The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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August Challenge Spin with Spindlers

The August challenge theme in Spindlers group on Ravelry is “fantasy,” and I took the plunge!

Alpaca/merino/silk handdyed combed top with irieknit's Spanish Peacock top whorl drop spindle flame box elder

Not going with Outlander, read ahead!

This 5 oz braid of combed top from Corgi Hill Farm is in my favourite blend, alpaca/merino/silk.  The spindle choice is my 22 g Spanish Peacock spindle, Flame Box Elder.

The group challenge is to spin at least 1 or more oz (or ½ oz lace) during the month on spindles (of course!), posting a skein in the thread by EST end of August.

Inspiration hits!

Alan Lee illustration of Lord of the Eagles from Hobbit inspiration picture by irieknit

The Lord of the Eagles, Tolkien

The fibre brought to mind a single thought – Gandalf’s Eagle!  I went for our illustrated (Alan Lee) copy of “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, found page 108, and headed for the passage that took my breath away so many years ago.

Eagles are not kindly birds. Some are cowardly and cruel. But the ancient race of the northern mountains were the greatest of all birds; they were proud and strong and noble-hearted…

Letting the curious Lord of the Eagles of the Misty Mountains take me out of my tree perch sounds like a good way to crack through that oh-so-pragmatic decision to miss the Tour de Fleece this year.

So far, I am the only fantasy Eagle Lord entrant but the past 2 days have brought some wonderful interpretations into this month’s theme.  Join us or just lurk for the fun, will you?

Asiatic Lily July blooming irieknit garden

Rocking late blooming Lily!

This past camp week for T was also a treat for my fibre projects.  Wrinkles aside (I answered their survey this morning…), I used the daytime hours to have the coveted dye day, spin for the fun of it, share online, and best of all open the floor loom!

Yesterday brought a new tool into the kit – first pair of eye-glasses.  Slight correction later, and I am far more comfortable on-screen.  The 5/2 cotton threads on the loom are much easier to work with now, phew!

Another week of camp will start after our civic holiday weekend.  I am looking forward to sharing the pictures/project stories with you!


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Summer dye baths – avocado now; Queen Anne’s Lace then

Early Sunday morning, I took a knife to some of the stored avocado pits.  It was a way to think of my spinning friend Mary before her memorial service that day.

Extracting natural dye avocado stones by irieknit

Avocado dye, Day 1

The bowl includes 4 pits from Jamaican avocado pears brought by my Mother-in-law – they gave colour instantly!  It’s no rush, and is just a moveable feast around the backyard as I seek the sun.

Extracting natural dye from avocado stones by irieknit

Avocado dye, Day 3 (boiled)

This is after 1 boil, and cooling on Tuesday morning.  While it sits, I am debating using ammonia again to boost extraction.

Handspun BFLxShetland lamb's wool by irieknit

Meet the target – handspun BFLxShetland wool

Slated for the dye-pot is this approximately 285 yards from 100 g of roving from Hopeful Shetlands.

I carded the roving before spinning.  The rolags hit the CPW at a good clip in the month after our houseguests left.  It is spun supported long-draw, and plied on my Watson Martha also in double-drive.

Throwback to last August

We took a walk last Emancipation Day to gather Queen Anne’s Lace.  T was game, and now understands about dye-plants.

Ontario Queen Anne's Lace prepared by irieknit for dye extraction

Thrilling 2017 Queen Anne’s Lace

We gathered 204 g in a local ravine.  I might have been more into this than young T-ster.

Canadian Targhee wool preparing to mordant for natural dye by irieknit

First we soak the wool top

The target was 98 g of Saskatchewan Targhee wool top from Sheepspot.  Mordanting with alum & cream of tartar is where T lost a good deal of interest.  Luckily, Mom was on hand to keep him occupied.

Handdyed Targhee wool top with Queen Anne's Lace, carrot tops by irieknit

Dry, beautiful top, dry!

After a first boil, I got 145 g of carrot tops from the supermarket, and added them for a 30 min boil.  The wool cooled in the pot overnight.

Handspun natural dyed Targhee wool yarn and Watson Martha spinning wheel by irieknit

We quickly had yarn

By the notes taken, I had approximately 173 yards of 3-ply by the end of that week!  It was spun and plied in double-drive on my Watson Martha.  It is a 690 yards per pound yarn.  That would be in an aran-weight range but the wraps per inch is 12 or worsted-weight range.

A small facelift

There are subtle changes for the TKK blog appearance, and I also re-worked the About page.  The break that I have taken this year from the Tour de Fleece is as much for focusing at home as it is for this re-tooling.

Spinning Targhee wool dyed by Sheeptime Knits on Bosworth Blue Mahoe skinny Midi by irieknit

Another Targhee spin in the park, yesterday

The memorial for our friend, Mary, was small but very touching.  I went with our “not a teaching group” friend, Nancy, and other spinners were able to join as well.

On Sunday night, I started a new 3-ply project on the Martha spinning wheel.  It was Mary’s custom wheel before she surprised me with her offer to sell.  I hope that her family knows how much her spinning life’s work mattered in the community.


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Change is good, and then we craft

Guests have been hosted, and summer is finally well under way.  The time crunch was hellish but we were able to tackle all the tasks.  This gathering was all in T’s honour.  Two years in having this outpouring was simply wonderful.

Summer flowering planted by irieknit

Blooming in time for you, dear readers (not the guests as intended!).

As it happened, I also lucked into a birthday with favorite people all either in our space or about to arrive for the weekend.

It was as small as we needed it to be but included T’s teachers for the main (religious) event.  The integration of these threads was so tremendous for him.  We missed his grandfather on N’s side very keenly.  I also could not help but miss those who started the journey with us but are fallen away.

On the Olde English Babydoll Southdown fleece

Very recently, in the past week or so, I have started to prepare some of Olivia’s 2015 fleece from Laurie’s Little Lambs farm.  The link is to my post with the fleece pictures, background.

Preparing Olde English Babydoll Southdown wool on handcards by irieknit

Handcarding Babydoll Southdown locks

Making floor-space for guests meant moving wheels, which in turn meant that I very much missed spinning on those wheels.  This is my 2nd project started after our folks left.

Back in 2015, I had a very good plan to use the Meck paddle combs for the longer locks in this fleece.  Three years later here’s the hitch in that very good plan in 1 hyphenated word: set-up.  The kitchen table used to be such a good place for pointy steel wool combs!

Here we are.  Schacht cotton cards, the Louet flicker brush, an old bed sheet & mornings before the house wakes up are glorious.

Spinning handcarded rolags by irieknit on Antique Canadian saxony flax wheel

Pretty sweet tool for the job – antique (presumed Canadian) flax wheel

These rolags are a joy to spin fine.  There is something amazing about the twist meeting the spiral character of this wool’s crimp.  Plus, when spun clockwise this antique wheel has a very smooth draw-in/motion.

The surprise – for me at least – is how the strong colour-banded locks have lost that definition in blending.  I noticed this morning that it starts when I flick the blocky staples before loading on the still card.  Darker fibres are stretching out into what looked like strong white upper bands (butt-end) as soon as I flick.

Waste and handcarded rolags from preparing Ontario Babydoll Southdown wool by irieknit

Sneaky VM, waste, and primo rolags from Babydoll Southdown locks

All reports of Southdown locks holding an insane amount of VM are true.  I am currently trying to get over just how much VM lies within.

The clear container holds the waste as I sort for the cards & flick locks.  Out of the picture are short-but-useful locks.  It’s slow but very enjoyable carding work.

Handknitting wool yarns in Byneedleandthread bag for child size sweater

A sweater for young T

This “Little Pixels Pullover” is now close to the hem, and is a stranded design.  Another pullover that T was looking forward to had fit issues, and is going to a school friend’s little brother.

Since my thrilling April “Talland Tee” knit, kiddo was feeling a bit left out of the knits.

Handspun Romeldale/CVM dyed yarn in Talland Tee tunic by irieknit

Much needed knitting bliss – a handspun, dyed, Talland Tee

It’s not an indoorsy summer (or life, really)

As we got along with making summer plans later than is comfortable, I was looking for a spindle-type computing solution.  Spindle-type in that it can leave the relatively secluded desktop, and still be a working tool.

Spinning dyed Masham wool on Jenkins Lark spindle by irieknit and library book

Jenkins Lark spindle at the library this week (Sheepytime Knits Masham wool fibre)

We know, I still don’t have much in the way of coffeeshop (or business) time – not if I also want to keep crafting.  The 2 hours while T did a library program this week was such a rare type of quiet daytime moment.  Still, there are days when I could do some more keyboarding if it would be both with us + not hurting my wrists.

Local trail with Queen Anne's Lace by irieknit

Queen Anne’s Lace on a walk this week

Enjoying more full days together is splendid thing.  The compare & contrast with 2017 this time really shows how splendid when I find the quiet moments to reflect.

This post, written after T’s bedtime, is new.  The file transfer, software install work is still not complete but I like my new keyboard.  We hope it will pan out as more frequent TKK shares; perhaps less Twitter ephemera.

Cat on Byneedleandthread frog design knitting bag in sunbeam by irieknit

Melly cat in healthier days

Our Mel is now a week into treatment for diabetes.  Many thanks to all those who have liked, and replied to my tweets as we were finding out what had him so ravenous & thirsty.  We have tests ahead, of course, but he is feeling better.

 


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Better than hoped for – handspun yarn meets Saxon blue

The handspun yarn in question is Romeldale/ CVM wool from Spirit Trail Fiberworks.  It flowed so beautifully that I will give a quick re-cap.

  • Singles start:  end of December, 2017 on Rappard Wee Peggy spinning wheel, scotch tension
  • Four 3-ply S-twist skeins later: April 9, 2017 all plied on Watson Martha spinning wheel, scotch tension
  • Total plied dry weight of 1.1 ounces (315 g) = approx 726 yards

It was a finished and measured pile of DK-weight yarn all of last week, and was the right weight to get a medium shade using my Christmas gift natural dye kit from Botanical Colors.

Alum mordant for irieknit's handspun Romeldale/CVM wool

Soaked and into the pot for mordanting

If you followed my tweets last Friday you may know that I was remembering my first spinning friend, Mary, through the entire day.  In a casual read of the local paper that morning, I was saddened to discover a notice that she passed away peacefully on April 1, 2018.

Handspun Romeldale/CVM wool by irieknit natural dye Saxon blue

Now in with the Saxon blue dye liquor

This is all of the liquid indigo Saxon blue from Botanical Colors’ “Natural Dye Extract Kit,” around 1.5 tablespoons.

Dyeing takes time

Simmering ended at around my school run to get T that Friday afternoon.  The slow overnight cool in the dye pot let the yarn exhaust.  Gotta love waking up to dyed yarn in clear water!

Ice accretion in April storm

Not your typical April in Ontario

By Saturday afternoon, I had beautiful yarn hanging to dry.  The excited tweets were without pictures since we also were tucked-in for an ice storm that did not quit.

Wood fire burning in April ice storm

Not a typical April

We enjoyed the fire together on Sunday after I had finally done a bit of sewing to piece together a small cotton blanket for T.  Sewing was my bit; building a fire was N’s.  We were both working to help absorb a difficult new twist that the week had thrown our family on Thursday. 

School was cancelled on Monday as well but we got out for a long slushy walk to the library that day.  

The best teal ever

This is the happy outcome of Friday afternoon’s dye-work.

Handspun Romeldale/ CVM wool dyed with liquid indigo Saxon blue by irieknit

Isn’t this the softest teal?!

It has not stayed in skein form very long at all.

Handspun Romeldale/CVM wool wound into yarn cake dyed Saxon blue

Housework has been delayed

A natural blue dye experience has been pending in my mental queue for far too long.  This was easy & relatively quick with just beautiful results.

Right after taking this picture, I swatched.  This yarn is still helping with the big feelings as I knit a Talland Tee designed by Sonja Bargielowska on 4.5 mm needles.

April ice storm damage, Lake Ontario

After storm surge, lakeshore

This spot by Lake Ontario was just a shady area of grass before the storm hit.  Since we had less accretion at home than we did during the December 2013 ice storm, it was surprising to see the lakeshore (south) damage.

Canada goose by Lake Ontario

The walk was chilly but a good change of scenery for me on Thursday before getting groceries & visiting with a spinning friend.  We met through Mary.

Storm surge effects by Lake Ontario April ice storm

Farther west along the lakeshore

It was an overdue visit, and I am glad that we got together again so quickly after calling her with the sad news last Friday.

Of all the gifts, laughter that my friendship with Mary brought it was being introduced to a spinning group with 30+ years of weekly gatherings that meant the most for me.  The first time that our friend greeted me for spinning group at her home she asked, “And where is your wheel?”  I left that day with her (now my) Wee Peggy in the back of my car.

Sprouting daylilies in the snow

After the storm, spring

I met Mary on my first visit to the Oakville guild as a novice spinner.  While I will always carry & repeat her insights for spinners, I hope that you can also find an experienced spinner to take you under their wing.  Maybe that person can look you in the eye as Mary did for me and say:

You are a good spinner.  Don’t ever let anyone make you feel that you are not.

We all need a friend like Mary.  May she rest in peace.


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April already!

The weaving that I mentioned in the last post is all pressed with pictures pending.  I can’t wait to go through the shots and share them with you!

We are in a 4-day family break for Easter, and this is a short (yes, really –  I know I can make it so) post.

Blue Easter hydrangea pot

Potted at least until we thaw.

Best wishes if you celebrate the season!  The hydrangea has brightened the hall since Thursday afternoon as we managed through several pressures of the week.

Little did I know when rushing about preparing on Thursday that we had a beautiful surprise from my dear Mother-in-Law waiting at home.

Special delivery 

The front bloom is faded now but the scent is still strong.

Many of our family’s additional needs surface in the holiday times.  School was not exactly helping with T’s big project & other pressures.  Luckily neither N nor I is a Blast the Cheery-weeries type.  The learning curve is more about how to attune & build-in quiet successes by being fully present. 

This Easter unfolded as quiet and meaningful even as we do still miss family, and others.

When in doubt we go out

By Saturday morning, a day trip was in order.  We enjoyed a working sugar bush in all of its glory!

Maple syrup festival, yes!

It was the last weekend of their open season, and the Conservation Area was busy with families and many dogs on leads.

During the long, chilly wait for our guided wagon ride, I got some spinning done on my Jenkins Lark spindle.

 

Handspun Masham wool yarn on Jenkins Lark Turkish-style drop spindle by irieknit

Masham wool on my Jenkins Lark!

The fibre is Masham wool dyed as “Minerva” by Sheepy Time Knits for her 2018 Female Heroes club.  The plying ball in the shell weighs 35 g, and is 2-stranded.

As soon as I opened the package it went on this spindle, February 12th.  This is my post from 6+ years ago on my first & until now only spinning of dyed Masham top.  This spin is just as lovely as I remember, and it has been a good project while watching T at his after-school activity.  The Jenkins’ spindles always get loads of questions too.

Speaking of the red Masham yarn…. (yes, I can’t actually write a short post, bear with me):

Handspun knitted hot water bottle cover in Masham wool by irieknit

Hot water bottle cozy in handspun Masham yarn

… in January 2016, I used the yarn to knit Sue Blacker’s design for a Hot-Water Bottle Cover.  The 4-ounce braid gave 134.5 yards of this 3-ply Masham, and I used a co-ordinating handspun yarn for the flap.

I have the seed of a thought that the Minerva Masham may be nice for small weaving but I am not bothered about end-use right now.

Back to our outing [focus!]

Wagon ride at Mountsberg's Maple Town

At wagon level through the sugar bush at Mountsberg’s Maple Town

The wagon was drawn by 2 horses, and it was a very nice guided ride.  The park has single-tapped 400 sugar maple trees this year.  In a less stressed year they will tap up to 600 trees.

We also enjoyed the Raptor Show but my favourites of the animals were between this Nubian cross goat, and the Bison.

Nubian cross goat Mountsberg Conservation Area, Ontario by irieknit

Sometimes you just need to silly run down a road to see about some Bison in a field?  It was chilly, and that reminds me to share about an awesome spindle-spun hat that I made awhile back, and wear all the time.

Bison at Mountsberg Conservation AreaThe day trip really turned things around, and today included a new round of treats (those simple but effective Blizzard ads get us each spring).


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Mittens matter

The past couple of weeks have pressed all of T’s mittens into use.  In addition to the 3 pairs of plain stockinette knit mittens he has a store-bought pair that withstands the snow play longer.

It’s a strategy that left me with wiggle-room for the inevitable… a lost mitten.  It happened!  Not quite 2 months into his school career, I looked down at pick-up time with an instant, “Hey!  Where’s your other mitten, hon?”

Yarn bowl of irieknit's Peace Fleece yarn for mittens

Peace Fleece – reserved for mittens apparently

We asked, and looked but a Peace Fleece mitten is lost to the environment.  He regrets the loss.

Maybe someone stole it, Mom.

No, I don’t think so but understand what you mean.  It’s a pretty nice mitten except just one won’t help anyone.

Since it really is a pretty nice mitten, and I do have more yarn, last night I cast-on & off again for a third one of these.

The Peace Fleece yarn has all of my love & admiration as a kindergarten-mitten-grade wonder.  It comes with some VM and stiff fibres for your picking-out but really does better than standing-up to this level of play.  This morning, T regretted that the replacement is not as soft as the other.  I was sure that he could break it in very soon.

Oak leaf hydrangea early buds

Hydrandgea!

Early buds is my signal for there also being a lot of grit and mud left behind.  The school yard is making itself known with the accessories.  We are at 15°C today, and may break a February record if the radio forecast is correct.  It is downright delightful.

Handknit Cormo wool child's mittens by irieknit new and used

Well loved, and broken-in Cormo wool mittens

Remember the backup pair of Cormo mittens from Sheepspot yarn?  They came in quite handy while I took my time working up to knitting the pattern a 7th time!

Of the 3 pairs, it is the superwash Rowan wool mittens that has fared the worst under T’s outdoors fun conditions.  Where the Cormo pair is this picture of fuzzed-out happiness, the superwash wool mittens have pilled, lost shape, and are close to getting rejected by T.

It’s all very well & good considering that I have some stranded mitten ambitions that could start with the child’s size!  The Christmas stocking for T was a wonderful glimpse into Latvian motifs.

Handknit Latvian motif stranded Christmas stocking decoration by irieknit

A first stocking for T

The pattern is “Irma’s Christmas Stocking” from the Fall 2011 issue of Knitting Traditions.  After lots of delving, I replaced the 5th chart with a motif given as from Kurzeme in “Latvian Mittens” by Lizbeth Upitis. Specifically, chart 122, plate 13C in the book.

Handknitting Latvian motif Christmas stocking by irieknit

Latvian stocking-in-progress

 

This was my first time knitting with these now-discontinued yarns.  They are simply stunning for stranded knitting:  Valley Yarns Northhampton sport.

The other day, T got my warmest yes answer.  He asked if we couldn’t just keep the stocking out a little longer.  Why, I asked?

Because I just like looking at it sometimes.

Now if this is not a good reason to make warm mittens for growing hands then I do not know what is!


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Wensleydale Wednesday, and TKK featured for spinners

While in progress this Wensleydale commercial top has been very mobile.  The ‘Hello Sunshine’ colourway by Spunky Eclectic blurring on my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle got many conversations going as it went from near to as far as New York city this summer.

Spinning Wensleydale top on Jenkins Turkish Delight in carob wood

at Stage 19, 2015 Spindlers Tour de Fleece

The singles were all drafted from the fold of the long Wensleydale wool staple.  This breed has locks that are as long as 7 – 12″, and I wanted the loft from folding as well as some texture.

Wensleydale wool handspun singles cop on Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle Tour de Fleece 2015

Full – at stage 20, Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece

The carob wood of the 28g Turkish Delight spindle brought out the fibre’s luster so well!

Looks aside, this became a slow spin over 2 years of 4 ounces of Wensleydale wool top.  There was no rush but 3 factors combined to slow it down somewhat.

  1. Minor but there was kemp in the top.  It was like an itch to remove every last stray opaque fibre.
  2. Over time the braid started to full (like matting; a step before felt) together.  This meant lots of tugging before the kemp hunt.
  3. Spinning from the fold took getting used to, and this is a slower spindle that also has an upper knob to navigate around.

In short, I had to be in the mood.  First singles were wound-off on December 23, 2013, and last were spun on August 3, 2015.

Handspun Wensleydale singles sample by irieknit

Ruling a spinning thought out

The upside of extended spin time is that you have a chance to consider your options.  In this new world of me actually sampling, I decided that it had more twist than I would like as a finished singles yarn.

It also became a teaching material for my Learn to Spin on a Drop Spindle students this fall at the Art Gallery of Burlington.

Handspun Wensleydale yarn by irieknit

Wensleydale Wednesday!

Now that my class is completed we have approximately 450 yards of 2-ply Wensleydale handspun in my stash.  The operating presumption is that I will weave something small with this yarn.

Ball of Cushendale Woolen Mills Mohair boucle yarn

Cushendale Woolen Mills Mohair yarn

If possible, I would love to use it together with this 200 yards of Cushendale bouclé yarn.  Such a delightful gift from my cousin – she visited the mill in Ireland, and thought of me!  Other projects are ahead in the loom’s queue but this is the start of a plan.

Signal boost!

It has been wonderful to see some of my blog posts included over successive editions of Hand Spinning News.  The story of E’s project using Babydoll Southdown wool is featured in the News & Events section of the latest November 2015 edition of Hand Spinning News.

Welcome to new visitors, and as always thank you to Shiela Dixon for your recognition.  I hope that you continue to enjoy the blog!

A small note 

In writing about E’s work in a fully public TKK post, I struggled with a balance for sharing & her privacy.  E did all of this in Grade 8 at age 14, and within a small local school.  As far as I know there was no outside publicity.  In taking, and later working with the images, I wanted to be careful not to identify E, the school or the other kids in her grade.   It is after all, a small world.

The privacy tangle, being a guest of her proud family, and my own joy at seeing her hard work positively shine all resulted in the single long shot for the post.

On the back-end, I happily do have a new light camera model as of last weekend.  It will make my editing life easier for events like this with 14.2 more megapixels than the older mode.

November oncidium orchid blooming in morning light

With thanks for everyone who gave feedback on E’s project & the great Babydoll Southdown wool adventure!

(edit for name spelling)