The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Female Heroes, a club

The creative forces at Sheepy Time Knits have been keeping my spinning & knitting life very happy in one way or another since I first put together that Mandie is a dyer when we met at Stringtopia these many years ago.  You may have noticed that they come up a lot on TKK, and never in a bad way.

When sign-ups for their 2018 brand-new Female Heroes Club opened the happy experiences made it fairly easy to think through.  This time I swallowed the fear of over-stashing fibre and joined on that side of the club.

Turns out I made a swell decision there.  Not a single braid has come near the stash bin, and I have found inspiration for more than 4 ounces a couple of times already.  How it shakes out in features of a good fibre club in my humble opinion:

  • Highly reliable;
  • Colourways, oh the colourways!
  • Rocking the breed selection;
  • Generous braids; never underweight;
  • Reorders sing from the same songbook.

This can’t be easy to execute for an indie dye business but execute it they do.  This club round-up is my simple appreciation.

But wait, are there backroom happenings?  No.  I am sharing something that has been consistently good, period.

Minerva on Masham

One ply ball is 35 g, and I last wound-off the Jenkins Lark spindle on in mid-May, 2018.

Jenkins Lark turkish-style spindle and Masham wool Minerva dyed by Sheepy Time Knits spun by irieknit

A come-with-me project

The 2 Turkish-style spindles are grabbed alternately each time I head out the door.  It’s a slower but still steady way of spinning a project.

Bravest Girl in the World on Targhee

A quick 2-ply that I spun as a fractal on the Watson Martha spinning wheel over 10 days in April.

Handspun Targhee wool by irieknit dyed by Sheepy Time Knits

Seriously smooth spin

The yarn was spun and plied in double drive, and the second braid is a dead ringer for the first.

As a big fan of Targhee, I was impressed with this fibre in particular.  It was open, fluffy, and a joy to spin.  The 635 yards of 2-ply is lovely (2,540 yards per pound) and so soft.

Mother of Dragons on Blue Faced Leicester

Imagine my squeal when this came in the mail.

2018 Female Heroes Fiber Club yarns at irieknit

Good mail day this

One good BFL spin has deserved another.  Again this went on the Watson Martha in double drive but this time I wanted a 3-ply yarn.

Handspun 3-ply Blue Faced Leicester wool by irieknit dyed by Sheepy Time Knits

Stormborn as it were

They are in the DK-weight range, and with the re-order, I now have approximately 394 yards (787 yards per pound).  The second braid was my ah, we are home again 2-day blitz spin.

Furiosa on Shetland

It may have been a little Mad Max to start this while also plying the beautiful Mother of Dragons.

Spinning Shetland wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Lower ratio; light touch

This will be a conventional 3-ply yarn, and I am looking forward to seeing it off the wheels.  The Wee Peggy is in Scotch Tension spinning a light 5:1.  It’s been very, very relaxing with an audiobook after long days.

That happened quickly

Spinning is in-between other projects – I have finished T’s colourwork sweater & am spending other nights weaving a band in my backstrap loom.  There are loose ideas for how I will use the handspun but for now I make the yarn.

The trip was very good for my focus, and I am happy to be working again.


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August Challenge Spin with Spindlers

The August challenge theme in Spindlers group on Ravelry is “fantasy,” and I took the plunge!

Alpaca/merino/silk handdyed combed top with irieknit's Spanish Peacock top whorl drop spindle flame box elder

Not going with Outlander, read ahead!

This 5 oz braid of combed top from Corgi Hill Farm is in my favourite blend, alpaca/merino/silk.  The spindle choice is my 22 g Spanish Peacock spindle, Flame Box Elder.

The group challenge is to spin at least 1 or more oz (or ½ oz lace) during the month on spindles (of course!), posting a skein in the thread by EST end of August.

Inspiration hits!

Alan Lee illustration of Lord of the Eagles from Hobbit inspiration picture by irieknit

The Lord of the Eagles, Tolkien

The fibre brought to mind a single thought – Gandalf’s Eagle!  I went for our illustrated (Alan Lee) copy of “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, found page 108, and headed for the passage that took my breath away so many years ago.

Eagles are not kindly birds. Some are cowardly and cruel. But the ancient race of the northern mountains were the greatest of all birds; they were proud and strong and noble-hearted…

Letting the curious Lord of the Eagles of the Misty Mountains take me out of my tree perch sounds like a good way to crack through that oh-so-pragmatic decision to miss the Tour de Fleece this year.

So far, I am the only fantasy Eagle Lord entrant but the past 2 days have brought some wonderful interpretations into this month’s theme.  Join us or just lurk for the fun, will you?

Asiatic Lily July blooming irieknit garden

Rocking late blooming Lily!

This past camp week for T was also a treat for my fibre projects.  Wrinkles aside (I answered their survey this morning…), I used the daytime hours to have the coveted dye day, spin for the fun of it, share online, and best of all open the floor loom!

Yesterday brought a new tool into the kit – first pair of eye-glasses.  Slight correction later, and I am far more comfortable on-screen.  The 5/2 cotton threads on the loom are much easier to work with now, phew!

Another week of camp will start after our civic holiday weekend.  I am looking forward to sharing the pictures/project stories with you!

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!

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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Stick a pin

Months!  Unavoidably so but I have missed posting so much.

Melvin the cat in blissful repose

Be the change, Melvin. Be the change.

The circumstances of moving my studio away from this window, bringing down the guest room, painting for light, and generally growing into long-term plans have been very happy.  It has been a long process with challenges and a ton of joy.

Handknit child-sized Muddy Duck Pond cardigan by irieknit

The first thoughts ran: yarn, knit, fall is coming

Naturally, knitting went into high gear as well.   I bossed the Peace Fleece into living up to its worsted name for this Muddy Duck Pond Cardigan designed by Kristen TenDyke.

Yoke detail handknit Muddy Duck Pond cardigan by irieknit

Taming of the aran weight to my purposes

Even on 4.0 mm needles my gauge led me to knit the 6 month-size instructions for a special preschooler.  The ‘Kalinka Malinka blue’ colourway just pops knit this tightly.  It also brought the yarn’s vegetable matter & guard hairs out for the plucking.

handknit Aviatrix Hat in Sheepy Time Knits Strider yarn by irieknit

Second thoughts ran to the Sheepy Time Knits Strider yarn, actually worsted weight.

T’s handknits now also include 2 pairs of socks, and a set of mittens.  He also has a kelly green hoodie on the needles that I am almost finished knitting:  Kerrera for Kids by another favourite designer, Gudrun Johnston.  The very first finished object was a handspun Mario the Artistic Rabbit in Targhee wool that is seeing its fair share of love.

As I knew it would, spindle spinning has been my chief creative outlet.  The surprise was how strongly my sock knitting mojo returned.  There is nothing like slaying a second-sock syndrome, and I am also learning from Lara Neel’s “Sock Architecture“.  T, your toes have a Grecian shape & it was new to me.

While projects take longer to create & document they are more important than ever before.  It’s all good, and with luck I will be able to weave in this guest-room-no-more space… eventually.

Handspun Corriedale wool on captive ring Peruvian Pushka spindle

Yes, a captive ring Pushka!

This spindle is 1 of 2 captive ring Pushkas that brightened up some hard days.  A friend’s daughter brought a good many back from her trip to Cusco’s market in Peru earlier this summer.  I was harder to reach than usual, and am so thankful that she kept a few for me plus told me to also snag an extra-large plying spindle.  Even more thankful because we now also have a small turned Pushka for T.

The fibre is Corriedale wool top, and I am spinning along with the Spindlers Ravelry group’s September challenge.  The theme this month is Peru, and I am trying to spin 50 g of the top for a 2-ply yarn.  Prepping my own would be more authentic but far less achievable for me now.

Late-blooming newly planted shrub rose

It’s a pleasure to touch base again.  There have been quiet laughs about how my diary notes in the last post really took-off since March.  For readers who have been patient, thank you.


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Carrying forward – the new Knit Knack year

This past month has been a very good one for my fibre work, seeing N recover from his lingering shingles pain, and the winter of fewer weather alerts.

Stranded two-colour knitted gloves for adult man by irieknit

Little Lithuania gloves for N

The gloves came off the needles shortly after my last TKK post.  They are for N but also were a great reminder that I miss the knits that teach me new skills.

Stranded two-colour knitted gloves for a man by irieknit

Long floats behind the pattern

In “Lithuanian Knitting:  continuing traditions” the authors cite this motif as being common in Lithuania’s western coastal area, Mazoji Lietuva.  As recently as last fall, I had finished a pair of fingerless mitts designed by Donna Druchunas, and so had a grasp of how fingers are placed.  I will share that project & its matching hat soon.

A technical note is to say that I knit these with one yarn in each hand.  The light “cold pressed” CC yarn was held to the left of the dark “prato” MC yarn.  What dominates more to my eye in this pattern is the light value.  The contrast & proportion of light value is what I think makes that pattern yarn dominate over the darker background yarn here.

It is as though the light pattern leaps forward in the hand.  From what I know of colour theory this main hand pattern is a high-major key.  The dark is dominated by the high-value.  This was N’s colour choice, and he loves the gloves.

A traditional pairing is natural or white on a dark background for this motif (p. 165).  Some were 11 stitch floats all across the round.  One round is all light value.  For any floating over 5 stitches, I caught them together.  That extra manipulation was fiddly & slowed me down a ton.

What I am late to finding but would like to share is this guest post by Donna Druchunas on Deb Robson’s blog.  In the post, Donna mentions the traditional crossed knit stitches.  The twisting seems like a good help not just for warmth but also for shielding float colours.  I will try that when knitting other patterns from the book.

For this year

In making the resolution to keep going in the direction of my crafts – spinning, knitting, weaving – I have looked carefully at how to improve the balance.  Selecting what to share & when has proved more of a challenge as content gets ahead of posts.

Hand preparing dyed Gulf Coast Native wool looks on Russian paddle combs by irieknit

New year; new paths

The locks are 105 g of Gulf Coast Native wool hand-dyed by Sheepspot.  These are Meck Russian paddle combs, and were from a birthday present – thank you, N’s Mum.  They hold a lot, and are the in-between wool combs that I had long hoped to find.

Mini-skeins of handspun Gulf Coast Native wool yarn carded and combed samples by irieknit

Sampling like a boss!

The 1st mini-skein is from the Meck combs (winner!).  Same locks but the more muted skein is spun from drum-carded rolag batts.  This is thanks to another awesome new tool that I’ll be learning my way around, a Pat Green blender/carder.

This sampling run was a job for my Watson Martha wheel in the same afternoon last Friday.

Basket with Sheepspot hand-dyed locks and sample handspun skeins by irieknit

Nice, right?!

 

New tools & materials are part of the mix this year.  Even more importantly, I am solving the puzzle of how I can work more evenly; share more fully for TKK this year.

It’s happened because I decided to use a desk planner to you know, plan.  Even simple daily entries since January 4th have given me a handle on how I work.  There’s more spinning than anything & I can both weave & keep other projects going.

One big take-away – I knit too much for others now.  It used to be my thing.

Spinning hemp top on Tom Forrester supported spindle cow bone whorl

Hemp top last touched in December 2015

The hemp top spinning on this Tom Forrester supported spindle is an example.  It was last spun around December 26, 2015.  Here’s why my Planner shows:

Spinning Egyptian cotton on coin takhli spindle by irieknit

January’s joy of Egyptian cotton

This (to me) immensely full coin takhli was – as my new friend the desk planner says – wound-off on January 30th.  That is 25 g of fine cotton spun in 6 months.  Let’s see if I improve in the next few months.  I like & am resolved to spin more cotton.

As I try to rein in how thinly the work/life gets spread this year, I will be remembering our Jamaican proverb.  Old-time people seh:

One, one coco full basket

Keep gathering your ground provisions because that’s your way to a full basket.  In other words – don’t expect to achieve success overnight.

Melvin cat on bed of logwood-dyed Border Leicester locks by irieknit

Before he was rousted, Melvin

Let’s not scare the nice kitty but we are also seriously thinking about adopting a dog again.  Here’s to 2016!


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Behind the scenes – a trip home

As one obligation was almost fulfilled & leading to others that now shift to the home front, I received news of my Uncle’s passing.  He fought a years-long battle with cancer, and I returned home 3 days later to be with family for the service.

This mix of sad with happy occasions has taken me home far more often than in previous years.  Unplanned trips, especially those of the quick variety disrupt daily life.  This one did that but has also brought me closer to what matters; who matters.

It allowed for hand-delivery of a baby Aviatrix hat for F, and even good sock knitting time on the plane.  In between it all, I took some pictures when it wasn’t raining & I was the only one up.

Verandah view rainy morning St. Andrew Jamaica

Rainy morning

Looking out from my favourite spot.  I was thinking about the day ahead & this rainfall that I can’t describe but always miss.  Heavy, tropical, and needed after long drought.

Lignum vitae tree branch St. Andrew, Jamaica

Lignum Vitae

This is 1 of 2 mature Lignum Vitae trees in the backyard.  Its branches and bark support plenty in the way of insect & plant life.  These trees grow the heaviest, densest wood in the world, and I love them.

Potted orchid in Lignum Vitae tree, St. Andrew, Jamaica

She likes her place with my Lignum Vitae tree

The second Lignum Vitae now supports a small potted orchid.  Whoever put her there had a good idea.

You can’t see but a weaver set up her web in between the orchid’s spikes and the tree’s branch.  As weavers are wont to do.

Aloe Vera naturalized in St. Andrew, Jamaica

Aloe Vera takes a stand

The Aloe Vera plant is also called ‘Single Bible’ in Jamaica.  It has naturalized in this corner of the garden, and I gave them some encouraging words for keeping up the good fight.

Flowering plants, St. Andrew, Jamaica

Drought? What drought?

A splash of colour is doing well against the wall.  These exceeded expectations in the long dry season, and made me smile.  Also, purple.

Potted plant in St. Andrew, Jamaica

Fractal in potted plant form

Last but not least is the flowering Ixora Coccinea bush.  She has tolerated the drought and displays some fortitude!

Ixora blooming red flowers after the rain St. Andrew, Jamaica