The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Happy Halloween!

Handcarved pumpkin with tea light on a formica countertop
Ty’s design: Boo!

Happy chilly morning of Halloween! Going out with Spark this morning, I had to wear my longer, warmer coat for the -3C temperature.

It’s been an exhausting lead into this Halloween. The start to this virtual academic year (by choice in our Province) with the same school/new administration was intense.

As if that were not enough we had news that put a new light on our parenting journey. The summary of a 14-month process that then had to be put to other people.

Multicolour handwoven cotton loop potholder with favourite dinosaurs and transformer toys birthday present
For Dad with love

We just completed week 6 of instruction. I would be lying if I were to now flood TKK with the collection of images & sing Halloween from the crafter’s songbook.

It might be nice to paper over the trouble a Mom has when yes:

  • I have projects on the go, some lovely;
  • last year’s advocacy gave refreshing results;
  • the new folks seem dedicated; and
  • we have a better bead on inclusion virtually, sort-of.

Here is where that would be a lie: I am still going into week 7 pushing for invisible differences. No law to date requires Ontario boards of education to develop policies & guidelines for those differences.

Oh, and everybody is bone tired.

We said goodbye to technical difficulties with virtual school Halloween for a better plan.

Instead of whipping up an illusion, here is what I am proud of. If the Mighty Wolf gets dressed with what’s on her warp beam, I may tell that tale later too. Let’s skip that & the onion skin dye job & everything else.

Perhaps you have pandemic brain too, a post.

Double Doodle in car coming home from first grooming visit
Spark gets his first grooming visit & barks at a man

We celebrated Spark’s first birthday on September 9th. He is a Very Fine Pet & stays in touch with his mouthy side. This stocky Double Doodle is 2′ from paw to shoulder (hey, breeders lie, surprise!)

A lot of good comes of improving on 1 concrete thing. Shaggy, over-heating Double Doodle comes out of a pet store’s service all fancy & look! I got an idea!

Set-up rows of a Freesia shawl on circular Addi lace click needle resting on clipboard with pattern.  The yarn is handspun Polwarth silk by irieknit.
Garter stitch is my love language I guess

These 2 things were definitely linked. Naturally, Melvin wanted in on the action from time-to-time. He too is a Very Fine Pet after all.

Domestic short haired black and white cat occupying shawl knitting time by resting on work-in-progress handspun Freesia shawl by irieknit. The yarn is aqua and shades of blue handdyed.
He thinks nothing of interrupting but is the best cat

Neither N nor T really gets this shawl. They are right, it does (sort-of) look like others I have knit but don’t tell them I said that.

Wearing new blocked Freesia shawl in handspun Polwarth silk by irieknit.  The combed top fibre was handdyed by Sheepy Time Knits.
Making more than a thing

This asymmetrical shawl pattern is by Annie Baker Designs, the Freesia Shawl. Their website is here.

Back view of wearing knitted Freesia shawl in handspun Polwarth/silk yarn by irieknit.  The yarn is turquoise and blue with combed top fibre handdyed by Sheepy Time Knits.
The rows get very long as you go

For some reason the yardage requirement kept me from knitting this for a long time. The spinning side was a quick few days this past May.

The fibre is 85% Polwarth wool/ 15% Tussah silk combed top handdyed by Sheepy Time Knits. It is a beautiful base for Mandie’s Mermaid colourway, and I had 8 oz.

The yarn was spun (quickly!) on my Watson Martha spinning wheel in double drive. Yield was 615 yds (i.e. a cool 1,230 yds per pound.

Side view of wearing knit Freesia shawl in handspun Polwarth/Silk yarn by irieknit.  The turquoise and blues combed top was dyed by Sheepy Time Knits.
[ignore the mess] Parent advocate

Please bear with less posting – there are no extra hands on deck now & the laptop has a new life for online learning + video conferencing.

I am still using Twitter, and post more images on instagram. You can find me in both spaces as irieknit.

Handmade cloth sure does come in handy (sourdough cozy idea)

Welcome, if you are a new follower! I smile each time a TKK notification comes through.


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An indigo dyed handspun cardigan

Handknit cardigan with lower lace panel Vodka Lemonade pattern in handspun Polwarth wool indigo dyed work in progress with double point needle holder

Warming my nights: an indigo dyed handspun cardigan knit

Currently on my needles with enough yarn for a second long sleeve is the handspun Polwarth 2-ply wool from last summer’s indigo dye fructose vat.

The knit’s pattern is the popular 2012 Vodka Lemonade by BabyCocktails, Thea Coleman.  Needle keeper shown is by @knitspinquilt.

Substituting a handspun yarn

Knitters have recently been discussing the financial accessibility of new sweater designs on social media, blog posts.  For a bunch of reasons that I do not plan to unpack the discussion gave a slight nod to spinning as an option, and then moved right along.

Premise of this post:  spinning yarn for garments is an option.  Yes, even slightly pear-shaped yarn.

Spinning single undyed Polwarth wool yarn by irieknit on Spinolution Mach 2 spinning wheel flyer detail

November 2015, dreaming of a sweater quantity

It was a simple idea really.  In September 2014, a 1 lb bag of Polwarth combed top from a large commercial mill cost A$38.59 plus tax & mileage to/from The Fibre Garden in Jordan, Ontario.

Spinolution Mach 2 spinning wheel bobbin with 2-ply undyed Polwarth wool spun by irieknit

Comfort spinning on Spinolution Mach 2

Earl, the Spinolution Mach 2 wheel was a good choice for my easy default worsted-style yarn but I ran into a mechanical issue of the drive wheel knocking the frame.

Melvin a tuxedo domestic short hair cat lying in lap of irieknit during Polwarth wool spinning at Spinolution Mach 2 spinning wheel

Sometimes Melvin appears as if from nowhere to see about his spinner

Customer service was responsive.  I was able to finish through to almost 1,400 yards of 2-ply 100% Polwarth wool but the wheel action changed.  Time frame is August 2015 – December 2016.

Evaluating the handspun yarn

In addition to a big wheel action change, 2016 was my watershed year.  The last 7 months were a special challenge.  As a result, skeins 1 – 3 are finer weight (i.e. higher grist) than 4 & 5.

What the industrial yarn complex is very good at is giving consistent grist even between lots.  And then there is my handspun sweater quantity (SQ) that we can follow Diane Varney & call a “coordinated yarn.”  Her galley in “Spinning Designer Yarns”, 2003, p. 22 states:

Coordinated yarns come from spinning wheels not mills.

The text says how I ultimately resolved my issue:

Spin different sizes of yarn to be used in different parts of a garment, or in coordinating separates.  For a bulky sweater, a lighter yarn may provide a more supple and comfortable ribbing.

The all-in number of 1,400 yards per pound is on the light-weight end of a DK mill-spun yarn.  For a chart of yarn weights, grists, knit uses scroll through “Calculating Fibre Quantities for Spinning” by Felicia Lo here.

Botanical colors Indigo Shibori Kit photo by irieknit

How a plan solidifies – Indigo!

The yarn found its voice last summer when the Botanical Colors 1-2-3 indigo vat recipe (adapted from Michel Garcia) not only dyed all of my Orlando mohair bouclé but still had legs.

Heya, Polwarth!

Wet freshly dyed indigo handspun Polwarth skeins suspended on wood rod over chair with dye pot and mixing stick

Seriously thrilling first indigo dye day here

This was when I settled the question – there would be no separation; I had an indigo handspun SQ for sure.

You see a shift in grist – what does this mean for a knitted garment?

When hoping to knit with any non-standard yarn, I start by looking for a suitable pattern that will flex.  As June Hemmons Hiat writes in Chapter 23 on Stitch Gauge:

Some projects require greater precision for a good fit, while with others you can take a more relaxed approach… (“The Principles of Knitting – Methods and Techniques of Hand Knitting”, 2012, p. 455)

The Vodka Lemonade cardigan has helpful notes on yarn character, and shouts ‘a more relaxed approach’.  Over time, I have enjoyed knitting patterns from designers who also spin well.  Even if the pattern itself features mill-spun, there is typically more attention paid to communicating about yarn choice.  If a project database is accessible, a quick search using “handspun yarn” can also round out the information, offer inspiration.  Many spinners work harder to shed light on the creative process in their notes.  Handspun garments are rarely featured FOs on selling pages but information gathers slowly in the database itself.

Here the mill-spun given as the design sample is 1,100 yards Zen Yarn Garden Serenity DK for a 38″ bust size with ¾ length sleeves.  Each skein is around 250 yards/ 100g or 1,100 yards per pound standard DK-weight.

With more handspun also with a higher grist, I have been able to extend the sleeve length (yes, winter is coming) & to knit the body straight with no waist shaping.  Polwarth is soft, has bounce & drape so is a good choice for a next-to-the-skin garment.

Gauge is a snapshot

Leaving the standard consistent grist market, I swatched a first (thinner) yarn.  The substitution stuck but one thing my snapshot swatch is not going to safely do for my knitting is where The Principles of Knitting advises next:

Information obtained from a swatch can also be used to calculate how much yarn you will need if you are designing something, or want to substitute a different yarn for the one called for in a pattern.

It’s possible to swatch within your handspun SQ.  I will leave that intensity for a heirloom knit (or still not!).

The pattern sample yarn has 10% cashmere & 90% merino adding plumpness to the stockinette fabric with US#5/ 3.75mm needles.  A suggested substitute that I know well is far less plump, drapey Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool.  The handspun Polwarth stitches ease when washed, blocked.

Knitting in progress of handspun Polwarth 2-ply indigo dyed wool for cardigan

The single swatch got gauge nicely down 2 needle sizes to 3.25 mm.  How I arranged the skeins was to use the lighter-weight yarn in the cardigan’s body, heavier-weight yarn for warm sleeves.

Getting real with the limits of my swatch, I like that this still-on-the-needles cardigan seems organically swingy & light.  We do still need to read the pattern well, and this is where I think Kate Atherley’s article “On Yarn Substitutions,” here, is helpful:

After all, there are lots of yarns that are called Worsted, but there’s a lot of variance in how thick they are, and how they knit up. Same for Fingering, DK, etc. A yarn weight name is a category, it’s not precise enough on its own for yarn selection. (And those category numbers? Same thing – they get you in the right section of the yarn shop, that’s it! They’re ranges.) The stockinette gauge is what’s used on the yarn label, so that’s how you can identify more precisely what to buy.

The spinner is just only reading from that industrial wool complex & not still within it.  They take the range, gauge information & still keep an eye out for variance within the handspun lot.

What happened?  At the top of the sleeve, I weighed 87 g for each sleeve & measured as I went.  Now at the cuff of sleeve 1, around 48 g is used.  The stitch gauge is constant.  I marked each sleeve increase in case I needed to rip back.

For Designers, Technical Editors

After many sweater pattern searches (and flops) for other handspun in my stash, I ask that you consider adding these points in your pattern landing space.  If you are able to contribute longer articles, interviews, texts there is a need for spotlights on the creative process details as well.

  1. Materials specifications, including put-up & fibre content.  Where you know yarn structure this would be very helpful as well, e.g. conventional plied yarns (single or how many?), chainette, cable, core-spun, etc.  Yarn companies as a general rule give scanty clues about the structure of their bases.  Journalism, texts that focus on yarn manufacturing trends seem to be on the decline.  Your insider knowledge as a design professional is valuable.
  2. Yarn notes, texture suggestions.  Kate Atherley articulates this point very well in On Yarn Substitutions, linked above.
  3. Yardage requirements within the size range.  My last pattern purchase is Heverly Cardigan by Julia Farwell-Clay.  It is a one-yarn fingering-weight design.  The landing page broke out yardage per size, and this was critical to my purchase.  The last 350 yard yarn package spans 3 sizes, including mine in the middle!  Yarn combinations are especially difficult to eyeball when use shifts through a yoke, shawl construction and for borders.

Please understand that gauge is a limited tool at best when substituting off-market yarns because sometimes Life Happens, and also because spinners can do wonderful things with materials not available to conventional knitters.

Professionals have voiced strong opinions about customer skills (lack thereof), hand-holding.  However, spinners who knit are expanding the tent beyond the mills, are able to add value themselves.  Adding information diversifies your customer base, and is not hand-holding.  Selma Miriam’s 1989 experience speaks to the craft’s possibilities:

She purchased handspun yarns for the first time when she couldn’t find soft, fine commercial yarns with which to make lace shawls and scarves, and then almost immediately decided that she had to learn to spin herself.  “I had never knit with yarn that felt so good, alive, and beautiful in my hands,” she recalls.  With a year she had… purchased a wheel and taught herself to use it… (“America Knits“, Melanie Falick, 1996, p. 50)

Handspun garments are sadly not always well-regarded even within spinning communities.  Any that I have made have aged well, drawn me forward.  A stalled project is out and in search of a solution as I type.  These are barriers that can be eased, attitudes that can shift.

Indigo fructose dye kit in plastic zip bag from The Yarn Tree picture by irieknit

Indigo has my attention now

With luck, I will have an indigo fructose vat from The Yarn Tree’s kit to start new exploration & keep that puppy fed.


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Summer Shetland fleece, and afterword

At the end of last September, I washed a beautiful Shetland ewe fleece.  It is from Willow Farm, and was my first (run-don’t-walk) purchase at the 2018 Woodstock Fleece Festival.

Raw brown Shetland ewe fleece on ceramic tile with male Tuxedo cat inching closer

Melly cat approves of my initiative and inches closer.

Willow Farm is a great spinner’s flock.  After the joys of working with Shepherdess Jocelyn’s Romney ram fleece 10 years ago, I also loved an Icelandic ewe’s raw wool.  They do also carry mill-prep but these are lovely fleeces too.

Drying brown Shetland wool locks on pet crate with Tuxedo cat inside on a pet bed

We like the drying part too

Taking a break:  hand cards

This week I was able to admit something to myself.  The other fibre prep in progress was actually not.  With draining days, busy house, etc., I was not moving well on the Olde English Babydoll Southdown locks.

This project was last featured on TKK here.  It was going along but in short bursts.

From Olivia’s Babydoll Southdown, January 2020

The devil is in the decision fatigue.

Flick locks ⇒ hand cards ⇒ rolags ⇒ bring out the antique wheel + spinning chair from a corner ⇒ spin happy ⇒ wind-off (repeat) ⇒ {major gap} ply; cable-ply.

Melvin saw the {major gap} part as magical.  We had words (again), and I had to confess it was maybe too slow now at around 262 yards.

Tuxedo cat sleeping on Olde English Babydoll Southdown wool locks from cotton pillowcase

Sometimes Melvin makes a good point.

Lovely cabled yarn but that’s intense even for me.

Luckily, I had fairly recently given myself the gift of a new spinning space in the house.  That’s key.

Watson Martha spinning wheel and chair with handwoven mohair wool indigo dyed boucle throw and cushions in bay window

Elbow room if not blissfully quiet

The plus for everyone else is less spinning equipment in a room that we all use the most.  More importantly, I am using the space!

Enter the pillowcase of Shetland locks

As the fog of What to Do in Ty’s quiet time lifted this Monday, I figured out a way to leverage new space + enjoy the Shetland fleece responsibly.

Clean brown Shetland wool locks charged on Meck peasant Russian style paddle combs

Aha! Meck peasant combs!

A plant stand is re-purposed for the oh so dusty peasant (Russian style paddle) combs by John A. Meck.  There is not much VM, and I am not using the flicker at all.

Now, I can stop typing so much, and show the happy outcome of this week as it happened:

Combed brown Shetland wool top in bamboo box, wool lock and Tabachek diz on tiled side table

Comb charged twice = 4 lengths of Shetland top

A quick pivot to the Watson Martha spinning wheel, and then:

Handspun Shetland wool on Watson Martha spinning wheel in butternut wood by irieknit

As short as quiet time and sweet

The 2-ply sample shows the variation of the prep & has bounce.

Small twisted skein of handspun combed Shetland wool top on side plate with ceramic sheep mug

Sweet!

This seems like a good plan.  With 4 lengths of top in each ply, yield is approx 39 yards.

Afterword on the last post

Shortly after pressing publish on Friday, I saw more about the Ravelry rebrand, site accessibility.

If you are farther behind these discussions, Ravelry designer @ktb38 has given her/their side of Cassidy’s now deleted tweet on Instagram, Twitter.  I am not following closely but am engaged. 

Secondly, the established searchable, open forum ‘For the Love of Ravelry’ listed in the FAQs as “the place to ask or comment about site information updates and spread love,” is now entirely (and tersely) closed to this topic.  Users are directed to a private in-site email channel. 

Potted yellow hibiscus bloom with thyme

Hibiscus is thriving

The upshot for TKK is that I will aim to give more detail here as needed.  Posts may get swamped again – in fact, they probably will – but an effort will be made to not assume the audience is able to access this user-driven resource. 

If credit is due then until solutions are found, I will add content warnings for links, etc. going forward.   

 


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Early stages of le Tour de Fleece 2019

We are off & spinning as they ride the Tour de France!

Jar with plying balls, basket with spinning fibre, cup with group of suspended spindles and Jenkins Turkish Delight for Tour de Fleece 2019 by irieknit

A practical Grand Depart

This starting picture has all the openings for a flexible 2019 Tour de Fleece with favorite containers.  It is very sensible; let me count the ways.  On any given stage we could:

  • Ply from the outer-pull balls in my WIP jar or the long-standing cotton on my Andean low whorl (back, Jennie the Potter mug);
  • Leave the house with either the Zwartables wool for the Jenkins Delight or mohair for the captive ring Andean spindle;
  • Love on some luxury with Muga silk for the Pau Amarillo Hounddesign or merino/alpaca/camel/silk for the holly Tabachek top-whorl; and/ or
  • Be good and finish the Targhee spinning already on my Blue Mahoe Bosworth.

So naturally, I immediately changed a section of this most sensible plan… as in on the morning of Stage 1 immediately.

Preparing Targhee wool top on Pat Greene carder blender by irieknit

Impulsive aren’t I?

Rather than continuing to spin the Targhee wool from Sheepy Time Knits as last discrete sets of 3-ply, I took the 23 g of ‘The Water’ and am blending it with the 31 g of grey from ‘Carol Danvers’.

Spinning handcarded Targhee wool on Malcolm Fielding silky oak pocket Dervish Tibetan style spindle and support bowl

New look for the Malcolm Fielding pocket Dervish

This is my end of Stage 1 picture.  Not shown is the Jenkins Delight that came with us to the movies that afternoon.

The supported spindle is a Malcolm Fielding ‘Dervish’ Tibetan-style in Silky Oak with a Dymondwood shaft, 0.9 oz.  It was in out-takes of blog posts but also mostly unused since I bought it new in 2014.

Tabachek holly spindle with handdyed merino/alpaca/camel/silk combed top and handcarded Targhee wool with Malcolm Fielding Dervish spindle and bowl on handwoven towel by irieknit

Stage 2, slightly expanding the spins

Yesterday we received word that a dear family friend who had a long illness passed away.  She had been in hospice care, and went peacefully without pain.  I am grieving her loss, and sad to be away from family and friends.

It is good to be spinning with Team Spindlers, and also to pause & write here while Ty is at his day camp.  Maybe I will card some more of the two Targhee tops before an appointment this afternoon.

 

 

 


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The practical Tour de Fleece, a plan

We are fresh off a happy-go-lucky Canada Day weekend, and thoughts are finally coming together for the Brussels Grand Départ.

Spinning mohair top on Peruvian turned captive ring low-whorl drop spindle Pushka by irieknit

Summer sidekick: captive ring Peruvian pushka

The Tour de Fleece is a great container for new approaches to stash & tool.  This year Le Tour rides from this Saturday, July 6th – 28th, and celebrates its first century.

In terms of a plan, I have been fairly stuck.  Are you?  Clearing spins was supposed to help, and the shiny new Female Heroes Club braid did but I have still been a little lost and a lot tired.  Then early yesterday in a bored moment of waiting for N, I put this new spin together.  It is just a scrap of mohair top and an under-used captive-ring pushka from Peru.

Fallen logs across creek in morning wooded trail area

In spite of greedy mosquitoes we enjoyed this stop

After our morning walk, I got spinning time with the gentle chak-chak of the ring, and I am moving through the scrap of mohair.  This spindle has a history of 2 great summery parenting spins, and now I am taking it on the Tour either with other scraps or to continue this first undyed Corriedale wool top project.

Handspun Corriedale wool on Peruvian low-whorl captive ring pushka drop spindle and outer-pull ball in small bowl by irieknit

A very nice challenge spin aeons ago

This is a September 2016 spin that I completed quickly while helping with a Spindlers’ group monthly challenge and then folded on.

Handspun skein of 2-ply Corriedale wool by irieknit

Sweet Corriedale balance

Folded so heavily that I did not share this 50 g of fibre turned approx. 226 yards of 2-ply delight.  It was an intense time at home, and I can look back now and admire that skein all the more knowing what I had on my plate as it were.

Handspinning wool blend on Peruvian captive ring pushka drop spindles and plying ball in dish and handwoven twill towel by irieknit

Last of my Ent Batts!

The next & last spin with these spindles was of beautifully hand-carded Ent Batts “Coffee & Cream” through summer 2017.

Two handspun skeins from Ent Batts by irieknit in Coffee & Cream handcarded fibre

Coffee & Cream skeins

The 2-ply skeins measure 258 yards, and are still in stash.  This was the last in an incredible run of batt sets that are no longer in production but brought much joy across different spindles.  This ‘Coffee & Cream’ is a blend of Corriedale & Merino wools with soy-silk.

The whimsy factor

Each TdF can use a touch of whimsy, and mine will be thanks to the long percolating flax thoughts.

Homegrown Linen book by Raven Ranson pictured by irieknit

Published by Crowing Hen Farm

Helping to Kickstart Raven Ranson’s book, “Homegrown Linen – transforming flaxseed into fibre,” did not disappoint when I had to place the single flax plant on Canada Day.

Transplanted perennial flax plant

On a whim, “Hello, flax plant.”

It is tucked behind some rampantly self-seeding Black-eyed Susans and has kept on blooming each morning.  I noted the ritual involved in preparing the soil for fibre flax, and had at our very own strong clay with a view to creating this new-to-me word tilth.

We may not be in perfect tilth but I did break every clod, remove all of the stones, give it the best of the compost bin, etc.  It is at the very least encouraged to be showy for the next few weeks.

With no flax preparation tools, growing won’t be my whimsy focus anytime soon but this fibre flax for local linen is where I’d love to land.

Black Cat Farmstead line flax stricks by irieknit

Actual beautiful fibre flax

These 2 stricks of line flax are from the Black Cat Farmstead.  It was grown in Stockholm, WI at both their property & A to Z Produce and Bakery.  I was happy to see that it was processed at the Taproot Fibre Lab, Port Williams, Nova Scotia.

There are still ifs involved in spinning flax but it is on my bucket list.  We are not just heading from a season of stress but into a slew of appointments that will have their own challenges.  A little whimsy won’t hurt.

The rub is having the energy to spin line flax at night, moving everything for the morning.  It is easier now to have wheels out in our living space but narrower project rotation has evolved for a reason.  It may just ultimately be a nod to whimsy but these are the thoughts!

Astilibe blooming on Canada Day 2019 by irieknit

Happy planning!

 


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Weaving the weaving in – Swedish Anna cotton towels

Handwoven cotton Swedish Anna towels by irieknit with yellow hem in 4-shaft crystal twill

Woven with love, hemmed in the fullness of time

The simple idea to keep weaving after the handspun scarf brought the second Joanne Hall designed kit off my shelf & onto the Mighty Wolf’s beams.  One is in our kitchen, and these 2 are shipped to loved ones.

Handwoven Swedish Anna cotton tea towel in 4-shaft Herringbone twill by irieknit as gift

For Keisha and she says that it matches their kitchen

This kit was expertly wound, tied and had a 3×3 cross that cannot be blamed for my threading error in a mid-yellow stripe!  Herringbone over 12 threads, and at 24 ends per inch.

Yellow wildflowers and creek in morning light by irieknit

At the relaxed stage of a walk

Through spring, and now the beginning of summer, I went in for longer-than-usual morning walks.  Life this school year took a very troubling turn, and the walks are after Ty starts his day; while I need to order mine in some peace.

Morning light through a park tree by irieknit

Best light

One right step after another, I began to see the days differently, choose new ways, and wonder why I ever rushed home via the shortcut in the first place.

Three skeins of handspun Masham wool yarn dyed by Sheepy Time Knits and spun by irieknit

Minerva Masham awaits her end use

The spindles’ WIP jar is noticeably clearer now but knits have fallen by the wayside.  These are heavy topics that I feel in my body – something had to give.

Harrisville Designs potholder loom with plain weave in progress

Ty’s first loom dressed with all the colours!

As I set about weaving a retirement gift for Mom (only about 3 design rounds with her!) we have a new weaver in the house.  This is a Harrisville Designs Potholder Loom, and Ty is closing his eyes to choose a loop for each pick to meet his well thought-out warp.

Single flax bloom from potted plant

Flax for the garden

A gem from the local farmer’s market, yesterday:  flax.  If only for the beautiful blooms but I am going to enjoy every second with this single plant!

In keeping with those walks, I am trying new ways of doing things.  It is a watershed year.  The good news is that support is coming.  One professional told me last week that I am ahead of others at the same point.  I scoffed and then took it back, thanking her for a compliment.

The Tour de Fleece is coming up now, and I am riding with Team Spindlers.  It is good to participate again and I will be going gently with myself.

Handdyed fibre by Sheepy Times Knits Female Heroes Club 2019 and Tabachek holly whorl drop spindle

Elizabeth Bennet, I have plans for you

The spindle plying work is all well and good but my Tabachek Holly spindle really does need to see some Female Heroes club love, don’t you think?  The label has the most wonderful run of words together: merino/alpaca/camel/silk.

This and WIPs will round out my Tour plans.  The wheels are also busy but one team is all I can manage this summer.


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Scissors meet handspun – a twill scarf

The year is unfolding in tough & unexpected ways.  As we work hard to adjust, meet these challenges, I have been pressed out of regular posting as just one result.  By Eastertime, I wanted to pivot and weave something beautiful.

Out came Sarah Jordan’s stunning handspun merino/tencel that I won from her summer 2015 Shawl for All knit-along.

Handspun skein of merino/tencel yarn made by Sarah Jordan Fluvial Fibers pic taken by irieknit

Prized! Handspun yarn by Sarah Jordan, PAKnitWit

Four years ago!  The KAL was hosted in Sarah’s Ravelry group, Knit/Wit Designs Fans and this was not just a happy prize but a real honour to have Sarah’s yarn.

Plastic knitting ball winder with handspun merino/tencel yarn spun by Sarah Jordan and pic by irieknit

Sarah’s yarn on its way to the loom

Close examining with a yarn wrap & Ashenhurst calculation led me to a sett of 16 ends per inch.  Sarah’s yarn is 3,154 yards per pound.  The plan was simple – to warp along plain weave lines for a finer (4,480 YPP) wool weft and weave a 3-shaft point twill structure.

Threading handspun merino/tencel warp on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit

An Easter improvement plan – threading Sarah’s yarn

There was enough to wind a 3-yard long warp, go 14.5″ wide in the reed, and proceed to sample wefts but carefully!

Weaving 3-shaft point twill on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom with handspun merino/tencel warp using Bluster Bay end feed shuttle by irieknit

Can you see me smiling – scarf start!

The weft experiments in the header led me to the 2/16 light grey lambswool from WEBS.  The draft itself is from “Linen Heirlooms” by Constance Gallagher, p. 54 taken from a 19th century linen cloth.

Erica de Ruiter’s voice is what carried me through to using this draft, however:

Three-shaft twills have a better drape than plain weave but their structure is slightly tighter, and they have less take-up than four-shaft twills, thus producing a lighter weight fabric (see “Weaving on 3 Shafts“, page 5).

That was convincing enough for napkins let alone this handspun project, and I was well & sold on the idea.

Finished handspun handwoven 3-shaft point twill Lucea scarf by irieknit

Sheen, drape, pattern YES!

This below is the face of the cloth as I wove it.  After wet finishing the wool weft has receded to the reverse leaving the beautiful warp colourway dominant on one side.

Detail of right side wool/tencel handspun handwoven scarf by irieknit

Pattern shows as texture on right side with warp stripes

The fringe buckled when I finished the scarf before twisting.  Ty strongly suggested that I should not trim the ends.  They are scraggly but soft!

Irieknit wearing new handspun handwoven 3-shaft point twill by Lake Ontario

Weaving selfie smile

One small detail is that I threaded the full 12-end repeats, and this gave double shaft 1 ends that I wove in the same way (tromp as writ).  It modifies the twill to a little basket, and that probably has helped the drape.  It gave the weaving a good rhythm for this small motif.

Cutting Sarah’s yarn was harder than cutting mine but I am glad that I braved the process!

Life goals

Inn on the Twenty, Jordan, Ontario

Weekend before last, N & Ty took me to visit the Fibre Garden in Jordan, Ontario.  After lunch at the local cafe, I fell in love with the Inn on the Twenty’s window boxes.

Spinning is getting a lot of love right now – the tv-room is crowded with my wheels & spindle projects are also moving forward.  The Falkland wool top that I got from the Fibre Garden is already improved with Logwood.  The kitchen is a crowded mess but purple!

Two dyed braids of Falkland wool top with Logwood by irieknit

Logwood dyed combed Falkland wool top

The darker purple fibre will hopefully play well with my recently (May 3rd) finished sequence of Blink from the 2019 Female Heroes Fiber Club + Paint It Black by Sheepy Time Knits.

3-ply handspun Falkland wool yarn dyed by Sheepy Time Knits spun by irieknit

Blink met Paint It Black for a sweater spin (3-ply)

Mandie’s club continues to delight.  That I also got to cook-up Logwood dye liquor is a wonderful bonus!

Forsythia blooming in Ontario spring

Early spring Forsythia

Spinning, weaving, even prep work is happening thanks to walks that I have started to take after dropping Ty off at school.  There’s been fatigue, crowded thoughts, and the walks help a treat.

Hand prepared Olde English Babydoll Southdown wool rolags and 4-strand cable handspun by irieknit

Four-strand cable creation with Babydoll Southdown wool

Should my mojo for sharing ‘impossible yarn’ production that takes place around here, I would like to explain about this ongoing 4-strand cable idea from the Olde English Babydoll Southdown fleece.

For now we have these rolags that were a delight to spin against prevailing ideas that I hear being (wrongly, strongly & ever so cutely) offered to new spinners as our placeholder.

 


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Spins into November – a tale of 2 wheelspun Shetland yarns

In my last post I wrote about spinning a 2nd Shetland wool top from another dyer.  The spinning tools were the same & the process varied only very little.  As I saw during spinning, yes, the yarns proved to be so, so different.

Now that they are finished, I wanted to come back & compare them.

Handspun handdyed Shetland wool top yarns by irieknit

Tale of 2 Shetland wool spins

Furiosa from Sheepy Time Knits’ Female Heroes Club is on the left.  Its 2 skeins weigh 115 g, and are around 187 yards (748 yards per pound).  The colourway shifted gently, and as a conventional 3-ply lilacs and reds shoot through the darker tones.  There is depth to the 3-ply and the colours never muddied.  I suspect that Mandie kept her painting to the length of the Shetland staples but won’t be asking her to spill her trade secrets!

There was some but not very much kemp in this braid.  How long to wind-off the wheel? 8 days.

Handspun handdyed Shetland wool top yarns by irieknit

Autumn Wedding colourway (Sheepspot), foreground

The Autumn Wedding from Sheepspot at Woodstock was lighter at 104 g.  The handspun yarn measures around 179 yards (1,925 yards per pound).

These were both quick spins, and again I didn’t analyse this fibre’s painting sequence.  This braid had 4 colours in a non-repeating pattern with different lengths between the 4 colours.  In other words, purple was shorter than pink, and there were strong ochre & orange runs as well.  The 3-ply from this braid is also complex but with strong, warm colours.  I will use this handspun in a separate project and not paired with Furiosa.

There was a fair bit of kemp, and the yarn is 5 g lighter than the braid was after the picking out.  How long to wind-off the wheel?  4 days.

The minor difference

To recap the method, both braids were spun on Wee Peggy, plied on Martha (Watson) spinning wheels with the same set-ups.  I divided each in thirds by measuring length, and fished out kemp before spinning.  It was a worsted-style spin across the full width of top in the same order of thirds, 1-2-3 order.

It diverged only in Autumn Wedding when the last ¹⁄3 proved heavier by approx. 11 g.  How I handled that was to stop, weigh, and add the last 5 g of hot pink to the 1st bobbin.  The up-shot is that last-dyed from section no. 3 walked up to section no. 1.  It’s a subtle shift but gets noted as enhancing what we spinners call a barber-pole effect.  It was still uneven but that’s the 2nd skein, 30 yards.

This is just one approach for colour in spinning:  keeping an open mind for what the dyer has created.  Next to each other but not a pair, the new handspun Shetland yarns are:

  1. a subtle, cool, heathery  version with a heavy worsted-weight grist; and
  2.  a bold, warm, multicoloured version with a light sport-weight grist.

A side-note – do not pass over a mill-prepped dyed Shetland if there’s some kemp.  You can easily pick it out, still have a quick spin, and avoid (gah) scratchy (sometimes called rustic) handspun skeins… just ditch that kemp!

Handspun yarns and knitting Drachenfels Shawl by irieknit

Testing handspun yarn choices, Drachenfels Shawl

There are times when combining handspun yarns can seem like a good idea only for it to be you know, not.  My winter 2017 Drachenfels shawl has the (front-to-back) Targhee, Blue Faced Leicester & I substituted a Columbia for that beaded mohair/wool skein.  By fall 2017 it worked so well with Romney for my Starry Stripes Handspun Vest.

Handspun Romney wool with beaded mohair/wool handspun yarn for knitted vest by irieknit

Made a great handspun vest

The details are not important.  This time, I already know that these Shetland yarns may never pair well for me.  That’s okay!  I am already scheming for the new skeins to be Pierogi Slipper Socks by Sarah Jordan and/or a tea cosy.  Both feet & steeped tea cry out for these warm, cheerful colours!

For now the 2 wheels are staying empty for a bit.  Not only am I still knitting the 2 handspun projects but there’s a nicely developed warp plan for Swedish lace 2-tone napkins to grace our home.

 

 


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Woodstock Fleece Festival – silver anniversary

We joined hands and spent a mid-October Saturday together at the 10th annual Woodstock Fleece Festival.  These right steps answered T’s big question:

Why do you go to a spinning festival anyway?

Reason Number 1, there are fibre animals, dear

Llama demonstration 4-H Llama Club Woodstock Fleece Festival 2018 by irieknit

Llama love – that’s T’s hand!

The 4-H Llama Club brought super tolerant llamas.  This sweetheart was almost eye-level with 6 year-old T!

4-H Llama Club demonstration Festival Barn Woodstock Fleece Festival 2018 by irieknit

Another llama friend for T (while I shopped!)

There was enough time & space in this Festival Barn space in particular for the little ones to enjoy their experience.  The volunteers did a fabulous job!

Angora rabbit demonstration Marketplace Barn Woodstock Fleece Festival 2018 by irieknit

Angora rabbit care & plucking

After a bite to eat we found the angora rabbit demonstration starting next door in the Marketplace Barn.  I was happy to point out kids in handknit (are they handspun too, I don’t know!) hats, rush a goodbye and head for the vendors’ stalls.

T learned a lot, snuck a pet mid-demonstration (you did?!? yes), and is not very sure about plucking fur from angora rabbits being exactly kind to them.  I demurred not being an expert.

Reason Number 2, buy all the things!

This reason covered seeing friends – vendors & attendees alike.  My purchases year-over-year are down but still not what you would call paltry.

Knitting books from Gemini Fibres at Woostock Fleece Festival 2018

L-R: T’s pick; and my pick

While I was in the Gemini Fibres line with a copy of Marianne Kinzel’s First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, T ran up beaming with his find & pleases.  To go with a WIP handspun monster he asks for the Michele Wilcox owl & chicken first from her Amigurumi Animal Friends.  Alrighty!

Handspinning Shetland wool dyed by Sheepspot on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Spinning festival fibre with Wee Peggy

Visiting Sasha’s booth for Sheepspot was a special treat.  So impressive was it all that T asked if she owned & operated the Auditorium!  We had nice chats through the day, and I brought home this Shetland top (104 g, ‘Autumn Wedding’ colourway) with other fibre & yarn.  They are the only local sellers of Greensleeves spindles if you are looking for good ones.

This braid was handled exactly as I did the Furiosa Shetland top, i.e. divided by length into thirds, and spun end-to-end.  My guess is that they will show how different the same spinning can look where the only variable is the dyer’s colourways.  Tools, breed, and ply structure will be all the same.  It will be interesting to compare them!

Handspun Shetland singles dyed by Sheepspot on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Third & last bobbin of the Shetland spin

The wheel is Wee Peggy, and I didn’t change her set-up, scotch tension, 5:1.  It is a 1982 (i.e. late version) Rappard kit wheel that my friend Margaret bought, and sold to me for a first wheel.  Mary Knox has given a timeline comparison of the Peggy wheel designs here.

Since this wheel has been home, I have spun with the Willow Tree figure on the back maiden.  She holds a conch shell to her ear, and if she’s here for luck it’s been working!

As for other purchases most were re-stocking, and I also got dyestuff from John at the Fibre Garden.  Hopefully it all spills into TKK as we go through to the next Festival.

An interesting new-to-me vendor was Karberry Farm from Mountain, On.  Their Shetland was tempting but I chose 2 colours of Jacob roving (raised by a neighbouring shepherd).  Jacob is listed as critical in the Breed Conservation List 2015 of Heritage Livestock Canada.  It was a joy to see a 1-30 animal category rare breed at Woodstock!  I was in danger of grabbing the bag of raw fleece but am glad that I resisted.  Cleaning fleece as I do in the kitchen is more difficult to arrange, and I don’t like keeping wool raw if I can help it.

On Melvin

A quick update is that Melvin has been stable through the summer & fall on his new regimen for feline diabetes.

Melvin cat by irieknit resting

Our Mel at rest

Here he is to my right as I typed this morning (the Erica loom is beside him in the picture).  Apart from being mighty vocal on the dot of his feeding times, our Melly cat is doing pretty well, and regaining weight that he lost rapidly in the spring.  We will be doing a new blood curve shortly to find out more.

Melvin is still our only pet, and I have been feeling a tug towards adding another to the home.  It’s open-ended but we all agree.


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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.