  She’s my next-door neighbour on this gallery wall with handwoven scarves!

Handwoven pieces in 2015 Burlington Art Gallery All Guilds Show

Handweaving’s range on display (l-r) – Eleanor Roberts: “Childhood Memories – Lake Couchiching; Sparrow Lake”; Margaret Burns: “Duck”; “Fish”; Margaret-Jane Wallace: “Grassy Reef”

That our space in the gallery includes diverse works ranging from functional objects, fibre art to those that use repetition of familiar forms all with reference to the colour of water is fitting with other guilds’ participation.  Although I missed the meeting with its show tour, I’m sure that the feedback has been positive!

The show runs until next Sunday the 24th.  Local friends, I hope that some of you can get out to the AGB for a visit!


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Living a little and crafting a lot – knits, spins and even weaving!

The past month took me home for a sad occasion with family.  It has meant working harder to get ready for the holidays ahead but I came back deeply grounded.

Bougainvillea new growth after coming indoors

Her late blooms and new leaves are a wonder

On the flight south, I took out my new Ampersand sock-in-progress… only to find out that my seat-mate was also a knitter!  She had holiday knits on the go, and I got down to the foot with this lovely Indigodragonfly merino yarn as we knit along with each other.

 

Indigodragonfly fingering weight handdyed yarn

‘Who’s a Happy Tribute?’ colourway from the Knitter’s Frolic

A better blogger would have the actual sock project to share, I know.  This is the trouble with major disruptions & terrible seasonal lighting around here – not for everyone but if you are me the photography it suffers.

Catching us Up (a bit)!

You were missed, as I was propelled forward.  This is only the tip of what’s been happening while I was away from posting.

Antique saxony spinning wheels in a hatchback vehicle

We can call the wheels at home a herd now.

Only a couple days before our sad news was delivered, I had another trip to visit Alvin & Barbara Anne Ramer. Alvin repaired my antique William McDonald wheel while I cough fell in love with the smaller wheel in the foreground cough.  The separation of this metal pin and an old fix to her treadle bar needed attention.

 

Broken treadle pin on antique Nova Scotia flax spinning wheel

You can imagine my horror

Alvin fixed this main problem, and he also made other adjustments to the wheel.  It was awesome to see him in good health & at his wheel-smith work.  Barbara Anne was so gracious as well, and I loved speaking more with her about spinning, weaving and her plans.

Blue Faced Leicester/Silk yarn spun on antique spinning wheel on niddy noddy

First spun on the early C19 Nova Scotia wheel

The first spin is 646 yards (127g) of BFL wool/silk.  It was all plied on my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.

Last Thursday, I used this yarn for a great dye experiment with Madder root.  The mordant is alum @ 8% and cream of tartar @ 7%.  I brought the 100g of ground Madder with 1 tbsp of baking soda up to a simmer, and cooled overnight.

Madder dye bath preparation

Straining madder root from dye liquor!

Further tweaking happened in the morning after straining, and I mordanted handspun Dorset (horned) wool yarn for the legendary exhaust baths.

Natural dye with Madder root on handspun yarn

Home-dyeing with Madder root!

This operation was surprisingly fragrant!  The madder has a nutty, smoky aroma.  After rinsing & drying, I have rich oranges – and the exhaust material/bath in reserve!

Natural dyed handspun yarns using Madder and alum mordant

Madder’s fall bounty!

Although I strained & rinsed thoroughly small specks of the ground dyestuff are scattering from the skeins.  It’s no big deal at all but is a side-effect!

Handspun Falkland wool dyed in black walnut, antique wheel spinning

Walnut-dyed Falkland handspun yarn

The McDonald antique wheel was also a joy for spinning my Falkland top that is dyed with black walnut.  The 5.9 oz gave me 593 yards of 2-ply.  This time I changed ratios on the Watson Martha but still plied in double drive.

Spindles, loom & knits

All have been in rotation since I recovered from the time away.  These are just quick out-takes (in no particular order) while I keep gaining on deadlines.

Spinning organic handdyed Polwarth wool with a Tabachek drop spindle

Cedar Tabachek with organic Polwarth

The dyed-by Sheepspot spinning project is down to the last 44g of Polwarth wool.  Having the cedar Tabachek drop spindle in regular use again has made me so happy.  My plan is to chain-ply this yarn when it is all spun up.

Spinning batts from Enting Fibercraft on Bosworth Moosie drop spindle

Oceanside Ent Batts for a Moosie WIN!

These batts by Naomi at Enting Fibercraft are amazing.  Four breeds of wool are blended with Tussah silk & Bamboo rayon.  The colour is so deep, and the blend is just fabulous on my Moosie spindle.

Handwoven cotton kitchen towels in Keep it Simple pattern

Learning curve & humble pie to mix metaphors!

These towels stretched me so much.  The red one is unwashed.  A mistake that glared at my friend Diane in the top towel got corrected thanks to her kind pointing-out.  They need pressing, hemming and documenting but they certainly have happened!

Baby Surprise Jacket, newborn size in Heritage Handpaints by Cascade

Another Baby Surprise Jacket!

A lace-edged hat, and booties went with this Baby Surprise Jacket for my cousin.  Her shower was this past Sunday, and we can’t wait to see her baby outfitted in the knits!


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Three months. It takes three months!

Handspun combed Romney Wool yarn skeins

Made in Ontario, Romney wool yarn!

All skeins are plied, and wound!  It took exactly 3 months for this my biggest spinning project ever.  First lashing of Romney wool locks to the combs happened on July 19th; last plying happened yesterday, October 19th.

Plying hand-combed Romney on my Watson Martha Spinning wheel with Melvin

Who’s the boss of my yarn?

My singles for the plying are coming up from the tin by my wheel.  The twist is well distributed when I wind the ball, and also settles over time.  There was absolutely no trouble from the singles being this close to my hands in plying.

The ubiquitous mat is there because we need an area carpet already!

The yarn needs a bath, and is quite possibly going into my dye pots.  It was at the 5th of those 6 skeins that I realized something:  we broke the 2,000 yard mark!  Holy major spinning project!  Final click reel measurement is 2,608 yards.  If you are joining us for the first time in these 3 months this was hand-combed top from approximately 1.9lbs of clean Romney.  Or in other words:  1.4818 miles of Ontario iriespun wool!

Squeeing is falling on somewhat deaf ears here.  I know you dear audience will get it.  From fleece to a mile & a half!  It’s a real spinning milestone and I have loved every minute.

Canadian maple tree in fall display

Also made in Ontario, fall colours

Our maple tree has lost an alarming amount of leaves with rainy weather but is still giving the most magnificent gradient.

Canadian maple tree inside the fall canopy

Bigger on the inside, fall colour

Meeting this goal of prepping my fleece is downright special.  The blanket still needs to be built but we have a good foundation here.  Luckily, I also have a stunning raw Shetland fleece that my friend Beth selected for me.

Raw Shetland fleece from spinner's flock, McTavish Farm in Oregon

Shetland fleece from McTavish Farm, Oregon

Another friend kindly brought her back from a visit with Beth last winter when I took the picture.  I just took it back out of the chest freezer last week.  A business card is in the bag, and so I know the ewe who gave this double-coated coloured fleece is Katrina.  Her shepherds are Tom and Tracy Livernois in Eugene, Oregon.  I’d like to get more Unicorn Power Scour for such prime fleece.

Now we know that I can prepare for a whole project, and I’m all inspired to clean this next!


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The footnote, and the flax that brought us here

There is a footnote to my last post on the Wm MacDonald Saxony spinning wheel.  Since posting she continued to impress me through 4 bobbins of BFL/silk top.

BFL wool/silk handspun yarn by irieknit on antique Nova Scotia spinning wheel maker William MacDonald

Four bobbins’ worth from the antique MacDonald wheel

As she ran, I cleaned and oiled and spoke to the twitter.  A wool lock shim came to the front maiden & I had an eye out for any signs of trouble.  Towards the end of the fourth bobbin, I felt a slight shift.  All of a sudden, I discovered an old repair to the right of the front treadle support – and not in a good way.

R. Needles, “Wheelwright” from London, Ontario spoke at the 2013 Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  He writes succinctly in his paper for the seminar:

Function matters if you’re going to use it.

This named wheel functions beautifully, and is an important historical artifact.  We are going to seek professional assistance to restore this old fix.  It’s actually still holding because I recognized the change in feel, applied a non-invasive brace (hello, leather tag from that purse!), and caught it before real damage happened.  As a solid piece it can take glue you know from a pro.

More than anything else there is a simple fact.  I love this wheel.  So, stick a pin – we’ll get to that 5th bobbin spun yet!

Blame the flax

This tipping point from “wheels” to “wheel collection” is all because of flax.  Yes, that’s right, I blame the flax.

A lot of line flax spread for my distaff

Pennsylvania flax

You should watch out for this sneaky fibre called flax.  It wants you to have specialized wheels, and takes its own sweet time to whisper sweet nothings in your ear as you go.

Antique Pennsylvania line flax dressed on small distaff for spinning

My glorified stick distaff

See the twisted fingers of flax to the lower left of the distaff?  This is the finest from the antique Pennsylvania flax that I combed last October. I brought it out last month for a group fibre study on Ravelry.com.

Flax boon waste during handspinning on denim but it's antique!

Flax boon fallen away from the fibre in spinning

Even after last fall’s hackling, the best of this flax has a ton of boon & straw!  Out came a bandana, in fact.  It was that much dust as I drafted from the distaff.  The flax varied wildly.  One minute I had soft, fine lengths, and the next I was waving the straw along!  I just went with the texture, and kept up with wet spinning to smooth it all over.

My jeans were soaked.  I looked a sight.  Still there I was, hooked all over again on the linen.  Having a virtual spin-along was also really cool.

About the wet spinning – it wasn’t plain water this time.  I gave a lot of flax seeds a generous splash of boiling water.  Steeping & stirring happened but I was really halfway to the wheel before long.  There was a good difference.  In the future, I’ll boil the seeds, and use the flax-slurry.

Book - Reflections from a Flaxen Past by Kati Reeder Meek and handspun linen single yarns

Learning the linen

This fibre varied from fine to feeling almost like tow flax.  I hope there was enough twist in this linen yarn.  It was spun wet, and felt fairly textured when I wound it from my drying tin (holes are punched in the sides of the tin) to the rolls for storage.

Alongside my singles is a birthday present – Kati Reeder Meek’s, “Reflections from a Flaxen Past for love of Lithuanian Weaving.”  A fantastic first flax reference for my shelves!  It was Camilla Valley’s last copy, and is blowing me away.  The Lithuanian linen tradition far more complex than I ever dreamed.  Most of all, I am thrilled to have a spinners’ insights on making linen weaving yarn.  It is so well reasoned, and accessible.

Handwoven linen Swedish lace sample by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

Handwoven lace samples in linen by Jette Vandermeiden

Also inspiring this push is the samples of handwoven linen lace that Jette Vandermeiden brought for our guild class last month.

Handwoven lace samples by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

More samples from Jette’s class

All of the samples were interesting but I was so drawn to Jette’s discussion of the linen laces in particular.  My goal is to practice weaving first, and build my skills but with an eye towards learning to weave my own linen textiles.

First year bloom on Clematis vine

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all Canadians near & far!  Like the Clematis, this is my first year with roots in the Canadian soil for this day, and that means something!