The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Stringtopia the Second!

Stringtopia 2012 was a blast!  It was April 27, 28, 29 at Ohio’s oldest hotel, The Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio.  The best view I have yet to see from a hotel parking lot…

 It was a wonderful weekend.  I took off my blogger hat shortly after arrival but not before I took pics of the Golden Stringtopia Welcome waiting in our room.

As you can tell Sandi was also pleased with hers…

… after 11 or so hours navigating with me from Ontario to Lebanon.

Look what was inside the mug!

We shared the John Quincy Adams room.  Our welcome letter says that he stayed at the hotel on November 7, 1846.  I bet our view was better than his!

My first class was All Spindles All Day with Abby.  I am more excited than ever about spinning with spindles for All the Things.  Abby masterfully took us from how an Andean child learns to spin to plying.  She gave us equal parts passion, instruction, and jokes.  It was amazing.

Proof of concept:  low whorl spindles do not need a hook, a knob or a notch in order to function perfectly well.  We won’t talk about Woolwine’s feats with cotton during this class.  Let’s just say she was giving trouble.

This year’s Kick-Off Bash was on Friday night, and little did I know what Feorlen aka Andrea (sitting) had in store for us.  She has a Certificate of Excellence in Handspinning from the HGA, and brought all of her materials for us to see.  It was astonishingly masterful work, and her presentation on Saturday was very interesting.

 The highlight of the Bash was when Janet won her maple Bossie!  This kicked-off epic spinning of an entire Abbybatt in a cool 48 or so hours.

Hands-down the best part of the weekend was the Friends of Abby’s Yarns super surprise presentation of Abby’s new hand-everything kimono.

Ellen filmed the entire presentation

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This is what I mean about the singular generosity of the spinning community.  Two years in the making, and Abby didn’t even suspect a thing!

All the remaining door prizes were thus handed out in style.

Angela received that one, and was seriously Over the Moon.

My prize was generously donated by Musewings aka Nicole the Hot Blonde, and I love it!

N, who is not known to gush over fibre, praised the colours on sight!

My other classes were with Beth Smith who was also the event’s vendor.  I took Spinning for Lace, Drafting, and also Long Wools with Beth, and am so happy that I did.  She not only helped me with my Martha spinning wheel but expertly took us through many breeds with different preparations.  And by many, I mean…

Uh-huh.  Yes, Qiviut came with the Spinning for Lace materials!  It was glorious.

I did have a cry-worthy time of it with the cashmere though.  This is how I know that Beth is a superb teacher.  She did not push.  She did not single out.  She let me into her already-full Drafting class to learn me some long-draw.  As she said, “Because of Love.”

She sold us some of her Horned Dorset so that we could keep practicing long-draw.  And seriously, in the Long Wools class, Beth Smith Pink got me to sample my yarn!

If that’s not one superb teacher, then I don’t know who is.

It was a totally awesome event.  I’ve met people who are, as Brooke put it, part of my tribe.  We learned.  We teased Josh.  We made Abby cry, and now she has her pockets.  And now, we are home again.


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Woodstock Love

The 3rd Annual Woodstock Fleece Festival was this past Saturday in Woodstock, Ontario.  It was bigger, and a lot of fun!  Last year there were no raw fleeces but Willow Farm brought last week’s clip!

Josslyn Richardson helped me to pick Phoebe’s fleece out from the rest.  This was after she explained about the mark-up in the Royal Winter Fair’s fleece auction.  To wit, $19.00+/lb more than her Woodstock prices.  Sold!

The fleece weighs 3lb, 5 oz unwashed.  I love the light greys and the crimp.

Josslyn & Norm also sell their Romney and Icelandic in lovely roving.  I give their Icelandic tog & thel roving 2 thumbs up.  I have a 2-ply fingering yarn in production from last year’s Woodstock haul and love it.

The crowd seemed bigger to me this year, with more knitters curious about this thing called spinning.

    

Reed’s restored wheels were seriously crowd-pleasing.  This fuzzy pic is the best I could get for all the jostling – Reed’s the man on the right.  You can’t really see but he was having a blast.

What’s a fibre festival without animal exhibits and equipment for sale?

    

Back in the main show room, I was also busy shopping for the fibre needs (and wants).

L → R:  Pachuko organic cotton in ‘vicuña’; carbonized bamboo fibre; alpaca roving & hand-dyed bombyx silk top.

My LYS haunts would never carry these 2 finds so I sprung for them – Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock & Fleece Artist Saldanha Two – from Feather Your Nest.  The pattern is Barb’s Koigu Ruffle Scarf from Churchmouse Yarns & Teas.  I wanted to ditch the pattern but am glad I didn’t – 320 yards is perfect for using my hand-spun yarns.

Last but not least were these 3 books on clearance from The Yarn Source, and a lignum vitae Tabachek diz (not shown).

Again L → R:  New Twists on Twined Knitting by Laura Farson; Spinning Designer Yarns by Diane Varney (!); and How to be Owned by an Antique Spinning Wheel – A Practical Guide by Peter H. Fowler.

This is why friends let friends shop on their own at a fibre festival… Shelley surprised us all with buttons!

Mine was already joyously pinned on my Leaflet Cardi:

Yah, I shall show you Leaflet properly in another post.  Shelley braved strange looks in getting the buttons since she also got a few for herself…

And lastly, the obligatory closing animal pic!


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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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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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Easter report

Whad’ya know – my handspun has use!  I finished the Sweet Fern fingerless gloves over the weekend.  Ferns in the mini-roses:

The Polwarth is soft but firm at this gauge, and I even have a left-over skein.

The pattern was great as-is – no modifications this time!

I cleaned & decorated the house a bit for Easter because we threw a rather spontaneous BBQ for our Jamaican friends as they get ready to move out east.  These are the friends who had baby Eden last summer (I made her a kimono).  Her older brother, Zac, found the chocolate straight off the bat!

Opening right on cue:

Even though we were both v. tired from the efforts, we did make it out to St. Jacob’s Market on Saturday for the 1st time.  A cool day-trip.  First purchase of the day?  Sock yarn from Shall We Knit, upstairs:

Always wanted me some Crazy Zauberball!  Also in the marketplace:

We headed back downstairs for a bag of bagels, and clover honey here:

Hot-cross buns in production:

Farmers feed cities!

I have no idea how/ why but DH left without buying a single sausage, cut of meat or slab of cheese – huh?!?

We lunched at the Stone Crock restaurant in town.  It was a 20 min wait for the table – good enough to pull out the Bossie spindle & create a scene 🙂

Seriously?  75% is something to brag about?!

DH was fading fast but I did get to dip into an antiques store.  They had 2 spinning wheels that not even I was moved to acquire…   A better find?   This little ‘handbook,’ on natural dying, 8th edition 1972:

Very instructive but also covers dye recipes & traditions from around the world, including Canada & the Caribbean!

On both Sunday & yesterday we had perfect hand-combing weather.  It was sunny, warm & breezy.  I got through about a  bag of  my Romney… & have the scrapes on my hands to prove it.  It’s scary how easily the long tines on these little combs will graze you.  My hands are a little worse for the wear, today.


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Dips in.

Having an early trip has brought on all kinds of stellar organization.  I’ve had my moments but it does feel good to honestly say that cousin Charles is the only one without a gift on my list – and it’s not even December 20th!

Mark you, I do have quite a lot of packing to manage…. not there yet!

The cost of getting life in order was missing a few sit & knits.  I did make it back to The Wool Bin this Monday afternoon.  Boy oh boy was that a good move!  The turn-out was good & Fenella brought ginger shortbread cookies for all of us!  Let me tell you.  These were not just any old home-made cookies.  These cookies would make any pastry chef weep.  They even came with a back-story.  We were told that the recipe came from the sole Scottish keeper.  It must not go back to Scotland while the keeper is still alive (and she is).  Fenella promised not to pass on the goodness (potential profit!) until the keeper dies & then to just 1 person.

Ginger is in the fudge topping and the shortbread.  Man!

All of a sudden, my knitting picked-up pace!  Sugar highs are very good for that.  On my needles was the Slouchy Copy Cat Hat by Terra Jamieson.  Free to you here.

I finished it off last night & it’s going to my cousin, Amanda.

So, I’ve been going on (& on) about my self-directed Christmas.  The gifts that are now to hand/ in stash and queue are:

As good a time as any to learn a new knit knack, right?  Socks from the toe up courtesy of Wendy D. Johnson:

My general idea is that I’ll be ready when I have spun passable sock-weight yarn.  The Poems & its stash-mates will do in the meanwhile.

The next sweater project has also been facilitated!  It’s not just teeny projects around here folks!  We have 4 balls of Diamond Galway Heather wool yarn.  DH gets full marks for coming to the yarn store with me on Saturday and waiting while I touched everything remotely sweater-like.

DH also got me the Interweave pattern Notre Dame de Grace by Veronik Avery.  Doesn’t it look snuggly?

Snuggly sweaters are my answer to February in Canada.  That and long bouts of spinning yarn.

In case I drop out of the blog over the holidays, I want to wish everyone a very happy and safe season!


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On Smelling up a House

Colour me happy!  For starters, I am happy that Joyja could not stand the sight of her ½ fleece of a champion Romney ram a second longer:)  We met up at LYS, Spun on Saturday morning.  Joyja was so excellent.  Right there in the parking lot, she gave me the 411 on ‘scouring’ wool.  That term is a total misnomer by the way.  Agitation of wool in hot water = felt.  There is no “scouring” per se.  Repeated dunking & soaking with patience & respect.  My crash course was even better because the lot has 1 big bag of it in the raw; a medium bag of it clean; and a small zip-lock of it carded.  She could show me what each step gets you.   The highlights are:  a)  the fleece smells well “high” – might want vicks to get you through, b) use blue Dawn as the soap, & c) scour first; spin later – fleece spoils.

Joyja was so excellent that she also showed me Spun’s wheel that rents for $20/hr, and offered hers for my spinning pleasure as well!  Thanks so much!  IMHO, knitters are at their best when helping other knitters:)

I have totally personified the fleece.  He has locks, hence his name is Peter Tosh:

One of many raw wool locks

Bunch of raw, very woolen locks

The geekiness knows no end… a lock from tip to cut-end is the staple.

Its a staple, folks - in the raw

It's a staple, folks - in the raw

Six pounds of staples is A LOT!  This is Joyja’s cleaned wool:

And the springy goodness of the carded stuff:

As soon as I walked the bags in, Toby set to sniffing at it.  Very businesslike & thorough & adorable!  DH?  Not so much!

There are no 2 ways about this… Peter Tosh The Fleece stinks to high heaven.  My approach?

Starfish Oil & Diffuser - Lemongrass & Rosemary over sheep

Starfish Oil & Diffuser - Rosemary & (better yet) Lemongrass over sheep

I also set up shop in the most ventilated room – our kitchen.  Close to the stove, a ceiling fan & a sliding door.  All of which only served to mask the Essence de Ram.  Yes, it smells.  But.  It smells like something I want to own:  a living, kicking sheep!  DH was not quite so sanguine.  By about batch 1 ½ he was crying mercy…

Although I am in the kitchen, I wasn’t about to use the sink directly.  Luckily, my pails fit in the sink.  I dump the lanolin/dirty water in the back garden.  The rinse water’s either for my compost bin or the drain.  Here’s a pail in action:

The stick is a skewer that I am using to tease out trash (with utmost respect) & plunge the wool.  I mix hot pipe water, blue Dawn & boiling water in the pail & then add the wool.  It’s taking 3 washes & 2 rinses.  The last rinse is with some vinegar.

Honestly, I have not had this much fun in years.  In between cleaning/ rinsing batches, I looked into the world of drop spindles.  You pull the wool into strands & the spindle twists it into yarn.  It spins like a top in mid-air.  Long have I coveted one.  Thanks again to Ravelry, I worked out that a Stephen Kundert spindle would be a good place to start.  I chose his red cedar over cherry whorl:

DH is quite possibly as excited to get this as I am.  It tickles his “How It’s Made” fancy you see.  May even give us a few laughs by trying it himself!  Believe you me, the knitting never got this much interest!

The results of yesterday’s work… 2 batches, smelling up the house:

Batch 1, drying

I’ve completed batch 3 & 4 is now rinsing.  Make wool cleaner while the sun shines… and DH is at work!  So far, batch 2 has the most varied colour.  There’s a shock of white in thar fleece!

I am on the last leg of the Hottie Hottie top & have more new stash to boast about – do that another time.  Walk good!