The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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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)


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Behind the scenes – a trip home

As one obligation was almost fulfilled & leading to others that now shift to the home front, I received news of my Uncle’s passing.  He fought a years-long battle with cancer, and I returned home 3 days later to be with family for the service.

This mix of sad with happy occasions has taken me home far more often than in previous years.  Unplanned trips, especially those of the quick variety disrupt daily life.  This one did that but has also brought me closer to what matters; who matters.

It allowed for hand-delivery of a baby Aviatrix hat for F, and even good sock knitting time on the plane.  In between it all, I took some pictures when it wasn’t raining & I was the only one up.

Verandah view rainy morning St. Andrew Jamaica

Rainy morning

Looking out from my favourite spot.  I was thinking about the day ahead & this rainfall that I can’t describe but always miss.  Heavy, tropical, and needed after long drought.

Lignum vitae tree branch St. Andrew, Jamaica

Lignum Vitae

This is 1 of 2 mature Lignum Vitae trees in the backyard.  Its branches and bark support plenty in the way of insect & plant life.  These trees grow the heaviest, densest wood in the world, and I love them.

Potted orchid in Lignum Vitae tree, St. Andrew, Jamaica

She likes her place with my Lignum Vitae tree

The second Lignum Vitae now supports a small potted orchid.  Whoever put her there had a good idea.

You can’t see but a weaver set up her web in between the orchid’s spikes and the tree’s branch.  As weavers are wont to do.

Aloe Vera naturalized in St. Andrew, Jamaica

Aloe Vera takes a stand

The Aloe Vera plant is also called ‘Single Bible’ in Jamaica.  It has naturalized in this corner of the garden, and I gave them some encouraging words for keeping up the good fight.

Flowering plants, St. Andrew, Jamaica

Drought? What drought?

A splash of colour is doing well against the wall.  These exceeded expectations in the long dry season, and made me smile.  Also, purple.

Potted plant in St. Andrew, Jamaica

Fractal in potted plant form

Last but not least is the flowering Ixora Coccinea bush.  She has tolerated the drought and displays some fortitude!

Ixora blooming red flowers after the rain St. Andrew, Jamaica


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New year, inspired!

Happy new year!  Our holidays were spent back home in Jamaica.  It was the mix of what we call Christmas breeze, friends and family that made this trip extra-special.

coconut tree in Jamaica's north coast

Christmas breeze in Jamaica, defined

Inspiration came by more than sheer natural beauty.  The island is still dealing with the Chikungunya virus outbreak.  It is transmitted by mosquitoes, and last October the government declared ChikV a national emergency.  We are not infected but close family members are still coping with serious joint pain, and other symptoms.

In meeting ChikV, the economy, and not to mention personal challenges, I am inspired by the strength & creativity of people back home.  Things are difficult for so many that we know & love.

Blue Mountains view in Newcastle, Jamaica from Eits Cafe

View at Eits Cafe, Newcastle, Jamaica

Any view of the Blue Mountains is beautiful.  This was on the patio after lunch at Eits Cafe in Newcastle.  I grew up with a similar tree-line view from the bedroom that I shared with my brother.  The land is green.

Whole fish dinners in St. Mary, Jamaica

Speaking of eating

Our waitress at dinner in St. Mary on the north coast came back to make sure we understood how the snapper would be plated.  “That’s what we want!  Whole fish!”  She smiled, approvingly.

Cut stone staircase and Georgian fretwork at Harmony Hall, St. Mary, Jamaica

Harmony Hall, St. Mary, Jamaica

Returning to visit the first art gallery I ever loved.  The old great house, Harmony Hall is just as lovely as ever.  We enjoyed our visit & the freshly-squeezed limeades immensely.

Sea Grape tree shade St. Mary, Jamaica coast

Happy old sea grape tree in St. Mary

Every good beach no matter how small needs good shade.  The best seashells came home with me to Canada (hints:  look under the seaweed; use a stick; avoid sand-flies).  These two saw immediate love with the cotton spinning!

Spinning cotton supported spindle with seashell whorl

Seashell vacation cotton spindle

Just looking down at the beach, sometimes you might find fossilized coral.  This one survived the area’s blasting.

Fossilized sea coral, St. Mary, Jamaica coastline

Coral fossil on Jamaica’s north coast

We spent less than 48 hours on the north coast this trip.  Even so, I have happy thoughts about the Art Gallery of Burlington’s curated show this year.  It is “Colour of Water.”

Morning sun St. Mary, Jamaica private beach

My shadow casts colour too

This is 1 of 6 handwoven towels that I finished in time for Christmas.  Taking the other 5 home for hand-hemming was how I got them all done!

Handwoven Keep it Simple KISS cotton kitchen towel

Keep it Simple kitchen towel gift

I rushed to weave more towels in this 2/8 cotton using the denim colour for warp.  The progress story & were surprisingly popular with friends & family, so I had to make 2 extras!

Weaving cotton Keep it Simple kitchen towels on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom

Christmas gift towels on the loom!

The towels were all loved.  A little too loved since I found myself saying over & over, “No!  You totally should use them!”

These are the Keep it Simple towels by Mary Ann Geers.  Diane helped me fix a sleying error after the first towel, and she flagged what I soon discovered was a silly tie-up error.

Another friend, Margaret, has enabled me into some excellent weaving pattern books just this week.  Lots to learn this year about structure!

Bougainvillea in bloom, St. Andrew, Jamaica

Christmas morning Bougainvillea

 

Luckily, there is still more inspiration in baby form.  My brother & sister-in-law are expecting!  We are so thrilled, and this is the launch of All The Plans!

Craft books for future irieknit projects

Laying good 2015 plans

The top book here is very important:  “Knitting Counterpanes” by Mary Walker Phillips.  I think my handspun Romney yarn may be perfect for a small-sized knit counterpane.

See the two folders above the backstrap loom book?  They are pick-up patterns recorded by Catherine A. Stirrup from designs of Peru & Mexico.  A weaver kindly sent them to me with the backstrap weaving books in her destash.

Top whorl drop spindles by Jonathan Bosworth and Edward Tabachek

Welcome to the herd, Tabachek spindles!

To much fan-fare, I opened a superbly packed box with the 2 Tabachek spindles (right, above) & a surprise.  This was late last year.  When my friend, Devin, offered the spindles to me, I was so thrilled!  They are a favourite make, and holly was a quiet dream as well.

Devin, they are loved, and see regular use both at home, and at spin-ins!  The grey fibre is yak/merino/silk top.

Jennie the Potter thrown stoneware jar with drop spindles by Tabachek, Bosworth, Jim Child, CTTC

Spindles! Progress!

Cheers for 2015, everyone!  Looking forward to lots of projects, new friends, and especially becoming an Auntie!

 


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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!