The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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An indigo dyed handspun cardigan

Handknit cardigan with lower lace panel Vodka Lemonade pattern in handspun Polwarth wool indigo dyed work in progress with double point needle holder

Warming my nights: an indigo dyed handspun cardigan knit

Currently on my needles with enough yarn for a second long sleeve is the handspun Polwarth 2-ply wool from last summer’s indigo dye fructose vat.

The knit’s pattern is the popular 2012 Vodka Lemonade by BabyCocktails, Thea Coleman.  Needle keeper shown is by @knitspinquilt.

Substituting a handspun yarn

Knitters have recently been discussing the financial accessibility of new sweater designs on social media, blog posts.  For a bunch of reasons that I do not plan to unpack the discussion gave a slight nod to spinning as an option, and then moved right along.

Premise of this post:  spinning yarn for garments is an option.  Yes, even slightly pear-shaped yarn.

Spinning single undyed Polwarth wool yarn by irieknit on Spinolution Mach 2 spinning wheel flyer detail

November 2015, dreaming of a sweater quantity

It was a simple idea really.  In September 2014, a 1 lb bag of Polwarth combed top from a large commercial mill cost A$38.59 plus tax & mileage to/from The Fibre Garden in Jordan, Ontario.

Spinolution Mach 2 spinning wheel bobbin with 2-ply undyed Polwarth wool spun by irieknit

Comfort spinning on Spinolution Mach 2

Earl, the Spinolution Mach 2 wheel was a good choice for my easy default worsted-style yarn but I ran into a mechanical issue of the drive wheel knocking the frame.

Melvin a tuxedo domestic short hair cat lying in lap of irieknit during Polwarth wool spinning at Spinolution Mach 2 spinning wheel

Sometimes Melvin appears as if from nowhere to see about his spinner

Customer service was responsive.  I was able to finish through to almost 1,400 yards of 2-ply 100% Polwarth wool but the wheel action changed.  Time frame is August 2015 – December 2016.

Evaluating the handspun yarn

In addition to a big wheel action change, 2016 was my watershed year.  The last 7 months were a special challenge.  As a result, skeins 1 – 3 are finer weight (i.e. higher grist) than 4 & 5.

What the industrial yarn complex is very good at is giving consistent grist even between lots.  And then there is my handspun sweater quantity (SQ) that we can follow Diane Varney & call a “coordinated yarn.”  Her galley in “Spinning Designer Yarns”, 2003, p. 22 states:

Coordinated yarns come from spinning wheels not mills.

The text says how I ultimately resolved my issue:

Spin different sizes of yarn to be used in different parts of a garment, or in coordinating separates.  For a bulky sweater, a lighter yarn may provide a more supple and comfortable ribbing.

The all-in number of 1,400 yards per pound is on the light-weight end of a DK mill-spun yarn.  For a chart of yarn weights, grists, knit uses scroll through “Calculating Fibre Quantities for Spinning” by Felicia Lo here.

Botanical colors Indigo Shibori Kit photo by irieknit

How a plan solidifies – Indigo!

The yarn found its voice last summer when the Botanical Colors 1-2-3 indigo vat recipe (adapted from Michel Garcia) not only dyed all of my Orlando mohair bouclé but still had legs.

Heya, Polwarth!

Wet freshly dyed indigo handspun Polwarth skeins suspended on wood rod over chair with dye pot and mixing stick

Seriously thrilling first indigo dye day here

This was when I settled the question – there would be no separation; I had an indigo handspun SQ for sure.

You see a shift in grist – what does this mean for a knitted garment?

When hoping to knit with any non-standard yarn, I start by looking for a suitable pattern that will flex.  As June Hemmons Hiat writes in Chapter 23 on Stitch Gauge:

Some projects require greater precision for a good fit, while with others you can take a more relaxed approach… (“The Principles of Knitting – Methods and Techniques of Hand Knitting”, 2012, p. 455)

The Vodka Lemonade cardigan has helpful notes on yarn character, and shouts ‘a more relaxed approach’.  Over time, I have enjoyed knitting patterns from designers who also spin well.  Even if the pattern itself features mill-spun, there is typically more attention paid to communicating about yarn choice.  If a project database is accessible, a quick search using “handspun yarn” can also round out the information, offer inspiration.  Many spinners work harder to shed light on the creative process in their notes.  Handspun garments are rarely featured FOs on selling pages but information gathers slowly in the database itself.

Here the mill-spun given as the design sample is 1,100 yards Zen Yarn Garden Serenity DK for a 38″ bust size with ¾ length sleeves.  Each skein is around 250 yards/ 100g or 1,100 yards per pound standard DK-weight.

With more handspun also with a higher grist, I have been able to extend the sleeve length (yes, winter is coming) & to knit the body straight with no waist shaping.  Polwarth is soft, has bounce & drape so is a good choice for a next-to-the-skin garment.

Gauge is a snapshot

Leaving the standard consistent grist market, I swatched a first (thinner) yarn.  The substitution stuck but one thing my snapshot swatch is not going to safely do for my knitting is where The Principles of Knitting advises next:

Information obtained from a swatch can also be used to calculate how much yarn you will need if you are designing something, or want to substitute a different yarn for the one called for in a pattern.

It’s possible to swatch within your handspun SQ.  I will leave that intensity for a heirloom knit (or still not!).

The pattern sample yarn has 10% cashmere & 90% merino adding plumpness to the stockinette fabric with US#5/ 3.75mm needles.  A suggested substitute that I know well is far less plump, drapey Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool.  The handspun Polwarth stitches ease when washed, blocked.

Knitting in progress of handspun Polwarth 2-ply indigo dyed wool for cardigan

The single swatch got gauge nicely down 2 needle sizes to 3.25 mm.  How I arranged the skeins was to use the lighter-weight yarn in the cardigan’s body, heavier-weight yarn for warm sleeves.

Getting real with the limits of my swatch, I like that this still-on-the-needles cardigan seems organically swingy & light.  We do still need to read the pattern well, and this is where I think Kate Atherley’s article “On Yarn Substitutions,” here, is helpful:

After all, there are lots of yarns that are called Worsted, but there’s a lot of variance in how thick they are, and how they knit up. Same for Fingering, DK, etc. A yarn weight name is a category, it’s not precise enough on its own for yarn selection. (And those category numbers? Same thing – they get you in the right section of the yarn shop, that’s it! They’re ranges.) The stockinette gauge is what’s used on the yarn label, so that’s how you can identify more precisely what to buy.

The spinner is just only reading from that industrial wool complex & not still within it.  They take the range, gauge information & still keep an eye out for variance within the handspun lot.

What happened?  At the top of the sleeve, I weighed 87 g for each sleeve & measured as I went.  Now at the cuff of sleeve 1, around 48 g is used.  The stitch gauge is constant.  I marked each sleeve increase in case I needed to rip back.

For Designers, Technical Editors

After many sweater pattern searches (and flops) for other handspun in my stash, I ask that you consider adding these points in your pattern landing space.  If you are able to contribute longer articles, interviews, texts there is a need for spotlights on the creative process details as well.

  1. Materials specifications, including put-up & fibre content.  Where you know yarn structure this would be very helpful as well, e.g. conventional plied yarns (single or how many?), chainette, cable, core-spun, etc.  Yarn companies as a general rule give scanty clues about the structure of their bases.  Journalism, texts that focus on yarn manufacturing trends seem to be on the decline.  Your insider knowledge as a design professional is valuable.
  2. Yarn notes, texture suggestions.  Kate Atherley articulates this point very well in On Yarn Substitutions, linked above.
  3. Yardage requirements within the size range.  My last pattern purchase is Heverly Cardigan by Julia Farwell-Clay.  It is a one-yarn fingering-weight design.  The landing page broke out yardage per size, and this was critical to my purchase.  The last 350 yard yarn package spans 3 sizes, including mine in the middle!  Yarn combinations are especially difficult to eyeball when use shifts through a yoke, shawl construction and for borders.

Please understand that gauge is a limited tool at best when substituting off-market yarns because sometimes Life Happens, and also because spinners can do wonderful things with materials not available to conventional knitters.

Professionals have voiced strong opinions about customer skills (lack thereof), hand-holding.  However, spinners who knit are expanding the tent beyond the mills, are able to add value themselves.  Adding information diversifies your customer base, and is not hand-holding.  Selma Miriam’s 1989 experience speaks to the craft’s possibilities:

She purchased handspun yarns for the first time when she couldn’t find soft, fine commercial yarns with which to make lace shawls and scarves, and then almost immediately decided that she had to learn to spin herself.  “I had never knit with yarn that felt so good, alive, and beautiful in my hands,” she recalls.  With a year she had… purchased a wheel and taught herself to use it… (“America Knits“, Melanie Falick, 1996, p. 50)

Handspun garments are sadly not always well-regarded even within spinning communities.  Any that I have made have aged well, drawn me forward.  A stalled project is out and in search of a solution as I type.  These are barriers that can be eased, attitudes that can shift.

Indigo fructose dye kit in plastic zip bag from The Yarn Tree picture by irieknit

Indigo has my attention now

With luck, I will have an indigo fructose vat from The Yarn Tree’s kit to start new exploration & keep that puppy fed.


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Summer Shetland fleece, and afterword

At the end of last September, I washed a beautiful Shetland ewe fleece.  It is from Willow Farm, and was my first (run-don’t-walk) purchase at the 2018 Woodstock Fleece Festival.

Raw brown Shetland ewe fleece on ceramic tile with male Tuxedo cat inching closer

Melly cat approves of my initiative and inches closer.

Willow Farm is a great spinner’s flock.  After the joys of working with Shepherdess Jocelyn’s Romney ram fleece 10 years ago, I also loved an Icelandic ewe’s raw wool.  They do also carry mill-prep but these are lovely fleeces too.

Drying brown Shetland wool locks on pet crate with Tuxedo cat inside on a pet bed

We like the drying part too

Taking a break:  hand cards

This week I was able to admit something to myself.  The other fibre prep in progress was actually not.  With draining days, busy house, etc., I was not moving well on the Olde English Babydoll Southdown locks.

This project was last featured on TKK here.  It was going along but in short bursts.

From Olivia’s Babydoll Southdown, January 2020

The devil is in the decision fatigue.

Flick locks ⇒ hand cards ⇒ rolags ⇒ bring out the antique wheel + spinning chair from a corner ⇒ spin happy ⇒ wind-off (repeat) ⇒ {major gap} ply; cable-ply.

Melvin saw the {major gap} part as magical.  We had words (again), and I had to confess it was maybe too slow now at around 262 yards.

Tuxedo cat sleeping on Olde English Babydoll Southdown wool locks from cotton pillowcase

Sometimes Melvin makes a good point.

Lovely cabled yarn but that’s intense even for me.

Luckily, I had fairly recently given myself the gift of a new spinning space in the house.  That’s key.

Watson Martha spinning wheel and chair with handwoven mohair wool indigo dyed boucle throw and cushions in bay window

Elbow room if not blissfully quiet

The plus for everyone else is less spinning equipment in a room that we all use the most.  More importantly, I am using the space!

Enter the pillowcase of Shetland locks

As the fog of What to Do in Ty’s quiet time lifted this Monday, I figured out a way to leverage new space + enjoy the Shetland fleece responsibly.

Clean brown Shetland wool locks charged on Meck peasant Russian style paddle combs

Aha! Meck peasant combs!

A plant stand is re-purposed for the oh so dusty peasant (Russian style paddle) combs by John A. Meck.  There is not much VM, and I am not using the flicker at all.

Now, I can stop typing so much, and show the happy outcome of this week as it happened:

Combed brown Shetland wool top in bamboo box, wool lock and Tabachek diz on tiled side table

Comb charged twice = 4 lengths of Shetland top

A quick pivot to the Watson Martha spinning wheel, and then:

Handspun Shetland wool on Watson Martha spinning wheel in butternut wood by irieknit

As short as quiet time and sweet

The 2-ply sample shows the variation of the prep & has bounce.

Small twisted skein of handspun combed Shetland wool top on side plate with ceramic sheep mug

Sweet!

This seems like a good plan.  With 4 lengths of top in each ply, yield is approx 39 yards.

Afterword on the last post

Shortly after pressing publish on Friday, I saw more about the Ravelry rebrand, site accessibility.

If you are farther behind these discussions, Ravelry designer @ktb38 has given her/their side of Cassidy’s now deleted tweet on Instagram, Twitter.  I am not following closely but am engaged. 

Secondly, the established searchable, open forum ‘For the Love of Ravelry’ listed in the FAQs as “the place to ask or comment about site information updates and spread love,” is now entirely (and tersely) closed to this topic.  Users are directed to a private in-site email channel. 

Potted yellow hibiscus bloom with thyme

Hibiscus is thriving

The upshot for TKK is that I will aim to give more detail here as needed.  Posts may get swamped again – in fact, they probably will – but an effort will be made to not assume the audience is able to access this user-driven resource. 

If credit is due then until solutions are found, I will add content warnings for links, etc. going forward.   

 


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Stacks in life pandemic

Huge stretch of a gap between posts, and this in the 10th anniversary, Dear Blog.  In winter as we started to see the benefit of folding new supports in with the old, I opened a first IG account.  This is how I first discovered the story of Ravelry having a new look.

We had been in the thick of it as I last posted, and at the end of November we also added a puppy named Spark to our family.  Spark is a cross called a Double Doodle, and he is almost 11 months old now.  The growth spurts are a running joke and who knows how much growing into his paws we are still looking at?

A sometimes vocal stack of joy

Spark has been to a first level of training, and some fun nights of puppy social learning.  He is Ty’s first dog, and everyone is thrilled to see the fun they get up to.  This is the sparkliest Sparky (many more nick-names are in rotation but I will spare you), very wet & challenging winter and all.

Double doodle puppy holding leash remnant in his mouth

Meet Spark. He likes to retrieve things.

Chewing has gone from teething to serious business.  He is after all Labradoodle x Goldendoodle.  One stack of trouble was how put out Mel cat truly was by this invasion.  They now get along but there are sore points… What do you mean this pup gets all the treats?  Wait, why is that puss on the counter/dining table/ soft chewable furniture?

Double doodle puppy looking up with red rainbow paw woven leash

Baby Spark back in January when the leash was in one piece

In general, Spark is enthusiastic about moving humans towards water sources.  He also has a passion for dandelions, and other growing things flora and/or fauna.  I soon worked out that we both need for me to comb his double coat & that should always end in chest scritches.

He is in short a joy.  Not everyone gets that would be self-care but for us it truly has been through the pandemic.  You kind-of need to walk this one.

Double doodle puppy on a blue leather leash in Ontario creek on a sunny day

A Spark that likes to make a splash back & forth

As life got more complex including for raw emotion, I had scaled-back my online volunteer work, social media.  Adding a new account was a compromise and has helped me to post on a lower key, re-connect.

Stack with misgivings, books of new learning

In May, I felt ready to resume team work in a Ravelry group.  It was good to be back except a family COVID-19 illness and other issues came up, de-railed.

Cotton small zippered print Ravelry.com pouch with names of sheep breeds arranged to form a sheep-shaped image.

It is now over a month since Ravelry rolled-out their changes to the site, branding.  I have listened from outside of the site, engaged as I could saying that accessibility matters.

Colour and weave gamp design by Deb Essen on irieknit's Schacht Mighty Wolf loom

School’s out, let’s weave!

I also opened my loom for the first time in 6 months after the hills & valleys that were Grade 2 through in-school then distance learning.  This is Deb Essen’s colour & weave gamp in 3/2 mercerized cotton.

While listening, transitioning our 8 year old, and getting back to organizing for myself too, I have thought a lot about inclusion.  Even well-meaning neurotypical adults (therapy gatekeepers included) can misunderstand the true impact of policies, the systems they introduce or maintain.  Learning has come through reading, always reading and podcasts around our constellation of needs.  It’s a big part of how I deal.

Yesterday, I saw a screenshot of a tweet for the first time.  The now-deleted post is by Ravelry co-owner, Cassidy.  It exists; I am not linking.  The post refers to an advocate/ally for accessibility.  This unnamed individual is essentially called a multiple flier with the lies, and that this is a best-ever July in the site’s pattern sales gets asserted.  The assertion is absent from today’s Ravelry.com updates post.

The unnamed advocate/ally is presumably lobbying for post-update communication & change to assist those suffering true impact now or later.  This is how I read some raising pattern sales on Twitter although IG is the focus of this deleted tweet.  No decision-maker in a system takes kindly to a lay person checking, balancing for pat accommodations rolled-out.  It would be helpful if the phases were defined somehow in non-technical language or scheduled.  As is a month in, the process seems opaque.

Handknit blue socks in broken ribbing pattern knitted by irieknit

Not matching sock toes is okay too

To be clear, this blog, TKK has remained a one woman amateur project.  Still no affiliates, paid advertising, agreements or tip jars here or elsewhere.  My Ravelry profile does link to new updates as does WordPress, and I manually post a shortlink reliably via single tweet.  There is a small group of readers who navigate through Ravlery.  The benefits as a user, blogger are real but as yet not monetized, and I am 1 in 9 million users.  The Ravelry team is appreciated up to this point but not personally known to me.

This new, fairly consuming checks & balances work of mine was in a non-commercial setting with a group of professionals crossing systems.  It was met with snide comments, we were “crazy” to get a puppy, and even more cutting remarks followed.  It is upsetting on the receiving end because inaction really does suck in crisis with power not in your favour.  One can always walk, right?  Well, often with an impact there too.

The work is hard, and the book that explained edge states, practical middle ways is “Standing at the Edge” by Joan Halifax.

Backlash, account scrubbing by Cassidy are frankly surprising.  As one Rav Pro account holder that I follow said simply, “WOW.”  The messaging does not inspire confidence about important calls for post-update changes.  That a majority of users who find the site functional are carrying-on touches none of the true impact on those excluded for various reasons.  In addition, today’s update forced me to log into the site – others were in the blog.  I continue to hope that changes are implemented.

Stack of plans, all-ears listening

Kundert top-whorl drop spindle and hand-combed grey Romney wool top in plastic bag on a table

First fleece; first spindle

It’s hard to see what you haven’t seen & that you play a part in making that better.  ⇒ Bertice Berry, Ph.D., July 24, 2020, IGtv

What I have seen of othering, intersectionality was not obvious to me in my personal work even 10 months ago.  I may have found the texts as a good reader far from most of my close supports but would I have followed footnotes?  No, that was hard to see as Dr. Berry notes.

The pressures as a caregiver during this pandemic have also shaped what I am able to see.  How I am able to integrate and if there are no deeper complications where I play the part will come.

Handspun skein of Southdown blended with Silk yarn in a tray with metal background and wooden frame

Socks-to-be:  Southdown/Silk spun on my spindles

Accepting that human variations exist & working to remove barriers is both necessary, easier said than done.

 


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In the thick of it

Life this year has continued to come at us fast.  The past quarter alone has included loss, grief, so many appointments, learning & back in school teamwork.  There are new welcome supports & progress but it’s been a lot.

Early fall trees with heart-shaped patch of blue morning sky

Relieving the strain

One plus of fall is that I am taking my walks again after morning drop-off on school days.  We are now facing a strike that will close the doors as of tomorrow morning.

The work-to-rule this past week was fairly brutal, and I hope that the parties negotiate a settlement very soon.

Bee pollinating Goldenrod in morning walk

Goldenrod blooms and good morning, Bee

The busy times included trips home to Jamaica – one very short for a funeral.  My Mom just spent her first birthday after retirement with us last month.  The biggest summer project was to weave her a throw as a retirement gift.

Best Planning is Asking First

There was a very specific idea wrapped up in Mom’s mind when she said the word, “throw.”

Weaving yarn in Made in America white Rayon Chain, Harrisville Shetland poppy and one ball of Cushendale mohair

Yarn choice with lots of consultation

Here is how we got to a 34.5″ wide warp of Harrisville Shetland in Poppy #65 plain weave with a cone of white Rayon chain from Made in America:

  1. Q:  Handspun shawl-shape because I love you!  Mom’s A: That sounds too narrow.  Can you make it wider?
  2. Q:  Wider cool, I can do your first initials in twill!  A:  Hmm, that is not exactly a cushy throw but flat right?
  3. Q:  Wow, I found the cushiest!  It’s mohair bouclé and the online classes told me how to weave with it!  A:  Mohair sounds very hot, Lara.

At each stage, N got the brunt of my But I Did a Weave Plan frustrations.  He’s a champ.

Handweaving wool and rayon chain throw on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit

Weaving is a happy place

Not shown here is the LeClerc temple that I used during weaving.  The weft chain yarn is 8 ppi.  The warp is threaded straight draw on 4 shafts.

Handwoven throw in wool and rayon chain yarns by irieknit

Hand-delivered to Mom with love, the finished throw!

The loom still has our home throw warped, and ready for weaving.  The luxury of Orlando mohair bouclé came home to me from a weaver’s destash, and I then did a thing.

Orlando boucle weaving yarn

Undyed Orlando boucle yarn

A very first indigo dye day at our house!  The socks were a flourish for Ty who was not fully on board until he saw this happening.

Natural dye with indigo vat mohair boucle yarn and cotton socks

Indigo you exceeded my expectations

Packs some insight

It’s still a season of wrapping our heads around a new paradigm, research and oh my word the appointments.  None of my knitting has led to sweet finishes… in a good little while.  I seem to be frogging more often, and casting-off far less.  That’s okay.

Kid sock knitting in progress by irieknit and Stitched by JessaLu bucket bag

To be Reknitted curse

Nobody is walking around with cold feet just because I made this first sock too tight.  It will just have to be re-done.

Ball of handspun Shetland wool yarn by irieknit

Wound and now on the needles

The idea of a light Aestlight shawl in this Shetland wool handspun was my September pause from serious things.  It hit a snag in the Bird’s Eye lace border that has me carefully using a lifeline now.  I am short on yardage, and a second yarn will help finish.

A sock for me & a sock for N are on the back burner with handspun sweater ambitions.  All in the fullness of time, I suppose.

Seven year old's first weaving cotton multi-coloured potholder

Ty’s first potholder! Can you see the H?

Now is a time of reflection not speaking out or even following trends.  When I post it may be focused on the finished projects, and how they fit with the new lessons.

Ty’s potholder is a bright spot.  He loved choosing the loops.

Learning to weave is a bit like learning to ride a bike or play an instrument:  the more you practice the easier it becomes. Sarah Swett, p. 5, Kids Weaving, 2005

This wasn’t our path to a potholder or other learning.  I am starting to go beyond the typical, “This is seven!” thinking that I hear so frequently in the craft spaces.  The consistent practice advice works well for typical learning & behaviours but cannot work for everyone.

What I am doing is different:  a support for exploration.  We got to stuck points, stepped back & I took out the expectation that Ty was going to do the tighter steps at all.  Now there is a bright spot all arranged by his colour choices.

Homebaked star biscuits

Starry and yum

Another great small loom weaving was this set of 5 mug rugs on the Louet Erica.  Ty’s favourite is the stripey version with Peace Fleece alternating with my aqua handspun Corriedale as weft yarns.

Handweaving mug rug on Louet Erica table loom by irieknit in Peace Fleece and handspun yarn

Experiments in mug rugs = fun!

Here we have sage green 8/4 cotton sett at 8 epi in a 12 dent reed.  I can weave quietly with the family, and Ty really loves to sit in my lap for his turn.  It was 64 ends of cotton warp wound 65″ long.

Coffee cup on handspun weft mug rug woven by irieknit on side table with carved wood turtle and zinc planter

Handspun mug rug in morning action

Each oversize mug rug was woven around 8 ¼” long.  They really set our individual spaces apart at the large, round dining table.  We use them daily.  Why did I feel guilty about this loom?  It’s a very good time-in tool.

 

 


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The practical Tour de Fleece, a plan

We are fresh off a happy-go-lucky Canada Day weekend, and thoughts are finally coming together for the Brussels Grand Départ.

Spinning mohair top on Peruvian turned captive ring low-whorl drop spindle Pushka by irieknit

Summer sidekick: captive ring Peruvian pushka

The Tour de Fleece is a great container for new approaches to stash & tool.  This year Le Tour rides from this Saturday, July 6th – 28th, and celebrates its first century.

In terms of a plan, I have been fairly stuck.  Are you?  Clearing spins was supposed to help, and the shiny new Female Heroes Club braid did but I have still been a little lost and a lot tired.  Then early yesterday in a bored moment of waiting for N, I put this new spin together.  It is just a scrap of mohair top and an under-used captive-ring pushka from Peru.

Fallen logs across creek in morning wooded trail area

In spite of greedy mosquitoes we enjoyed this stop

After our morning walk, I got spinning time with the gentle chak-chak of the ring, and I am moving through the scrap of mohair.  This spindle has a history of 2 great summery parenting spins, and now I am taking it on the Tour either with other scraps or to continue this first undyed Corriedale wool top project.

Handspun Corriedale wool on Peruvian low-whorl captive ring pushka drop spindle and outer-pull ball in small bowl by irieknit

A very nice challenge spin aeons ago

This is a September 2016 spin that I completed quickly while helping with a Spindlers’ group monthly challenge and then folded on.

Handspun skein of 2-ply Corriedale wool by irieknit

Sweet Corriedale balance

Folded so heavily that I did not share this 50 g of fibre turned approx. 226 yards of 2-ply delight.  It was an intense time at home, and I can look back now and admire that skein all the more knowing what I had on my plate as it were.

Handspinning wool blend on Peruvian captive ring pushka drop spindles and plying ball in dish and handwoven twill towel by irieknit

Last of my Ent Batts!

The next & last spin with these spindles was of beautifully hand-carded Ent Batts “Coffee & Cream” through summer 2017.

Two handspun skeins from Ent Batts by irieknit in Coffee & Cream handcarded fibre

Coffee & Cream skeins

The 2-ply skeins measure 258 yards, and are still in stash.  This was the last in an incredible run of batt sets that are no longer in production but brought much joy across different spindles.  This ‘Coffee & Cream’ is a blend of Corriedale & Merino wools with soy-silk.

The whimsy factor

Each TdF can use a touch of whimsy, and mine will be thanks to the long percolating flax thoughts.

Homegrown Linen book by Raven Ranson pictured by irieknit

Published by Crowing Hen Farm

Helping to Kickstart Raven Ranson’s book, “Homegrown Linen – transforming flaxseed into fibre,” did not disappoint when I had to place the single flax plant on Canada Day.

Transplanted perennial flax plant

On a whim, “Hello, flax plant.”

It is tucked behind some rampantly self-seeding Black-eyed Susans and has kept on blooming each morning.  I noted the ritual involved in preparing the soil for fibre flax, and had at our very own strong clay with a view to creating this new-to-me word tilth.

We may not be in perfect tilth but I did break every clod, remove all of the stones, give it the best of the compost bin, etc.  It is at the very least encouraged to be showy for the next few weeks.

With no flax preparation tools, growing won’t be my whimsy focus anytime soon but this fibre flax for local linen is where I’d love to land.

Black Cat Farmstead line flax stricks by irieknit

Actual beautiful fibre flax

These 2 stricks of line flax are from the Black Cat Farmstead.  It was grown in Stockholm, WI at both their property & A to Z Produce and Bakery.  I was happy to see that it was processed at the Taproot Fibre Lab, Port Williams, Nova Scotia.

There are still ifs involved in spinning flax but it is on my bucket list.  We are not just heading from a season of stress but into a slew of appointments that will have their own challenges.  A little whimsy won’t hurt.

The rub is having the energy to spin line flax at night, moving everything for the morning.  It is easier now to have wheels out in our living space but narrower project rotation has evolved for a reason.  It may just ultimately be a nod to whimsy but these are the thoughts!

Astilibe blooming on Canada Day 2019 by irieknit

Happy planning!

 


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Weaving the weaving in – Swedish Anna cotton towels

Handwoven cotton Swedish Anna towels by irieknit with yellow hem in 4-shaft crystal twill

Woven with love, hemmed in the fullness of time

The simple idea to keep weaving after the handspun scarf brought the second Joanne Hall designed kit off my shelf & onto the Mighty Wolf’s beams.  One is in our kitchen, and these 2 are shipped to loved ones.

Handwoven Swedish Anna cotton tea towel in 4-shaft Herringbone twill by irieknit as gift

For Keisha and she says that it matches their kitchen

This kit was expertly wound, tied and had a 3×3 cross that cannot be blamed for my threading error in a mid-yellow stripe!  Herringbone over 12 threads, and at 24 ends per inch.

Yellow wildflowers and creek in morning light by irieknit

At the relaxed stage of a walk

Through spring, and now the beginning of summer, I went in for longer-than-usual morning walks.  Life this school year took a very troubling turn, and the walks are after Ty starts his day; while I need to order mine in some peace.

Morning light through a park tree by irieknit

Best light

One right step after another, I began to see the days differently, choose new ways, and wonder why I ever rushed home via the shortcut in the first place.

Three skeins of handspun Masham wool yarn dyed by Sheepy Time Knits and spun by irieknit

Minerva Masham awaits her end use

The spindles’ WIP jar is noticeably clearer now but knits have fallen by the wayside.  These are heavy topics that I feel in my body – something had to give.

Harrisville Designs potholder loom with plain weave in progress

Ty’s first loom dressed with all the colours!

As I set about weaving a retirement gift for Mom (only about 3 design rounds with her!) we have a new weaver in the house.  This is a Harrisville Designs Potholder Loom, and Ty is closing his eyes to choose a loop for each pick to meet his well thought-out warp.

Single flax bloom from potted plant

Flax for the garden

A gem from the local farmer’s market, yesterday:  flax.  If only for the beautiful blooms but I am going to enjoy every second with this single plant!

In keeping with those walks, I am trying new ways of doing things.  It is a watershed year.  The good news is that support is coming.  One professional told me last week that I am ahead of others at the same point.  I scoffed and then took it back, thanking her for a compliment.

The Tour de Fleece is coming up now, and I am riding with Team Spindlers.  It is good to participate again and I will be going gently with myself.

Handdyed fibre by Sheepy Times Knits Female Heroes Club 2019 and Tabachek holly whorl drop spindle

Elizabeth Bennet, I have plans for you

The spindle plying work is all well and good but my Tabachek Holly spindle really does need to see some Female Heroes club love, don’t you think?  The label has the most wonderful run of words together: merino/alpaca/camel/silk.

This and WIPs will round out my Tour plans.  The wheels are also busy but one team is all I can manage this summer.


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Scissors meet handspun – a twill scarf

The year is unfolding in tough & unexpected ways.  As we work hard to adjust, meet these challenges, I have been pressed out of regular posting as just one result.  By Eastertime, I wanted to pivot and weave something beautiful.

Out came Sarah Jordan’s stunning handspun merino/tencel that I won from her summer 2015 Shawl for All knit-along.

Handspun skein of merino/tencel yarn made by Sarah Jordan Fluvial Fibers pic taken by irieknit

Prized! Handspun yarn by Sarah Jordan, PAKnitWit

Four years ago!  The KAL was hosted in Sarah’s Ravelry group, Knit/Wit Designs Fans and this was not just a happy prize but a real honour to have Sarah’s yarn.

Plastic knitting ball winder with handspun merino/tencel yarn spun by Sarah Jordan and pic by irieknit

Sarah’s yarn on its way to the loom

Close examining with a yarn wrap & Ashenhurst calculation led me to a sett of 16 ends per inch.  Sarah’s yarn is 3,154 yards per pound.  The plan was simple – to warp along plain weave lines for a finer (4,480 YPP) wool weft and weave a 3-shaft point twill structure.

Threading handspun merino/tencel warp on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit

An Easter improvement plan – threading Sarah’s yarn

There was enough to wind a 3-yard long warp, go 14.5″ wide in the reed, and proceed to sample wefts but carefully!

Weaving 3-shaft point twill on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom with handspun merino/tencel warp using Bluster Bay end feed shuttle by irieknit

Can you see me smiling – scarf start!

The weft experiments in the header led me to the 2/16 light grey lambswool from WEBS.  The draft itself is from “Linen Heirlooms” by Constance Gallagher, p. 54 taken from a 19th century linen cloth.

Erica de Ruiter’s voice is what carried me through to using this draft, however:

Three-shaft twills have a better drape than plain weave but their structure is slightly tighter, and they have less take-up than four-shaft twills, thus producing a lighter weight fabric (see “Weaving on 3 Shafts“, page 5).

That was convincing enough for napkins let alone this handspun project, and I was well & sold on the idea.

Finished handspun handwoven 3-shaft point twill Lucea scarf by irieknit

Sheen, drape, pattern YES!

This below is the face of the cloth as I wove it.  After wet finishing the wool weft has receded to the reverse leaving the beautiful warp colourway dominant on one side.

Detail of right side wool/tencel handspun handwoven scarf by irieknit

Pattern shows as texture on right side with warp stripes

The fringe buckled when I finished the scarf before twisting.  Ty strongly suggested that I should not trim the ends.  They are scraggly but soft!

Irieknit wearing new handspun handwoven 3-shaft point twill by Lake Ontario

Weaving selfie smile

One small detail is that I threaded the full 12-end repeats, and this gave double shaft 1 ends that I wove in the same way (tromp as writ).  It modifies the twill to a little basket, and that probably has helped the drape.  It gave the weaving a good rhythm for this small motif.

Cutting Sarah’s yarn was harder than cutting mine but I am glad that I braved the process!

Life goals

Inn on the Twenty, Jordan, Ontario

Weekend before last, N & Ty took me to visit the Fibre Garden in Jordan, Ontario.  After lunch at the local cafe, I fell in love with the Inn on the Twenty’s window boxes.

Spinning is getting a lot of love right now – the tv-room is crowded with my wheels & spindle projects are also moving forward.  The Falkland wool top that I got from the Fibre Garden is already improved with Logwood.  The kitchen is a crowded mess but purple!

Two dyed braids of Falkland wool top with Logwood by irieknit

Logwood dyed combed Falkland wool top

The darker purple fibre will hopefully play well with my recently (May 3rd) finished sequence of Blink from the 2019 Female Heroes Fiber Club + Paint It Black by Sheepy Time Knits.

3-ply handspun Falkland wool yarn dyed by Sheepy Time Knits spun by irieknit

Blink met Paint It Black for a sweater spin (3-ply)

Mandie’s club continues to delight.  That I also got to cook-up Logwood dye liquor is a wonderful bonus!

Forsythia blooming in Ontario spring

Early spring Forsythia

Spinning, weaving, even prep work is happening thanks to walks that I have started to take after dropping Ty off at school.  There’s been fatigue, crowded thoughts, and the walks help a treat.

Hand prepared Olde English Babydoll Southdown wool rolags and 4-strand cable handspun by irieknit

Four-strand cable creation with Babydoll Southdown wool

Should my mojo for sharing ‘impossible yarn’ production that takes place around here, I would like to explain about this ongoing 4-strand cable idea from the Olde English Babydoll Southdown fleece.

For now we have these rolags that were a delight to spin against prevailing ideas that I hear being (wrongly, strongly & ever so cutely) offered to new spinners as our placeholder.

 


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Handspun hello – big finishes

Fresh out of the blocking pins is my Lacymmetry shawl reveal.  It’s come through an antique flax wheel, madder dye bath, and knitting with 4 posts here on the Knit Knack, phew!

Handspun knitted lace asymmetrical triangle shawl Lacymmetry in BFL/silk yarn dyed with madder by irieknit

Lace selfie

Wireless headphones on during Ty’s ‘quiet time,’ and I was smiling along to Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn’s music.  More solid FO pictures may yet happen but this was a busy weekend and now we are getting our roof replaced.

Handspun asymmetrical triangle knitted lace Lacymmetry shawl in BFL/Silk madder dye by irieknit

Warm but light BFL/silk knitted lace shawl

The dots of shine in the larger lace holes (double yarnovers) are the gold 8/2 Miyuki beads that I mentioned in my post last month.  In this design they are on 1 side of the asymmetrical triangle.

While still pinning the wet shawl on my mats, Ty came in, approved & added, “… it’s just like a pizza slice!”  Kiddo sees negative space as pattern!

The beads are the cheese, and the big holes are the pepperoni.

Ty, age 7

Project is forever to be a.k.a. irieknit’s Handspun Lacymmetry aka Pizza Slice shawl.

Blocking handspun BFL/Silk knitted lace triangular Lacymmetry shawl madder dyed by irieknit

Creative licence says it’s a wearable pizza slice and who are we to argue?

In the last beading stitch, I used a ceramic starfish.  It is pink and sits to the upper left of this image.

Blocking finished handspun Lacymmetry BFL/Silk madder dyed shawl by irieknit

Wet blocked for length

It took around 1.5 hours to secure the wet shawl in this hard blocking.  The triangle type is different from the pattern sample for 2 reasons.  First, I ran out of yarn with more than the recommended stitches remaining to the left of my marker.  Those vertical stripes changed things.  Second, I blocked for depth and did not match the pattern’s schematic.

Blocked to this obtuse type of triangle my Lacymmetry is a similar width at 61″ and much deeper at 49.5″ compared to Naomi Parkhurst’s sample.  I used all of my yarn at around 646 yards.  The pattern sample uses less at 610 yards.

Detail of blocking beaded handspun knitted lace triangle Lacymmetry shawl by irieknit in madder dyed BFL/Silk

A shimmer of gold beads, why not?

Working with one-of-a-kind handspun also changed the ‘pepperoni’ side’s edge.  In the grips of yarn chicken, I did a basic cast-off.  It is straight and not scalloped as a result.

Handknit love: a handspun baby gift

A little over a half of the Mother of Dragons BFL yarn (mid-September 2018 TKK post in link) is for a bouncing baby boy cousin.

Handspun handknit Baby Surprise Jacket in Blue Faced Leicester yarn by irieknit

Stormborn Baby Surprise Jacket in handspun BFL

With 3.5 mm needles, I had 5 stitches per 1″ of garter.  It was a big decision to use this yarn.  Knitting a gift is a personal dicey affair for me the knitter with millspun let alone handspun yarn.

Back of handspun handknit Baby Surprise Jacket in BFL wool by irieknit

All of the ideas were good here. Handspinning win!

The subtle shift of the blues in Mandie’s colourway that I spun as a 3-ply yarn more than convinced me that this was a great use of my yarn.  The new parents of baby E are thrilled but maybe on less geeky grounds!

Knits mostly but also some handwoven for babies/ kids has spanned the last decade here.  Responses are all over the map, and I found there is nothing for it but to make them when prompted to make.  Four days of avid knitting, more to get a card + cute HBC mitts for these US-based folks, packaging, pictures together and all for a baby you wish dearly to outgrow the jacket.  It’s bananas!

When the parents weren’t really staying in your circle anyway (e.g. last December kid’s wool hat effort, sigh) the heart of it is that a little person has value added in the hands to use for that time of their childhood.  If not lost & preserved for the memory of it as well.  That’s the point.  You hope for more but know it’s fleeting at best.

Handspinning Zwartables wool top on Jenkins Lark Turkish-style spindle by irieknit

Zwartables wool gracing the Lark Turkish-style Jenkins spindle

Let go; make more!

 

 

 


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Pulling-up Socks and Closing the Fell

To The Knit Knack Blog’s readers and friends:

You too may be feeling a dash of strain sprinkled with sleep deprivation, and sometime fist-shaking.  On a surprisingly mild December day that is also quiet enough for thinking, I have some admin good news & project successes to share.  First the…

Good admin news

In a series of steps this year we have moved more surely towards continuing to create the blog in 2019.  The latest step is to keep working with the photography mostly in Flickr for now.  We were a free member with over 1,000 photos.  Imagine the chill on reading:

Free members with more than 1,000 photos or videos uploaded to Flickr will no longer be able to upload new content after Tuesday, January 8, 2019 unless they upgrade to Pro. After February 5, 2019, free accounts that contain over 1,000 photos or videos will have content deleted — starting from oldest to newest date uploaded — to meet the new limit.

Did I want the grief of meeting the new limit?  Dear readers, I did not.  We upgraded and I am calling it a Christmas present to myself & my 1,422 all rights reserved photos.  Not a final decision by any means but rather a step into the new year.

We have a big anniversary coming… this next March, TKK turns 10 years old!  Possibly the only thing that has not changed about TKK since 2009 is the intention.  It’s simple really, I build posts on work done.  A tidy idea with no room for affiliates, sponsors or senders of swag.  Just right here in the scary & unpaid open, I put out what’s the most compelling.

TKK is a blog about adult learning that I started as a very unlikely, very new knitter.  In some ways it has come full circle – I do know my way around & am less of a novice even with weaving but find myself at home in the same way that I used to be at paid employment… with less community than I would like, and frankly, stressed.

This morning, I started listening to the latest “On Being” Podcast show.  Krista Tippett interviews her friend, Dr. Pauline Boss who floored me when she said:

The treatment of sadness is connection.

Dr. Boss’ area of work is ambiguous loss, and I will be going back eagerly to hear the rest of the uncut interview.  The admin news does allow TKK to go forward with the idea of connecting outside the walled craft gardens.  Let’s see where it takes us.

Pulling-up my handspun socks!

What a good feeling to have finished the Strie Cheviot wool socks this Sunday!  The designer is Lara Neel.

New handknit handspun Cheviot wool socks in Strie top-down pattern

Ever so snug!

These socks were knit pretty evenly split between 2 months this fall.  The foot soles are knit through the back loop (i.e. crossing the knit stitches).  The 2-ply Cheviot yarn is Z-twist direction, and was slightly loose knit through the front loop.

Handknit handspun Cheviot wool sock by irieknit

Points out where I briefly knit as usual in the first sock

For a few rounds on the first sock, I forgot the ktbl plan.  That band shows clearly in the sock – do you see the slight pucker?

New handknit handspun Cheviot wool socks in Strie pattern by irieknit

So, so good! That new sock feeling

The gentle flashing in the handspun was fun to watch unfold on the needles, and I am in love with the finished socks.  Wearing them has put a spring in my step!

Closing the Fell

Nothing is uncomplicated about weaving a week before family visits for Christmas.  If you are going to do that in the guest room then this a good kind of project to choose.

Weaving basket and plain weave baby blanket on Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit in cotton

Ever so sweet baby blanket

The sage 8/4 cotton is 2 ends x 2 picks plain weave, and the Monte Cristo cotton bouclé is 2 x 2 common basket weave.

Blooming phalaenopsis orchid by irieknit

After pausing to water the orchids, yesterday morning, I sat at the loom bench as much as possible.  The short warp is finished!

Handweaving hem for cotton boucle baby blanket in plain and basket weave on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit

Wow that was quick – hemmed-stitching!

The basket weave took-up more than I expected over the 2.5 yard warp, and it will be a smaller size baby blanket.  Good thing I am sending it home for the newborn phase!

As I threw the shuttles, I had time to think both about weaving & a knitted olive branch that I mailed mid-week.

Handknit cabled hat for child by irieknit and picture book

Happy birthday

This is a 20″ circumference (small) Téamh hat designed by Jennifer Tepper Heverly for a turning-six-this-week girl.  As Jennifer explains in her pattern, “téamh” is Irish Gaelic for “warming.”  It’s been sent in an icing of relations, and is not her first FO off my needles.  The yarn here is Cascade 220 Heathers, knit on 3.5 mm needles.

One hat led to another!

Handknit cabled child's hat by irieknit

For a very happy kiddo

Both versions modified the pattern from a garter texture to the traditional reverse stockinette.  I also kept the same needle-size for a snug fit.

Handknit cabled hat for child by irieknit in Sheepy Time Knits yarn

Ears are covered!

The yarn is “Glittering Caves” MCN worsted by Sheepy Time Knits.  Now that this hat has T’s enthusiastic up-take, I have learned more about what’s important in a hat for him:

  • Covers the ears;
  • Warm but not with a folded brim because those are weird;
  • Dyed-in-the-wool colour; and super-importantly
  • Pom-pom is awesome.

Who knew?!?

Handspun BFLxShetland knitted monster toy by irieknit

Also meets with T’s approval – handspun Monster

This mid-September start on a Lloyd the Tall Monster by Rebecca Danger (“Knit a Monster Nursery”, p. 57) sat in pieces for oh, a month.  The yarn is my handspun BFLxShetland 3-ply knit on 3.25 mm double point needles.

With craft gifts almost all given, I am hoping to work up a garment for me soon.  As I sat at my loom this week, I weighed a thought.  Be it resolved to weave more in 2019?  That is the question.  Carving time for weaving = sacrificing other more established patterns.  It may well be time to do that because weaving feels like a barrel of potential.


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Spins into November – a tale of 2 wheelspun Shetland yarns

In my last post I wrote about spinning a 2nd Shetland wool top from another dyer.  The spinning tools were the same & the process varied only very little.  As I saw during spinning, yes, the yarns proved to be so, so different.

Now that they are finished, I wanted to come back & compare them.

Handspun handdyed Shetland wool top yarns by irieknit

Tale of 2 Shetland wool spins

Furiosa from Sheepy Time Knits’ Female Heroes Club is on the left.  Its 2 skeins weigh 115 g, and are around 187 yards (748 yards per pound).  The colourway shifted gently, and as a conventional 3-ply lilacs and reds shoot through the darker tones.  There is depth to the 3-ply and the colours never muddied.  I suspect that Mandie kept her painting to the length of the Shetland staples but won’t be asking her to spill her trade secrets!

There was some but not very much kemp in this braid.  How long to wind-off the wheel? 8 days.

Handspun handdyed Shetland wool top yarns by irieknit

Autumn Wedding colourway (Sheepspot), foreground

The Autumn Wedding from Sheepspot at Woodstock was lighter at 104 g.  The handspun yarn measures around 179 yards (1,925 yards per pound).

These were both quick spins, and again I didn’t analyse this fibre’s painting sequence.  This braid had 4 colours in a non-repeating pattern with different lengths between the 4 colours.  In other words, purple was shorter than pink, and there were strong ochre & orange runs as well.  The 3-ply from this braid is also complex but with strong, warm colours.  I will use this handspun in a separate project and not paired with Furiosa.

There was a fair bit of kemp, and the yarn is 5 g lighter than the braid was after the picking out.  How long to wind-off the wheel?  4 days.

The minor difference

To recap the method, both braids were spun on Wee Peggy, plied on Martha (Watson) spinning wheels with the same set-ups.  I divided each in thirds by measuring length, and fished out kemp before spinning.  It was a worsted-style spin across the full width of top in the same order of thirds, 1-2-3 order.

It diverged only in Autumn Wedding when the last ¹⁄3 proved heavier by approx. 11 g.  How I handled that was to stop, weigh, and add the last 5 g of hot pink to the 1st bobbin.  The up-shot is that last-dyed from section no. 3 walked up to section no. 1.  It’s a subtle shift but gets noted as enhancing what we spinners call a barber-pole effect.  It was still uneven but that’s the 2nd skein, 30 yards.

This is just one approach for colour in spinning:  keeping an open mind for what the dyer has created.  Next to each other but not a pair, the new handspun Shetland yarns are:

  1. a subtle, cool, heathery  version with a heavy worsted-weight grist; and
  2.  a bold, warm, multicoloured version with a light sport-weight grist.

A side-note – do not pass over a mill-prepped dyed Shetland if there’s some kemp.  You can easily pick it out, still have a quick spin, and avoid (gah) scratchy (sometimes called rustic) handspun skeins… just ditch that kemp!

Handspun yarns and knitting Drachenfels Shawl by irieknit

Testing handspun yarn choices, Drachenfels Shawl

There are times when combining handspun yarns can seem like a good idea only for it to be you know, not.  My winter 2017 Drachenfels shawl has the (front-to-back) Targhee, Blue Faced Leicester & I substituted a Columbia for that beaded mohair/wool skein.  By fall 2017 it worked so well with Romney for my Starry Stripes Handspun Vest.

Handspun Romney wool with beaded mohair/wool handspun yarn for knitted vest by irieknit

Made a great handspun vest

The details are not important.  This time, I already know that these Shetland yarns may never pair well for me.  That’s okay!  I am already scheming for the new skeins to be Pierogi Slipper Socks by Sarah Jordan and/or a tea cosy.  Both feet & steeped tea cry out for these warm, cheerful colours!

For now the 2 wheels are staying empty for a bit.  Not only am I still knitting the 2 handspun projects but there’s a nicely developed warp plan for Swedish lace 2-tone napkins to grace our home.