The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Celebrating String Thing 2013

Hello, morning of String Thing!

With Sandi on the first morning of String 2013

This year Sandi and I overnighted with my family in their lovely Toledo home.  It broke my drive but was much more – a chance to visit & laugh with some of my favorite people.  

Sandi graciously agreed to this plan.  She survived us talking at full speed!

I like the fine print

The Golden Lamb was just 3 hours away, and we made it just in time for afternoon classes.  Gotta love how the Lamb has operated under its 1803 licence as a “house of public entertainment.”

Still enjoying mine.

To wit, this year’s warm welcome!  I sensed a certain craftiness with the glue gun there… sure enough 2 hotel staffers bought 1st spindles at the event.

Enting!

The 2nd welcome pack went to my most excellent roommate, Enting!  Finally meeting an online friend is so cool and I loved getting to know her.

Traditional Andean Textiles

Abby’s Friday class was given in partnership with Charles H. Gerhardt of Tribal Art, a local collector/ dealer.  We were able to examine each pre-Columbian textile closely.

Ancient Peruvian spindle

These artefacts were found in graves.  They took our breaths away.  I ran to take pictures for you.

Works in progress.  The spinner’s fibre and her tools.

The shell in particular moved me.  I also use large shells to spin cotton on supported spindles.

Andean chuspa – purse or bag

What better way to begin to learn about Andean textile traditions? A backstrap woven chuspa was juxtaposed with a slit tapestry panel & much more.

Pre-Columbian slit-tapestry

Doesn’t the geometric design look very modern?  It incorporates both camelid & cotton fibres.

L – Belt with finger weaving

My hope is that Abby will run this workshop again for Stringtopians.  In addition to these and more items, Charlie made 2 Incan Quipus available for our class.

Multi-coloured Quipu

We saw not only colour but opposing twist, coils, knots and plies as the sophisticated system of record that it is.

The other Quipu that we examined was shorter with no header, undyed, and had less vertical yarns.

Mounted Incan Quipu

Spinners’ Social Nights

As you may have guessed, there is quite a lot of spinning in public at String.

Shelly aka Baking Goddess to the Spinners

Shelly was trying out cute Turkish spindles.  We loved her sweater & laughed at its story.

Fran, Anne, Karen and Stacey – local Stringtopians

Ohioans never fail to impress me with their friendliness.  We had a great time together over dinner.

Kristen, Knittin9Dra9on

This was all only after we made Mandie show us her gorgeous Iron Maiden shawl.

Mandie and her Mithril Maiden

She used 1 skein of her Sheepy Time Knits Silkie yarn.  Before I leave the subject of Mandie’s super talents, look at what I scored as a String prize this year!

Luck of the draw!

So thrilled to have won this awesome prize!  It’s 50/50 merino silk, and will be as lace-weight as I can make it.

And the contest rules are…

This year, Morgaine donated batts for sundry spinning competitions.  Not surprisingly my speed-spinning on a spindle was not competitive.

Devin won. He is a spindle speed demon!

On Saturday night to kick-off Longest Thread, Abby, Beth & Carol schooled the crowd.  My mind was suitably blown by the hilarity.

While this was all going on, I was enjoying having a New Glarus with Woolwine.  T is a super-favorite String friend, and she makes me giggle in class too!

Woolwine in her awesome handspun Paulie

New Glarus is a thing of beauty & deserves blog space.

Notice T’s bottle opener? Mad skills.

Competition fun aside (I might get to that in another post), Carolyn gave Abby a challenge she couldn’t walk away from.

We laughed OUT LOUD

Yup.  Boat anchor.  As someone said, “The jokes just write themselves!”

There is more I want to say but this post is already long.  Lebanon, Ohio is beautiful this time of year inside & out.

Spun in the best company

These classes teach me so much each year, and Abby’s community creates such a giving space.

Thank you, friends.


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Making progress

A few weeks ago, I gave a spinner that I respect & have much love for a few words.  I told her that being perfect isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.  We can feel the right path and keep going.  Slips and all.

Spring was listening. (Finally!)

My own advice is what I am taking for the current projects.

All as I start getting ready for Spring String Thing in Lebanon, Ohio.  I can’t believe that it’s next week!

The Boxing Day Order

Wonderful & terrifying at the same time – on Boxing Day, I got a firm order for a lace stole.  The splendid terms include:  a) in amethyst; and (b) blank slate.

Sneaking you a peak!

What I will be delivering is an approximately 950-yard Victorian-inspired stole with a lightly beaded edge.  It’s a custom design knit in 17 days for a deserving client!

Japanese seed beads for custom-design stole

Materials:  Helen’s Lace (silk/wool) in berry by Lorna’s Laces.  Ewe Knit had enough colours of this & other indie lace yarns that I had great choices locally.  The beads are Tojo 8/0 from Beaddazzled in Burlington.

This project was a challenge and a real joy.  I will post more on the design after it is blocked, and off to Jamaica.

Hand-spun Progress Reports

While the commission was underway, I gave my Tibetan Clouds shawl a light wet blocking to show you the pattern.

Tibetan Chai Clouds shawl-in-progress

Please, ignore the blue blotch – it’s temporary.  Apart from that aren’t the colours wonderful?  It’s the effect of spinning within each band of the Yarn Hollow hand-dyed fibre.  I was able to create long runs where there were none!

Squint, it’s a sweater!

The first 4-ply ball of CVM wool sweetness.  It weighs 62g.  I may not in fact have enough fibre for the intended sweater.  That’s fine, I am just going to carry on under the sweater banner anyway.

Opposing ply yarn in the wild (almost)

Incredibly, both of those opposing ply skeins were made on the same niddy-noddy.  As Sarah Anderson says in ‘The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs‘:

These yarns are fascinating to experiment with, because it isn’t always clear what you’ll get or how the twist in the different plies will respond…

No kidding!  The more energized skein on the left there was 2-ends of the left-spun single plied with the right-spun [L-L-R; plied right].  That 62 yds will be split for the feet of my sock experiment.  The other skein is 276 yds of less excited yarn in the opposite track [R-R-L; plied left].

Explaining how the difference ends with a distinction is above my pay grade!  They are next in the sock queue.

Making my Day

Also amusing is what’s on my needles now – my Ampersand Happies.

First Turtle Toes sock

Keeping the foot in plain stockinette was a good move, I think.  Love, love, love this colourway as much as I did on the day that I bought the yarn.

I can just see them brightening up my shoes now.  It’s going to be great!  Seriously, go get some for yourself!

One bright project leads to another.  This is a braid of BFL top that was a door prize from Musewings last Stringtopia.  Thank you, Nicole!

I started this, yesterday.  The braid is split down the middle.  I am using my Bosworth Mini (21 g) purpleheart spindle.

My thoughts are with you Boston.  Each & every person affected by the Marathon bombing has my prayers.


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Winter Wears On

… also the title of Chapter 2 in “The Country Kitchen“, 1935 by Della T. Lutes.  Here on Day 3 of an Arctic Air Mass, I have to agree with Della:

“As the days begin to lengthen, then the cold begins to strengthen.”  That was in the almanac.  We stay closely housed.  There is little to be done outside except chores…

‘Closely housed’ in this context is not a bad thing.  For there are knits & spins to speak of!

A Lace-weight Mountain Climbed

The Laar cardigan pattern by Gudrun Johnston was love at first sight.  It’s beautiful, and like any of Gudrun’s other designs is very, very well written.

 Knit in Fantastic Knitting Zephyr, I used US #0/ 2.0 mm needles to get gauge.  I tackled this project on & off for just over a year.

This was a tough knit in that it tested both skill and my personal endurance.  The lower body’s miles of stockinette worked flat & fine nearly undid me.

What drew me on was knowing how much I would love wearing this.  And I do!  The side benefit?  It’s charmed the commercial socks off each non-knitter that has seen me flaunting it.

A Sock-weight Mountain Climbed

… or how a good book can avert a knitting crisis.

The pattern is Wendy D. Johnson’s Bavarian Cable Socks.  I cast on in June last year with really nice Indigodragonfly SW merino yarn.  Using an improvised cable needle (i.e. broken DPN) for each twisted-stitch row was not fun.

By September, I was flat-out frustrated.  “Twisted Stitch Knitting:  Traditional Patterns & Garments from the Styrian Enns Valley” by Maria Erlbacher is what rescued me.

I gladly ditched the extra needle, and found a version of the motif charted & named the “Small Chain, #1” Kleines Ketterl.

Thanks to plane knitting (plus), I have a great new pair of textured socks.

Sweaters in Progress

Sleeves!  They are giving problems!  This is my Beach House Pullover by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.  I love knitting it.  Just not the sleeves.

In early December when I had no business casting on for a sweater, I did.

Sweet Georgia SW Worsted, Botanical

The yarn made me do it!  Can you blame me?

It’s Amy Swenson’s “Mr. Bluejeans Cardigan” for Knitty’s Deep Fall, 2012.  And yes, I bought the yarn on impulse.  From the beautiful new Toronto yarn store, Ewe Knit.

Remember Toby?  He likes my CVM wool sweater project.

A super-springy swatch tells me that this is not as crazy-pants as you think right now…  Tools of the trade = 2 Andean, and 2 Tabachek drop spindles.

Hey, there’s no rush – next year will have winter too, right?!?


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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: