The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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The practical Tour de Fleece, a plan

We are fresh off a happy-go-lucky Canada Day weekend, and thoughts are finally coming together for the Brussels Grand Départ.

Spinning mohair top on Peruvian turned captive ring low-whorl drop spindle Pushka by irieknit

Summer sidekick: captive ring Peruvian pushka

The Tour de Fleece is a great container for new approaches to stash & tool.  This year Le Tour rides from this Saturday, July 6th – 28th, and celebrates its first century.

In terms of a plan, I have been fairly stuck.  Are you?  Clearing spins was supposed to help, and the shiny new Female Heroes Club braid did but I have still been a little lost and a lot tired.  Then early yesterday in a bored moment of waiting for N, I put this new spin together.  It is just a scrap of mohair top and an under-used captive-ring pushka from Peru.

Fallen logs across creek in morning wooded trail area

In spite of greedy mosquitoes we enjoyed this stop

After our morning walk, I got spinning time with the gentle chak-chak of the ring, and I am moving through the scrap of mohair.  This spindle has a history of 2 great summery parenting spins, and now I am taking it on the Tour either with other scraps or to continue this first undyed Corriedale wool top project.

Handspun Corriedale wool on Peruvian low-whorl captive ring pushka drop spindle and outer-pull ball in small bowl by irieknit

A very nice challenge spin aeons ago

This is a September 2016 spin that I completed quickly while helping with a Spindlers’ group monthly challenge and then folded on.

Handspun skein of 2-ply Corriedale wool by irieknit

Sweet Corriedale balance

Folded so heavily that I did not share this 50 g of fibre turned approx. 226 yards of 2-ply delight.  It was an intense time at home, and I can look back now and admire that skein all the more knowing what I had on my plate as it were.

Handspinning wool blend on Peruvian captive ring pushka drop spindles and plying ball in dish and handwoven twill towel by irieknit

Last of my Ent Batts!

The next & last spin with these spindles was of beautifully hand-carded Ent Batts “Coffee & Cream” through summer 2017.

Two handspun skeins from Ent Batts by irieknit in Coffee & Cream handcarded fibre

Coffee & Cream skeins

The 2-ply skeins measure 258 yards, and are still in stash.  This was the last in an incredible run of batt sets that are no longer in production but brought much joy across different spindles.  This ‘Coffee & Cream’ is a blend of Corriedale & Merino wools with soy-silk.

The whimsy factor

Each TdF can use a touch of whimsy, and mine will be thanks to the long percolating flax thoughts.

Homegrown Linen book by Raven Ranson pictured by irieknit

Published by Crowing Hen Farm

Helping to Kickstart Raven Ranson’s book, “Homegrown Linen – transforming flaxseed into fibre,” did not disappoint when I had to place the single flax plant on Canada Day.

Transplanted perennial flax plant

On a whim, “Hello, flax plant.”

It is tucked behind some rampantly self-seeding Black-eyed Susans and has kept on blooming each morning.  I noted the ritual involved in preparing the soil for fibre flax, and had at our very own strong clay with a view to creating this new-to-me word tilth.

We may not be in perfect tilth but I did break every clod, remove all of the stones, give it the best of the compost bin, etc.  It is at the very least encouraged to be showy for the next few weeks.

With no flax preparation tools, growing won’t be my whimsy focus anytime soon but this fibre flax for local linen is where I’d love to land.

Black Cat Farmstead line flax stricks by irieknit

Actual beautiful fibre flax

These 2 stricks of line flax are from the Black Cat Farmstead.  It was grown in Stockholm, WI at both their property & A to Z Produce and Bakery.  I was happy to see that it was processed at the Taproot Fibre Lab, Port Williams, Nova Scotia.

There are still ifs involved in spinning flax but it is on my bucket list.  We are not just heading from a season of stress but into a slew of appointments that will have their own challenges.  A little whimsy won’t hurt.

The rub is having the energy to spin line flax at night, moving everything for the morning.  It is easier now to have wheels out in our living space but narrower project rotation has evolved for a reason.  It may just ultimately be a nod to whimsy but these are the thoughts!

Astilibe blooming on Canada Day 2019 by irieknit

Happy planning!

 

Handknit Valentines Day hearts


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Lots of love, Happy Valentines!

Happy Valentines Day!

Handknit heart decorations by irieknit

Family of hearts

The middle Heart Pin is for T.  It used a bit of my remnant Cascade 220 worsted wool yarn.  Each side has 4 ends of weaving-in love.

Outer hearts are in Sublime angora/merino bought these many years ago as a single ball on sale.  They have gone with cards for T’s new teachers.  Schooling love started last month.  How proud am I?  20 ends sewn-in proud with glitter heart stickers proud!

The white tie on our left heart there is also in T’s set of back-up mittens for school.  The undyed Cormo Worsted from Sasha Torres’ Sheepspot line of yarns paired with her inky blue to take the edge-off knitting a third pair of mittens.

Handknit child mittens in Sheepspot Cormo Worsted yarn by irieknit

No-itch Cormo Mittens!

The pattern is Kathy’s Mittens by Chris de Longpré.  All 3 pairs are knit in the round.  The other 2 (not shown) are solid yarn leftovers from two of T’s sweaters – Peace Fleece and green Rowan pure superwash wool.

For this last pair in Cormo, I used 46 yards of blue + 16 yards of natural.  With a cuff that I was clearly anxious to stop knitting plus breed-specific yarn, I am happy to send them inside of T’s backpack.  What kindergartener is easy on the mittens?

Off the needles

One of last year’s happy knit events was a KAL in the Knit/Wit Designs Fans Ravelry group.  It fell out of the blog posts at the time but was a fun gift for a dear family friend, Hedy.

Handknit colourwork Zeccola Cowl in progress by irieknit

Zeccola Cowl starting lines

The Sheepy Time Yarns rainbow kit was an obvious choice since the answer to favourite colour that Hedy gives everyone is “rainbow!”  This is one in a series of colourwork designs by Sarah Jordan, the Zeccola Cowl.

Handknit colourwork Zeccola Cowl by irieknit

Ready for shipping, Zeccola Cowl

This project is a perfect example of how knitting has worked to naturally stretch my colour horizons.  Our friend loves her bright scarf.  It is knit in the round, and is probably superb in Sarah’s recommended sport yarn.

Fast forward to this year, and Sarah is currently hosting her StitchburghKAL.  It runs until Friday, March 3rd & is for patterns in her new collection of the main name.

Handspun Corriedale handdyed wool yarn by irieknit

Deep stash – handspun Corriedale wool

As the image shows this was a 2010 yarn of super density that I spun on my then-new Spinolution Mach 2 wheel.  The around 222 yards is not much to hold 8 ounces of Corriedale wool!

If you have heard me go on about my grist learning curve – yup, that’s it!

444 yards per pound may not be an easy yarn to plug into most patterns at half that yardage but Sarah has an ingenious pattern in her collection that works for a wide range of yarns.

Handspun handknit Corriedale wool Pierogi slipper sock

Instant gratification for the mid-winter: Pierogi slipper sock

The Pierogi Slipper Socks pattern is written for sport or DK-weight yarn.  It worked very well using a stitch ratio approach.  I again gave thanks for my Darn Pretty Needles as the 2.75 mm set is unharmed.  They worked hard to give me 20 stitches in stockinette stitch in the round.

Handspun handknit Corriedale wool Pierogi Slipper Socks finished by irieknit

Ah, the brightness! We need the brightness!

The colourway is Gumdrops by Sweet Georgia Yarns.  I had bought 2 braids from a local spinner’s destash.  This tight gauge blends the clearly barberpole yarn into such neat colour bands.

As you can tell, my toe-knitting is still not equal from one foot to the next!  It was late?  My nutty gauge used approximately 140 yards.

Back view of handspun handknit Corriedale wool Pierogi Slipper Socks by irieknit

The “pierogi” tabs on the hoof!

These were a quick-enough knit that joining the knitalong now is definitely do-able.  Mine were between January 31 and February 3, 2017.

This was my first finished object of 2017.  Handspun stash lessening!  They are warm and equally nicely, snug.

My family lived in Pittsburgh for 4 years when I was around T’s age.  It has been cool to read Sarah’s design introductions because I have childhood memories but have not been back since age seven when we returned to live in Jamaica.

 


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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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New knits with handspun

Last year’s push to work with my handspun yarns has really started to bear fruit.  I’m excited because there’s now plenty more to share as brand new knits in my life.

Fall Colours, my way

Back in September, I told you about my Seriously Fun Spin.  Weeks later the dyer, Brooke of The Painted Tiger, announced her Fractal Fiber spin-along/ knit-along in the Ravelry group.

This is Susan Ashcroft’s “very easy but effective” No-Fuss Shade-Loving Shawl.

As I quipped on my project page – it’s a fractal-loving shawl!

Avatar-worthy!

The form (i.e. modifications) followed function.  The solid colour bands were on the verge of shifting when I was making the seed stitch lower edge.  I sped up the increases (every row), and made Meg Swansen’s edge.  It’s charted on page 114 of Knitting Around.

Heart Warmers

Around the same time, I was spinning grey Jacob wool top.  This project was all geared towards making purple & grey stranded mittens for this winter.

This spin on my Wee Peggy helped me weather more of the medical stuff.  Soon, I was wondering why not try to design these mittens myself?

The cuff is based on the Estonian Peacock’s Tail pattern set out in the Knitter’s Book of Wool Risti Mittens by Nancy Bush.  I threw caution to the wind adding sundries:

  • Red:  fibre came with my Jenkins delight from a B.C. Raveler.  Traditionally, red cuffs are for good luck;
  • Avocado:  natural dye sample of woolen-spun PolwarthxPort fibre; and
  • Purple:  leftover SW Corriedale from my Redhook sweater.

My gauge on 2.5mm needles was 15 stitches = 2″.

This book taught me both the elements of mitten knitting & the stitch repeats (Swedish & Faorese):

Sheila McGregor, “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting.”

Not many knitting books sit by my beside.  “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting” did for ages.  It’s full of useful information that doesn’t leap off the page on a 1st reading.

Sure, DH was within his rights to declare the cuffs “ghetto” but I am super-proud of this project.  One simple idea that grew into its own:  I have a pair of warm Jacob mitts!

Out of Hiding – Shetland 

As far back as 2010 this spin shot Shetland to the top of my personal wool list.

Moral:  spinning triumphs sometimes become an end in themselves.  Keep creating.

The spark for taking the skeins out of the box was another spin-along/ knit-along on Ravelry.  It’s in A Spinner’s Study, and I joined Team Lace – cowl knitting.

Aah, my friend, Logwood!  This time, I threw some copper liquor into the dye pot.  Made from this humble copper scrubbie.

Copper teaching me electrolysis in action

I am showing you the cowl first before the group.  I gave it diamond lace to match my new mittens.

There’s a lot out here about the ‘hows’ and ‘wherefores’ of spinning.  What I wanted to show today is why I really spin.  Handspun is yarn that gives back to you.  Large.


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Words with thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!  We spent the Canadian holiday hosting a young cousin from the States.  Irony of ironies his visit happened at the same time as another procedure for me.

We managed to keep that which is personal private, and be hospitable.  What got lost in the crisis was a formal Thanksgiving.

An awesome friend hand-stitched this for me.  She makes bookmarks while watching her daughter play soccer.  In our last conversation she listened, and said:

It’s okay to complain.  What you are going through is difficult.

Her gentle words said in kindness pushed out all the “I shoulds” with the bravery.

It’s been a beautiful fall, rich for creativity and walks with Sir Toby.  These are my favourites.  You know, as opposed to What I Should be Telling You.

I finished my 1st handspun sweater.  This is the Redhook Tunic by Jared Flood, started during the Summer Olympics.

Clearly, I am a little pleased!  It was finished in time for my classes with Deb Robson at the end of September, and gets its fair share of wear.

The shawl collar is double-width.  It still feels a shade short, so I don’t use the top button.  My favourite part is the colour sequencing through the upper body & collar.  It took some juggling & weighing but was so sweet to work.

That’s an Also-Ran for a 1st hand-spun top…  The yarn is my Icelandic dyed with red lac powder.

One fitting proved the waist was not working.  It had no definition, and the shaping was all wrong.  Also, the tog & thel Icelandic?  I could feel it through the under-garments, and not in a good way.

Hard to frog but easy to know what it really wanted to be – a warm Icelandic shawl.  Or in other words, I went back to Plan A.

It is Evelyn A. Clark’s Sigridur Shawl pattern with a modified border.  It’s one Dayflower repeat for the border – I charted the instructions from Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury.

It was finished in time, and went up for our Guild’s summer display at the Queen Elizabeth Park Community Center.

What I now have back home is my warmest shawl for its weight.  The 60″ wingspan is perfect for cool mornings, and dashes outside.

Yet again, socks have been my go-to project for the stress.  Mandie’s Iron Man colourway kept my interest, and I finished them in just over 2 months.

In mid-September, I started to ply my Bronzed Chai spindle project.

Awful lighting but I have approx. 980 yds with an extra singles ball to spare!

It’s a goal met:  I am also worthy of my spindle-spun laceweight yarn in this quantity.  From 4 ounces.

It’s what I am looking forward to for this season – a cove on the coast of Negril, Jamaica… and All the People/Places/Things.

Right now we still have time left for talking, spinning, knitting and Thanksgiving.

 


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Proof of fit, and other updates

Every now and again, I get a blog photo shoot.  Just to keep you on your toes.

The buttonholes may need reinforcing in time.  For now, I am good with checking up on them.

What you couldn’t see when it was flat on the table in the last post.

I was running too late to push my luck for pics of the now completed Laar Cardigan (yep, finally).

The Seriously fun spin

In the crunch that was my lead-up to the Tour de Fleece this year, I didn’t write about this super spin.  It’s The Painted Tiger‘s 40z braid of corriedale, Koi Pond.

We met Brooke at Stringtopia this year.  These colours inspired me to try my first fractal spinning.

I used my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.  Remarkable because just days before Martha was not in spinning condition:

When the bobbin/ flyer array of your dream wheel jumps off, hits the wheel frame and falls broken you might want to cry.  One frantic call later, Mrs. Watson assured me that her son Andrew would help.  Andrew did more than help, and I thank him.

Andrew said that it looked like an older partial break.  He took a week to repair the flyer, and make Miss 1988 like new.  Andrew also graciously showed me his personal wheels, and spoke with me about the business’ history as well as how to care for Martha.

Approx 392 yards all in!  If you are looking for a new indie-dyer then definitely give Brooke a try.  The fiber was not compacted at all, and the dye caught every last corner.

What Moms are For

My brother’s yeoman service did not end with delivering the backstrap loom to me.  He also brought this up from Mom.

It’s crunchy handspun from her trip to Scotland this summer.  Unique selling point for a card:  Real Sheep’s Wool!

She also got me 100g each of organic Hebridean & Shetland wool from Garthenor.  She might actually listen when I ramble on about “breed-specific” this and “breed-specific” that…

A weekend Happy

Finished my Jacob spin on Wee Peggy.  No breaks were taken for cooking or dishes.

Approx 197 yds of 3-ply.  I picked out kemp, spun it using scotch tension, and plied on my Martha.  Grey Jacob is already on the bobbin.  The idea is to make the Horatio & Oren mitts from this fall’s Twist Collective.

A little housekeeping

The blog’s “About” page was pretty dated, so I gave it a little edit over the weekend.  I love writing posts, and may be making some small changes to the blog in the next little while.

Where I’ll be:

  • The Spinning Loft, September 22, 23 for workshops with Deb Robson.  Beth promises that my Martha will meet her Martha!
  • The Woodstock Fleece Festival, October 13.

I’d love to know if you’ll be there too!


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Spinning Friday

Awhile ago, I stopped posting each stage of my spinning.  I wanted to wait and do a full spinning round-up for you.  Over the past 2 years, I have been exploring new styles… It is a sometimes slow; sometimes fast process that’s just not that easy to show on a timeline.

In addition to reaching critical mass, I’m also very excited to be going to Stringtopia 2012 in a few months!  It will be 3 days focused on spinning with top-notch teachers and all-round good peeps.

Christmas Corrie in progress

Last year, DH scooped 12 oz of superwash Corriedale wool up from Schafenfreude Fibers as one of his best Christmas gifts to me.  Diane shipped quickly and it got under the tree just in time!

I really cannot say enough about this fiber.  This spin was started on February 3rd.

An absolute joy  – I think the Wee Peggy wheel is pleased!  I steamed the combed top briefly to get crimp back, divided it in half and spun with S-twist.

The 4.2 oz gave an approx. 325 yds skein of , 2-ply.  I used my Spinolution Mach2 on the second ratio for plying.

The idea is to make a twine-knit garment with the 12 oz.  I highly recommend taking a look at Diane’s shop!

A Sweater-in-Waiting

Look what’s hanging out in my stash… a sweater’s worth of yarn!  It was a year-long project with Finnish Landrace combed top from Louet.

That’s approx. 1,529 yds of handspun!  The singles were spun on my Wee Peggy in my default style and mostly whenever I took my wheel out in public.  It is 3-plied on my Mach2.  I very much doubt the grist is consistent throughout but there are work-arounds for that.  Next step = the dye pot.

The Icelandic Rose project

Another long-term project was spinning 1 lb of Icelandic roving from Willow Farm.  Strangely, I don’t have any SIP pics but this is the 896 yards of 2 ply happily soaking.

The skeins all got alum & cream of tartar for mordant followed by a taste of Red Lac pure tinctora dye.  I used 0.03% dye for a less saturated colour.

To my horror, it seemed to release the dye.  After rushing online, I decided to add table salt and reheat.  Voilà!

The dark tog fibers give a heathered effect that I just love!

The yarn almost immediately jumped onto the needles.

It’s the Cap-Sleeved Eyelet Top from Closely Knit by Hannah Fettig.  Local friends:  It’s on sale for dirt cheap at a Chapters near you!

My driving thoughts are that the eyelets will pop in a 2-ply yarn & a cami/ shirt will save my skin from any scratch factor here.

While I am Bragging…

… this is my comfort spin.  We all need one.

A hand-dyed 56 g batt from Tabi at Sericin Silkworks.  It’s 50%silk/ 34% merino/ 8% cashmere/ 8% possum and I am making every fibre count!

My Ann Grout acorn spindle has seen me through this project.

It’s called Bellevue Blue in my Ravelry stash.

All plying for this is on my Golding Tsunami ring spindle.  I have more to spin, and approx 361 yards already.

Less is More

Last week these Peruvian low whorl spindles arrived from the Spinning Loft.  Beth provides them from the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco.  They are rarely in stock & are highly sought-after!

For about a year now I’ve been fascinated by the Andean style of spinning.  What I didn’t expect is how great an angular shaft is for flicking!  So, fancy lathe-turning isn’t always wonderful after all…

Last Friday, I happily pulled these out at a LYS sit & knit for a test spin.  Before I could say much, a novice spinner intoned, “How many spindles do you have now?”  Word.  I answered 28 but it’s actually 29.  It is what it is.  The exchange has inspired me to show how I use my spindles but more importantly how they enhance my spinning life and skills.

As much as I love the craftsmanship the truth is these are tools just like any other.  It is for the spinner to rise to the challenge.  Which is precisely why I am so stoked to be taking Abby’s All Spindles All Day class at Stringtopia this year!  I am also signed-up for Beth’s all-day Spinning for Lace and her half-day Longwools classes and Silk Dyeing with Sara Lamb!