The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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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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There are no words

There are no words for the crazy awesome generosity of Fibergal.  Let me just show you.

It is all natural cotton that Fibergal has grown, and is gorgeous.

Remember my gushing over spinning cotton from the boll this Tour de Fleece?  Fibergal offered to send me, and this is important to quote her directly:

…a little colour sampler of bolls just to play with.

She was wonderful to correspond with, and closed simply with, “Enjoy.”  As Fibergal knows, I could not have hoped to acquire such beautiful cotton much less with such a variety of seeds.  I thank you, and am already enjoying the cotton adventure.

This green cotton has a long staple-length, and is so interesting to spin!  See the seeds?  They are being kept for what I hope can be future planting.

I am, Brace for it…

… as of Monday, also learning to weave.  After this summer of unhappy medical stuff, I just decided to look for a backstrap loom already and found this one.  Told N up front that it was a purchase of sticks.

I am using the only mercerized cotton yarn in the house, Estelle Young Touch Cotton dk.  That was made on Monday.  I thought a bit, and re-warped, yesterday.

This 14″ band looks well, like a band.  I used the heavier sword that came in the kit and got better with making & using a continuous string heddle.  It also helps to understand what you are supposed to be doing.

The best adjustment was to use contrast yarn for that heddle, and to tie it to a chopstick.  I might be loving this thing called weaving.

We saved the date!

My little cousin’s wedding was this past weekend.  I will skip the weekend-of-yarn-dyeing that I worked in (for now), and just show the knitting.

Knit with gratitude for another cousin, Cat.  It’s the Prairie Rose with beading and she loved it!  I owed her big-time for saving me from wardrobe failure at the last family wedding…

The reveal was like giving my relatives a proof of concept for, “Lara knits.”  Also helping that cause was a new, shrug adapted from Tappan Zee.

It’s made in Hempathy.  With no time to spare, I decided to live on the edge.  Why not give it shaping, I thought late at night.  That became a series of slightly stepped short row shaping inside the front garter bands.

Early on I had this bright idea that the diamond pattern should sparkle… with leftover 8/0 seed beads.  Not a huge deal because Hempathy is conveniently constructed for clean splitting for the bead placement with a crochet hook.

And now for some Mindless Knitting

Just as the Avengers movie released, Mandie of Sheepy Time Yarns offered a super cool series of yarns inspired by each super-hero.  I scored Iron Man in her Sheepy Feet base.

 It’s perfect for down-time knitting – a plain sock.  I am not even guilty that the Bavarian Cable socks are not getting any love right now.

These should make me Invincible for the cold weather.  Winter is coming, folks.  Winter is coming.


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A Swallowtail Happy

The word Swallowtail means something to most knitters.  It’s an Evelyn Clark small triangle shawl design that has gone viral.  There are 9,543 projects on Ravelry, and now I understand why!  This cone of red Habu Tsumugi silk yarn never even hit the stash!

The heap of magenta is a project that only Melvin is enjoying very much – the Laar Cardigan by Gudrun Johnston.  More on that is to come in a future post.

Initially, I cast-on for another Evelyn Clark pattern, the Prairie Rose Lace Shawl from the Knitter’s Book of Wool.  That was more of an exercise in swatching the Habu, and I soon went for the Swallowtail.

All I could hear was Teresa’s voice saying, “You totally should make one!”  Which Teresa?  The one who made no less than 5 of those Ravelry projects.

I settled on using my 3.0 mm lace Addi turbo needles.  My system for working with the nubby Habu silk was:

  • Pants – smooth not grabby;
  • Lap cloth – lingerie, repurposed; and
  • Lazy kate – the Will Taylor tulip kate kept the cone & my sanity upright.

It went on the needles February 8th & came off on the 25th.  I really like the pattern, and the sweet challenge was working my first mirrored border.  With the yarn managed, I found it went very quickly.  All other projects were set aside!

For my Lily of the Valley border, I substituted orange Toho 8/0 seed beads for the Estonian nupps (think bobble).  I used a tiny 0.6mm crochet hook, and added them on the right side.  The edging is also beaded but on the wrong side of each double decrease.

The beads showed well even before blocking (but not so well on the flannel sheet).

As soon as he saw the beads on the tray table, N said, “Now you’re happy!”  He was right!  For all the extra manipulation, placing beads gives the shawl weight, dimension & highlights the pattern.

So, Ms. Teresa:  when we see each other again, I will be wearing a Silk Swallowtail!  Thinking of you this week & get well soon.  Lace knitting & pilates to follow, right?!


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The Waiting Room

Over the past month life slowed right down.  I had a health scare that slowly made itself known.  For almost 2 weeks I knitted, spun with spindles, and did as much as I could muster energy for.  I went into the ER at the right time.  After hours of waiting for test results, we slowly got the diagnosis.  What does a spinner do while waiting?  She spins.  I had my Jenkins Delight:

I fielded the usual questions:  “What are you doing?”  “Is that wool?”  A little boy with a stomach ache was the most interested but nurses also asked.

The diagnosis itself wasn’t easy – a technician left me to the doctors with a hug.  It was happy to finally get some answers but there will be more to come in the days ahead.  Once decisions were made for an operation there was no time for fright or even speaking with family.  I was prepped, and sent in.  My recovery has gone well.  Luckily MIL came to visit exactly when we needed her moral support, and treats from home are always nice.

So, these are projects I had in this long waiting room.  Much more has happened since but I wanted to start here.

This is my bright version of Judy Alexander‘s Pinked Socks from Knits magazine, Winter 2010.  The yarns are – MC:  Sweet Georgia Tough Love in River; & – CC:  Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Red Rover.  It’s the 7¾” size, and I got gauge with 2.25 mm needles.  It’s my first stranded sock but is much easier than it looks.  The Zigzag pattern is just 5 stitches wide.

This first sock fits better than any I have knit in a long time.  The instep rocks!

I’ve never knit a garter tab on the heel flap, and now love this to distraction.

Not only is this sock pretty cool in its own right but it came with me to my first knitting night at Lettuce Knit in Toronto.  That was my last outing while unwell.  Which is to say that the Rest-up-and-Go plan had its flaws.  I was fortified with chai tea but you know, only days away from the ER visit…  It was the biggest knit night group I’ve ever been in, and lots of interesting people with interesting knitting.  I want to try it again when I’m not pushing a health crisis forward.

The 2nd sock is now at the foot.  I love this pattern so much that DH is promised a pair.  Yes, at size 10½ feet.

I do have another pair off the needles.  The pattern is Cookie A.’s Lindsay from her Sock Innovation book.  I didn’t check for these corrections but should have.  My yarn is Cherry Tree Hill’s Sockittome in ‘Indian Summer.’  As the 1st sock was back in August (after a slow start in mid-May):

The project bag is from Jessa Lu, and is perfect – I mean perfect – for small projects.  A better blogger would have shown you this beauty brand-new when she got it in February…

I was and am completely excited to have another bag stitched by Jess.  They just make me happy.  While I digress, let me introduce the new needles.

They are DyakCraft 5″ double points here in special-order hazelnut.  Every rave review of these DPNs is spot-on.  Tom & Linda gave good service by email, and I love the sharp points, and harder-than-bamboo material.  I also love that I could keep the contrast of a lighter stain against my yarn when knitting.

The needles are what helped me get these socks done.  One pattern row with a series of K4tog and I was very happy for the sharper points.  They were all done by September 3rd, and are now known as my Orange Crush Socks.

So named because Jack Layton passed away while I was knitting them.  I enjoyed knitting these because the pattern was easy to remember & I got to knit garter short-row heels and toes for the 1st time.  They aren’t my favourite socks though:

  • The garter-stitch cuffs are saggy.  I could add elastic since mine are 2″ long but am not inspired really.
  • At the recommended gauge they are too thick for my fall shoes.
  • The heels and toes are super-comfy but gap all the way out of my shoes.  Stuffing socks in is no fun.
  • I messed up sock No. 1’s toe grafting.  Not enough yarn or patience.  Since that happens under the foot it’s not good for lots of walking, really.

My verdict = inside socks.

Luckily, I finished the singles spinning for my big spindle project before the health scare.  Here they are all together before plying:

I’ve also changed my plying routine for this project.  While I was still recovering this new-t0-me Katherine’s Cup spindle by Greensleeves came.  It’s lighter than my Golding at 1.68 oz., and working well for the lace-weight so far.  The last sneak peek:


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Winter is Coming – shawl edition

Apologies in advance for the sheer pinkness of this post.

One of my first impulses after the last day of work was to get back to knitting this lace shawl.  Quietly started back in January, it was at the knitted-on-border stage when I picked it back up last month:

The big fear was that I would never finish it!  The pattern is Jane Sowerby’s Large Rectangle in Spider Net from Victorian Lace Today.  As I said back in January, Teresa is at the root of the whole attempt.

Finally caught a good rhythm for the wide border.  It was all groovy until I noticed that the yarn ball was too small.  And this a special dye job of Indigo Moon wool/silk for her stall at the 2009 Knitter’s Frolic.  This knitting on of a border gives you 2 choices – rip it off or keep calm & carry on.

Gasp all you want.  Ripping out wasn’t an option.  I also wasn’t into pausing to seek another 1,000+ yards.  So the last half-corner became the natural insertion point for another Canadian yarn, Handmaiden by Fleece Artist.   I am not pretending this is either a design element or high art.  It is Former Tom Boy Does Lace.

That was blocking attempt number 2, by the way.  The dog chasing the cat over attempt number 1 was spectacular.  In the disastrous second, I caught Toby mid-run & stopped the tear of yarn courtesy of his claw.  No rest for the wicked?

I’ve called the project Lord Varys’ Little Spiders since we’ve found the Game of Thrones in the time it took to knit this.

The garish corner (yes, I can admit it) is easily covered by the sheer size of this shawl.  Winter may be coming but I’ll have a warm & super-bright shawl!  Canada is Winterfell without the wall, trust me.

All the friends assure me that fuchsia is my colour… uh-huh, right.

Layers of the warm:

And lastly, the leg o’ lace:

I’m looking forward to this afternoon – meeting up with Megster at a local cafe for fun knitting in public.  If you take a peek at her blog then you’ll know that Meg’s expecting!  Any day now there shall be a Junior in the house!


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Le Tour de Fleece 2011

Happy Canada Day weekend to everyone celebrating.

Le Tour has begun!  The kick-off Stage 1 today was beautiful.  My project this year is for a friend, Teresa.  We shook hands on a trade a few months ago, and my part is to spin lace-weight yarn from my Corgi Hill Farm braid.

The braid is 4.3 oz of hand-dyed alpaca/ merino/ silk.  Teresa is a prolific lace knitter who test knits for some of the most exciting pattern designers.  Our friendship has grown, not diminished over these difficult months & it’s my pleasure to spin for her expert hands.

At the starting line:

The braid’s name is Bayberry Bush II, and I am going into the Tour with 1 ball of 2 singles (wound together), and the spindles in this state:

They are both Ethan Jakob spindles by Greensleeves.  I got the one to the back from Morgaine, Carolina Homespun at Stringtopia this year, i.e. snatched it up, shamelessly.

Teresa agreed that she would like long colour progressions that roughly match through the 2-plies.  I just alternate each spindle for each un-wrap of the braid.  It’s very simple, and means that I am walking around with 1 short length, the braid’s intact, and the lengths are roughly equal without measuring.

Spinning all morning long has been great.  I love Versus’ show for the Tour – they always crack me up.  The Peloton is as crazy as ever, and it’s good to see the sprinters are no less cocky this year.  There’s the new intrigue, complete with Contador’s I-am-innocent reel.  There’s the beautiful scenery.  Crashes.  That fool fan who toppled the middle of the Peloton – really?!?   2011 Arrivee!

In all of this, I am remembering family in Jamaica.  I almost flew down for a funeral that’s today.  Tragically, Bunny Francis, was murdered last Saturday, 10 a.m.   He was ambushed on his street by gunmen, and later died at the hospital.  It was a hit.  He, and other men in the family business received threats.  I cannot fathom their grief, and wanted to pay my respects.  It is hard living so far away, especially at times like these.


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Shawls are for tomboys too

Spending 6 days home in Jamaica for my Toronto cousin’s wedding was every-minute-amazing.  A&W had a sea-side wedding in Discovery Bay.  We sandwiched this ‘country trip’ by staying with my parents in Kingston.

In my carry-on was the just, just finished lace shawl – Oslo Walk by Susanna IC (publisher pics here).  Lace novice that I am, this was a huge 3-week challenge.  What possessed me?  Well, having to re-wear a dress for the wedding is what.  Also, thanks to the best sort of encouragement from T, my spinning angel lace expert, I happened to have matching indigo lace-weight yarn stashed, together with Japanese seed beads & even a small crochet hook.  To reconstruct the scene (plans fail, what can I say…):

Here I am posing with the intended dress for the maker of my intended necklace:

And this is the finished shawl blocking the eve of our flight home:

And close-up for the detail:

The beads are Tojo #6, and the yarn is 1 skein of Fantastic Knitting’s Zephyr Lace-weight in Indigo.

At the top left of this pic you can see where one of my eyelet lines veers off.  To show that I am a hapless lace knitter who was under a deadline.  This shawl, now called Blue Lagoon, is easily the most delicate thing that I own.

The first rows of the pattern were difficult – I was learning how to knit in beads for what felt like the greatest expanse of knitting.  Mistakes were made.  All over the place but I stuck with it for the idea of bringing it to this wedding was strong with me.

This best laid plan had a hitch.  Literally.  Our hotel was 40 mins away from this 4:00 p.m. wedding, and I had been swimming in the sea just hours before.  So, there was getting ready to be done.  As DH was doing up the side zipper for me, it burst.  Burst, I tell you.  At the ribs.  Instant panic & cursing followed by tears.  Would the thing budge?!  No!

Eventually I got the thing to run again but the zip’s teeth were mangled [DH wants to say he didn’t cause it… yea].  Since yours truly was also a Reader in said wedding, this was a calamity.  Luckily another cousin, C, had a dress to loan me.  The shawl still worked with the turquoise but not the necklace.  Except C wears a size large & I wear – well, I wear a small… With help from C, and bossing from the bride’s Mom, I pulled myself together.  The bride had everyone waiting a long while due to some serious hair issue.  Not what I planned but here is Blue Lagoon as I wore it:

In a more relaxed mood the following day at Shaw Park Beach Hotel:

We took many other trip pictures – soon come with those!

Happy Friday!


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In a few words

Gotta move quickly but have been itching to post all week… And so, the pictures!

My very first cat ever (evidence of mad husband-wheedling skills right there).  We’ve kept his Humane Society name – Melvin.  It suits him to a T.  Speaking of Ts… 2 months in, Toby is still very, very upset with us.  On the bright side, his activity level has increased ten-fold.  Mel is 15 months old, and very affectionate.

And in the bottom left of that picture is something I’m terribly proud of – the second skein of Rambouillet spindling.

This has to be my best spindle-plying job yet, and the yardage is a cool 350 yards.  The roving is from Dyed in the Wool Handmade & I still have some left for spinning.  Idea is to make a circular shawl (will need to use other handspun for size).  The finished skein is something I pet daily.

Trying not to think about the improvement (i.e. difference) over skein No. 1…

I’m out of time, so let’s skip the new spindles.  Here’s my labour of knitting pride.  An Oslo Walk Shawl with Fiddlesticks lace Zephyr in Indigo.  First beading effort ever – Toho no. 6.  Knitting pride because I am hoping to wear it to a cousin’s wedding next Saturday.

It is very long at about 5′.  Here’s the full length of it on the needles:

I’ll let you know how that works out with my not-so-wide self…  And the parting shot:

In honour of a friend who is no longer with us, I have to say February 12th is a very auspicious day.

Walk good!

 


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Catching up

Life got out of hand.  Evidence of which is standing in our living room.  A tree.  Neckid as it grew in the ground.  The Christmas tree that wasn’t.  Honestly, I met every other holiday expectation – up to & including baking stints – and tried my very best.  Good thing Mom was too tired herself to really notice the lack of ornamentation.  Let’s just say we kept it simple & leave it at that…

Happy New Year!

Just because I fell off the face of the blog doesn’t mean that I was an idle working stiff.  Here’s a blast of what’s been keeping me sane this past little while.  In no particular order because it’s all in heavy rotation anyways…

Best surprise ever was finding this spinning angel on my doorstep on a cold Saturday morning.  A gift from my friend T, and she came in her own box:

T made the drop spindle with some sequins, and painted it with purple nail polish! She unwound the gold lace yarn, which apparently was a beast.  Love, love, love.  And yes, my new Ravatar.

T’s other gift has been to encourage me in the general direction of her special talent with lace knitting.  A large rectangle stole in spider net from Jane Sowerby’s Victorian Lace Today is quietly in progress.  Amazon linky.  If you don’t like empowering the likes of Amazon, here’s a pic of my copy:

This is not just a slightly ’80s looking pattern book.  No.  This book goes to great lengths to explain lace construction and knitting methods.  Helps if you weren’t born knowing 7 cast-ons suitable for lace.  Also helps if negotiating borders around corners isn’t yet another of your innate skills.

In other knitting we have a far less challenging Hap Shawl.  The pattern is Hansel by Gudrun Johnston a.k.a. the Shetland Trader.

The main yarn is my Philosopher’s Wool worsted 2-ply.  The body is acres upon acres of garter stitch.  I broke up the tedium by switching to Continental (left-handed) knitting.  Even so it was a pain & a ½ to get that diamond done.  Then it was the fun part – stash busting!

Again with the everlasting knitting.  And if I thought that taught me patience, well.  How about a garter edging?

That baby only kills 8 stitches every repeat.

More in keeping with instant gratification… a hat.  DH looks dashing in this quick knit, and loves it to boot.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed he’d pick Sublime Yarns Angora Merino for his hat!  Held double for Clara Parkes’ Hill Country Hat.  I have the book but here’s a free PDF version from Knitter’s Review.

One of my aims for 2010 was to knit hand-spun socks.  Cast on for these on December 30th!

The pattern is Lemon Leaves from Cat Bordhi’s (tortuously titled) Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters.  The yarn is a 3-ply super-wash BFL hand-dyed by Turtle Purl in Québec.  The colours are amazing, and although I don’t like spinning super-wash, it knits up beautifully.  However.  Am short on yardage!

My new spindles in order of acquisition:

She’s an antique French spindle that I got in a Ravelry de-stash.  See the tip?  It looks broken but still spins beautifully.

Easily the most portable spindle I own.  She likes my Blue Mountain coffee bag.  I spin suspended but have to pay attention to her spin-time lest there be droppage.  A surprising number of non-spinners love to watch me spin on her.  Happy to oblige!

The bottom of the French is too worn for good supported spindling, so what did I do?  Got a Russian!  My less-than-stellar attempts:

It’s a mahogany Tom Forrester.  Do you see how many fibres I broke out in trying to spin on this?!?  Here’s inspiration number one for sucking less:

Sweet, sweet vicuña.  Hand-processed by Tabi at Sericin Woolworks, and worth every cent!  Only the finest, rarest camelid fibre known to man…  Until then I am a mere grasshopper with the Russian spindle.

Latest addition is an Ethan Jacob lace spindle by Greensleeves.  Another de-stash win!  It’s 14g of sleek cochin & lacewood.

They weren’t kidding when they said this is a primo lace spindle.  Insanely good, man.  Helps me not to feel like a total ass on the Russian.

Yes, I make yarn with all the tools & enthusiasm.  Here’s a small sampling… On my Wee Peggy wheel is some Finnish Landrace (the sweater project):

Previously on my Canadian Production Wheel was this gift to its previous owner – Shetland top, 2-ply:

Now on the CPW is Corriedale hand-dyed by Ontario fibre artist KerrySpins:

There’s much more in production but this is a mighty long post already!

Walk good!

 


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Looking forward

My week in a nutshell:  busy & adult-like.  How?  Well, it’s easier to live in the moment & get things done when you have a trip looking forward to…  Thank you Air Jamaica for the fire sale on  Toronto ↔ Kingston tickets.  DH will have to work but I was able to take advantage & cannot wait!  The up-shot is that I realized how much I should get done before leaving.

I put this down after the Spinolution Mach II stole my attention but this is my spindle-spun WIP… the 196 yards of Heaven shawlette:

Please excuse the safety pins… I was too tired to get up & hunt for my extra stitch markers.  This merino is a 3-ply laceweight.  Since 1 skein was wonky in the plying stage, I am going to use BFL lace wool (2 ply, I think) for the border.  My lace expert friend from the Wool Bin group is helping me work out a plan – thanks T!

While the lace waits for me to spin a border, I moved right on to knitting what was actually 192 yds of that California Red wool yarn.  It was great spinning but a pain to find a suitable pattern.  Small amount of quite frankly itchy 2-ply wool.  Last Saturday got sucked into a major project search… eventually, I came accross Julesy’s 2005 massively popular Anthropologie Capelet.  Great!  A shrug.  I could use a shrug!

I felt like the Yoda of yarn as I got the whole thing done with maybe 1″ to spare.  Yeah right.  Well, there is a FO shrug but it won’t be fitting me this side of age 12.  While I swallow that hard truth, I will show you a picture of a tulip from the back yard.  Beautiful bloom.

It would be wrong to give a child an itchy wool shrug, right?

In more successful news.  I’ve finished spinning & plying the Ashford Corriedale roving:

Like the purple-themed post today?  There’s also a bit more on another bobbin.  It’s 2-ply & spun on the loaner Spinolution Mach II wheel.  I’d like to knit it up into a cowl/ moebius scarf… in fairly short order.

To explain this sudden rush to knit my hand-spun yarn… I’d like to have some items for my guild’s display at the For the Love of the Arts Festival on May 16th.  The info for that event is buried on the web here.  After that it’s away for the trip, man!