The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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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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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!