The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


The why of my knitting

Last Tuesday, the man sitting across from me in a coffee shop struck up a line of questioning.  I was a little in love with swatching my Clun Forest wool yarn from Sheepspot it being for baby nephew and all.

Yarn and fibre from London Ontario indie dyer Sheepspot

He had asked if I knitted my sweater.  Nodding, I added that I made the yarn, and dyed it.  We talked just a little about cochineal, and he told me about knitting with his Grandmother as a boy.  Then he asked penetratingly,

You knit because it is relaxing, yes?

“No,” I answered laughing.  “I knit because I get to have the things that I make,” pointing meanwhile to the little swatch-in-progress.  He & the 2 friends were stumped.  He gave a, “Huh,” and asked again.

“Right. It is relaxing.  I like the process but I knit to make things.”  The conversation marched on.

That Tuesday’s sweater is a good example of what, “I get to have this” means.  A 100% Finn wool sweater that left the industrial complex at an early stage as combed fibre.  It ticks these boxes: soft, comfortable, fits, layering, warm, and brighter than anything an Ontario winter can throw at it.

Even if I could get this breed-specific wool as a durable, fitted sweater off the shelf (and I can’t), the single greatest attribute of my version is the expression of ideas.  It is what I chose for lunching with my spinning mentor/friends that day.  They last saw it on the needles.  It said, “Yeah, people spin yarn,” in a coffee shop, and that a red dye is from scale insects.  Right here on TKK it was all about the neck steeking, and the stress knitting in its day.  Later on, I had to shorten the long sleeves.  It is documented on Ravelry; could still be even more.

In special cases like the expected baby nephew, I knit, and even spin for deserving others.  Sometimes knitting is relaxing.  Sometimes it really isn’t relaxing at all.  Sticking to it gets you more than entertained, and that’s the point as I see it.

Here’s to hoping that all our FOs will be all that and then some in their own time!

Columbia wool story with Zoë the CPW

In the last post, I shared a new purple wool spin on the Canadian Production Wheel’s bobbin.  It was the Columbia wool roving at the bottom of the box there.

Handspun singles of Columbia wool spun on Canadian Production Wheel

Columbia wool singles

This roving was 119 g of Sasha’s ‘Orchid 1’ colourway.  I really enjoyed the darker spots.  The 1st bobbin was spun before our trip last year, and the 2nd bobbin followed on January 18th.

Handspun Columbia wool roving on Canadian Production Wheel

Skeined! Woolen-spun Columbia yarn

The 310 yards were plied on the same wheel after I reversed the twist in the drive band.  This Philias Cadorette CPW really does better spinning left if I reverse the band.  I also changed to the second ratio.

Spinning natural Columbia wool roving on Canadian Production Wheel


One good long-draw experience leads to another!  I have spun all 150 g of this Columbia roving from the Fibre Garden up now.  We are still climbing over the big girl because the 124 g batch has come out to play as well.  I may need to get more soon!


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Newly minted knits

This post is going to read like an Ode to the Colour Purple no matter how much or little I go into the details.  It is my happy place.

Irieknit Ampersand socks in Indigodragonfly handdyed merino yarn

Project Purple Toes

A few months ago, I shared about this nice act of aeroplane knitting.  This is the late-breaking progress picture!

irieknit Ampersand sock in progress Indigodragonfly handdyed yarn

My gauge with  2.25 mm Dyakcraft needles is a snug 36 stitches = 4″ in pattern.  The cast-on worked out at 72 cuff stitches.  I pared the stitch repeat down by 3 stitches, and it still plays so nicely with this hand-painted yarn.

Finished irieknit Ampersand socks in Indigodragonfly handdyed yarn

Very January appropriate

Last Saturday was the finish date for these socks, and I wore them immediately!  The extended ribs are not on centre but I like them lots.  The legs are 7″ long (3″ added), and I used 99g from the 115g skein.

The matchy-matchy new cardigan

Another new FO on the block this week is my Something Silver cardigan.  Naturally, I called the project ‘Something Purple.’

irieknit Something Silver cardigan in Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool overdyed logwood

Pockets! Purple!

Not only does this cardigan offer the all-over half diamond single lines of lace that are easy to follow but the garter stitch band conceals pockets.

Rear view irieknit Something Silver cardigan in Silky Wool overdyed logwood

As I have been chatting with my friend Sarah, the garter stitch neckline is pretty deep.  If I had more yarn it would have gone towards an applied i-cord (or two) for that area.

This lived with me on & even briefly off the needles from August 20, 2014 – January 28, 2015.

Irieknit overdye Elsebeth Lavold yarn with natural logwood exhaust bath

Natural dye magic: logwood


This really is a good news story about over-dyeing a commercial yarn.  It came to me as colourway 12 ‘dusty rose’ on the left there.  Then it entered my exhaust bath of logwood chips in January 2013!  There are flicks of deep pink in the yarn, and I love how it gives my cardigan a heathered effect.

The ensemble is made

Speaking of logwood, I had another dye session that took my breath away back in June 2013.  This is my Harvey Columbia wool yarn spun on the CPW.  All-time favourite shade, Yes!

Handdyed Columbia wool handspun yarn with logwood

Logwood and her BFF Columbia wool handspun yarn

The 4-ply woolen-spun yarn weighed 210 g when dry.  I re-used an alum pot to pre-mordant, and let the yarn cool overnight in the prepared dyebath.   It was an old logwood pot, and I added 20g of  fresh chips.

Melvin occupies Columbia wool basket with Cadorette Canadian Production spinning wheel

Right under my nose!

Melvin decided to have a say in this yarn’s fibre content.  It was spun on my Philias Cadorette CPW, and plied on the Spinolution MachII at 5:1 for 247 yards of 4-ply yarn.

Handspun Columbia 4-ply wool yarn by irieknit

Yarn before her adventures with logwood

Scale is important for understanding the project this went into, so bear with me.

The handspun yarn measured 10 wraps per inch on my spinner’s control card or in the worsted-weight range.  It is 494 yards per pound.  This is much heavier than a millspun worsted-weight yarn, which is 800 yards per pound.  That difference showed in my project.

Irieknit Pinion Tam in handspun Columbia wool 4-ply yarn dyed with logwood

My baby Pinion Tam

The pattern is Pinion by Naomi Parkhurst, and it calls for 110 yards of worsted-weight yarn.  These are my 5.0 mm needles.  The swatch was honest- I needed 2 less stitches to knit 4″ in stockinette than the pattern called for.

Irieknit handspun Columbia wool knitted Pinion Tam blocking

Blocking my handspun Pinion

My tam has a sharper decrease section, and I decreased 8 extra stitches after doing the math for the brim.

Changing down a needle size to 4.5 mm helped to make the brim smaller, and I also modified the ribbing for more elasticity.  Mine is K, [P, K]* x 3, P3.

At its widest we are 3″ larger diameter than Naomi’s pattern or 13″.  Luckily, I had a big enough plate for the wet blocking!  It used 153 yards of the yarn.

We haven’t taken any final pictures yet but I love the pattern, and am wearing my chunky purple tam!

Spinning Columbia wool roving on Cadorette Canadian Production spinning wheel

Moar Columbia!

Yes, I am still on this purple kick!  Sheepspot‘s handdyed Columbia roving is now all spun up, and I now have 310 yards of 2-ply yarn from the 119 g.  It was both spun & plied on my CPW.



Act of kindness

I experienced the most amazing act of kindness this week, and have been bursting to tell!  There is good in this world, and really, this town.

It all started 2 weeks ago when I went out for a Sunday spin-in at the Fibre Garden in Jordan Village.  Life had been incredibly hectic straight up to the night before but really very little comes between me & these spin-ins.  Jordan is in wine country & is quite the tourist town, so the shop is open on the Sundays when we go out to spin.

The shop is a charming, brightly painted historic home that really stands out.  The freshly painted spinning wheels on the front porch apparently drew an Oakville family indoors on their way to lunch.  I was facing the front door, spinning on Wee Peggy & happily caffeinated.  We chatted about Oakville’s spinning guild, and I raved about the daytime knitting group at the Wool Bin.  They were all very nice, and then left.  On his way out the man cracked a joke about us having painted toe-nails.  Pleasant and par for the course at the FG…

Well, the next Saturday, Jane from the Wool Bin wrote me.  The older lady came in for some yarn, and wanted to get in touch with the “young spinner in Jordan.”  Jane was sure that was me (35 y.o. & called young at every turn!).  The lady wanted to give me her unused spinning wheel!  I was excited but fully prepared to be presented with a dud…

This is a beauty.  Not a dud.  Can you imagine my joy when I walked in, and saw this in the lady’s living room?!!

Pristine working condition.  A Canadian Production Wheel.  Could I contain myself?  Um, no!  Thirty years ago, her husband has business dealings in Quebec.  It was a gift, packed and sent to her from a grateful businessman.  She made 3 moves with this wheel, always taking excellent care of it, and now she wanted to see it go straight to a spinner.  Her family had researched the wheel on-line, and she knew it had value.  Even so, she declined my offer to pay.  She said that it was a gift, and none of her children would use it.  The family agreed with her wish to give it to me, a perfect stranger.

I must have hugged her 5 times.  I explained that never in my wildest dreams did I hope for such a wheel (seriously, I thought a Lendrum at best!).  That I am a self-taught lace spinner on spindles, and that the CPWs are built for that type of spinning.  That I have secretly wanted one but never knew how I could find a good one.  I told her about Ravelry & the following these wheels have is not in auction houses but in the spinning community.  I even told her about how spinners will pass these wheels along like an underground railroad to get them safely cross-country.

She helped me get this into the car, and I have promised her a skein of handspun wool.  Heck, she can have a lifetime supply of handspun from me!  I told her how much this means to me because I am returning to work shortly after 1 ½ years, and it’s been a total wrench to think I am dropping out of the spinning world.  “Heaven sent” were my exact words.  She has my promise that this won’t ever see a garage sale if I can help it.  And that, friends, is a fact.

So, what do I have?  The maker’s stamp is on the wheel bed, Philias Cadorette from St. Hyacinthe, province of Québec:

It would have been made circa 1922.  The Spinning Wheel Sleuth has some information about these wheels here.  For current market price & another happy owner this blog post was cool.

There is no wobble in the 30″ diameter drive wheel.  It runs true, and the wheel joins look good to me:

The wheel has the usual 12 spokes with the lovely turnings.  The footman is a hooked iron rod that goes over a superb C-shaped crank:

The drive band is chunky, came with the wheel, and is still going strong…

The wheel has beautiful patina, and bears the yarn-etchings of a well-used flyer assembly:

The orifice is so narrow that I had to use an unbent paper clip to thread the wool through!

By yet another stroke of serendipity, I found out that this is a sub-set of the CPWs that has the Canadian innovation of tilt-tensioning.  I have been working through 8 or so old copies of Spin-off magazine from my guild, and just stumbled on William Ralph’s article “Canadian Tilt-Tension Production Wheels” in the Fall ’94 issue.  So, 16 years ago he wrote:

If you find one in good condition you are really in luck.  These wheels are still relatively inexpensive and are among the finest tools ever made for spinning wool.  They are remnants of a unique cottage industry which flourished in Québec Province, beginning about the turn of the century and ending shortly after World War II.

Instead of a screw that is turned to move the whole flyer assembly (Mother of All) forward & backward to add or remove tension from the drive band, the maidens are tapped and tilted in an arc.  You just loosen the wing-nuts, and tap until they are adjusted to the right point.  When William Ralph wrote that these wheels are, “exceptionally fast, with a strong pull & rapid wind-on,”  he wasn’t kidding.

Thanks to KnitMe’s post about her Philias Cadorette here, I got a clue about how to remove the whorl & bobbin.  I was scratching my head on that one!

I am still on cloud 9, and probably not liked very much at the moment by the other spinners.  Ah, well!  The previous owner is a Very Good Person in my books, and I am forever grateful for her act of kindness.  Such generosity is rare but not extinct!