The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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Getting more patient: up-noting my weaving, and cotton

The Elin towels from my last post were fully finished by the start of June.  This was the last daylight they have seen!

Handwoven cottolin kitchen towels Elin kit from the loom of irieknit

Four handwoven Elin towels – cottolin; 8-shaft broken twill

The gaps in attending to weaving, writing, and the old craft approaches have been wearing on me.  This cliché assumption all spinners hear now has hit a new chord:

You must be very patient!

My stock response of no and pivoting to the true family trait of stubbornness no longer sounds even technically correct.  There is a new need to cultivate patience.  Life is catching me behind my natural pace for new skills and challenge projects.

Sewing hem for cottolin Elin kitchen towels from the loom of irieknit

Hemmed 2 months after weaving

In between cutting this warp from the loom, and finishing steps, I learned that a good acquaintance who lives near to us was seriously ill.  We were high school friends, and she had moved to Canada before we did.  Even with overlaps in circles at home, I only realized at the end of April that she had been in hospital for most of winter.  This arc of being able to rise to the occasion has been fulfilling in many ways.  It has also shown the upper-limit of my time and energy is not that far from resting state.

With the new awareness of how slim my margins truly are (as opposed to wishful thinking), I will focus on sustaining my home practice.  This meant answering with a no thank you for a teaching opportunity.  It’s a new and frankly unexpected patience.

Andean low-whorl drop spindle with Corriedale wool

Teaching T to spin with an Andean Pushka!

It has meant that I could participate in the Tour de Fleece even as it crossed both of our mothers visiting this summer.  The guest bed does close my loom… Patience is a virtue, right?  That too passed, and the Mighty Wolf breathes again.  This dug into my brain a little – spring sampling and all – and is a set of 2 rosepath combination twill baby blankets from a 5 yard warp.

Weaving cotton rosepath 2-colour blankets by irieknit

Colour and weave (and treadling mistake) rosepath plus in 8/4 cotton

This is the first with the entered colours reversed as weft.  It is a 14-thread repeat, and was a joy to weave.  I used a new Leclerc temple, and have Beam me Up Scotties finally on the cloth beam.  Black lacing is banished forever!

As patience has its limits, I also bought an electric bobbin winder that I used in weaving the 2nd blanket on this warp.

Time for this post is slipping away, and I best get to the cotton spins.  They are the very soul of a patience I never had.  Good thing that I am both stubborn and thrilled to have something meditative for these nights after navigating the unseen special needs of our home life.

Handspinning cotton three ways Atoni rosewood spindle with brown cotton; Takhli with Egyptian cotton slyver; African bead whorl with Egyptian cotton puni

Atoni rosewood spindle with brown cotton; Takhli with Egyptian cotton slyver; African bead whorl with Egyptian cotton puni

The state of these 3 cotton spins has moved since this June 21st picture albeit slowly.  The Rosewood spindle of the Atoni people, East Timor has not changed much & should be wound-off.  The takhli has a 2-year spin of Egyptian cotton top that sits as singles today:

Handspun singles balls by irieknit Egyptian cotton

Hard won 50g of Egyptian cotton top in singles balls

The loose goal is to perhaps use these as weft singles.

Handspun cottons Pima seed, brown cotton seed on Atoni Rosewood spindle from East Timor and African bead whorl spun by irieknit

Pima seeds and singles ball, brown cotton on Atoni spindle, Egyptian cotton puni on African bead whorl

The goals are even more loose with these.  It starts as ideas to spin with new tools, and I let it lead me.  These are closer to my new pace but also to hearing our friend’s advice to parent for the long haul.  None is overblown – we are going to do well if we can.  This summer it meant 1 short day-camp, 2 house guests, no break from the home, and hitting our prime family outings.  Much like blog posting was left undone.  I am trying to embrace both WIPs and the progress that lives in them.

As tiring as this phase has been on different levels it is helping so much.  We can see new things are possible, and add them as we can.  It’s not just short, silly projects as I feared.  It’s also not going at my own way and pace.

Hibiscus flowering by irieknit

End of summer blooms!

 

 


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The absorbing Colour of Water, part 2: from the drawing board

In my last post, I told you about the technical slip & fall of my first attempt in weaving for the Art Gallery of Burlington All Guilds Show.  The show is on through May 24, 2015.

Handwoven original design scarf with handspun yarns by irieknit in crackle weave

The first iteration representing the waters’ confluence at Frenchman’s Cove, Jamaica

It was a fully-formed piece, and I would like to share how the ideas developed.  They are what really motivated me to tie-on for a renewed attempt.

Some are clear rookie mistakes.  I will never forget how it felt to realize where my 3″ of width on the loom had disappeared.  A bolt of understanding, and I checked the reed chart.  Yes!  Right sley (2-2-2-3); wrong reed!  At 15 and not 12 to the inch, I was in maximum twill sett territory.  With heavier wefts it makes for a slightly harsh fabric.

First River by the Sea Scarf crackle weave with handspun yarn

From sandy bank to deeper waters

This first section cued the do-over as soon as I cut the scarf from the loom.  It brought Susan Wilson’s words to life.  In “Weave Classic Crackle & More” she says:

Ground weft color order can make a big difference in the appearance of your design…

The “soft sand” ground weft leaps forward against the other yarns that are darker in colour.  It moves differently in the crackle structure, and the softly spun character also makes it stand out.  It is 50% silk, and the remaining down fibres have a soft halo – 25% buffalo; 25% white cashmere.

River by the Sea Scarf crackle weave with handspun yarnsWith one shore popping from the water, and the other subsumed, I wanted another shot at this representation.  The dye step already gave me the matching sand.  With a better understanding of my colours in the structure, I also set out to shift the grounds to blend the transition areas better.

The up-sides were that my treadle, shuttle & new temple dance was also finally down pat after the 72″ of weaving!

Handspun yarns by irieknit used in the River by the Sea Scarf crackle weave design

Handspun yarns to tell a colour story

The “soft sand” yarn on the right was out, replaced by the skein yarn in front for the 2nd and last attempt.  This now means that all handspun threads were made using spindles.

Even with later challenges, I am happy that I persevered to modify for the design that I wanted.

Our Guild’s Colour of Water Section

In his statement for this show, Chief Curator, Denis Longchamps, says in part:

… the members of the Burlington Handweavers and Spinners explore the multi-faceted aspect of water colour – at first what seems to be transparent and translucent – becomes the turquoise of the Caribbean seas, the muddy brown of some rivers, dark with golden and red reflections at the sunset… while blue seems to be a natural choice for artists…

2015 BHS Colour of Water Juried show crackle weave scarf submission by irieknit

In the exhibit! River by the Sea Scarf – Colours at Frenchman’s Cove

TKK apologies – published prematurely, and have reverted to draft status!

Handwoven and felted pieces in Burlington Handweavers & Spinners Guild 2015 Juried Show The Colour of Water

(l-r) Susan Stasiuk: “Frozen Shores” & “Lagoon”; “Diane Woods: “Harbour Lights;” Saira Jan: “Reflections into the Deep”

Sue’s beaded jacket, “Frozen Shores” is breath-taking.  This was the first grouping that I saw at the show’s opening event, and I am still amazed by the beauty of her piece.  Her two awards by the Juror were well-deserved!

Handwoven scarf installation by Jennifer Earle and woven scarf by Victoria Lynch 2015 All Guilds Show Art Gallery of Burlington

Jennifer Earle: “Mother Ganges”; Victoria Lynch: “Caribbean Sea”

This ceiling-to-floor installation by Jennifer Earle won the Best in Show award.  It represents the river’s flow from source to sea.

Needle felted installation by Jim Thomas in 2015 Art Gallery of Burlington All Guilds Show

Jim Thomas: “Falling Water”, needle felting

The installation of a new “Falling Water” is at the entrance to our guild’s section of the show.  Jim’s placement of colour and sheer exuberance for his work made me smile on the spot.

Still Water handwoven scarf by Marsha Stewart-Walters in 2015 Art Gallery of Burlington All Guilds Show

Show neighbours – Marsha Stewart-Walters: “Still Water.”

Representing the struggle for water sustainability, and her experiences in Africa, Marsha’s scarf has a beautiful mix of fibres, including linen.  She’s my next-door neighbour on this gallery wall with handwoven scarves!

Handwoven pieces in 2015 Burlington Art Gallery All Guilds Show

Handweaving’s range on display (l-r) – Eleanor Roberts: “Childhood Memories – Lake Couchiching; Sparrow Lake”; Margaret Burns: “Duck”; “Fish”; Margaret-Jane Wallace: “Grassy Reef”

That our space in the gallery includes diverse works ranging from functional objects, fibre art to those that use repetition of familiar forms all with reference to the colour of water is fitting with other guilds’ participation.  Although I missed the meeting with its show tour, I’m sure that the feedback has been positive!

The show runs until next Sunday the 24th.  Local friends, I hope that some of you can get out to the AGB for a visit!


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Living a little and crafting a lot – knits, spins and even weaving!

The past month took me home for a sad occasion with family.  It has meant working harder to get ready for the holidays ahead but I came back deeply grounded.

Bougainvillea new growth after coming indoors

Her late blooms and new leaves are a wonder

On the flight south, I took out my new Ampersand sock-in-progress… only to find out that my seat-mate was also a knitter!  She had holiday knits on the go, and I got down to the foot with this lovely Indigodragonfly merino yarn as we knit along with each other.

 

Indigodragonfly fingering weight handdyed yarn

‘Who’s a Happy Tribute?’ colourway from the Knitter’s Frolic

A better blogger would have the actual sock project to share, I know.  This is the trouble with major disruptions & terrible seasonal lighting around here – not for everyone but if you are me the photography it suffers.

Catching us Up (a bit)!

You were missed, as I was propelled forward.  This is only the tip of what’s been happening while I was away from posting.

Antique saxony spinning wheels in a hatchback vehicle

We can call the wheels at home a herd now.

Only a couple days before our sad news was delivered, I had another trip to visit Alvin & Barbara Anne Ramer. Alvin repaired my antique William McDonald wheel while I cough fell in love with the smaller wheel in the foreground cough.  The separation of this metal pin and an old fix to her treadle bar needed attention.

 

Broken treadle pin on antique Nova Scotia flax spinning wheel

You can imagine my horror

Alvin fixed this main problem, and he also made other adjustments to the wheel.  It was awesome to see him in good health & at his wheel-smith work.  Barbara Anne was so gracious as well, and I loved speaking more with her about spinning, weaving and her plans.

Blue Faced Leicester/Silk yarn spun on antique spinning wheel on niddy noddy

First spun on the early C19 Nova Scotia wheel

The first spin is 646 yards (127g) of BFL wool/silk.  It was all plied on my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.

Last Thursday, I used this yarn for a great dye experiment with Madder root.  The mordant is alum @ 8% and cream of tartar @ 7%.  I brought the 100g of ground Madder with 1 tbsp of baking soda up to a simmer, and cooled overnight.

Madder dye bath preparation

Straining madder root from dye liquor!

Further tweaking happened in the morning after straining, and I mordanted handspun Dorset (horned) wool yarn for the legendary exhaust baths.

Natural dye with Madder root on handspun yarn

Home-dyeing with Madder root!

This operation was surprisingly fragrant!  The madder has a nutty, smoky aroma.  After rinsing & drying, I have rich oranges – and the exhaust material/bath in reserve!

Natural dyed handspun yarns using Madder and alum mordant

Madder’s fall bounty!

Although I strained & rinsed thoroughly small specks of the ground dyestuff are scattering from the skeins.  It’s no big deal at all but is a side-effect!

Handspun Falkland wool dyed in black walnut, antique wheel spinning

Walnut-dyed Falkland handspun yarn

The McDonald antique wheel was also a joy for spinning my Falkland top that is dyed with black walnut.  The 5.9 oz gave me 593 yards of 2-ply.  This time I changed ratios on the Watson Martha but still plied in double drive.

Spindles, loom & knits

All have been in rotation since I recovered from the time away.  These are just quick out-takes (in no particular order) while I keep gaining on deadlines.

Spinning organic handdyed Polwarth wool with a Tabachek drop spindle

Cedar Tabachek with organic Polwarth

The dyed-by Sheepspot spinning project is down to the last 44g of Polwarth wool.  Having the cedar Tabachek drop spindle in regular use again has made me so happy.  My plan is to chain-ply this yarn when it is all spun up.

Spinning batts from Enting Fibercraft on Bosworth Moosie drop spindle

Oceanside Ent Batts for a Moosie WIN!

These batts by Naomi at Enting Fibercraft are amazing.  Four breeds of wool are blended with Tussah silk & Bamboo rayon.  The colour is so deep, and the blend is just fabulous on my Moosie spindle.

Handwoven cotton kitchen towels in Keep it Simple pattern

Learning curve & humble pie to mix metaphors!

These towels stretched me so much.  The red one is unwashed.  A mistake that glared at my friend Diane in the top towel got corrected thanks to her kind pointing-out.  They need pressing, hemming and documenting but they certainly have happened!

Baby Surprise Jacket, newborn size in Heritage Handpaints by Cascade

Another Baby Surprise Jacket!

A lace-edged hat, and booties went with this Baby Surprise Jacket for my cousin.  Her shower was this past Sunday, and we can’t wait to see her baby outfitted in the knits!


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Plumage, a juried exhibition

In a month already full with home renovation work & gardening, I have been bowled over by the positive response that my two pieces received in the Burlington Handweavers & Spinners Guild 2014 exhibit at the (then-called) Burlington Art Centre.

The Juror, Sheila Perry, selected 20 pieces from 16 fibre artists for the Exhibit.  Each artist’s interpretation of the theme was different but the presentation was balanced and cohesive in the space.

 

Knitted lace shawl in handspun Muga silk: On Eagle's Wings

Best in Show award!

My goal was simple:  to be selected for inclusion!  Everything else was pretty unexpected even after I heard that I was 1 of 4 members chosen for awards.  The exhibition was May 4 – June 1, 2014.

Elation not being optimal for bloggy work, I enjoyed the moment and juggled house upheaval vs. garden upheaval.   The creative breaks poured towards a fantastic, challenging lace weaving workshop with Jette Vandermeiden at the guild.  Jette was good enough to attend the opening reception with us too, so it was all rolled into one!

With the shawls back home now, I have worn the Muga silk for the first time.  It is so very light on the shoulders yet warm – everything that I imagined it would be.

2014 Annual Juried Exhibition best in show handspun knit lace shawl in Muga silk - On Eagle's Wings

On Eagle’s Wings, displayed

On Eagle’s Wings was introduced to the right of the gallery entrance.  You can see the guest book, and the exhibit catalogue on the table in the corner.  Not shown in this picture was that heady award label with my name on it!

This black fabric-covered dress form was very good for showing the triangle’s drape, and the stitch patterns with beads.  It would have been straightforward for the audience to read this lace as a textile with real-world function.  You know, as opposed to froth.

Plumage Juried Show, On Eagle's Wings, back of triangle shawl

All along, I had worried that my Tibetan Phoenix Beaded Stole would be a problem child in this gallery.  It took my breath away to see the Juror’s solution for its 82″ expanse.

Entering the Plumage 2014 juried exhibition, Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

The knitted lace stole, among friends

This brought home to me the difference between showing lace in blog form (pattern; movement; technical aspects; natural light) and showing lace for its effect.  The impact of the presentation was something that I literally felt.

Tibetan Beaded Lace Shawl handspun and knit by Irieknit in Plumage Exhibition, Burlington, Ontario

A warm welcome, for me at least!

Hearing excitement and new ways of understanding this making of an oversize lace object is an unexpected joy.  It draws away any residual sting from wearing it to a New England wedding last fall.  As I type, a dear relative who helped host that very wedding is congratulating me on my new accomplishment in knitting!

Tibetan Phoenix Beaded Lace Shawl handspun and knit by Irieknit in Plumage Juried Exhibition, Burlington, Ontario

Guild members have been super kind.  Yes, all made on drop spindles!  Professional fibre artists also tell me that the stole in particular was a strong submission.

Presenting work publicly is tough.  I heard that during the exchange at the end of the Juror’s review.  Now I have experienced the rewards of this rigour, and am totally glad that I tried.  Being able to say, “Dear (non-fibre person in my life), I got an award.  It was from an art gallery director, and came with a cheque,” also rocks.  It makes way more sense to them than the 82″ of shawl over my petite LBD ever could.  That’s just life.

Some but not all of the other works from Plumage are below. Let me know if you caught the show!

Plumage 2014 Juried Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Show Margaret Burns handwoven soft sculptures

Handwoven ‘Duck’ and ‘Owl’, Margaret Burns

Best Interpretation of Theme was awarded for this stunning red handwoven shawl.

Best Interpretation of Theme, Plumage 2014 Juried Show Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

Cardinal in Flight, Rosemarie Anich-Erickson

Three works by Diane Woods were included in this show.  I love the sharpness, and colour in her wall hanging.

Handwoven wall hanging, Mexican Eagle in Plumage 2014 Juried Exhibition Burlington Handweavers and Spinners

Mexican Eagle, Diane Woods

One of my teachers, MargaretJane Wallace, inspired me as she wove her scarf in the studio this fall.  MJ also encouraged me to go ahead with my plans for the Muga silk when it was still a ball of lace yarn.

Handwoven beaded tencel scarf by MargaretJane Wallace, Phoenix Rising from Ash 2014 Juried Exhibition Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

Phoenix Rising from Ash, handdyed tencel, MargaretJane Wallace

Hung to the left of MJ’s scarf was the winner of the Past Presidents’ Award.  The weaver is a Level 4 student, and the Juror was very excited about this lovely piece!

Award winning handwoven scarf, Snowy Owl 2014 Juried Exhibition  Burlington Handweavers and Spinners

Snowy Owl, Leslie Cooke-Bithrey

These and other images of  works included in the Plumage show are here.


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Weave on: First handwoven Towels in asymmetrical plaid

Handwoven cotton asymmetrical twill towels

First stack of kitchen towels!

Weaving is here to stay, friends.  The 3+ months as a student with MargaretJane Wallace & Joyce Newman have been wonderful.

The awe is a little less immediate a few weeks into having made useful somethings – now I can write about the process.  It’s time, and then I will pack Mom’s towel up with another special project, and mail all to Jamaica.

Sewing machine stitching handwoven cloth

Why yes, I do own a sewing machine.  It came down from the closet shelf for the occasion of sewing 3 lines of stitches to secure the cloth for later cutting.  I would not call any of these lines straight but no needles were broken that cold January day!

Handwoven kitchen towel unwashed

First woven end of the towels

The first weft was protected by my machine stitching here.  It’s the edge with my sampling for the towels.  Peggy Osterkamp says in Weaving for Beginners that the cloth at this stage is called “greige” or “gray goods” or in the loom state (p. 137) as it is still unwashed.

Handwoven towel warp unwashed

Unwashed, and uncut – this part is for Mom

Even at this stage, I could tell that Mom’s towel would come out well.  The sewing-in of the ends process took a good long while but it wasn’t too tedious.

As instructed by MargaretJane, it was fine for the washing machine (cold water) & dryer.

The Finished Goods

Little did I imagine that hemming would be its own learning process but it was!  Mine are hand-hemmed with a slipstitch.

Handwoven asymmetrical plaid cotton towel

Plaid to the left

When hemming went correctly as it did for Mom’s towel the plaid is on the left.

Handwoven asymmetrical plaid cotton towel

Plaid to the right

Same day, same person sewing.  All I can say is thank goodness for the balanced twill – it really does not matter which side the hems swung.  Except to yours truly who will always know.

Handwoven cotton plaid

I love the plaid

My twill lines (45° angle) show the merit in practice making perfect.  I used my protractor in the first towel, and it helped me pay attention to my beat as I wove.

Handwoven blue cotton broken twill towel

Last past the post

The last towel is a shorter 19½” x 15″, and is woven in broken twill.  It has the most mistakes because I was so anxious to finish weaving.  I really like the left-side stripe.  There is no plaid in this towel but I like it lots.

Hemming the second towel showed me the weave is slightly looser at the bottom edge.  When folded in half you see the exact spot where I adjusted my weaving beat – the selvedges are not even end-to-end.

It’s great to see the mindfulness in the cloth.  After using the protractor, I kept an even beat for the rest of the warp.  There are also some treadled mistakes in the twill sequence.  What does not show is the early struggle to even throw each shuttle 22″ across the race.

Cat climbing into Schacht Mighty Wolf weaving floor loom

Melvin the weaving keener

My class warp is for a gamp – 4 new twill threadings are now done and all 5 are almost sleyed.  The warp that Tuesday Melvin was admiring is a small sampler.

It’s still very much a learning curve but I am so happy with these towels, and proud to send one to someone who didn’t laugh but sent me a book and wrote, “Weave on!”


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Royally Sheepy Day

We went on the last & most sheepy day of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, yesterday.  It’s a big, indoor fair with animals, booths, food and competitions.  We didn’t last until the wool auction but caught most of the day’s action!

On the fleece prize table:

Got Crimp?

Got Crimp?

Fleece galore!

Nothing on the Royal’s website prepared me for the Sheep to Shawl Competition.  4 hours for each guild to prep its fibre, spin amazing quantities of yarn & weave a ‘shawl’ on a loom.  That and keep curious men from playing with their drum carders…

Shuttlebug Weavers & Spinners, Greenwood On

Guelph Guild of Handweavers & Spinners

The Angora owners were grooming their babies.  Those not grooming were spinning in the back!  Nina was selling 0.5 oz of her angora/ wool blend for $8.  I stepped away from the basket!

Other rabbits waiting for judging:

My favourite

The drop spindlers had 2 hours to make a skein of plied yarn from commercially prepped fibre – yikes!  Only 4 women entered the competition but they were all good.

When cuz & her partner arrived, I gave a wee tour & then we checked out the livestock.

We were easily the biggest kids at the petting zoo!

We did make it back for the tail-end of Sheep to Shawl:

Finishing touches for Greenwood's Shawl

It was a great day.  I got to meet a Rav member of GTA Fibre Faces & got amazing information from everyone we spoke with.  Even if I didn’t catch the auction, I do have a bunch of tips on how to bid for next year!