The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


2 Comments

The absorbing Colour of Water – a show opens

An all-guild show curated by the Art Gallery of Burlington is currently on in the Lee-Chin Gallery until May 24, 2015.  The theme is, “The Colour of Water,” and our guild has a juried section in the show.

River by the Sea Scarf by irieknit in classic crackle on the loom

Weaving water over sand at Frenchman’s Cove, Jamaica

The piece that I have submitted is a handwoven scarf inspired by the confluence of the river as it meets Frenchman’s Cove in Portland, Jamaica.  It is a 4-shaft Crackle or Jämtlandsväv structure woven as drawn in with 4 pattern blocks.

First weaving for the Colour of Water curated guild show irieknit handspun in classic crackle weave

The first attempt was a prototype

Planning for this scarf took more thought, materials and calculations than anything I have woven up to now.  The colour-blending ability of this classic crackle structure was new to me.  In presenting a draw-down for our curator, Denis Longchamps, I was also learning structure myself.  It took a full first scarf.  To speak cricket, there was a long run up to the crease!

The impetus was a copy of Susan Wilson’s book, “Weave Classic Crackle and More” that a weaving friend de-stashed this winter.  Her clear explanations & beautiful projects met the blank slate that is my novice brain.

Water’s fluidity carried me forward.  Nothing was more fun this wretched winter than getting lost in the memory of this place where we swam as children.  The warm Caribbean sea mixes, ebbs and flows with the cool river.  It is also a place where I have partied as an adult.

Nearly finished River by the Sea Scarf by irieknit in handspun yarns

Getting to submission state!

 

After the trial run (totally wearable), I sleyed, and tied-on for a 13″ wide scarf in the reed.  The mystery main warp balanced at 4,075 YPP.  In the final piece it is sleyed at 27 ends per inch.  Calculations were all for this yarn as 0.8 of the maximum twill sett.

Detail of handspun blending in classic crackle irieknit River by the Sea woven scarf

From the beach to waters’ confluence

 

The first run helped me learn the sequence for weaving three shuttles at a time, and to get comfortable with my new Glimakra temple.  Getting the river’s colour shift from sand to bank was very important.  This also improved with my comfort at changing for pattern yarns as well as grounds.

Each of the 6 handspun elements in the scarf is from batts made by favourite fibre artists, and spun on spindles by me.  The batts are from Enting Fibercraft, Abby Franquemont & Sericin Silkworks.  I over-dyed with tea and black walnut to better represent the sand, and river bank.  The alternations were planned, and the shifts are not symmetrical although each is woven in the same classic crackle format for 4 blocks.

What humbled me the most was how the warp behaved in its second sett.  There was far more length shrinkage, and this drove me far closer to the tied ends than anticipated.  This has been a wonderful stretch into working with colour, and meeting the technical weaving criteria of our guild.

No rejection news is good news?  The take-in was this past Monday.  This “River by the Sea Scarf – colours at Frenchman’s Cove” measures 11.75″ x 59″ with fringe lightly beaded with Toho 8/10 Japanese seed beads.


2 Comments

Submitted with fingers crossed – first Juried Show

Triangle shawl in handspun Muga silk and Japanese seed beads original design

Just a glimpse, Muga silk lace

This week was the take-in of pieces for the Burlington Handweavers & Spinners Guild‘s bi-annual juried show, “Plumage.”  I have submitted this original design beaded triangle shawl, knitted in my handspun 2-ply Muga silk.  It is lightly beaded with Japanese Miyuki 8/0 seed beads.

Without a doubt this was my most challenging design work to date.  After submitting on Wednesday afternoon, I realized that I really would be happy to publish this as a pattern.  My charting and notes are long-hand at the moment but I sense that this piece is not finished stretching my abilities just yet.  What grounds this idea is the fact that months ago I signed-up to take Kate Atherley’s class on pattern writing at the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic, which is tomorrow morning!

In holding back while I work through the impulse let me just share the first part of my write-up for the shawl’s submission:

The gold-brown natural Muga colour evokes the Golden Eagle.  Muga silkworms are semi-domesticated in Assam, N.E. India.  The spinning fibre is rarely available, and is prepared after the cocoons are reeled for weaving from the waste and breeder cocoons.  The fibre is finer than Tussah silk, and I spun it for a balanced laceweight yarn with the organic texture.  It is highly durable silk, spun to enhance its shine…

Learning more about Muga silk culture for this entry form writing exercise was so exciting.  Several sites stated that woven Muga textiles increase in shine with each wash, and that the fibre is also traditionally used for embroidery.  I also learned that Muga silk saris are handwoven in the home by women of all backgrounds, and are passed down as heirlooms in Assamese families.  Guess who is totally intrigued?!

Muga silk handspun lace yarn on antique Canadian niddy noddy

As it then was, Muga silk on my antique niddy noddy

I also submitted my Tibetan Clouds handspun stole that was completed in the fall.  The large (i.e. huge on me) size and Sivia Harding’s design for Tibetan Buddhist art elements both evoked the mythic bird, Garuda.  He is the king of birds, and represents widsom and openness.  See how it works in this context?

Handspun Tibetan Clouds beaded stole for 2014 juried show, Plumage

Tibetan Clouds stole as the king of the birds

The show’s Juror may not get the demonstration but it’s lurking here in my blog out-takes!

Handspun Tibetan Clouds beaded stole wrap

This stole has a wider wingspan than I do.  Like Garuda who can stretch his wings and soar into space.

Tibetan Clouds handspun beaded lace stole, submitted for 2014 juried show Plumage

Wearing Tibetan Clouds stole

This kind of enveloping warmth in 100% handspun yarn is reminiscent of a bird’s plumage.  Granted, it may be hard to hang and display.

On tenterhooks

For a fairly quiet spinner like me the suspense between now and the Juror’s review on May 5th will be uhm, difficult.  The push to complete the Muga silk shawl has left me in between projects, and with sore wrists.

Alpaca handspun yarn on vintage Andean low whorl drop spindle

Sweet respite spinning

In this state, yesterday I reached for a spindle that I have not yet shared with you.  It is a vintage low-whorl carved wood spindle from the Andean highlands.  It’s perfect for this rustic Alpaca roving that I had in my stash.

Vintage Andean low whorl drop spindle with Alpaca handspun yarn

Andean spindle, patina in spades

This was a Christmas present.  It has taken me awhile to both respectfully clear the spindle of the handspun yarn that came with it, and get accustomed to spinning with a notched shaft.

Handspun plying ball of alpaca with vintage Andean carved low-whorl drop spindle

Vintage Andean spindle as it came to me – with handspun alpaca

The other exciting item that came with the spindle was this tool for backstrap weaving, a Ruki.  It is the traditional llama bone beater of the weavers in the Andean highlands.

Ruki llama bone weaving beater, Andean highlands artifact

A ruki beater for weaving

The spindle and ruki are both smoothed after years of use.  It’s just the sort of thing you reach for when the tenterhooks they bite.


2 Comments

An Irieknit Design

My commissioned lace stole is overdue for her reveal!  What began as a serious inquiry last Boxing Day on broad specs grew into an original stole design with beautiful Helen’s Lace yarn and light beading.

Although knitting for hire was a bundle of new challenges, I knew early on that my label as it were would be Irieknit.  This is, after all, the way that many of you know me as a spinner & knitter on both Ravelry and Twitter[.com].  My ‘irie‘ designation dates back to birth.  In full-flush of First Time Dad excitement, I was announced to the world (via a Gleaner classified ad) in all caps as born that day “one IRIE GEMINI…”

Then as now, some got it; others not so much.

‘Sea Grapes’ knitted lace stole

The colourway of this 50% silk/ 50% wool yarn is Berry.  The stole used 950 yards or 85g of the yarn with the body and border knit with different sized needles.

Body detail, ‘Sea Grapes’ knitted lace stole

The centre is the Melon pattern from Victorian Lace Today with repeats added to the panel.  Thinking of my Jamaican client as I knit lent the motif a decidedly Caribbean feel.  One thought led to another and soon I had a doubly-wide border of soft waves.  The VLT techniques pages were very empowering.  They helped kick me up a notch to lace design.

The client’s wide brief is what also allowed me to go farther.  Following my muse often takes me back to poetry.  This 27″ x 88″ stole is named Sea Grapes after Derek Walcott’s 1976 poem:

…for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore

now wriggling on his sandals to walk home,

since Troy sighed its last flame…

The classics can console.  But not enough.

People often ask, “How long does it take to knit that?”  In this case, I have an answer based on a focused lace knit.  The knitting time was 30 hours for the body; 17 hours for the border.  It was made over 17 days.  This does not include 2 hours for blocking or added prep time & design work.

On the blocking mats, ‘Sea Grapes’ knit lace stole

Producing knitted lace of this scale for hire changed my work days, and lifted my game.  In the end, I was happy to deliver an item that can not and does not exist elsewhere.  It came as much from our relationship of many years as from my skills, time and materials.  We are both happy.

Supporting handmade matters.  I’ll be happy to collaborate again in the future.


1 Comment

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!


2 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

Reality bites – I’ll spin to that

Honest truth – I nearly made my baby gift deadline.  As my Mother loves to say, “Close but no cigar.”  Friends, this is how the saga unfolded…  By Friday night, I was almost finished knitting on a garter border.  It was a beast of a job but I’d have more than enough time on Saturday to finish her up.  I went to my bed, and had sweet dreams.

At some point of some sweet dream my thoughts got real with me.  I woke up just knowing that the border was a spoiler.  It had to go.  Why?  Three reasons:

  • The garter stitch was boxing in the rest of the blanket, in a bad way;
  • My short colour changes were way too busy for the vision in white main body; and
  • I had botched the upper left corner with misplaced colour changes.

So, I ran downstairs, put the coffee on, and had at it.  Furious, furious knitting.  Does border no. 2 look better?  Sure does!   Did I have a prayer for finishing?  Nope.

At around say 1:30 p.m., I knew this would be wrapped on the needles.   It was seriously humbling.  She is quite possibly the most urban non-knitter friend that I have.  There was enough time to unfurl half the stitches onto waste yarn but it probably looked v. strange to her.  Especially since she was looking at the wrong side.  Good grief!

On the bright side, my friends at the Wool Bin have all assured me the design is a win.  The knitters hath spake!  Also on the bright side, the baby should be en ventre sa mere until early May 🙂

Leaving the sad story with bright sides, I have my 1st wheel-spun yarn to show you!  It is 4-ply Coopworth that is in a DK-weight range before finishing:

It is springy, and very yarn-like!  And I have another full bobbin here:

There’s yet more waiting for room to be plied as well!

On Monday, I found this tiny nest while walking Toby.  It was up-side down by my neighbour’s tree:

The white fluff is from fine, silky seeds.  It forms the base of the nest:

How I think us humans caught onto the idea of spinning in the first place:  nature.


Leave a comment

More Christmas Knitting

Turns out, I couldn’t abandon the Christmas knitting entirely.

For one thing, I was just in a rut.  It’s probably silly to zero-in on stash when knitting for people who have everything except hand knits.  For another, the One of a Kind Show wasn’t exactly all that I had hoped it would be.

About OOAK – we went but basically window-shopped & then left.  The prices seemed steep.  That might have been due to the many out-of-province artisans.  The Ontario cottage industry booths seemed to be few & far between.  A sad thing.  Also, the “one of a kind” vibe was missing.  Booth after booth was just a variation on the same pottery, beeswax candles, baby things, etc.  The hand knits?  I do buy hand knits but these were mostly things I have made recently.   A bright spot was Island Sweet’s booth.  She was against a far wall but completely sold out!  Her blog post about the wonderful success is here.   The OOAK moral?  Go with lower expectations long before the last Saturday of the show!

The window-shopping has resulted in a wee design.  It’s not a mug cozy but in that general genre.  The idea’s been knocking around since last winter & I like how it turned out.  It will take me into writing charts but the patterns are on hold until the new year.  The Teaser:

I am still working on a “his” version.  If all goes well, the pair could top-off gifts for the newlyweds.

Time is running out now – just a week until we’re on our way south (yay!).  Lack of time = chunky knit woolen cowl!  It’s a Wham Bam thank you Lamb by Susan Chang.  My edge is a little modified but that’s it.  Another free Ravelry download with over 1,000 FOs.  The instructions fit on a post-it note.  They are that simple!

Knit up in Malabrigo Chunky, azalea colourway on size 11 needles.  The lighting was awful for the picture – snowstorms do that.

This is my 1st Malabrigo project.  It is softer than soft but I have heard how prone it is to pill-on-sight.  The size 11 needles are making the stitches mighty cozy & hopefully that will minimize pilling.  Not being very clever here – size 11 is as high as my needle collection goes.  I really don’t knit chunky yarns very often.  The other Defence Against Pilling measure is to have the yarn ball in a ceramic bowl.  The fibres better be at peace when they get wrapped!

Better get going…