The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


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Spindle spinning with others

At the tail end of the last post, I very quickly mentioned the spindle project that I called ‘Pyrenees Delight Cheviot.’  The spin dates back to the night of the 12th stage of the Tour de Fleece when I needed a completely portable spin for summer days with T.

Cheviot wool top dyed by Sheepy Time Knits for irieknit's 2017 Tour de Fleece

Inspiration in green fibre form – STK Cheviot wool

The Tour falls nicely behind my birthday, and Mandie at Sheepy Time Knits had a well-timed spinning fibre promotion for the event.  Don’t you love when fibre barely even grazes your stash?!

Handspinning dyed Cheviot wool on Jenkins Turkish Delight drop spindle by irieknit

Jenkins Delight spindle to the rescue!

This Cheviot has been the single best pairing for my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle.  Before now, I had used this spindle for a BFL/silk that is now socks, Wensleydale & took a wrong turn to Merino finger roving.  It’s been reliable but only now have I really found the groove with this Cheviot wool.

Cheviot is an old breed developed in the south Cheviot Hills of the UK.  Mandie’s dye colour is so clear and saturated on this wool.

The feel of this ‘three-dimensional’ crimp is amazing as I use the Delight.  In the Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook the crimp is described as “unique” within this breed family (p. 55).   My hands agree, and I would love to spin Cheviot locks after this experience.

In Ravelry’s 2017 Tour de Fleece Feature!

Spinning dyed Cheviot wool on Jenkins Turkish Delight by irieknit

Community eye candy!

Each year, Ravelry.com supports the spinning community’s celebration that is the Tour de Fleece.  We know this, and in 7 years of spinning, I have always looked forward to the home page’s blog post.  It was FluffyK who let me know via tweet that my spinning was featured in the round-up.  Hers was too!

This is the beautiful post, Eye Candy: Tour de Fleece, written by onestitchshort that includes my project.

Plying balls, Cheviot fibre and Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle by irieknit

State of the Pyrenees Delight Cheviot spin

When I updated the project this week, I was stunned to see that it has 26 people who call it a favourite, and was viewed 1,458 times & counting.  That is a major leap from the peak of 5 favourites, 68 views on another Team Spindlers project, the CVM sweater spin.

The post lifted my spirits – I was trying to cope from here with difficult health news for my Mom who lives in Jamaica, and the non-stop adulting.  That uplift was important but I am also very happy that two spindles were shown as beautiful tools riding in the Tour.

Last word – project specs

The spindle weighs 28 g, and is in Carob wood.  Two-strand-ply balls shown in the calabash bowl are 37 g, 43 g, 37 g, respectively.  All singles are spun on the spindle, wound-off, and re-wound to a two-strand-ball that I will ply from when the fibre is all spun-up.

Start:  July 13, 2017 to morning of October 4th, today.

Last last word

Although I had to duck out at the very end of the Tour, I rode most of this year’s Tour de Fleece as a co-captain in Team Spindlers.  It was like riding a wave that floated all boats.  Spindlers is a mixed group of all skill levels, and the discussions are advertising-free.

I also joined a relaxed & fun Team Bosworth.  It was an all-spindles year for me!

Morning glory in bloom

Dappled morning glories

It has led me to hope that we can keep both big & small tent spindle-friendly spaces flourishing.  These spaces are:

  • how I & others learn about spinning in the first place;
  • a look at how modern folks with busy, stressed lives keep spindles in motion;
  • where I made friendships outside of my silo; and
  • a very good coping mechanism for staring, snide comments and worst of all deadpan reactions to spinning in daily life.  After all, your beloved spindles don’t make much yarn unless you are spinning with the spindles in daily life.

If any reader has thoughts to share about how we can either sustain the existing spaces or bring our tools to new spaces, I would love to hear from you.  It is something I have been speaking about with friends whose work I have seen but aren’t local and now prefer to step back a little from the fray.

Writing is more my speed than video/ audio but all thoughts are welcome.


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Reviving Ramie on the small saxony wheel

In the final days before welcoming T home last summer, I opened my 151 g of Ramie top, and started spinning on my painted East European saxony wheel.

Spinning Ramie on antique Eastern European flax wheel

For Twitter and my only record of the start (please excuse the mess!)

This is my first project with Ramie & was love at first spin.

Priorities soon made themselves known.  The night that I had given a Lecture on not touching Mom’s tools, I took this wheel and its Ramie up to my studio.  The fibre stayed downstairs but it was a pretty vain hope.  With everyone under strain family bonding was clearly more important.  What I didn’t know then was how long that takes when your child is aged 4, and circumstances are what they are.  Sitting at wheels took a back burner as we navigated our long, early parenting days.  Others came out but this easiest-to-knock-down wheel was up until just last month.

irieknit spinning Ramie fibre on antique painted East European saxony wheel

Dust-gathering no more!  Ramie stash spinning again.

Small note It is a crazy peg array.  Safety first, and I am not telling anyone to follow this particular flight of fancy.

While she was up & out of dear T’s reach, I saw quite a few questions in Facebook spinning groups about similar wheels.  The questions boil down to:

  • Should I buy this?  A: maybe – do you know what you are looking at; do you like to spin fine?
  • Did I make a mistake in buying this?  A:  it depends; I love mine.
  • something something ‘gypsy wheel’… A: no, seriously, all of Eastern Europe

Invariably, 1 or more voices on the thread cry down that these small wheels make you “treadle like a hamster even if it operates.”  Well, mine operates and that is not my experience.  At all.

The wheel has such a gentle action in terms of the draw-in of the yarn, and the old leather hinges on the treadle bar.  It is also an almost wheel-less feeling as I work since she stands below my torso.  With the band fitted and at the right angle with the mother-of-all, this is smooth and easy spinning now that my (yes, crazy; do not do) pegs are worn in a bit.

irieknit's antique East European saxony spinning wheel drive wheel detail

Small drive wheel = light drive wheel

Sometimes, I do need to fiddle with the mother-of-all screw tension.  Most times it is fine with my Hempathy yarn band going strong.  When running these wheels have a sweet spot of momentum.

We are at around the half-way mark to what experts call the family equilibrium.  Supports have come and gone; other supports are tremendous.  Not only is this & my Martha wheel now carrying spins-in-progress but I got myself an afternoon away this weekend as a real break.

irieknit's Kissing Cousins sock in progress and spinning Cheviot on Turkish Delight drop spindle

Mobile comforts – mindless sock and Cheviot spin

This top-down to toe-up piece is a March pattern release by Sarah Jordan called Kissing Cousins Socks.  It is in a Turtle Purl yarn, Tiberius.  The Cheviot wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits is my ‘Pyrenees Delight’ Tour de Fleece project.  It was such a thrill to have my spinning picture featured by Ravelry and this has stayed in my spinning rotation ever since.

Progress and respite.  I wish the same for you!


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Getting more patient: up-noting my weaving, and cotton

The Elin towels from my last post were fully finished by the start of June.  This was the last daylight they have seen!

Handwoven cottolin kitchen towels Elin kit from the loom of irieknit

Four handwoven Elin towels – cottolin; 8-shaft broken twill

The gaps in attending to weaving, writing, and the old craft approaches have been wearing on me.  This cliché assumption all spinners hear now has hit a new chord:

You must be very patient!

My stock response of no and pivoting to the true family trait of stubbornness no longer sounds even technically correct.  There is a new need to cultivate patience.  Life is catching me behind my natural pace for new skills and challenge projects.

Sewing hem for cottolin Elin kitchen towels from the loom of irieknit

Hemmed 2 months after weaving

In between cutting this warp from the loom, and finishing steps, I learned that a good acquaintance who lives near to us was seriously ill.  We were high school friends, and she had moved to Canada before we did.  Even with overlaps in circles at home, I only realized at the end of April that she had been in hospital for most of winter.  This arc of being able to rise to the occasion has been fulfilling in many ways.  It has also shown the upper-limit of my time and energy is not that far from resting state.

With the new awareness of how slim my margins truly are (as opposed to wishful thinking), I will focus on sustaining my home practice.  This meant answering with a no thank you for a teaching opportunity.  It’s a new and frankly unexpected patience.

Andean low-whorl drop spindle with Corriedale wool

Teaching T to spin with an Andean Pushka!

It has meant that I could participate in the Tour de Fleece even as it crossed both of our mothers visiting this summer.  The guest bed does close my loom… Patience is a virtue, right?  That too passed, and the Mighty Wolf breathes again.  This dug into my brain a little – spring sampling and all – and is a set of 2 rosepath combination twill baby blankets from a 5 yard warp.

Weaving cotton rosepath 2-colour blankets by irieknit

Colour and weave (and treadling mistake) rosepath plus in 8/4 cotton

This is the first with the entered colours reversed as weft.  It is a 14-thread repeat, and was a joy to weave.  I used a new Leclerc temple, and have Beam me Up Scotties finally on the cloth beam.  Black lacing is banished forever!

As patience has its limits, I also bought an electric bobbin winder that I used in weaving the 2nd blanket on this warp.

Time for this post is slipping away, and I best get to the cotton spins.  They are the very soul of a patience I never had.  Good thing that I am both stubborn and thrilled to have something meditative for these nights after navigating the unseen special needs of our home life.

Handspinning cotton three ways Atoni rosewood spindle with brown cotton; Takhli with Egyptian cotton slyver; African bead whorl with Egyptian cotton puni

Atoni rosewood spindle with brown cotton; Takhli with Egyptian cotton slyver; African bead whorl with Egyptian cotton puni

The state of these 3 cotton spins has moved since this June 21st picture albeit slowly.  The Rosewood spindle of the Atoni people, East Timor has not changed much & should be wound-off.  The takhli has a 2-year spin of Egyptian cotton top that sits as singles today:

Handspun singles balls by irieknit Egyptian cotton

Hard won 50g of Egyptian cotton top in singles balls

The loose goal is to perhaps use these as weft singles.

Handspun cottons Pima seed, brown cotton seed on Atoni Rosewood spindle from East Timor and African bead whorl spun by irieknit

Pima seeds and singles ball, brown cotton on Atoni spindle, Egyptian cotton puni on African bead whorl

The goals are even more loose with these.  It starts as ideas to spin with new tools, and I let it lead me.  These are closer to my new pace but also to hearing our friend’s advice to parent for the long haul.  None is overblown – we are going to do well if we can.  This summer it meant 1 short day-camp, 2 house guests, no break from the home, and hitting our prime family outings.  Much like blog posting was left undone.  I am trying to embrace both WIPs and the progress that lives in them.

As tiring as this phase has been on different levels it is helping so much.  We can see new things are possible, and add them as we can.  It’s not just short, silly projects as I feared.  It’s also not going at my own way and pace.

Hibiscus flowering by irieknit

End of summer blooms!

 

 

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


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Luck of the draw for my spindles

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

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

So much good in this

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

The Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Current situation: favourite place deeply imagined

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

Marcel Holyoak Frenchman's Cove, Port Antonio, Jamaica

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

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

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

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

Play doh design at irieknit's

New family creating

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

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

Andean pushka plying project for CVM wool 4-ply


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Happy 2017!

The fall became a marathon almost as soon as I hit ‘Publish’ on the last post.  With adjustments work continued.  Writing, and updating the projects fell that far behind.

We are here now, year-end!

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Winter is shaping-up

As much as I have missed sharing the work it has been a good test in many ways.  With less time & energy, I worked on the things that mattered the most.  Feeling that strength from the years of learning and practice was its own reward.  Really.

The spinning has been lovely as these 3 projects quietly show.

Andean pushka plying project for CVM wool 4-ply

Plying the CVM wool at last!

Since taking this picture, I have plied 4 skeins for a total of approximately 790 yards.  It is all a conventional 4-ply spun on smaller low-whorl spindles from rolags that I carded.

Some locks are still in the bag but I knew this was getting to a level of angst.  It turns out that the plying is no doldrums.  I like this stage!  There are 2 of the large balls left to be plied.

Spinning Chasing Rainbows merino/wool on Jenkins Lark Turkish spindle by irieknit

This Jenkins Lark spindle loves the quiet times!

The cop on my Lark is getting full again.  It’s not everyday that I turn to this Chasing Rainbows merino/wool but when I have it has been good spinning.

There is no concrete aim for this yarn but I am going for a 2-ply.  The colourway is Pear.

Handspinning hemp top with supported cow bone whorl spindle

Spinning hemp a gentle way – Forrester bone whorl spindle, supported

This Forrester spindle supported in the calabash bowl is a master for de-stressing at the end of a long day.  It is couch spinning plain & simple.

The 4 singles balls weigh 27 g together.  There is another 59 g of fibre, so I am not ploughing through stash with this one!

Handknit Onder shawl by irieknit in Yarn Carnival high wire yarn

Onder shawl is finished and awesome!

Leaving the door open for sharing T’s new knits later on, there has also been this Onder shawl by Sarah Jordan.  It proves that I too make the cut!

Handknit beaded Onder shawl by irieknit in Yarn Carnival High Wire yarn

See the Miyuki beads? Just enough to keep me totally happy.

The lace in Sarah’s design was wonderful to work – simple enough to not snag my rough brain, and with enough challenge to make my days melt into something better.

The slip-stitch rolling edge was novel for me, and I love how it keeps the stockinette body honest.

Onder shawl detail of Yarn Carnival High Wire yarn handknit by irieknit

Yarn Carnival sure knows how to dye Peacock!

The yarn was extra-special to work with.  This skein of Yarn Carnival’s High Wire 3-ply in superwash Merino was a gift from DB & SIL.  They chose it for me on a visit to Austin, Texas.  Neither knits, and I just loved using it!

Handknit Jacobus monkey by irieknit in SheepyTime Knits yarns

Happy New Year from all of us to you!

This Jacobus is how we know that T has very keen yarn instincts.  He chose “River Daughter” from the SheepyTime Knits 2016 Middle Earth Club.  This was after I refused his first choice of “The Nine, Merlon.”

T has loved Monkey so hard, and this is just one example of the games that they play!

This has been a year when knitting was the best way I found to say, “Yes, I think of you when you are sleeping.  Go, check it out, kiddo!”  Sometimes words are not enough.

Best wishes for a very happy 2017!


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Stick a pin

Months!  Unavoidably so but I have missed posting so much.

Melvin the cat in blissful repose

Be the change, Melvin. Be the change.

The circumstances of moving my studio away from this window, bringing down the guest room, painting for light, and generally growing into long-term plans have been very happy.  It has been a long process with challenges and a ton of joy.

Handknit child-sized Muddy Duck Pond cardigan by irieknit

The first thoughts ran: yarn, knit, fall is coming

Naturally, knitting went into high gear as well.   I bossed the Peace Fleece into living up to its worsted name for this Muddy Duck Pond Cardigan designed by Kristen TenDyke.

Yoke detail handknit Muddy Duck Pond cardigan by irieknit

Taming of the aran weight to my purposes

Even on 4.0 mm needles my gauge led me to knit the 6 month-size instructions for a special preschooler.  The ‘Kalinka Malinka blue’ colourway just pops knit this tightly.  It also brought the yarn’s vegetable matter & guard hairs out for the plucking.

handknit Aviatrix Hat in Sheepy Time Knits Strider yarn by irieknit

Second thoughts ran to the Sheepy Time Knits Strider yarn, actually worsted weight.

T’s handknits now also include 2 pairs of socks, and a set of mittens.  He also has a kelly green hoodie on the needles that I am almost finished knitting:  Kerrera for Kids by another favourite designer, Gudrun Johnston.  The very first finished object was a handspun Mario the Artistic Rabbit in Targhee wool that is seeing its fair share of love.

As I knew it would, spindle spinning has been my chief creative outlet.  The surprise was how strongly my sock knitting mojo returned.  There is nothing like slaying a second-sock syndrome, and I am also learning from Lara Neel’s “Sock Architecture“.  T, your toes have a Grecian shape & it was new to me.

While projects take longer to create & document they are more important than ever before.  It’s all good, and with luck I will be able to weave in this guest-room-no-more space… eventually.

Handspun Corriedale wool on captive ring Peruvian Pushka spindle

Yes, a captive ring Pushka!

This spindle is 1 of 2 captive ring Pushkas that brightened up some hard days.  A friend’s daughter brought a good many back from her trip to Cusco’s market in Peru earlier this summer.  I was harder to reach than usual, and am so thankful that she kept a few for me plus told me to also snag an extra-large plying spindle.  Even more thankful because we now also have a small turned Pushka for T.

The fibre is Corriedale wool top, and I am spinning along with the Spindlers Ravelry group’s September challenge.  The theme this month is Peru, and I am trying to spin 50 g of the top for a 2-ply yarn.  Prepping my own would be more authentic but far less achievable for me now.

Late-blooming newly planted shrub rose

It’s a pleasure to touch base again.  There have been quiet laughs about how my diary notes in the last post really took-off since March.  For readers who have been patient, thank you.


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Olivia’s Babydoll Southdown fleece, and her flock’s good news

Warm (i.e. wooly) congratulations to the flock that I wrote about in my last post!  Laurie’s Little Lambs farm won blue ribbons in 2 categories of the 2015 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair fleece wool competition.  Both are in the competition’s Down-type category (26-33 microns).  It was their first year exhibiting, and I am very happy they got such stellar results!

Partial as I am to coloured fleeces, I had a moment when Bob showed me Norris’ clip.  I’m so glad to see Norris’ name beside a first ranking in the Royal’s results list, and know how pleased Bob must be!  His entries are both sure to be in high demand at the fleece auction this Sunday, November 15, 2015.

Grazing olde-type Babydoll Southdown sheep Laurie's Little Lambs flock

Well-deserved recognition for these Babydoll Southdowns!

Bob & Laurie’s flock has around 50 sheep, and all are registered with the Olde English “Babydoll” Southdown Sheep Registry.

Southdown is the oldest of 6 true or core Down-type wools.  In “The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook” Deb Robson & Carol Ekarius note that Southdowns are in records dating back to the medieval period from the South Downs, England.  The area is along the English Channel in today’s Hampshire & Sussex counties.

The rare-breed status is ‘recovering’ by the Livestock Conservancy.  Rare Breeds Canada’s 2014 conservation list shows Southdown as ‘vulnerable’ (101 – 300).  Bob & Laurie do breed their registered Babydoll Southdown sheep for sales.  It would be great to see the breed’s status shift up to the next category in Canada, ‘at risk’.

Examining Olde English Babydoll Southdown raw wool from Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario

Happily examining a Babydoll Southdown fleece

While Bob showed me some of this year’s beautiful clip, Laurie graciously gave N. a tour of the farm.  It was wonderful of them to have given us so much of their time, and in turn I showed Bob some of the tools that we use as spinners to prepare wool from scratch.

Babydoll Southdown flock Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario Canada

All pictures from this July’s visit to Bob & Laurie’s farm were taken by a very impressed N!

Laurie's Little Lambs bird house

Laurie’s passion is with her birds

Olivia’s 2015 fleece

The lock strength, crimp, and colours in this fleece from Bob’s ewe Olivia were just so appealing to me.  Olivia’s fleece was carefully rolled, and it was easy for me to see which end was up as it were!

Olde English Babydoll Southdown coloured ewe fleece from Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario

Olivia, Babydoll Southdown 2015 raw wool

All colours are acceptable within the olde-type Babydoll Southdown’s breed standard.  This is an advantage since as Deb Robson tells us in her Winter 2015 article in Spin-Off Magazine, “The Down Wools:  quiet and unsung heroes of the fiber world,” the Down wools are mostly white.  On page 71 she says,

The most reliable source of natural, non-white color within these breeds is the Southdown, of which there are at least three strains of varying sizes.  The smallest, the Babydoll Southdowns… [is] the group from which you’ll most likely find colored fleeces.

Cleaning Babydoll Southdown ewe fleece from Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario

Cleaning my Babydoll Southdown wool

Using the Unicorn Power Scour for this fleece was a big improvement in terms of steps to lanolin cleaned locks.  We needed to repeat cleaning for E’s white ram fleece when we used original blue Dawn detergent last fall.

Cat with raw Babydoll Southdown wool fleece from Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario

Melvin takes up his happy place

Try as I might there was no separating Melvin from Olivia’s wool as I worked on cleaning.  This was still the raw wool, and he does deign to move when told that it’s needed for washing.

Cleaned Babydoll Southdown wool locks

Locks from Olivia’s Babydoll Southdown fleece

The pigment shifts evenly across the fleece’s locks.  The butt end of the locks is consistently lighter with a darker tone above.  The locks are strong – it’s simply a colour shift with no break following the line.

A preliminary test with a new-to-me set of Meck paddle combs confirms my idea that the colour blends very nicely if I alternate the lock orientation when charging the combs.  One small 2-ply skein shows as a heathery blend of the colours that I love, and could possibly over-dye.

No matter what this will be an interesting fleece to process as a spinner!  My hunch is that the yarn could have a warm lilac undertone.  I can plan around any colour inconsistency, and am not even married to a single large project for this fleece.

Fall colour autumn flaming bush display

This fall’s colour

I never dreamed that agreeing to mentor E would help evolve my work in this way.  Now that we are in this eventful late fall, I am excited about working with an incredibly soft & unique wool.  That it’s also come from an award-winning year for Bob’s flock is just such an added reward.  Hopefully, I can show E how the multi-coloured fleece compares to hers soon!

Looking forward to being blown away by the fleece auction’s competition for the prize Babydoll Southdown wool!  Will you attend, local friends?