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Better living through fibre


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Woodstock Fleece Festival 2017

This past Saturday was the 9th annual Woodstock Fleece Festival, and I made it!  It is held an hour away by car, and is by faaar my favourite local event for fibre folks.

Last year was a definite miss.  It’s much improved but a school week is a school week – I can’t predict whether our nurturing reserves dip too low for a Saturday morning trip.  Plus, N had a 12:30 pm dental appointment in town.

handspun Diminishing Lines shawl by irieknit

Dashing through the festival – handspun Diminishing Lines shawl

It was a blur!  I see from the pamphlet that I totally missed some vendors (sorry, Peggy Sue Collection; The Gaynor Homestead!) but I feel completely rejuvenated by my trip out, and here is why.

Found! A Squirrel-cage Swift

You may know him as Wheelwright?  Reed Needles has repaired one of my antique wheels, and visiting his booth of many Canadian Production Wheels (CPWs) is always a must-do.  I was expecting to only say a few words when I had an, “Hey, is that functional, Reed?!?” moment.

irieknit's antique Squirrel-cage swift yarn unwinder

Demonstrably functional – a squirrel-cage swift

It has been totally mentioned by me to Reed a few times now:  he is an enabler par excellence.  With a twinkle in his eye he noted that yes it works, and that the circa 1860 fittings are hand-forged.

Hand forged spiral fixing screw on squirrel-cage swift hardware irieknit

A hand-wrought fixing screw – squirrel-cage swift hardware

The spirals are beautiful, and it fixes the upper roller cage easily/ properly.

A closer look at the flanged rollers shows yarn (I suspect linen of course) wear on the dowels.

Antique squirrel-cage swift upper roller cage detail by irieknit

Upper roller cage – wear marks

Reed was selling this swift on behalf of a local weaver’s estate.  It is sturdy enough for life with an active child + speedy unwinding of skeins.

Antique Squirrel-cage swift lower roller cage detail by irieknit

Lower roller cage – cantilevers out

The cut end of the base on the post-side has some deep cracks but this tool will let me unwind yarn gently, and round skeins if needed.

Antique squirrel-cage swift underside detail showing wood cracking

Other names for this tool are ‘roller-cage swift’ ‘barrel swift’ and ‘rice.’  According to The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning they are believed to have been developed in continental Europe (p. 270).

A similar swift with a wooden upper handle is shown in Keep me Warm One Night by the Burnhams (no. 38; see p. 42) as a gift to the Royal Ontario Museum and from Ontario.

Purchases from 2017 Woodstock Fleece Festival by irieknit

Woodstock 2017 haul (excuse messy trunk)

A swift – any swift – is used by the fibre artist to:

… unwind the skeins and is not suitable for making them.  When a skein is to be used, it is placed on a swift that is adjustible in size and wound off into a ball, or onto a spool or bobbin. (ibid, p. 22)

This swift adds choice because I do have a large umbrella one from Glimåkra that also works well.  They are both shorter than the skeins wound on my blue antique click reel (i.e. tool that winds skeins).  The squirrel-cage may be easier to handle the wider skeins, and I will go very slowly when checking that point out.

The squirrel-cages will hold more than one skein at a time without needing to collapse the tool as you do with the umbrella.  The cages also hold all courses in a skein with even tension across.  I am interested in how the squirrel-cages compare to the umbrella ‘v-shape’ on unwinding skeins to the warping board for weaving.

The Barn

Growth of this festival year-over-year shows most clearly in the barn marketplace.  Remembrances Pottery was a fun discovery – their stunning handmade mugs, buttons, etc warranted a quick stop.

Handmade clay buttons and ornaments by Remembrances Pottery

Clay items from Remembrances Pottery in Sarnia

This and other quick stops were accompanied by the bag of raw wool that you can see in my trunk up there.  It still needs cleaning!

Romney lamb's coloured raw wool

Lamb’s bounty! A Romney from Willow Farm’s flock

As you may guess from all the talk of rushing, and new time constraints, I probably shouldn’t have.  This is a 5 lb 4 oz lamb’s fleece from Willow Farm.

Locks of raw wool from Romney lamb fleece Willow Farm by irieknit

In my defense lots of Romney-strong lamb’s wool!

 

The shepherdess, Josslyn, explained that this may be the last year they attend but that farm direct sales are still possible.  I have missed cleaning fleece so much!

Llama at Woodstock Fleece Festival 2017 by irieknit

Baby llamas add to a festival

The llama pack and obstacle course was brought to us by the Norfolk 4H.  These babies were shy but the performing adults allowed for happy petting.

Norfolk 4H llama demonstration Woodstock Fleece Festival 2017

Your mood can’t go wrong with a llama or two

As always festival organisers also had some sheep in the barn for attendees.

Sheep at the 2017 Woodstock Fleece Festival

Hello, sheep!

This family friendly atmosphere is why the event is growing, and I hope to bring N & T next year.  This year, I was thrilled to see some spinning friends at long last, and hit all the high notes.

Sugar Maple fall leaves on grass by irieknit

Maple leaves still not raking themselves

There being much to be done in fall is not new.  What is new sits in my immediate family, and would include the words cancer patient & break-up.  Necessary but not easy stuff is ahead but we are well in the midst of that.

My next warp will be for a head-scarf – pushing the baby blankets behind because first things first.

 


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Reviving Ramie on the small saxony wheel

In the final days before welcoming T home last summer, I opened my 151 g of Ramie top, and started spinning on my painted East European saxony wheel.

Spinning Ramie on antique Eastern European flax wheel

For Twitter and my only record of the start (please excuse the mess!)

This is my first project with Ramie & was love at first spin.

Priorities soon made themselves known.  The night that I had given a Lecture on not touching Mom’s tools, I took this wheel and its Ramie up to my studio.  The fibre stayed downstairs but it was a pretty vain hope.  With everyone under strain family bonding was clearly more important.  What I didn’t know then was how long that takes when your child is aged 4, and circumstances are what they are.  Sitting at wheels took a back burner as we navigated our long, early parenting days.  Others came out but this easiest-to-knock-down wheel was up until just last month.

irieknit spinning Ramie fibre on antique painted East European saxony wheel

Dust-gathering no more!  Ramie stash spinning again.

Small note It is a crazy peg array.  Safety first, and I am not telling anyone to follow this particular flight of fancy.

While she was up & out of dear T’s reach, I saw quite a few questions in Facebook spinning groups about similar wheels.  The questions boil down to:

  • Should I buy this?  A: maybe – do you know what you are looking at; do you like to spin fine?
  • Did I make a mistake in buying this?  A:  it depends; I love mine.
  • something something ‘gypsy wheel’… A: no, seriously, all of Eastern Europe

Invariably, 1 or more voices on the thread cry down that these small wheels make you “treadle like a hamster even if it operates.”  Well, mine operates and that is not my experience.  At all.

The wheel has such a gentle action in terms of the draw-in of the yarn, and the old leather hinges on the treadle bar.  It is also an almost wheel-less feeling as I work since she stands below my torso.  With the band fitted and at the right angle with the mother-of-all, this is smooth and easy spinning now that my (yes, crazy; do not do) pegs are worn in a bit.

irieknit's antique East European saxony spinning wheel drive wheel detail

Small drive wheel = light drive wheel

Sometimes, I do need to fiddle with the mother-of-all screw tension.  Most times it is fine with my Hempathy yarn band going strong.  When running these wheels have a sweet spot of momentum.

We are at around the half-way mark to what experts call the family equilibrium.  Supports have come and gone; other supports are tremendous.  Not only is this & my Martha wheel now carrying spins-in-progress but I got myself an afternoon away this weekend as a real break.

irieknit's Kissing Cousins sock in progress and spinning Cheviot on Turkish Delight drop spindle

Mobile comforts – mindless sock and Cheviot spin

This top-down to toe-up piece is a March pattern release by Sarah Jordan called Kissing Cousins Socks.  It is in a Turtle Purl yarn, Tiberius.  The Cheviot wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits is my ‘Pyrenees Delight’ Tour de Fleece project.  It was such a thrill to have my spinning picture featured by Ravelry and this has stayed in my spinning rotation ever since.

Progress and respite.  I wish the same for you!


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Carrying forward – the new Knit Knack year

This past month has been a very good one for my fibre work, seeing N recover from his lingering shingles pain, and the winter of fewer weather alerts.

Stranded two-colour knitted gloves for adult man by irieknit

Little Lithuania gloves for N

The gloves came off the needles shortly after my last TKK post.  They are for N but also were a great reminder that I miss the knits that teach me new skills.

Stranded two-colour knitted gloves for a man by irieknit

Long floats behind the pattern

In “Lithuanian Knitting:  continuing traditions” the authors cite this motif as being common in Lithuania’s western coastal area, Mazoji Lietuva.  As recently as last fall, I had finished a pair of fingerless mitts designed by Donna Druchunas, and so had a grasp of how fingers are placed.  I will share that project & its matching hat soon.

A technical note is to say that I knit these with one yarn in each hand.  The light “cold pressed” CC yarn was held to the left of the dark “prato” MC yarn.  What dominates more to my eye in this pattern is the light value.  The contrast & proportion of light value is what I think makes that pattern yarn dominate over the darker background yarn here.

It is as though the light pattern leaps forward in the hand.  From what I know of colour theory this main hand pattern is a high-major key.  The dark is dominated by the high-value.  This was N’s colour choice, and he loves the gloves.

A traditional pairing is natural or white on a dark background for this motif (p. 165).  Some were 11 stitch floats all across the round.  One round is all light value.  For any floating over 5 stitches, I caught them together.  That extra manipulation was fiddly & slowed me down a ton.

What I am late to finding but would like to share is this guest post by Donna Druchunas on Deb Robson’s blog.  In the post, Donna mentions the traditional crossed knit stitches.  The twisting seems like a good help not just for warmth but also for shielding float colours.  I will try that when knitting other patterns from the book.

For this year

In making the resolution to keep going in the direction of my crafts – spinning, knitting, weaving – I have looked carefully at how to improve the balance.  Selecting what to share & when has proved more of a challenge as content gets ahead of posts.

Hand preparing dyed Gulf Coast Native wool looks on Russian paddle combs by irieknit

New year; new paths

The locks are 105 g of Gulf Coast Native wool hand-dyed by Sheepspot.  These are Meck Russian paddle combs, and were from a birthday present – thank you, N’s Mum.  They hold a lot, and are the in-between wool combs that I had long hoped to find.

Mini-skeins of handspun Gulf Coast Native wool yarn carded and combed samples by irieknit

Sampling like a boss!

The 1st mini-skein is from the Meck combs (winner!).  Same locks but the more muted skein is spun from drum-carded rolag batts.  This is thanks to another awesome new tool that I’ll be learning my way around, a Pat Green blender/carder.

This sampling run was a job for my Watson Martha wheel in the same afternoon last Friday.

Basket with Sheepspot hand-dyed locks and sample handspun skeins by irieknit

Nice, right?!

 

New tools & materials are part of the mix this year.  Even more importantly, I am solving the puzzle of how I can work more evenly; share more fully for TKK this year.

It’s happened because I decided to use a desk planner to you know, plan.  Even simple daily entries since January 4th have given me a handle on how I work.  There’s more spinning than anything & I can both weave & keep other projects going.

One big take-away – I knit too much for others now.  It used to be my thing.

Spinning hemp top on Tom Forrester supported spindle cow bone whorl

Hemp top last touched in December 2015

The hemp top spinning on this Tom Forrester supported spindle is an example.  It was last spun around December 26, 2015.  Here’s why my Planner shows:

Spinning Egyptian cotton on coin takhli spindle by irieknit

January’s joy of Egyptian cotton

This (to me) immensely full coin takhli was – as my new friend the desk planner says – wound-off on January 30th.  That is 25 g of fine cotton spun in 6 months.  Let’s see if I improve in the next few months.  I like & am resolved to spin more cotton.

As I try to rein in how thinly the work/life gets spread this year, I will be remembering our Jamaican proverb.  Old-time people seh:

One, one coco full basket

Keep gathering your ground provisions because that’s your way to a full basket.  In other words – don’t expect to achieve success overnight.

Melvin cat on bed of logwood-dyed Border Leicester locks by irieknit

Before he was rousted, Melvin

Let’s not scare the nice kitty but we are also seriously thinking about adopting a dog again.  Here’s to 2016!


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Tension magic – antique flax wheel restored

On what was a pretty ugh day, the restored flyer for my antique flax wheel arrived in the mail.  It’s been cheerful around here ever since!

Antique flax Canadian saxony spinning wheel

All in one piece!

Regular readers & Twitter followers may remember this wheel as coming home by accident from the Ramer spinning wheel collection.  Not all of my wheels have names but hers is Linley.

Spinning Tussah silk laceweight yarn on antique flax saxony spinning wheel

The flax wheel’s a keeper – tussah silk and a sea urchin for scale

Along with other repairs, Alvin Ramer re-built her flyer.  It has the wide arms that I love for wet spinning flax, and he also made 3 new oak bobbins.

The issue was inside the antique whorl, and it completely lost all traction after I had a blast spinning 618 yards of 2-ply yarn from silk caps.  It was too loose for a teflon tape fix, and I needed professional help.  Non-spinners, this is code for I got lots of twist but the wheel could not wind the yarn onto the bobbin.

Tension is the magic that allows your wheel to fully function.  And it is probably the single most important thing you can learn about your wheel.

Bette Hochberg, Handspinner’s Handbook, p. 17

Reed Needles, Wheelwright in St. Mary’s Ontario gave me an on-the-show-grounds consultation at Woodstock this October, and now we are back to working order.  If you haven’t met Reed, the CreativFestival blog has that nice feature post about his work & with tips on restoration issues.

Front maiden view of antique flax saxony spinning wheel

A very flax orifice – it’s tiny and it’s round

The orifice hook that you see in the 1st image is also Reed’s work.  It is custom to fit the wheel’s 7 mm diameter opening.  This is slightly larger than 4 mm diameter of the William McDonald Nova Scotia flax wheel fluted orifice for example but is way too small for Reed’s standard hooks.  He has my thanks for such a great touch.  The bent paper clip is gone, Reed.  It is really gone!

 The good news!

In looking over the wheel, Reed had observed that the maker used cedar for her treadle.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheel treadle

The treadle is as comfortable as it is pretty

This is a strong indicator for a Canadian origin. I am going to edit my earlier posts to add a note rebutting the Irish presumption!  Those posts still get views through search engine traffic.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheel carved tension screw

Heart of the matter, the tension screw

Reed also shares my love for Canadian flax wheels.  It was wonderful to hear his positive evaluation, and interest in my find!  The main wood is quarter-sawn oak, and Reed also liked what first drew me in as well, the craftsmanship in her details.  The tension screw matches the maidens’ design beautifully for example.

There is some not so good news too

Decisions are still pending, and I am treating the wheel gently.  Now that the flyer is stable, I am sure of a current alignment issue with the drive wheel.

Antique saxony flax drive wheel axle

The rear axle is showing wear

The spinner’s side axle shows no wear but you can see how worn down the metal is on both contact areas of the rear axle.  What I can hear & feel while spinning is movement like a swash.  Crossed-off the trouble-makers’ list are:

  • The spinner’s side axle – snug in the bearing & well pinned;
  • The wheel hub – stable with no movement;
  • Uprights – they are level with shims under the table, and the rear axle has a bearing added; and
  • Generally solid as a rock.

A temporary fix has been to add smooth leather in the wall of the rear bearing.  Following advice shared in the Antique Spinning Wheels forum on Ravelry, I will also try to improve the situation with copper.  My other idea was to tape the axle wear points as a way to watch for more wear.

Ultimately, I may need to consider a replacement for the axle.  That’s a big repair.  I have also explored brazing a little but am concerned about possible weakening of the metal in the process.  If anyone has thoughts or insights, I would love to hear from you.  This is a new issue for me to learn about!

Handspun Polwarth wool on antique click reel

Polwarth wool

It’s been good spinning of late, and I wish the same for you!  This Polwarth project is up to 910 yards and counting on the Spinolution Mach 2 from a pound of undyed top.


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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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When plying sings

Plying the 980 g of natural white Romney lamb’s wool is making my week.  You may have heard me use the word, ‘obsessed’ when I posted this picture on Twitter?  It has come as a surprise.

Plied hand-combed Romney lamb's wool on Watson Martha spinning wheel

Plying two good things together

For one thing the singles flow evenly from the plying ball.  Both strands feed together to my hands.  The holding pen for the ply ball is a tall Piroline cookie tin to my right.  Quiet, gentle, stream-of-spinning time.

This is the smaller whorl for my Watson Martha wheel.  The larger of the two ratios is working well with the Scotch tension braking the bobbin.  The rhythm slows a little as I get to the bobbin’s capacity of around 110 g of the yarn.  It’s just a matter of paying closer attention to the winding-on since the yarn can jump out of the hooks as the bobbin gets full.

Winding handspun wool yarn on an antique wooden click reel

Antique yarn reel in action!

My blue click reel from the Ramer Collection has made winding-off, and counting such a breeze.  The click still makes me jump (and Melvin glower) but she has a beautiful logic!  Each round is 90″, and the click is at 120 revolutions.  That measures 300 yards or a linen weaver’s lea!  One lea in the yarn count system is 300 yards per pound.

Cleaned wood antique click reel from the Ramer Collection

Brace that elbow!

A small hurdle after cleaning her up lightly with diluted Murphy’s Oil soap was the floppy jointed spoke.  My substitute collar is 3 strips of Velcro.  It’s yet another application of Janet Dawson’s floor loom weaving class on Craftsy!  So far with the braced reel’s help, I have around 1,500 yards of 2-ply with more to come.

Plying with Andean pushkas

The medium and large size Andean turned low-whorl spindles are my plying tools of choice for my spindle projects.  With practice, I am getting better at using them comfortably with larger cops.

Finished handspun yarn from blended Shetland, Merino, Tussah silk

Mulled cider set in skein form

This is the plying that I started in early September.  It was a 3.2 oz set of batts from Enting Fibercraft (shetland/merino/tussah silk blend), and I made 497 yards total here.  The larger skein at the top is 304 yards.  This yarn measures 24 wraps per inch or what I class as a light fingering weight.

Melvin the cat with tulipwood Moosie and handspun Shetland wool yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

Hello, Moosie spin

The leisurely spin of The Painted Tiger’s hand-dyed braid of Shetland wool with my new Moosie came out at over 2,900 yards per pound!  The first plying ball gave around 249 yards.

Handspun Shetland wool yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

A full-for-me plying Pushka

The second skein came in at 494 yards!  I was also giving a high plying twist because I would like to weave with the yarn.

I launch these spindles in the Andean style that Abby Franquemont taught me in her “All Spindles All Day” class.  Winding is more efficient as the cop grows, and the spindle goes amazingly fast as well.

Handspun Shetland wool 2-ply yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

Cherry Fudge in yarn form

Fast-forward these few years, and my set-up is still very simple.  I place the plying ball in a small clay flowerpot that is on the floor behind my left hand.  I ply standing-up on an anti-fatigue mat.  When I came to Abby’s class, I was (barely!) able to butterfly with my non-dominant left hand.  Switching the butterfly was key, and Abby taught me the next steps:  set & release the half-hitches with my right hand; and the launch for my typical Z-ply twist.

To compare a large shawl project that I spun with spindles, and is on our current TKK banner, above – the largest skein measured 366 yards.  It is the fluidity that has improved.  This is what I look at with expert spinners.  Even watching another spinner’s motions can give your practice a subtle shift.

Getting to the place where plying sings is helping me complete even less-focused projects.  At least these past few weeks it hasn’t been akin to watching paint dry!

Speaking of seeing spinners, are you going to the Woodstock Fleece Festival on Saturday?  It’s a great consolation for not going to Rhinebeck.  Hope to see some friends, and to succumb to fibrey temptation!


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Ten bobbins towards a blanket, and Toby thanks

Over 5 days of work this month the remaining prime Romney lamb’s locks met my Forsyth Fine wool combs.

Handcombing Romney ewe lamb's wool on Forsyth Fine combs and diz

Last of the longer Romney ewe lamb’s locks

Most of the more defined locks had already been combed.  I hunted for the still distinct tips, and pulled away.  When even those weathered tips were disorganized, I did Margaret Stove’s trick of moving the locks between fingers to find that tip grain.  It took more time to load for each new pass but they were still in the tips-out orientation.  As you can see from the stationary comb here only a few are showing the lock crimp.

Blanket project worsted spun singles in Romney ewe lamb's wool

Basket full of Romney worsted singles!

State of the blanket specifics as shown in my basket are:

  • Each single worsted spun on my Watson Martha in scotch tension using a short forward draw with 18 lengths of hand-combed top each.  Last singles shown on bobbins are 4 lengths of top each.
  • Four plying balls = 537 g or just over 1lb.
  • Singles all spun right with “Z” twist.  I will ply for a “S” twist yarn.
  • That right there is 18 days of varying amounts of work from Saturday, July 19th to Saturday, September 20th, 2014.

I could say this was therapeutic in the month that we lost Toby.  It was but what I want to tell you is that going back to the combs was difficult in such a quiet house.  He used to sit at my feet (and I will show you where, down-post) while I did this work.  A little piece of old knitting helped me overcome this feeling of sad silence.

Knitted mobile device cozy by Irieknit

Oldie but goodie knit – hands-free combing

It held my phone, which played Neal Gaiman reading his “Neverwhere” (sound effects and all).  It wasn’t long before I hit my stride, and got those last 6 bobbins all spun-up.  Audio books, the fibre-worker’s friend.

No headphone cords were harmed in the combing.

Wait, we are not plying yet

The wheel is still in singles-production mode.  Thoughts occur to you while a project comes together.  Some are crazy pants and best not discussed too soon.

Hand-combed seconds from Romney ewe lamb's fleece

Fodder for the hand cards – Romney lamb’s combing seconds

For each bout of hand-combing, I separated the actual trash from what looked like seconds.  Over the years, I have learned (yes, the hard way) not to be precious about this.  You keep what you can keep, and the rest is compost.

The cotton cards were not good for this job.  I have found my standard cards with 76 tpi are giving nice rolags.  It’s easy work with the hard prep work behind me.  I also have un-combed locks left in another pillow-case.

Best guess? The existing singles could knit up on their own into a lovely circular or Shetland-inspired blanket.  What going the extra mile does is to open the door for a possible woven item.  These rolags spun in the same way could make a lofty weft for example.  Alternatively, I could make more worsted yarn from another fleece.  At this point in my spinning career, I know that more options for sampling is optimal.  If ever there was yarn that should hit an optimal mark it is this local Romney lamb’s fleece!

It really has been the spinning project that I hoped-for this year, and is still going strong!

Deepest thanks 

Thank you for everyone who has kept us in their thoughts, and who reached-out to me after my last post.  Your support meant so much.  I was only able to thank one of you in person but each comment was so very touching.

Toby and Melvin in peaceful kitchen co-existence

Brothers at rest, Toby & Melvin

This was Toby’s spot by my kitchen combing station.  Since Melvin loved the fleece-drying rack so much last summer, we threw his bed in for the duration.  They both liked it this way.  N suggested another picture of Tobes for everyone here, and this is a favorite of ours.

All of your comments, and replies helped me when this was still tremendously raw.  Many thanks to you, friends.  We are all adjusting but miss him a lot.