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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Woodstock Fleece Festival – silver anniversary

We joined hands and spent a mid-October Saturday together at the 10th annual Woodstock Fleece Festival.  These right steps answered T’s big question:

Why do you go to a spinning festival anyway?

Reason Number 1, there are fibre animals, dear

Llama demonstration 4-H Llama Club Woodstock Fleece Festival 2018 by irieknit

Llama love – that’s T’s hand!

The 4-H Llama Club brought super tolerant llamas.  This sweetheart was almost eye-level with 6 year-old T!

4-H Llama Club demonstration Festival Barn Woodstock Fleece Festival 2018 by irieknit

Another llama friend for T (while I shopped!)

There was enough time & space in this Festival Barn space in particular for the little ones to enjoy their experience.  The volunteers did a fabulous job!

Angora rabbit demonstration Marketplace Barn Woodstock Fleece Festival 2018 by irieknit

Angora rabbit care & plucking

After a bite to eat we found the angora rabbit demonstration starting next door in the Marketplace Barn.  I was happy to point out kids in handknit (are they handspun too, I don’t know!) hats, rush a goodbye and head for the vendors’ stalls.

T learned a lot, snuck a pet mid-demonstration (you did?!? yes), and is not very sure about plucking fur from angora rabbits being exactly kind to them.  I demurred not being an expert.

Reason Number 2, buy all the things!

This reason covered seeing friends – vendors & attendees alike.  My purchases year-over-year are down but still not what you would call paltry.

Knitting books from Gemini Fibres at Woostock Fleece Festival 2018

L-R: T’s pick; and my pick

While I was in the Gemini Fibres line with a copy of Marianne Kinzel’s First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, T ran up beaming with his find & pleases.  To go with a WIP handspun monster he asks for the Michele Wilcox owl & chicken first from her Amigurumi Animal Friends.  Alrighty!

Handspinning Shetland wool dyed by Sheepspot on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Spinning festival fibre with Wee Peggy

Visiting Sasha’s booth for Sheepspot was a special treat.  So impressive was it all that T asked if she owned & operated the Auditorium!  We had nice chats through the day, and I brought home this Shetland top (104 g, ‘Autumn Wedding’ colourway) with other fibre & yarn.  They are the only local sellers of Greensleeves spindles if you are looking for good ones.

This braid was handled exactly as I did the Furiosa Shetland top, i.e. divided by length into thirds, and spun end-to-end.  My guess is that they will show how different the same spinning can look where the only variable is the dyer’s colourways.  Tools, breed, and ply structure will be all the same.  It will be interesting to compare them!

Handspun Shetland singles dyed by Sheepspot on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Third & last bobbin of the Shetland spin

The wheel is Wee Peggy, and I didn’t change her set-up, scotch tension, 5:1.  It is a 1982 (i.e. late version) Rappard kit wheel that my friend Margaret bought, and sold to me for a first wheel.  Mary Knox has given a timeline comparison of the Peggy wheel designs here.

Since this wheel has been home, I have spun with the Willow Tree figure on the back maiden.  She holds a conch shell to her ear, and if she’s here for luck it’s been working!

As for other purchases most were re-stocking, and I also got dyestuff from John at the Fibre Garden.  Hopefully it all spills into TKK as we go through to the next Festival.

An interesting new-to-me vendor was Karberry Farm from Mountain, On.  Their Shetland was tempting but I chose 2 colours of Jacob roving (raised by a neighbouring shepherd).  Jacob is listed as critical in the Breed Conservation List 2015 of Heritage Livestock Canada.  It was a joy to see a 1-30 animal category rare breed at Woodstock!  I was in danger of grabbing the bag of raw fleece but am glad that I resisted.  Cleaning fleece as I do in the kitchen is more difficult to arrange, and I don’t like keeping wool raw if I can help it.

On Melvin

A quick update is that Melvin has been stable through the summer & fall on his new regimen for feline diabetes.

Melvin cat by irieknit resting

Our Mel at rest

Here he is to my right as I typed this morning (the Erica loom is beside him in the picture).  Apart from being mighty vocal on the dot of his feeding times, our Melly cat is doing pretty well, and regaining weight that he lost rapidly in the spring.  We will be doing a new blood curve shortly to find out more.

Melvin is still our only pet, and I have been feeling a tug towards adding another to the home.  It’s open-ended but we all agree.


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Female Heroes, a club

The creative forces at Sheepy Time Knits have been keeping my spinning & knitting life very happy in one way or another since I first put together that Mandie is a dyer when we met at Stringtopia these many years ago.  You may have noticed that they come up a lot on TKK, and never in a bad way.

When sign-ups for their 2018 brand-new Female Heroes Club opened the happy experiences made it fairly easy to think through.  This time I swallowed the fear of over-stashing fibre and joined on that side of the club.

Turns out I made a swell decision there.  Not a single braid has come near the stash bin, and I have found inspiration for more than 4 ounces a couple of times already.  How it shakes out in features of a good fibre club in my humble opinion:

  • Highly reliable;
  • Colourways, oh the colourways!
  • Rocking the breed selection;
  • Generous braids; never underweight;
  • Reorders sing from the same songbook.

This can’t be easy to execute for an indie dye business but execute it they do.  This club round-up is my simple appreciation.

But wait, are there backroom happenings?  No.  I am sharing something that has been consistently good, period.

Minerva on Masham

One ply ball is 35 g, and I last wound-off the Jenkins Lark spindle on in mid-May, 2018.

Jenkins Lark turkish-style spindle and Masham wool Minerva dyed by Sheepy Time Knits spun by irieknit

A come-with-me project

The 2 Turkish-style spindles are grabbed alternately each time I head out the door.  It’s a slower but still steady way of spinning a project.

Bravest Girl in the World on Targhee

A quick 2-ply that I spun as a fractal on the Watson Martha spinning wheel over 10 days in April.

Handspun Targhee wool by irieknit dyed by Sheepy Time Knits

Seriously smooth spin

The yarn was spun and plied in double drive, and the second braid is a dead ringer for the first.

As a big fan of Targhee, I was impressed with this fibre in particular.  It was open, fluffy, and a joy to spin.  The 635 yards of 2-ply is lovely (2,540 yards per pound) and so soft.

Mother of Dragons on Blue Faced Leicester

Imagine my squeal when this came in the mail.

2018 Female Heroes Fiber Club yarns at irieknit

Good mail day this

One good BFL spin has deserved another.  Again this went on the Watson Martha in double drive but this time I wanted a 3-ply yarn.

Handspun 3-ply Blue Faced Leicester wool by irieknit dyed by Sheepy Time Knits

Stormborn as it were

They are in the DK-weight range, and with the re-order, I now have approximately 394 yards (787 yards per pound).  The second braid was my ah, we are home again 2-day blitz spin.

Furiosa on Shetland

It may have been a little Mad Max to start this while also plying the beautiful Mother of Dragons.

Spinning Shetland wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits on Wee Peggy spinning wheel by irieknit

Lower ratio; light touch

This will be a conventional 3-ply yarn, and I am looking forward to seeing it off the wheels.  The Wee Peggy is in Scotch Tension spinning a light 5:1.  It’s been very, very relaxing with an audiobook after long days.

That happened quickly

Spinning is in-between other projects – I have finished T’s colourwork sweater & am spending other nights weaving a band in my backstrap loom.  There are loose ideas for how I will use the handspun but for now I make the yarn.

The trip was very good for my focus, and I am happy to be working again.


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Three months. It takes three months!

Handspun combed Romney Wool yarn skeins

Made in Ontario, Romney wool yarn!

All skeins are plied, and wound!  It took exactly 3 months for this my biggest spinning project ever.  First lashing of Romney wool locks to the combs happened on July 19th; last plying happened yesterday, October 19th.

Plying hand-combed Romney on my Watson Martha Spinning wheel with Melvin

Who’s the boss of my yarn?

My singles for the plying are coming up from the tin by my wheel.  The twist is well distributed when I wind the ball, and also settles over time.  There was absolutely no trouble from the singles being this close to my hands in plying.

The ubiquitous mat is there because we need an area carpet already!

The yarn needs a bath, and is quite possibly going into my dye pots.  It was at the 5th of those 6 skeins that I realized something:  we broke the 2,000 yard mark!  Holy major spinning project!  Final click reel measurement is 2,608 yards.  If you are joining us for the first time in these 3 months this was hand-combed top from approximately 1.9lbs of clean Romney.  Or in other words:  1.4818 miles of Ontario iriespun wool!

Squeeing is falling on somewhat deaf ears here.  I know you dear audience will get it.  From fleece to a mile & a half!  It’s a real spinning milestone and I have loved every minute.

Canadian maple tree in fall display

Also made in Ontario, fall colours

Our maple tree has lost an alarming amount of leaves with rainy weather but is still giving the most magnificent gradient.

Canadian maple tree inside the fall canopy

Bigger on the inside, fall colour

Meeting this goal of prepping my fleece is downright special.  The blanket still needs to be built but we have a good foundation here.  Luckily, I also have a stunning raw Shetland fleece that my friend Beth selected for me.

Raw Shetland fleece from spinner's flock, McTavish Farm in Oregon

Shetland fleece from McTavish Farm, Oregon

Another friend kindly brought her back from a visit with Beth last winter when I took the picture.  I just took it back out of the chest freezer last week.  A business card is in the bag, and so I know the ewe who gave this double-coated coloured fleece is Katrina.  Her shepherds are Tom and Tracy Livernois in Eugene, Oregon.  I’d like to get more Unicorn Power Scour for such prime fleece.

Now we know that I can prepare for a whole project, and I’m all inspired to clean this next!


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Celebrating Canada – a new spinning project

Bosworth Moosie spindle with tulipwood shaft and Shetland wool

Happy birthday, Canada!

While spinning on my uber-patriotic Bosworth Moosie this morning, I had a thought.  Why not share the spinning project that I am so close to starting?  It is as Canadian as those colours, and is special besides.  Who cares if we spoke only yesterday, right?

Ontario produces superb wool

Two months ago, I wrote something.  It is long-hand, on a sheet of yellow legal paper.  It came after an on-line discussion with Canadian knitters who asserted that Ontario does not produce high-grade fibre on a commercial scale.  As I sorted my thoughts on the topic, I wrote:

Recently, I turned to N, and asked what does he think my favourite fibre might be?  He answered, “Wool.  It is still wool.”  We smiled, and he is correct.

This fibreshed is precisely where my passion is rooted.  As TKK readers know, it all began in 2009 with a raw local Romney ram’s fleece.  I still work and find good value close to home.  Leading spinners whose work I respect, Deb Robson, Clara Parkes, and Sue Blacker all focus on the importance of using local fibre from specific breeds.

We now even have Canadian knitting yarn dyed in-house by my friend, Sasha.  These single breed yarns are available here.

Skein of handdyed merino fingering weight Sheepspot yarn

Sheepspot yarn of loveliness

It is fast becoming a Magical Side to Side scarf designed by Susan Santos.  Knitters, do help support a new breed-specific grassroots label!

Sheepspot merino yarn for Santos designed knitted shawl by irieknit

Such a rich Sheepspot colourway!

As an aside, Sasha’s newsletters are also very good.  What does a knitter need to know?  Well, this as Sue Blacker says in “Pure Wool” (2012, Oceana, p. 7):

Finding the right yarn for a project is vital.  The sheer versatility of wool and the possibilities of creating specific yarns for specific purposes are, perhaps, not fully appreciated.

Your success lies in thinking about the breed’s strengths/uses.

A made-in-Ontario blanket…

… or putting a project where my mouth is!

Ontario Romney cleaned ewe lamb fleece in Jamaican handwoven basket

Also known as a blanket?

My celebration is to use the remaining 1.876 lbs/ 851 g of local Romney ewe lamb’s wool, and make a family blanket.

It has Most Favoured Fleece status in the stash.  Buttercup’s farmer is Julie Hartford of  Engleheart, Ontario.  You can see its 3lbs 5oz beginnings here from July 2010 as raw fleece.

Romney lamb's wool and preparing with Forsyth fine hand combs by irieknit

Combing heaven – Ontario Romney lamb’s wool

In formulating these thoughts, I did use my gradient of hand-prepared local wools.  It’s now a useful fibre basket in my spinning room – for wool, of course!

Hand prepared handspun wool knitted bag by irieknit

An after-market wool basket

Everything about this was freeing.  How many stitches did I cast on?  Well, an even number.  The yarns range from well-spun to those that I was hiding under a rug but they all work together in this mesh stitch.

Lower section detail of hand prepared and handspun wool knitted mesh bag by irieknit

Neither a silk purse nor a sow’s ear

That middle grey?  Oh, it came from the Romney ram’s nether regions, I am sure!  The marled is from a mohair blending experiment (also local) with a free meat fleece.

Handle for hand prepared handspun wool knitted bag by irieknit

Reining lateral spread in, 101

My longwools came into their own for the i-cord effort at taming the too-large opening.  The top white wool, and mauve (logwood dyed!) are both Border Leicester from Lambsquarters farm in Holstein, Ontario.

Mid-section detail of hand prepared handspun wool knitted bag by irieknit

All local wools great & small

My parting thought was that if I could use such disparate yarns then I am actually ready for this effort.  We could use a blanket.  A little knowledge has led me to suspect that our childhood blankets are both of acrylic extraction!

Melvin the cat in old vertical blinds

Mels appreciates change

The home improvements are enriching Melvin’s life considerably in the meantime.

 

 


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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 ounce of (Moosie) win, and shawl surgery

Moosie! (1)

It’s been weeks, and I still can’t believe this statement is true:  I have a Moosie!  The whorl is 1.75″ of handcrafted moose antler on a tulipwood shaft.  All together with a balancing pin she weighs 28g or one ounce.

Moosie drop spindle

Moosie wearing dyed Shetland top single

Jonathan & Sheila Bosworth offered a group of 10 with 5 different special shaft woods.  They were all lovely but the sole tulipwood #7 was my first choice.  Sheila helped me to decide on a 9″ length. Its spin is even more beautiful than I dreamed.  First there is the smooth but softly grained wood as I set the spindle in motion with a thigh roll.  The spin is fast without being aggressive.

The fibre is “Cherry Fudge” Shetland top from The Painted Tiger.

Re-purposing for a Gift

Mom celebrated her 60th birthday in September.  With a deep list of in-progress items, I still had enough time to dig out my first large shawl and its glaring corner problem.

Lace stole hand knit in spider pattern

One of these corners is not like the others

What glaring corner problem?  I was honest and brave about it all in this September 2011 TKK post.  Eventually, the (ahem) swatch turned up, so I had a little extra matching yarn on hand.

Lord Varys Shawl FO fixed two (2)

Eek that corner out

Fuchsia is Mom’s new favorite colour.  It was perfect for her, and she can use it this coming year in Europe on her sabbatical.  That was the theory.  In practice, I had to un-graft and not loose any stitches.  That was a big, scary pain and a half.

Lord Varys Shawl FO fixed (3)

Live stitches caught, pattern rendered, and Lo!  I ran out of yarn again.  This was my Bloody Hell moment, and I thank those of you who saw my tweets and offered words of encouragement.

Sleep always helps, and I came up with this flaw of a 3-needle lace bind-off.  I am happy to report that the flaw has use – it’s Mom’s way of knowing which side is up!

Good kitty and blocking shawl

Melvin was risking life & limb by interfering with the shawl at this point.  He knew better than to push that particular item completely off the table, I think.

Also in progress

In and among more Super Secret projects, I started an RPM sock in my Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock yarn, “Lakeview.”

Revving socks in Lorna's Laces (2)
The spiral pattern is easy to work on the two circulars, and I love how it is breaking up the pools of colour in the variegated yarn.  The only thing that I don’t like is the join on these particular needles – they are Knit Picks Options nickel-plated fixed circulars.  I knit tightly for socks, and moving the stitches across the metal/plastic join is not seamless.

Cotton merc 5 over 2 warp on board

Week before last, I did beam this narrow warp on the Mighty Wolf loom.  It was very useful to take what I am learning in the BAC classes, and apply it to my home loom.  It’s taking me awhile to get started on threading because life has taken over.  When sunny  weather returns, I will take pictures of my class sampler.

Muga Silk plying (3)

Working with this muga silk that I bought from Morgaine this Spring has been a sheer joy.  The scientific name of this species of wild silkworm from Assam, India is Antheraea assamensis.  It is far more delicate than the Bombyx mori silk that I have spun, and the gold colour was entrancing.

Muga silk on niddy (4)

The singles were spun on my Wee Peggy wheel in double drive using a crochet cotton (plied on itself) band.  I plied on my Watson Martha wheel also in double drive, and with a linen (10/2) band using the small whorl, 1st ratio.  This is approximately 604 yards from 1.6 ounces of muga silk in batt form.

(edit only to italicize a term)