The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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One thing in common

Lately, I have let the spirit move me.  Getting past ambitious ideas that were keeping me back.  Also past old habits of deference with people in my life.  The silly notions fell away, and something important has started to happen.  For one thing, I started a sweater on July 2nd.  A short and largely disappointing summer turned out of its skeins and into a garment that I will be proud to wear.

The yarn was upstairs since it came out of successive cochineal dye baths last August 25th.  The 25g of cochineal that taught me what its “medium shades of the colour range” might be.  Pink – each exhaust tinted.  This year 2 competing ideas rented space in my brain:  (a) overdye it now; (b) monochrome acrobatics on the needles.

I am not entirely clear on what brought me back to handspun sweater knitting on July 2nd.  Sure, I was laid up, and it’s been a cool summer but what exactly led me to Sarah Swett‘s “Everyday Striped Cormo Shirt” design?  Self-care is part of it, surely.  As is a need to draw on the sparks that created what I wrote down as 1,528.84 yds with two red ink lines underneath.

This simple design perfected over what Sarah wrote is her “series of everyday handspun clothing.”  The exemplar described by Sarah succinctly as:

Fine yarn and a loose gauge give it drape; seamless construction makes it easy to put on and take off; a close but by no means tight, fit means it is so comfortable I can hardly tell it is on.  And the stripes? They’re just fun.

My haggard (I remember July 2nd well) brain probably just remembered Sarah’s spring workshop.  I learned there how powerful simple ideas carried to execution really can be.  Sarah wore and spoke about her striped shirt as she taught the class.  Something brought this all together.  Plus, the one size given as 36″ bust would fit.  My yarn gave a close enough gauge, and I would juggle the light pink like nobody’s business, right?  Right.

The stripes were fun.  I learned Meg Swansen’s jogless jog.  My version is knit with U.S. size 6 needles.  Looking closely you can trace my improving attitude toward the end.  See the short cast-on at the lower edge?  I was in no mood to pull it out & start over.  Increases happened later.  Immediately after which we have the Yardage Be Damned phase, i.e. a K2, P1 ribbing, and also that extra inch in the body.  It really is the same knitter who then goes off-pattern and drops her 1st steeked neck.

Neck secured for steeking

I used Meg Swansen & Amy Detjen’s crochet method in Knitting with Two Colors to secure the 3 steek stitches.  It was a very deep breath before I cut.  Instead of casting 20 stitches off for the neck, I held them on scrap yarn.  On the next round I cast 6 stitches on by the backwards loop method.

All’s well that ends well – steeked scoop neck for handspun

This was what Elizabeth Zimmerman called a “kangaroo pouch neck.”  My motivation was simply that I wanted to continue knitting in the round, and Maggie Righetti has very hard words for casting-off neck stitches in any event:  Sweater Design in Plain English.

Apart from ends being woven in, armholes joined and blocking, I finished a sweater in exactly a month at an unusual time of year.  Sarah Swett has given the spinning community the fruits of her working a simple idea to perfection.  I loved every stitch.  Such an elegant solution for my surprisingly pink yarns.

What else I hath wrought

This beautiful Border Leicester x Corriedale pin-drafted roving is a gift from a friend.  It’s 15 oz beautifully processed by Morro Fleece Works, and yesterday I broke into it for real.

Gift fibre takes shape

A very satisfying 161 yds turned out by the Spinolution Mach 2.  As I will maintain to anyone who asks, the Mach 2 is a fine wheel for what it does.  This yarn a dye-pot candidate – black walnut, I think.

Willful Hebridean wool

Yes, willful.  The Hebridean rolags got together & decided they would be opposing-ply when they grew up.  Either that or the Watson Martha has a mind of her own.  The 54 yds is 2 plies spun right; 1 spun left, and plied left.  All singles were spun supported long-draw, so we have my first woolen opposing ply, apparently!

The BFL x Shetland roving for these 3-ply yarns all came from Hopeful Shetlands.  It’s further proof that Beth really did teach me how to spin long-draw last spring!  All singles were spun on my Watson Martha – brown in February & grey in August – and plied on a lower ratio.  The 305 yds may not be enough for a Rasta tam that I promised to make but it would be lovely.

The Humblest Linen Washcloth

It was fascinating to knit up the small linen skeins.  They are from tow flax spun on Wee Peggy for Harriet Boon’s class at this June’s Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  The more I ripped back the better the yarn was to knit with!  Such a rustic piece of cloth but I really enjoyed knitting on it.

Morning Glory emerging

Slowly but surely.  That’s all I can say about all of these things.  Slowly but surely.

Hand-combed Romney wool

 


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The quiet campaign – Tour de Fleece 2013

In the days before this year’s Tour de France, I joined teams and prepared Hebridean – also called St. Kilda – locks.  The dark fleece, and story in the Summer 2013 Wild Fibers by Margaret B. Russell egged me on.

Taken today – the Hebridean rolags, intact

Other spinners on Ravelry were also interested to see how this rare breed’s wool would spin up.  I even had my sample card, and shared the problem with a break near the butt end of the locks, and dandruff.

Hebridean lock and sample card

However, raw enthusiasm was not enough.  The rolags from this “tiny black sheep” with its many horns still await my spinning pleasure, and the Tour ends today.  I say this without a stitch of self-reproach.  It was a conscious decision to follow the Tour in private and on my own terms.

On a very personal front we are ending a long journey ourselves.  Added pressures to perform got ditched.  It’s as simple as that.  To anyone also facing trial & tribulation of any sort or degree:

Be it chronic illness, returning to work, raising children, the economy, a disability

My Grandmother gave me her counted cross-stitch sampler to complete when I was a teenager.  Arthritis of the hands stopped her work after only part of the upper flowers.  It stretched me & took years, has a mistake in the fence posts, and the duck pond corner was fodder for a dog (hence the deep mat).  There was as Laurel Thatcher Ulrich would say, “ego enough to sign their work” (“The Age of Homespun“, Alfred A. Knoph, 2001, p. 247).

I love this piece but moreover, I love the words.  It hangs in my studio now, so I share this saying as we go through what we have to.

Even morning glories need support

Fruits of the Tour

Has the 100me Tour not been thrilling?!  Here is what I stopped to photograph – some but not all of my comfort work.

Not your average socks!

The strange & wonderful beast of opposing ply yarn is fast becoming a pair of socks.  A pair of very marled socks that is!

Wait a Bit sock, selfie

Due to the extended period of creation from braid to sock, I named this after the town in Trelawny, Jamaica – Wait a Bit.  See here for the iconic picture if you don’t believe me.

No elastic

The extra-springy opposing ply makes for a very elastic 2×2 ribbed cuff.  I also added my first sock-cuff gusset when it sunk in that I was getting a rather tall sock on the needles.  This was where having Erlbacher’s “Twisted Stitch Knitting” book came in handy.  I penetrated her chart on p. 119, and it worked!

Off the spindle!

Talk about happy-making fibre!  This doorprize braid of BFL from FOAY, Musewings has gone everywhere with me since mid-April on my purpleheart Bossie.

Finished Musewings skeins of citrus joy

Splitting the braid led to one obviously longer single, so I decided to chain-ply each on my Watson Martha.  The skeins are 180.44, and 228.02 yards, respectively.

[Aside: one major advantage of winding outer-pull balls with no core is you can see the longer single = larger ball]

So many thanks, Nicole!

I’ll be watching Nicole’s store in case she comes off her dyeing hiatus.  It was such a relaxing spin, and exactly what I needed to work with.  Also very happy that I didn’t overcook the chain ply on the wheel.

Quick pic was for twitter – Ent Batts

Enting is another talented FOAY whose fibre has been in heavy rotation here since April.  Naomi handcarded corriedale, merino & silk to create her Mixed Berries blend.  They are no more.

Ent batts converted

No need to be coy about that new spindle in the back, right?  A good 4 years on the Hatchtown Farm spindle list paid off with impeccable timing!  It’s a Kaari in Rosewood & Maple, and gives my kind of spin. LOVE.

The other spindle is a Spanish Peacock in Flame Box Elder.  It also spun the single in the plying ball, which I wound with a silk single.  With the batts decimated, I need to spin more silk now!

Teaser

The loom is dressed!  I have done some weaving this week but hit some snags (literally – looking at the reed…)

Warm heddles on 4 shafts!

I am flipping between Janet Dawson’s Craftsy class, and Peggy Osterkamp’s “Weaving for Beginners.”  It has been so good to fold myself to the task of learning, and problem solving at the loom.  Some days needed just that kind of absorption.  Some more will too, I imagine.


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Proof of fit, and other updates

Every now and again, I get a blog photo shoot.  Just to keep you on your toes.

The buttonholes may need reinforcing in time.  For now, I am good with checking up on them.

What you couldn’t see when it was flat on the table in the last post.

I was running too late to push my luck for pics of the now completed Laar Cardigan (yep, finally).

The Seriously fun spin

In the crunch that was my lead-up to the Tour de Fleece this year, I didn’t write about this super spin.  It’s The Painted Tiger‘s 40z braid of corriedale, Koi Pond.

We met Brooke at Stringtopia this year.  These colours inspired me to try my first fractal spinning.

I used my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.  Remarkable because just days before Martha was not in spinning condition:

When the bobbin/ flyer array of your dream wheel jumps off, hits the wheel frame and falls broken you might want to cry.  One frantic call later, Mrs. Watson assured me that her son Andrew would help.  Andrew did more than help, and I thank him.

Andrew said that it looked like an older partial break.  He took a week to repair the flyer, and make Miss 1988 like new.  Andrew also graciously showed me his personal wheels, and spoke with me about the business’ history as well as how to care for Martha.

Approx 392 yards all in!  If you are looking for a new indie-dyer then definitely give Brooke a try.  The fiber was not compacted at all, and the dye caught every last corner.

What Moms are For

My brother’s yeoman service did not end with delivering the backstrap loom to me.  He also brought this up from Mom.

It’s crunchy handspun from her trip to Scotland this summer.  Unique selling point for a card:  Real Sheep’s Wool!

She also got me 100g each of organic Hebridean & Shetland wool from Garthenor.  She might actually listen when I ramble on about “breed-specific” this and “breed-specific” that…

A weekend Happy

Finished my Jacob spin on Wee Peggy.  No breaks were taken for cooking or dishes.

Approx 197 yds of 3-ply.  I picked out kemp, spun it using scotch tension, and plied on my Martha.  Grey Jacob is already on the bobbin.  The idea is to make the Horatio & Oren mitts from this fall’s Twist Collective.

A little housekeeping

The blog’s “About” page was pretty dated, so I gave it a little edit over the weekend.  I love writing posts, and may be making some small changes to the blog in the next little while.

Where I’ll be:

  • The Spinning Loft, September 22, 23 for workshops with Deb Robson.  Beth promises that my Martha will meet her Martha!
  • The Woodstock Fleece Festival, October 13.

I’d love to know if you’ll be there too!