The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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Antique spinning wheels – in praise of the sub-herd

A trio of restored antique wheels lives with us.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheels acquired in Canada

Flax wheels wave to the blog

Each has these features:  sloping-bench, three-legged, double-drive, screw-tensioned, treadled, flax loving.  They share the overall Saxony spinning wheel structure, and they work.  Apart from all coming to me right here in Ontario they have little else in common!

From late 19th-century Eastern Europe, Chela

Since my February 2012 post about this “not child’s play” painted wheel, several spinners have contacted me with their own strikingly similar examples.

Irieknit handspun linen yarn vintage Pennsylvania flax on antique spinning wheel

Last spun: linen yarn from vintage Pennsylvania flax

This is the finished combined 307 yards from two fingers of the vintage Pennsylvania line flax that I have from an eBay purchase.  It was wet-spun on Chela, and wet-plied on my Spinolution Mach 2 wheel at 10:1.

Bobbin and flyer on antique Eastern European flax spinning wheel

This wheel is useful, and has a beautifully gentle action for fine spinning.  She does need help for a safer peg system.

Although the back of the bobbin is badly chipped this does not affect the function.  Not every break needs major repair.  The pegs have held fairly well but do need attention.  Each flyer hole is a different size but it will be a minor repair for a wheelwright.

From early 19th-century Nova Scotia, signed Wm McDonald

The largest in the trio, this signed flax wheel is a rare one that is just beautifully made.

Restored antique Nova Scotia flax spinning wheel by William McDonald

Repaired & in good form, William McDonald wheel

Alvin Ramer quietly gave me better flyer hooks while he fixed the treadle at the end of October, 2014.  It is now restored to working condition.

Irieknit handspun silk buffalo cashmere yarn on antique McDonald Nova Scotia spinning wheel

Last spun; silk/buffalo/white cashmere blend

The celebratory lap was to seize my 50% silk; 25% buffalo; 25% cashmere batts from Sericin Silkworks, and give her a spin.  Record-breaking sustained cold this February was definitely a factor in the indulgence!

Irieknit handspun silk buffalo cashmere blend yarn on antique William McDonald flax spinning wheel

Fast but oh so soft spin!

Two batts weighed a total 2 oz/ 56g.  I tore strips, and with not another thought made the 189 yards of semi-woolen yarn.

The wheel passed my test for plying the yarn on her second ratio, so she is simply an all-round good example.  I am so happy to have this wheel!

The new Kid from the Ramers, Linley

This is the Oops!  In my defense, she came with 3 Ramer bobbins + a (partial) Ramer oak distaff.

Antique compact saxony style flax spinning wheel

Wheel no. 15, Ramer spinning wheel collection

I am still puzzling over this wheel – is she a low-Irish wheel as the Ramers suspect or is she a North American example?  Any tips will be appreciated, dear readers!

Antique saxony-style spinning wheel table with depression

Depression in the wheel’s table

To my (untrained & enthusiastic) eye, the depression in her table looks original .  Barbara Ann Ramer suggests that it would hold a water dish, perhaps tin.

For my spinning, the water will be kept away from the compact table but it is a good spot to park all manner of things!

Irieknit handspun yarn from silk caps on antique saxony spinning wheel

The inaugural spin, silk caps

The singles for this 618 yards were spun from 24 g of silk caps on my new antique saxony wheel.  I used my Watson Martha wheel in double drive to for plying.

Rear view of antique flax spinning wheel with water dish depression

Audience-side of Linley the flax wheel

When the previously strong take-up stopped on a dime, I discovered that the old flyer whorl (darker wood) was threaded.

Older posts in Ravelry fora gave solutions to hold friction, and I went in search of plumber’s tape.  I needed a combination with painter’s tape but it seems to be holding now.

Rear axle and drive wheel for antique saxony spinning wheel

Added concerns

A large but seemingly stable crack in the back wheel support is also of concern.  The wheel sits level on a leather bearing but its axle seems worn.  I am not sure if this will need additional professional work but have decided to ask for an assessment.

The spinning on these wheels has been a delight.  My hope is to keep them working as tools in my spinning practice, and to get back to the flax.

Space does not allow me to have a large collection but the trio makes an awesome sub-herd!

edit, December 4, 2015: Wheelwright, Reed Needles, notes that the treadle on this unsigned oak flax wheel, Linley, is cedar.  It points to Canadian & not Irish origins for this wheel.  See my update post of today for more!


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Plumage, a juried exhibition

In a month already full with home renovation work & gardening, I have been bowled over by the positive response that my two pieces received in the Burlington Handweavers & Spinners Guild 2014 exhibit at the (then-called) Burlington Art Centre.

The Juror, Sheila Perry, selected 20 pieces from 16 fibre artists for the Exhibit.  Each artist’s interpretation of the theme was different but the presentation was balanced and cohesive in the space.

 

Knitted lace shawl in handspun Muga silk: On Eagle's Wings

Best in Show award!

My goal was simple:  to be selected for inclusion!  Everything else was pretty unexpected even after I heard that I was 1 of 4 members chosen for awards.  The exhibition was May 4 – June 1, 2014.

Elation not being optimal for bloggy work, I enjoyed the moment and juggled house upheaval vs. garden upheaval.   The creative breaks poured towards a fantastic, challenging lace weaving workshop with Jette Vandermeiden at the guild.  Jette was good enough to attend the opening reception with us too, so it was all rolled into one!

With the shawls back home now, I have worn the Muga silk for the first time.  It is so very light on the shoulders yet warm – everything that I imagined it would be.

2014 Annual Juried Exhibition best in show handspun knit lace shawl in Muga silk - On Eagle's Wings

On Eagle’s Wings, displayed

On Eagle’s Wings was introduced to the right of the gallery entrance.  You can see the guest book, and the exhibit catalogue on the table in the corner.  Not shown in this picture was that heady award label with my name on it!

This black fabric-covered dress form was very good for showing the triangle’s drape, and the stitch patterns with beads.  It would have been straightforward for the audience to read this lace as a textile with real-world function.  You know, as opposed to froth.

Plumage Juried Show, On Eagle's Wings, back of triangle shawl

All along, I had worried that my Tibetan Phoenix Beaded Stole would be a problem child in this gallery.  It took my breath away to see the Juror’s solution for its 82″ expanse.

Entering the Plumage 2014 juried exhibition, Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

The knitted lace stole, among friends

This brought home to me the difference between showing lace in blog form (pattern; movement; technical aspects; natural light) and showing lace for its effect.  The impact of the presentation was something that I literally felt.

Tibetan Beaded Lace Shawl handspun and knit by Irieknit in Plumage Exhibition, Burlington, Ontario

A warm welcome, for me at least!

Hearing excitement and new ways of understanding this making of an oversize lace object is an unexpected joy.  It draws away any residual sting from wearing it to a New England wedding last fall.  As I type, a dear relative who helped host that very wedding is congratulating me on my new accomplishment in knitting!

Tibetan Phoenix Beaded Lace Shawl handspun and knit by Irieknit in Plumage Juried Exhibition, Burlington, Ontario

Guild members have been super kind.  Yes, all made on drop spindles!  Professional fibre artists also tell me that the stole in particular was a strong submission.

Presenting work publicly is tough.  I heard that during the exchange at the end of the Juror’s review.  Now I have experienced the rewards of this rigour, and am totally glad that I tried.  Being able to say, “Dear (non-fibre person in my life), I got an award.  It was from an art gallery director, and came with a cheque,” also rocks.  It makes way more sense to them than the 82″ of shawl over my petite LBD ever could.  That’s just life.

Some but not all of the other works from Plumage are below. Let me know if you caught the show!

Plumage 2014 Juried Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Show Margaret Burns handwoven soft sculptures

Handwoven ‘Duck’ and ‘Owl’, Margaret Burns

Best Interpretation of Theme was awarded for this stunning red handwoven shawl.

Best Interpretation of Theme, Plumage 2014 Juried Show Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

Cardinal in Flight, Rosemarie Anich-Erickson

Three works by Diane Woods were included in this show.  I love the sharpness, and colour in her wall hanging.

Handwoven wall hanging, Mexican Eagle in Plumage 2014 Juried Exhibition Burlington Handweavers and Spinners

Mexican Eagle, Diane Woods

One of my teachers, MargaretJane Wallace, inspired me as she wove her scarf in the studio this fall.  MJ also encouraged me to go ahead with my plans for the Muga silk when it was still a ball of lace yarn.

Handwoven beaded tencel scarf by MargaretJane Wallace, Phoenix Rising from Ash 2014 Juried Exhibition Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

Phoenix Rising from Ash, handdyed tencel, MargaretJane Wallace

Hung to the left of MJ’s scarf was the winner of the Past Presidents’ Award.  The weaver is a Level 4 student, and the Juror was very excited about this lovely piece!

Award winning handwoven scarf, Snowy Owl 2014 Juried Exhibition  Burlington Handweavers and Spinners

Snowy Owl, Leslie Cooke-Bithrey

These and other images of  works included in the Plumage show are here.


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Submitted with fingers crossed – first Juried Show

Triangle shawl in handspun Muga silk and Japanese seed beads original design

Just a glimpse, Muga silk lace

This week was the take-in of pieces for the Burlington Handweavers & Spinners Guild‘s bi-annual juried show, “Plumage.”  I have submitted this original design beaded triangle shawl, knitted in my handspun 2-ply Muga silk.  It is lightly beaded with Japanese Miyuki 8/0 seed beads.

Without a doubt this was my most challenging design work to date.  After submitting on Wednesday afternoon, I realized that I really would be happy to publish this as a pattern.  My charting and notes are long-hand at the moment but I sense that this piece is not finished stretching my abilities just yet.  What grounds this idea is the fact that months ago I signed-up to take Kate Atherley’s class on pattern writing at the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic, which is tomorrow morning!

In holding back while I work through the impulse let me just share the first part of my write-up for the shawl’s submission:

The gold-brown natural Muga colour evokes the Golden Eagle.  Muga silkworms are semi-domesticated in Assam, N.E. India.  The spinning fibre is rarely available, and is prepared after the cocoons are reeled for weaving from the waste and breeder cocoons.  The fibre is finer than Tussah silk, and I spun it for a balanced laceweight yarn with the organic texture.  It is highly durable silk, spun to enhance its shine…

Learning more about Muga silk culture for this entry form writing exercise was so exciting.  Several sites stated that woven Muga textiles increase in shine with each wash, and that the fibre is also traditionally used for embroidery.  I also learned that Muga silk saris are handwoven in the home by women of all backgrounds, and are passed down as heirlooms in Assamese families.  Guess who is totally intrigued?!

Muga silk handspun lace yarn on antique Canadian niddy noddy

As it then was, Muga silk on my antique niddy noddy

I also submitted my Tibetan Clouds handspun stole that was completed in the fall.  The large (i.e. huge on me) size and Sivia Harding’s design for Tibetan Buddhist art elements both evoked the mythic bird, Garuda.  He is the king of birds, and represents widsom and openness.  See how it works in this context?

Handspun Tibetan Clouds beaded stole for 2014 juried show, Plumage

Tibetan Clouds stole as the king of the birds

The show’s Juror may not get the demonstration but it’s lurking here in my blog out-takes!

Handspun Tibetan Clouds beaded stole wrap

This stole has a wider wingspan than I do.  Like Garuda who can stretch his wings and soar into space.

Tibetan Clouds handspun beaded lace stole, submitted for 2014 juried show Plumage

Wearing Tibetan Clouds stole

This kind of enveloping warmth in 100% handspun yarn is reminiscent of a bird’s plumage.  Granted, it may be hard to hang and display.

On tenterhooks

For a fairly quiet spinner like me the suspense between now and the Juror’s review on May 5th will be uhm, difficult.  The push to complete the Muga silk shawl has left me in between projects, and with sore wrists.

Alpaca handspun yarn on vintage Andean low whorl drop spindle

Sweet respite spinning

In this state, yesterday I reached for a spindle that I have not yet shared with you.  It is a vintage low-whorl carved wood spindle from the Andean highlands.  It’s perfect for this rustic Alpaca roving that I had in my stash.

Vintage Andean low whorl drop spindle with Alpaca handspun yarn

Andean spindle, patina in spades

This was a Christmas present.  It has taken me awhile to both respectfully clear the spindle of the handspun yarn that came with it, and get accustomed to spinning with a notched shaft.

Handspun plying ball of alpaca with vintage Andean carved low-whorl drop spindle

Vintage Andean spindle as it came to me – with handspun alpaca

The other exciting item that came with the spindle was this tool for backstrap weaving, a Ruki.  It is the traditional llama bone beater of the weavers in the Andean highlands.

Ruki llama bone weaving beater, Andean highlands artifact

A ruki beater for weaving

The spindle and ruki are both smoothed after years of use.  It’s just the sort of thing you reach for when the tenterhooks they bite.


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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)


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A Swallowtail Happy

The word Swallowtail means something to most knitters.  It’s an Evelyn Clark small triangle shawl design that has gone viral.  There are 9,543 projects on Ravelry, and now I understand why!  This cone of red Habu Tsumugi silk yarn never even hit the stash!

The heap of magenta is a project that only Melvin is enjoying very much – the Laar Cardigan by Gudrun Johnston.  More on that is to come in a future post.

Initially, I cast-on for another Evelyn Clark pattern, the Prairie Rose Lace Shawl from the Knitter’s Book of Wool.  That was more of an exercise in swatching the Habu, and I soon went for the Swallowtail.

All I could hear was Teresa’s voice saying, “You totally should make one!”  Which Teresa?  The one who made no less than 5 of those Ravelry projects.

I settled on using my 3.0 mm lace Addi turbo needles.  My system for working with the nubby Habu silk was:

  • Pants – smooth not grabby;
  • Lap cloth – lingerie, repurposed; and
  • Lazy kate – the Will Taylor tulip kate kept the cone & my sanity upright.

It went on the needles February 8th & came off on the 25th.  I really like the pattern, and the sweet challenge was working my first mirrored border.  With the yarn managed, I found it went very quickly.  All other projects were set aside!

For my Lily of the Valley border, I substituted orange Toho 8/0 seed beads for the Estonian nupps (think bobble).  I used a tiny 0.6mm crochet hook, and added them on the right side.  The edging is also beaded but on the wrong side of each double decrease.

The beads showed well even before blocking (but not so well on the flannel sheet).

As soon as he saw the beads on the tray table, N said, “Now you’re happy!”  He was right!  For all the extra manipulation, placing beads gives the shawl weight, dimension & highlights the pattern.

So, Ms. Teresa:  when we see each other again, I will be wearing a Silk Swallowtail!  Thinking of you this week & get well soon.  Lace knitting & pilates to follow, right?!


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Surprise Skeins

Talk about reaching a personal goal:  two great ‘events’ chez moi in as many days?!  Dinner went really well.  Cuz loved her Silpada jewelry.  Shout-out to my friendly knitterly Silpada rep, Miss Megster – close call on this gift!  We exchanged these belated gifts.  Mine was so nice… Ta da!

Purple 100% silk tote - made in Cambodia

Purple 100% silk tote - made in Cambodia

Hung in a bush for the morning light & general cheesiness…  TKK now has a good mid-sized project bag!  The Lexie Barnes is much-loved but honestly too big for baby projects and such.  The second part of the gift really blew me away:

Yarn spun from recycled silk.  It comes without a ball band but they make this from old saris in southeast Asia.  Closer:

Fittingly, we had Indian from a local restaurant, The Painted Elephant.  Everyone loved the food & it was good times.  I can see how building from one event to another works wonders with set-up & cleaning.

Am still thinking about what it will be.   Cuz sure got my number.  In case anyone is wondering about Christmas gifts, my fridge magnet sums it up for ya:

More Yarn Please!

This was just an all-over good weekend.  Tomatoes are ripe for the picking!  At long last.  Bear with me on this one – we are city folk & this is simply magical.  Man, are they sweet!  We ate up/ whoopsed off the 2 ripest so fast!  I decided to spare the dear readers more tomato pics.  They look the same as when they were green.  They are now tomato red.

DH was showing off on the phone.  He’s telling the gaming buddy all about eating “the first tomato of the season from the estate.”  Said gaming buddy knows the house – estate, shmestate!  Since the squash is spread all over the lawn, I am pretty sure that New Neighbours think we are whack farmer-types… I have to run but will try to relate a New Neighbour story sometime soon!


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Woolsy Anniversary & Trip Pics

Happy Anniversary, Hubby dear!  Emily Post’s Etiquette says wool is ye olde 7th anniversary gift.  N.B. – The Knit Knack’s shamelessly brazen plug for More Yarn Please!

MIL outdid herself this year!  Even her son is in awe of this beauty of a gift…

Our first Rose Bush!

Our first Rose Bush!

We already did our celebrating in Houston.  Fancy dinner at a wine bar/ steakhouse called Flemming’s.  It had v. good internet reviews, and I am still hearing all about his bone-in rib-eye.  The server was snooty but we broke the ice by ordering the Chocolate Lava Cake.  It was to die for!  Loved. Every. Bite.

It was my first trip to Houston & the 90 degree weather was just heavenly!  The Lady B bag was the best carry-on luggage ever.  I started the Seduction Socks by Ann Budd with my mystery sock yarn.  The pattern is free here.  My main mod is to make them shorter:

Smallscale Seduction Socks

Smallscale Seduction Socks

This is because half of the yarn was used in my first-ever sock.  That’s the needle sock, and I’m not frogging it for love or money.

After all the selfish knitting, I had FOs for each day of this trip!  Texans were very friendly – every elevator ride lead to bubbly conversations & ended with, “Have a nice day, y’all!”  Co-elevator riders were actually the first to admire my Tender is the Night shrug when we set out for the wedding.  The shrug was a hands-down success.  It was perfect because I was the 2nd reader for the ceremony.  Dictates of modesty:  no bare shoulders for “reverencing the altar”.  That black pashmina was thrust upon my cousin the 1st reader.  Here we are processing:

Tender is the Night does me proud!

Tender is the Night does me proud!

It was a dream to wear, kept me warm during the air-conditioned reception, and netted a bag of compliments.  Mine is not a crafty family, so I was very surprised by the great response.  I am now a fan of silk shrugs – there is no slip sliding into soup bowls or constant arranging of fabric.

We did have a day out at the Johnson Space Center with my cousins.  I modeled the sunny sidekick but have no pics to prove it!  Here’s NASA Graffiti at its best:

Housing 30-story-tall rocket

Housing 30-story-tall rocket

Texas Longhorns – at NASA – huh?

Languid Longhorns

Languid Longhorns

That perked me up some for the tour of Mission Control.  Ancient consoles!

Not computers but consoles

Not computers but consoles

They sent men to space with just that level of technology?!  OMG.  After lunch we came to a quick consensus & off we went in search of Kemah and its boardwalk.

Can you say "Tourist Trap"?

Can you say "Tourist Trap"?

More of the amusement park setting:

Choo choo by the Gulf

Choo choo by the Gulf

Yay – the Sea!!  Kemah is on the Gulf, and a long ways away from good ol’ Lake Ontario!

It was a busy trip & I came home tired but with a full list of things to do.  I’m settling back down now & have a big reason to finish the baby kimono – Eden’s safely arrived!  Not deja vu or anything but here’s the baby gift being blocked:

Blocking Edens Baby Kimono

Blocking Eden's Baby Kimono

I know this has been an angst-filled project.  That said, green is the better choice for a wee one named Eden!