The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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The fun part

Our first-ever giveaway is ready for her drum roll!  Winners are:

Chronicbooker3, Shelley! You win the woven project bag!

Cristaldiva, Rayna!  Tosh Sock in Logwood is yours!

Many thanks to each & every one of you who posted, and tweeted.  Your comments & wishes were lovely.  The support is from long-time readers, and means a lot to me.

Rayna, please contact me at irieknit at gmail dot com, and I will send your skein to you!  I know where to find Shelley.

Big thanks to Beth too

Southern Cross!

Beth very kindly gave me my first Southern Cross Fibre experience.  Two braids of superwash merino wool top  ‘Sugar and Spice’ from their August 2011 Fibre Club that popped out of her super-duper stash cupboard into my lap.

How it got spun — with glee; on my Watson Martha in scotch tension; each braid is a straight single spun right; plied left.  Worsted all the way. A gift of 756 yds.  For weaving?  Perhaps a VIP baby?

Thank you, Beth!  The colours are so gorgeous, and I loved every last bit of this spin.  I showed it off at our Guild meeting this week to some fanfare!

Ever looked down to see this?

Not a cat bed

Pin-drafted roving in a nicely lined basket.  That would be Sir Melvin’s “What?!” look.  Guess who won that argument?

Hot off the bobbin – Columbia 4-ply handspun yarn

I spun the singles long-draw in 2 sittings on May 4th and June 16th on my Cadorette CPW.  It was the best pairing of wool-to-Quebec wheel to date.  Each ply is 2 oz.  I took the drive band off the bobbin, moved the wheel to the far side of the room, and wound onto a cardboard roll with dowel cores.

A wheel with 1 bobbin is no impediment to serious use.  It took me 2 sittings, and no extra kit to spin 4 bobbins full.  That’s 247 yards of 4-ply yarn.  Winding-off by hand goes quickly, and lets the twist move around before it sets in the single.  It was spun DD, and with my zoned-out abandon, so redistributing extra twist is for the good of the end product.

The cardboard rolls + dowel go onto my Will Taylor lazy kate, and feed smoothly for plying.

Sproing, defined

The CPW is a wheel that I am growing into, and just love for what it can do.

As the yarn sat around, I slowly got a pretty good idea going about its future.  On Thursday this led me to bring January’s Logwood bath out for inspection.

No secret – I love the Logwood

In freshening the exhaust with new Logwood chips, I got this stunning blue.  It really is blue!

Sproing improvement

Fleece happens

My over-arching plan on this has to do with the Birthday Fibre.  What Birthday Fibre, you ask?

Border Leicester raw wool

This fleece is from a 2 year old Border Leicester sheep at Lambs Quarters Farm in Holstein, Ontario.  Finding new spinners’ flocks is one of the main draws for me at the Ontario Handspinning Seminar.

Cleaned locks in the sun

My plan for this fleece is to build on what I learned at Sarah Swett’s workshop last month – blending wool for value.  This is my first real attempt at dyeing locks – when the Logwood is clear, I will bring out the Black Walnut liquor.

The back office

This is my first post using Flickr to host my blog photos.  I am changing over from Google, and ask you to please give feedback if there are any problems on your end.

The changes in Google photo hosting are deal-breakers.  It comes down to unilateral withdrawal of capability with no explanation, and no ability to be heard as a customer.  It is ludicrous, even more so because we pay an annual fee for extra storage.

The irony is that my irieknit handle was refused under the former Google+ rules.  Under the new dispensation, I have no choice in the matter.  I will keep the email account but shifting my Google+ footprint feels onerous – I may do it for uniformity but am undecided at this point.



Mid-June is for giving!

Faithful Reader –

You may have been around since the very beginning on March 3, 2009.  You may have met me at points in the meantime or just happened to have turned us up on a search.  You may even just be here for the very first time.  It’s ALL GOOD.

This blog started in one of life’s lulls.  It took time to take shape, and my only real rule has been to speak the truth in my own voice.  As topics range past knitting, I keep learning that next piece.  Each step helps me beat a path here in my chosen home, Canada.

Audience, you never exploded.  What you did was better than that.  You reached out to me in private messages, comments, and most happily in friendship.  My everlasting sock knitting did not turn you off.  Nor did the Yay Jamaica! posts or the literary quotes.  You let me know that the posts were being read, and complimented my successes.  We laughed over my unfortunate turns of hand.  In complete generosity you shared time, talent and that treasure of stash.  In short, you cared.

It’s my birthday, tomorrow, and that makes it my turn.

Leave a comment, folks.  Tweet.  One comment each please but tweet for extra chances in this giveaway.  There’s a skein of Tosh Sock (100% SW merino) in Logwood – 365 yards of fingering weight.  There’s also the woven bag – 6.25″ diameter x 8.5″ high.  I will leave this open until next Friday, June 21, 2013 and then Random Number choose 2 persons.  If you win we need to talk about your address, and then I will send it along.

Morning Glory experiment: also exceeding expectations

Thank you, Guys.  Happy Birthday to me!

One skein – mug not included!

The last fibre event of my season is this weekend.  It’s so considerate of the Ontario Handspinning Seminar to throw this marketplace, etc. together just for me.  See you there?!


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Logwood Heart, an experiment

I am speaking about Haematoxylum campechianum.  Logwood is a natural dye that is typically sold as dried chips of the heartwood.  It was introduced for cultivation in Caribbean colonies, and continued to be exported even through the sugar hey-day.


Who do you think you are?  Logwood Heart?

It’s from my favourite poem, Omeros by Derek Walcott.  Hector, a St. Lucian “madman eaten with envy” rages after Achille.  His cutlass speaking as much as he did:

Moi j’a dire – ‘ous pas prêter un rien. ‘Ous ni shallope, ‘ous ni seine, ‘ous croire ‘ous ni choeur campêche?

I told you, borrow nothing of mine.  You have a canoe, and a net.  Who you think you are?  Logwood Heart?

Omeros, Chapter 3, I.

 My Dad got me this bag of Jamaican logwood about a year ago.  Having found this article I learned it was still exported from the island as dyestuff up until the early 1940s.

Round the First

At the end of May, 2011, I took my 53g of shaved and chipped Jamaican logwood and dove into the hand-spun stash.  This 464 yds of local organic Romney that I spun on my Spinolution Mach 2 a.k.a. Earl came out to play.

For this 278g of fibre, I decided to add in 50g of commercial Logwood chips that I had on hand.  The logic seems fuzzy now but I was aiming for purple, and wanted to “save” the precious stuff from home.

My method was to pre-mordant the yarn (25% alum; 6% cream of tartar).  I put all the logwood plus some Lignum Vitae – on advice from back home – in a stocking.  That went into the dyepot for a cold water soak overnight.  Then I simmered the yarn in the pot for 1 hour, and let the bath cool.  I didn’t remove the stocking.

It worked!  I was (and still am) so excited about this deep, dark purple of natural dyed wonder.


Round the Second

I know a good thing when I see it, so the dye pot went straight to the basement.  You know, for later use.  N had a few qualms along the way but he is a scientist and saw I was making An Experiment.  Scientists appreciate experiments.  Mold and all.

In late November, 2011, I got the urge to dye purple again.  This time it was my hand-spun sock yarn.

Mold was the least of my worries.  The blobs of inky gunk showed up as soon as the yarn went in.  I kept calm, and rinsed in the sink.  Thankfully, the blobs agreed to slide right off.  As soon as the colour got mauvey, I pulled the skeins out.  There’s no point in tempting fate now is there?

My first me-spun; me-dyed sock yarn looks a little like this:

Fibre:  154g of kid mohair/ merino/ alpaca sock yarn roving from The Fibre Garden.

Wheel:  Watson Martha in double drive, and spun on the smaller whorl.

Plied wraps per inch:  16 (sport-weight).

Yardage:  363.

Why tell you all of this now?

It’s a fair question.  The answer is that I have been knitting my first pair of me-spun; me-dyed socks.  And I love them very much.

The pattern is Clara Parkes’ Stepping Stones from The Knitter’s Book of Socks that N gave me last Christmas.  I missed the part where she gives a variation on the stitch pattern for the foot.

My little modification was to just twine knit the heel flap.  Her instructions have you almost there anyway, and I do love to twine.


More inspiration

This is my handspun, naturally dyed and backstrap loom woven bag from The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Peru.

A quiet reminder that I am a young grasshopper in this world rich with textile traditions.

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The Waiting Room

Over the past month life slowed right down.  I had a health scare that slowly made itself known.  For almost 2 weeks I knitted, spun with spindles, and did as much as I could muster energy for.  I went into the ER at the right time.  After hours of waiting for test results, we slowly got the diagnosis.  What does a spinner do while waiting?  She spins.  I had my Jenkins Delight:

I fielded the usual questions:  “What are you doing?”  “Is that wool?”  A little boy with a stomach ache was the most interested but nurses also asked.

The diagnosis itself wasn’t easy – a technician left me to the doctors with a hug.  It was happy to finally get some answers but there will be more to come in the days ahead.  Once decisions were made for an operation there was no time for fright or even speaking with family.  I was prepped, and sent in.  My recovery has gone well.  Luckily MIL came to visit exactly when we needed her moral support, and treats from home are always nice.

So, these are projects I had in this long waiting room.  Much more has happened since but I wanted to start here.

This is my bright version of Judy Alexander‘s Pinked Socks from Knits magazine, Winter 2010.  The yarns are – MC:  Sweet Georgia Tough Love in River; & – CC:  Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Red Rover.  It’s the 7¾” size, and I got gauge with 2.25 mm needles.  It’s my first stranded sock but is much easier than it looks.  The Zigzag pattern is just 5 stitches wide.

This first sock fits better than any I have knit in a long time.  The instep rocks!

I’ve never knit a garter tab on the heel flap, and now love this to distraction.

Not only is this sock pretty cool in its own right but it came with me to my first knitting night at Lettuce Knit in Toronto.  That was my last outing while unwell.  Which is to say that the Rest-up-and-Go plan had its flaws.  I was fortified with chai tea but you know, only days away from the ER visit…  It was the biggest knit night group I’ve ever been in, and lots of interesting people with interesting knitting.  I want to try it again when I’m not pushing a health crisis forward.

The 2nd sock is now at the foot.  I love this pattern so much that DH is promised a pair.  Yes, at size 10½ feet.

I do have another pair off the needles.  The pattern is Cookie A.’s Lindsay from her Sock Innovation book.  I didn’t check for these corrections but should have.  My yarn is Cherry Tree Hill’s Sockittome in ‘Indian Summer.’  As the 1st sock was back in August (after a slow start in mid-May):

The project bag is from Jessa Lu, and is perfect – I mean perfect – for small projects.  A better blogger would have shown you this beauty brand-new when she got it in February…

I was and am completely excited to have another bag stitched by Jess.  They just make me happy.  While I digress, let me introduce the new needles.

They are DyakCraft 5″ double points here in special-order hazelnut.  Every rave review of these DPNs is spot-on.  Tom & Linda gave good service by email, and I love the sharp points, and harder-than-bamboo material.  I also love that I could keep the contrast of a lighter stain against my yarn when knitting.

The needles are what helped me get these socks done.  One pattern row with a series of K4tog and I was very happy for the sharper points.  They were all done by September 3rd, and are now known as my Orange Crush Socks.

So named because Jack Layton passed away while I was knitting them.  I enjoyed knitting these because the pattern was easy to remember & I got to knit garter short-row heels and toes for the 1st time.  They aren’t my favourite socks though:

  • The garter-stitch cuffs are saggy.  I could add elastic since mine are 2″ long but am not inspired really.
  • At the recommended gauge they are too thick for my fall shoes.
  • The heels and toes are super-comfy but gap all the way out of my shoes.  Stuffing socks in is no fun.
  • I messed up sock No. 1’s toe grafting.  Not enough yarn or patience.  Since that happens under the foot it’s not good for lots of walking, really.

My verdict = inside socks.

Luckily, I finished the singles spinning for my big spindle project before the health scare.  Here they are all together before plying:

I’ve also changed my plying routine for this project.  While I was still recovering this new-t0-me Katherine’s Cup spindle by Greensleeves came.  It’s lighter than my Golding at 1.68 oz., and working well for the lace-weight so far.  The last sneak peek:


The new leaf

The Powers That Be have recently changed in my life.  Just 2 weeks ago, I served my last day in the day job.  It was an uneventful and amicable ramp-down but all of my energy had gone into working difficult files & big decisions this summer.

I usually keep this under wraps but this day job was as a junior civil litigation associate in a small firm.  I went back after the 1 ½ years of being in a non-working creative space.  That I loved but lacked structure.  It is a general service firm, so I learned to do everything + the kitchen sink.  With an assistant of much aggravation.  I worked 4-days with these trusted mentors and got the structure and challenges that I missed.  Steady salary to fuel the creative side, etc.  Zero in the way of glamour but I loved mentoring the articling student who is now a friend.

It’s really just almost a week since I got pulled back in for a Battle Royale of sorts.  Rather brutal but I lived to tell the tale, and now have this new Boss who agrees with me about keeping a tiara in the office.

The Boss Lady also lets me out for my Tuesday’s daytime spinning group.  She happens to understand about finding antique wheels in corners, and spinning friends.  Just yesterday, I hauled a saxony wheel out, got on the ground & assembled her again.  She was painted green & has a name carved in the bed!  And the Tuesday before?  A spinning friend quietly gave me her Tom Forrester accessory.

The tag says black walnut but not what it is?  My 1st thought was a diz!  Problem is that all 4 of its holes are evenly large.  Searching the listings over at Gemini Fibres here hasn’t solved the mystery… any ideas?

My mind is not All Made Up.  There’s no panic – just trying to decide on the next steps and path.  However this plays out, I am just happy to rejoin the things that I missed in the past year & to put our home life back into some order.  I suppose that DB put it best when he said, “Just follow your heart, and don’t leave your brain behind.”

Toby and I came upon this sapling in the park today.  It’s turning new leaves too.

Even though it’s right across from this poor guy:

I’ll save the current projects for another post.  Which is assuming a lot.  We are under a tornado watch tonight.

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Out of Jamaica, Part I

The island was lush & beautiful when we were home.  In the short week we stayed in Kingston, visited Port Royal for Gloria’s fried fish, and went to St. Ann for Cuz’s wedding.

In Kingston, we caught the tail-end of the rains:

These old friends in the backyard were a sight for sore eyes.  Mahogany in their own little canopy:

The Lignum Vitae (tree of life) was just coming out of bloom.

And underneath it all, some life.

Port Royal charmed even the King of Snark, a 20-something cousin from the States who was with us.  Parking lot view at the Port Royal police station – left:

And swinging right is the Kingston harbour view:

Since people were getting along, and spirits were high we took King of Snark along to Fort Charles, which got mangled in the 1692 earthquake.  It totally delayed our trip down to the country but there was a rare pause on the snark.  Canons abound, it is a fort:

Well placed sea anchor.  Just as big as I remembered!

Up the ramp, and inside the Fort:

From which, you see:

School trip!  They arrived just as we were heading down to the Giddy House.

Spin around, the Giddy House is sea-ward.

The Giddy House is the old Artillery Store that partially sank in the 1692 earthquake.  Everyone feels giddy walking in there.  Everyone.

An entire Armory went under.

More remnants:

There was a lot of climbing and running on the gun.  Those pics look a little rude, and are being withheld.

And on our way back to Kingston, a Port Royal landmark:

Kingston may not be for everyone but it’s home for me.

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Appreciating life

As of Saturday the Mach II spinning wheel is officially mine.  DH wasn’t into the country drive vibe, so it was a bit of a quickie trip out to the Fibre Garden in Jordan.  Unfortunately, FG is no longer a dealer for Spinolution’s wheels.  This would be under warranty but I’ll have to source any bits & bobbs elsewhere.  Now that he’s mine, I can show you The Indomitable Earl:

Check out Toby… not being cute – he was royally annoyed that I put the wheel in his morning sunshine!

Either that or he was combining his love for attention with his love of sunbathing…  Don’t you think that the words, “My name is Earl,” would look cool arcing under that logo?  I do but don’t worry, I probably won’t act on that there impulse.

The yarn on the bobbin is the Louet Shetland wool top 3-plied.  I spun the singles on the Wee Peggy spinning singles, and took advantage of Earl’s mighty bobbins for plying.

Even I am starting to get confused between all the natural white handspun/ fibres in the house.  Note to self… label!

I know that I’ve been massively silent about the finished baby blanket.  Pictures are taken, and I am sending it to my friend, today.  Pattern is still in the offing…

On Monday, I casted-on for another Anthropologie shrug.  The best I can say for attempt #1 was that it was a swatch.  A very time-intensive, handspun, itchy swatch.  Shrug #2 is way beyond that.  It’s in the ever-yummy Colinette Iona in dusk (colour 77).  It’s about time that I used that yarn… stashed it almost a year ago…  Almost a skein in:

Very relaxing.  This time I am using the border from Sandi Wisehart’s Comfort Shawl.  It really is one of my favourite borders, and I’m a happy camper.  Here’s to hoping I have a shrug before summer hits…

On Monday, I got the sad news that a friend & former co-worker passed away on Saturday.  Sharon had a long battle with cancer, and passed peacefully.  Her service was yesterday, and I was able to go.  She had worked with the firm for 25+ years.  I was lucky enough to sit beside Sharon for an entire year.  Once she decided that I wasn’t fooling around behind the partition, we became good friends.  She was a huge support to me during & after my articling, and hilarious to boot.  I hope she rests in peace.

This morning, I am just appreciating life a little bit more.