The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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Mittens matter

The past couple of weeks have pressed all of T’s mittens into use.  In addition to the 3 pairs of plain stockinette knit mittens he has a store-bought pair that withstands the snow play longer.

It’s a strategy that left me with wiggle-room for the inevitable… a lost mitten.  It happened!  Not quite 2 months into his school career, I looked down at pick-up time with an instant, “Hey!  Where’s your other mitten, hon?”

Yarn bowl of irieknit's Peace Fleece yarn for mittens

Peace Fleece – reserved for mittens apparently

We asked, and looked but a Peace Fleece mitten is lost to the environment.  He regrets the loss.

Maybe someone stole it, Mom.

No, I don’t think so but understand what you mean.  It’s a pretty nice mitten except just one won’t help anyone.

Since it really is a pretty nice mitten, and I do have more yarn, last night I cast-on & off again for a third one of these.

The Peace Fleece yarn has all of my love & admiration as a kindergarten-mitten-grade wonder.  It comes with some VM and stiff fibres for your picking-out but really does better than standing-up to this level of play.  This morning, T regretted that the replacement is not as soft as the other.  I was sure that he could break it in very soon.

Oak leaf hydrangea early buds

Hydrandgea!

Early buds is my signal for there also being a lot of grit and mud left behind.  The school yard is making itself known with the accessories.  We are at 15°C today, and may break a February record if the radio forecast is correct.  It is downright delightful.

Handknit Cormo wool child's mittens by irieknit new and used

Well loved, and broken-in Cormo wool mittens

Remember the backup pair of Cormo mittens from Sheepspot yarn?  They came in quite handy while I took my time working up to knitting the pattern a 7th time!

Of the 3 pairs, it is the superwash Rowan wool mittens that has fared the worst under T’s outdoors fun conditions.  Where the Cormo pair is this picture of fuzzed-out happiness, the superwash wool mittens have pilled, lost shape, and are close to getting rejected by T.

It’s all very well & good considering that I have some stranded mitten ambitions that could start with the child’s size!  The Christmas stocking for T was a wonderful glimpse into Latvian motifs.

Handknit Latvian motif stranded Christmas stocking decoration by irieknit

A first stocking for T

The pattern is “Irma’s Christmas Stocking” from the Fall 2011 issue of Knitting Traditions.  After lots of delving, I replaced the 5th chart with a motif given as from Kurzeme in “Latvian Mittens” by Lizbeth Upitis. Specifically, chart 122, plate 13C in the book.

Handknitting Latvian motif Christmas stocking by irieknit

Latvian stocking-in-progress

 

This was my first time knitting with these now-discontinued yarns.  They are simply stunning for stranded knitting:  Valley Yarns Northhampton sport.

The other day, T got my warmest yes answer.  He asked if we couldn’t just keep the stocking out a little longer.  Why, I asked?

Because I just like looking at it sometimes.

Now if this is not a good reason to make warm mittens for growing hands then I do not know what is!

Handknit Valentines Day hearts


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Lots of love, Happy Valentines!

Happy Valentines Day!

Handknit heart decorations by irieknit

Family of hearts

The middle Heart Pin is for T.  It used a bit of my remnant Cascade 220 worsted wool yarn.  Each side has 4 ends of weaving-in love.

Outer hearts are in Sublime angora/merino bought these many years ago as a single ball on sale.  They have gone with cards for T’s new teachers.  Schooling love started last month.  How proud am I?  20 ends sewn-in proud with glitter heart stickers proud!

The white tie on our left heart there is also in T’s set of back-up mittens for school.  The undyed Cormo Worsted from Sasha Torres’ Sheepspot line of yarns paired with her inky blue to take the edge-off knitting a third pair of mittens.

Handknit child mittens in Sheepspot Cormo Worsted yarn by irieknit

No-itch Cormo Mittens!

The pattern is Kathy’s Mittens by Chris de Longpré.  All 3 pairs are knit in the round.  The other 2 (not shown) are solid yarn leftovers from two of T’s sweaters – Peace Fleece and green Rowan pure superwash wool.

For this last pair in Cormo, I used 46 yards of blue + 16 yards of natural.  With a cuff that I was clearly anxious to stop knitting plus breed-specific yarn, I am happy to send them inside of T’s backpack.  What kindergartener is easy on the mittens?

Off the needles

One of last year’s happy knit events was a KAL in the Knit/Wit Designs Fans Ravelry group.  It fell out of the blog posts at the time but was a fun gift for a dear family friend, Hedy.

Handknit colourwork Zeccola Cowl in progress by irieknit

Zeccola Cowl starting lines

The Sheepy Time Yarns rainbow kit was an obvious choice since the answer to favourite colour that Hedy gives everyone is “rainbow!”  This is one in a series of colourwork designs by Sarah Jordan, the Zeccola Cowl.

Handknit colourwork Zeccola Cowl by irieknit

Ready for shipping, Zeccola Cowl

This project is a perfect example of how knitting has worked to naturally stretch my colour horizons.  Our friend loves her bright scarf.  It is knit in the round, and is probably superb in Sarah’s recommended sport yarn.

Fast forward to this year, and Sarah is currently hosting her StitchburghKAL.  It runs until Friday, March 3rd & is for patterns in her new collection of the main name.

Handspun Corriedale handdyed wool yarn by irieknit

Deep stash – handspun Corriedale wool

As the image shows this was a 2010 yarn of super density that I spun on my then-new Spinolution Mach 2 wheel.  The around 222 yards is not much to hold 8 ounces of Corriedale wool!

If you have heard me go on about my grist learning curve – yup, that’s it!

444 yards per pound may not be an easy yarn to plug into most patterns at half that yardage but Sarah has an ingenious pattern in her collection that works for a wide range of yarns.

Handspun handknit Corriedale wool Pierogi slipper sock

Instant gratification for the mid-winter: Pierogi slipper sock

The Pierogi Slipper Socks pattern is written for sport or DK-weight yarn.  It worked very well using a stitch ratio approach.  I again gave thanks for my Darn Pretty Needles as the 2.75 mm set is unharmed.  They worked hard to give me 20 stitches in stockinette stitch in the round.

Handspun handknit Corriedale wool Pierogi Slipper Socks finished by irieknit

Ah, the brightness! We need the brightness!

The colourway is Gumdrops by Sweet Georgia Yarns.  I had bought 2 braids from a local spinner’s destash.  This tight gauge blends the clearly barberpole yarn into such neat colour bands.

As you can tell, my toe-knitting is still not equal from one foot to the next!  It was late?  My nutty gauge used approximately 140 yards.

Back view of handspun handknit Corriedale wool Pierogi Slipper Socks by irieknit

The “pierogi” tabs on the hoof!

These were a quick-enough knit that joining the knitalong now is definitely do-able.  Mine were between January 31 and February 3, 2017.

This was my first finished object of 2017.  Handspun stash lessening!  They are warm and equally nicely, snug.

My family lived in Pittsburgh for 4 years when I was around T’s age.  It has been cool to read Sarah’s design introductions because I have childhood memories but have not been back since age seven when we returned to live in Jamaica.

 


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Weaving with the Navarro Gomez sisters, and beyond

The ROM’s first exhibition celebrating its Mexican collection is open through May 2016: ¡Viva Mexico! Clothing & Culture.  The exhibition includes around 150 pieces spanning 300 years.  This May the Museum hosted master backstrap weavers, Crispina &  Margarita Navarro Gómez as a complement to the exhibit.

ROM Artist-in-residence Margarita Navarro Gomez demonstrating backstrap weaving with irieknit

Weaving with Margarita Navarro Gomez at her demonstration backstrap loom

I visited on May 19th, and was able to meet the artists-in-residence as they demonstrated outside of the gallery.

Curator, Chloë Sayer, spoke with me & also helped with translation since I do not speak Spanish.  With her help, I asked the sisters questions about their work, and home in Santo Tomás Jalieza, Oaxaca state.  I learned that the sisters do not typically spin but use mill-spun threads, and are of the Zapotec culture.  It was also fun for my part to show a little spinning of East Friesian wool roving on my vintage Andean low-whorl spindle.

Luckily, it was still quiet when I got back after lunch with N.  A very nice docent was helpful for other visitors, and Margarita helped me into weaving on the demonstration loom.  The machete was so smooth, and effective with its handle but I kept wanting to use it blade-down (wrong way!).  Margarita also helped me get used to the loom’s rigid heddle, and then also wove a flower motif with me strapped-in.

Irieknit and backstrap weavers Crispina and Margarita Navarro Gomez

Crispina had just finished weaving her band with fine threads.  As soon as she threw the last pick, she set about braiding the first ends.  It was a truly beautiful band, and she just continued straight into the next step while Margarita worked with me.

Mexican serape classic-period Saltillo style ROM exhibition

Man’s serape, mid-19th century Saltillo-style

There are so many beautiful backstrap-woven pieces on display, and many are natural dyed as well.

Eagle motif handspun cotton huipil Mazatec culture

Mazatec culture handspun cotton huipil

The main design motif of this huipil (1875 – 1899) is embroidered on the tabby & gauze handspun cotton fabric.  The exhibit says this strong eagle resting on nopal (Opuntia cacti) motif represents the founding of Aztec culture in post-revolution Mexico.

Mexican handwoven silk warp ikat rebozo

Silk warp ikat rebozo (shawl), Mexico

The exhibit is in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume on level 4 of the new wing.  I’d love to go for another visit, and gain more understanding.

Viva Mexico Royal Ontario Museum exhibition backstrap woven belts

Backstrap woven belts, Mexico

A few more pictures are up in my Flickr album, and I recommend it for anyone who is interested in Mexico’s material culture, and innovative textile production, generally.

Mexican embroidered silk cotton rebozo 18th century Royal Ontario Museum exhibit

Embroidered rebozo (shawl) with 6-point fringe, 1775 – 1800

At last, the loom was warped

Sometimes the best obligations are those we set for ourselves.  The ice-breaker into weaving again was a table runner for our front hall.

Blue Faced Leicester wool handspun yarn by irieknit

BFL loom fodder from dyed top

This was approximately 502 yards (1,004 yards per pound) of BFL from top that Waterloo Wools dyed as ‘Holly and Ivy’.  It was a quick spin in mid-September on the antique Nova Scotia McDonald wheel, and plied on my Watson Martha also in double-drive.

Weaving wool overshot table runner with handspun pattern weft on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom

Elizabeth-Jane’s design; my handspun yarn

The warp & tabby weft are Harrisville’s #9 evergreen in Shetland.  It is 1,800 yards per pound, and I used a 15 epi sett estimating for plain weave.  The pattern is in Marguerite Davison’s “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book,” p. 120 I.  We had a flip-through, and when N strongly preferred this Elizabeth-Jane’s design, I got to figure things out.

Finished handwoven wool table runner by irieknit in overshot design

Washed! Circles on the flip-side

You’ll have to take my word for it due to poor lighting at the moment – the hemmed, and pressed runner is now rocking our hall’s vintage Singer sewing machine.  Holiday cheer is unlocked!

It was 15″ in the reed, and with my wet finishing is fulled to 13″ width and 46″ length.  The hem’s weft was a flourish of handspun that was already on a bobbin.

Cones of wool weaving yarn

Future weavy plans

These cones of mill-end yarn arrived, yesterday.  With lots of holiday & new baby knitting ahead, I also get to look forward to keeping my Mighty Wolf open for business!

 


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Wensleydale Wednesday, and TKK featured for spinners

While in progress this Wensleydale commercial top has been very mobile.  The ‘Hello Sunshine’ colourway by Spunky Eclectic blurring on my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle got many conversations going as it went from near to as far as New York city this summer.

Spinning Wensleydale top on Jenkins Turkish Delight in carob wood

at Stage 19, 2015 Spindlers Tour de Fleece

The singles were all drafted from the fold of the long Wensleydale wool staple.  This breed has locks that are as long as 7 – 12″, and I wanted the loft from folding as well as some texture.

Wensleydale wool handspun singles cop on Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle Tour de Fleece 2015

Full – at stage 20, Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece

The carob wood of the 28g Turkish Delight spindle brought out the fibre’s luster so well!

Looks aside, this became a slow spin over 2 years of 4 ounces of Wensleydale wool top.  There was no rush but 3 factors combined to slow it down somewhat.

  1. Minor but there was kemp in the top.  It was like an itch to remove every last stray opaque fibre.
  2. Over time the braid started to full (like matting; a step before felt) together.  This meant lots of tugging before the kemp hunt.
  3. Spinning from the fold took getting used to, and this is a slower spindle that also has an upper knob to navigate around.

In short, I had to be in the mood.  First singles were wound-off on December 23, 2013, and last were spun on August 3, 2015.

Handspun Wensleydale singles sample by irieknit

Ruling a spinning thought out

The upside of extended spin time is that you have a chance to consider your options.  In this new world of me actually sampling, I decided that it had more twist than I would like as a finished singles yarn.

It also became a teaching material for my Learn to Spin on a Drop Spindle students this fall at the Art Gallery of Burlington.

Handspun Wensleydale yarn by irieknit

Wensleydale Wednesday!

Now that my class is completed we have approximately 450 yards of 2-ply Wensleydale handspun in my stash.  The operating presumption is that I will weave something small with this yarn.

Ball of Cushendale Woolen Mills Mohair boucle yarn

Cushendale Woolen Mills Mohair yarn

If possible, I would love to use it together with this 200 yards of Cushendale bouclé yarn.  Such a delightful gift from my cousin – she visited the mill in Ireland, and thought of me!  Other projects are ahead in the loom’s queue but this is the start of a plan.

Signal boost!

It has been wonderful to see some of my blog posts included over successive editions of Hand Spinning News.  The story of E’s project using Babydoll Southdown wool is featured in the News & Events section of the latest November 2015 edition of Hand Spinning News.

Welcome to new visitors, and as always thank you to Shiela Dixon for your recognition.  I hope that you continue to enjoy the blog!

A small note 

In writing about E’s work in a fully public TKK post, I struggled with a balance for sharing & her privacy.  E did all of this in Grade 8 at age 14, and within a small local school.  As far as I know there was no outside publicity.  In taking, and later working with the images, I wanted to be careful not to identify E, the school or the other kids in her grade.   It is after all, a small world.

The privacy tangle, being a guest of her proud family, and my own joy at seeing her hard work positively shine all resulted in the single long shot for the post.

On the back-end, I happily do have a new light camera model as of last weekend.  It will make my editing life easier for events like this with 14.2 more megapixels than the older mode.

November oncidium orchid blooming in morning light

With thanks for everyone who gave feedback on E’s project & the great Babydoll Southdown wool adventure!

(edit for name spelling)


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Celebrating with knits

Whichever stars have aligned, we are in the midst of much change.  A lot, actually.  Only one fell to be met with knitting, and it is the happiest of them all!

Welcome to the Flock baby cardigan

He is now just over 6 weeks old, and oh, joy I am an Aunt!  The design is Welcome to the Flock by Julia Farwell-Clay.  All variations of this sheep cardigan are adorable.  It was so much fun scrolling through that I did it twice!

My version is knit heavier than the pattern suggests.  The yarn is Diamond’s Luxury Collection fine dk-weight yarn in superwash merino.  With 3.5 mm needles, I got 21 stitches & 26 rows per 4″.

Welcome to the Flock baby knitted cardigan yoke detail

The substitution made for yoke changes. The single row of sheep ends with a 7-row open heart in black.  I added a 3-row peerie from Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting (page 49) into a 1-row peerie pattern.

Handspun-worthy boy

It wasn’t all blue but nearly so!  How could I not spin for this? Seriously.

Targhee handdyed wool on Watson Martha spinning wheel

This Targhee wool top is from Corgi Hill Farm, and was spun in just a few days at the end of March.  It was 5 oz/ 140 g in her “Frozen Fjord” colourway.  Spinning was on the Watson Martha in double drive on the larger whorl for a 2-ply yarn of 382 yards.

Knitted Mario the Artistic Rabbit stuffed toy in handspun yarn by irieknitSome gifts are just a joy to make.  A first Mario the Artistic Rabbit by Jenna Krupar in Noro Silk Garden yarn went to my cousin’s 2 year-old this Christmas.  This second version used approximately 130 yards of the handspun Targhee wool.

Knit Mario the Artistic Rabbit stuffed toy in handspun yarn with mohair locks in tail

Needle-felting for a tail with kid mohair locks was my favourite part.  The new parents agree, and are keeping the toy well out of their dog’s reach!

Knit Mario the Artistic Rabbit in handspun Targhee wool by irieknit face detailIndefensibly perhaps, I knowingly went with these mis-matched button eyes.  Let’s chalk that up to character.

Give the baby a vest!

Maybe you are starting to see how my hands were a little full with the baby knitting?

Stripey knit boy vest by irieknit in Sirdar Baby Bamboo

Shopping the stash resulted in a lot of ends to sew in!  This is a pattern from Sirdar’s baby bamboo knits pamphlet 323B.  After some other tries, I decided on this as the best colour sequence:

A =  Neutral:  col. 141

B = Dark blue:  col. 150

C = Kelly green:  col. 122

D = Light blue:  col. 138

It was all going fairly swimmingly (literally – four colours to juggle) when I realized about the square armholes.  They ought to have been shaped… With a shortage of yarn & patience that mistake took it to a very preppy level.

Summer blooming clematis

We are planning our trip to meet this little one & celebrate his birth in person.  It means a second short trip in 2 months but will be more than worth it!

The clematis is in full bloom now but you see, I was thinking of posting in June but just got swept away by all the things.


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Antique spinning wheels – in praise of the sub-herd

A trio of restored antique wheels lives with us.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheels acquired in Canada

Flax wheels wave to the blog

Each has these features:  sloping-bench, three-legged, double-drive, screw-tensioned, treadled, flax loving.  They share the overall Saxony spinning wheel structure, and they work.  Apart from all coming to me right here in Ontario they have little else in common!

From late 19th-century Eastern Europe, Chela

Since my February 2012 post about this “not child’s play” painted wheel, several spinners have contacted me with their own strikingly similar examples.

Irieknit handspun linen yarn vintage Pennsylvania flax on antique spinning wheel

Last spun: linen yarn from vintage Pennsylvania flax

This is the finished combined 307 yards from two fingers of the vintage Pennsylvania line flax that I have from an eBay purchase.  It was wet-spun on Chela, and wet-plied on my Spinolution Mach 2 wheel at 10:1.

Bobbin and flyer on antique Eastern European flax spinning wheel

This wheel is useful, and has a beautifully gentle action for fine spinning.  She does need help for a safer peg system.

Although the back of the bobbin is badly chipped this does not affect the function.  Not every break needs major repair.  The pegs have held fairly well but do need attention.  Each flyer hole is a different size but it will be a minor repair for a wheelwright.

From early 19th-century Nova Scotia, signed Wm McDonald

The largest in the trio, this signed flax wheel is a rare one that is just beautifully made.

Restored antique Nova Scotia flax spinning wheel by William McDonald

Repaired & in good form, William McDonald wheel

Alvin Ramer quietly gave me better flyer hooks while he fixed the treadle at the end of October, 2014.  It is now restored to working condition.

Irieknit handspun silk buffalo cashmere yarn on antique McDonald Nova Scotia spinning wheel

Last spun; silk/buffalo/white cashmere blend

The celebratory lap was to seize my 50% silk; 25% buffalo; 25% cashmere batts from Sericin Silkworks, and give her a spin.  Record-breaking sustained cold this February was definitely a factor in the indulgence!

Irieknit handspun silk buffalo cashmere blend yarn on antique William McDonald flax spinning wheel

Fast but oh so soft spin!

Two batts weighed a total 2 oz/ 56g.  I tore strips, and with not another thought made the 189 yards of semi-woolen yarn.

The wheel passed my test for plying the yarn on her second ratio, so she is simply an all-round good example.  I am so happy to have this wheel!

The new Kid from the Ramers, Linley

This is the Oops!  In my defense, she came with 3 Ramer bobbins + a (partial) Ramer oak distaff.

Antique compact saxony style flax spinning wheel

Wheel no. 15, Ramer spinning wheel collection

I am still puzzling over this wheel – is she a low-Irish wheel as the Ramers suspect or is she a North American example?  Any tips will be appreciated, dear readers!

Antique saxony-style spinning wheel table with depression

Depression in the wheel’s table

To my (untrained & enthusiastic) eye, the depression in her table looks original .  Barbara Ann Ramer suggests that it would hold a water dish, perhaps tin.

For my spinning, the water will be kept away from the compact table but it is a good spot to park all manner of things!

Irieknit handspun yarn from silk caps on antique saxony spinning wheel

The inaugural spin, silk caps

The singles for this 618 yards were spun from 24 g of silk caps on my new antique saxony wheel.  I used my Watson Martha wheel in double drive to for plying.

Rear view of antique flax spinning wheel with water dish depression

Audience-side of Linley the flax wheel

When the previously strong take-up stopped on a dime, I discovered that the old flyer whorl (darker wood) was threaded.

Older posts in Ravelry fora gave solutions to hold friction, and I went in search of plumber’s tape.  I needed a combination with painter’s tape but it seems to be holding now.

Rear axle and drive wheel for antique saxony spinning wheel

Added concerns

A large but seemingly stable crack in the back wheel support is also of concern.  The wheel sits level on a leather bearing but its axle seems worn.  I am not sure if this will need additional professional work but have decided to ask for an assessment.

The spinning on these wheels has been a delight.  My hope is to keep them working as tools in my spinning practice, and to get back to the flax.

Space does not allow me to have a large collection but the trio makes an awesome sub-herd!

edit, December 4, 2015: Wheelwright, Reed Needles, notes that the treadle on this unsigned oak flax wheel, Linley, is cedar.  It points to Canadian & not Irish origins for this wheel.  See my update post of today for more!


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The why of my knitting

Last Tuesday, the man sitting across from me in a coffee shop struck up a line of questioning.  I was a little in love with swatching my Clun Forest wool yarn from Sheepspot it being for baby nephew and all.

Yarn and fibre from London Ontario indie dyer Sheepspot

He had asked if I knitted my sweater.  Nodding, I added that I made the yarn, and dyed it.  We talked just a little about cochineal, and he told me about knitting with his Grandmother as a boy.  Then he asked penetratingly,

You knit because it is relaxing, yes?

“No,” I answered laughing.  “I knit because I get to have the things that I make,” pointing meanwhile to the little swatch-in-progress.  He & the 2 friends were stumped.  He gave a, “Huh,” and asked again.

“Right. It is relaxing.  I like the process but I knit to make things.”  The conversation marched on.

That Tuesday’s sweater is a good example of what, “I get to have this” means.  A 100% Finn wool sweater that left the industrial complex at an early stage as combed fibre.  It ticks these boxes: soft, comfortable, fits, layering, warm, and brighter than anything an Ontario winter can throw at it.

Even if I could get this breed-specific wool as a durable, fitted sweater off the shelf (and I can’t), the single greatest attribute of my version is the expression of ideas.  It is what I chose for lunching with my spinning mentor/friends that day.  They last saw it on the needles.  It said, “Yeah, people spin yarn,” in a coffee shop, and that a red dye is from scale insects.  Right here on TKK it was all about the neck steeking, and the stress knitting in its day.  Later on, I had to shorten the long sleeves.  It is documented on Ravelry; could still be even more.

In special cases like the expected baby nephew, I knit, and even spin for deserving others.  Sometimes knitting is relaxing.  Sometimes it really isn’t relaxing at all.  Sticking to it gets you more than entertained, and that’s the point as I see it.

Here’s to hoping that all our FOs will be all that and then some in their own time!

Columbia wool story with Zoë the CPW

In the last post, I shared a new purple wool spin on the Canadian Production Wheel’s bobbin.  It was the Columbia wool roving at the bottom of the box there.

Handspun singles of Columbia wool spun on Canadian Production Wheel

Columbia wool singles

This roving was 119 g of Sasha’s ‘Orchid 1’ colourway.  I really enjoyed the darker spots.  The 1st bobbin was spun before our trip last year, and the 2nd bobbin followed on January 18th.

Handspun Columbia wool roving on Canadian Production Wheel

Skeined! Woolen-spun Columbia yarn

The 310 yards were plied on the same wheel after I reversed the twist in the drive band.  This Philias Cadorette CPW really does better spinning left if I reverse the band.  I also changed to the second ratio.

Spinning natural Columbia wool roving on Canadian Production Wheel

Stash-busting!

One good long-draw experience leads to another!  I have spun all 150 g of this Columbia roving from the Fibre Garden up now.  We are still climbing over the big girl because the 124 g batch has come out to play as well.  I may need to get more soon!