The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

A quick post before we get ready for a family celebration on the other side of the GTA.  These are a few of my favorite work and home things that I am grateful for, today.

Kilim gracing the studio wall

With much elbow grease and time, I used linen warp yarn to sew velcro strips across the top of my Christmas gift kilim.  Such a warm addition to the studio!  It’s just behind my Mighty Wolf loom. Tomorrow, I have my 4th weaving class in the fall term.

Many thanks in material form

A new commission has jumped off the wheel (Watson, Martha) and onto my needles.  It’s for someone special, and is making me ridiculously happy.

Mini-skeins of good memories

Clearing a bunch of singles.  Each was once a sample that came from a fibre event or with a spindle.  As a bonus, I got to practice the Andean plying trick while reliving good times.

Spinning cotton

Mahatma Gandhi was absolutely correct.  You do want to spin cotton each day.

I feel that the spinning wheel has all the virtues needed to make one’s life truthful, pure and peaceful and fill it with the spirit of service. I, therefore, beg of you all to give half an hour’s labour daily in the form of spinning.

Speech to students, Dinajpur, May 21, 1925

Prepping California Variegated Mutant wool

This is my start of the 4th round of singles for my CVM wool project.  I use the Louet flick card for each lock before charging the Schacht cotton hand cards.  The waste for 5 rolags is in the container on the left.

In this round, I am retiring the Tabachek top whorl spindles, and have introduced my now cleared Andina low whorls.  My hope is that using 4 low whorl spindles will even out the spinning phase.

Happy first trip to WEBS

I am blessed to be able to make visits to stores like WEBS, and to know that a Moosie and her tulipwood shaft are making their way to our home as we speak.  This article bounced out of my Twitter feed, today.  Reading reminds me again that each of these unwaged activities has as much value as my previous waged work.  As boneheaded as this lifestyle strikes many in my sphere of reference, I have tremendous support from my family unit.

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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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Socks on my mind

We’re having some spectacular weather & it sure helped to neutralize the springing forward into sleep deprivation that also happened this week!  Apart from DST, spring’s really my favourite season.

 Back in early February, I finished the second sock for DH.  It’s the Pinked Socks, Judy Alexander design:

He loves them dearly but kindly refuses to model (anytime soon at least).  I gave project details here in January, and have little else to ad except that the inside-out view is also nice.

 I really give props to this project.  It was pretty enough & simple enough for me to push through the all-thumbs feeling of knitting with both hands on the 2.25mm-size double pointed needles.

In a lovely circle for later sock knitting, DH aka Mystery Man heeded my Pretty Please email last year.  It was another brilliant Christmas gift, the Knitter’s Book of Socks.

It really is as Clara’s subtitle pronounces an ultimate guide to creating socks that suit.  Unlike this one…

The Sweetpea Sock that Was.  Started with great gusto back for the Yarn Harlot’s book launch.  I really liked the cast-on double then instantly decrease start.  The cuff was stretchy.

But not stretchy enough… Yes, past tense.  Life is too short for narrow socks, and I have come to terms with that.

The sock is frogged.  Long live the sock.

Nature hates a sock knitting vacuum, and so I cast-on for another Seduction Sock by Ann Budd this week.  I made a pair back in 2009, and am still wearing them all the time.

This is a first – alpaca blend sock yarn!  It’s Arequipa yarn by Estelle: 65% superwash wool/ 20%alpaca/ 15% nylon.  The needles are 2.25mm, Dyakcraft.  The yarn is lovely and soft but still elastic from the wool.  The needle-tips will split stitches if I am not careful but it’s not that big a deal.

As proof that socks beget sock yarn, I got this skein of Araucanía Ranco from Romni Wools, yesterday.  I resisted about 3 sale yarns, and left with all promises-to-self intact!

The wish for solid sock yarns can be blamed on the KBOS patterns, and the red was just too yummy to leave on the shelf.  It was a lovely (if not entirely warm) day in the city.

Man, have I have missed the energy and sheer artsiness of Queen Street West!  It was a fun afternoon, and then we also had a great dinner with Cuz & WW.

Toby hasn’t noticed yet… that’s his nemesis, Robin Redbreast on the fence this morning.  The cat misses nothing, and he’s been glued to the window all day.

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Philosopher’s Wool Love

It’s been such a long, long time!  There’s a lot I could do in the way of explaining but suffice it to say that yielding 4 entire days (and then some) to income earning has been a major shift.  Returning to this place where I can’t just dig off & do my own thing has been rough, I’m not gonna lie.  Basically, it has taken me this long to make peace with change and get a grip on having life’s work go into a hobby zone.  The start-to-finish time-line on projects is achingly slow but on the bright side, I can self-support this burgeoning fibre habit of mine!

As I told myself the whole way through – if I take pictures along the way, I can always catch up with you guys later…

One of the wondrous breaks over this Woe Is Me period was our trip to Philosopher’s Wool in Inverhuron, Ontario on Labor Day weekend.  It was an all-out blustery day but even so the 4-hour drive was spectacular.  Working farm after working farm nearing harvest.  Some had For Sale signs.  Others had Puppies for Sale signs.  DH was very good about entertaining my glee while not stopping.

We arrived around noon.  It was spitting rain.  The farm store could have been one of two buildings.  To our right is this building:

Quite clearly proclaiming itself the Philosopher’s Wool Company but also quite clearly closed-up.  And building no. 2 was the farmhouse behind us with this lovely walk-up:

The small sign to the bottom right reads the Philosopher’s Stone.

DH, not given to what he terms “aimless wandering,” insisted on calling from the car.  Directions were to turn around and walk in (groan)…  Two seconds later we arrive, and Ann Bourgeois greeted us like old friends.  She was tickled pink that someone had actually called from her parking lot… almost everyone gets it wrong but this calling in was a first!  She just thought DH & his initiative were the best.  He responded well to this treatment.

As you enter:

Now, I was pumped from the get-go.  Earlier this year, my knitting friend, Fen, gave me her copy of Ann & Eugene’s book, Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified.  Fen knew I that would love the story of how they built their farm, and wool yarn business from scratch right here in Ontario.  With Dorset sheep, no less.  In his Introduction, Eugene explains that selling his wool into the co-op system yielded $0.32 per lb.  In 1984 they sent the raw fleece to a mill for processing & sold the yarn for $2.35 per lb.  They became the co-op alternative for farmers, and eked out a niche in the yarn market by self-marketing & Ann’s fair isle sweater kits.

Over the course of the afternoon, and their generous sharing of lunch with us, we learned that they have exciting plans for the business and are as passionate as ever about what they do.  Debbie New was down for the weekend with her family, and Ann invited her to come and share with us.  Just wonderful fellowship.  DH was just as taken with our visit, and couldn’t get over their hospitality.  Here’s the yarn room & then some pics we took while (aimlessly) wandering around the farm itself:

DH scored one of those mugs.  I scored some roving, 3 wood buttons, a sheep mug & this worsted-weight yarn:

As you can guess, the postcard is of Ann & Eugene a few years aback.

He fled into the barn on my approach.

I swear DH loved the chickens!

Aside from hearing about the business we also talked with them about what it’s like having Bruce Power as a neighbour – very interesting stuff!  By the time we were done touring, talking and buying, I was ready to resign on Tuesday and follow Eugene’s lead into this farming life.  They were so warm, engaging and generous.

The weather was still on the nasty side but we did go down to Lake Huron for a gander.  The cottages:

I agreed with Ann about not wanting to be that close to her neighbours!  There was a fair amount of people swimming in the lake.  Windy, cold & choppy… mystified us!

How it looked as we walked down to the lake:


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Spin, knit, spin

With my friend’s baby shower looming, I’ve had to tear myself away from the Wee Peggy wheel, and back into knitting mode.  It was a wrench.  Only accomplished by shunting the wheel & all of her paraphernalia into another room.

Still hush-hush on this gift but I can let the working title slip, right?  Blankie Love.  I wet blocked the last piece of the body – 3 0f 3 –  last night, and have a morning to post to my heart’s content.  Then there will be seaming, a lot of stitches to pick up, and a border to be made.  By Saturday… it’s tight but doable.

This is my friend’s first pregnancy after a long period of trying.  I wanted this blanket to just be a real celebration.  It’s my idea of how a baby should be welcomed into the world.  There are notes, and charts that I’ll be writing into a pattern.

About the wheel.  It was genius to go for an Ashford maintenance kit out at Spun.  For while I was there, I picked up this Louet medium Coopworth wool roving:

Heart not included

This is the now-refreshed Wee Peggy.  Polished, oiled, and scotch tensioned.

She may not look terribly different but trust me, she sure feels different.  From clunking along to purring different.  The Coopworth turned out to be great for getting the hang of this wheel.  Having ½ pound to play with has been fun!  Believe it or not, I am on my 3rd bobbin of singles!

If you’ve noticed, I only have 2 bobbins to play with.  The wheel’s owner doubted that I would get this far on my own!  Just as I do for spindle plying, the 2 cops became 1:

Do you see the size of that ball?  It’s just an outer-feed ball of 2 singles.  DH is in awe at this output – he just sat there, staring at me spin!

For all of this excitement, my spindles are not languishing.  This is my Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) that I am spinning with the Knitter’s Book of Wool Ravelry group for a March woolalong:

The spindle is my Grafton tulipwood Mala.  Please forgive the heavy shadow in this pic – we are having a gloriously sunny March morning over here!

What’s up next in knitting?  I want to use my handspun, of course!

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Yardie Yarnie

This blogger might just be the world’s first yardie yarnie.  Just to be clear – I do not want this getting back to my Mother, Father or in-laws.  In this regard, TKK is counting on her dear brother to remember who kept all his tattoo news to herself.

It’s a long story the upshot of which is that in a few hours, I will acquire ½ a fleece.  Raw, untreated & probably rather unclean wool.  Shorn from a genuine Romney sheep here in Ontario this June.  The fleece of a champion grey sheep.  What possessed me?  Ahh well…

  1. The price was right.  $25 for this much wool – hello?!  Sirdar’s 100% undyed virgin Eco Wool dk yarn sells for $6.99 around here.  That’s $6.99 for 1¾ oz.  How much does ½ a ram yield you ask?  This one is 7 lbs for $25.  I am not skipping the part where I’ll have to wash, dry, and then comb the locks into the actual raw wool.  Then turn my hand at spinning.  I know. I know.  But still.  Listen, if someone else does the dirty work the roving from Romney fleece starts at $25 per lb.  My seller says she paid double for the raw fleece.
  2. Even my clueless yardie self knew that Romney wool is, to quote Martha, a good thing.  It has an even crimp & is relatively low on the lanolin.  That was my intuition.  Boy was it a relief to then look it up & see many a yarnie recommend Romney as the starter wool for spinning!
  3. I liked the fact that it is natural grey wool.  For all of this madness, I draw the line at spinning.  Dyeing isn’t pulling at me.
  4. Yonder farm is inside of 100 miles by half.  I am meeting my seller in the next town over.
  5. Drop spindles captivate me.  In the same way knitting used to before I got the knack.
  6. Felting projects have been occurring to me over-night.  Baby Sierra’s room might do well with a grey felted bunny, and so on.
  7. DH okayed the madness.  He was shocked at the offer price – he’s caught on to what a sweater’s-worth of yarn costs.  He wanted to trade permissions – I get this wool & he gets his coveted video card.  Well that effort flopped – the video card is 10xs that wool!

All of which is very true.  However, this might be a tad more bitten off than is chewable.  Where/ how shall I store this baby?  Can you hide 7 lbs of wool from a visiting in-law?  FIL arrives in a week!

Baa Baa Black Sheep have you any wool?

No sir, no sir I’ve given it away

Three bags to a crazy yardie

Irieknit is her name

Back in the now… My Hottie Hottie tank top hit an equipment roadblock.  My longer 4.0mm circular needle went missing.  For all the searching, it was well & truly lost.  One thing led to another, and now I have an Addi Turbo 4.0mm circ.  Talk about getting the knit knack!  Light, bright & beautiful.

Addi Turbos give you wings!

Addi Turbos give you wings!

Of course, I found the old aluminum needle the very next day… outside, chilling on the patio.  How rude!

While I was in the LYS why not stash for my MK Carroll Tillie Cloche Hat?

Just as a parting pic – this here is a backyard butternut!

Aint she a beaut?

Ain't she a beaut?

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Thinking it Over

Last I wrote there was to be furious fingerless glove knitting this week.  For my cousin’s (long over-due) birthday gift.  One, “Are you nuts?” glance from DH put paid to the idea.  Him noticing an unspoken vibe between women?  Woke up.  Smelled the coffee.  Yes, it is true that she is decidedly underwhelmed by the knitting thing.

So, I did the right thing & pulled the plug on that project.  Away to the mass market I go.  Chuh!

Bumped up the knit queue is a cotton tank top.  So, yet again, I am carrying a non-descript circle of yarn to Pub Night 🙂  This time it’s red.

Let us not speak of that stitch marker, okay?

Raided odds & bobs of jewelry for the stitch markers. No questions!

It will be a cotton tank top à la Kristen TenDyke’s Provence Broken Rib Tank.  A free pattern here.  It has rave reviews on Ravelry & looks like a winner.  Her model looks demure as demure can be.  I, on the other hand, am going in another direction.  Working title?  Hottie Hottie Toppie!

My little bougainvillea has smiled upon me.  Paradise in a pot, people!

Not as homesick with this baby to look at! Frankie Flowers of CityTv wasn’t kidding when he said August is a good time to fertilize.

What will I do when the growing season is over?

The next project in queue is there to stay.  It’s the Sushi Moss baby gift!  We now have a gender & a name.  As we hoped, it’s a girl!  To be named Sierra.  Although my cunning plan is underway, I can’t say too much…  Her Momma stops in here for a read every so often.  Must be a surprise!

So far, I have pattern ideas & the yarn is on order.  Back story on the yarn order.  So, I was all excited to drive the 20 mins to this LYS. They have an annual summer sale & I have ideas.  First I went when it was closed.  Yes, I have a history of doing that.  My bad.  I go back the next day (scenic 20 min. drive) only to be sorely disappointed.  Where are the mark-downs?  Live & learn my friends.   Apart from this small order, I left empty-handed.  Onwards to their competitors’ sales.

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Baby Gift Satisfaction

Sammy’s V-neck Vest is all ready for him!

I defied the pattern instructions, and did not join the left armhole edging at the button band.  Just took the rawness off the top few stitches with my take on crochet, and knitted straight for the armhole.  This means that the 3 buttons are the functional join for that shoulder & arm.  I also changed the shoulder join on the right side to a graft instead of the 3-needle bind-off.

Here is the prezzie all wrapped & ready for the parcel post:

Found some use for that gross-grain!  All-in-all, I’m happy with this one.  Thumbs-up for the pattern:  Louisa Harding’s Oz Vest from Natural Knits for Babies & Moms.  Interweave linky is here.

Riding this wave of gift-giving, I think that my next project will be a pair of fingerless gloves for my cousin.  She’s coming over on the weekend & I am a good 3 months late with her birthday present.  She likes to run, so they could be useful when the weather turns chilly.  It would also be a good project for Pub Night this Wednesday – minimal scope for screw-ups.

I do have a last skein of Noro Silk Garden but the colourway might be too girly for this cousin.  Hmm.  May have to go to a LYS, which just so happens to be having a sale…  Inching closer to a very slippery slope!

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New on Needles and Life

This week everything seemed so vivid… I bopped about the town a bit again but even the garden seemed brighter.  The sunny weather helped but it was really the extra bit of independence that made such a difference.

On Wednesday morning, I left an early appointment, and passed some time in a local Starbucks with a frappuccino.   Been there dozens of times but between the Jimmy Cliff songs & bright sunshine, it was downright zen…

I was really out to get much-needed help with my Purple Cocoon Cardigan at the Wool Bin.  I could have fudged & evened out the front tops but I had a nagging feeling that I misread the lady’s instructions.  The WB owners have set aside Wednesday afternoons for customers to sit, knit & ask questions.  I got there a few hours early but one of the owners was good enough to figure it out with me.  She agreed the instructions were convoluted but went at it line-by-line, with my knitted pieces.  Turns out that the pattern looks sound.  I only seem to have tapered the front armholes when they should be straight.  Yet again my LYSO saves the day!  Many thanks!

The WB is also in summer sale mode.  I came prepared with a new baby gift project & left with my 3rd batch of Sirdar Baby Bamboo yarn:

Back home, new to stash

Back home, new to stash

The idea is to make a 1st birthday gift for my cousin’s son, Sammy!  His birthday is the end of August, so even though it will go all the way to L.A., I still have some time.  It’s fast becoming an Oz Vest from Louisa Harding ‘s book Natural Knits for Babies & Moms.

It had this whipped on the needles by evening & took it over to Knit Night.  It was so nice to catch up with the ladies/ do something on my own again.  I also met someone new.  Of course, with all the errands, I was very tired.  After making a silly mistake, I knew that I was fading.  The others were also ready to leave around then.  The mistake is now fixed & it allowed me to make other changes:

Sammy's Vest, lower half

The lighting was bad in this photo & so, the colour is washed-out.  It really is the bright blue of the stash photo, above.

Knitting this in the round is a wee off-pattern.  I figured that the less seams for an active boy, the better… The post-mistake mod. is the striping.  The garter stripes had a ’70s feel, so I changed that to the less boring seed stitch.  Not exactly fashion-forward but I knew that going in…  I’ve also decided to make it a few inches long.  My cue on this?  At 10 months his Mother was posting that he was big enough to be Hagrid’s brother… I really do hope that it’s wide enough.

Latest in the “Man Am I Proud it’s Growing” series is a squash flower!  This plant is running amok.  I had no idea the wee seedling would get this massive.  It’s outgrown the bed, and is giving the lavender, pinks & tomatoes serious competition for space.

Weekend plans are to catch Julie & Julia at the movies,  knock out this baby gift & book our flight/ hotel for Brother Man’s wedding… not too much to ask for!

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Summer Sox and what’s next

So much thanks to Sean for enabling these Summer Seduction Sox!  The boy has superb taste in yarn:)

Sibling Love in Action - Summer Seduction Sox

Summer Seduction Sox, all done!

A word about my right leg… I know the shin looks awful… it was fresh out of the boot cast for this photo.  Here’s a nicely cropped photo:

Closer on the Summer Seductions

Closer on the Summer Seductions

It’s pretty obvious that the left leg has a better toe grafting.  That’s the 2nd sock & I grafted after downing a mango smoothie from Booster Juice.  Grafting is the classic way of weaving 2 sets of live stitches closed on a permanent basis.  The term of art = Kitchener stitch.  It has its own logic but does suck up yarn in the making.  You cut a tail of yarn to weave them shut, and I didn’t have quite enough on that 1st sock.

They are full of character & I can’t wait to wear them!  What’s not to love?  The toe is good for my yam foot, the design is tops, made with unique hand painted yarn, and …. can you buy socks with pointy heels?  I don’t think so!  My sock knitting is coming to come – thanks Sean!

By some stroke of genius, I convinced DH to take us to The Wool Bin.  The owners were in the store, and it was so nice to see them again.  Jane helped MIL kit up for crochet, which freed me up to get yarn for a triangular shawl, and have a good look around.  Halla gave me a warm welcome, and it was a nice break from the monotony of home.  I now have 2 hanks of Chilean sock yarn that will be perfect for my shawl:

Hand dyed Araucania Ranco Multi

Hand dyed Araucania Ranco Multi

I’ve chosen Gudrun Johnston’s new design, the Aestlight Shawl.  It was my first Ravelry buying experience, and I was impressed by the speed of delivery!

There were so many triangle shawls to choose from but this one stood out from the rest.  The name is beautiful, and the designer explains that it means east light in Shetland dialect.  It can be worn casually but is made using traditional Sheltie shawl construction.  What I do know is that a Sheltie shawl begins with one stitch, and is made continuously – borders & all.  Term of art = multi-directional.  A test knitter raved about the construction, so I’m in.  Plus, this is a beautiful way to learn something new!

As shawls go, this is small.  I only got the 2 hanks to use each alternately.  The yarn is variegated, and outside of socks a single hank may very well give random splotches of colour.  Hopefully, the mixing will work well.  They are from the same colourway.  Time will tell…

We did see Harry Potter & the HBP yesterday too.  I was happy with it overall but DH felt it was too slow.  A producer or someone else on the inside of that film has to be a serious knitting buff.  No spoilers but I’m glad we went!