The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


Leave a comment

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!


Leave a comment

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!


2 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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.


5 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

Spring sweater and new numbers

Look what I’m now wearing!

An emerald Mr. Bluejeans!

It’s Amy Swenson’s design Mr. Bluejeans from Knitty’s Deep Fall 2012 issue.  It’s roomy – see what I did there with the overlap?

Swing!

In it’s natural state this is a cardigan that would like to go for a whirl already.  So, we did.

Did my gauge swatch lie?  I don’t think so.  Well, 7 skeins of Sweet Georgia SW Worsted later…  Seriously though, I used the size small directions and needed 1,400 yds.  A whole 250 yards more!  The small grist variation doesn’t account for that.

Gorgeous semi-solid greens, Miss Sweet Georgia!

The sleeve cuffs on my cardigan are slightly shortened.  They also have Elizabeth Zimmerman’s i-cord bind-off.  In following her advice in Knitter’s Almanac to keep that loose, I got the interesting flare.  It’s a design element (ha!).

This was to match my fix for a very raw bottom edge.  Luckily I eeked out enough yarn to give that an applied i-cord.  Why?  Well, the edging pattern is not actual ribbing.  All things being equal I like a good ribbed edge on a garment.  Some knitters feel that its cinching action is unflattering.  There’s just something about a classic rib edge that I love.

 

Speaking of Pretty Canadian Yarn…

We are in a wonderful time for finding Canadian indie hand-dyed product in local yarn stores.

Turtlepurl’s Polly Wanna Cracker? yarn in Striped Turtle Toes

I first found Turtlepurl when her fibre seduced me at the 2010 Toronto Knitter’s Frolic, and have bought more from her store since.  It’s just wonderful to see her yarn carried locally!

A few days later, and we have a new sock project on the needles!  I am adjusting the Ampersand design for these.  It’s regulating my stress quite nicely, thank you.

A slow project Transformed

The SpinDoctor’s Podcast Listeners Group on Ravelry is spinning together in a Great Sock Yarn Experiment.  The inspiration is the new & very super Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson.

The slow project on my Jenkins Delight Turkish-style spindle

I started spinning this Sweet Georgia BFL/ silk top back in around January 2011.  In that time, I have made a 164 yard 2-ply skein, and 29 g of singles besides.

The hold-up is simple.  You haven’t seen that 2-ply skein because I think that it has fairly ugly barber-polling.  Also, I love the Jenkins Delight as a travel spindle but that knob slows me right down.  I cope but am annoyed by easing the half-hitch over.

Martha to the rescue!

Wouldn’t you know that was at exactly 1/3 of the remaining fibre?!  I am now well on my way to having 2 opposite-twist singles all spun up.  It takes enough twist to be very nice stress spinning too.

 

Now don’t let the shock hurt you but…

… yours truly has destashed a spindle.  And that is no lie.

Spindlewood square mini spindle in Olivewood

A very pretty, and well-made spindle at that.  I bought this Spindlewood from Morgaine’s shop at Stringtopia 2011.  No small amount of sentiment there but I really do have other spindles in this 22g bracket that I have used more often than this one.

Wildcraft spindle with Wisebatt

Nice timing for the return of my Wildcraft bracken spindle then, yes?!  It was just with a friend, and came back home this Tuesday.

The fibre is the other half of Sandi‘s drum-carded gift to me last fall.   It’s a joy to spin:  90% Falkland wool/ 10% silk.

Happy Easter when it comes!

Silly me, I didn’t realize how happy Melvin would be with that there chicken decal…

Cat toy in the wild!

 


Leave a comment

A little bit warmer

Cold, drab February days inspired more all-over Staghorn cable knitting.  Now, a whole year of on & off knitting has paid off!

The design is the Beach House Pullover by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, Interweave Knits Summer 2010.  The size is 38¼” bust circumference, which gave me a 2″ +ve ease.

Not surprisingly, the Cascade 220 worsted yarn was a trouble-free choice.  So was this pattern – I was able to just follow it to the word.

Suitable for wearing with the stretch jeans

Thanks entirely to this lesson in cable knitting, saddle shoulders and a shawl collar, I am looking forward to the late-February snow forecast with some glee.

Believe it or not, this is a sweater-in-progress.  It started life as raw CVM wool from the Spinning Loft, and I love it.  It’s a *flick & card 2 rolags per spindle, spinning, and repeat from * end deal.

A good, relaxed tortoise’s pace. I shall keep you posted.

Why leave Martha idle when I could have some fun?  Last night I dug deep into the fibre stash & got this Miss Babs Polwarth dyed top out.  I have 8oz, and am tempted to spin a 4-ply yarn.

It is driving out some discontent.  As anything that looks this much like the Caribbean sky on a sunny day is bound to do for me.

Lace in its crumpled infancy.  Starting this Tibetan Clouds Beaded Stole ate a chunk out of my Saturday.  The blue yarn is TechKnitter’s Belly Button technique for starting a centre-out piece.  Sanity saved!

Knitting my spindle-spun Bronzed Chai yarn is just so interesting!  I love how Sivia Harding has designed the beading, and this is my first counter-pane pattern.

Housekeeping 

Thank you to everyone who sent wishes for Toby.  His eye healed in a few days.  Apart from needing eye-drops x6 per day, he is much better now.

There’s no concern about any neurological damage.  It took him a bit to drop the act but his walking is back too.  All it took was the doorbell to be rung at night, and he flew up the basement stairs in a flash.

This spring is going to be for learning!  The 2013 Spring String Thing is Friday, April 26, 2013, through Sunday, April 29, 2013 in Lebanon, Ohio.  I’m very excited about my classes, staying at the Golden Lamb again, and getting a tour of the Stringtopia studio.

Right after that, I am also going to Sarah Swett’s Weekend with Wool presented by the Spinning Loft.  It’s Friday, May 17, 2013 to Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Brighton, Michigan.