The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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August chase

It was a simple enough idea that came while pressing the handwoven blankets… what if I brought T out for a trip to Kingston?  Calls were made, very strong yeses were heard, and here we are!

My cousin had us over on our first day in the island, and we were thrilled to meet her 8-month old boys.  The great news is that the hem colours made them easy to assign – one has always been wearing/using greens, and the other blues.

Morning light in Kingston Jamaica by irieknit

Beautiful morning light

It is a short trip and we will head straight into T’s school year when we get back.

Jamaican sugar cane and guineps

Kindness and yum!

Arriving in guinep season is a decidedly good idea.  T now calls them, “You mean the juicy fruit that you can’t get the juice on you because it stains?”  He is a fan of both these guineps and the sugar cane in the plastic bag!

In lieu of a beach day, I opted in for the Jah-3s Hash exploring a beautiful old estate in East St. Andrew, Dallas Castle, on Sunday.

Cane River in Dallas Castle St Andrew Jamaica

Hiking down the Cane River, Dallas Castle

It was the best kind of challenge day, and T made it with the help of his walking stick!  “Mom, I am going in the river again!”  We got through the paper chase with no major slips or slides.

He was really brave!  As for me this was so much fun I could burst.  It was also T’s first trip into the Blue Mountain Range.

Estate ruins at Dallas Castle St Andrew Jamaica

Waterworks ruins at Dallas Castle, St Andrew, Jamaica

The property that became Dallas Castle was purchased in 1758 as a working estate by a Dr. Dallas.  After what sounds like a run through sugar cane, coffee plantation profit to high debts it was sold eventually to the father of George William Gordon, National Hero in the early 19th century.  This planning site for the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865 is now privately owned.

After hike cool-down

This first ever hike is being followed by more visits with family & friends.  We miss N but have been enjoying ourselves thoroughly.  Yesterday, T answered, “How are you liking Jamaica?” cheerfully:

It’s hot.

True but not as hot as August can get here, kiddo!  I am loving sleeping with just a fan on.

Travel sock

Another sock is already on needles but I cast this on for T when our tickets were booked.  The chief reason is that his foot has grown since the first pair.

Knitting a child sized sock in Sheepytime Knits yarn by irieknit

For the sockworthy T!

Seeing him struggle with a slipping heel convinced me to pause my own.  The yarn is from the Sheepytime Knits Middle Earth Yarn Club, November 2017.  Mandie dyed “The Great Sea” and it is a superwash merino/cashmere/nylon blend.  The pattern is a modified basic sock from “Tiny Treads” by Joeli Caparco.

Progress on handknit child sized sock by irieknit in Sheepytime Knits handdyed yarn

Good choices make for good knitting

For spinning, I am excited to visit my birthday gift, a Tyrolean spinning wheel right here in Jamaica!  I have my cotton project on the African clay bead whorl spindle (look up – it’s the one in the TKK header) as well.  It’s the best for downtime.

This is my first ever post from Jamaica!  The new light machine is making a huge difference – I am so glad that we were able to get it for many reasons but this is particularly sweet.

 


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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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The absorbing Colour of Water – a show opens

An all-guild show curated by the Art Gallery of Burlington is currently on in the Lee-Chin Gallery until May 24, 2015.  The theme is, “The Colour of Water,” and our guild has a juried section in the show.

River by the Sea Scarf by irieknit in classic crackle on the loom

Weaving water over sand at Frenchman’s Cove, Jamaica

The piece that I have submitted is a handwoven scarf inspired by the confluence of the river as it meets Frenchman’s Cove in Portland, Jamaica.  It is a 4-shaft Crackle or Jämtlandsväv structure woven as drawn in with 4 pattern blocks.

First weaving for the Colour of Water curated guild show irieknit handspun in classic crackle weave

The first attempt was a prototype

Planning for this scarf took more thought, materials and calculations than anything I have woven up to now.  The colour-blending ability of this classic crackle structure was new to me.  In presenting a draw-down for our curator, Denis Longchamps, I was also learning structure myself.  It took a full first scarf.  To speak cricket, there was a long run up to the crease!

The impetus was a copy of Susan Wilson’s book, “Weave Classic Crackle and More” that a weaving friend de-stashed this winter.  Her clear explanations & beautiful projects met the blank slate that is my novice brain.

Water’s fluidity carried me forward.  Nothing was more fun this wretched winter than getting lost in the memory of this place where we swam as children.  The warm Caribbean sea mixes, ebbs and flows with the cool river.  It is also a place where I have partied as an adult.

Nearly finished River by the Sea Scarf by irieknit in handspun yarns

Getting to submission state!

 

After the trial run (totally wearable), I sleyed, and tied-on for a 13″ wide scarf in the reed.  The mystery main warp balanced at 4,075 YPP.  In the final piece it is sleyed at 27 ends per inch.  Calculations were all for this yarn as 0.8 of the maximum twill sett.

Detail of handspun blending in classic crackle irieknit River by the Sea woven scarf

From the beach to waters’ confluence

 

The first run helped me learn the sequence for weaving three shuttles at a time, and to get comfortable with my new Glimakra temple.  Getting the river’s colour shift from sand to bank was very important.  This also improved with my comfort at changing for pattern yarns as well as grounds.

Each of the 6 handspun elements in the scarf is from batts made by favourite fibre artists, and spun on spindles by me.  The batts are from Enting Fibercraft, Abby Franquemont & Sericin Silkworks.  I over-dyed with tea and black walnut to better represent the sand, and river bank.  The alternations were planned, and the shifts are not symmetrical although each is woven in the same classic crackle format for 4 blocks.

What humbled me the most was how the warp behaved in its second sett.  There was far more length shrinkage, and this drove me far closer to the tied ends than anticipated.  This has been a wonderful stretch into working with colour, and meeting the technical weaving criteria of our guild.

No rejection news is good news?  The take-in was this past Monday.  This “River by the Sea Scarf – colours at Frenchman’s Cove” measures 11.75″ x 59″ with fringe lightly beaded with Toho 8/10 Japanese seed beads.


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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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From our Yard

There are 2 things to know when you land in Kingston, Jamaica:  the entire plane claps the pilot; and you step out into the fresh harbour air.

Kingston Harbour.  It’s the 7th deepest natural harbour in the world.  Beautiful as seen from a sandbar called, Maiden Cay.

A rather soused me had the sense to take a few pics.

I was on a food break from the rest of the BYOB-to-Maiden-Cay party.

Adult beverage marketing, Caribbean style.

Best plying ever – St. Mary, Jamaica

Lest you think it was all vodka-Tings, I did spin and ply in glorious comfort.

The few days in the country were wonderful.  We might have high-fived at the tv reports of a snowstorm back in Canada.

This kind of “cold front” was way more satisfactory.

The windy weather did make finishing DH’s socks less of a hassle.

Already well worn!  It’s my basic sock knit in The Painted Tiger‘s “Bands of Autumn” colourway.  430 yards of her Safari base – 75% superwash Corriedale; 25% nylon.

I loved knitting them and he loves wearing them!

In other Knit Unto Others Good Karma news

Mom, and you have heard me say this before, is a huge supporter.  She now has a handknit shawl.  It’s the Shoulder Shawl in Cherry Leaf pattern from Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby.

The size is great (and I’ll give the caveat in a sec) – it’s Handmaiden Sea Silk.  The body is knit on 4.5mm needles, and the point border on 3.75 needles.  It also has a Japanese seed bead for each leaf, and point.

Everyone is happy.  But smug I am not!  That gauge killed my skein of yarn.  You might have followed my live tweet freak-out?  Yea – 1.5 points short on the right edge.  Brilliant.

That’s a GIZZADA to you, friends.

Not unlike this gizzada.  Yum even if the label is not technically correct.


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Looking up!

On August 6th as everyone probably knows, Jamaica celebrated 50 years of Independence.  Our athletes achieved more at the 2012 London Olympics than we dreamed possible.

Each medal ceremony where our flags rose was moving.  We were deeply proud to stand and sing the National Anthem with Jamaicans everywhere.  The colours mean:

Hardships there are but the land is green, and the sun shineth – gold.

 

Have Olympics = must knit!  I didn’t take part in the Ravellenics but worked on my Redhook Tunic by Jared Flood.  It now has a complete body, most of a shawl collar, and sleeves-in-progress.  Diane’s colours are just beautiful, and are lining up very nicely.

This is from my surprise Gnome Acres gift certificate!  Just copying the pic makes me smile.  A TKK reader and friend who I first met in the Knit me Happy virtual knit nights really cheered me up, and I can’t thank her enough.  Deb’s a new spinner (yay!), and as you can see is super-awesome with great taste in yarnies!

So, I’ve started listening to a few podcasts, and Knit me Happy is one of them that I really try to stay with good mood or bad.  It’s hosted by Rachel aka TinyGeekCrafter, and the group has really great folks.  Rachel recently lost one of her much-loved cats, Munchkin, after his short illness.  He loved to co-host with flair, and I know all of us listeners will miss him and the tail flashes.

This is a new-to-the-wall acrylic on canvas that my cousin painted for us.  Stretching and hanging it has transformed the living room, and I love it!  If you’d like to contact the artist about her work, you can email me at irieknit at gmail dot com.

Yep – if I am feeling better then spinning has something to do with it!  This is Jacob wool – dyed by Chelsea.  The double entendre in the picture title?  Intended;)

Entirely of its own volition, Lulu’s llama fiber came home with me from this June’s Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  Soft, basically clean and without guard hairs as far as I can tell.

Both samples were flick-carded from the raw Llama and spun on spindles.  The one with less twist (right) is much nicer.

Last week, I had a few free hours and decided to give two handfuls a quick wash.  As her owner promised, she has a flare of white in the blanket!  Getting my hands into this is mood-enhancing as well.

Melvin’s idea of keeping me company.  He’s not letting me turf that old office chair either.

The rough times aren’t behind me but I’m lucky to have special people around me who care, and good things happening at my hands.

Have a great weekend, friends!


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Logwood Heart, an experiment

I am speaking about Haematoxylum campechianum.  Logwood is a natural dye that is typically sold as dried chips of the heartwood.  It was introduced for cultivation in Caribbean colonies, and continued to be exported even through the sugar hey-day.

 

Who do you think you are?  Logwood Heart?

It’s from my favourite poem, Omeros by Derek Walcott.  Hector, a St. Lucian “madman eaten with envy” rages after Achille.  His cutlass speaking as much as he did:

Moi j’a dire – ‘ous pas prêter un rien. ‘Ous ni shallope, ‘ous ni seine, ‘ous croire ‘ous ni choeur campêche?

I told you, borrow nothing of mine.  You have a canoe, and a net.  Who you think you are?  Logwood Heart?

Omeros, Chapter 3, I.

 My Dad got me this bag of Jamaican logwood about a year ago.  Having found this article I learned it was still exported from the island as dyestuff up until the early 1940s.

Round the First

At the end of May, 2011, I took my 53g of shaved and chipped Jamaican logwood and dove into the hand-spun stash.  This 464 yds of local organic Romney that I spun on my Spinolution Mach 2 a.k.a. Earl came out to play.

For this 278g of fibre, I decided to add in 50g of commercial Logwood chips that I had on hand.  The logic seems fuzzy now but I was aiming for purple, and wanted to “save” the precious stuff from home.

My method was to pre-mordant the yarn (25% alum; 6% cream of tartar).  I put all the logwood plus some Lignum Vitae – on advice from back home – in a stocking.  That went into the dyepot for a cold water soak overnight.  Then I simmered the yarn in the pot for 1 hour, and let the bath cool.  I didn’t remove the stocking.

It worked!  I was (and still am) so excited about this deep, dark purple of natural dyed wonder.

 

Round the Second

I know a good thing when I see it, so the dye pot went straight to the basement.  You know, for later use.  N had a few qualms along the way but he is a scientist and saw I was making An Experiment.  Scientists appreciate experiments.  Mold and all.

In late November, 2011, I got the urge to dye purple again.  This time it was my hand-spun sock yarn.

Mold was the least of my worries.  The blobs of inky gunk showed up as soon as the yarn went in.  I kept calm, and rinsed in the sink.  Thankfully, the blobs agreed to slide right off.  As soon as the colour got mauvey, I pulled the skeins out.  There’s no point in tempting fate now is there?

My first me-spun; me-dyed sock yarn looks a little like this:

Fibre:  154g of kid mohair/ merino/ alpaca sock yarn roving from The Fibre Garden.

Wheel:  Watson Martha in double drive, and spun on the smaller whorl.

Plied wraps per inch:  16 (sport-weight).

Yardage:  363.

Why tell you all of this now?

It’s a fair question.  The answer is that I have been knitting my first pair of me-spun; me-dyed socks.  And I love them very much.

The pattern is Clara Parkes’ Stepping Stones from The Knitter’s Book of Socks that N gave me last Christmas.  I missed the part where she gives a variation on the stitch pattern for the foot.

My little modification was to just twine knit the heel flap.  Her instructions have you almost there anyway, and I do love to twine.

 

More inspiration

This is my handspun, naturally dyed and backstrap loom woven bag from The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco, Peru.

A quiet reminder that I am a young grasshopper in this world rich with textile traditions.