The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Celebrating with knits

Whichever stars have aligned, we are in the midst of much change.  A lot, actually.  Only one fell to be met with knitting, and it is the happiest of them all!

Welcome to the Flock baby cardigan

He is now just over 6 weeks old, and oh, joy I am an Aunt!  The design is Welcome to the Flock by Julia Farwell-Clay.  All variations of this sheep cardigan are adorable.  It was so much fun scrolling through that I did it twice!

My version is knit heavier than the pattern suggests.  The yarn is Diamond’s Luxury Collection fine dk-weight yarn in superwash merino.  With 3.5 mm needles, I got 21 stitches & 26 rows per 4″.

Welcome to the Flock baby knitted cardigan yoke detail

The substitution made for yoke changes. The single row of sheep ends with a 7-row open heart in black.  I added a 3-row peerie from Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting (page 49) into a 1-row peerie pattern.

Handspun-worthy boy

It wasn’t all blue but nearly so!  How could I not spin for this? Seriously.

Targhee handdyed wool on Watson Martha spinning wheel

This Targhee wool top is from Corgi Hill Farm, and was spun in just a few days at the end of March.  It was 5 oz/ 140 g in her “Frozen Fjord” colourway.  Spinning was on the Watson Martha in double drive on the larger whorl for a 2-ply yarn of 382 yards.

Knitted Mario the Artistic Rabbit stuffed toy in handspun yarn by irieknitSome gifts are just a joy to make.  A first Mario the Artistic Rabbit by Jenna Krupar in Noro Silk Garden yarn went to my cousin’s 2 year-old this Christmas.  This second version used approximately 130 yards of the handspun Targhee wool.

Knit Mario the Artistic Rabbit stuffed toy in handspun yarn with mohair locks in tail

Needle-felting for a tail with kid mohair locks was my favourite part.  The new parents agree, and are keeping the toy well out of their dog’s reach!

Knit Mario the Artistic Rabbit in handspun Targhee wool by irieknit face detailIndefensibly perhaps, I knowingly went with these mis-matched button eyes.  Let’s chalk that up to character.

Give the baby a vest!

Maybe you are starting to see how my hands were a little full with the baby knitting?

Stripey knit boy vest by irieknit in Sirdar Baby Bamboo

Shopping the stash resulted in a lot of ends to sew in!  This is a pattern from Sirdar’s baby bamboo knits pamphlet 323B.  After some other tries, I decided on this as the best colour sequence:

A =  Neutral:  col. 141

B = Dark blue:  col. 150

C = Kelly green:  col. 122

D = Light blue:  col. 138

It was all going fairly swimmingly (literally – four colours to juggle) when I realized about the square armholes.  They ought to have been shaped… With a shortage of yarn & patience that mistake took it to a very preppy level.

Summer blooming clematis

We are planning our trip to meet this little one & celebrate his birth in person.  It means a second short trip in 2 months but will be more than worth it!

The clematis is in full bloom now but you see, I was thinking of posting in June but just got swept away by all the things.


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Living a little and crafting a lot – knits, spins and even weaving!

The past month took me home for a sad occasion with family.  It has meant working harder to get ready for the holidays ahead but I came back deeply grounded.

Bougainvillea new growth after coming indoors

Her late blooms and new leaves are a wonder

On the flight south, I took out my new Ampersand sock-in-progress… only to find out that my seat-mate was also a knitter!  She had holiday knits on the go, and I got down to the foot with this lovely Indigodragonfly merino yarn as we knit along with each other.

 

Indigodragonfly fingering weight handdyed yarn

‘Who’s a Happy Tribute?’ colourway from the Knitter’s Frolic

A better blogger would have the actual sock project to share, I know.  This is the trouble with major disruptions & terrible seasonal lighting around here – not for everyone but if you are me the photography it suffers.

Catching us Up (a bit)!

You were missed, as I was propelled forward.  This is only the tip of what’s been happening while I was away from posting.

Antique saxony spinning wheels in a hatchback vehicle

We can call the wheels at home a herd now.

Only a couple days before our sad news was delivered, I had another trip to visit Alvin & Barbara Anne Ramer. Alvin repaired my antique William McDonald wheel while I cough fell in love with the smaller wheel in the foreground cough.  The separation of this metal pin and an old fix to her treadle bar needed attention.

 

Broken treadle pin on antique Nova Scotia flax spinning wheel

You can imagine my horror

Alvin fixed this main problem, and he also made other adjustments to the wheel.  It was awesome to see him in good health & at his wheel-smith work.  Barbara Anne was so gracious as well, and I loved speaking more with her about spinning, weaving and her plans.

Blue Faced Leicester/Silk yarn spun on antique spinning wheel on niddy noddy

First spun on the early C19 Nova Scotia wheel

The first spin is 646 yards (127g) of BFL wool/silk.  It was all plied on my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.

Last Thursday, I used this yarn for a great dye experiment with Madder root.  The mordant is alum @ 8% and cream of tartar @ 7%.  I brought the 100g of ground Madder with 1 tbsp of baking soda up to a simmer, and cooled overnight.

Madder dye bath preparation

Straining madder root from dye liquor!

Further tweaking happened in the morning after straining, and I mordanted handspun Dorset (horned) wool yarn for the legendary exhaust baths.

Natural dye with Madder root on handspun yarn

Home-dyeing with Madder root!

This operation was surprisingly fragrant!  The madder has a nutty, smoky aroma.  After rinsing & drying, I have rich oranges – and the exhaust material/bath in reserve!

Natural dyed handspun yarns using Madder and alum mordant

Madder’s fall bounty!

Although I strained & rinsed thoroughly small specks of the ground dyestuff are scattering from the skeins.  It’s no big deal at all but is a side-effect!

Handspun Falkland wool dyed in black walnut, antique wheel spinning

Walnut-dyed Falkland handspun yarn

The McDonald antique wheel was also a joy for spinning my Falkland top that is dyed with black walnut.  The 5.9 oz gave me 593 yards of 2-ply.  This time I changed ratios on the Watson Martha but still plied in double drive.

Spindles, loom & knits

All have been in rotation since I recovered from the time away.  These are just quick out-takes (in no particular order) while I keep gaining on deadlines.

Spinning organic handdyed Polwarth wool with a Tabachek drop spindle

Cedar Tabachek with organic Polwarth

The dyed-by Sheepspot spinning project is down to the last 44g of Polwarth wool.  Having the cedar Tabachek drop spindle in regular use again has made me so happy.  My plan is to chain-ply this yarn when it is all spun up.

Spinning batts from Enting Fibercraft on Bosworth Moosie drop spindle

Oceanside Ent Batts for a Moosie WIN!

These batts by Naomi at Enting Fibercraft are amazing.  Four breeds of wool are blended with Tussah silk & Bamboo rayon.  The colour is so deep, and the blend is just fabulous on my Moosie spindle.

Handwoven cotton kitchen towels in Keep it Simple pattern

Learning curve & humble pie to mix metaphors!

These towels stretched me so much.  The red one is unwashed.  A mistake that glared at my friend Diane in the top towel got corrected thanks to her kind pointing-out.  They need pressing, hemming and documenting but they certainly have happened!

Baby Surprise Jacket, newborn size in Heritage Handpaints by Cascade

Another Baby Surprise Jacket!

A lace-edged hat, and booties went with this Baby Surprise Jacket for my cousin.  Her shower was this past Sunday, and we can’t wait to see her baby outfitted in the knits!


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Wednesday finishing and nearly so!

Life and writing have not connected in a long time.  For many reasons but the best one is how many projects I have been successfully getting out of inertia.  This post is about giving the finished ones a warm Wednesday welcome!

At the top of last month, I had a lovely time over lunch with my friend, Sasha.  Her first Skein-a-Day April Sheepspot event was here on my needles. 

Knit shawl in progress with Sheepspot sustainable merino fingering yarn

I love this yarn!

The short dye repeats worked beautifully for Susan Santos’ Magical Side to Side Scarf design.  There was no flashing either in the fancy stitch bands or as the scarf sections changed dimension.

Handknit Magical Side to Side Scarf in Sheepspot sustainable Merino fingering yarn blocking

Pattern stripes in nice relief, blocking

Blocking really helped to shape the scarf, and organise the drop-stitch fringe.  It is 69″ x 9″ in this yarn.  I knit with 3.5mm needles.

Finished handknit Magical Side to Side Scarf in sustainable Merino yarn by Sheepspot

Not the intended recipient…

This one is going to a good friend, so I let the stuffed polar bear model it for you.

Detail of stitch pattern in knit Magical Side to Side Scarf using Sheepspot sustainable merino yarn

Love the yarn tones for this pattern!

The pattern stitch was simple to work, and easy to remember. This project took me longer because I ran out of yarn, frogged and needed to come back to reknit the end section.

Tabachek cedar drop spindle with Sheepspot organic dyed Polwarth fibre

A spindle deserves organic Polwarth wool!

Last month, Sasha introduced her dyed organic wool top.  It was such a nice surprise, and I wasted no time in starting a spin.  This is my Tabachek cedar compact deluxe spindle (22.5g).  Couldn’t be happier about this material + tool combination!

State of the socks

Finished handknit socks adapted from Cadence pattern in String Theory yarn

New pair as of this weekend

It’s a real sock début!  I gave these zero air time but they were started at the end of February this year.  The yarn is gorgeous String Theory Caper Sock in vert.

They are knit with 2.5 mm needles and using the Cadence Socks (part) pattern. It’s a good pattern –  I just needed to go mindless this winter, and changed to the 6 x 2 ribbing.

Handknit sock in Hummingbird pattern by Sandi Rosner and Araucania Ranco yarn

After months of neglect, a first sock

This next start date goes back an entire year to February 2013. The disgraceful pace is simply because I pushed through with 2.0 mm needles to get gauge with my Araucania yarn of choice.

Handknit Hummingbird sock leg in Araucania Ranco fingering yarn

Perfect pattern for variegated yarn

The pattern is Hummingbird by Sandi Rosner, and I am hoping to make a second sock soon.  Wanting a pair of socks in this colour has not exactly left the building.

handknit RPM socks by Irieknit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn

Loved but largely untold: the Revving socks

The first post for these RPM socks was last November, shortly before I finished the first sock.

Handknit RPM socks by Irieknit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock

Twisted stitch on the soles of these socks

Sometimes work just falls through the cracks.  There is nothing like a tough winter to precipitate the gaps as it were.

Finishing these helped me get my sock knitting mojo back in order.  The old pairs are wearing out, and I promised N that I will work on a new pair of stranded socks for him!

Kettle dyed Colinette Iona yarn skein in stash

New fodder for the needles: a baby gift in yarn form

This year has brought more babies to knit for than I have been able to share.  The youngest cousin (that we know of) is due in January.  WIP clearance has let me cast-on for this now (yay!).

It’s been ages since I have seen any Colinette yarns locally but this is luxury for me.  I also have accent yarn from another Iona colourway, and loved the first night’s work this week.

Saving the weaving news for a later post, and wishing everyone well!


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The rock and read party

This weekend we did what couldn’t be done 2 years ago when she was squarely in the UK – we threw Sarah a baby shower.  Sarah is the 2nd of 3 “Canadian cousins,” and she now lives in Montreal with her husband and toddler.  I lobbied, and her sisters & Mom made it happen – on Canada Day weekend, no less.

Sarah we were told (and she affirmed) felt cute, and feared that no-one would come.  Well, 23 of us did.  Her family put on a lovely brunch in her sister’s home.  The sheer warmth was striking.  Her best friend, Lena, said it best, “I am so happy to be involved this time!”  It was a true celebration.

The invitation prescribed the gifts – ‘rock’ [rocking chair fund] & ‘read’ [books for the 2 year old].  I was bad, and decided to knit.

Not a rocking chair

Elizabeth Zimmerman called it the SURPRISE JACKET (caps, hers!).  It is a magnificent design.  In Elizabeth’s own words:

It was designed on vacation and puzzles me to this day.  ALL GARTER STITCH. All in ONE PIECE.

˜Knitting Workshop, p. 100

Before buttons

Julie of the Needle Emporium warned me off my first choice worsted yarn.  She was absolutely right that fingering would be spot on gauge for the pattern’s “Jumper Weight wool.”  The yarns are both Spud & Chloë Fine, 80% superwash wool; 20% silk.  The main colour is 7804, and the lime is 7801.

The first broken ridges in lime were simple to do – *sl1, k1 rows sandwich one continuous ridge.  A sock-knitter’s trick!  Although I had the book, I swallowed hard and paid for the “Adult, Baby & Child’s Surprise Jacket” instructions + shipping.  It was worth the expense, and time-to-arrive worry.

Buttonses!

It was easy to follow Elizabeth’s 1968 directions – up to a point.  When I hit the lower flap, the row-by-row helped.  The pictures were excellent for helping me see the stripe choices, and so were the variation tips. Wading through 20,012 Ravelry projects would have been a slog.

This project is called ‘Sweet Pea Surprise for Sarah’, and is up on Ravelry with additional details.  Sarah loves colour, so I had to make those buttons work!

Stash-built

What purer joy than matching new pattern to existing stash?  This is Rabbitty from the latest Knitty.com First Fall issue.  Made in a long-standing ball of Noro Silk Garden, colour 264 & sundry yarns.

Laid back rabbit

Clearly adorable but not without some finicky bits.  To wit:  woogly eyes, and appendages.  It’s all easy-grade knitting skills if you are used to using DPNs.  There is a lot (A Lot) of sewing in at the end.

A wooly-tailed Rabbitty

Here is a piece of my late night knitting mind – lock inclusions for the wee tail would be cool!  Plucked from the new-to-me Border Leicester fleece, and knitted in.  I needle felted each one for insurance against little boy hands.

One good Rabbitty may deserve another

The backward lean is part of his charm.  Next time, I will place the tail closer down the base & double the yarn.  He sits unaided.  I did cave to convention, and also got 2 books for the kiddo.


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Baby Love, and then some

My cousin’s baby shower was in Toronto this past Sunday.  As soon as she announced her due date of December 27th, I knew that they would be needing warm knits…

… for the winters are a given in Ontario!

The patterns are from Sandi Rosner’s Bella Baby Ensemble in the Knitter’s Book of Wool.

The yarn is Fleece Artist – a beautiful Sea Wool for the body, and Silky Wool for the accent.  In gender-neutral colours that remind me of the Caribbean Sea.

My modifications were simple – I used the German twisted cast-on; slipped every 1st stitch; and didn’t size-down needles for the trim.

It was 10 days in the knitting (along with me-projects).  Only last minute stuff to do?  Buttons, and a final block & wrap.

The expecting parents both loved the gift, and there were lots of questions from everyone else at the shower.  My basic answer?

Yes, I will take commissions.

Next-up is the Aviatrix Baby Hat by Justine Turner.  It is a monster pattern on Ravelry with almost 6,000 projects to date.

Made for my friend Meg‘s little Monkey, so naturally I dug out my old stuffed monkey for modeling.

It’s true that I did this all a year ago.  However.  We are still current… Monkey is just starting to wear it now.  And, dear blog, therein lies a story.

I was giving a hand-spun knit.  It’s Targhee wool top dyed by Natural Obsessions… I was trying my 1st long-draw… The skein clearly illustrates 2 main things:

  • Both yardage & time were short.  Not enough for ear-flaps much less a swatch; and
  • My 1st long-draw was mighty uneven.  Turns out the thick won over the thin.

This Targhee wanted to be big (I am told that all Targhee does).  It was not tamed to size by tight knitting on 3.5mm needles.  I learned something the hard way.

Yes, the Monkey Aviatrix is a little big

To her credit, Meg did not laugh me to scorn.  She was kind about this lesson I was learning.

Just this past week Meg mentioned me with Twitter pics of both Monkey and his big sister, Alligator wearing this hat.  It is a communal hat.  Alligator looked even cuter than her brother in it too.

Another one off the bobbins!  It’s approx 676 yards, 2-ply of a 80% wool/ 20% mohair/ 20% bamboo blend.  If you saw me posting about my experience fishing out lost ends in bobbins… this is the culprit.

It was all spun on Earl, my Spinolution Mach2 wheel, and I am no longer mad at either the bobbins or the yarn.

The rose bush that could!  Have a great day and take heart.


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Water under the bridge

On this the eve of Le Tour (yay!), I had to come around and post already…  This was no case of writer’s block but really just a short hiatus for needed medical stuff.  It meant spinning until I couldn’t, stress knitting, and re-entering.

Big surprise.  I knit socks before, during & after this rough patch.

I was still in denial that they fit heel-to-toe.  The soles are way short.  Mostly because I knit all of the soles through the back loop with a vengeance.  Also, memory fail on length of foot.

Much appreciation to Ann Budd for such a great (and free) pattern, “Seduction Socks.”  This was my second time knitting this design & I could do it again.

Full disclosure:  it was early spring.  I remember taking this picture, and being so excited for my ostrich ferns coming forth:

Nothing beats knitting handspun through an ordeal.  Truely.

In a typical year there’s no way I would have finished my logwood-dyed socks by June 7th.  But they were a natural comfort to me, and they got warm-weather knit love.  All 242 yards of them.

And I was far from done with the sock mania.  For there were trips to Lettuce Knit to make the not-fun appointments doable on some bad days.

Kim of Indigodragonfly spoke to me.  Seriously, it’s sock yarn called ‘Polite Loner’.  Yah, 2 skeins, please.

It’s Bavarian Cable Socks from Wendy Johnson’s book, “Socks from the Toe Up.”  The bouncy merino yarn is making up for the fact that I find the stitch design a bit meh.

Most satisfying of all was making NICU & Preemie hats.  They were for Hunter who my girlfriend had to deliver at just 29 weeks.

It was great finding all the bits of yarn that I needed from remnant skeins.  Hunter’s doing well, and moved up to the next care level this week.

Most of my spinning is at various stages coughno picscough but I did finish my Wee Peggy’s Corriedale project.

That friends is 1,008 yards of 3-ply S-twist yarn.  Loved spinning the 12 oz from Diane at Schafenfreude Fibers, and I’m excited to make a twine knit vest for the fall.

Thank you to everyone who wrote or has called.  I really appreciate the support.  My family and you mean more than the lace shawl or socks I knit.  N has been amazing.  He’s taken care of me – again, and we celebrated our 10th anniversary this month.

It wasn’t Québec City like we planned but a great time, considering.  We thought my brother would love a close-up of that tree by the way.

Babylon throne gone down!

I’ll be back to say what I’m doing for the 2012 Tour de Fleece!


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Easter cheer

Happy Easter!

The long weekend got off on the right foot with these 2 deliveries from N’s Mum.  There I was spring cleaning in the basement Thursday afternoon when the doorbell rang.

The lilies were closed until this morning.  Perfect timing!  Also brightening the holiday,

It’s on the kitchen table until I plant it out with the other hydrangea from Easters past.  My contribution to the family dinner was this Smartie-festooned from-scratch cake.

It’s the Joy of Cooking Devil’s Food Cockaigne, and fit my uncle’s bill for 100% chocolate.  The dinner was wonderful – Jamaican baked ham, plantain, rice & pigeon peas all had their places at the table, and it was just plain good to be with family this time of year.

In between posts, I’ve been knitting and listening to the Hunger Games books.  This FO is going straight to England, tomorrow, and is for baby cuz, Murray.

It’s a stretchy twine-knit number for his new home, Montreal.  I was inspired by Tiny Geek Crafter‘s KAL for endometriosis awareness this month.

Love that twine knitting!  Sooo warm & stretchy.  The yarns are Rowan Pure Wool DK for the yellow, and the lighter Rowan Pure Wool 4-ply in black.

Using the twine technique evened out the yarns.  My idea was based on the Blind Melon bee girl music video from back in the day.  These are the artsy parents, so they should be fine with a quirky hat for Mur-man.

Right at the end of January, I started the Beach House Pullover pattern by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.  After a couple of weeks, I stalled here.

I just needed the right mood for these all-over horseshoe cables.  What mood is that?  The kind that comes after a series of tests and a new diagnosis…   With audio books and podcasts, I am now mid-way through the front & the back is done.

In other words:  I rediscovered soothing repetition.  The calming effect of Cascade 220 yarn is not to be discounted either.

I do have a post to write for spinning exploits but want to share my first skein from the antique flax wheel with you.  Amazingly bouncy lace from a double-drive system!

It’s 369 yds of 2-ply yarn.  One ply is BFL, and the other is a BFL/silk blend.  Handspinning your own gives you these choices!