The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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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.


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Spring sweater and new numbers

Look what I’m now wearing!

An emerald Mr. Bluejeans!

It’s Amy Swenson’s design Mr. Bluejeans from Knitty’s Deep Fall 2012 issue.  It’s roomy – see what I did there with the overlap?

Swing!

In it’s natural state this is a cardigan that would like to go for a whirl already.  So, we did.

Did my gauge swatch lie?  I don’t think so.  Well, 7 skeins of Sweet Georgia SW Worsted later…  Seriously though, I used the size small directions and needed 1,400 yds.  A whole 250 yards more!  The small grist variation doesn’t account for that.

Gorgeous semi-solid greens, Miss Sweet Georgia!

The sleeve cuffs on my cardigan are slightly shortened.  They also have Elizabeth Zimmerman’s i-cord bind-off.  In following her advice in Knitter’s Almanac to keep that loose, I got the interesting flare.  It’s a design element (ha!).

This was to match my fix for a very raw bottom edge.  Luckily I eeked out enough yarn to give that an applied i-cord.  Why?  Well, the edging pattern is not actual ribbing.  All things being equal I like a good ribbed edge on a garment.  Some knitters feel that its cinching action is unflattering.  There’s just something about a classic rib edge that I love.

 

Speaking of Pretty Canadian Yarn…

We are in a wonderful time for finding Canadian indie hand-dyed product in local yarn stores.

Turtlepurl’s Polly Wanna Cracker? yarn in Striped Turtle Toes

I first found Turtlepurl when her fibre seduced me at the 2010 Toronto Knitter’s Frolic, and have bought more from her store since.  It’s just wonderful to see her yarn carried locally!

A few days later, and we have a new sock project on the needles!  I am adjusting the Ampersand design for these.  It’s regulating my stress quite nicely, thank you.

A slow project Transformed

The SpinDoctor’s Podcast Listeners Group on Ravelry is spinning together in a Great Sock Yarn Experiment.  The inspiration is the new & very super Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson.

The slow project on my Jenkins Delight Turkish-style spindle

I started spinning this Sweet Georgia BFL/ silk top back in around January 2011.  In that time, I have made a 164 yard 2-ply skein, and 29 g of singles besides.

The hold-up is simple.  You haven’t seen that 2-ply skein because I think that it has fairly ugly barber-polling.  Also, I love the Jenkins Delight as a travel spindle but that knob slows me right down.  I cope but am annoyed by easing the half-hitch over.

Martha to the rescue!

Wouldn’t you know that was at exactly 1/3 of the remaining fibre?!  I am now well on my way to having 2 opposite-twist singles all spun up.  It takes enough twist to be very nice stress spinning too.

 

Now don’t let the shock hurt you but…

… yours truly has destashed a spindle.  And that is no lie.

Spindlewood square mini spindle in Olivewood

A very pretty, and well-made spindle at that.  I bought this Spindlewood from Morgaine’s shop at Stringtopia 2011.  No small amount of sentiment there but I really do have other spindles in this 22g bracket that I have used more often than this one.

Wildcraft spindle with Wisebatt

Nice timing for the return of my Wildcraft bracken spindle then, yes?!  It was just with a friend, and came back home this Tuesday.

The fibre is the other half of Sandi‘s drum-carded gift to me last fall.   It’s a joy to spin:  90% Falkland wool/ 10% silk.

Happy Easter when it comes!

Silly me, I didn’t realize how happy Melvin would be with that there chicken decal…

Cat toy in the wild!

 


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New knits with handspun

Last year’s push to work with my handspun yarns has really started to bear fruit.  I’m excited because there’s now plenty more to share as brand new knits in my life.

Fall Colours, my way

Back in September, I told you about my Seriously Fun Spin.  Weeks later the dyer, Brooke of The Painted Tiger, announced her Fractal Fiber spin-along/ knit-along in the Ravelry group.

This is Susan Ashcroft’s “very easy but effective” No-Fuss Shade-Loving Shawl.

As I quipped on my project page – it’s a fractal-loving shawl!

Avatar-worthy!

The form (i.e. modifications) followed function.  The solid colour bands were on the verge of shifting when I was making the seed stitch lower edge.  I sped up the increases (every row), and made Meg Swansen’s edge.  It’s charted on page 114 of Knitting Around.

Heart Warmers

Around the same time, I was spinning grey Jacob wool top.  This project was all geared towards making purple & grey stranded mittens for this winter.

This spin on my Wee Peggy helped me weather more of the medical stuff.  Soon, I was wondering why not try to design these mittens myself?

The cuff is based on the Estonian Peacock’s Tail pattern set out in the Knitter’s Book of Wool Risti Mittens by Nancy Bush.  I threw caution to the wind adding sundries:

  • Red:  fibre came with my Jenkins delight from a B.C. Raveler.  Traditionally, red cuffs are for good luck;
  • Avocado:  natural dye sample of woolen-spun PolwarthxPort fibre; and
  • Purple:  leftover SW Corriedale from my Redhook sweater.

My gauge on 2.5mm needles was 15 stitches = 2″.

This book taught me both the elements of mitten knitting & the stitch repeats (Swedish & Faorese):

Sheila McGregor, “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting.”

Not many knitting books sit by my beside.  “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting” did for ages.  It’s full of useful information that doesn’t leap off the page on a 1st reading.

Sure, DH was within his rights to declare the cuffs “ghetto” but I am super-proud of this project.  One simple idea that grew into its own:  I have a pair of warm Jacob mitts!

Out of Hiding – Shetland 

As far back as 2010 this spin shot Shetland to the top of my personal wool list.

Moral:  spinning triumphs sometimes become an end in themselves.  Keep creating.

The spark for taking the skeins out of the box was another spin-along/ knit-along on Ravelry.  It’s in A Spinner’s Study, and I joined Team Lace – cowl knitting.

Aah, my friend, Logwood!  This time, I threw some copper liquor into the dye pot.  Made from this humble copper scrubbie.

Copper teaching me electrolysis in action

I am showing you the cowl first before the group.  I gave it diamond lace to match my new mittens.

There’s a lot out here about the ‘hows’ and ‘wherefores’ of spinning.  What I wanted to show today is why I really spin.  Handspun is yarn that gives back to you.  Large.


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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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Not Child’s Play, it’s a Flax Wheel!

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a Kijiji ad:  Antique Child’s Spinning Wheel.  Just 2 pics but it looked doable in terms of price, and location.

After lots of searching, I decided that it is a flax saxony spinning wheel, probably brought here by an Eastern European family.  The Antique Spinning Wheels Ravelry group also helped calm my fears that she was going to turn out to be a sad little Frankenwheel.

Naturally, I was doing this all in secret.  DH’s first reaction?  He may have asked, “Where will you put it?” but he soon rallied.

That Saturday we braved the snow & headed out to Uxbridge.  The seller was unconvinced that the wheel was used by grown women but she did like that I wanted to get her spinning again.  Even I was stunned by the tiny size when we walked in.  It’s just 2′ high at the maidens, and fits this place mat exactly:

Even Melvin fits!  The hinges are leather, and the treadle is practically made for my size 7 foot.  I worked on the wheel that first weekend, and gave her a Murphy’s Soap bath followed by plenty of tung oil, a new front leather, and pegs for everywhere.  The spa treatment went fairly quickly but I sought help on Ravelry to get her fully functional.

See the massive chip in the bobbin?  It unscrewed easily but the flyer shaft was very rusty.  WD-40 scoured and left overnight did help… a bit.

This flyer probably never had hooks or nails but the spinner would move an eyelet peg along the holes.  The back holes show much more wear.

The ‘Proof of Spin’ pic also shows my fix for the pegs.  Like the steam punk?  Reed Needles aka Wheelwright on Rav does too!

Woodworms made their mark in the mother-of-all housing.  I worried it would need shoring up but all has been well through spinning 1.5 bobbins of BFL wool.

The important thing is that the screw tension is totally undamaged and moves well.

Is it rude to look under a slanty’s skirts?

Don’t carve leather with a buck knife and expect to come away unscathed.  It took some shaving but now the flyer moves freely.  I kept the old leather… it was very badly worn wide.

The drive wheel crank is one of my favourite things about this wheel.  Small but perfectly formed.

Maybe the nail got hammered in after the top of the distaff went missing?

Melvin has been positively doting about the wheel.  It’s not just that he wants to get in on the action.

I named the wheel Chella because it reminds me so much of my Grandmother’s older sister who never married but loved crafts.  It took a few tries to get the right drive band – the purple Hempathy.  I absolutely love this wheel.  She’s a good spinner, and the low profile is ace for tv watching.  The paint on all sides is adorable & I am dying to try to spin line flax with her.


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Vive le Tour!

By a miracle and a half, I stayed with the Tour de Fleece this year.  I posted with my teams each day.  Generous feedback from Friends of Abby’s Yarns & all of their projects kept me in the loop even when serial nights of posting progress seemed impossible.

Not since Brownies have I been this happy about a badge…  The No. 1 Project for Teresa is now at 4 plying balls and then some:

It’s been a happy project, and there’s also a goodly amount on the Ethan Jakobs at the finish line as well.

It wasn’t solidly spinning for her yarn either.  Cotton is a good example.  My Huari spindle & cotton came in the midst of the tour.  It’s circa 850 A.D., with faint paint markings and a black clay whorl.

Naturally it spoke to me of cotton.  One tour night became about sucking less on my coin takhli.  The white shell was the break-through here – it’s DRS for the takhli!

There was also the odd evening of wheel spinning.  My left thumb thanked me for the new motions.  Neither the fibre nor the tool is new on this spin.  It’s Shetland top on my CPW.  What’s new is that the wheel moved rooms.  She’s now here in my study/ craft room.

That foray was inspired by Jacey’s Shetland breed study in her Insubordiknit group on Ravelry.

And speaking of breeds.  On the almost hottest day of the year, I showed my stubborn genes & cleaned a whole lamb’s fleece.  But a portion of the fleece:

It’s my first Black Welsh Mountain sheep fleece – ewe lamb from Desert Weyr.  There are condition issues that I was told about frankly & fully ahead of finalizing the order.  The depth of black has to be seen to be believed, trust me.  It’s beautiful.

 There’s a break near the butt-end of the fleece, and some scurf.  So, I worried.  After flicking, and carding a lock or two, I was happy to find it perfectly spinnable!