The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Summer dye baths – avocado now; Queen Anne’s Lace then

Early Sunday morning, I took a knife to some of the stored avocado pits.  It was a way to think of my spinning friend Mary before her memorial service that day.

Extracting natural dye avocado stones by irieknit

Avocado dye, Day 1

The bowl includes 4 pits from Jamaican avocado pears brought by my Mother-in-law – they gave colour instantly!  It’s no rush, and is just a moveable feast around the backyard as I seek the sun.

Extracting natural dye from avocado stones by irieknit

Avocado dye, Day 3 (boiled)

This is after 1 boil, and cooling on Tuesday morning.  While it sits, I am debating using ammonia again to boost extraction.

Handspun BFLxShetland lamb's wool by irieknit

Meet the target – handspun BFLxShetland wool

Slated for the dye-pot is this approximately 285 yards from 100 g of roving from Hopeful Shetlands.

I carded the roving before spinning.  The rolags hit the CPW at a good clip in the month after our houseguests left.  It is spun supported long-draw, and plied on my Watson Martha also in double-drive.

Throwback to last August

We took a walk last Emancipation Day to gather Queen Anne’s Lace.  T was game, and now understands about dye-plants.

Ontario Queen Anne's Lace prepared by irieknit for dye extraction

Thrilling 2017 Queen Anne’s Lace

We gathered 204 g in a local ravine.  I might have been more into this than young T-ster.

Canadian Targhee wool preparing to mordant for natural dye by irieknit

First we soak the wool top

The target was 98 g of Saskatchewan Targhee wool top from Sheepspot.  Mordanting with alum & cream of tartar is where T lost a good deal of interest.  Luckily, Mom was on hand to keep him occupied.

Handdyed Targhee wool top with Queen Anne's Lace, carrot tops by irieknit

Dry, beautiful top, dry!

After a first boil, I got 145 g of carrot tops from the supermarket, and added them for a 30 min boil.  The wool cooled in the pot overnight.

Handspun natural dyed Targhee wool yarn and Watson Martha spinning wheel by irieknit

We quickly had yarn

By the notes taken, I had approximately 173 yards of 3-ply by the end of that week!  It was spun and plied in double-drive on my Watson Martha.  It is a 690 yards per pound yarn.  That would be in an aran-weight range but the wraps per inch is 12 or worsted-weight range.

A small facelift

There are subtle changes for the TKK blog appearance, and I also re-worked the About page.  The break that I have taken this year from the Tour de Fleece is as much for focusing at home as it is for this re-tooling.

Spinning Targhee wool dyed by Sheeptime Knits on Bosworth Blue Mahoe skinny Midi by irieknit

Another Targhee spin in the park, yesterday

The memorial for our friend, Mary, was small but very touching.  I went with our “not a teaching group” friend, Nancy, and other spinners were able to join as well.

On Sunday night, I started a new 3-ply project on the Martha spinning wheel.  It was Mary’s custom wheel before she surprised me with her offer to sell.  I hope that her family knows how much her spinning life’s work mattered in the community.


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Adventures with Babydoll Southdown wool in our fibreshed

Just a couple of days after my last blog post, I headed out to the Woodstock Fleece Festival.  It was a day of bustling spinners’ mayhem, and this post is brought to you by a happy co-incidence.

Antique flax saxony with flyer out for repair

We were bound to run into each other again at Wheelwright’s booth.  My reason:  an antique flyer in need of repair.  Hers:  wheels!

The spark for this adventure is a local credit to adolescents everywhere, E.  Her grade 8 school project led us to connect with shepherd Robert I’Anson & his wonderful pure-bred Olde English Babydoll Southdown flock.  Other handspinners have now found Bob’s fleeces thanks to E’s project.

We first met in September 2014 when E came to a guild meeting with her Mom.  She presented so impressively about her aims to prep, spin & dye local wool for her project with knits.  E was a novice spinner, and her enthusiasm was infectious.  I soon agreed to stand as mentor if they were comfortable to go ahead.  We did!

This experience was a real privilege, and ever since we met-up again at Wheelwright’s festival booth in October, I have wanted to really share it with you at long last.

Sourcing the Wool

With generous help from my friend, Sasha of Sheepspot, we quickly got in touch with Robert I’Anson who still had fleeces from his 2014 clip.

Since to quote Sasha the only thing that she loves more than wool is the ocean, I was certain that we were in good hands.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown ewes Louth Ontario Robert l'Anson

Bob’s Babydoll Southdown ewes, and Jacqueline the brown lamb

The ewes were in their front paddock.  We gushed at the cute.

Shepherd from Louth Ontario, Robert I'Anson and Belgian Shepherd Jack

Bob I’Anson and Jack

Bob not only welcomed our teaching visit to his farm in Louth, Ontario but also donated a ram’s white fleece for E’s project.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown skirted raw wool fleece Laurie's Little Lambs

Raw Babydoll Southdown ram’s fleece for E

We chose this fleece after looking at a few.  All were sound, and it was a fun decision.  We also got to learn more about the sheep, farm, and Bob’s approach to breeding.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep Louth Ontario Laurie's Little Lambs

Keeping their distance, adorably.

On that high note we turned to cleaning E’s wool

Guess who approved of our plan to clean the wool in his presence?

Melvin and drying Babydoll Southdown Ontario wool fleece

How to build a better pet crate: add wet wool roof

The scouring stage was intense on instruction as we worked on spinning through the soaking sessions.  It was a good, long day. E really picked-up on everything & then did her homework.

It was also my first high-lanolin fleece.  Even though the water ran clear after 2 baths with original Dawn detergent, the dry wool felt tacky.  That was solved by simply re-washing but I will now use power scour in the first place!

Cleaned bag of Ontario Babydoll Southdown wool

Have you any wool?

E continued to work on other fibres for her display, and then did an amazing job on fibre preparation & spinning of the Babydoll Southdown over her winter break.

Thanks also to Deb Robson who gave her quick permission to share her Fiber Exploration Record Card with E in the project. It sets out key characteristics, and after taking a breed study workshop with Deb 3 years ago, I use the card for my own learning/ fibre preparation.

Natural dyed Polwarth handspun wool with avocado by irieknit

Avocado dye experiment

As soon as E saw my 2012 avocado dye experiment on Polwarth she determined this was her favorite.  We worked from there, and she chose a water-only soak extraction method for her yarn.

Grade 8 presentation in Ontario on fleece preparation, spinning, dyeing and knitting

E’s spinning project display

There are no words.  I was just blown away by E’s display & presentation – she received full marks and deserved applause!

My personal favourite part was her answer to the FAQ an attendee had to ask.  In complete dignity & more tact than I will ever muster she asserted,

Well, I think that my spinning is a much better quality than what you can get at Walmart because they use factories, and I made mine by hand.

Babydoll Southdown lamb Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario farm

Webster, the youngest Babydoll Southdown lamb this year

The Babydoll Southdowns are still growing wool, and Bob’s flock is doing well.  I visited with N at the end of July, and have cleaned an ewe’s fleece.  It is astonishing, and you will hear about it!

Yes, I gained friendships beyond E’s school presentation this March, a new wool discovery, and confidence in teaching.  That’s all been fabulous but the best part is being there to see a young spinner’s imagination carry her into our local fibreshed, and onward.

edit to correct Webster’s name.