The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Spins into November – a tale of 2 wheelspun Shetland yarns

In my last post I wrote about spinning a 2nd Shetland wool top from another dyer.  The spinning tools were the same & the process varied only very little.  As I saw during spinning, yes, the yarns proved to be so, so different.

Now that they are finished, I wanted to come back & compare them.

Handspun handdyed Shetland wool top yarns by irieknit

Tale of 2 Shetland wool spins

Furiosa from Sheepy Time Knits’ Female Heroes Club is on the left.  Its 2 skeins weigh 115 g, and are around 187 yards (748 yards per pound).  The colourway shifted gently, and as a conventional 3-ply lilacs and reds shoot through the darker tones.  There is depth to the 3-ply and the colours never muddied.  I suspect that Mandie kept her painting to the length of the Shetland staples but won’t be asking her to spill her trade secrets!

There was some but not very much kemp in this braid.  How long to wind-off the wheel? 8 days.

Handspun handdyed Shetland wool top yarns by irieknit

Autumn Wedding colourway (Sheepspot), foreground

The Autumn Wedding from Sheepspot at Woodstock was lighter at 104 g.  The handspun yarn measures around 179 yards (1,925 yards per pound).

These were both quick spins, and again I didn’t analyse this fibre’s painting sequence.  This braid had 4 colours in a non-repeating pattern with different lengths between the 4 colours.  In other words, purple was shorter than pink, and there were strong ochre & orange runs as well.  The 3-ply from this braid is also complex but with strong, warm colours.  I will use this handspun in a separate project and not paired with Furiosa.

There was a fair bit of kemp, and the yarn is 5 g lighter than the braid was after the picking out.  How long to wind-off the wheel?  4 days.

The minor difference

To recap the method, both braids were spun on Wee Peggy, plied on Martha (Watson) spinning wheels with the same set-ups.  I divided each in thirds by measuring length, and fished out kemp before spinning.  It was a worsted-style spin across the full width of top in the same order of thirds, 1-2-3 order.

It diverged only in Autumn Wedding when the last ¹⁄3 proved heavier by approx. 11 g.  How I handled that was to stop, weigh, and add the last 5 g of hot pink to the 1st bobbin.  The up-shot is that last-dyed from section no. 3 walked up to section no. 1.  It’s a subtle shift but gets noted as enhancing what we spinners call a barber-pole effect.  It was still uneven but that’s the 2nd skein, 30 yards.

This is just one approach for colour in spinning:  keeping an open mind for what the dyer has created.  Next to each other but not a pair, the new handspun Shetland yarns are:

  1. a subtle, cool, heathery  version with a heavy worsted-weight grist; and
  2.  a bold, warm, multicoloured version with a light sport-weight grist.

A side-note – do not pass over a mill-prepped dyed Shetland if there’s some kemp.  You can easily pick it out, still have a quick spin, and avoid (gah) scratchy (sometimes called rustic) handspun skeins… just ditch that kemp!

Handspun yarns and knitting Drachenfels Shawl by irieknit

Testing handspun yarn choices, Drachenfels Shawl

There are times when combining handspun yarns can seem like a good idea only for it to be you know, not.  My winter 2017 Drachenfels shawl has the (front-to-back) Targhee, Blue Faced Leicester & I substituted a Columbia for that beaded mohair/wool skein.  By fall 2017 it worked so well with Romney for my Starry Stripes Handspun Vest.

Handspun Romney wool with beaded mohair/wool handspun yarn for knitted vest by irieknit

Made a great handspun vest

The details are not important.  This time, I already know that these Shetland yarns may never pair well for me.  That’s okay!  I am already scheming for the new skeins to be Pierogi Slipper Socks by Sarah Jordan and/or a tea cosy.  Both feet & steeped tea cry out for these warm, cheerful colours!

For now the 2 wheels are staying empty for a bit.  Not only am I still knitting the 2 handspun projects but there’s a nicely developed warp plan for Swedish lace 2-tone napkins to grace our home.

 

 


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March handweaving – Two scarves from a Zephyr warp

This is the great use of our March break that I hinted at in past posts – all finished, and one scarf is in happy use.  It is based on a pre-wound pair of warp chains of Fantastic Knitting Zephyr (merino/silk, 5,040 YPP) 6 yards long.

Therein lies a story.

Entering zephyr warp threads on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom by irieknit

Warp sees light of day!

In the last weeks of T’s first school term, mid-June 2017, I was so stressed that I thought weaving scarves would be just the thing.  There I had the most beautiful 2 balls of knitting lace yarn in a colour that a (former) friend thought would be great on me.  She was correct but I just had not wanted to knit that much Suede in lace at all.

Well, I both did and ignored the math.  This led to the correct length, and here is the true quote from my weaving book when winding:

OH CRAP.

This is how I learned that stress weaving is not yet my thing.  I was short by half of the bouts I wanted for comfortable twill scarves.  It needed re-working but my mind was not to be trusted with anything but knitting needles at that point.  Clearly.

There is a literal inked-in note of the yardage requirement for my first idea:  1,728 yards of Zephyr.  The rub?  I had 1,260 yards, and ignored the shortfall at my peril.  But wait.  It ends well!  No to twill!

Handspun camel/silk weft on zephyr warp handweaving by irieknit

So many breakthroughs in one picture – handspun camel/silk on zephyr

What captured my imagination was Erica de Ruiter’s 1 block M’s & O’s in her new “Weaving on 3 Shafts” book, p. 30.  The chapter starts,

This weave, found more or less by accident, was the direct cause for my three-shaft passion.

Passion is understating Erica de Ruiter’s work in this area but I digress.

This effect proved wonderful for showing-off my handspun camel/silk that is 3,560 YPP and only 2 ounces from Schafenfreude Fibres.  It was spun as long ago as July, 2013.

Handspun camel/silk yarn by irieknit dyed by Schafenfreude Fibers

Shopped the stash – camel/silk handspun

Another breakthrough was weaving with my new Bluster Bay end-feed shuttle (Honex tension) in black cherry.  Now that was a splurge worth making!  I wound the pirn using my Leclerc electric winder.

Weaving with end feed shuttle by Bluster Bay on Schacht Mighty Wolf loom 3-shaft Ms and Os

New Bluster Bay EFS in action!

The weft now showing is Aura Lace (35% alpaca; 55% tencel; 10% nylon; 4 oz = 568 yards).  It is sold by Sheepytime Knits, and the colourway is “Elven Cloak” from their now discontinued & glorious Hobbit Club.  The second scarf is a gift for a friend.

Details are that I sleyed the zephyr 20 ends per inch for 9.3″ width in the 12-dent reed (1-2-2 sley).  The handspun scarf’s finished width is 7.75″ x 73″ long; 4″ fringes.  The Aura Lace scarf measures a cool 8.75″ x 6.25″ with the same fringe length.  It has an extra plain weave repeat, and I think this held it more open.

Soaking handwoven scarves for finishing by irieknit

Wet finishing my zephyr blend scarves

Weaving time for me was 7 days (nights, really!) from March 10 – 17, 2018.  The for-me scarf is lovely, and with our late spring I have been able to wear it several times.

Wearing freshly finished handwoven zephyr and handspun scarf by irieknit

New scarf happy!

The differences between the 2 scarves after finishing are striking.  Not only by measurements but also by looks.  The “Elven Cloak” was more grey-green in the skein, and lightens the gift scarf considerably.

Two scarves from one zephyr warp side comparison by irieknit

Side-by-side – weft made such a difference!

There are more detail pictures that I will move to my (irieknit) Weaving album on Flickr, and the Ravelry weaving project is already up.

Finished handwoven zephyr scarf with handspun camel/silk weft yarn 3-shaft Ms and Os by irieknit

Full scarf – first woven with handspun weft

Although my floor loom is empty again, I am weaving a Tattersall check in 5/2 cotton on my table loom now.  We have guests visiting next month, and a lot going-on in the school time before then.

It’s not just a time crunch but things like windstorms and new after-school activities that we have on the go.

Finished handwoven scarf handpainted Aura Lace yarn in Elven Cloak on zephyr warp in 3-shaft Ms and Os by irieknit

Elven Cloak weft on Zephyr for a gift scarf!


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December weaving and more

It has been a very busy month.  With the 1st level of weaving classes ending, I signed-up for the winter session and tried to get as much loom time as possible.  My oh-so-fun twill sampler needed attention.

Weaving Twill cotton sampler

2/2 Herringbone Twill section of satisfaction

It has 6 twill structures in the 2 blues.  Even as someone who would skip sampling whenever she can get away with it, I found this to be an excellent exercise.  Just having the dark/light warp threads alternate in the middle gave each structure such a radically different look.  It’s not something I would have understood without doing.

Weaving Twill cotton sampler underside

Twill sampler, underside

Going to the studio in daytime was very cool.  The lighting is great, and whenever guild members were around they were friendly & engaging.

Weaving loom Guild studio view

Easy on the eyes, Burlington Guild’s classroom

The beauty of this class is that we didn’t stop at samplers.  We had a first project choice of tea towels or scarves.  After Beth convincingly said, “Go for it!” I chose the plaid windowpane towels that one of our instructors, MargaretJane Wallace designed.  Beth has seen some of these pictures already but that’s 5 colours plus 2 wound together!  

Cotton weaving warp on loom

First tea towels warp finally beamed!

Both winding the warp-of-many colours, and beaming gave me many lessons in yarn management.  MargaretJane helped me work past the tension issues.  It amazed me how well-behaved the darks were when the yellow & white warp threads barely co-operated.  There was tangling due to pills, sagging, and the left side was just fine.

Cotton warp threading counter-balance loom

Threading the loom

Around this period of taking real care to get things going in an orderly way, MargaretJane scared the wits out of me.  Says, MJ,:

I like what you have done there, Lara.  It’s going to make for lively towels.

What?!  She had spotted the sequence a mile away – I only had one warp stripe in light blue.  It’s true, you can see it too.  My towels won’t have the precise symmetry within a left-side only plaid’s asymmetry.  Oops!  We all laughed together, and it’s not a big deal.

Cotton tea towel handweaving

Testing, testing

The first step after threading was to experiment with weft colour, and twill structures for this plaid counterpane deal.

Detail experiment for plaid counterpane handwoven tea towels

Possibilities!

With so many colour-changes ahead, I decided on a straight 2/2 twill.  A warp-faced twill was tempting but I didn’t want to fight the counter-balance loom’s action.

Handweaving cotton tea towel counterbalance loom

Deep thoughts were thought

Back at home, I was pouring over a set of new weaving books for insight on plaid, twill, and everything weaving.  After much thought, I went with a white ground for the 1st (of 4) towel.  It wasn’t long before I decided to play with the counterpane, and framed the plaid with the poor, neglected light blue.

Handwoven plaid tea towel weaving

Lively plaid, white weft ground

This is much different to the knitting process but somehow it feels right.  I am reading, watching videos on loom maintenance & weaving well, and generally stretching myself.  What cut a lot of the effort short was the late fall weather.

You may have heard about our late fall weather?

First there was a massive snowstorm on December 14th.  Much shoveling ensued.

December snow storm

Still fall? Really?

Toby seemed happy for his hand-spun  4-ply Coopworth wool sweater.  It kept snow off his big-dog chest.

Papillon dog sweater handmade Coopworth wool

Toby, The Knit Knack blog’s mascot

Such was the snow that I used my new hand-spun (from fleece! spindles!) tam.  There is a maker’s story behind this but for now, I will just say 1 thing: ears are covered!

Warm enough, I promise.

All that snow was really just a chance to knit (more later when pics are taken).  Trouble hit with the ice storm a week later.  As in the weekend before Christmas.

Norway maple Ice Storm 2013

As the ice storm weighed in

It was my first experience of freezing rain, and an ice storm.  By mid-morning we heard a tearing crash, bang as our Norway Maple’s heavy side fell under ice & hit the fence.

Ice Storm 2013 Norway Maple damage

It pains me to see

We are still waiting for the arborist to arrive.  This Norway Maple tree dominates the backyard in all seasons.  She is in so many of my pictures for The Knit Knack’s posts.  It’s a wrenching sight, and impossible to avoid seeing.

Ice Storm 2013 Lilac bush

Ice-encased lilac

For that sadness we did not loose power as others did, and the house is intact.  The dangerous beauty has thankfully melted at last.  It could have been so much worse.

Ice Storm burning bush

Hearing the wind in the icicles was so very eerie.  It was perfectly quiet except for the chak-chak of the trees.

Norway Maple branch Ice Storm 2013

Sunrise on the night’s ice accumulation

Three days later on Christmas the world was still bent under the ice.

Ice Storm 2013 willow tree

Willow bowed down to the sidewalk

Rose of Sharon bush Ice Storm 2013

Rose of Sharon, iced

 

But still, a holiday was had with the boys

There were knitted gifts for others but this tweet was N happily modeling his newly felted wool slippers:

Melvin really liked my new batts from Enting Fibercraft.  We had to talk quietly about how cats are allowed to look but not touch even pretty fibre.

Ent Batts with Cat

He is a lover that Melvin

Friends & family have surprised us with baskets of treats – each wonderful in its own right.  This was the first through the door.

Fruit basket Christmas

Something for everyone (cat & dog, excepted)

We are still in stay-cation mode with a house guest.  Although a wheel would cramp everyone’s space, I am spinning up a storm on my drop spindles.

Wensleydale wool on Jenkins Delight carob Turkish spindle

Happy New Year when it comes, y’all!

 


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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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An Irieknit Design

My commissioned lace stole is overdue for her reveal!  What began as a serious inquiry last Boxing Day on broad specs grew into an original stole design with beautiful Helen’s Lace yarn and light beading.

Although knitting for hire was a bundle of new challenges, I knew early on that my label as it were would be Irieknit.  This is, after all, the way that many of you know me as a spinner & knitter on both Ravelry and Twitter[.com].  My ‘irie‘ designation dates back to birth.  In full-flush of First Time Dad excitement, I was announced to the world (via a Gleaner classified ad) in all caps as born that day “one IRIE GEMINI…”

Then as now, some got it; others not so much.

‘Sea Grapes’ knitted lace stole

The colourway of this 50% silk/ 50% wool yarn is Berry.  The stole used 950 yards or 85g of the yarn with the body and border knit with different sized needles.

Body detail, ‘Sea Grapes’ knitted lace stole

The centre is the Melon pattern from Victorian Lace Today with repeats added to the panel.  Thinking of my Jamaican client as I knit lent the motif a decidedly Caribbean feel.  One thought led to another and soon I had a doubly-wide border of soft waves.  The VLT techniques pages were very empowering.  They helped kick me up a notch to lace design.

The client’s wide brief is what also allowed me to go farther.  Following my muse often takes me back to poetry.  This 27″ x 88″ stole is named Sea Grapes after Derek Walcott’s 1976 poem:

…for the sea-wanderer or the one on shore

now wriggling on his sandals to walk home,

since Troy sighed its last flame…

The classics can console.  But not enough.

People often ask, “How long does it take to knit that?”  In this case, I have an answer based on a focused lace knit.  The knitting time was 30 hours for the body; 17 hours for the border.  It was made over 17 days.  This does not include 2 hours for blocking or added prep time & design work.

On the blocking mats, ‘Sea Grapes’ knit lace stole

Producing knitted lace of this scale for hire changed my work days, and lifted my game.  In the end, I was happy to deliver an item that can not and does not exist elsewhere.  It came as much from our relationship of many years as from my skills, time and materials.  We are both happy.

Supporting handmade matters.  I’ll be happy to collaborate again in the future.


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Spin Seekers – workshops with Deb Robson

Here is how a border agent tries to work out the situation of 2 spinners and a driver-spouse going to “spinning workshops at a shop” in Michigan.  He leans forward, and asks:

 And what do you plan on doing while they are in class, Sir?

The correct answer was a wry, “I wish I knew.  Is there anything I can do in Howell?”  End of questioning.  Enjoy your stay.

Our classes were held at  The Spinning Loft with superb materials, and were taught by Deb Robson.  Saturday was a focus on “3 Ls”:  Leicester Longwool, Border Leicester & Blue Faced Leicester.

The 3 are now more than tongue-twisters to me.  Deb’s presentation on their histories & distinguishing features went deeper than data from The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook.

Yes, I took notes but really what I took away was Deb’s essential passion for her work.  She fielded every question, helped anyone in difficulty, and spun happily on her Trindle.

My classmates were just as engaged.  How many of us introduced ourselves by saying we were signing up for the classes no matter the topic – a Spinning Loft/ Deb Robson collaboration?  Yes!  It was an awesome group of spinners.  I especially enjoyed dinner with Sasha, thecraftyrabbit and Karen, CallMeK2 on Saturday night.

My butternut Martha was very pleased to meet her twin – Beth’s walnut Martha.  Any giggles in class on Sunday were entirely Beth’s fault.

The 3 Cs portion moved us from the UK to Australia & New Zealand:  Coopworth, Corriedale & Cormo.  The fine Coopworth we worked with was downright soft.

My hands-down favourite was a 3L wool, the ‘strong’ example of Border Leicester.  The smart money was on me loving Cormo but there you have it.

Three walls of fleece as your classroom, and you would leave with some too.  This is CVM that Beth suggested for my, “crimpy for a sweater project for Lara” bill.  It’s beautiful, 2 pounds full.

I called this post, “Spin Seekers” based on something that Deb said to me over the weekend.  I had asked about fan-fare, and she answered that it is a distraction from her work that she does not encourage.  “We are all seekers,” she said, “just on different stages of the journey.”

Her classes embodied that philosophy, and I know I cannot be the only one uplifted by the experience of her teaching.  Three weeks out, I am still moved and empowered in my own work.

N really deserves thanks for making the road trip possible.  He knows why.  Thanks, Love.  To answer the border agent’s question – he read on his Kindle much of the time.

(edits for some typos)


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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.