The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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August Challenge Spin with Spindlers

The August challenge theme in Spindlers group on Ravelry is “fantasy,” and I took the plunge!

Alpaca/merino/silk handdyed combed top with irieknit's Spanish Peacock top whorl drop spindle flame box elder

Not going with Outlander, read ahead!

This 5 oz braid of combed top from Corgi Hill Farm is in my favourite blend, alpaca/merino/silk.  The spindle choice is my 22 g Spanish Peacock spindle, Flame Box Elder.

The group challenge is to spin at least 1 or more oz (or ½ oz lace) during the month on spindles (of course!), posting a skein in the thread by EST end of August.

Inspiration hits!

Alan Lee illustration of Lord of the Eagles from Hobbit inspiration picture by irieknit

The Lord of the Eagles, Tolkien

The fibre brought to mind a single thought – Gandalf’s Eagle!  I went for our illustrated (Alan Lee) copy of “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, found page 108, and headed for the passage that took my breath away so many years ago.

Eagles are not kindly birds. Some are cowardly and cruel. But the ancient race of the northern mountains were the greatest of all birds; they were proud and strong and noble-hearted…

Letting the curious Lord of the Eagles of the Misty Mountains take me out of my tree perch sounds like a good way to crack through that oh-so-pragmatic decision to miss the Tour de Fleece this year.

So far, I am the only fantasy Eagle Lord entrant but the past 2 days have brought some wonderful interpretations into this month’s theme.  Join us or just lurk for the fun, will you?

Asiatic Lily July blooming irieknit garden

Rocking late blooming Lily!

This past camp week for T was also a treat for my fibre projects.  Wrinkles aside (I answered their survey this morning…), I used the daytime hours to have the coveted dye day, spin for the fun of it, share online, and best of all open the floor loom!

Yesterday brought a new tool into the kit – first pair of eye-glasses.  Slight correction later, and I am far more comfortable on-screen.  The 5/2 cotton threads on the loom are much easier to work with now, phew!

Another week of camp will start after our civic holiday weekend.  I am looking forward to sharing the pictures/project stories with you!


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Spindle spinning along – in progress jar

This week, I answered a question about spindles – what if any pause is there between spinning singles (first elements) & plying.  It’s a great question!

Glass jar with handspun singles yarn by irieknit for spindle projects

Mostly function; part decor

The original Q&A is in the Ravelry group, Spindlers in the decade-old Stupid Questions thread (post no. 8,515 starts) if you want to check it out.

You can imagine my jar in its usual home of our fireplace mantle.  There are 5 singles balls of Targhee, the bright blue in this jar that are an example of a 2018 work-flow with a single spindle.

Blue Mahoe blue Targhee project arc

My last TKK post had this project’s 6th cop shown on a park bench.  Let’s go back to the beginning, a very happy mail day in January.

Bosworth skinny Midi in Blue Mahoe delivery

Two happy deliveries

A wonderful ending to a long & at times frustrating search was being quietly offered this good-as-new Bosworth skinny Midi 22 g spindle in Blue Mahoe.  Thank you, kind Raveler!

When I decided to add a second wood-whorl Bosworth it had to be one of their Blue Mahoes.  This tree, Hibiscus elatus is indigenous to Jamaica, is our national tree, and we planted one at our childhood home.

Spinning Targhee wool on Bosworth skinny Midi top-whorl spindle by irieknit

Impulsive thy name is new-to-me spindle

One short skip later, I was spinning from the 8 oz of Targhee dyed in “The Water” by Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits for the Hobbit Club.  The notes have my timeline, starting January 9, 2018 wind-off dates & weights are:

  1. February 9 – 24 g;
  2. February 19 – 26 g (prize for most spinning!);
  3. March 28 – 26 g (aquas showing);
  4. April 30 – 25 g
  5. June 13 – 27 g

No top is being weighed and parceled out.  I am just spinning by feel – when my hands feel a difference in the spin, I wind-off.  The how is by balancing the spindle in a shoe-box, pushing it away, and winding myself a ball.

Handspinning Targhee wool on Bosworth skinny Midi in Blue Mahoe by irieknit

Spinning the 5th cop this May; bag by Knit Spin Quilt

Using a single spindle for a longer-term project takes an important bundle of skills.  It means managing those singles tangle-free over time.  Developing different paths from a full spindle to re-filling the spindle to completion is a personal journey.  It boils down to achieving consistency.

Here, I kept my options fairly open with separate singles balls.  After lunging to start, I pretty much had to.  Besides, winter is not my best planning time.

The current idea is to move towards a 3-ply yarn when I am finished with singles.  The yarn is under tension, all in one spot, dust/pest-free, and encourages me to keep going.   The outside of each ball is the first-spun of that batch.  You can even change that if you please.

Late summer blooms by irieknit

Also in progress

One point in my answer this week was that it’s worth noting our whole process.  All of the singles in my jar have been “resting” – some all year.  When I get to the last of this fibre it will get some “rest” too, typically overnight.  When I get to the plying steps – there will be more than 1 skein for sure – is anybody’s guess.  I can pace that too as the boss of my own yarn!

 


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When plying sings

Plying the 980 g of natural white Romney lamb’s wool is making my week.  You may have heard me use the word, ‘obsessed’ when I posted this picture on Twitter?  It has come as a surprise.

Plied hand-combed Romney lamb's wool on Watson Martha spinning wheel

Plying two good things together

For one thing the singles flow evenly from the plying ball.  Both strands feed together to my hands.  The holding pen for the ply ball is a tall Piroline cookie tin to my right.  Quiet, gentle, stream-of-spinning time.

This is the smaller whorl for my Watson Martha wheel.  The larger of the two ratios is working well with the Scotch tension braking the bobbin.  The rhythm slows a little as I get to the bobbin’s capacity of around 110 g of the yarn.  It’s just a matter of paying closer attention to the winding-on since the yarn can jump out of the hooks as the bobbin gets full.

Winding handspun wool yarn on an antique wooden click reel

Antique yarn reel in action!

My blue click reel from the Ramer Collection has made winding-off, and counting such a breeze.  The click still makes me jump (and Melvin glower) but she has a beautiful logic!  Each round is 90″, and the click is at 120 revolutions.  That measures 300 yards or a linen weaver’s lea!  One lea in the yarn count system is 300 yards per pound.

Cleaned wood antique click reel from the Ramer Collection

Brace that elbow!

A small hurdle after cleaning her up lightly with diluted Murphy’s Oil soap was the floppy jointed spoke.  My substitute collar is 3 strips of Velcro.  It’s yet another application of Janet Dawson’s floor loom weaving class on Craftsy!  So far with the braced reel’s help, I have around 1,500 yards of 2-ply with more to come.

Plying with Andean pushkas

The medium and large size Andean turned low-whorl spindles are my plying tools of choice for my spindle projects.  With practice, I am getting better at using them comfortably with larger cops.

Finished handspun yarn from blended Shetland, Merino, Tussah silk

Mulled cider set in skein form

This is the plying that I started in early September.  It was a 3.2 oz set of batts from Enting Fibercraft (shetland/merino/tussah silk blend), and I made 497 yards total here.  The larger skein at the top is 304 yards.  This yarn measures 24 wraps per inch or what I class as a light fingering weight.

Melvin the cat with tulipwood Moosie and handspun Shetland wool yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

Hello, Moosie spin

The leisurely spin of The Painted Tiger’s hand-dyed braid of Shetland wool with my new Moosie came out at over 2,900 yards per pound!  The first plying ball gave around 249 yards.

Handspun Shetland wool yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

A full-for-me plying Pushka

The second skein came in at 494 yards!  I was also giving a high plying twist because I would like to weave with the yarn.

I launch these spindles in the Andean style that Abby Franquemont taught me in her “All Spindles All Day” class.  Winding is more efficient as the cop grows, and the spindle goes amazingly fast as well.

Handspun Shetland wool 2-ply yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

Cherry Fudge in yarn form

Fast-forward these few years, and my set-up is still very simple.  I place the plying ball in a small clay flowerpot that is on the floor behind my left hand.  I ply standing-up on an anti-fatigue mat.  When I came to Abby’s class, I was (barely!) able to butterfly with my non-dominant left hand.  Switching the butterfly was key, and Abby taught me the next steps:  set & release the half-hitches with my right hand; and the launch for my typical Z-ply twist.

To compare a large shawl project that I spun with spindles, and is on our current TKK banner, above – the largest skein measured 366 yards.  It is the fluidity that has improved.  This is what I look at with expert spinners.  Even watching another spinner’s motions can give your practice a subtle shift.

Getting to the place where plying sings is helping me complete even less-focused projects.  At least these past few weeks it hasn’t been akin to watching paint dry!

Speaking of seeing spinners, are you going to the Woodstock Fleece Festival on Saturday?  It’s a great consolation for not going to Rhinebeck.  Hope to see some friends, and to succumb to fibrey temptation!


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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!


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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.


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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.


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Making progress

A few weeks ago, I gave a spinner that I respect & have much love for a few words.  I told her that being perfect isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.  We can feel the right path and keep going.  Slips and all.

Spring was listening. (Finally!)

My own advice is what I am taking for the current projects.

All as I start getting ready for Spring String Thing in Lebanon, Ohio.  I can’t believe that it’s next week!

The Boxing Day Order

Wonderful & terrifying at the same time – on Boxing Day, I got a firm order for a lace stole.  The splendid terms include:  a) in amethyst; and (b) blank slate.

Sneaking you a peak!

What I will be delivering is an approximately 950-yard Victorian-inspired stole with a lightly beaded edge.  It’s a custom design knit in 17 days for a deserving client!

Japanese seed beads for custom-design stole

Materials:  Helen’s Lace (silk/wool) in berry by Lorna’s Laces.  Ewe Knit had enough colours of this & other indie lace yarns that I had great choices locally.  The beads are Tojo 8/0 from Beaddazzled in Burlington.

This project was a challenge and a real joy.  I will post more on the design after it is blocked, and off to Jamaica.

Hand-spun Progress Reports

While the commission was underway, I gave my Tibetan Clouds shawl a light wet blocking to show you the pattern.

Tibetan Chai Clouds shawl-in-progress

Please, ignore the blue blotch – it’s temporary.  Apart from that aren’t the colours wonderful?  It’s the effect of spinning within each band of the Yarn Hollow hand-dyed fibre.  I was able to create long runs where there were none!

Squint, it’s a sweater!

The first 4-ply ball of CVM wool sweetness.  It weighs 62g.  I may not in fact have enough fibre for the intended sweater.  That’s fine, I am just going to carry on under the sweater banner anyway.

Opposing ply yarn in the wild (almost)

Incredibly, both of those opposing ply skeins were made on the same niddy-noddy.  As Sarah Anderson says in ‘The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs‘:

These yarns are fascinating to experiment with, because it isn’t always clear what you’ll get or how the twist in the different plies will respond…

No kidding!  The more energized skein on the left there was 2-ends of the left-spun single plied with the right-spun [L-L-R; plied right].  That 62 yds will be split for the feet of my sock experiment.  The other skein is 276 yds of less excited yarn in the opposite track [R-R-L; plied left].

Explaining how the difference ends with a distinction is above my pay grade!  They are next in the sock queue.

Making my Day

Also amusing is what’s on my needles now – my Ampersand Happies.

First Turtle Toes sock

Keeping the foot in plain stockinette was a good move, I think.  Love, love, love this colourway as much as I did on the day that I bought the yarn.

I can just see them brightening up my shoes now.  It’s going to be great!  Seriously, go get some for yourself!

One bright project leads to another.  This is a braid of BFL top that was a door prize from Musewings last Stringtopia.  Thank you, Nicole!

I started this, yesterday.  The braid is split down the middle.  I am using my Bosworth Mini (21 g) purpleheart spindle.

My thoughts are with you Boston.  Each & every person affected by the Marathon bombing has my prayers.