The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre

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


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August of hitting a stride

This is not typically a fabulous month but the past 4 or so weeks have exceeded all August expectations.

Central park reservoir panoramic view New York skyline

Attribution & laurels: N

We celebrated Emancipation Day, August 1st with family.  There were a lot of new nephew cuddles, and good times with his parents.  We stayed with wonderful friends.  Their windowsill shows all of my travel spinning of Wensleydale.

The people of New York were rather taken-in by my carob Turkish Delight spindle by Jenkins Woodworking.

Spinning dyed Wensleydale top on Jenkins Delight Turkish spindle carob wood

Sweetening the travel pot

There was also quality time aka aeroplane knitting with a baby gift for our this-week born new cousin in Toronto.

Handknit baby gift Gidday Baby Cardigan and beanie in Sirdar Baby Bamboo

Gidday cardigan set for baby G!

This cardigan is Gidday Baby pattern by Georgie Hallam.  Can I just whisper, “Gidday pattern!”  This was a July 29 – August 9th pleasure of knitting with stashed Sirdar Baby Bamboo yarn.

Yoke and buttons on handknit Gidday Baby cardigan by irieknit

This is an awfully sweet yoke.  My main colour is #122 with the contrast in cream.  The hat was just as fun to knit and is Louisa Harding’s striped beanie hat. My copy of her Natural Knits for Babies and Moms is much loved & heavily used.

But I digress.

Lox on a bagel with cream cheese

Attribution: N

We were well-fed, and soon got over for baby’s first museum visit.  The crowds!  It’s hard meeting an infant’s needs in those crowds but our new parents did a fine job, and he was pretty cheerful.

American Museum of Natural History Pleistocene Colossochelys prehistoric turtle

At my special request, attribution: N

Search engine diving shows this dinosaur as Colossochelys the Pleistocene turtle but I am not sure in retrospect.  We were at the American Museum of Natural History.

Sunset at Riverside Park Manhattan NY

Riverside Park, Manhattan Attribution: N

It was such a short but packed trip.  I came home with craft books from the Strand Bookstore, a new-to-me set of Meck Russian paddle combs, and wheels that are now on my Mighty Wolf loom.  The best part was having such a blast welcoming nephew, F.  I think he likes me.

The Learning Curve – bead embellishment

Before & after our trip, I participated in a 4-part guild workshop on bead embroidery with William Hodge of Armure Studios.

Bead embroidery workshop samplers by irieknit

Carried away? Bead embroidery

It felt like jumping back into the childhood sandbox of embroidery with crazy bling.  Fun but also greedy for time to do even these small amounts.  I will never begrudge a handmade bead embroidery work its price again.  It’s joyous but where does the time go?

Detail of bead embroidery sampler by irieknit

Well, I did hear, “Start simply,” but couldn’t stop.

Each participant had her own approach.  Mine was to follow the instruction about total bead cover and the ’80s patterned fabric.

The faux pearl bead to the right has special comedic value.  It, ahem, moves of its own volition.

William shared many pieces in his personal collection from different cultures as well as his own work.  It was fabulous, and I was glad for the breaks between workshop parts.

It was just perfect having the Naked Craft exhibition on at the AGB while taking this workshop.  The bead embroidery pieces by contemporary artists are astonishingly beautiful but I also saw the raw commitment – eye-strain, materials, design, time.

Finishing my thoughts

With thanks to PAKnitWit who ran the aptly named ‘Shawl for All’ knitalong, I used all 756 yards of my superwash merino dyed by Southern Cross Fibres.

Handknit Diminishing Returns shawl in handspun superwash merino yarn by irieknit

Diminishing Returns Shawl in my handspun yarn

This was 8 of 9 designed sections in Sarah’s Diminishing Returns triangle shawl.  I used 3.5 mm needles, and loved each second of this relaxed me-knit.

Stockinette and garter stitch knitting with gradient handspun yarn

It’s an elegant & simple concept.  You move through stockinette & garter stitch blocks that reverse roles.  Just right for a strong gradient like my Sugar & Spice 2-ply yarn but the design is very versatile.  I hope that others will use handspun yarn to make this pattern too.

The knitter gets to keep a lid on the purl stitches as the triangle grows, which I appreciate.  The top-down triangle adds 4 stitches every other row, and that grows quickly!

Wearing Diminishing Returns triangle shawl in handspun yarn by irieknit

Treating myself to the handspun goodness

Also appreciated? The length on my arm as the shawl crosses.  It’s just how I like a shawl.

Hug of handspun Diminishing Returns triangle shawl by irieknit

Squooshy is also good

The home for this knit along is the Knit Wit group on Ravelry.  We had a good lead time for blocking & also taking these pics.  As I told the group, this one will see lots of wear in the cooler weather.

Sock knitting by irieknit and Turtlepurl Live Long and Prosper yarn

Spock sock!

New socks of unusual size (9″ circumference) are off the needles!  As soon as I saw Turtlepurl’s post for her Live Long & Prosper in this self-striping pattern, I had to get it for N.  It is a 75% superwash merino/ 25% nylon blend, and I used 2.25 mm double-pointed needles.

Handknit men's socks by irieknit in Turtlepurl Live Long and Prosper yarn

Spock socks in the wild

He is smiling in this picture, and approves of the finished socks.

Back view of handknit men's socks with Turtlepurl Live Long & Prosper yarn

The columns of stitches are just paired slip stitches passed over knit front & backs.  Easy to work, and perfect for other plane trips this spring.

Knitted baby gift Telemark pullover in Sirdar Baby Bamboo

Belated baby gift!

The last finished thought is this version of a Telemark 2.0 pullover that I made for our baby cousin in Montreal.  It was a nail-biting use of more from my Sirdar Baby Bamboo yarn stash.

Handknit baby Telemark pullover by irieknit

Is the placket reading as weird to you as it is to me?  It might be a comprehension problem on my part but I did try to follow the instructions as written there.  It has been on its way this week, and I hope they like it.

Lark Turkish-style spindle by Jenkins Woodworking spinning by irieknit

A Jenkins Lark!

Spindles are on the front burner again.  Next month I will lead a guild workshop, and I am preparing the materials.  It’s a full 4-part introductory workshop, and we will go from first steps to plied yarn.  It’s my first formal teaching, and I am so excited.

In my down-time, I can play with this tulipwood Lark spindle by Jenkins Woodworking.  Luckily, I missed 2 others for sale last week because this was offered in Ontario.  Quick flight, no foreign exchange issues, and I love the tulipwood!

The Delight in the travel collage above is 5g heavier at 28 g.  Its arms sit low on the shaft (the Lark is mid-shaft), and are approximately 2 cm wide x 8.75 cm long.  The Lark’s arms are a slim 1.25 cm wide x 9.5 cm long.  The slighter profile is great for winding-on, and will hold that much more of a cop is my guess.


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Spinning on a blanket

Am I ever happy that I took the plunge on a made (by me)-in-Ontario wool blanket!  How could you not love having this to work with?

Hand-combing station for Ontario Romney lamb's wool

Value add: combing local Romney lamb’s wool

Love, however, gets you only so far with a project like this.  Fine-tuning my process has helped tremendously, and I am sharing the tweaks with you, today.  Simply adding denim under the comb’s clamps has been great.  It not only gives huge grip & protection but also gives me visual contrast.  That indigo is a welcome relief from white wool seen against the white ceramic floor tiles!  Getting a clean combing is so much easier now.

Another tweak is with the flick card sitting there on top of the waste bucket.  With clean & largely sound tips, I am just flicking the cut-end of  most locks before loading the comb.  It speeds things up.  As does flicking while standing – I hold locks tightly twisted, and flick into thin air.  No lap-cloth; just bouncing and slightly combing against the grip.

By using the flicker again on the waste from combs, I keep the seconds for the hand-cards (later, much later!) and compost the rest.

Hand-combed Romney wool dizzed top by irieknit

Resulting wool top for spinning

My focus is to do same-day spinning.  Two passes in the combs is good for this wool.  I use my lignum vitae Tabachek diz (see: the 1st picture, lower left) to pull the top.  It is 3/32″, and is so cool for this job.  Smooth, strong, and a pleasure to hold.

As gleaned from Robin Russo’s video, I am now using a clean sheet on top of my anti-fatigue mat as I diz the wool from the combs.  Catching it cleanly has helped the spinning too.

Spinning hand-combed Romney lamb's wool top on my Watson Martha

This Tuesday’s fibre prep

The main challenge is to keep moving forward.  This is intensive work – both in terms of time and labour.  My 6th bobbin has 7 lengths of top so far.  It is logged on a project sheet that I keep on the dining table.

Keeping it real is key here.  My Watson Martha wheel is the spinning tool, and it will be on this exclusively for the duration.  Although the bobbins are larger, I am spinning 18 lengths of top for each single using Scotch tension, and a cotton knitting yarn for the drive band.  There is a small sample from my first spinning that keeps me mindful not to draft the top too thin as is my wont.

The Spinner's Book of Fleece by Beth Smith autographed for irieknit

Motivation in book form: Beth Smith is helping

Nothing that I have described here is beyond my ability.  Everything is unless I stay the course.  This is why I am thrilled to have my friend Beth Smith’s new book, “The Spinner’s Book of Fleece” land just at the right moment.  Beth gets fleece to yarn, and then to the projects that she maps out methodically.  As a former workshop student with Beth, I knew that the technical side would be well and gently covered.  On my chosen breed, I learned at p. 135:

Romney wool is considered to have demi-luster, which means it has some shine but not as much as some of the Leicesters or Teeswater…

What leaps off the pages are the projects and samples.  They are light at the end of a tunnel.  Here I am working 5 days to get one of these 2-ply balls of yarn for my project.  It weighs 105g.

First plying balls of Romney lamb's wool for a blanket

Preparing for a family blanket of Romney wool

Having Beth’s voice reinforce truths like, “Spinning is not an end in itself,” on my coffee table is that special help.  Her handwoven images and notes are invaluable as I inch towards my goal of weaving with my handspun yarns.  This élan of working in unique but logical ways with fibre is egging me on.  Beth is the friend who asked why I had more fleece stash than projects.  I am glad that I could listen to quiet urging, and for the kind words in her autograph!

 

Before I go back to the combs – big thanks for all the support about Toby that poured in after my last post.  He seems to be doing better this week but occasionally has seizures now.