The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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The footnote, and the flax that brought us here

There is a footnote to my last post on the Wm MacDonald Saxony spinning wheel.  Since posting she continued to impress me through 4 bobbins of BFL/silk top.

BFL wool/silk handspun yarn by irieknit on antique Nova Scotia spinning wheel maker William MacDonald

Four bobbins’ worth from the antique MacDonald wheel

As she ran, I cleaned and oiled and spoke to the twitter.  A wool lock shim came to the front maiden & I had an eye out for any signs of trouble.  Towards the end of the fourth bobbin, I felt a slight shift.  All of a sudden, I discovered an old repair to the right of the front treadle support – and not in a good way.

R. Needles, “Wheelwright” from London, Ontario spoke at the 2013 Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  He writes succinctly in his paper for the seminar:

Function matters if you’re going to use it.

This named wheel functions beautifully, and is an important historical artifact.  We are going to seek professional assistance to restore this old fix.  It’s actually still holding because I recognized the change in feel, applied a non-invasive brace (hello, leather tag from that purse!), and caught it before real damage happened.  As a solid piece it can take glue you know from a pro.

More than anything else there is a simple fact.  I love this wheel.  So, stick a pin – we’ll get to that 5th bobbin spun yet!

Blame the flax

This tipping point from “wheels” to “wheel collection” is all because of flax.  Yes, that’s right, I blame the flax.

A lot of line flax spread for my distaff

Pennsylvania flax

You should watch out for this sneaky fibre called flax.  It wants you to have specialized wheels, and takes its own sweet time to whisper sweet nothings in your ear as you go.

Antique Pennsylvania line flax dressed on small distaff for spinning

My glorified stick distaff

See the twisted fingers of flax to the lower left of the distaff?  This is the finest from the antique Pennsylvania flax that I combed last October. I brought it out last month for a group fibre study on Ravelry.com.

Flax boon waste during handspinning on denim but it's antique!

Flax boon fallen away from the fibre in spinning

Even after last fall’s hackling, the best of this flax has a ton of boon & straw!  Out came a bandana, in fact.  It was that much dust as I drafted from the distaff.  The flax varied wildly.  One minute I had soft, fine lengths, and the next I was waving the straw along!  I just went with the texture, and kept up with wet spinning to smooth it all over.

My jeans were soaked.  I looked a sight.  Still there I was, hooked all over again on the linen.  Having a virtual spin-along was also really cool.

About the wet spinning – it wasn’t plain water this time.  I gave a lot of flax seeds a generous splash of boiling water.  Steeping & stirring happened but I was really halfway to the wheel before long.  There was a good difference.  In the future, I’ll boil the seeds, and use the flax-slurry.

Book - Reflections from a Flaxen Past by Kati Reeder Meek and handspun linen single yarns

Learning the linen

This fibre varied from fine to feeling almost like tow flax.  I hope there was enough twist in this linen yarn.  It was spun wet, and felt fairly textured when I wound it from my drying tin (holes are punched in the sides of the tin) to the rolls for storage.

Alongside my singles is a birthday present – Kati Reeder Meek’s, “Reflections from a Flaxen Past for love of Lithuanian Weaving.”  A fantastic first flax reference for my shelves!  It was Camilla Valley’s last copy, and is blowing me away.  The Lithuanian linen tradition far more complex than I ever dreamed.  Most of all, I am thrilled to have a spinners’ insights on making linen weaving yarn.  It is so well reasoned, and accessible.

Handwoven linen Swedish lace sample by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

Handwoven lace samples in linen by Jette Vandermeiden

Also inspiring this push is the samples of handwoven linen lace that Jette Vandermeiden brought for our guild class last month.

Handwoven lace samples by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

More samples from Jette’s class

All of the samples were interesting but I was so drawn to Jette’s discussion of the linen laces in particular.  My goal is to practice weaving first, and build my skills but with an eye towards learning to weave my own linen textiles.

First year bloom on Clematis vine

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all Canadians near & far!  Like the Clematis, this is my first year with roots in the Canadian soil for this day, and that means something!

 


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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