The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Been there, Spun that

… got the coffee cup

Have you been waiting for this year’s Stringtopia class line-up to drop?  It’s now called the Spring String Thing and is set for April 26 – 29, 2013.

I’m not sure whether a hat-trick will be possible for me but each of the announcements has my Full Attention!

It’s no secret that I have fallen in love with Peruvian pushka spindles.  This North American cousin is made in Dayton, Ohio and is sold by Abby & Shelly as the “Andina.”

Andina’s maple shaft is just slightly shorter than the Andean pushka.  I do love the angles of a pushka’s shaft but the Andina is very responsive.  The overall weight is a pleasure – even with a pretty cherry-wood whorl.

All told, this spindle is just right for spinning Lulu’s llama locks.  Says she who is too on a spindle diet!

Fruit of the Wheel

Remember last week’s Yarn Hollow spin?  It’s finished!

I came out with approximately 656 yds from 4.6 oz.  It is more of a light fingering than lace.  The colours really even each other out, and it’s far less bright than I expected when spinning the fibre.

Off the Combs

This Sunday, I watched Robin Russo’s Combing Fiber video.  And did a fair bit of wool combing at the same time.  As one does.

I have been itching to work with these Shetland locks that Mom brought back from her trip to the UK this past summer.  My earlier Knit Knack post with the story is here:

Right: washed Sheltand locks from Garthenor in Wales

Project discipline is grand.  However, as a rule hand-combed top trumps everything else in the queue.

So, I have already spun the work of my Forsyth Fine (4-pitch) combs on  this lovely Shetland.

Left: Bosworth mini (purpleheart); Right: Spanish Peacock (flame box elder)

The spindles are closely matched in weight terms: mini Bossie = 0.74 oz or 21 g; and Spanish Peacock = 0.78 oz or 22 g.

They also both hail from 2010, and were bought new.  It was a heady time – I had yet to touch a wheel.  Herein lies a lesson:  they were both under-utilized.  The Bossie instantly became a standard travel spindle.  It was easier that way.  For its part the Spanish Peacock was used but mostly not.  The why is simple – adjusting for the notchless round whorl & some wobble was hard.

I have learned that spindles will wait for you.  Just acquire merit, and remember that the fault may lie with you not them.  Never blame the spindle for your hair-brained plans either.

Spare a thought

Please spare a thought for our Toby.  He`s having trouble after a tumble down the staircase last month.  He lost a canine tooth straight after the fall – root and all.  We watched but no infection developed.

He`s now had related muscle loss in his face, and left side.  Blood & other tests are normal.  It looks like he just has trouble holding his head up, blinking the left eye, and with his balance on that side.  We are relieved it`s not worse but the poor little guy could truly use everyone`s good thoughts.


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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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Proof of fit, and other updates

Every now and again, I get a blog photo shoot.  Just to keep you on your toes.

The buttonholes may need reinforcing in time.  For now, I am good with checking up on them.

What you couldn’t see when it was flat on the table in the last post.

I was running too late to push my luck for pics of the now completed Laar Cardigan (yep, finally).

The Seriously fun spin

In the crunch that was my lead-up to the Tour de Fleece this year, I didn’t write about this super spin.  It’s The Painted Tiger‘s 40z braid of corriedale, Koi Pond.

We met Brooke at Stringtopia this year.  These colours inspired me to try my first fractal spinning.

I used my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.  Remarkable because just days before Martha was not in spinning condition:

When the bobbin/ flyer array of your dream wheel jumps off, hits the wheel frame and falls broken you might want to cry.  One frantic call later, Mrs. Watson assured me that her son Andrew would help.  Andrew did more than help, and I thank him.

Andrew said that it looked like an older partial break.  He took a week to repair the flyer, and make Miss 1988 like new.  Andrew also graciously showed me his personal wheels, and spoke with me about the business’ history as well as how to care for Martha.

Approx 392 yards all in!  If you are looking for a new indie-dyer then definitely give Brooke a try.  The fiber was not compacted at all, and the dye caught every last corner.

What Moms are For

My brother’s yeoman service did not end with delivering the backstrap loom to me.  He also brought this up from Mom.

It’s crunchy handspun from her trip to Scotland this summer.  Unique selling point for a card:  Real Sheep’s Wool!

She also got me 100g each of organic Hebridean & Shetland wool from Garthenor.  She might actually listen when I ramble on about “breed-specific” this and “breed-specific” that…

A weekend Happy

Finished my Jacob spin on Wee Peggy.  No breaks were taken for cooking or dishes.

Approx 197 yds of 3-ply.  I picked out kemp, spun it using scotch tension, and plied on my Martha.  Grey Jacob is already on the bobbin.  The idea is to make the Horatio & Oren mitts from this fall’s Twist Collective.

A little housekeeping

The blog’s “About” page was pretty dated, so I gave it a little edit over the weekend.  I love writing posts, and may be making some small changes to the blog in the next little while.

Where I’ll be:

  • The Spinning Loft, September 22, 23 for workshops with Deb Robson.  Beth promises that my Martha will meet her Martha!
  • The Woodstock Fleece Festival, October 13.

I’d love to know if you’ll be there too!


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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!


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Catching up

Life got out of hand.  Evidence of which is standing in our living room.  A tree.  Neckid as it grew in the ground.  The Christmas tree that wasn’t.  Honestly, I met every other holiday expectation – up to & including baking stints – and tried my very best.  Good thing Mom was too tired herself to really notice the lack of ornamentation.  Let’s just say we kept it simple & leave it at that…

Happy New Year!

Just because I fell off the face of the blog doesn’t mean that I was an idle working stiff.  Here’s a blast of what’s been keeping me sane this past little while.  In no particular order because it’s all in heavy rotation anyways…

Best surprise ever was finding this spinning angel on my doorstep on a cold Saturday morning.  A gift from my friend T, and she came in her own box:

T made the drop spindle with some sequins, and painted it with purple nail polish! She unwound the gold lace yarn, which apparently was a beast.  Love, love, love.  And yes, my new Ravatar.

T’s other gift has been to encourage me in the general direction of her special talent with lace knitting.  A large rectangle stole in spider net from Jane Sowerby’s Victorian Lace Today is quietly in progress.  Amazon linky.  If you don’t like empowering the likes of Amazon, here’s a pic of my copy:

This is not just a slightly ’80s looking pattern book.  No.  This book goes to great lengths to explain lace construction and knitting methods.  Helps if you weren’t born knowing 7 cast-ons suitable for lace.  Also helps if negotiating borders around corners isn’t yet another of your innate skills.

In other knitting we have a far less challenging Hap Shawl.  The pattern is Hansel by Gudrun Johnston a.k.a. the Shetland Trader.

The main yarn is my Philosopher’s Wool worsted 2-ply.  The body is acres upon acres of garter stitch.  I broke up the tedium by switching to Continental (left-handed) knitting.  Even so it was a pain & a ½ to get that diamond done.  Then it was the fun part – stash busting!

Again with the everlasting knitting.  And if I thought that taught me patience, well.  How about a garter edging?

That baby only kills 8 stitches every repeat.

More in keeping with instant gratification… a hat.  DH looks dashing in this quick knit, and loves it to boot.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed he’d pick Sublime Yarns Angora Merino for his hat!  Held double for Clara Parkes’ Hill Country Hat.  I have the book but here’s a free PDF version from Knitter’s Review.

One of my aims for 2010 was to knit hand-spun socks.  Cast on for these on December 30th!

The pattern is Lemon Leaves from Cat Bordhi’s (tortuously titled) Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters.  The yarn is a 3-ply super-wash BFL hand-dyed by Turtle Purl in Québec.  The colours are amazing, and although I don’t like spinning super-wash, it knits up beautifully.  However.  Am short on yardage!

My new spindles in order of acquisition:

She’s an antique French spindle that I got in a Ravelry de-stash.  See the tip?  It looks broken but still spins beautifully.

Easily the most portable spindle I own.  She likes my Blue Mountain coffee bag.  I spin suspended but have to pay attention to her spin-time lest there be droppage.  A surprising number of non-spinners love to watch me spin on her.  Happy to oblige!

The bottom of the French is too worn for good supported spindling, so what did I do?  Got a Russian!  My less-than-stellar attempts:

It’s a mahogany Tom Forrester.  Do you see how many fibres I broke out in trying to spin on this?!?  Here’s inspiration number one for sucking less:

Sweet, sweet vicuña.  Hand-processed by Tabi at Sericin Woolworks, and worth every cent!  Only the finest, rarest camelid fibre known to man…  Until then I am a mere grasshopper with the Russian spindle.

Latest addition is an Ethan Jacob lace spindle by Greensleeves.  Another de-stash win!  It’s 14g of sleek cochin & lacewood.

They weren’t kidding when they said this is a primo lace spindle.  Insanely good, man.  Helps me not to feel like a total ass on the Russian.

Yes, I make yarn with all the tools & enthusiasm.  Here’s a small sampling… On my Wee Peggy wheel is some Finnish Landrace (the sweater project):

Previously on my Canadian Production Wheel was this gift to its previous owner – Shetland top, 2-ply:

Now on the CPW is Corriedale hand-dyed by Ontario fibre artist KerrySpins:

There’s much more in production but this is a mighty long post already!

Walk good!

 


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Appreciating life

As of Saturday the Mach II spinning wheel is officially mine.  DH wasn’t into the country drive vibe, so it was a bit of a quickie trip out to the Fibre Garden in Jordan.  Unfortunately, FG is no longer a dealer for Spinolution’s wheels.  This would be under warranty but I’ll have to source any bits & bobbs elsewhere.  Now that he’s mine, I can show you The Indomitable Earl:

Check out Toby… not being cute – he was royally annoyed that I put the wheel in his morning sunshine!

Either that or he was combining his love for attention with his love of sunbathing…  Don’t you think that the words, “My name is Earl,” would look cool arcing under that logo?  I do but don’t worry, I probably won’t act on that there impulse.

The yarn on the bobbin is the Louet Shetland wool top 3-plied.  I spun the singles on the Wee Peggy spinning singles, and took advantage of Earl’s mighty bobbins for plying.

Even I am starting to get confused between all the natural white handspun/ fibres in the house.  Note to self… label!

I know that I’ve been massively silent about the finished baby blanket.  Pictures are taken, and I am sending it to my friend, today.  Pattern is still in the offing…

On Monday, I casted-on for another Anthropologie shrug.  The best I can say for attempt #1 was that it was a swatch.  A very time-intensive, handspun, itchy swatch.  Shrug #2 is way beyond that.  It’s in the ever-yummy Colinette Iona in dusk (colour 77).  It’s about time that I used that yarn… stashed it almost a year ago…  Almost a skein in:

Very relaxing.  This time I am using the border from Sandi Wisehart’s Comfort Shawl.  It really is one of my favourite borders, and I’m a happy camper.  Here’s to hoping I have a shrug before summer hits…

On Monday, I got the sad news that a friend & former co-worker passed away on Saturday.  Sharon had a long battle with cancer, and passed peacefully.  Her service was yesterday, and I was able to go.  She had worked with the firm for 25+ years.  I was lucky enough to sit beside Sharon for an entire year.  Once she decided that I wasn’t fooling around behind the partition, we became good friends.  She was a huge support to me during & after my articling, and hilarious to boot.  I hope she rests in peace.

This morning, I am just appreciating life a little bit more.


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Be it resolved

… that the Spinolution Mach II is the 2nd wheel.  I gave my final answer to the DyeGuy this afternoon!

There were, as I said, major second thoughts.  After looking at all of the angles, I was down to either that wheel or a Majacraft Rose.  Could I have chosen 2 wheels that were more opposite?!  That’s the gemini in me!  So, thanks to everyone who listened to me go on & on about this dilema…

Let me just do a quick run-down on the Rose.  Majacraft caught my interest with their full-page/ full-colour ad in the winter ’09 Spin-Off.  Inside of 2 months I was very much smitten with my Wee Peggy, and so naturally the Rose fell to the background.  Why then was I test spinning it?  Ha!  So as to properly assess the Pioneer, which of course makes zero sense!  I could accessorize into the production realm, love the true double treadle, the wood & the portability.  Not to mention the resale value.

As much as I could love the Rose, it’s not my ideal wheel.  That would be a Schacht Matchless or another wheel with double drive capability, and heft.  In the end the heftily solid workhorse with everything on 1 flyer at a good price is what I have chosen.  With a side resolution to free-form knit it some prettiness.

It’s name?  Earl, I think.  For a crazy reason that I’ll keep to myself.  His specs?  To quote the Bellwether:

Height: 32 inches
Width: 24 inches
Depth: 12 inches
Wheel Size: 20 inch diameter, 1.5 in thick
Bobbin: The standard 3 bobbins + 2.
See her blog review for more dimensions.

Number of Speeds: 5
Ratio: 1:3, 1:5, 1:10, 1:15, 1:21 (Approximately)

Material: Furniture grade Birch Plywood

Yes, I didn’t quote his weight.  Earl’s a little touchy about his weight.  I think a set of wheels is in his future, actually.  To show-off Earl’s latest… this is Fleece Artist BFL roving that I got on Monday:

… inside of my (coughSperry Top-Sider shoeboxcough) bobbin kate.  I spun the singles on the 1:15, effortlessly and in no time.  It’s my 1st stab at spinning a colourway, and boy did I love it!  My idea is to make this into 2-ply yarn, and use this for the lace triangle shawl disaster (frogged on Monday)… between this & candy pink, I’m more likely to wear this as a shawl!

The Wee Peggy is also seeing some action.  She’s in charge of the amazing Louet Shetland combed top I got last Christmas:

That’s my 2nd bobbin of singles.  I am thinking in terms of a 3-ply yarn but am still thinking how much I can get with the 8 0z. package (i.e. am I getting more?!!).

I also have a new spindle to play with – my friend & serious spinning enabler gave me her unused Turkish spindle by Ray:

I am thrilled but honestly have not yet figured it out.  From the website’s pictures it seems that I have a high-worl Turkish, and that I have the arms on upside-down… I’ll be posting a question in the Spindlers Ravelry group for help!