The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre

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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Racing Rest, Tour de Fleece 2015

Over the past month, I have been helping as captain & riding along with Team Spindlers 2015 in the Tour de Fleece.  It’s been amazing & a big honour – I started with this team as a rookie in 2010!

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We are 165 members strong.  The spinning projects are a fabulous mix from returning spindle spinners, and those who are new to the craft.

California Variegated Mutant wool fleece for Tour de Fleece 2015

My main focus is keeping the ‘fleece’ in Tour de Fleece!  This California Variegated Mutant wool (link takes you to my last update post) was being hand-carded & spun on 4 low-whorl drop spindles when it started to go on breaks for long stretches.

California Variegated Mutant wool spindle project starting Tour de Fleece 2015

This was the status at the start of the Tour: 4 plying balls of 4-singles each, and more on the spindles themselves.  The front spindles are Andean turned pushkas from the CTTC, and the others are Andinas by R. Leach.

Handcarded rolags of California Variegated Mutant wool for Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015

Plan of Action

For most stages of this Tour, I have carded 2 (or 3) rolags per spindle, and then rotated through until each is all spun-up.

Melvin cat occupies California Variegated Mutant wool for Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015

Never one to obey rules that he can’t completely understand, Melvin has found his way into some of my update posts.  This incursion happened for Stage 6 after I left the room to get a glass of water.  He’s quick.

Focus has paid-off, and I have broken into other spinning projects when much too tired to lift the hand-cards.

Low whorl drop spindles with California Variegated Mutant wool Team Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015

Stage 4, Tour de Fleece 2015

Team Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015 California Variegated Mutant wool spinning and plying ball

A 5th plying ball at Stage 6!

Handspinning Egyptian cotton top on takhli supported spindle with calabash bowl

Egyptian Cotton for Stage 9 in-couch spinning

Team Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece low whorl drop spindles with California Variegated Mutant wool

As at Stage 10

Spinning yak/merino/silk on Tabachek mini drop spindle by irieknit Tour de Fleece 2015

Stage 11 with yak/merino/silk blend on Tabachek mini spindle

California Variegated wool fleece and spinning Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece

Less fleece at Stage 13!

Spinning California Variegated Mutant wool Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece by irieknit

Stage 15 and forward

Sharing has also been with spinners in the Guild, and another unofficial wildcard, the Canadian Yarn & Fibre Market group on Ravelry.

It’s been a wild Tour, and I am looking forward to the last half of this week into Paris.  For all who love spinning while they spin as much as I do, a big, “Allez!” from me to you for after our gap day!


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Our Toby Hopeful

First knitty appearance of Toby our Papillon-mix on the blog with socks for N

Toby’s 2009 debut on the Knit Knack’s blog

A week ago, I planned to next share my adventures in weaving.  Since then Toby’s condition has continued to decline.  He is stable and without pain, thankfully.  For those who do not know, Toby was diagnosed with brain stem damage over 8 months ago.

Now, the paralysis is advancing.  He is quickly loosing function of his legs.  He finds it so difficult to stand, and sleeps even more than in past months.  Eating and continence is what we are monitoring because no-one minds lifting his 10 lbs or making him comfortable.

Toby has always been a presence in this my only blog.  He is resting here at the foot of my office chair as I write this post.   On two levels this is how I would like to celebrate the Tobester:  in the present tense; and in the four walls of TKK where others may read as well.

Information kept, Toronto Animal Services receipt for Toby formerly called Ron

He so was not a Ron!

He came to us on April 25, 2005 as Ron.  The North York office of Toronto Animal Services chose the name because of his clear rage towards their tech, Ron.  It was an inside joke, so when Toby came right away to N and not only tolerated but enjoyed our visit the good people approved our adoption on the spot.  The clerk in charge spoke in dire tones:

Do you have children?

In unison, “No.”

Do you want children… ever?

Two surprised voices, “I guess?”

We assume that he may have neurological problems due to in-breeding, and may never be safe around children.

To N:  You are the first man that he has not tried to bite.

Other salient points were that he was estimated as 3 years, 9 months old, was brought in by an overwhelmed family who spoke little English, and had spent a month in rehabilitation.  A history of trauma was apparent, and they had never seen a dog who loved being dried off after baths more than this guy.

We named him Toby on our way home that day.  They were equally right about the abuse, and his drying-off glee.  Love, and structure took us so far.  Good, gentle vets and books on dog behaviour did as well.  We both grew up with dogs but none of them had survived cruelty.

A girl and her dog, Papillon-mix, Toby Hopeful

Toby the inveterate lap dog

It was a long time before anyone earned their way into this core truth – Toby is a big suck.  He loves the love in cuddle form.  In 9 years he has never bothered with a single toy but if you sit at his level then your lap will be occupied.

On-lead and happy, Toby the Papillon-mix

Toby in on the family walk

Before his eyesight started to fail, Toby loved his walks.  We all enjoyed going out on long walks in the neighbourhood, together.  Snapping his lead for a good run through an open field was as close to bliss as we ever have seen our little big dog.  It’s a close second to the drying-off fun times.

Carding CVM wool under Toby's supervision

Toby the fleece inspector

His middle name is Hopeful for a reason.  If cheese, chocolate or your glass of water can be nosed then this dog is hopeful.  If you rustle a plastic bag within ear-shot then this dog is hopeful for a walk.  When he met new people, and a cramped apartment this dog was hopeful.

We love him dearly.  That we even got a small breed dog through the city is marvellous.  His simple, uncomplaining way over the course of this tough year for him teaches me each day that I have with him.    Yesterday, I asked our vet’s office how they handle such things if we need to cross the road of putting him down or if he dies at home.  That was a hard call to make but I am better prepared come what may.

Your thoughts & kind comments, replies on Twitter have all helped.  Thank you, all.


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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

A quick post before we get ready for a family celebration on the other side of the GTA.  These are a few of my favorite work and home things that I am grateful for, today.

Kilim gracing the studio wall

With much elbow grease and time, I used linen warp yarn to sew velcro strips across the top of my Christmas gift kilim.  Such a warm addition to the studio!  It’s just behind my Mighty Wolf loom. Tomorrow, I have my 4th weaving class in the fall term.

Many thanks in material form

A new commission has jumped off the wheel (Watson, Martha) and onto my needles.  It’s for someone special, and is making me ridiculously happy.

Mini-skeins of good memories

Clearing a bunch of singles.  Each was once a sample that came from a fibre event or with a spindle.  As a bonus, I got to practice the Andean plying trick while reliving good times.

Spinning cotton

Mahatma Gandhi was absolutely correct.  You do want to spin cotton each day.

I feel that the spinning wheel has all the virtues needed to make one’s life truthful, pure and peaceful and fill it with the spirit of service. I, therefore, beg of you all to give half an hour’s labour daily in the form of spinning.

Speech to students, Dinajpur, May 21, 1925

Prepping California Variegated Mutant wool

This is my start of the 4th round of singles for my CVM wool project.  I use the Louet flick card for each lock before charging the Schacht cotton hand cards.  The waste for 5 rolags is in the container on the left.

In this round, I am retiring the Tabachek top whorl spindles, and have introduced my now cleared Andina low whorls.  My hope is that using 4 low whorl spindles will even out the spinning phase.

Happy first trip to WEBS

I am blessed to be able to make visits to stores like WEBS, and to know that a Moosie and her tulipwood shaft are making their way to our home as we speak.  This article bounced out of my Twitter feed, today.  Reading reminds me again that each of these unwaged activities has as much value as my previous waged work.  As boneheaded as this lifestyle strikes many in my sphere of reference, I have tremendous support from my family unit.


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A weekend to remember: the Sarah Swett Workshop

This past weekend was a high note.  It was Sarah Swett’s The Value of Wool” workshop in Brighton, Michigan.  The Spinning Loft brought this talented & prolific fibre artist together with 19 spinners to teach us to use the degrees of lightness or darkness of natural wool in 3 different techniques.

Sarah C. Swett having taught & inspired

It was as far back as January 2010 that I learned about Sarah’s work.  I was a new spinner (see the posts!), and grabbed a copy of America Knits by Melanie Falick from a second-hand book store.  

Taken back in January 2010, America Knits!

The chapter on Sarah Swett features her stunning Kestrel’s Alight handspun, colourwork, knit kimono.  The dead-pan description leaped off the page & slapped me in the face:

Sarah knit this sweater with her own handspun, naturally dyed, three-ply yarn (two plies from a Cormo fleece and one from a Merino fleece)… Sarah graded the colors in the original version… The name of the sweater speaks to both the birds that were the inspiration for the design and to the birds that “alight” on one’s shoulders when wearing the garment…”

Last weekend, I soaked-up every word of How.  We were all quite happy.

Kathleen, Jillian, Julia & Cynthia

Sitting to my right were Sasha & Beth.  We laughed a lot.

Also happy: Beth & Sasha

One of the best things about attending a good workshop is meeting hugely interesting people & seeing friends.

Greg, Marilyn, Janine & Sandi

There was also She Who Shall Not Be Named.  Cracking me up, and taking each joke in style.

Handspun colour gradient in the wild!

The work path followed an internal logic, and was both highly disciplined, and free-form.  We learned to blend 4 colours from a single California Variegated Mutant (CVM) fleece.

CVM wool 5-value progression

The pop of white as it leap-frogged to the lightest value from the grey blend was a huge revelation.  The degrees of darkness blended far more easily in the 5-steps.

Second blending pass: combed CVM spun 2-ply

Sarah asked us to change our blending tools.  For me this meant taking out my new Valkyrie extra-fine handcombs.  The 3-value skein now includes Sarah’s indigo-dyed ‘mystery fleece.’

Fair isle swatch – when is yardage not my problem?

This is an exercise that I will revisit.  Having run low on yarn, I couldn’t complete the gradient change as charted.  Nor could I cast-off all the stitches!

Now’s a good time to show you some of Sarah’s work 

Sketchbook by Sarah Swett: embroidery

Our second (Second!) task for Saturday was to embroider linen.  Again we tackled blending but specifically for a smooth 2-ply yarn with aligned fibres.

Needlepoint in progress by Sarah Swett

On Sunday, Sarah used the top small tapestry to show how changing the contrasting values affects our perception of an object.

Tapestry & needlepoint by Sarah Swett

Sarah uses cartoons in her tapestry work.  She shared that you need to draw the actual coffee stain or splash or else it always looks contrived.

Sewn needlepoint comic “Slow Literature” series by Sarah Swett

The marriage of the comic book form and needle arts tells the reader a story.

More classwork & fellowship happened

Quietly embroidering a hummingbird on linen cloth was centering.  I sewed its outline during class.  The green satin stitch uses Sasha’s handspun (left on my bobbin), and was homework.

Handspun hummingbird embroidery

All around the room people re-connected with their childhood craft.  I did too.  Sarah graciously allowed some of us to work outside of the classroom (it was too loud for me).

Oh, the fleeces!

On Saturday evening, Beth had an open house & pizza party for everyone.  All of the raw wool is organized!

Sasha, Julia & Jillian at Beth’s

There was spinning, knitting, and lots of stories.  Almost everyone came, and it was grand.  Beth’s family was especially charming, and you know that I love Maggie!

Bye, bye wool

Resisting wool was one thing.  Sitting at Beth’s floor loom was another!  Her Schacht Mighty Wolf has amazing patina & history coming as it does from Jillian originally.

Many thanks to everyone who helped me make the big decision!

Sarah teaches key & value

We got back to work on Sunday with more information about creating mood with fibre & colour.  Using our selfies, we all started our needlepoint self-portraits.

Needlepoint portraits by Sarah Swett

The exercise was fun, and really instructive.  I enjoyed finishing mine at home.  N thinks it is a very good representation of President Obama!

I have come away with many creative sparks – indigo, linen, embroidery, weaving!  Sarah’s Artist Statement begins with these powerful words:

Frankly, there is no point in making anything unless one is thoroughly attracted both to the subject and its form.  There are too many ideas and too little time for anything else.

Now, I know how she would sound saying those very words.  Thank you, Sarah Swett.  May there be many more panic sweaters!


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Making progress

A few weeks ago, I gave a spinner that I respect & have much love for a few words.  I told her that being perfect isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.  We can feel the right path and keep going.  Slips and all.

Spring was listening. (Finally!)

My own advice is what I am taking for the current projects.

All as I start getting ready for Spring String Thing in Lebanon, Ohio.  I can’t believe that it’s next week!

The Boxing Day Order

Wonderful & terrifying at the same time – on Boxing Day, I got a firm order for a lace stole.  The splendid terms include:  a) in amethyst; and (b) blank slate.

Sneaking you a peak!

What I will be delivering is an approximately 950-yard Victorian-inspired stole with a lightly beaded edge.  It’s a custom design knit in 17 days for a deserving client!

Japanese seed beads for custom-design stole

Materials:  Helen’s Lace (silk/wool) in berry by Lorna’s Laces.  Ewe Knit had enough colours of this & other indie lace yarns that I had great choices locally.  The beads are Tojo 8/0 from Beaddazzled in Burlington.

This project was a challenge and a real joy.  I will post more on the design after it is blocked, and off to Jamaica.

Hand-spun Progress Reports

While the commission was underway, I gave my Tibetan Clouds shawl a light wet blocking to show you the pattern.

Tibetan Chai Clouds shawl-in-progress

Please, ignore the blue blotch – it’s temporary.  Apart from that aren’t the colours wonderful?  It’s the effect of spinning within each band of the Yarn Hollow hand-dyed fibre.  I was able to create long runs where there were none!

Squint, it’s a sweater!

The first 4-ply ball of CVM wool sweetness.  It weighs 62g.  I may not in fact have enough fibre for the intended sweater.  That’s fine, I am just going to carry on under the sweater banner anyway.

Opposing ply yarn in the wild (almost)

Incredibly, both of those opposing ply skeins were made on the same niddy-noddy.  As Sarah Anderson says in ‘The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs‘:

These yarns are fascinating to experiment with, because it isn’t always clear what you’ll get or how the twist in the different plies will respond…

No kidding!  The more energized skein on the left there was 2-ends of the left-spun single plied with the right-spun [L-L-R; plied right].  That 62 yds will be split for the feet of my sock experiment.  The other skein is 276 yds of less excited yarn in the opposite track [R-R-L; plied left].

Explaining how the difference ends with a distinction is above my pay grade!  They are next in the sock queue.

Making my Day

Also amusing is what’s on my needles now – my Ampersand Happies.

First Turtle Toes sock

Keeping the foot in plain stockinette was a good move, I think.  Love, love, love this colourway as much as I did on the day that I bought the yarn.

I can just see them brightening up my shoes now.  It’s going to be great!  Seriously, go get some for yourself!

One bright project leads to another.  This is a braid of BFL top that was a door prize from Musewings last Stringtopia.  Thank you, Nicole!

I started this, yesterday.  The braid is split down the middle.  I am using my Bosworth Mini (21 g) purpleheart spindle.

My thoughts are with you Boston.  Each & every person affected by the Marathon bombing has my prayers.


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A little bit warmer

Cold, drab February days inspired more all-over Staghorn cable knitting.  Now, a whole year of on & off knitting has paid off!

The design is the Beach House Pullover by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, Interweave Knits Summer 2010.  The size is 38¼” bust circumference, which gave me a 2″ +ve ease.

Not surprisingly, the Cascade 220 worsted yarn was a trouble-free choice.  So was this pattern – I was able to just follow it to the word.

Suitable for wearing with the stretch jeans

Thanks entirely to this lesson in cable knitting, saddle shoulders and a shawl collar, I am looking forward to the late-February snow forecast with some glee.

Believe it or not, this is a sweater-in-progress.  It started life as raw CVM wool from the Spinning Loft, and I love it.  It’s a *flick & card 2 rolags per spindle, spinning, and repeat from * end deal.

A good, relaxed tortoise’s pace. I shall keep you posted.

Why leave Martha idle when I could have some fun?  Last night I dug deep into the fibre stash & got this Miss Babs Polwarth dyed top out.  I have 8oz, and am tempted to spin a 4-ply yarn.

It is driving out some discontent.  As anything that looks this much like the Caribbean sky on a sunny day is bound to do for me.

Lace in its crumpled infancy.  Starting this Tibetan Clouds Beaded Stole ate a chunk out of my Saturday.  The blue yarn is TechKnitter’s Belly Button technique for starting a centre-out piece.  Sanity saved!

Knitting my spindle-spun Bronzed Chai yarn is just so interesting!  I love how Sivia Harding has designed the beading, and this is my first counter-pane pattern.

Housekeeping 

Thank you to everyone who sent wishes for Toby.  His eye healed in a few days.  Apart from needing eye-drops x6 per day, he is much better now.

There’s no concern about any neurological damage.  It took him a bit to drop the act but his walking is back too.  All it took was the doorbell to be rung at night, and he flew up the basement stairs in a flash.

This spring is going to be for learning!  The 2013 Spring String Thing is Friday, April 26, 2013, through Sunday, April 29, 2013 in Lebanon, Ohio.  I’m very excited about my classes, staying at the Golden Lamb again, and getting a tour of the Stringtopia studio.

Right after that, I am also going to Sarah Swett’s Weekend with Wool presented by the Spinning Loft.  It’s Friday, May 17, 2013 to Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Brighton, Michigan.