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Better living through fibre

Plying ball and spin-in-progress of Sheepy Time Knits merino/silk blend for Spindlers monthly challenge by irieknit


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Luck of the draw for my spindles

A new spinning project was inspired by this month’s challenge theme in the Spindlers group on Ravelry:  favourite places.

Favourite places spinning project with merino silk dyed top, Moosie and Tabachek spindles by irieknit

So much good in this

This special 50% merino/ 50% silk braid is hand-dyed by Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits, and was a door prize that I amazingly won at the 2013 String Thing event.  With some more discipline to keep equally special spindles clear, I was able to leap to a plan of action!

The Plan

It was actually a half-plan.  Off, I ran with the fibre & my 28 g Moosie to a spinning morning visit with my good friend, Margaret.  We last saw each other sometime last year with one thing & another.

Even with every confidence in what my eyes can see of this braid plus Mandie’s known skills as a dyer, I was floored.  It’s that open &  fabulous to spin almost 4 years later.

Simply put, this is the best of its kind that I have been fortunate enough to spin.  The spindle was hard to put down at Margaret’s – sorry if you were behind on your day!

For such a gentle gradient, I am tearing fairly fat strips of fibre consistently across the top.  When that length of top was spun, I arrived at the second half of planning.  Out came this 26 g Tabachek with a Lacewood whorl.  The rhythm is to alternate spindles at the end of each width of top.

Spinning project with handdyed merino silk fibre, plying ball, Moosie and Tabachek spindles by irieknit

Current situation: favourite place deeply imagined

The inspiration place is again, Frenchman’s Cove in Portland, Jamaica.  Specifically, where the river meets the white sand beach.

Marcel Holyoak Frenchman's Cove, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Credit: Marcel Holyoak under Creative Commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

This image shows the rope swing.  It was the best fun to swing off into the confluence of river and Caribbean Sea as children.

The plying ball is of the two singles wound together by hand.  It is 27 g.  So far, the plan is a good one.  I go by feel for the lengths that I spin in each round.  There was only a small amount left on one spindle after winding this plying ball.  It is kept with the project, and off I went with clear spindles again.

With pauses for knitting, I am happily spinning along.  Other Spindlers members have shared beautiful places with just lovely projects.  It all adds up to a very lucky thing to be doing this month.

Play doh design at irieknit's

New family creating

Happy Family Day weekend, Ontario readers.  Unless T returns from school with the missing Peace Fleece mitten, I may be back to the remnants with a purpose!

We have coughs due to colds, and our own outings may take a hit – be well!


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Racing Rest, Tour de Fleece 2015

Over the past month, I have been helping as captain & riding along with Team Spindlers 2015 in the Tour de Fleece.  It’s been amazing & a big honour – I started with this team as a rookie in 2010!

tdf-2015-logo_xlarge

We are 165 members strong.  The spinning projects are a fabulous mix from returning spindle spinners, and those who are new to the craft.

California Variegated Mutant wool fleece for Tour de Fleece 2015

My main focus is keeping the ‘fleece’ in Tour de Fleece!  This California Variegated Mutant wool (link takes you to my last update post) was being hand-carded & spun on 4 low-whorl drop spindles when it started to go on breaks for long stretches.

California Variegated Mutant wool spindle project starting Tour de Fleece 2015

This was the status at the start of the Tour: 4 plying balls of 4-singles each, and more on the spindles themselves.  The front spindles are Andean turned pushkas from the CTTC, and the others are Andinas by R. Leach.

Handcarded rolags of California Variegated Mutant wool for Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015

Plan of Action

For most stages of this Tour, I have carded 2 (or 3) rolags per spindle, and then rotated through until each is all spun-up.

Melvin cat occupies California Variegated Mutant wool for Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015

Never one to obey rules that he can’t completely understand, Melvin has found his way into some of my update posts.  This incursion happened for Stage 6 after I left the room to get a glass of water.  He’s quick.

Focus has paid-off, and I have broken into other spinning projects when much too tired to lift the hand-cards.

Low whorl drop spindles with California Variegated Mutant wool Team Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015

Stage 4, Tour de Fleece 2015

Team Spindlers Tour de Fleece 2015 California Variegated Mutant wool spinning and plying ball

A 5th plying ball at Stage 6!

Handspinning Egyptian cotton top on takhli supported spindle with calabash bowl

Egyptian Cotton for Stage 9 in-couch spinning

Team Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece low whorl drop spindles with California Variegated Mutant wool

As at Stage 10

Spinning yak/merino/silk on Tabachek mini drop spindle by irieknit Tour de Fleece 2015

Stage 11 with yak/merino/silk blend on Tabachek mini spindle

California Variegated wool fleece and spinning Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece

Less fleece at Stage 13!

Spinning California Variegated Mutant wool Spindlers 2015 Tour de Fleece by irieknit

Stage 15 and forward

Sharing has also been with spinners in the Guild, and another unofficial wildcard, the Canadian Yarn & Fibre Market group on Ravelry.

It’s been a wild Tour, and I am looking forward to the last half of this week into Paris.  For all who love spinning while they spin as much as I do, a big, “Allez!” from me to you for after our gap day!


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Made in Ontario baby knit sweater

Finished in no time flat back in February was this first of the knits for my baby nephew.

Telemark knitted baby pullover in Sheepspot Clun Forest Sport by irieknit

The design is Telemark Pullover 2.0 by Erika Flory in natural wool.  I substituted this lighter Sheepspot’s Clun Forest sport-weight yarn with glee.  As Sasha’s newsletter told us she sourced the fleeces from a single flock, Ferme Luciole, in Alfred, Ontario last June.

stitch definition Clun Forest sport handdyed yarn by Sheepspot handknit for Telemark baby  Pullover

Stitch definition!

The wool is springy but has such a crisp look in the Paprika colour and this simple sweater.  I was 2 stitches under the recommended pattern gauge.  At the 20 stitches per 4″ in stockinette stitch using 3.25 mm needles, I cast-on for the 1 year size, and fell between a 3 – 6 months size.

Machine washed knit swatch in Clun Forest Sport dyed by Sheepspot

Swatch through the wash

Sheepspot has processed their wool with a lighter chemical touch – none used to dissolve vegetable matter or to treat the fibre.

Loving the more natural process is one thing but why choose this for a baby garment?  Well, I had a hunch that a 100% Clun Forest yarn would have some of the Down breed family’s superwash quality.  In her History of the Clun Forest Breed, Rosemary Ruddell writes:

Early in the 19th century, Southdown rams were introduced into the region that includes both the Clun Forest area and the heathlands to the east, and by 1840 there had emerged a distinctive new type of sheep that was general to the region, and is ancestral to both the Clun Forest and the Shropshire.

As you will see in a later post, the word “Southdown” rings a bell for me!

A little knowledge being a dangerous thing, I have experimented on the swatch.  Before going through the front-load washer & dryer cycle it was 6.5″w x 5.75″ h.  It’s now all nice round numbers.  The approximate change is 8% less width & 13% less height.  It is ‘fulled’ & has a softer hand after washing.

Not bad!  Not bad at all.  50% is reported for a Corriedale sample in the Winter 2015 Spin-Off magazine by Cindy Craft, p. 46.  I wish more numbers were given from her 6-breed experiment in the article.

If you would like to see the project notes on Ravelry it is called “That Seventies Telemark.”  Whatever its laundering future, this is a hardy sweater made in Ontario for baby F’s first cold weather days.


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The footnote, and the flax that brought us here

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

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

Four bobbins’ worth from the antique MacDonald wheel

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

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

Function matters if you’re going to use it.

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

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

Blame the flax

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

A lot of line flax spread for my distaff

Pennsylvania flax

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

Antique Pennsylvania line flax dressed on small distaff for spinning

My glorified stick distaff

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

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

Flax boon fallen away from the fibre in spinning

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

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

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

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

Learning the linen

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

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

Handwoven linen Swedish lace sample by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

Handwoven lace samples in linen by Jette Vandermeiden

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

Handwoven lace samples by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

More samples from Jette’s class

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

First year bloom on Clematis vine

Happy Canada Day!

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

 


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A happy handspun shawl

We are now at extreme cold weather alert the 10th of this winter.  It has been a full 29 days under -15C.  This week just added to the stats.  It is no mistake that I was working with my brightest, happiest handspun yarn.

handspun knit shawl blocking to shape and cat

Melvin observes House Rules about wet wool

The shawl pattern is by Susan Ashcroft, TGV (tricot grande vitesse – High Speed Knitting).  The projects on Ravelry are very close to 2,000 strong.  Of those, 68 projects record the use of handspun yarn.

closeup handspun knit shawl blocking

Sunshine in a knit. Seriously

I worked this shawl with 3.75 mm needles for the garter body, and 3.5mm needles for the long rows of ribbing.  This gave an open gauge with my chain-plied yarn, and it has tons of drape.

It is an easy design to knit-up.  The later rows are very long, and that slows progress a bit for me at least.

handspun yarn leftover from shawl knit project

Good to the last drop: yarn overage

That would be the yarn leftovers.  I used up the 408.46 yards of handspun.  It was planned too (I swear!)  How?  By casting-off, raveling, and weighing how much that took.  It was 4g just to cast-off that long, long edge. I wanted all the orange; as simple as that.

Such a joy in the wearing

wearing handspun TGV knit shawl

A crescent scarf is what it is

At the deepest point my TGV is just 11″ edge-to-edge.  It wraps best for me with the deep edge to the front.  Much more scarf-like than shawl-like in the wearing!

TGV handspun knitted shawl wearing closeup

The ribbing detail

In an effort to avoid the Rocks of Boredom for yonder ribbing section, I turned it into a Baby Cable Rib.  The recipe is in Barbara G. Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns.

The variation is subtle in the FO but it improved the knitting up for me.  I knit socks.  So I know that 2×2 ribbing is great just in moderation.

knit handspun shawl in citrus colours

Sure, this shawl is bringing the bright back.  It’s not just about Handspun! and Accent for the Drab! though.  It’s also keeping turtleneck shirts at bay.  And that dear readers, is a really good thing.

In sum:  easy to wear; bright; not a turtleneck shirt. Yay!

How long did that take?

Let me walk you through the timeline.  We will wake the TKK archives up a bit too.  In April 2012, I won the awesome braid from Nicole at Stringtopia’s doorprize party.

Superwash BFL handdyed top wool fibre

Musewings’ Stringtopia 2012 doorprize

It sat on my fibre shelf until I wanted a new project for the 2013 Stringtopia event.  Thus, it snuck into that April’s Making Progress post like this.

Hand-dyed BFL fibre and Bosworth Purpleheart spindle

The seedling of the shawl: April 2013

As I reported, a lot did get spun at the Golden Lamb, 2013 String Thing.  That closely followed with a full spindle in May, 2013.

Bosworth Purpleheart mini spindle with BFL handdyed yarn

I was so stoked

The second ply was spun by early July 2013, and I had yarn to show for it during the Tour de Fleece.  It positively loves the camera.

Handspun spindle BFL yarn

Shawl-in-waiting: July 2013

The only stage of this journey that didn’t get blogged on was  when I whipped it out on January 9, 2014 and started to knit.  Here is how she looked on the needles!

knitting handspun shawl

TGV shawl when she was in progress.

The knitting time was on & off between January & last Sunday, February 23, 2014.

Nicole, you have my deepest thanks for such an epic doorprize.  I love it so much!


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Hello, Weftember!

The inaugural Weftember Weavers’ Open is about to begin!  Enallagma9 also known as Bug Girl threw down the thread in the Friends of Abby’s Yarns Ravelry group, and said:

Ladies and gentlemen, knitters and spinners, weavers and all those who fiddle with fiber, in just under four weeks the very first Weftember will begin! Weftember begins Saturday, September 7th (not on the 1st!), and goes through Sunday, September 29th, midnight to midnight, Rav time.

She said more but if you are a FOAY then you already knew that!  Since she posted this 22 days ago, so far FOAY has managed a good 32 pages of pre-Weftember in fine form.

We each get to pick something that stretches us as a weaver.  I picked taking a floor loom weaving Guild class that starts later this month.

Weaving sampler

Weftember has drawn weavers from every nook & cranny of the skill levels.  It’s been a rollicking first 32 pages.  The group inspired me to sit back down at the loom bench.  The end result may not be a looker but the weavers were having none of my shyness.  You can thank them for any pictures at all!

Janet Dawson’s Craftsy class is what really helped orient me, alone at home.  She talks you through & also weaves with a smaller Schacht Wolf loom.  Most of all, I love her ‘loom scavenger hunt’ for All the Ties.  With Janet’s back-to-front warping, and Peggy Osterkamp‘s sampler from Weaving for Beginners, I made out all right.

Sampler, fresh off the loom

The lines of skipped warp threads are no trick of the light.  I discovered rust to the back of the reed, and also my own sleying error.  Several deep breaths later, I advanced the warp and fetched the can of spray starch.

Weaving sampler, underbelly

Starting over with plain weave helped but not entirely.  See how the floats extend beyond that point?  I tackled this again by hanging 2 heavy stone necklaces off the back beam.  It worked!  The trouble in the reed was much more manageable after that.

FOAY is so utterly cool that they picked up on the key word “rust” immediately.  Chemists weighed in, and with discussion, I got the green flag for Plan 1 of 2.  It involved rubber gloves, a steel scrubbie, diluted CLR, and an apron.  The reed still has rust but Plan 2 of 2 is in place.  That reminds me, I need to get naval jelly & a small brass brush…

Jakima progress

Yesterday, as my brain strained under the idea of a new floor loom warp, I had an Aha! moment.  Soon the backstrap loom from String Thing was out of its basket hiding place.  I was afraid that all the learning had flown out of my head but I was able to pick up, pallashanin as it were, where I left off.

Backstrap weaving

Although I started with the loom on my bare foot, I switched over to use the back of my floor loom.  I love the mahogany swords or kaulla from Abby’s class.  The Tanka Ch’oro design is described by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez in Textile Traditions of Chinchero: A Living Heritage as being:

… formed by three pairs of threads of two colors.  This is the first design that the weaver learns.

It is a series of shells side by side.

Here I was seeing some mistakes, and learning by doing.  Soon, I was thinking more in terms of creating the design:  “two red legs; yellow heart” and “sonqopa heart.”  I remembered to drop warps first, and I didn’t saw my yllawa or string heddles when changing sheds.

My loom manipulation improved, and so did my weaving.  Backstrap weaving is so simple, and yet so far from my true grasp.

Happy Weftember

 


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The rock and read party

This weekend we did what couldn’t be done 2 years ago when she was squarely in the UK – we threw Sarah a baby shower.  Sarah is the 2nd of 3 “Canadian cousins,” and she now lives in Montreal with her husband and toddler.  I lobbied, and her sisters & Mom made it happen – on Canada Day weekend, no less.

Sarah we were told (and she affirmed) felt cute, and feared that no-one would come.  Well, 23 of us did.  Her family put on a lovely brunch in her sister’s home.  The sheer warmth was striking.  Her best friend, Lena, said it best, “I am so happy to be involved this time!”  It was a true celebration.

The invitation prescribed the gifts – ‘rock’ [rocking chair fund] & ‘read’ [books for the 2 year old].  I was bad, and decided to knit.

Not a rocking chair

Elizabeth Zimmerman called it the SURPRISE JACKET (caps, hers!).  It is a magnificent design.  In Elizabeth’s own words:

It was designed on vacation and puzzles me to this day.  ALL GARTER STITCH. All in ONE PIECE.

˜Knitting Workshop, p. 100

Before buttons

Julie of the Needle Emporium warned me off my first choice worsted yarn.  She was absolutely right that fingering would be spot on gauge for the pattern’s “Jumper Weight wool.”  The yarns are both Spud & Chloë Fine, 80% superwash wool; 20% silk.  The main colour is 7804, and the lime is 7801.

The first broken ridges in lime were simple to do – *sl1, k1 rows sandwich one continuous ridge.  A sock-knitter’s trick!  Although I had the book, I swallowed hard and paid for the “Adult, Baby & Child’s Surprise Jacket” instructions + shipping.  It was worth the expense, and time-to-arrive worry.

Buttonses!

It was easy to follow Elizabeth’s 1968 directions – up to a point.  When I hit the lower flap, the row-by-row helped.  The pictures were excellent for helping me see the stripe choices, and so were the variation tips. Wading through 20,012 Ravelry projects would have been a slog.

This project is called ‘Sweet Pea Surprise for Sarah’, and is up on Ravelry with additional details.  Sarah loves colour, so I had to make those buttons work!

Stash-built

What purer joy than matching new pattern to existing stash?  This is Rabbitty from the latest Knitty.com First Fall issue.  Made in a long-standing ball of Noro Silk Garden, colour 264 & sundry yarns.

Laid back rabbit

Clearly adorable but not without some finicky bits.  To wit:  woogly eyes, and appendages.  It’s all easy-grade knitting skills if you are used to using DPNs.  There is a lot (A Lot) of sewing in at the end.

A wooly-tailed Rabbitty

Here is a piece of my late night knitting mind – lock inclusions for the wee tail would be cool!  Plucked from the new-to-me Border Leicester fleece, and knitted in.  I needle felted each one for insurance against little boy hands.

One good Rabbitty may deserve another

The backward lean is part of his charm.  Next time, I will place the tail closer down the base & double the yarn.  He sits unaided.  I did cave to convention, and also got 2 books for the kiddo.