The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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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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Stacks in life pandemic

Huge stretch of a gap between posts, and this in the 10th anniversary, Dear Blog.  In winter as we started to see the benefit of folding new supports in with the old, I opened a first IG account.  This is how I first discovered the story of Ravelry having a new look.

We had been in the thick of it as I last posted, and at the end of November we also added a puppy named Spark to our family.  Spark is a cross called a Double Doodle, and he is almost 11 months old now.  The growth spurts are a running joke and who knows how much growing into his paws we are still looking at?

A sometimes vocal stack of joy

Spark has been to a first level of training, and some fun nights of puppy social learning.  He is Ty’s first dog, and everyone is thrilled to see the fun they get up to.  This is the sparkliest Sparky (many more nick-names are in rotation but I will spare you), very wet & challenging winter and all.

Double doodle puppy holding leash remnant in his mouth

Meet Spark. He likes to retrieve things.

Chewing has gone from teething to serious business.  He is after all Labradoodle x Goldendoodle.  One stack of trouble was how put out Mel cat truly was by this invasion.  They now get along but there are sore points… What do you mean this pup gets all the treats?  Wait, why is that puss on the counter/dining table/ soft chewable furniture?

Double doodle puppy looking up with red rainbow paw woven leash

Baby Spark back in January when the leash was in one piece

In general, Spark is enthusiastic about moving humans towards water sources.  He also has a passion for dandelions, and other growing things flora and/or fauna.  I soon worked out that we both need for me to comb his double coat & that should always end in chest scritches.

He is in short a joy.  Not everyone gets that would be self-care but for us it truly has been through the pandemic.  You kind-of need to walk this one.

Double doodle puppy on a blue leather leash in Ontario creek on a sunny day

A Spark that likes to make a splash back & forth

As life got more complex including for raw emotion, I had scaled-back my online volunteer work, social media.  Adding a new account was a compromise and has helped me to post on a lower key, re-connect.

Stack with misgivings, books of new learning

In May, I felt ready to resume team work in a Ravelry group.  It was good to be back except a family COVID-19 illness and other issues came up, de-railed.

Cotton small zippered print Ravelry.com pouch with names of sheep breeds arranged to form a sheep-shaped image.

It is now over a month since Ravelry rolled-out their changes to the site, branding.  I have listened from outside of the site, engaged as I could saying that accessibility matters.

Colour and weave gamp design by Deb Essen on irieknit's Schacht Mighty Wolf loom

School’s out, let’s weave!

I also opened my loom for the first time in 6 months after the hills & valleys that were Grade 2 through in-school then distance learning.  This is Deb Essen’s colour & weave gamp in 3/2 mercerized cotton.

While listening, transitioning our 8 year old, and getting back to organizing for myself too, I have thought a lot about inclusion.  Even well-meaning neurotypical adults (therapy gatekeepers included) can misunderstand the true impact of policies, the systems they introduce or maintain.  Learning has come through reading, always reading and podcasts around our constellation of needs.  It’s a big part of how I deal.

Yesterday, I saw a screenshot of a tweet for the first time.  The now-deleted post is by Ravelry co-owner, Cassidy.  It exists; I am not linking.  The post refers to an advocate/ally for accessibility.  This unnamed individual is essentially called a multiple flier with the lies, and that this is a best-ever July in the site’s pattern sales gets asserted.  The assertion is absent from today’s Ravelry.com updates post.

The unnamed advocate/ally is presumably lobbying for post-update communication & change to assist those suffering true impact now or later.  This is how I read some raising pattern sales on Twitter although IG is the focus of this deleted tweet.  No decision-maker in a system takes kindly to a lay person checking, balancing for pat accommodations rolled-out.  It would be helpful if the phases were defined somehow in non-technical language or scheduled.  As is a month in, the process seems opaque.

Handknit blue socks in broken ribbing pattern knitted by irieknit

Not matching sock toes is okay too

To be clear, this blog, TKK has remained a one woman amateur project.  Still no affiliates, paid advertising, agreements or tip jars here or elsewhere.  My Ravelry profile does link to new updates as does WordPress, and I manually post a shortlink reliably via single tweet.  There is a small group of readers who navigate through Ravlery.  The benefits as a user, blogger are real but as yet not monetized, and I am 1 in 9 million users.  The Ravelry team is appreciated up to this point but not personally known to me.

This new, fairly consuming checks & balances work of mine was in a non-commercial setting with a group of professionals crossing systems.  It was met with snide comments, we were “crazy” to get a puppy, and even more cutting remarks followed.  It is upsetting on the receiving end because inaction really does suck in crisis with power not in your favour.  One can always walk, right?  Well, often with an impact there too.

The work is hard, and the book that explained edge states, practical middle ways is “Standing at the Edge” by Joan Halifax.

Backlash, account scrubbing by Cassidy are frankly surprising.  As one Rav Pro account holder that I follow said simply, “WOW.”  The messaging does not inspire confidence about important calls for post-update changes.  That a majority of users who find the site functional are carrying-on touches none of the true impact on those excluded for various reasons.  In addition, today’s update forced me to log into the site – others were in the blog.  I continue to hope that changes are implemented.

Stack of plans, all-ears listening

Kundert top-whorl drop spindle and hand-combed grey Romney wool top in plastic bag on a table

First fleece; first spindle

It’s hard to see what you haven’t seen & that you play a part in making that better.  ⇒ Bertice Berry, Ph.D., July 24, 2020, IGtv

What I have seen of othering, intersectionality was not obvious to me in my personal work even 10 months ago.  I may have found the texts as a good reader far from most of my close supports but would I have followed footnotes?  No, that was hard to see as Dr. Berry notes.

The pressures as a caregiver during this pandemic have also shaped what I am able to see.  How I am able to integrate and if there are no deeper complications where I play the part will come.

Handspun skein of Southdown blended with Silk yarn in a tray with metal background and wooden frame

Socks-to-be:  Southdown/Silk spun on my spindles

Accepting that human variations exist & working to remove barriers is both necessary, easier said than done.

 


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Weaving smaller

As the pile of small knits grew & yarn production slowed, I have gathered weaving thoughts.  The last month threw-up one challenge after another.  In my role as Head Cook & Bottle Washer, I have been taken-up with navigating us through it all safely towards the holidays.

Since these challenges are of the I Specifically Told You Not to Upset my Apple Cart variety (powers that be are so awesome), I have frayed nerves that needed some attention too.  Pushed back are the spicy projects, and brought forward are some that have the right mix of inspiration + do-ability.

Side Note:  volunteer spinning hat has also been side-lined, temporarily.  I miss Spindlers and other spaces but am trying to herd adult cats as it were, and know that the team is very capable in my hopefully short absence.

At some point as I scratched an apparently strong itch to knit hats, it dawned that a single cotton blanket to welcome my good friend’s baby was the thing that I could make.  The Monte Cristo cone of cotton bouclé had come home with more adventurous napkin-intended 16/2 tubes.  Now that I see the purchase order it was the week before things went sideways!  Good timing that.

Warping cotton boucle baby blanket for basket weave

For Gail

This 2.5 yard warp uses the white bouclé yarn as 2/2 basket weave, and the sage 8/4 cotton will be plain weave if all goes according to plan.  The sett that I chose is 15 epi, and it will fill most of my Mighty Wolf loom’s weaving width.

Threading for a handwoven cotton baby blanket on Schacht Mighty Wolf Loom by irieknit

Super calming to thread

This is a modification of “Tutti Frutti” by Tom Knisely in Handwoven Baby Blankets, p. 24, and I am threading 4 of my shafts.  In planning, I found good advice on setting-up basket weave in Mary Elizabeth Laughlin’s More Than Four, p. 13.  With my sett and 12-dent reed, I will be able to separate the bouclé basket threads at both heddles (shown here) & reed dents.  There is a special place in heaven for weavers who share tricks & tips in their books.

Our friends are already very busy parents of 2 girls, and this has special thoughts going into the weave.  It was a joy to notice the pregnancy on my trip home this summer, and Gail is not only a great friend but her support for all stages of my textiles journey has meant the world to me.  She truly is a rare pleasure to weave for, and I am sharing the project as I go with her.

Even smaller but in its own way BIG

Weaving a Lithuanian-style sash on backstrap loom by irieknit

Such a good step forward

This has been so exciting that I have pretty much live-tweeted the entire band!  This one will have images to spare.  It started this September, and has been good to finally sit with the Lithuanian pick-up traditions that I have read about and so admired.

The pattern that I am building up to here is named as ‘postscripts’ (prierašciai) in Lithuanian Sashes by Anastazija Tamošaitiené & Antanas Tamošaitis, p. 250.  It is for the last section of the band.

Backstrap weaving Lithuanian band by irieknit

At my loom, and very intent on learning!

It was another book before me that started with a diamond over 7 blue pattern threads.  The technique is given as Rinktiné juosta, pick-up patterned sash in the very well explained Reflections from a Flaxen Past:  For Love of Lithuanian Weaving by Kati Reeder Meek, p. 136.

There I was in the next stage of weaving the design given by weaver, Elena Matulioniene in the ‘hundred-pattern’ type, candle burning and all.  The busy area rug was annoying me all the way, and to protests of both N & T it has gone down to the basement where it can’t bother my eyes.

Backstrap and weaving tools for Lithuanian-style band by irieknit

Without me, the loom

The tools are resting on my straw braided backstrap from Indonesia and all work together to make this possible.  The shuttle with yellow weft yarn was made by Alvin Ramer.  Next down is my Andean llama bone beater (ruki) that made it all possible as the blue pattern threads (Cascade 220) pilled & fuzzed like crazy on each successive pick!  Lastly is a mahogany sword that came with Abby Franquemont’s class kit.

Please remind me that the room barely holds me + a 3-yard backstrap warp?  I clamped to the top of the mantle until a lot of the band was woven and on the cloth beam.  Getting back to finish the last of this warp will be a pleasure not a chore.

As soon as Gail’s blanket is cut-off, the loom will be closed.  We have family visiting from Jamaica, a very welcome change!

Andean pushka plying project for CVM wool 4-ply


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Happy 2017!

The fall became a marathon almost as soon as I hit ‘Publish’ on the last post.  With adjustments work continued.  Writing, and updating the projects fell that far behind.

We are here now, year-end!

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Winter is shaping-up

As much as I have missed sharing the work it has been a good test in many ways.  With less time & energy, I worked on the things that mattered the most.  Feeling that strength from the years of learning and practice was its own reward.  Really.

The spinning has been lovely as these 3 projects quietly show.

Andean pushka plying project for CVM wool 4-ply

Plying the CVM wool at last!

Since taking this picture, I have plied 4 skeins for a total of approximately 790 yards.  It is all a conventional 4-ply spun on smaller low-whorl spindles from rolags that I carded.

Some locks are still in the bag but I knew this was getting to a level of angst.  It turns out that the plying is no doldrums.  I like this stage!  There are 2 of the large balls left to be plied.

Spinning Chasing Rainbows merino/wool on Jenkins Lark Turkish spindle by irieknit

This Jenkins Lark spindle loves the quiet times!

The cop on my Lark is getting full again.  It’s not everyday that I turn to this Chasing Rainbows merino/wool but when I have it has been good spinning.

There is no concrete aim for this yarn but I am going for a 2-ply.  The colourway is Pear.

Handspinning hemp top with supported cow bone whorl spindle

Spinning hemp a gentle way – Forrester bone whorl spindle, supported

This Forrester spindle supported in the calabash bowl is a master for de-stressing at the end of a long day.  It is couch spinning plain & simple.

The 4 singles balls weigh 27 g together.  There is another 59 g of fibre, so I am not ploughing through stash with this one!

Handknit Onder shawl by irieknit in Yarn Carnival high wire yarn

Onder shawl is finished and awesome!

Leaving the door open for sharing T’s new knits later on, there has also been this Onder shawl by Sarah Jordan.  It proves that I too make the cut!

Handknit beaded Onder shawl by irieknit in Yarn Carnival High Wire yarn

See the Miyuki beads? Just enough to keep me totally happy.

The lace in Sarah’s design was wonderful to work – simple enough to not snag my rough brain, and with enough challenge to make my days melt into something better.

The slip-stitch rolling edge was novel for me, and I love how it keeps the stockinette body honest.

Onder shawl detail of Yarn Carnival High Wire yarn handknit by irieknit

Yarn Carnival sure knows how to dye Peacock!

The yarn was extra-special to work with.  This skein of Yarn Carnival’s High Wire 3-ply in superwash Merino was a gift from DB & SIL.  They chose it for me on a visit to Austin, Texas.  Neither knits, and I just loved using it!

Handknit Jacobus monkey by irieknit in SheepyTime Knits yarns

Happy New Year from all of us to you!

This Jacobus is how we know that T has very keen yarn instincts.  He chose “River Daughter” from the SheepyTime Knits 2016 Middle Earth Club.  This was after I refused his first choice of “The Nine, Merlon.”

T has loved Monkey so hard, and this is just one example of the games that they play!

This has been a year when knitting was the best way I found to say, “Yes, I think of you when you are sleeping.  Go, check it out, kiddo!”  Sometimes words are not enough.

Best wishes for a very happy 2017!


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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!

 


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Happy Thanksgiving, 2014!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fall trees in Caledon on the Niagara Escarpment, Ontario

Niagara Escarpment in fall glory

Ours is quiet but it’s also special – a first Thanksgiving for a new Canadian in the house, me!  N’s work-all-weekend schedule for a big project shifted at the last minute, so we headed up to visit the Cheltenham Badlands formation along the Bruce Trail in Caledon.

Sign to the public entering Cheltenham Badlands formation, Caledon Ontario

The Bruce Trail Conservancy kindly requests…

We saw no horses but one family did get called-out with a strained, “Excuse me!” after being seen to litter.  It’s so chill that even the women in heels (seriously?) were still upright as they explored the beautiful formation.

 

Badlands view mid-October weekend in Caledon, Ontario

Free for all, Cheltenham Badlands

The view just to the right, and above the line of vehicles parked on the road was gorgeous.  It’s a short drive, and such a lovely difference for wide-open fall colour.

Niagara Escarpment fall backdrop for Chelenham Badlands, Caledon, Ontario

We picked a good day to see the Cheltenham Badlands

 

After a week of rainy weather the blue sky and mild fall weather was divine – just divine.

Fall trees and blue sky at Cheltenham Badlands, Caledon, Ontario

Fall, you have grown on me

The formation itself was a playground for all the kids, and like a page from my high school geography text books.

Hills and gullies of Queenston Shale at the Cheltenham Badlands, Ontario

Queenston shale, exposed

Over-grazing when this land was farmed in the 1930s exposed the Queenston shale.  The fully dry hills and gullies just drew us in… both kids and dogs were tearing across them and all the smiles were infectious.

Cheltenham Badlands hill formation detail

Red iron oxide greening in the rain

A succinct explanation of the formation is given here.  Continued erosion is affecting the trees along its perimeter.

Cheltenham Badlands effect on tree life

As the Badlands encroach

The tree-life ringing the formation showed the effects of continued erosion.

Sitting on eroded rock in the Cheltenham Badlands

Settling in for pictures

It wasn’t all posing, and people-watching.  We had fun exploring the open sections of the trail, and even with such a huge crowd it really was a super day-trip.

Bruce Trail at the Cheltenham Badlands, Caledon Ontario

Just before the trail goes muddy

Still more thanks for friends who are reaching out on Toby’s passing.  It is gradually less raw but no, we are not looking for a new family dog at the moment.

We still miss our little guy and neither of us feels ready just yet.

Bruce Trail in Caledon, Ontario

Many happy returns this Thanksgiving


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Tough goodbyes

Toby got some of my first knitting and spinning in these sweaters

For Toby

Our final goodbye for Toby was yesterday evening.  A joint decision after helping him through a major seizure on Sunday afternoon, and his ongoing decline in health due to the brain tumour.

Family, and also my friends where I hang out online were so supportive.  You know who you are.  These are my thanks for reminding me that there is no pin-point time, that avoiding his suffering was from a place of love, and that you have been there too.

Full cop of handspun singles on Wildcraft drop spindle using batt from Enting Fibercraft

Now plying

It was spinning that I turned to in my last afternoon with the little guy.  He slept in his bed, and I stood plying this spin on my Andean pushka.  Meditation as I watched Nilda Callanaupa’s “Andean Spinning” video again.

Handspun yarn on Wildcraft top whorl drop spindle

Mulled cider through the looking glass (well, resin)

This was spun from 3 batts totalling 3.2 oz from Enting Fibrecraft.  The set is “Mulled Cider,” hand-carded from Shetland wool (brown, grey overdyed), merino and tussah silk.  One batt is Shetland-only.  It is a 2-ply yarn that I am now spinning from an outer-pull plying ball.

Straightforward but textured.  In other words, exactly what I needed to have a good last day with our Toby Hopeful without freaking him out.  Naomi, your work is doing good in the wide world.

Pippi the oncidium orchid blooming in September

Orchid lends us a silver lining

We miss him terribly.  Melvin is trying to process a collar without a Toby.  For all the things that will now change – no foot-warming as I write to you for example – we must now adjust.  Toby came to us traumatized but what came through was his lion heart.  He overcame blindness, hoarseness, paralysis that extended even to his tongue.  The spirit never changed, and I am glad he was undaunted even when he couldn’t stand any longer.

Thankfully, he went peacefully and with the both of us by his side.

 


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Celebrating Canada – a new spinning project

Bosworth Moosie spindle with tulipwood shaft and Shetland wool

Happy birthday, Canada!

While spinning on my uber-patriotic Bosworth Moosie this morning, I had a thought.  Why not share the spinning project that I am so close to starting?  It is as Canadian as those colours, and is special besides.  Who cares if we spoke only yesterday, right?

Ontario produces superb wool

Two months ago, I wrote something.  It is long-hand, on a sheet of yellow legal paper.  It came after an on-line discussion with Canadian knitters who asserted that Ontario does not produce high-grade fibre on a commercial scale.  As I sorted my thoughts on the topic, I wrote:

Recently, I turned to N, and asked what does he think my favourite fibre might be?  He answered, “Wool.  It is still wool.”  We smiled, and he is correct.

This fibreshed is precisely where my passion is rooted.  As TKK readers know, it all began in 2009 with a raw local Romney ram’s fleece.  I still work and find good value close to home.  Leading spinners whose work I respect, Deb Robson, Clara Parkes, and Sue Blacker all focus on the importance of using local fibre from specific breeds.

We now even have Canadian knitting yarn dyed in-house by my friend, Sasha.  These single breed yarns are available here.

Skein of handdyed merino fingering weight Sheepspot yarn

Sheepspot yarn of loveliness

It is fast becoming a Magical Side to Side scarf designed by Susan Santos.  Knitters, do help support a new breed-specific grassroots label!

Sheepspot merino yarn for Santos designed knitted shawl by irieknit

Such a rich Sheepspot colourway!

As an aside, Sasha’s newsletters are also very good.  What does a knitter need to know?  Well, this as Sue Blacker says in “Pure Wool” (2012, Oceana, p. 7):

Finding the right yarn for a project is vital.  The sheer versatility of wool and the possibilities of creating specific yarns for specific purposes are, perhaps, not fully appreciated.

Your success lies in thinking about the breed’s strengths/uses.

A made-in-Ontario blanket…

… or putting a project where my mouth is!

Ontario Romney cleaned ewe lamb fleece in Jamaican handwoven basket

Also known as a blanket?

My celebration is to use the remaining 1.876 lbs/ 851 g of local Romney ewe lamb’s wool, and make a family blanket.

It has Most Favoured Fleece status in the stash.  Buttercup’s farmer is Julie Hartford of  Engleheart, Ontario.  You can see its 3lbs 5oz beginnings here from July 2010 as raw fleece.

Romney lamb's wool and preparing with Forsyth fine hand combs by irieknit

Combing heaven – Ontario Romney lamb’s wool

In formulating these thoughts, I did use my gradient of hand-prepared local wools.  It’s now a useful fibre basket in my spinning room – for wool, of course!

Hand prepared handspun wool knitted bag by irieknit

An after-market wool basket

Everything about this was freeing.  How many stitches did I cast on?  Well, an even number.  The yarns range from well-spun to those that I was hiding under a rug but they all work together in this mesh stitch.

Lower section detail of hand prepared and handspun wool knitted mesh bag by irieknit

Neither a silk purse nor a sow’s ear

That middle grey?  Oh, it came from the Romney ram’s nether regions, I am sure!  The marled is from a mohair blending experiment (also local) with a free meat fleece.

Handle for hand prepared handspun wool knitted bag by irieknit

Reining lateral spread in, 101

My longwools came into their own for the i-cord effort at taming the too-large opening.  The top white wool, and mauve (logwood dyed!) are both Border Leicester from Lambsquarters farm in Holstein, Ontario.

Mid-section detail of hand prepared handspun wool knitted bag by irieknit

All local wools great & small

My parting thought was that if I could use such disparate yarns then I am actually ready for this effort.  We could use a blanket.  A little knowledge has led me to suspect that our childhood blankets are both of acrylic extraction!

Melvin the cat in old vertical blinds

Mels appreciates change

The home improvements are enriching Melvin’s life considerably in the meantime.

 

 


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Plumage, a juried exhibition

In a month already full with home renovation work & gardening, I have been bowled over by the positive response that my two pieces received in the Burlington Handweavers & Spinners Guild 2014 exhibit at the (then-called) Burlington Art Centre.

The Juror, Sheila Perry, selected 20 pieces from 16 fibre artists for the Exhibit.  Each artist’s interpretation of the theme was different but the presentation was balanced and cohesive in the space.

 

Knitted lace shawl in handspun Muga silk: On Eagle's Wings

Best in Show award!

My goal was simple:  to be selected for inclusion!  Everything else was pretty unexpected even after I heard that I was 1 of 4 members chosen for awards.  The exhibition was May 4 – June 1, 2014.

Elation not being optimal for bloggy work, I enjoyed the moment and juggled house upheaval vs. garden upheaval.   The creative breaks poured towards a fantastic, challenging lace weaving workshop with Jette Vandermeiden at the guild.  Jette was good enough to attend the opening reception with us too, so it was all rolled into one!

With the shawls back home now, I have worn the Muga silk for the first time.  It is so very light on the shoulders yet warm – everything that I imagined it would be.

2014 Annual Juried Exhibition best in show handspun knit lace shawl in Muga silk - On Eagle's Wings

On Eagle’s Wings, displayed

On Eagle’s Wings was introduced to the right of the gallery entrance.  You can see the guest book, and the exhibit catalogue on the table in the corner.  Not shown in this picture was that heady award label with my name on it!

This black fabric-covered dress form was very good for showing the triangle’s drape, and the stitch patterns with beads.  It would have been straightforward for the audience to read this lace as a textile with real-world function.  You know, as opposed to froth.

Plumage Juried Show, On Eagle's Wings, back of triangle shawl

All along, I had worried that my Tibetan Phoenix Beaded Stole would be a problem child in this gallery.  It took my breath away to see the Juror’s solution for its 82″ expanse.

Entering the Plumage 2014 juried exhibition, Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

The knitted lace stole, among friends

This brought home to me the difference between showing lace in blog form (pattern; movement; technical aspects; natural light) and showing lace for its effect.  The impact of the presentation was something that I literally felt.

Tibetan Beaded Lace Shawl handspun and knit by Irieknit in Plumage Exhibition, Burlington, Ontario

A warm welcome, for me at least!

Hearing excitement and new ways of understanding this making of an oversize lace object is an unexpected joy.  It draws away any residual sting from wearing it to a New England wedding last fall.  As I type, a dear relative who helped host that very wedding is congratulating me on my new accomplishment in knitting!

Tibetan Phoenix Beaded Lace Shawl handspun and knit by Irieknit in Plumage Juried Exhibition, Burlington, Ontario

Guild members have been super kind.  Yes, all made on drop spindles!  Professional fibre artists also tell me that the stole in particular was a strong submission.

Presenting work publicly is tough.  I heard that during the exchange at the end of the Juror’s review.  Now I have experienced the rewards of this rigour, and am totally glad that I tried.  Being able to say, “Dear (non-fibre person in my life), I got an award.  It was from an art gallery director, and came with a cheque,” also rocks.  It makes way more sense to them than the 82″ of shawl over my petite LBD ever could.  That’s just life.

Some but not all of the other works from Plumage are below. Let me know if you caught the show!

Plumage 2014 Juried Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Show Margaret Burns handwoven soft sculptures

Handwoven ‘Duck’ and ‘Owl’, Margaret Burns

Best Interpretation of Theme was awarded for this stunning red handwoven shawl.

Best Interpretation of Theme, Plumage 2014 Juried Show Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

Cardinal in Flight, Rosemarie Anich-Erickson

Three works by Diane Woods were included in this show.  I love the sharpness, and colour in her wall hanging.

Handwoven wall hanging, Mexican Eagle in Plumage 2014 Juried Exhibition Burlington Handweavers and Spinners

Mexican Eagle, Diane Woods

One of my teachers, MargaretJane Wallace, inspired me as she wove her scarf in the studio this fall.  MJ also encouraged me to go ahead with my plans for the Muga silk when it was still a ball of lace yarn.

Handwoven beaded tencel scarf by MargaretJane Wallace, Phoenix Rising from Ash 2014 Juried Exhibition Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

Phoenix Rising from Ash, handdyed tencel, MargaretJane Wallace

Hung to the left of MJ’s scarf was the winner of the Past Presidents’ Award.  The weaver is a Level 4 student, and the Juror was very excited about this lovely piece!

Award winning handwoven scarf, Snowy Owl 2014 Juried Exhibition  Burlington Handweavers and Spinners

Snowy Owl, Leslie Cooke-Bithrey

These and other images of  works included in the Plumage show are here.