The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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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.

Plying ball and spin-in-progress of Sheepy Time Knits merino/silk blend for Spindlers monthly challenge by irieknit


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Luck of the draw for my spindles

A new spinning project was inspired by this month’s challenge theme in the Spindlers group on Ravelry:  favourite places.

Favourite places spinning project with merino silk dyed top, Moosie and Tabachek spindles by irieknit

So much good in this

This special 50% merino/ 50% silk braid is hand-dyed by Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits, and was a door prize that I amazingly won at the 2013 String Thing event.  With some more discipline to keep equally special spindles clear, I was able to leap to a plan of action!

The Plan

It was actually a half-plan.  Off, I ran with the fibre & my 28 g Moosie to a spinning morning visit with my good friend, Margaret.  We last saw each other sometime last year with one thing & another.

Even with every confidence in what my eyes can see of this braid plus Mandie’s known skills as a dyer, I was floored.  It’s that open &  fabulous to spin almost 4 years later.

Simply put, this is the best of its kind that I have been fortunate enough to spin.  The spindle was hard to put down at Margaret’s – sorry if you were behind on your day!

For such a gentle gradient, I am tearing fairly fat strips of fibre consistently across the top.  When that length of top was spun, I arrived at the second half of planning.  Out came this 26 g Tabachek with a Lacewood whorl.  The rhythm is to alternate spindles at the end of each width of top.

Spinning project with handdyed merino silk fibre, plying ball, Moosie and Tabachek spindles by irieknit

Current situation: favourite place deeply imagined

The inspiration place is again, Frenchman’s Cove in Portland, Jamaica.  Specifically, where the river meets the white sand beach.

Marcel Holyoak Frenchman's Cove, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Credit: Marcel Holyoak under Creative Commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

This image shows the rope swing.  It was the best fun to swing off into the confluence of river and Caribbean Sea as children.

The plying ball is of the two singles wound together by hand.  It is 27 g.  So far, the plan is a good one.  I go by feel for the lengths that I spin in each round.  There was only a small amount left on one spindle after winding this plying ball.  It is kept with the project, and off I went with clear spindles again.

With pauses for knitting, I am happily spinning along.  Other Spindlers members have shared beautiful places with just lovely projects.  It all adds up to a very lucky thing to be doing this month.

Play doh design at irieknit's

New family creating

Happy Family Day weekend, Ontario readers.  Unless T returns from school with the missing Peace Fleece mitten, I may be back to the remnants with a purpose!

We have coughs due to colds, and our own outings may take a hit – be well!


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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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Racing Rest, Tour de Fleece 2015

Over the past month, I have been helping as captain & riding along with Team Spindlers 2015 in the Tour de Fleece.  It’s been amazing & a big honour – I started with this team as a rookie in 2010!

tdf-2015-logo_xlarge

We are 165 members strong.  The spinning projects are a fabulous mix from returning spindle spinners, and those who are new to the craft.

California Variegated Mutant wool fleece for Tour de Fleece 2015

My main focus is keeping the ‘fleece’ in Tour de Fleece!  This California Variegated Mutant wool (link takes you to my last update post) was being hand-carded & spun on 4 low-whorl drop spindles when it started to go on breaks for long stretches.

California Variegated Mutant wool spindle project starting Tour de Fleece 2015

This was the status at the start of the Tour: 4 plying balls of 4-singles each, and more on the spindles themselves.  The front spindles are Andean turned pushkas from the CTTC, and the others are Andinas by R. Leach.

Handcarded rolags of California Variegated Mutant wool for Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015

Plan of Action

For most stages of this Tour, I have carded 2 (or 3) rolags per spindle, and then rotated through until each is all spun-up.

Melvin cat occupies California Variegated Mutant wool for Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015

Never one to obey rules that he can’t completely understand, Melvin has found his way into some of my update posts.  This incursion happened for Stage 6 after I left the room to get a glass of water.  He’s quick.

Focus has paid-off, and I have broken into other spinning projects when much too tired to lift the hand-cards.

Low whorl drop spindles with California Variegated Mutant wool Team Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015

Stage 4, Tour de Fleece 2015

Team Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015 California Variegated Mutant wool spinning and plying ball

A 5th plying ball at Stage 6!

Handspinning Egyptian cotton top on takhli supported spindle with calabash bowl

Egyptian Cotton for Stage 9 in-couch spinning

Team Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece low whorl drop spindles with California Variegated Mutant wool

As at Stage 10

Spinning yak/merino/silk on Tabachek mini drop spindle by irieknit Tour de Fleece 2015

Stage 11 with yak/merino/silk blend on Tabachek mini spindle

California Variegated wool fleece and spinning Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece

Less fleece at Stage 13!

Spinning California Variegated Mutant wool Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece by irieknit

Stage 15 and forward

Sharing has also been with spinners in the Guild, and another unofficial wildcard, the Canadian Yarn & Fibre Market group on Ravelry.

It’s been a wild Tour, and I am looking forward to the last half of this week into Paris.  For all who love spinning while they spin as much as I do, a big, “Allez!” from me to you for after our gap day!


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The quiet campaign – Tour de Fleece 2013

In the days before this year’s Tour de France, I joined teams and prepared Hebridean – also called St. Kilda – locks.  The dark fleece, and story in the Summer 2013 Wild Fibers by Margaret B. Russell egged me on.

Taken today – the Hebridean rolags, intact

Other spinners on Ravelry were also interested to see how this rare breed’s wool would spin up.  I even had my sample card, and shared the problem with a break near the butt end of the locks, and dandruff.

Hebridean lock and sample card

However, raw enthusiasm was not enough.  The rolags from this “tiny black sheep” with its many horns still await my spinning pleasure, and the Tour ends today.  I say this without a stitch of self-reproach.  It was a conscious decision to follow the Tour in private and on my own terms.

On a very personal front we are ending a long journey ourselves.  Added pressures to perform got ditched.  It’s as simple as that.  To anyone also facing trial & tribulation of any sort or degree:

Be it chronic illness, returning to work, raising children, the economy, a disability

My Grandmother gave me her counted cross-stitch sampler to complete when I was a teenager.  Arthritis of the hands stopped her work after only part of the upper flowers.  It stretched me & took years, has a mistake in the fence posts, and the duck pond corner was fodder for a dog (hence the deep mat).  There was as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich would say, “ego enough to sign their work” (“The Age of Homespun“, Alfred A. Knoph, 2001, p. 247).

I love this piece but moreover, I love the words.  It hangs in my studio now, so I share this saying as we go through what we have to.

Even morning glories need support

Fruits of the Tour

Has the 100me Tour not been thrilling?!  Here is what I stopped to photograph – some but not all of my comfort work.

Not your average socks!

The strange & wonderful beast of opposing ply yarn is fast becoming a pair of socks.  A pair of very marled socks that is!

Wait a Bit sock, selfie

Due to the extended period of creation from braid to sock, I named this after the town in Trelawny, Jamaica – Wait a Bit.  See here for the iconic picture if you don’t believe me.

No elastic

The extra-springy opposing ply makes for a very elastic 2×2 ribbed cuff.  I also added my first sock-cuff gusset when it sunk in that I was getting a rather tall sock on the needles.  This was where having Erlbacher’s “Twisted Stitch Knitting” book came in handy.  I penetrated her chart on p. 119, and it worked!

Off the spindle!

Talk about happy-making fibre!  This doorprize braid of BFL from FOAY, Musewings has gone everywhere with me since mid-April on my purpleheart Bossie.

Finished Musewings skeins of citrus joy

Splitting the braid led to one obviously longer single, so I decided to chain-ply each on my Watson Martha.  The skeins are 180.44, and 228.02 yards, respectively.

[Aside: one major advantage of winding outer-pull balls with no core is you can see the longer single = larger ball]

So many thanks, Nicole!

I’ll be watching Nicole’s store in case she comes off her dyeing hiatus.  It was such a relaxing spin, and exactly what I needed to work with.  Also very happy that I didn’t overcook the chain ply on the wheel.

Quick pic was for twitter – Ent Batts

Enting is another talented FOAY whose fibre has been in heavy rotation here since April.  Naomi handcarded corriedale, merino & silk to create her Mixed Berries blend.  They are no more.

Ent batts converted

No need to be coy about that new spindle in the back, right?  A good 4 years on the Hatchtown Farm spindle list paid off with impeccable timing!  It’s a Kaari in Rosewood & Maple, and gives my kind of spin. LOVE.

The other spindle is a Spanish Peacock in Flame Box Elder.  It also spun the single in the plying ball, which I wound with a silk single.  With the batts decimated, I need to spin more silk now!

Teaser

The loom is dressed!  I have done some weaving this week but hit some snags (literally – looking at the reed…)

Warm heddles on 4 shafts!

I am flipping between Janet Dawson’s Craftsy class, and Peggy Osterkamp’s “Weaving for Beginners.”  It has been so good to fold myself to the task of learning, and problem solving at the loom.  Some days needed just that kind of absorption.  Some more will too, I imagine.


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A Tour de Fleece with results

The mountain stages were where I dove into my 15 oz of Horned Dorset roving.  The goal was to keep practicing longdraw on my newly refurbished Watson Martha wheel.

Soon every saved toilet paper roll had been pressed into service.  In spinning all of the singles first, I did get a more consistent long-draw action going.  I also learned just how physically draining even a supported long-draw is over time.  It was a push but I finished in time for 7 skeins of squoosh plied before the end of Le Tour.

It was an extra push after my Dumb Mistake.  Which is to say, I managed to ply 78 yards of oops! before I saw it was 5 and not 4 bobbins on the darn lazy kate.  That hurt.

It’s what happens when you are me & try to start plying after 10 pm.  So we have some potholder yarn, and also 308 yds of my 1st proper 4-ply woolen yarn!

Beth Smith deserves big props.  She gave me respect for sampling and a new drafting method.  Beth is a wonderful instructor and hilarious besides!

To wit, these Mystery Fleece samples are curious.  The carded 3-ply (top) has the better hand.

 

But wait – what is this?  The 2-ply combed number knits a pretty sweet swatch!  The Shetland lace does have crunch but is still a keeper, I think.

Not that I am biased  or anything.

On a whim, I also made friends with 3 bolls of cotton that I picked up at the Ontario Handspinning Seminar last month.

Using the shell as a ground for the tahkli helps me to feel the spin better than ceramic or glass bowls.  Straight from the boll this cotton had so much crimp!  I got the knack of fluffing the staple crimp a little, and also not spinning to the short linters.

Easily my fastest work of any cotton to date, and very encouraging.  The cream singles on the tahkli is from organic Peruvian top that I have been carding into punis on my Schacht cotton cards.

The Tour was filled with inspiration, fun and best of all, real leaps forward in my spinning.  I just love the fiber community.  Yesterday, I built on this and got a little farther along by watching “Spinning Gossamer Threads” with Galina Khmeleva.

Sitting and spinning just feels so zen.  Also new but on the needles,

About 2 of 5″ of ribbing to start a handspun Redhook by Jared Flood!  The yarn is my Corriedale Christmas 2-ply.  It’s so exciting to see Diane’s colourway pop!  I’d love to wear this vest when I am at the Spinning Loft for Deb Robson’s classes in September.

Lastly, love & thanks to Deb.  You made my day with your thoughtful, so generous gift.  I hope you have many hours of fun on your new wheel – it’s a slippery slope!

 

 


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Day of Rest, Tour de Fleece 2012

Vive le Tour!  This year I am racing in Team Suck Less as a Friend of Abby’s Yarns, and also posting in the 66 page long Peloton.  It’s been great because this year I am both spinning for myself and taking my mind off some pretty intense stuff.

My Prologue came with not feeling well, so I took it easy with 2 spins in progress.  The spindles are resting on my Yarn Hollow alpaca/ merino/ tussah silk top and the white fiber is my hand-carded Romney lamb’s wool.

 

The Schacht cotton handcards are worth their weight in gold.  I got my pair from the Spinning Loft for Christmas.  206 tines per inch are all the tines I need.

The plying was also in progress, so I soon had my first skein of the Tour!

May as well bust the already-combed Romney while I was at it right?  This is still in progress for the rest of the Tour.

My small stage challenge of choice was to spin 100% flax on Chella.  This is after all why I said that I needed an antique flax wheel.

It was so different to anything else I have spun.  Even hemp.  The new changes were to:

  • Wet spin the life out of that flax.  It wanted more and more water, it really did;
  • Re-jig the pegs.  Steam punk for life, y’all.  No animals or plants were harmed in the operation of the flyer array;
  • Switch to a plied crochet thread drive band.

Oh, and spinning with a distaff is weird in a good way.  Mine is only ½ intact, so it meant putting the old chair rail to a new use (as opposed to resident nostepinne).

The single came off the bobbin ASAP.  It dried nicely on my coffee tin with nail punched holes.  So, if you are keeping count at home that 3 instances of tools improv for one spin.  Just the way I like it.

As at this morning the Yarn Hollow spin is down to:  a plying ball; 1.7 oz left in the braid; and 2 singles balls we hope will match up nicely.  The idea is to stop ochre & purple from barberpoling at all costs.

My second skein of the Tour is about 42 yards, a 3-ply sample.  Hand-combed from this 10lb longwool fleece that I bought on pure auction fever at last year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.  [There was another but let’s not talk about that…]

Proving that my Stringtopia teacher, Beth Smith of the Loft is absolutely correct – the only way to tackle such a beast is to sample, kids.

The beast is tamed!  I’ve also carded the combed waste, and spun up the 11 rolags between this Tabachek & my first Kundert.

It’s great to go after my own goals this year, and I have let go of the need to be totally structured about posting or going after crazy challenges and acclaim.  It really is good enough to be along for the ride, healthy and free.

See you on the road?