The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Tension magic – antique flax wheel restored

On what was a pretty ugh day, the restored flyer for my antique flax wheel arrived in the mail.  It’s been cheerful around here ever since!

Antique flax Canadian saxony spinning wheel

All in one piece!

Regular readers & Twitter followers may remember this wheel as coming home by accident from the Ramer spinning wheel collection.  Not all of my wheels have names but hers is Linley.

Spinning Tussah silk laceweight yarn on antique flax saxony spinning wheel

The flax wheel’s a keeper – tussah silk and a sea urchin for scale

Along with other repairs, Alvin Ramer re-built her flyer.  It has the wide arms that I love for wet spinning flax, and he also made 3 new oak bobbins.

The issue was inside the antique whorl, and it completely lost all traction after I had a blast spinning 618 yards of 2-ply yarn from silk caps.  It was too loose for a teflon tape fix, and I needed professional help.  Non-spinners, this is code for I got lots of twist but the wheel could not wind the yarn onto the bobbin.

Tension is the magic that allows your wheel to fully function.  And it is probably the single most important thing you can learn about your wheel.

Bette Hochberg, Handspinner’s Handbook, p. 17

Reed Needles, Wheelwright in St. Mary’s Ontario gave me an on-the-show-grounds consultation at Woodstock this October, and now we are back to working order.  If you haven’t met Reed, the CreativFestival blog has that nice feature post about his work & with tips on restoration issues.

Front maiden view of antique flax saxony spinning wheel

A very flax orifice – it’s tiny and it’s round

The orifice hook that you see in the 1st image is also Reed’s work.  It is custom to fit the wheel’s 7 mm diameter opening.  This is slightly larger than 4 mm diameter of the William McDonald Nova Scotia flax wheel fluted orifice for example but is way too small for Reed’s standard hooks.  He has my thanks for such a great touch.  The bent paper clip is gone, Reed.  It is really gone!

 The good news!

In looking over the wheel, Reed had observed that the maker used cedar for her treadle.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheel treadle

The treadle is as comfortable as it is pretty

This is a strong indicator for a Canadian origin. I am going to edit my earlier posts to add a note rebutting the Irish presumption!  Those posts still get views through search engine traffic.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheel carved tension screw

Heart of the matter, the tension screw

Reed also shares my love for Canadian flax wheels.  It was wonderful to hear his positive evaluation, and interest in my find!  The main wood is quarter-sawn oak, and Reed also liked what first drew me in as well, the craftsmanship in her details.  The tension screw matches the maidens’ design beautifully for example.

There is some not so good news too

Decisions are still pending, and I am treating the wheel gently.  Now that the flyer is stable, I am sure of a current alignment issue with the drive wheel.

Antique saxony flax drive wheel axle

The rear axle is showing wear

The spinner’s side axle shows no wear but you can see how worn down the metal is on both contact areas of the rear axle.  What I can hear & feel while spinning is movement like a swash.  Crossed-off the trouble-makers’ list are:

  • The spinner’s side axle – snug in the bearing & well pinned;
  • The wheel hub – stable with no movement;
  • Uprights – they are level with shims under the table, and the rear axle has a bearing added; and
  • Generally solid as a rock.

A temporary fix has been to add smooth leather in the wall of the rear bearing.  Following advice shared in the Antique Spinning Wheels forum on Ravelry, I will also try to improve the situation with copper.  My other idea was to tape the axle wear points as a way to watch for more wear.

Ultimately, I may need to consider a replacement for the axle.  That’s a big repair.  I have also explored brazing a little but am concerned about possible weakening of the metal in the process.  If anyone has thoughts or insights, I would love to hear from you.  This is a new issue for me to learn about!

Handspun Polwarth wool on antique click reel

Polwarth wool

It’s been good spinning of late, and I wish the same for you!  This Polwarth project is up to 910 yards and counting on the Spinolution Mach 2 from a pound of undyed top.


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Wednesday finishing and nearly so!

Life and writing have not connected in a long time.  For many reasons but the best one is how many projects I have been successfully getting out of inertia.  This post is about giving the finished ones a warm Wednesday welcome!

At the top of last month, I had a lovely time over lunch with my friend, Sasha.  Her first Skein-a-Day April Sheepspot event was here on my needles. 

Knit shawl in progress with Sheepspot sustainable merino fingering yarn

I love this yarn!

The short dye repeats worked beautifully for Susan Santos’ Magical Side to Side Scarf design.  There was no flashing either in the fancy stitch bands or as the scarf sections changed dimension.

Handknit Magical Side to Side Scarf in Sheepspot sustainable Merino fingering yarn blocking

Pattern stripes in nice relief, blocking

Blocking really helped to shape the scarf, and organise the drop-stitch fringe.  It is 69″ x 9″ in this yarn.  I knit with 3.5mm needles.

Finished handknit Magical Side to Side Scarf in sustainable Merino yarn by Sheepspot

Not the intended recipient…

This one is going to a good friend, so I let the stuffed polar bear model it for you.

Detail of stitch pattern in knit Magical Side to Side Scarf using Sheepspot sustainable merino yarn

Love the yarn tones for this pattern!

The pattern stitch was simple to work, and easy to remember. This project took me longer because I ran out of yarn, frogged and needed to come back to reknit the end section.

Tabachek cedar drop spindle with Sheepspot organic dyed Polwarth fibre

A spindle deserves organic Polwarth wool!

Last month, Sasha introduced her dyed organic wool top.  It was such a nice surprise, and I wasted no time in starting a spin.  This is my Tabachek cedar compact deluxe spindle (22.5g).  Couldn’t be happier about this material + tool combination!

State of the socks

Finished handknit socks adapted from Cadence pattern in String Theory yarn

New pair as of this weekend

It’s a real sock début!  I gave these zero air time but they were started at the end of February this year.  The yarn is gorgeous String Theory Caper Sock in vert.

They are knit with 2.5 mm needles and using the Cadence Socks (part) pattern. It’s a good pattern –  I just needed to go mindless this winter, and changed to the 6 x 2 ribbing.

Handknit sock in Hummingbird pattern by Sandi Rosner and Araucania Ranco yarn

After months of neglect, a first sock

This next start date goes back an entire year to February 2013. The disgraceful pace is simply because I pushed through with 2.0 mm needles to get gauge with my Araucania yarn of choice.

Handknit Hummingbird sock leg in Araucania Ranco fingering yarn

Perfect pattern for variegated yarn

The pattern is Hummingbird by Sandi Rosner, and I am hoping to make a second sock soon.  Wanting a pair of socks in this colour has not exactly left the building.

handknit RPM socks by Irieknit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn

Loved but largely untold: the Revving socks

The first post for these RPM socks was last November, shortly before I finished the first sock.

Handknit RPM socks by Irieknit in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock

Twisted stitch on the soles of these socks

Sometimes work just falls through the cracks.  There is nothing like a tough winter to precipitate the gaps as it were.

Finishing these helped me get my sock knitting mojo back in order.  The old pairs are wearing out, and I promised N that I will work on a new pair of stranded socks for him!

Kettle dyed Colinette Iona yarn skein in stash

New fodder for the needles: a baby gift in yarn form

This year has brought more babies to knit for than I have been able to share.  The youngest cousin (that we know of) is due in January.  WIP clearance has let me cast-on for this now (yay!).

It’s been ages since I have seen any Colinette yarns locally but this is luxury for me.  I also have accent yarn from another Iona colourway, and loved the first night’s work this week.

Saving the weaving news for a later post, and wishing everyone well!


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10 years building a life

Today, I am celebrating 10 years in Canada.  Double-digits!

We will batch-style various & sundry experiences as pitfalls, and just skip them.  They all helped me get to the tag-line of this TKK blog anyway:  Better living through fibre.

Pot with red tulips and Melvin the cat

I know what spring is

Melvin must love you now.  He only shows his tuxedo bib to special folks.

Toby Papillon-mix dog

Mr. Toby Hopeful

Our Canadian doggie is older.  Here he is still keeping me company as I write this post.  He does have a few less teeth than he did when we adopted him from the Toronto Animal Services north shelter, years ago.

Jamaica’s rabies laws have no wiggle-room.  None whatsoever.  The up-shot is that a pet would be more difficult to move back home than anyone else family-wise.  This makes Melvin & Toby my deepest roots here, period.

 

Moosie drop spindle with tulipwood shaft and Shetland wool top

Spinning dyed Shetland wool top

The Moosie is a spindle that helped me start today as I listened to 2 podcasts over coffee.  Ten years ago, I had never even heard the term “drop spindle” and had trouble finding 100% wool garments in the stores.  Today, I made yarn from hand-dyed (the Painted Tiger) breed-specific yarn using this beautifully crafted spindle!

Looking back to look ahead

By taking a flier on a Romney ram’s fleece in August, 2009, I found a true passion for Ontario-grown wool.  All of this spinning education started with learning from some of you on the internet, the Romney, and a Kundert red cedar over cherry drop spindle.

Kundert drop spindle with Romney wool handspun yarn

My first spindle with my first ever yarn: Ontario Romney ram’s wool

Each year since then, I have bought & cleaned at least 1 local fleece.  This gradient is a series of sample skeins.  Some were more successful than others but I am knitting them in this left → right order.  The catalyst is Sarah Swett who taught me about changes in value last spring.

Ontario wool handspun yarns

All yarn made from Ontario-produced fleeces

The simple act of knitting this yarn is sparking ideas for returning to my favourite Ontario-produced fleece with prep tools & purpose.  It’s so exciting that I may let the spindle-spun-sweater project percolate while I start this.

Handspun dyed Polwarth wool yarn

This one’s for you, N

For N, as we say in Jamaica, “Let us build a life together.”  He sponsored, and saw me through the pitfalls.  He likes this yarn a lot.  We think that it should be a handwoven scarf with another handspun yarn.

You last saw me spinning this Polwarth on my Wee Peggy spinning wheel at the Fibre Garden and/or here this January.  The 8oz of top yielded 689 yards of 2-ply yarn.

Romney lamb's wool hand-combed top fibre

Romney lamb, hand-combed top

This hand-combed top from a Romney lamb at Sunday Creek Farm in Engleheart, Ontario is beautiful fibre.  At this ten-year mark of life in Canada, I am fortunate to have this to even think about working with.


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An irie snowflake, and January is happening

organic cotton handspun knit snowflake

Civilized Snowflake

Oh, January, I see your cold and raise you a handspun, Paper Snowflake.  This wonderful knit pattern is by Naomi Parkhurst was ideal (ideal, I tell you!) for my many hours-worth of 3-ply cotton yarn that I made with coin takhli spindles.

organic cotton handspun knit snowflake

A very wet Snowflake

As the pics show, this was made a while ago in better weather.  It hangs on my studio bulletin board, and is an awesome reminder that small amounts are not useless.

cotton handspun supported spindle coin takhli

It has taken time but cotton seems to be here to stay.  None of my cotton spindles is ever empty, and I gradually spin more.  Spinning with the seed attached is amazing but I also figured out that if the Turkish distaff holds a length of top then I can spin it that way too.

The fact of the matter

I am still getting used to this loss.  The tree had to be removed after the ice storm damage, and was a better candidate for the estate of my dreams than our suburban back yard, it’s true.

ice storm Norway maple tree removal

Hard work underway in bitter cold

I had a full two deleted sentences re: neighbour activity.  Let’s just say salt was rubbed in the wound shortly after I took this picture.

A woodpile from a giving tree

It has been a wrench.  Our home feels different with the new outlook.  We can work with it (new window treatments, please) but first there’s that unwanted bill to take care of.

N has made promises to chop the wood for the fireplace.  Now that would be a fun development and a first!

Bright spots

Of the many (as yet un-processed) things happening this month, I have a few to share.

handwoven cotton kitchen towel floor loom

A third woven twill kitchen towel!

Level 2 of weaving class started last week.  I am using all spare moments to get my twill towels woven.  For this third towel, I kept the yellow weft but learned how to carry the slate blue up the selvedge.  Most of the windowpane is 24 shots of yellow.  I am carrying up by twisting in every fourth pick.

Fourth and last twill kitchen towel!

The fourth towel is underway.  The weft is now light blue, and I am weaving it in broken twill.  It is nice to not be as concerned with keeping an even beat.

Wee Peggy spinning wheel handspun yarn Polwarth wool

Wee Peggy the friendly wheel

In between weaving sessions, I treated myself to a spin-in day at the Fibre Garden in Jordan.  My Wee Peggy wheel is perfect for these events – she travels well, and is easy for me to spin and participate.  I am spinning Waterloo Wools polwarth hand-dyed top in the Tidepool colourway.

There is also much spinning here at home.  This yarn is now all plied up & finished.  It is one ply of a lovely Entbatt, and one ply of bombyx silk – all spun on spindles.  I will give better detail and yarn pics in a later post.


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New look, and happy yarns

 

Welcome!  It’s been a long time in coming – I changed the blog’s theme.  Hope you enjoy the new look & also the better compatibility with your small-screen devices.

Also sporting a new look: purpleheart Bossie

I also updated the About page to better reflect what I do, and also give some co-ordinates.  Over the past 4+ years of writing this blog my interests have evolved but the TKK format/skin has stayed largely static.  Here’s to getting more function, and also to letting readers in on the secret that I do now take spin/ knit commissions.

 

This uber-bright handspun yarn is really & truly natural dyed.  The yarn was cream Finn top from Louet that I dubbed the Sweater-in-Waiting in this post.  I used 25g of ground, dried cochineal. This was my 1st (and only) cochineal experiment.  The mordants are alum & cream of tartar.

Here is how I got the surprising fuchsias.  With a dried weight of the whole 1,529 yards at 547g, I had under 5% dyestuff.  The label said as little as 3% would give medium shades.  Pro-tip, friends: medium shades of cochineal?  That would be your fuchias!  I decided to go for a tinted gradient.  This meant dyeing in thirds through the successive exhaust baths.

There’s a subtle tint.  If anything about this yarn can be called subtle?  I am gathering courage, and will let you know when casting-on happens.  EvilMichelle says that I really should.

 

Far less eventful yarns

Just so you know that it’s not all fluorescent all the time, here is a much calmer spin.

Caribbean clouds Polwarth

This 356 yds of Polwarth 4-ply handspun started out life as 8 0z of Miss Babs’ “Cloud #9”.  I broke each braid at the mid-point, and spun from the break out using Martha in DD.

Both the singles and the ply are high-twist.  It was one of those early March weeks when I needed that kind of a spinning workout.

Equally swift and satisfying is this Columbia pin-drafted roving spin on the CPW.  It’s spun long-draw, and I have 8 oz total from Morgaine who had Harvey’s fleece prepped by Morro Fleece Works.  The roving is a real pleasure – next to no VM, and light as a feather!

Bleeding heart in bloom

When I return, there will be big news of the loom variety.  I am still processing this & the wonderful Sarah Swett workshop weekend that I went to in Michigan.  They go hand-in-hand!


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A little bit warmer

Cold, drab February days inspired more all-over Staghorn cable knitting.  Now, a whole year of on & off knitting has paid off!

The design is the Beach House Pullover by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, Interweave Knits Summer 2010.  The size is 38¼” bust circumference, which gave me a 2″ +ve ease.

Not surprisingly, the Cascade 220 worsted yarn was a trouble-free choice.  So was this pattern – I was able to just follow it to the word.

Suitable for wearing with the stretch jeans

Thanks entirely to this lesson in cable knitting, saddle shoulders and a shawl collar, I am looking forward to the late-February snow forecast with some glee.

Believe it or not, this is a sweater-in-progress.  It started life as raw CVM wool from the Spinning Loft, and I love it.  It’s a *flick & card 2 rolags per spindle, spinning, and repeat from * end deal.

A good, relaxed tortoise’s pace. I shall keep you posted.

Why leave Martha idle when I could have some fun?  Last night I dug deep into the fibre stash & got this Miss Babs Polwarth dyed top out.  I have 8oz, and am tempted to spin a 4-ply yarn.

It is driving out some discontent.  As anything that looks this much like the Caribbean sky on a sunny day is bound to do for me.

Lace in its crumpled infancy.  Starting this Tibetan Clouds Beaded Stole ate a chunk out of my Saturday.  The blue yarn is TechKnitter’s Belly Button technique for starting a centre-out piece.  Sanity saved!

Knitting my spindle-spun Bronzed Chai yarn is just so interesting!  I love how Sivia Harding has designed the beading, and this is my first counter-pane pattern.

Housekeeping 

Thank you to everyone who sent wishes for Toby.  His eye healed in a few days.  Apart from needing eye-drops x6 per day, he is much better now.

There’s no concern about any neurological damage.  It took him a bit to drop the act but his walking is back too.  All it took was the doorbell to be rung at night, and he flew up the basement stairs in a flash.

This spring is going to be for learning!  The 2013 Spring String Thing is Friday, April 26, 2013, through Sunday, April 29, 2013 in Lebanon, Ohio.  I’m very excited about my classes, staying at the Golden Lamb again, and getting a tour of the Stringtopia studio.

Right after that, I am also going to Sarah Swett’s Weekend with Wool presented by the Spinning Loft.  It’s Friday, May 17, 2013 to Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Brighton, Michigan.


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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.